For over a decade, Kristian Fletcher has presented one-off special events and successful cult and classic movie programs at venues all over Brisbane. With his passion for the 1970s, and a love of discovering forgotten movie gems, Kristian has gained a loyal following for his iconic and nostalgic happenings about town. We caught up with him to chat about where his obsession started and what the futures holds . . .
TUL: I think it's safe to say that you love movies! Tell us where it all began . . .
I wasn't really the biggest movie buff when I was growing up, but I definitely had 'culty tendancies'. I'd watch The Wizard of Oz every day as a primary school student and when I discovered Rocky Horror Picture Show in high school, the obsession took off. I was interested in quirky, off-beat titles, things that were as far from the mainstream as you could find. So I guess I was already actively participating in my own cult following for these movies.
When I left high school, I dreamt of presenting Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings and incorporating a live cast, which would perform the action below the screen, similar to the concept in the US which had been occurring since the late '70s. I began Cards 4 Sorrow in 2000 and things went from there. It opened the door to a lot of other cult movie events I would go on to present. I still run the Rocky Horror screenings with Cards 4 Sorrow to this day, with a loyal following.
In 2003, I expanded things and organised a horror movie festival at the Schonell and it went from there . . .
TUL: What draws you to cult movies? Is it just about offering an alternative to the mainstream, or something more?
It's being able to package an alternative movie to a more mainstream audience. No matter how old people become, they always have a soft spot for the movies of their childhood and younger years. Cult classics are still spoken about today because they have survived as historical artefacts. People want to continually re-experience them, and share them with their friends. That's what a cult movie is. It needs to only start with one person, an interest in the movie . . . and it all continues from there. A cult movie is any movie that deserves a revisit, and to be watched again. I recently discovered a movie called Escape from Galaxy 3—possibly the only disco science fiction movie. I watched it once, fell in love, and found myself watching it again and again. The perfect example of a cult movie! People don't forget these movies.
TUL: Would you say that Brisbane has a flourishing scene for cult and classic cinema? Which venues do you work with on a regular basis?
It is flourishing to an extent—you have your galleries, museums, and multiplexes all giving the nostalgic movies a run, but I don't think they are necessarily going about it the right way. You need to package an experience for people, not just plonk them down in front of a screen in a clinical looking building. It has no character. If you are doing to do it, do it properly. I think that's a lot of the reason why I've been successful enough to continue what I'm doing. When things aren't working, you have to step back, look at what you can add to the experience, and diversify.
TUL: Do you also work with local film-makers?
I like to be able to give local filmmakers a chance to showcase their movies at my events. I've run locally made horror movies as part of an Evil Dead night so the filmmakers are stoked to see their hard work up on the big screen alongside another iconic title.
TUL: You also have a passion for nostalgia and retro, and I believe you hold a special place in your heart for the 70s and 80s. What is it about these decades that you adore?
I adore both eras but it's definitely the '70s that have left the biggest impression on me—the fashion, the music, the movies. I would happily wear flares and platforms on a daily basis if it were socially acceptable. Who knows, it may come back? Fashion always seems to do that.
TUL: I hear you've been working on a book as well?
I have. It's called Rocky Road: Confessions of a Cult Movie Exhibitor. I have to admit it is taking longer than I thought but when you are looking back at over 12 years of history, it needs to be done properly! I am incorporating short interviews with cult movie stars and creators, and trying to get to the bottom of what a cult film really is and the types of things people have experienced at screenings. I'm one of the few exhibitors who has actually sat in on my screenings and witnessed first-hand the way people experience these movies. The reactions, the audience participation. Plus I'm keen to give a more local angle to the scene. SO much research can be made based on American cult audiences, but what about Australia, and Brisbane in particular?
TUL: Alongside your screenings, you have also hosted retro music parties. Are you still hosting these? Who is your main audience? What artists do you love to feature?
Since 2005, I've run Retro-Spekt, which is a retro party which focuses on the music of the '70s and '80s. It's funny how my audience for the movies can also cross over to this. My main audience is 30-55 year olds who are wanting a good night out at a club playing music they love, without necessarily having to wade through the young'uns and hipsters.
Every August since 2006, I've run a Madonna Party, which is one of the biggest events on my calendar annually. This year, we attracted guests from Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne.
TUL: In order to stage your movie screenings, you are quite reliant on other venues and partners but you are currently running a Pozible campaign to allow you to purchase your own data projector. How would this change the scope for your events?
I've run successful cult movie programs at such venues as Metro Arts, Globe Theatre, Tribal Theatre, and Schonell Theatre. It's been a great experience but sometimes you want to go out and make a go of it yourself. With the recent overhaul of cinemas and most now running from digital, it means people are looking for more exciting types of presentation. Horror movie nights in an old neglected building, a B-grade sci-fi flick in a bar with drink in hand . . . the ideas are endless. By obtaining a projector, there is really no limit to the imagination. You can run a movie anywhere!
TUL: What do you hope to achieve in the coming years for your screenings and events? Are we likely to see you taking a more experimental approach and seeking new types of locations in the future?
In the future, I hope to have my own space which I could use for screenings, rather than a purpose-built cinema. I think as people tire of the hold the multiplexes have over cinema, they will hunt these events out, and even go back to the original prints. It will become a larger niche.
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