Guest article by Janet Lee
Film is a window into other lives, whether they’re set in reality or an alternate universe. Movies provide various perspectives that are ultimately a reflection of our society. The Film Series Program at Bullock Museum delves into these perspectives, leading open and thematic discussions within the Austin community.
The museum’s mission is to create diverse conversations and narratives using the medium of film. And more importantly, to continue those conversations beyond the theater. Rather than simply hosting screenings, Bullock wants to collectively tackle myths, preconceived notions, and themes that are relevant and engaging.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the team behind the Film Series to chat about their curation strategy and upcoming programs.
Spirit Theater as a Platform for Open Conversation
One of the most renowned museums in Austin, Bullock offers multiple experiences focused on Texas history. The 4D multi-sensory Spirit Theater, located on the second floor of the museum, provides an open space to engage and discuss.
Film Programs Manager Rachel Manning and Public Programs Manager James McReynolds currently have five film programs. They hope to connect with many local communities by spanning a variety of topics, promoting open discussions with scholars, filmmakers, and experts.
“What’s great is that we’re able to screen so many films that reach so many different audiences,” explained Manning. She leads the Texas Focus, Femme Film Fridays, Viva Cinema, and Summer Family Film programs. “I think what both James and I do is really inclusive, so we try to make sure that we reach and touch a lot of different people and audiences.”
Launching Discussions With Themes
As programs and subjects can get quite broad, specifying the scope always helps. For the Bullock team, it’s about establishing a set theme for each program.
Manning, whose Femme Film Friday program is focusing on identity this season, reveals that choosing a theme gives people something to latch onto.
“If I’m going to see a film, I try to think of what’s drawing me to that, beyond just being a film lover,” she said. “So I try to think of that in connection to people within the community outside of the museum.”
Themes provide an opportunity to view films through specific lenses. So everyone, whether they’ve already seen the movie or are seeing it for the first time, is able to experience it with a fresh perspective.
McReynolds, who runs the B Movies & Bad History program, pointed out that films portray myths and preconceived notions that should be fleshed out collectively. His programming is uniquely structured around a series of short clips that allow people to jump into conversations throughout the event’s duration.
“Our reflection of our society is what’s being portrayed in all of these films, so you can get in there and tackle it as much and as little as you want,” shared McReynolds. “It’s a nice way to tackle the nostalgia and maybe complicate your preconceived notions about Texas history.”
Engaging With Local Organizations and Artists
While brainstorming potential new programs, Manning and McReynolds aim for a model that fits. From receiving audience feedback to partnering with local organizations, they ensure that whoever they collaborate with, inclusivity, diversity, and engagement are all part of the formula.
“Our department tries to think about who has a complementary but not necessarily overlapping audience, so that we can both be bringing audiences who are engaged with us to the table,” said Kate Betz, Head of Education and Interpretation. “Also partners who share our values, as far as engaging the community and thinking about programs that are inclusive.”
With the Texas Focus and Femme Film programs, Manning focuses on involving local filmmakers. Specifically with Femme Film, she screens a short film at the beginning of the program, and invites the filmmaker to introduce her work. Thus, the event provides local artists with a platform to showcase their work, and a resource to connect with other current and aspiring artists.
“It’s been nice to not only champion short films, but also champion women short filmmakers within Texas,” explained Manning.
A Transformative and Universal Medium
With numerous places to see movies in Austin, the Bullock film series team stands by its purpose to offer eclectic programs and conversations that aren’t commonly found in every movie-going experience. The team hopes people will leave the theater thinking about a circumstance or life a bit differently. After all, film is a transformative and universal medium.
Upcoming Film Series for 2018
Here’s a preview of what’s to come in the Film Series:
- B Movies & Bad History will have a program focused on the Comanche culture, in conjunction with Comanche Motion exhibit. There will also be a rodeo-themed program in conjunction with Rodeo! The Exhibition in September 2018.
- A French film series will launch in partnership with Alliance Française. It will be in connection with the first-floor exhibit.
- A poster exhibit will be hosted in the Spirit Lobby related to Texas films.
- A television program is currently in the works!
For more information regarding the Film Series and specific programming, visit the link below.
1800 Congress Ave. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you ever participated in a film series at Bullock Museum?
Janet is a freelance writer. Most of her writing on film and local communities can be found on her website.