Introducing The Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah

An Interview with  Executive & Artistic Director,  Jim Reed

Background on PFS:

For almost eight years now, The Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah has served as the area’s only not-for-profit film society dedicated solely to screening cult, indie, experimental and fringe cinema from around the world. They specialize in programming two types of films – those never before released in the USA, and those which have, but which likely have never been seen by the average viewer in a public setting.

Every Wednesday night, they show an amazingly diverse selection of features in the intimate, 50-seat, screening room environment of the award-winning Sentient Bean Coffeehouse and Vegetarian Restaurant on the Southern end of Forsyth Park.  Two Sundays a month, they screen recent, high-profile indie and foreign features (and all-time cult classics) at Muse Arts Warehouse’s 100-seat black box theater just two blocks West of the Civic Center off MLK, Jr. Blvd.

Occasionally, they screen major films on 35mm at the historic 1,200-seat Lucas Theatre for The Arts, and the Victory Square Cinema 9, and digitally at the Jepson Center for The Arts’ 220-seat theater and the Jewish Education Alliance’s 300-seat auditorium. To date, these selections have included first-run films on the festival circuit, little-known gems from decades past, and extraordinarily rare “lost” films which exist only in the hands of diehard private collectors. Whether these are horror or sci-fi flicks, dramas, comedies, mysteries, thrillers, film noirs, musicals, martial arts movies, concert films, documentaries, “Grindhouse” pictures, foreign films or avant-garde, experimental art-house pics, as long as they’re good examples of their genre, The PFS shows them all!

The PFS has been profiled on Georgia Public Broadcasting, in glossy culture mags such as Murmur, The South and Savannah Magazine, and in newspapers such as Connect Savannah and the Savannah Morning News. It was even recommended in the New York Times as a “must-do” event while visiting the town’s Historic Downtown. PFS also been instrumental in The Sentient Bean being repeatedly named “Best Indie Film Venue In Town” by the readers of local alt.weekly Connect Savannah.

The goal of the PFS of SAV is to present unique motion pictures which most folks in the greater Savannah, GA area would likely never have the chance to see in a public setting. With no dedicated art-house cinema in town, we have created a “year-round festival” of one-night-only screenings designed to educate as well as entertain. They proudly show “really good” movies, and “really bad” ones and strive to avoid mediocrity in our selection process. They also insist upon quiet, respectful behavior during the films – a refreshing return to more well-mannered times (before cell phones, texting and the casual atmosphere of home theaters made watching movies frustrating for those who hate interruptions during films).

By popular demand, the PFS of SAV is finally transitioning to full-fledged, federally recognized 501(c)3 status, and will soon offer annual memberships, and the ability to make tax-decutible contributions. They will also launch a line of official merchandise (shirts, tote bags, tiny pins, mugs, posters, etc…), and is in the process of partnering with a specialty film distributor to provide access to hundreds of of rare indie and foreign titles which are otherwise unavailable on DVD in the USA.
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The Times talks with Jim Reed:

What does “Psychotronic” mean? It’s a made-up term that was coined (but not invented) in the 1970s by a film buff named Michael Weldon to describe unusual movies that didn’t fit neatly into standard genres, or which were so bizarre or absurd that they defied easy categorization or description. He wound up publishing a heartfelt, homemade fanzine about his love for such forgotten films, and that was later expanded in the early ’80s into a reference book of the same name. Since then, his use of the term has inspired myself, along with a handful of other film buffs around the world to brand their own film societies as “Psychotronic,” even though we are not affiliated in any capacity with Mr. Weldon or his magazine. It’s more like we’re paying tribute to his pioneering work at championing films that most folks would overlook.

What sort of films does the PFS of SAV  show? We proudly claim to show “really good movies and really bad ones.” That means t hat I try to seek out films that are unique, enjoyable and memorable – whether they’re amazing triumphs of taste and talent or embarrassing examples of sub-standard movie-making. I’m a firm believer if a movie is bad enough, it can be much more entertaining than one that’s mediocre or average.

So, does your film society only show campy, weird movies that are “so-bad-they’re-good”? Absolutely not! Although we do have plenty of folks who seem to only come out to laugh at the duds. We’ve been known to show trashy ’70s action flicks filled with no-name actors and bad special effects one week, and then a timeless classic by legendary directors like Orson Welles or Don Seigel the next. We are easily the most eclectic and unpredictable organization in this area devoted to showing films in public.

How is attending one of your screenings different than going to a standard movie theater? Well, for one thing, we rarely show previews and we never show advertisements. Usually, I’ll personally introduce the movie and give some interesting trivia or background info on its production, and then we’ll give away some door prizes — such as free movies passes or rare DVDs — before the film starts. Afterward, we encourage folks to head out to a restaurant or bar to visit and discuss the film. I’m happy to say that many lasting friendships have been made over the years by people who have met at our Psychotronic film screenings. We also don’t allow any talking or phone use whatsoever during our screenings. Just like back in the old days!
From teenagers to senior citizens, all kinds of people are coming out to these screenings, and many of them make a point to tell me how happy they are that we’re doing this. The simple fact is that most folks love to see intriguing, challenging films, and these days in Savannah, they rarely get that chance unless they’re watching a DVD in their homes. A big part of the wonder of seeing a movie is the shared experience of viewing it alongside quiet and respectful friends and neighbors, as you would a play or concert. That’s what the PFS of SAV is all about: promoting and restoring the old-fashioned notion of what going to the movies is about.

What is your role in the PFS of SAV? I founded the organization in 2002, and have been the Executive and Artistic Director ever
since. I seek out and research cinema from around the world to find little-known yet entertaining examples of all kinds of genres from around the world. I then choose the films we show, negotiate with the filmmakers and movie studios for permission to screen them, and coordinate the handful of volunteers that help keep this rather time-consuming project afloat. I also oversee the publicity and promotion of our series. Then I cross my fingers and hope we sell enough tickets to at least break even! It is a labor of love for everyone involved.

What is “Movies Savannah Missed”?
“Movies Savannah Missed” is the name of the PFS of SAV’s latest ongoing cinema series. For a few years now, I’ve been trying to find a way to expand the variety of films I present and attract a wider range of audience members. The heart and soul of this society is our weekly Wednesday night screenings at The Sentient Bean Coffeehouse on Forsyth Park (next to Brighter Day Natural Foods). Plenty of folks enjoy the types of films I program there –which range from obscure or forgotten gems from decades past to brand-new indie films which have not yet even been released to regular theaters. However, many people told me they either preferred seeing films in a more “theatrical” setting, or were primarily interested in recent, noteworthy titles they had read reviews for online or in publications such as Entertainment Weekly or the New York Times, but which never wound up playing in Savannah. Since The Bean only holds 50 people, it has been very difficult for me to regularly include such films there, as the permission to show them in public costs so much it’s virtually impossible to not lose money by doing so! Recently, a friend of mine opened a great little community venue called Muse Arts Warehouse, just two blocks West of the Civic Center downtown. She was impressed with the loyal following I had developed at The Bean, and when she approached me about possibly showing films in her space as well, I saw great potential for growing the organization.

Her playhouse holds twice as many people as The Bean, and is much more like a standard movie theater. It has padded, raised seating and a larger screen. I’m also able to offer multiple showings per day there. Once Muse Arts installed a new projector and a popcorn machine, we were all set to go! (It’s also worth noting that Muse is a non-profit as well, and they sell popcorn, candy, snacks and soft drinks for only $1 each, which is unheard of at a movie theater.)  Because that room holds more people, I can afford to take bigger financial risks by bringing in (for one day only) recent or even brand-new films that folks may have heard about, but which would never show here otherwise because the major theater chains in our area are by and large only interested in showing whatever they assume the ten most commercial or mainstream movies are in a given week. “Movies Savannah Missed” allows locals and tourists alike the chance to see critically acclaimed films from around the world that usually only play in much bigger cities. So far, the response has been tremendously positive.

Tell us about this big Halloween Event you have planned. This year, on the day of Halloween itself, we’re holding a 12-Hour Marathon of classic and cult horror films from around the world at Muse Arts. We’ll show six movies in a row from noon till midnight, starting out with some spooky ghost stories from the ’60s, moving into European murder mysteries from the ’70s, then to the 1980s zombie and “slasher” genres, and finally to a very recent and edgy psychological thriller. Tickets will be $7 per film, but for folks who want to stay for the whole thing, we’ll have a limited number of discount All-Day Passes for sale through our website starting Oct. 1st. You can find details on each of that day’s films at our website.

Do you ever have an annual Film Festival like SCAD does? Yes. Once a year, we hold an annual Psychotronic Film Fest, which runs between one and two weeks long, with at least one film shown every night — including rare older titles and brand-new films that are still on the festival circuit. Sometimes the directors actually make appearances and take questions form the crowd. It’s just like the big Savannah Film Fest, only smaller in scale and perhaps a little quirkier. The next one takes place near the end of Jan., 2011.

Where can readers get more information? The best place to get up-to-date information on all of our upcoming screenings (at places like The Bean, Muse Arts Warehouse, the Lucas Theatre, the Jepson Museum, the Victory Square Cinemas and the Jewish Education Alliance) is through our website: http://www.psychotronicfilmsavannah.org

Usually, our films are listed a few days in advance in Connect Savannah newspaper and the Savannah Morning News, but not always.
Our Wed. night films are always listed at http://www.sentientbean.com as well.
Below is all the info on the films showing during the month of October (including “Movies Savannah Missed” titles, their ticket prices/various start times).

Date: Wed., October 6, 8pm:
The Intruder aka Shame (1962, USA)
The Sentient Bean, Age Restriction: Ages 13+. Synopsis: Critically acclaimed but sadly unknown Civil Rights message movie about segregation in the deep South, starring William Shatner and directed by Roger Corman. Cost: $5

Date: Sun., October 10, 5:30pm & again at 8pm: MOVIES SAVANNAH MISSED:
American Grindhouse (2010, USA)

Muse Arts Warehouse, Age Restriction: Mature Audiences Only. Synopsis: Acclaimed, first-run documentary on the history of sleazy, exploitation movies from the dawn of cinema to the present day – featuring exclusive interviews with directors and stars from the genre’s heyday and rare clips from hundreds of actual Grindhouse films. Cost: $7

Date: Wed., October 13, 8pm:
The Incredible Paris Incident (1967, Italian)

The Sentient Bean – Age Restriction: Ages 13+. Synopsis: Campy and mod European secret agent/crime caper spoof featuring the masked superhero Argoman, and starring Gert Froebe (James Bond’s “Goldfinger”). Dubbed in English. Cost: $5

Date: Wed., October 20, 8pm
Happiness (1998, USA)

The Sentient Bean – Age Restriction: MUST BE 17 OR OLDER TO ATTEND!  Synopsis: This disturbing and edgy dark comedy-drama about sexual perversion and familial dysfunction from director Todd Solondz (Welcome To The Dollhouse) is considered shocking and offensive by some, but is also revered by critics as one of the finest and most daring American films of the past two decades. We’ll also present a brand-new sequel at the Victory Square Cinemas. Cost: $6


Date: Sun., October 24, 7pm:
Life During Wartime (2010, USA)
Victory Square Cinemas – Age Restriction: Mature Audiences Only. Synopsis: This unexpected sequel to Todd Solondz’s cult classic Happiness (shown earlier in the week at The Bean) offers an update on the lives of the flawed characters from his disturbing earlier masterpiece. Co-spons’d by Reel Savannah Film Group. Cost: $8

Date: Wed., October 27, 8pm
Night of The Blood Beast (1958, USA)

The Sentient Bean – Age Restriction: Ages 13+. Synopsis: Campy, so-bad-it’s-good B&W sci-fi/horror turkey about an astronaut who returns to earth impregnated with alien embryos. Cost: $5

Date: Sun., Oct. 31, 12 noon ‘til 12 midnight
6thSenseWorld.com presents – MOVIES SAVANNAH MISSED: 12-Hour Halloween Horror Movie Marathon!

Muse Arts Warehouse – Age Restriction: Mature Audiences Only! Synopsis: 6 Cult and Classic Horror Films from around the world, screened one after the other. Cost: $7 per movie.

Here are the films, in their running order – synopsises are online:

1. Carnival of Souls (1961, USA) 12 noon.
2. The Haunting (1963, USA) 2 pm.
3. City of The Living Dead aka The Gates
of Hell Uncut! (1980, Italy/USA) 4 pm.
4. Dario Argento’s “Profondo Rosso”
aka “Deep Red” (1975, Italy) 6 pm.
5. Tourist Trap (1979, USA) 8:30 pm.
6. The Signal (2007, USA) – 10:15 pm.

(Note: A limited number of ALL-DAY DISCOUNT PASSES will be sold online starting on Oct. 1st).

To purchase please visit: http://www.psychotronicfilmsavannah.org

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