Screen Gems

Under the direction of rocker Bill Orcutt, the Alliance for Media Arts keeps the faith for Miami's cinema aficionados

Their impulses are determinedly anti-elitist. For its grand opening in mid-October, the co-op bought a keg of beer and held an open screening. Any and all local filmmakers were invited to bring their work with them; more than twenty locally produced short films were screened continuously throughout the evening. The 50 or so chairs set up in the co-op classroom filled in a flash. People continued to stream in, quickly overcrowding the classroom and spilling into the hallway. "First the seating was gone, then the standing room, then the beer," recalls Boswell.

Boswell estimates that 250 people attended the festivities. People were hanging out wherever they could find space A in the office, in the hall, along the stairwell. The dramatic highlight of the evening occurred when local actor Ski Zawaski posed as Hollywood mogul "Toni Botafucci" and taunted the crowd, insulting the "artsy-fartsy shit" they were watching. A plant in the crowd stood up, pointed a gun at the faux producer, and fired. A blood squib was detonated and the Hollywood hotshot went down. Although the wires to Toni's blood pack were clearly visible, many in the audience were startled. This is, after all, Miami.

The three first-semester classes -- super-8, 16mm, and super-VHS production -- were all filled to capacity. (Classes are small by design, limited to a dozen or so students each.) A monthly filmmaker showcase that debuted in November featured Cuban exile writer-director Lorenzo Regalado screening three films he smuggled out of Castro's Cuba A and played to a packed house. Cinema Vortex, a weekly screening devoted to groundbreaking films by masters of the form such as Bu*uel, Richter, and Duchamp bowed on January 9. Tom Downs, a Miami-based video poet with a growing national reputation, delivered the co-op's second filmmaker showcase on January 12th, and Tony Allegro is scheduled to present one on February 9th.

"Gauging from the opening and the response to the classes, I think there's a real demand for what we're doing, and it can only increase as more people find out about us," concludes Keddell. If the enthusiasm so far is any guide, his optimism is certainly justified.

Meanwhile Bill Orcutt, the man who pushed for the co-op's formation and whose stewardship of the Alliance theater has been largely responsible for its surging popularity, still trundles about in his decomposing sneakers, arranging screenings for those perpetually tardy movie reviewers, setting up the projector, and motoring about in his trusty Subaru dropping off photographs for upcoming releases. But this young man who makes the Alliance run, the one responsible for bringing filmmaking within the reach of anyone with the time and the enthusiasm regardless of budget, has no time to pursue the art form that brought him to the Alliance in the first place.

Orcutt compares his plight to that of the drug addicts profiled in William Burroughs's Junky; they took turns being the dealer for the group out of a spirit of community even though none of them really wanted to risk getting busted. "It's basically a thankless job, but someone's got to do it," Orcutt says with a resigned sigh.

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