Big Little Films

Filmmaker and Amphi Middle School teacher Rachel Sharp's college project was a documentary about CIA operations in South America--"how they would get rid of governments and replace them with people more friendly to the U.S.A.," she says. "My professor said 'no one will ever fund this one,' and he was right. But now, people might be more willing to fund documentaries, because they're learning that just because they don't agree doesn't mean other people won't want to watch it."

Sharp credits Michael Moore--whom she describes as "just killing them" (Hollywood producers)--with this shift, and points out that a lot of major theaters are now showing films such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Super Size Me. "They'll show independent film--especially the Century (Theatres) people," Sharp says, "but they won't show the guy who shot it and edited it on his computer. I will."

Sharp, along with Kim Braun and Elaine Jordan, runs Tucson's Micro-Cinema, a group that gathers monthly to screen the work of (mostly) local independent filmmakers.

"We've always had independent film festivals," Sharp says, "but they were only once a year, and people wanted something monthly, so one of the trends in filmmaking right now is these micro-cinemas. They're happening all over the country, in people's houses, in churches, wherever. And I just decided, OK, I need to have one of these, but I didn't have the money to pay for a space."

What started as a small group of friends gathering in Sharp's living room to screen their short films got a boost when Sharp enlisted the help of the owner and management of The Keys Restaurant--"a great spot, great people, wonderful management, really film-friendly," Sharp says. "The owner is really cool; he lets us come in on a Sunday afternoon when it's quiet, and we screen films, talk, eat, drink and watch the films of other filmmakers.

"There's no pressure at all," Sharp adds. "We don't critique it; we don't want to know how you made it, who gave you money. I mean, people may talk about that with each other later, but our focus is that it's free, and it gives artists a film screen to get a reaction; to make sure somebody sees your work. I mean, why make a film if no one sees it? And once in a while, someone will ask me to show a film that they were too scared to show themselves, and I consider that a real honor. Because they know we're not going to say, 'Oh, you used a Cannon 2004 and it was overloaded by the matrix of the blah-blah-blah using the technique of blah-blah-blah. I mean, don't you hate those people? It's like, 'Yo, go to L.A., get a job.'"

Sharp should know--after graduating with a degree in media arts from the UA, she worked on a few "Hollywood-type" movies before deciding it wasn't what she wanted to do. "I realized I didn't need to be in L.A. to make a documentary," she says. "That as an indie filmmaker, you really don't belong in L.A. ... that I didn't want to be in L.A. You know, people say 'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach,' but most independent filmmakers in the world, before they were known, were teachers."

Sharp teaches filmmaking to her sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes, and they're currently editing a project about racism in schools, thanks to funding from the YWCA. When it's finished, it, too, will screen at the Tucson Micro-Cinema, just like five film shorts--two 30-minute films and three less than 20 minutes--will do at The Keys Restaurant, 445 W. Wetmore Road (888-8084), from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 11.

Miasmic, by Jesse Nelson, is the story of "a trio of vampires who come to town to infect the entire populace. Several town residents band together to stop the vampires, and they have only until daybreak to do so." Broken Embrace, by Douglas B. Jackson, "dramatizes a man's forced extermination of his life and priorities due to unexpected events." Customer Disservice clocks in at 18 minutes, and that's all I know about it since the mystery director's Web site wasn't working throughout the week. Solace (three minutes), "a musical exploration of one man, his grief, and his guitar," is the work of Bill Kersey, who will also screen his six-minute Permian Flow.

"It's wonderful (to have a venue like Tucson Micro-Cinema)," says Kersey. "It can be tough to get your work seen publicly, and it makes the filmmaking much more satisfying when you have an audience. It's one thing to finish a film, it's another to have people react, respond, and tell you what they think about things."

Sharp says about 40 people showed up for the June Micro-Cinema, which was the organization's first "official" event (i.e., not in Sharp's living room), and everyone involved hopes that number will increase.

"If you don't like something," Kersey jokes, "stick around. They're short--something new will come on soon."

And as Sharp says, "We're not making any money on this thing--it's all for the love of film."

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