POSTED Thu. Mar 27, 2014
Hooray for Indywood.
Paul Oswell
Written by PAUL OSWELL
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ACT ONE. INTERIOR. A CINEMA LOBBY.
I hadn’t been to a big city cinema for a few years, but on a recent trip out of town, I had time to kill and rolled up to a multiplex to watch the latest Hobbit film. It was the afternoon, and the ticket was around $15, which isn’t cheap but didn’t phase me. What did was the price of a soda, which was $7 for a small. I was too dazed to even recoil. I just handed over the money in a fugue state of exploitation.

Up to a point, I’m happy to pay a premium to watch a film on a big screen. The upcharging that seems to be acceptable on the peripheries, though, really sticks in my craw. The luxuries of Canal Place are all well and good – sometimes I want to have a bottle of good wine while I watch a blockbuster – but it’s the lack of alternatives (downriver especially) that can make me resent the outlay.

Sometimes I want to strip it down, and just watch a film without any fuss for less than ten bucks.

ACT TWO. INTERIOR. A CINEMA LOBBY.
Enter my potential heroes, siblings Hayley and Will Sampson. We’re sitting in Indywood, a converted Wash-Dry-Fold on Elysian Avenue near Washington Square. This brother-sister team are on a mission to not only bring an affordable movie watching experience to the Marigny, but to transform the way local filmmaking is funded, operates and is distributed.

You know, just your everyday reinventing an industry.

Will laughs. “You’ve heard of Hollywood South,” he says. “That means locals can get jobs as grunts on productions in and around New Orleans. What I want to create is a self-sustaining film industry, a cultural space to foster home-grown talent, to have films made entirely in Louisiana and keeping those tax credits instead of them going to Los Angeles.”

Sounds obvious when you put it like that. Film school graduate Will is primarily the artistic drive behind the venture, while Hayley gained valuable commerce knowledge and experience while she was a student at Tulane, and is eloquent about the business side.

“We had the idea a while ago,” she says. “We spent time pitching it – successfully – to investors but we are still waiting for the federal government to change some aspects of the Jobs Act. We’re technically legal but some regulations have to be put on the books.”

In the meantime, they adapted rather than stood about. They rented a building, built their own screen and fitted it out with seating and a popcorn stand. Indywood for now operates as a scale model of their grand plan. They are screening locally-made films with permission of the directors and producers, and showing them Thursdays through Sundays, splitting the door proceeds with the film makers.

“We’re just screening films for now,” says Will. “But down the line we will help create, host and distribute.”

As does much art these days, their business model relies on crowd funding, the difference with Indywood being that people give money as investments, with a view to being given a return on that investment. Indywood can streamline costs considerable by hosting online streaming, licensing and distributing through a central body.

“We’re still technically a pop-up,” says Hayley. “We’re obviously hoping to sign a more permanent lease here. We’ve had great support so far – people have been saying how much we need an arthouse cinema down here, how downtown needs more of this. We just need our audiences of five or so to turn into audiences of twenty or so.”

Film makers get control, local talent gets opportunity. And me? I get to flop back and watch a movie without having servers weave in front of me with artisanal cheese plates.

ACT THREE. INTERIOR. A CINEMA LOBBY.
I roll up to watch a film and buy a soda to drink while I do so. I hand over a ten dollar bill, and receive change. Our heroes are victorious. The crowd cheers. Fade to black.

Indywood is at 630 Elysian Fields and has showings of local films Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are just $5. See the program at their website and find out more about the business model: www.indywood.org.

Images of Will and Hayley courtesy of Paul Oswell.

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    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

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    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

    PRC

    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

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    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

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    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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