Herewith a survey of some of London’s independent film societies. Deadline imminent and no return phone calls from OMSK or Halloween Society, so this will have to be done with no input from them. Never mind some of the others like My Eyes My Eyes! whom I have almost no knowledge of at all. At least I had a good interview with Exploding Cinema, or Explotania (the Federal Republic of..) as they termed themselves recently.
It’s my birthday – I’m thirty now – yesterday I lost my part time job at a publishers, I’m being kicked out of my flat and although I haven’t seen a cockroach for about a week, last night seven wasps got into my bed-room and I was up for an hour killing them. I suspect that there may be a nest somewhere, perhaps under the floorboards. I don’t mean to whinge, but I feel like I’m being punished by the god of the free market economy for worshipping other gods before Him, like the god of uncommercial underground cinema and the god of lazy self-indulgence.
If you can say one thing about the otherwise diverse world of underground/indie cinema, its that there’s no money in it. In this way it is distinct from independent music, which can go mainstream anytime, avant garde art (including video), which can sell for loads, and overground cinema, which is of course, a highly lucrative field generally. There is an audience, as proved by the activities of the aforementioned big three, and it’s a paying audience, but the money goes into organising more events and hardly anybody seems to be putting any by.
Still, martyrdom is relative, so while the older Explodings rigorously resist all forms of commodification by outside interests, the Halloweenies are currently parlaying their position into the potentially more lucrative Kentra club nights with visuals at London’s Embassy night-spot and preparing to curate a similar entertainment in Rome later this month under the aegis of sponsorship from Levis. Whether this marks the beginning of a destructive relationship with a heartless, devouring Beast, or merely a harmlessly playful dalliance with the world of corporate investment capitalism remains to be seen.
Exploding are taking no chances. Sponsorship of all sorts is anathema to them, even if it means, as it did, saving up for three years to buy a decent video projector rather than buying one on the spot. They repeatedly stave off television companies wanting to make documentaries about them by offering to make the film themselves (an offer that has never been taken up, mysteriously), and they are a leaderless collective operating an entirely open screening policy with no right of veto, which means that their shows are generally a process of sifting ashes from diamonds.
Interestingly, despite these drastic differences of approach, the members of the various societies get on well, go for drinks, lend each other equipment and even collaborate. This is thanks in a large part to the unifying force of the annual Volcano festival, now in its third year, in which they all participate. Volcano starts later this month in various venues around London.
Ah, that’s better. A nick of time phone call from Steven (sp?) of OMSK means I can now plug their forthcoming Volcano event on Sunday 27th September. Should be a stormer, with screenings and performances all around the Hoxton Sq./Charlotte St. area, venues to include the Bricklayer’s Arms pub and their usual night-club residence, 333 Old St.
As I suspected, OMSK occupy a position somewhere between the commercial canniness of the Halloween Society and the dogmatic anarchism (if you can say that, which you can’t really) of Exploding. From small beginnings showing to thirty or forty friends in 1994, through a picaresque existence occupying numerous venues (such as a squatted Barclays Bank), they have sired a well-loved monster that now takes up all their time and prevents them from making any films themselves. Hence the suggestion in their current flyer that they are about to fold, though Steven admits that this may be a rest rather than an all out retirement.
Incidentally, Japanese visitors to this site may have attended Steven’s recent screening in the Shinjuku (sp?) area of Tokyo. So if you’re wondering what one of these events is like, I guess it was sort of like that, basically, if that’s any help, which it isn’t. I’m sorry, I’d tell you myself, but despite my difficulties, I still worship the god of lazy self-indulgence, and (s)he is a stern and pitiless master. Lunch time now, and I think its going to be a long one.
Text: John Mosely