Interview by Bob Ignizio
While plenty of people are content just to sit back and watch the show, there is a sizable segment of movie goers who want to talk about what they've just seen. Some of us are lucky enough to have a spouse or close friend to do this with, but not everyone. That's where the Cleveland Independent Movie Goers can come in handy. They're a loose group of film fans who get together to watch movies at places like the Cleveland Cinematheque, The Cedar Lee, The Capitol Theater, and just about anywhere that interesting films are being shown. Afterwards, the group goes to dinner and talks about what they've just seen. If this sounds like your kind of night out, then read on as I talk to group organizer Jim Simler.
CLEVELAND MOVIE BLOG: Tell me about the group. What exactly do you do, and when and how did it get started? How can someone become part of the group?
JIM SIMLER: I started the Cleveland Independent Movie Goers in 2006 because I have a love for offbeat films but I always had trouble finding someone to attend these movies with me. This seems to be the case with many of our members which perhaps gives us a special bond. There is a certain satisfaction knowing that there are so many other foreign and indy film fans out there. We have approximately 800 members.
CMB: Are you all hardcore cineastes, or are there some more casual movie buffs as well?
JS: Some members focus on a particular genre (e.g. French films, old classics). There are also the toe dippers who attend films that I would classify as "indy - Hollywood hybrid" (e.g. THE DESCENDANTS, THE ARTIST). I have seen members start with these films and then move onto other more obscure films.
CMB: How do you decide what movies to go see? Are you strictly interested in the “arthouse” and indie type of movies, or would you ever go see something like a TRANSFORMERS sequel?
JS: Our movie group has 8 organizers, each who pick their own films. Ironically, the mainstream films we have have seen have not been well-attended. Part of our appeal is discussing the film afterward and Hollywood films are often one-dimensional and there isn't much to discuss. If we went to see TRANSFORMERS, what would we talk about? Contrast this with then new Iranian film A SEPARATION where we will have a contingent of over 20 strong descending on the Cedar Lee later this month. The discussion will be priceless.
CMB: Almost as important, how do you pick the restaurants? Do you try to tie them in with the movies at all, or are you just looking for good places to eat?
JS: Sometimes I pair a Chinese film with Chinese food but that gets difficult to coordinate. We usually eat local and try to have a variety in food and price. Members almost compliment our organizers as much on the restaurants as the movies.
CMB: What's your ideal movie theater, and does anything in the Cleveland area come close?
JS: The Cinemtheque is my favorite since we know that John Ewing runs it because of his love of film. Even their hard seats add to the experience. If you can see a film in the upstairs theater in the Art Museum, that is a real treat. I still get shivers thinking about the time I saw a new print of Metropolis there.
CMB: What do you think of the film scene in town? Can you see pretty much everything you want to, or do a lot of movies pass us by?
JS: Don't be fooled by our size. Cleveland is a phenomenal film town. Search for independent film in Pittsburgh, Columbus or Cincinnati and you will find out that none of them have a Cinemetheque. Their Cedar Lee equivalents have less choices (not to mention we also have the newly restored Capitol theater). Their Film festivals are where we were 20 years ago.
CMB: What are the advantages of seeing a movie with a group of people, and what, if any, are the downsides?
JS: The films we see are often thought-provoking and sometimes need interpreting or deciphering afterward. I can't tell you how many times I have come out of a film thinking it was just okay and then after our discussion I come to the realization that I just saw a masterpiece.
We also invite directors or producers of the film to join our group afterward. Perhaps one of our most successful events was when we had producer and Cleveland native Tyler Davidson join our group for dinner after seeing TAKE SHELTER. Tyler was taken aback at how interested our members were in learning his motivations in making the film and in understanding the symbolism.
CMB: Where can people find out about the group's get-togethers?
JS: You can join at http://www.meetup.com/movies-320/ The fee is $5 / year which covers our costs related to running the website and hosting directors / producers when they come to town.
CMB: Anything else you'd like to add that I didn't ask about?
JS: There are many other venues outside of the regular theaters to see quality films. We have a Jewish Film festival, two Italian film festivals, and international film festivals at area universities (Lorain, Lakeland, Baldwin-Wallace and Kent come to mind). Other themed events include Science Fiction (Case), classics (Lakewood library), documentaries (Chagrin Falls), Environment (Natural History museum) and Ohio Independent films (Beachland Ballroom). For a listing of these venues, reference my site at http://www.meetup.com/movies-320/about/