According to the Mayor’s office, since 2002 when Louisiana first passed those now-famous tax subsidies that made it friendly to filmmakers, New Orleans has seen a 400% increase in industry-related infrastructure and skilled crew personnel around town. Over 61 “notable” film and television projects were shot here last year alone, and if the film crews lining my commute are any indication, that number’s not dropping any time soon.
Filmmakers are living and working in New Orleans, and it’s meant a lot for our city: jobs, press coverage, surreal sets in our streets, and some pretty solid celebrity sightings among my friends that work at Whole Foods. What all this activity hasn’t meant? More access to film for most residents. With so few screening spaces within our city limits, and far fewer showing independent, experimental, or art films, it’s a fact of life that city residents more often see actors bagging broccoli than playing roles on the silver screen. New Orleans may be a newly minted “Hollywood South,” but it is still too hard to find something good to watch.
Cinema Reset, the experimental extension of the New Orleans Film Festival, is working to change that, at least for art films—to make them more accessible both literally and figuratively. Dedicated to showcasing, as director Lindsey Phillips describes, “anything outside of the traditional narrative film form,” Cinema Reset is hosting an exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, along with educational workshops and film screenings around the city throughout the month of October. Focusing on interactive projects, non-narrative documentaries, and innovatively created films, they hope to “open a creative dialogue about new endeavors in the cinematic landscape,” and provide New Orleanians a chance to experience a wider variety of films.
Divorced from the idea that experimental film need always be serious and cerebral, Phillips has pointed out that they’ll be highlighting “really cool, really fun work.” And given the schedule of events, I’m inclined to agree. On October 12, they’ll be hosting the Outside Image Project Workshop, a free, daylong “intensive” on guerilla filmmaking. The morning will start with discussion at the CAC and then move to hands-on filming throughout the CBD. The films shot during the day will be team-edited and screened that same night on the exterior wall of the Prytania Theatre and will then join the CAC’s Press Play Gallery October 14-27.
Further afield, during the Film Festival run, Cinema Reset will connect New Orleans audiences with students in New Delhi through the social media platform Zeega. Created by India-based artists Amitesh Grover and Sukhesh Arora, the process, called Social Gaming, encourages collaborative storytelling, emphasizing social media’s utility as an extension of unorthodox filmic narratives.