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Don’t think of it as losing a place to see local documentaries; think of it as gaining a place to see local short fiction films.
Studio 650, established at Atlantic Video in 1998, had its last stand on Jan. 24 at the downtown production house whose Massachusetts Avenue address is the source of its numerical tag. The monthly local-filmmaker showcase hasn’t ended, however: It’s moving to Visions Cinema Bistro Lounge, where it premieres on Feb. 26. Renamed “650 at Visions: Exposed,” the event will occur on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
The departure comes “because Atlantic Video has gotten a couple new contracts recently, and so they have a much higher demand on their studio time,” explains Katri Billard, a freelance filmmaker and production and event coordinator who’s a member of 650’s board. “They need the studio back, basically.”
The series “was getting really hard to schedule,” she adds. “We couldn’t keep it consistent, and that’s important for a film series. You need to have it the same day, or people don’t think of it.”
A change in format accompanies the move. Visions will present a national or an international feature, paired with a short local film. The February feature will be Maelstrom, a bloody French-Canadian comedy-thriller set to open at Visions on March 22. (The accompanying short film hasn’t been chosen yet.) Some subsequent 650s will also function as sneak previews, although Billard says that other evenings will spotlight “independent films that wouldn’t necessarily sustain a theatrical run but that would be interesting to the crowd that comes to these things.”
Although “650 at Visions: Exposed” may showcase short, experimental documentaries, it’s not designed for what Billard calls “Discovery Channel stuff, which is what we have so much here. Straightforward talking-head documentaries are not what we’re looking for.”
That reflects a shift from the original plan of Studio 650’s founders, Marguerite Arnold and Burt Maggio, both of whom are no longer associated with the indie-film series. “Atlantic started this as a marketing tool, let’s face it,” Billard says. “Studio 650 the way Atlantic set it up was much more a networking and industry thing, and I think we’ve turned more into an independent-film showcase.”
After Maggio left, Atlantic Video Marketing and Public Relations Manager Amy Schwab ran Studio 650 solo for a while. A nine-person board was created to help administer the series last May.
Although local films will be demoted to 650’s opening act, Billard notes that featured directors will continue to appear at events and answer questions. “We’re still providing a venue for local filmmakers,” she says, “but we’re providing them the chance for wider exposure because they’re being seen with something bigger than a local film. I think it will be good all around.” —Mark Jenkins