8 Female Filmmakers: C. Jacqueline Wood: Making Film a Community
This story is part of a series of interviews spotlighting eight local female filmmakers in collaboration with the Cindependent Film Festival. Read more female filmmaker stories and thank you to everyone who came to support the inaugural Cindependent Film Festival! Stay tuned for our recap on this incredible event.
C. Jacqueline Wood is an important part of the Cincinnati film community. Her work supports not only independent film and filmmakers, but also the audience who’s looking for a different moviegoing experience. She wanted to build a space that would honor the hard work of the filmmaker and to combine it with wide-ranging programming that needed a home. And she’s done just that with the Mini Microcinema in Over-the-Rhine – whether it’s an abstract experimental film, a classic masterpiece, or even an award-winning kid’s cartoon, you can see them all, for free, in a friendly space with the best in sound and picture quality.
In her twenties, while her friends were heading out to NYC and LA, Jacqueline came home to Cincinnati to take care of her ailing grandmother. She’s grateful for that time, which served to deepen who this young woman is and what makes up her heart: patience, hard work, and compassion.
She’s quietly multifaceted, running not only the Mini-Microcinema, but also her film production company Golden Hour Moving Pictures, and recently held a solo, multimedia show at the Weston Art Gallery: “C. Jacqueline Wood: What Makes A Life.”
We sat down in the space she refers to as “The Mini” to talk about how and why she ended up running a movie house in her hometown.
Note that this interview contains some strong language and mature content.
How did you find film?
So, in a million years I never thought I would be a filmmaker or an artist. But I discovered film in undergrad [at the University of Michigan]; I worked for the Ann Arbor Film Festival. And I knew almost instantly once I was involved in that community and working with them that that was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life
How did you discover that film was what you wanted to study?
With film, it was like – I’ve always loved art; I’ve always loved music. I’ve also always loved math; I love chemistry; I love science. I love architecture. And all of a sudden, it was like I could use all those skills at once. Film was like this perfect amalgamation, and I was able to use all these things to make something rather than having to pick just one of those areas. Film uses color, and it uses fashion, and it uses… all of the things. And then you can bend it to satisfy whatever you're interested in; whatever question you have, you can try to answer.
Your focus became experimental film – not traditional storytelling movies. What attracted to you to that genre?
I took very traditional film classes – theory and history – but in terms of production, I was kind of bored by narrative film. I think that the world we live in is already fucked up enough and interesting enough that I never want to create – I shouldn’t say “never” – but it’s not that interesting to me to create realities. I think there is a reality here that is already interesting.
I thought that people were hungry for a space to come together that is accessible, that is warm, and that’s not centered around drinking. It’s centered around ideas. And it’s centered around conversation.
I was able to learn about experimental film and video [as an undergraduate]. It wasn’t commercial, not Hollywood, not by the book; it wasn’t a three-act narrative structure, a comedy, a romance. It was really playing with film and the medium in really interesting ways and experimenting with length, with aesthetic, with concept, with theme. It was exciting to me to find something that was like, “Oh, they don’t give you the rules; you have to make the rules.”
And then you decided to get your MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. What was your goal?
I went to the Art Institute because if you get an MFA, you can teach. But I never really knew what I was going to do; I still don’t. I just wanted to survive grad school, really. It was really hard. I had never gone through a traditional art school and all of a sudden, I was in an art school. And it was just a very different sort of attitude and way of learning that I wasn’t used to. So, it really took me two years to get used to being there, and then it was over. I got the hell out of Chicago. I didn’t know what to do, so I moved to Ann Arbor to work for my brother making commercials for his business, and I worked for the Ann Arbor Film Festival, again, as their media literacy educator.
What brought you back to Cincinnati?
A few things happened. I kind of exhausted my opportunities in Ann Arbor – I had a lot of great shows; I knew a lot of great people and was doing a lot of great things, but I just felt that I had reached the limit with what I was doing [there]. The other thing that happened was that my good friend Franny Kroner [chef/owner of the Sleepy Bee and Aster] had me come to Cincinnati and record one of her feasts. I made a video, and she and her brother Ollie both thought it was really good and that I should come back to Cincinnati because people here needed it. So, I quit all my jobs, moved back, and got an art studio at the Essex Studios. But I had no idea what I was really going to do.
What was your next step?
With the idea of doing something with film?
Yeah. My facilitator was Sean Mullaney, and he’s now a good friend of mine. The first thing he had us do was to write down our goals on an index card. My first goal was to “create a business plan for a small film production company.” So that’s what helped me to start my production company, the Golden Hour Moving Pictures. I forget what the second goal was, but the third one was: “Explore the feasibility of opening up a microcinema.”
At that time, I knew that having a space to show work and have other people show work is really, really important. There were spaces like that in Ann Arbor and spaces like that in Chicago. And I wasn’t sure if there was one here. So, I just wanted to see.
You applied and received one of the first People’s Liberty Globe Grants, where you ran an early version of the Mini in their Findlay Market storefront space. How did that come about?
Yeah, it was the first year they had the Globe Grant, and I was the second Globe Grant ever, and we opened July 2, 2015.
I was working with my production company, and I ran into Jake Hodesh with People’s Liberty, and I told him I just kind of had this idea, and he said I should apply. I had never curated before, and I didn’t think I was qualified for it. But the thing I do know is that I know a lot of really cool people, and those cool people know cool people. And so, I thought I could do it because of that. I wasn’t on the pulse of what new films were coming out or new filmmakers, so I just really asked my friends to come and show movies.
I also specifically didn’t take one penny from the grant for myself. I gave it all to artists and filmmakers. And so, I was already creating this idea of giving back to the community from the beginning. I didn’t really know it was going to continue; I didn’t know it was going to be successful; I just know that everything I do, I just push it. I’m always like, “Why not?”
After the Globe Grant ended, did you just think, “Let’s keep going down this path?”
Yeah, I truly thought of it as a spark for something that could happen next. So from the beginning of it, I was very concentrated on my next move. The next iteration [of the Mini] was at The Carnegie for six weeks the next spring .
With the People’s Liberty project and its continuation at The Carnegie, did it feel like momentum was growing to have your own space?
That’s really what it was: People came, and people were interested. And I slowly realized that it wasn’t just the experimental film video world, unconventional, DIY, underground stuff that was missing a space to consistently to show work, but it was also art film, documentary film, foreign film, and there were just not many spaces that were showing that work consistently.
So you opened the Mini-Microcinema in the fall of 2016?
With the success of the Globe Grant and the success of The Carnegie [project], I thought that people were hungry for a space to come together that is accessible, that is warm, and that’s not centered around drinking. It’s centered around ideas. And it’s centered around conversation. I saw an opportunity, and I just ran with it.
Are there other spaces in the city showing alternative films?
The CAC – the Cincinnati Art Museum – they do really great work. There are a lot of small galleries around town that do some video installation stuff. The art museum has some great video.
So there’s something to having a space that is set up specifically for film?
As a filmmaker myself, I’ve shown in lots of different places with just a projector showing on a wall. And it’s really disheartening if the audience can’t hear it or appreciate the quality of the picture. To me, it’s very, very important to have good quality sound and image, and so we’ve spent most of all of the money that we got to start the Mini on the technology: We have an HD projector, and we have 5.1 surround sound. These filmmakers spend so much time and energy and money making a beautiful film; you have to have a place to be able to see that beauty.
And the Mini isn’t just for the experimental genre, is it?
One thing that I love about running the Mini is that it is very flexible. I am here for the community. And I am here to cater to the community and to fill a void. We can put the chairs away and turn it into a dance party, or cocktail hour, or it can be a very traditional cinema space.
Cincinnati is small, but it is mighty. Just because we’re not NY or LA, doesn’t mean that our art isn’t important, that are films aren’t important, our voices aren’t important.
It gets back to the space thing. For me, it’s really important to create art spaces that are welcoming, inviting, accessible, and are learning environments, and unpretentious.
How do you develop the programming schedule?
This is a community organization; it’s not just me saying that this is important, and you should watch this. This is about all voices. We have a programming committee, and we have guest programmers and curators that we work with, as well. It’s them creating and bringing in different films. And anytime someone sends me a message saying they want to show something or see something, if it fits within our mission, if it feels right, we’ll do it.
It’s a very eclectic schedule, but we’re not trying to serve one audience; we’re trying to serve many audiences.
You’re paying artists, you're paying for the movies, you’re paying for your space, and you’re a nonprofit. How are you making the funding work?
So, right now I’m just taking it step by step. Running a nonprofit is very new to me; being a leader is very new to me. I’m usually just a lone wolf and like to work by myself. So to run this bigger organization is a learning curve.
I’ve applied for a lot of grants; that’s a new thing for me, but we’ve been getting them, and that’s wonderful. Then we also started a membership program – we are almost one year in on that. The membership campaign is a way for us to pay our rent and utilities. We need 300 members to cover those costs – it’s $50 for one year. There will never be any VIP levels – I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe that more money should get more access.
The long-term strategy is to create a sustainable business plan and structure and a board that will help us with fundraising. But then there’s today, and this summer, and the next few months, and I have to focus on providing consistent, quality programming to the people of Cincinnati.
And all your movies are free and open to everyone?
Yes, except for Film Fringe, every film showing is free.
Is the Mini getting noticed outside Cincinnati?
I would say that the Mini is getting a really nice reputation. People are starting to notice us; they are noticing our programming, and they are noticing the fact that our shows are free and that we pay artists.
What are your plans for the future of the Mini?
The plan is also to do more screenings per day – maybe we do matinees on weekends; maybe we do midnight screenings – and showing the same film more than once. That’s the next step. We also want to expand our kids’ programming. Right now, we do one Saturday a month, and it’s called “Lil’s + Lils.” We serve Lil’s bagels, popcorn, and show short animated films from all over the world.
I have plans for a film archive, a film library. I would love to do filmmaking classes, not necessarily video, but actually 16mm and Super 8 film. I would like to roll out a film criticism ’zine, because I think there are a lot of great writers in the area and it would be a great outlet.
One of my hopes in the future is to create a Midwestern tour for filmmakers so that they can go from city to city and have the venues already figured out. I know people in Columbus and Dayton, and Louisville, Detroit, Indianapolis, and we’ve already been talking about it to systemize it.
And we are figuring out our fundraising. Within the next five years, I would like to be a full-time executive director of the Mini and make a living wage. That would be nice. [Laughs.]
Do you want a bigger space?
I want our reach to be bigger, but I don’t know if I want the space to be bigger. I never want to feel the pressure of putting butts in seats or the pressure of having to sell tickets. Because what that would do is change our relationship with what we want to show, what the filmmaker wants to show, and the need to fill a bigger space. If [money] were the main goal, then we would hardly ever show what we are showing now. In this space, we’re able to show work that is really, really fucking weird, really out there, and really challenges norms. If I had to worry about filling a theater, then I wouldn’t show this work, and that wouldn’t meet our mission.
How has being in Cincinnati affected your work?
I would never be at this point with my production work, with the Mini, and with my art in any other city. I would be working to pay my rent. So, I think Cincinnati is small, but it is mighty. Just because we’re not NY or LA, doesn’t mean that our art isn’t important, that are films aren’t important, our voices aren’t important. And so, sometimes I have an issue with saying “local artist.” Well no, I’m just an “artist” and I happen to live in Cincinnati.
Who is a female filmmaker that influenced you or inspired your work?
Terri Sarris, my first film teacher at the University of Michigan, really influenced me. I call her my “film mom.” She’s come here to collaborate on some programming. She is smart; she is interesting; she is an artist, a filmmaker, a musician. She has shown me, from the very beginning, a different side to this world – that it is open and accessible and it’s about all voices. So I have been highly influenced by her.
Then I had a professor in grad school, Shellie Fleming, and she also has really influenced what I have done. She was a film teacher, but she slowly started getting disillusioned with the film medium and started to do other things, and doing some writing and doing photography, and street art. She passed away a few years ago. I always dedicate the Mini to her, and my show at the Weston is dedicated to her.
And for the obvious final question: What is your favorite movie?
Explore the rest of our female filmmaker series here, and thank you for joining us in celebrating independent film in Cincinnati.