Joseph A. Gervasi, Programmer/DVD Merchant
Deserves kudos for: Being part of both the local horror repertory staple Exhumed Films and the online multi-region DVD site Diabolik DVD. A onetime hardcore punk show organizer, he recently brought about the movie-music mashup The Valerie Project with Espers' Greg Weeks. (It will play again in June.) In May he'll be presenting Alejandro Jodorowsky's long-bootleg-only classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain.
What advertising techniques did you bring to Exhumed from your days organizing hardcore shows?
"I wanted it to be very grassroots. I wanted there to be a direct connection between audience and programmers. Usually they're just screenings--pay your money, see the film and leave. We wanted there to be some sense of community. That's largely what I had doing hardcore shows. I felt if there was a cohesive sense of community, there would be constant support and [the screenings] would bring something to people's lives other than just cinema."
What advice would you give to other programmers in the city, especially those screening more cerebral fare?
"I think the problem with a lot of these screenings is that the audience is dramatically dwindling. Philly is sadly not much of a cinema town, and that becomes evident year after year, especially for things that are more high-minded. It's a hard sell, especially because people just want to stay home and watch their absolutely gorgeous DVDs. What I think needs to be done is to make them into events. Something like The Valerie Project draws a varied crowd, and they're exposed to a gorgeous gem of late Czech New Wave cinema and also this terrific music at the same time."
How often does Exhumed screen something that offends or unnerves even its regular clientele?
"If we think something's particularly offensive, we might be prompted to make a little comment about it. What I loathe is any sort of animal cruelty which is real, as no animal elects to be tortured for some piece of shit film. So if a film has any scenes of animal cruelty, I'll say something, because I want to morally distance myself from it. We've attempted to reconcile some of the more misogynistic things that run through some of the films or the animal cruelty by doing the occasional benefit show. We did a benefit for a rape crisis center before and one for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. We felt we needed to give something back, to say, 'We may screen these things, but we aren't sociopaths.'"
Do you have trouble running a business that deals in DVDs that are mostly from other countries, making them unplayable in most North American players?
"It used to be there was a fairly finite number of regionless [DVD] players, and they were fairly unreliable. At this point there are scores of players out there, and some of them are actually very nice. There aren't many businesses like mine, because there aren't many people out there who care [about foreign DVDs], but I'm not living in a cardboard box. Yet."
A Short History of...
Ben Kingsley, You Kill Me
Oliver Dahan, La Vie en Rose
Chris Eigeman, The Treatment
Mark Fergus, First Snow