Independent Film Series Premieres in Edom


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The birth of the Old Firehouse Independent Film Series had a lot in common with the old Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland movie where Mickey says, “Hey, let’s put together a show of our own.” Judy adds, “We can use my dad’s barn.”  In this case, Mickey and Judy were played by a group of friends who gather for breakfast on Friday mornings, and the “barn” is the Old Firehouse in Edom. 

The Men of a Certain Age were discussing the lack of interesting, independent films in East Texas, and it was Jeff Gottesman who suggested that the lack might be remedied by a film series in the concert room of his Old Firehouse Gallery. The Men are not much for follow through on random complaints, but Jeff persisted, and through his efforts, the Old Firehouse Independent Film Series was born.

Jeff arranged with Magnolia Pictures for the rental of independent films they distribute and went about converting the folk music venue in his gallery into a movie theater which has more in common with an art theater than with the blockbuster-showing multiplexes which all seem to offer the same movies.

In May Jeff organized a shake-down cruise for the series with the showing of “The Hunter,” an eco-thriller starring Willem Dafoe.  With volunteers selling drinks, popcorn, and candy, the theater offered the traditional movie experience — a group of people in the dark eating popcorn and Milk Duds, enjoying together a thoughtful, intelligent, entertaining film.

The response to that first showing encouraged Jeff to schedule a monthly series of nine  films for the coming year, starting September 22 with 360, a romantic thriller made up of a series of interlocking stories set in cities all over the world which are eventually woven together in a single narrative.  It is directed by Fernando Meirelles who also directed City of God and The Constant Gardener.  The cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Ben Foster.

The other films scheduled for the fall are I Wish on October 13, The Magic of Belle Isle on November 10, and 2 Days in New York on December 1. I Wish is a Japanese film about two brothers separated by divorce.  Roger Ebert gave it three and a half stars and praised highly the performances by the two young actors. The Magic of Belle Isle stars Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen. 2 Days in New York is a comedy of manners directed by and starring Julie Delphy and comedian Chris Rock. Delphy is best known for Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. All the films in the series will come from the list of first-run films released by Magnolia.

The cost of admission for the films is $8 initially.  Jeff is also looking for sponsors for the films and sells on-screen advertising to help defray costs.  Like his folk concert series, the film series is a labor of love. 

Each film showing is followed by a discussion for anyone who cares to stay. 

This film series isn’t Jeff’s first venture into movie house entrepreneurship.  When he was seven-years-old, living in an apartment in New York City, he set up a theater in the foyer of his family’s apartment, with a slide projector and reel-to-reel tape player to show educational slide shows, and he put up handmade signs advertising it all over the building. He expects the new Firehouse Cinema to be even more successful. The technology and the signs are more professional this time, but Jeff’s impulse is the same — to bring people together and entertain them. 

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