Feb 5, 2009

Another moment of joy from the Helen Hill film legacy

The Nickelodeon Theatre (friend of the show) in Columbia, South Carolina, continues to thrive, counter to all evidence that repertory movie houses are no longer viable ventures. So much is it thriving that the nonprofit organization has bought the building that was once the home of Columbia's last Main Street movie theater, the Fox. Renovations are underway. Film projection guru James Bond (Full Aperture Systems, Chicago, without which there would have been no Orphans 2 through 7) is working with the Nick's executive director Larry Hembree to make the renovated building a great viewing and listening space.

Further, the Nickelodeon continues to expand the inspirational legacy of the late filmmaker Helen Hill, so beloved in the orphanista community throughout North America. The Nick gives a Helen Hill Memorial Award to at its annual Indie Grits Film Festival (April 15-19 this year). The $500 prize is "awarded to the best work by a female filmmaker, in honor of Columbia native and celebrated animator, filmmaker and teacher Helen Hill (1970-2007)."

And to top it all off, the renovated building on Main Street will be called the South Carolina Center for Film and Media, housing both the Nickelodeon Theatre and a Media Education Center. The latter's mission will be giving kids experience in making films and videos (something the Nick has done over the years).

Madame Winger Makes a Film

The Story
In partnership with New York University and the University of South Carolina, the Nickelodeon Theatre also administers a separate Helen Hill Award, given to an independent filmmaker whose work shares the creative and community-spirited characteristics of Helen Hill. It funds the filmmakers' travel to and participation in the Orphan Film Symposium; Kodak donates $1,000 in film stock as well.

The director of the USC Film and Media Studies program is Susan Courtney, who has been with Orphans since its birth in 1999. She wrote in an e-mail recently about her two daughters' delights with Helen's Madame Winger Makes a Film (2001):

This a.m. at breakfast table I caught the family up on the Media Education Center idea from the meeting last night at the Nickelodeon. It was great to see the excitement of young Columbians at the thought of such a place in their town. Both girls, as it happens, are having birthday parties at the Nick this year (hooking up with Saturday morning movies for kids series). For May—which happens to be Chloe's birthday—we’re doing a DIY Animation Celebration with Helen Hill films and “make your own flip book” in the basement of IMAC coffee hosue afterwards. Chloe, a huge Madame Winger fan, is very keen about all this. After I told her the idea for the new Center at the Nick she said, “Does that mean we could WATCH Madame Winger in the theater and then go right next door and MAKE a film!?!!” I said yes, ideally, but had to break it to her that that won’t be possible yet this May, and she said, “Next year!”

Chloe Courtney Bohl.
self-portrait, 2007.

In my previous posting, "This Is Why We Do What We Do," I refered to comedian Steve Martin's pleasure in discovering he was briefly captured on film in Robbins Barstow's amateur film Disneyland Dream (1956), which was named to the 2008 National Film Registry. But the Chloe-Susan-Larry-Helen breakfast table story takes us even higher in this realm of the pleasures of orphan films and what they can inspire when inspired people embrace them.