request - Filmmaker Magazine

By Justin Lowe

Microcinema snowglobe logo.

WITH THE CRASH of the dot-com movie streamers, short-form filmmakers seeking exhibition opportunities for their film and video titles can turn instead to Microcinema International (MI), a San Francisco–based company devoted to short works. MI is also the hub of the rapidly expanding International Microcinema Network, an organization that screens programs in alternative settings that include cafés, galleries, bars and small cinemas worldwide.

Alternative filmmaker Joel Bachar initiated MI’s Independent Exposure film and video series in 1996 after becoming frustrated with the lack of existing venues exhibiting shorts. Partnering with Seattle’s Speakeasy Café, Bachar presented Independent Exposure under sponsorship of his Blackchair Productions company until 2000, when he and Houston-based partner Patrick Kwiatkowski collaborated with several small investors to form Microcinema International, a company that curates and markets short films and videos to exhibitors, broadcasters and distributors.

“We discover emerging media artists, exhibit them through the Independent Exposure program and then distribute them internationally,” Bachar explains from MI’s San Francisco office.

Bachar produces a new Independent Exposure program each month. He currently premieres the series at the 111 Minna Gallery, an alternative entertainment and exhibition space in the heart of downtown San Francisco. A typical 60-minute program includes animation, narrative and documentary shorts submitted by moving-image artists nationwide and from numerous foreign countries. Notable directors featured in past programs have included Grace Lee, Tom E. Brown, Shane Acker and Eric Henry.

Following the San Francisco premiere, Bachar then ships Independent Exposure to Houston on Mini DV tape, where Kwiatkowski screens the program at the Firestation #3 Gallery before exporting it to a dozen regular U.S. venues, as well as occasional presenters across North America, Europe and Asia.

Over seven years, Independent Exposure has grown into a loosely knit global community of DIY exhibitors and venues from Winnipeg, Canada, to Wollongong, Australia, known as the International Microcinema Network. To date, the program has appeared in 34 countries and screens for an average of 700 patrons monthly.

Via e-mail lists and the MI Web site (, Bachar and Kwiatkowski maintain an open submissions policy that shuns deadlines, forms and fees. Films must be 15 minutes or less and can be submitted in VHS, Mini DV, and DVD formats. In addition to the screening series, MI promotes filmmakers by offering nonexclusive exhibition, distribution and licensing agreements that bring artists 40 percent of gross fees.

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