Bright lights, big screen: Vancouver’s Pacific Cinematheque a safe haven for independent filmmakers

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Jim Sinclair has been bringing the best of Canadian art-house and independent cinema to the big screen for 20 years as the executive director of Vancouver's Pacific Cinematheque. (Photo courtesy of Pacific Cinematheque)

New technology has made it cheaper and simpler to make films, but with so many indie films floating around on the Internet, it’s hard to get noticed.

That’s where theatres such sa Vancouver’s Pacific Cinematheque come in.

Jim Sinclair, who has been the theatre’s executive director since 1991, said that Pacific Cinematheque’s mandate is to show innovative, artist-driven work.

They accept unsolicited submissions, which are then screened by Sinclair, who decides whether they are good enough to be screened and whether there will be an audience for them. As with films submitted to film festivals, those shown at the Cinematheque are not required to be rated by Consumer Protection B.C.

In the past, this meant that films screened at the Cinematheque were not subject to censorship, Sinclair says. Nowadays, because of the Internet and because ratings are less strict, that’s less of a concern.

But not needing to be rated is still a good thing for filmmakers. It’s not the filmmaker who pays to have their movie rated, it’s the distributor. If they don’t have a distributor, they have to absorb the costs themselves.

And getting your film rated isn’t cheap. According to the Consumer Production B.C. website, each copy of a film that is to be screened has to be rated. In B.C. it costs $12 for the first 10 minutes of the first copy, and then $1.20 for each subsequent minute. For a 90-minute movie, that’s $108. Each additional copy costs half of that ($54 dollars for a 90-minute movie).

But Sinclair says that it’s the culture of the Cinematheque that makes it such a great place for independent and non-mainstream film.

“There’s a whole world of cinema out there that if you relied entirely on what was playing at the multiplex, not only would you never see it, you’d never know it existed,” he said. “Our whole culture, our mandate here is geared toward providing access to the great achievements of Canadian and international cinema, and being a cultural organization that programs that work.”

Sinclair had some parting advice for filmmakers.

“Try hard. It’s work. If you have something that’s good, you need to get people to see it,” he said. “There’s nothing self-effacing about calling up people who curate film or program cinemas and letting them know that you have a film and getting into their hands so they can see it.”