This year’s Can’t Stop The Serenity event in Portland, Oregon benefited not only Equality Now, but also the local Women’s Film Initiative. As part of Film Action Oregon, WFI is also part of the local venue the Hollywood Theatre. At this year’s event we got to talk for a few minutes with the Hollywood Theatre’s Artistic Director, Richard Beer.

PCZ: Okay. This is the third year this has been running?

RB: This is the second year it has happened here. The first year it was over at Cinema 21 and they did, like, one screening and sold it out. Then last year we did two screenings and then this year we’re doing three. So this is the second year with us. This is the second year we’re one of the beneficiaries of it.

PCZ: How did you get involved?

RB: The One True B!x contacted me about it, that they wanted to expand it and have more festivities around it. That would have been the winter before last. They approached us with a proposal to have it be somehow we’d benefit from it. It was perfect timing because we’d lost one of our funders for our women’s film grants at the time. So it was a perfect way to tie with Equality Now and make it a women-centric event.

PCZ: So the Women’s Film Initiative is also under the umbrella of the Hollywood Theatre, is that correct? Or is that more of a co-partner relationship?

RB: Well, Film Action Oregon is the large non-profit, and the Hollywood Theatre is one of the branches. Our educational aspect is one of the branches, and our support that we do to independent filmmakers is a third. So the Women’s Film Initiative kind of connects to all three as part of the film festival, the Women’s Film Festival, under the theater aspect, and the Women’s Film Grants, and then we have the educational elements. So, it’s kind like the sun with lots of little things orbiting around it and they all do different things.

PCZ: And the Women’s Film Festival is shown here?

RB: It is.

PCZ: Is that on a yearly basis?

RB: It’s an annual festival. It had taken a hiatus for a couple of years and then regrouped and added some new people to it and though our numbers weren’t as – our attendance wasn’t as great. We had Allison Anders, the director who came up with the honorarium. We had filmmakers who came from all over the country for it and it was a great festival but it’s going to grow over the next few years.

PCZ: When’s the next one?

RB: It will be – I think I’m moving the dates – I think it will be in March, 2009. This year was in May and we had that beautiful weather and it had also fallen right after four other festivals so I think people were kind-of festivaled out. During that weekend was when Obama was here so there were 100,000 people downtown. We couldn’t catch a break at all during that time.

PCZ: It sounds like it.

RB: So, yes the festival’s one other aspect. The Women’s Grant, the Women’s Vision Film Grants, which is where this pool of money that we’re going to make off of this event is going to, is getting ready to do its third cycle. The first year we gave out $10,000 to two films, one of which we showed today, which was “A Sentence For Two”, the documentary about the women in the correctional facilities. The other was for a film called “3 Veils”, which is a feature narrative that has just gotten picked up and I think [Rolla Selbak] in pre-production right now. But her getting the grant was what allowed the producers to say that she could still direct the project. Originally, they wanted to take it away from her and let somebody else direct it but our input into that was sort of like, they thought “Wow, somebody believes in you and the project so here, do that.”

This past year, “person, place or thing”, which we showed today, got $2000, and the other grant went to…it actually went to three films. It went to “Rock n Roll Mamas”, which is a film about women who are rock musicians and who are also mothers and how they all deal with it in different ways. I’m blanking on what the third film was, which is the one that got the most money. Oh, a film called, um, it’s a film about teenage girls and binge drinking, and it about how more girls are drinking than guys, and it follows some girls in high school and I’m forgetting the name of it. “Faded”!

PCZ: It’s been a long weekend!

RB: It’s been a very long weekend. It’s been a very long day!

It’s called “Faded”. Those are the three that got it this year. “person, place or thing” is the only one that’s finished. And then we’ll be, in the fall, starting our next batch of applications for that which is great because it’s one of the only, the only one that we know of that does specifically grants for women filmmakers and really focuses on that. We’ve gotten a lot of national attention about the grants as well as the whole Women’s Film Initiative.

PCZ: You mentioned a second ago that you do an application process. Is there ever a time where maybe you hear about a film that’s having trouble and you seek them out, or is it all pretty much application-based?

RB: Well, for that it’s all application-based and it’s a pretty stringent application process and we are tough on it being about…it has to be a woman director, and two of the three key roles – producer, cinematographer, and editor – have to also be women. It has to be in Oregon. A certain percentage of it has to be shot in Oregon, if it’s not in Oregon. And also we really want things that are, I’m not saying “women’s issues”, but they have to have a strong sort of element to it that really wants to…I think some really positive influences to it, to be female-centric in that sense. But the other element, the other thing that we do also, along with the theater, is what we call our “Engaging”, our “Educating program”; our “Supporting Program”. Because we currently have twenty-one films that are being produced under our no-profit. Everything from narrative, to feature narratives, to short experimentals, and then three film festivals. The Gay and Lesbian Film festival, the POW Fest, and then the 10 or Less Fest are all underneath our umbrella too and they all sort of intermesh.

PCZ: You mentioned an educational component. If you could speak a little bit about that…

RB: We’re getting ready to kick off, actually on Monday, our fifth year of what we call Project Youth Doc, which is a four-week intensive, five-day-a-week, five-hour-a-day program for teaching kids thirteen- to fifteen-year-olds to make documentaries. A good portion of them are actually young women, which is wonderful. This is our second summer of doing a free program at New Columbia housing project. So we have a thing we’re doing with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Boys and Girls Club and we actually do a program up there that’s completely sponsored and free. We had some really amazing stuff come out with the kids up there last year. The week after that we start our first session that takes place here at the theater that’s also four weeks. Then in August we’ll have this big what we call Docupallooza where it’s all the kids’ films are all screened and we usually sell out.

It’s really great. It’s really amazing because we’re one of the few programs – there are a lot of places that teach kids to make films and make documentary films – but we’re one of the few programs that literally it’s something that the kids come up with idea, the kids shoot every frame of film, the kids learn Final Cut Pro and actually edit the pieces themselves. We work with the old library music studio that’s over here and they actually score all their own music or they use music with the kids that have composed music over there so that way we can get them, then they’re broadcast on Comcast so that way we don’t have to worry about music rights and all those other things. It’s a really amazing program. Some of the stuff that these kids do in four weeks – I couldn’t make a film like that.

The only thing that we require of them is that it’s something that has to be really relevant to them as teens. So it can’t be about dinosaurs, for example. But we’ve had things as varied as kids who are in the juvenile detention system, from how kids deal with [being] teen musician who can’t play at clubs because they’re underage. Where do young people play music? Things on graffiti, things on teen homelessness, school budgets, skate parks. So all of them come together, they create a team, they come up with what the idea of the film – what they want to do – is, and they have final cut. We have professional filmmakers who are working with them who kind of help guide them but if a kid says “I want that shot in there for the end” they let them go and they’ll learn from that. Some other programs in town it’s basically the kids come together and the teachers tell them “We’re going to do a documentary on global warming” so the kids learn about setting up cameras and things but it’s a teacher who’s directing the thing and it’s so obvious when they do it. But yeah, we’ve had some really amazing stuff come out of there and it’s our fifth year of doing that.

PCZ: I don’t know if it’s too early to ask, but are you planning on doing the Serenity screening next year?

RB: They haven’t mentioned it but I hope that they want to do it again. It seems like the attendance – people come out for it. There’s a rabid fan base for it, all across the board. It’s funny too because, like, the eighty-year old couple, little old ladies who come in for it and then there are people bringing in their eight-year-old kids so there seems to be a really big draw for it.

PCZ: It’s a great theater for it.

RB: Were you here last night when they had the fire people? The fire controllers?

PCZ: Nope, didn’t make that.

RB: All kinds of stuff. And the costume contest tonight.

PCZ: We’ll be there for that.

RB: We’d love to make it because it’s a really great way, sort of partnering with Equality Now to have two elements of women’s issues. They’re more focused on abuses around the world and equality that way and we’re focused really on that there’s this inequality in the film industry. There’s a huge glass ceiling. There’s so few women directors and even fewer cinematographers and it’s sort of the time for that to end. One of the great things is that in documentary films it’s actually fairly balanced. There’s much more chance that women will be film documentarians, so anything we can do to help push that.

PCZ: What do you have coming up at the Hollywood Theater that you want people to know about?

RB: Oh man! Of great interest, coming up on July 4th we have a brand new 35 millimeter print of “Planet of the Apes” for its fortieth anniversary. We’re very, very excited about that. What else do we have coming up that we’re excited about? Oh, we have our big fund raiser on July 12th, called the First Annual Film Scout. It’s a photo scavenger hunt. What’s going to happen is we’re going to have all these different teams that are getting together and I think in six hours, maybe, they’re going to get a list of videoclips from famous and not-so-famous films that have been shot in Portland and they have to actually get out and go to the location with a prop that’s going to be given to them that day and they have to recreate a shot from the scene of that film. So, for example, in “Drug Store Cowboy”, they have to find the pharmacy that they broke into. Or the shot on the Hawthorne Bridge from “The Hunted”. So there’s going to be – all over town there will be people doing these. Then on the 17th of July, which is the 82nd birthday of the theater, that ties in with the Third Thursday with the neighborhood we’re actually closing all of Sandy Boulevard and we’re going to be projecting all the winners up on the side of the building. We’re going to have a band here. There’s going to be a complete, huge street party on that day. Those are some of the bigger things, and then our great movies that we always have all summer long.

PCZ: Thank you a lot for your time.

RB: Thank you.

Thank you to Anna Snyder of the PDX Browncoats for making sure we got to talk to Richard and thank you very much to Richard for taking the time during a very hectic day to answer our questions!