THE CLICHE may go that everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame, but perhaps we should amend Andy Warhol's famous pronouncement to: Everyone will get their indie film screened with at least one audience discussion afterward. As for the quality of those films, well, that's definitely in the eyes of the buddies they invite.
Since June, the Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-966-6000) has been providing that chance with Local Filmmaker/Community Night, a Wednesday program that gives filmmakers the opening night they've always dreamed of (not to mention a small share of the door). The midweek slot, always at 9:15, is also meant for community organizations that can use the opportunity to screen nontheatrical films as a vehicle for fundraising or to bring awareness to their mission.
The series is an offshoot of a similar amateur night that used to be held Tuesday nights at the former Visions theater, where Avalon's director of programming, Andrew Mencher, and the series's publicist and coordinator, Connie Poole, worked. One of the films shown there, "Life and Debt," secured distribution.
After Visions closed its doors in September 2004, Mencher became a programmer at the Avalon, and Poole started her own publicity company, Conduit Productions. This summer, they brought back the local filmmaker idea to the Avalon, kicking off with a screening of Ed Sherman's "Full Moon Fables," which drew more than 200 people. The series also has featured occasional music acts, stand-up comedy and panels.
Wednesday's offering at the Avalon is "Winterlude," a film conceived and directed by Evan Guilfoyle and Jonathan Schultz, who originally made a 35-minute version of the film as students at the University of Maryland-Baltimore campus. Well, $36,000 and four years later, it's 84 minutes with this narrative scheme: A self-serious student filmmaker (played by Schultz, channeling equal parts Woody Allen and Jean-Luc Godard) is trying to make a movie about love. He enlists a couple, Bob and Marianne, to be his interviewees and subjects. But the unromantic reality of low-budget filmmaking causes tension, and the manipulative director annoys Marianne, who also fights with Bob. She also starts up a flirtatious thing with one of the crew. And so on.
Much of the film was shot on the fly, often at night, and the overall quality suffers. The filmmakers' plan to improvise as they went along, well, it shows. But "Winterlude" also has its flashes of promise, and refreshingly, it was shot on 16 millimeter film, instead of the banal digital video that permeates independent filmmaking.
"This is an opportunity for them," says Poole. "I realize that some of the films are better than others. But I am not the judge and jury. When I view the submissions, I look at the level of professionalism and viewing quality. I ask myself, 'Who would watch this film and why?' "
Admission for the Wednesday screenings is usually $8.50 (it varies, depending upon the nature of the event), and tickets are available through the Avalon box office. The schedule can be found at www.ConduitProductions.com and www.theavalon.org. The former also has information about submitting films.
THE DUTCH MASTERS
The Dutch have long been known as great documentarians as such past masters Joris Ivens and Bert Haanstra have shown. This week, the National Gallery of Art is paying tribute to two more recent filmmakers, Jos de Putter and Peter Delpeut, whose work has rarely been seen in the United States.
The series kicks off Sunday at 2 with de Putter's 1993 "It's Been a Lovely Day," which depicts a year in the life of a traditional Dutch farmstead that has remained within the same family for more than a century. It's followed Monday at 2:30 with his "Brooklyn Stories," a 55-minute film (made in 2002) about old-time Brooklyn Dodgers fans, including a musician, a dock worker and a homeless man. "Brooklyn" is shown with 2000's "Nor His Donkey," the final episode in a Dutch TV documentary series based on the Ten Commandments.
The series, which runs though Oct. 1, will begin showing Delpeut's work Sept. 17, starting with 1993's "Forbidden Quest," a film created entirely out of found footage -- in this case, from old silent naval and Antarctic exploration films.
Both filmmakers will discuss their work -- de Putter will introduce "The Damned and the Sacred" Sept. 18, and Delpeut will introduce "Treasures of the Rijksmuseum" and "Cinema Perdu" Sept. 25. For more information and the full schedule, visit www.nga.gov/programs/filmdutch.shtm.
-- Desson Thomson