Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Movie Heroes to the Rescue

Photo courtesy of Movie Heroes

How would you feel if the movie theater where you had your first date was going out of business? What would you do if the cinema where you saw the movie that inspired your career path was closing its doors forever? Well that happened to Keith Walker and Matt Sconce. But they put their best caped-crusader effort into saving their local movie house… and subsequently Movie Heroes was born.

Keith and Matt learned in November of 2012 that their local movie theater, The Met Cinema in Oakhurst, California, could no longer afford to operate. So rather than let their childhood memories fade into oblivion, the independent filmmaker and aerospace engineer sprung into action. In a recent one-on-one interview Keith stated, "That's the place where we saw every single major movie growing up. I remember seeing October Sky there which really inspired me. It's about building rockets, and that's what I ended up doing with my life… So there's a heart for that place and it closed, and it's like, 'Oh, no, we have to save this.'"

Matt added, "For me that was the theater that I went to my first date on, Oliver and Company. So I remember growing up it was always the place to go. For me, being a filmmaker, it was one of the biggest things that inspired me. Because I love to be able to see the stories that other people like, to be able to look into different realities and different places and be able to travel the world."

So how do a filmmaker and an engineer who know nothing about running a theater go about such a daunting task? It was perhaps their naiveté that made the venture successful. Instead of thinking about all the stumbling blocks in front of most theater owners, they took a different approach.

Keith said, "We attribute our success to the fact that we didn't know much about it. Now that we know what we know, we realize that what we were doing was more significant and more risky than we know at the time." They went into the business thinking it was all about the consumer and creating a value added proposition for them. However they did not realize how much control the movie studios have over the theater owners.

They thought they could turn the business around by selling subscriptions a la Netflix. For $19.95 a month a consumer got unlimited access to see any film showing at the theater at any time. They set a goal to sell 3,000 monthly subscriptions and assumed the studios wouldn't care how they got their money as long as they got it.

Keith recounted, "What we found out is, they didn't do it that way. They viewed this as a very different thing. As a result we had to spend a lot of time building trust with the studios and developing audit mechanisms so they would feel comfortable with what we were doing."

So while they were building a business — hiring a staff, ordering concessions, updating the projectors — they were also negotiating with major movie studios to get product. Matt admitted, "For a while we had saved the theater but we had no studios giving us movies. So we had this limbo state for about three months where we wondered, 'Did we save the theater just to not save the theater?'"

But once they gained the studios' trust, business began to flourish. In fact, the model has been so successful for them that the movie house has had better attendance under this subscription model than at any other time in the theater's history.

Keith explained, "People watch way more movies. And by 'way more'  we don't mean 10% more. People are watching at a rate between six and 10 times the national average. A 500 to 900% increase."

Not only have the Movie Heroes saved The Met Cinema in Oakhurst, they have applied the same model to movie houses on Coalinga, Avenal and Red Bluff. And these theaters have more than doubled their revenue. Matt and Keith hope to save many more theaters around the country and are in contact with 60 other cinemas that are interested in the Movie Heroes model.

So if the local theater where you shared your first kiss is on the verge of closing its doors forever, the Movie Heroes might be able to help save it… one subscription at a time. For more info visit

Monday, October 20, 2014

Finding Common Ground with “The Real Apes of the Planet”

Photo courtesy of Animal Planet

We’ve all gone to the zoo and marveled at the fact that chimps, with their expressive faces and distinctive personalities, seem to be just like us. But it takes a special like The Real Apes of the Planet to show just how deep the connection between humans and our primate brethren runs. It’s true that in addition to the fact that we all share large brains, faces with forward facing eyes and opposable thumbs, we also all run the gamut of personality types.

From the tiniest tarsier to the most steadfast silverback gorilla, The Real Apes puts the variety of personality traits in the primate world on display. And in doing so, the special takes the viewer on an globe-spanning journey from the northern most monkeys of Japan to the baboons farthest south in South Africa’s cape.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chuck Connelly Explores “My America” at the Warhol Museum

Courtesy of Chuck Connelly

Almost 60 years ago artist Chuck Connelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But for an artist who admits he “hates going backwards,” what matters is that the painter is back in his hometown for his first solo museum show at the Andy Warhol Museum. 

The exhibit, “Chuck Connelly: My America,” is meaningful to Connelly. First of all, it’s dedicated to his late brother Christopher Connelly, Jr.  The artist’s sibling passed away in April and Connelly admitted in a recent one-on-one interview, “My brother was the one I was playing to. He was my biggest fan.” 

The location is poignant on several other levels. As he noted, “It means a lot. Everybody I know who is an artist thinks it means something… Also it’s my hometown and I was a big fan of Andy [Warhol] all the time I was growing up. And I knew the Warhols as a kid. I knew his family, so I had a connection that way. I knew his nephews. They were in my classes… And we were competing in who could draw better and stuff.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cayce Mell Discovers Her Grandmother’s Past by ‘Tracing Outlines’

Photo courtesy of Cayce Mell

Some stories are destined to be told, even when they’ve been hidden away for decades. Such was the case with the new documentary “Tracing Outlines,” which tells the story of a modern art gallery that was established in 1941 by Elizabeth Rockwell in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. What filmmaker Cayce Mell didn’t realize was that the gripping tale had been right under her nose her entire life.

So how did a social justice advocate become an independent filmmaker? The story is almost as interesting as the one that unfolds onscreen — and all thanks to a chair that was for sale on Craiglist.

As Mell recounted in a recent one-on-one interview, “My husband sells antiques. A young couple came to our house. They found a chair he was selling on Craigslist. I all too often see the significant other of the person who’s buying a chair or a lamp looking very bored and I’ll just go out to the driveway and talk to them.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rachel Tribble Creates Art for Peace

Photo by Thomas Winter

Artist Rachel Tribble has always been inspired by peace and the concept that art can produce a feeling of serenity and a connection to the universe. So it was a natural fit for her to join forces with Michael Brooke, publisher of Concrete Wave magazine and pioneer of the Longboarding for Peace movement.

In a recent exclusive interview, Rachel described the movement that started a little over a year ago. "Longboarding for Peace became involved with at-risk youth and started to teach them longboarding as a way of learning about balance in life and learning that you can overcome obstacles… [Michael has] worked in Israel with Palestinian and Israeli children bringing them together for a week at a time teaching them all to skateboard."

She explained that they have also worked in Texas trading weapons for skateboards in an effort to curb violence there. Longboarding for Peace has a goal of building a global Peace Army of 50,000 people. Rachel noted that have already reached people in 30 or 40 countries.

Longboarding for Peace's most recent project is in support of the Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Leonard Peltier, who was imprisoned for the death of two FBI agents in the 1970s. Many, including Amnesty International, believe he was wrongly convicted and label him a political prisoner. Peace activists have been working for decades to have his sentence reversed.

So when Rachel, a longtime advocate for the rights of Native Americans, found out that Michael was planning to start a project to benefit Peltier, she jumped at the chance to create artwork for three longboards. She explains, "He wanted to do a project that gave Leonard some public exposure to people that didn't know about the case. And he asked me to paint some longboards that would somehow define and quickly tell the story of Leonard, which was almost impossible to do."

While Rachel was challenged initially by how to tell Peltier's tale through her art, she described her ultimate inspiration for the colorful, abstract, linear work she created. "One board has a feel of earth, one board has a feel of darkness and water and the other board is one of red fire… I did some research and I found a letter that Leonard himself wrote this year, 2014, from prison. It's a beautiful letter of thoughts on peace and what it's like to be in the situation that he's in. I took excerpts from the letter that were very fitting for the story and I used Leonard's own voice and his own words to tell his own story and his own statements."

Rachel's one-of-a-kind boards will be auctioned off on eBay with the proceeds going to the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund. She stated, "Longboarding for Peace is a movement I really believe in. It's longboarders and skateboarders and anybody with a good heart and a desire to see peace in the world. It's not a non-profit, it's more of a pay it forward. So essentially we're a network of people who know people who know someone… Nobody's making any money off of it, it just people trying to help other people."

Rachel has always been interested in examining the concept of peace through her artwork and has recently launched a new jewelry line that explores the themes further. While she has been working in this realm for a long time, the current state of the world makes her mission that much more timely. She said, "I'm pretty outspoken about how I feel about what's going on in the world right now, so I'm hoping that people of like minds respond."

Her necklaces, mainly 28" in length, are handmade beads and glass on a weather froze chain. She remarked, "I want to call them Nebular, like a neutron star, a place where new hope and new life is born… to remind people that we all come from the one place, we all live in one earth, in one universe and one solar system and we should all be happy to be together here."

Rachel shared that she gets her inspiration for all of her art from nature and meditation. "I live in a very quiet, rural area and I spend a lot of time in nature. And in those quiet moments I am often inspired by either something in a meditation or some depth of color that I may see in the morning. I get up just before the sun starts to rise and I go outside… I go into mediation as the sun pops the horizon. Everyday it's something different. It's amazing when you do that for a really long time, you start to realize that every single sunrise on this planet is different, every single one."

She continued, "I am completely inspired by nature in those quiet moments… So when I paint I am trying to offer that to other people. When they look at my paintings, or they live with them like many people do, that they also can feel that connection to the universe and that connection to some serenity in their own lives. And my hope is that when people are around my work or they live with my work, that it will inspire them and they will be inspired to do something peaceful and help other people."

Find out more about Rachel's art at her website and discover more about Longboarding for Peace at