Exclusive interview with “Out of the Interior: Survival of the Small Town Cinema in British Columbia” filmmakers Curtis and Silmara Emde

Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
Photos by Maria Munro.

Vancouver husband/wife filmmaking team Curtis and Silmara Emde took a journey to the small towns of the Interior region of British Columbia in search of a movie but what they found instead was their souls…OK- maybe I punched up their new feature length documentary’s tag line just a wee bit…

What they actually found and passionately documented was a series of heritage movie theatres all fighting the good fight and nobly doing what it takes to survive and even thrive throughout all the rapid modern advances in the movie going experience that has constantly threatened their very existence over the years.

This is a subject that’s very dear to our hearts here at Wholly Cinema (we’re still hoping for the advent of CIA-trained ushers roaming the aisles of movie theatres removing the cell phones of offending texters with “extreme prejudice”) so we were only too happy to sit down and chat with co-directors Curtis and Silmara as they readied their aforementioned feature length documentary “Out of the Interior: Survival of the Small Town Cinema in British Columbia” for its West Coast Premiere here in Vancouver on Sep.24/17 at Van City Theatre (Q&A with filmmakers in the house).


Wholly Cinema: What’s it like working together as a husband and wife filmmaking team?

Silmara: It works well most of the time. The thing about Curtis and I is that we have lots of different skills that compliment each other- there are things that he does that I can’t do and things that I do that he can’t as well. For example, he’s an awesome writer- I’m not. I’m an awesome graphic designer- he’s not (laughter…). Curtis is a great communicator- he does all the talking and sending of emails and setting up the meetings. I’m good at figuring out the technical aspects of things with our film- at the end of the day we get a lot of things done because of this partnership. This project is giving us the opportunity to learn so much not just about our film but also our own personal relationship and that’s pretty enriching I think.

Curtis: We’re both credited as director- it’s true. Although I think Silmara deserves a little more credit- I did the set ups and communicated with the subjects but she called the shots. That’s why I’m glad we have the sequence at the end credits of outtakes that we put in just for fun because you can hear her giving directions off camera- even though I’m the on screen character and narrator it shows how important she was planning and directing everything.

Silmara: If it wasn’t for Curtis I don’t think I would’ve had the power to go through that but he knew I could do it- it’s a big accomplishment for both of us on all levels.

WC: What was your motivation for making a documentary about heritage movie cinemas?

Curtis: Every project we do that’s connected to movie theatres we always think it will be the climax of the last one. When we did our last documentary short a couple of years ago on the closing of the Hollywood Theatre (in Vancouver) we thought everything we did to document the last days of that theatre was a culmination of what we wanted to do.


Silmara: The original idea for the new film was to have a photo essay of a theatre’s projection booth but we ended up discovering we had such a good story that it kept growing and Curtis kept writing more stories and we were filming a lot of short movies and photographs and it grew from that. The process organically chose us- we didn’t choose it.


WC: What led you to the decision of having Curtis as the interviewer/narrator of the film?

Curtis: It was difficult to get a hold of the theatre owner in Vernon (British Columbia) but when we finally got there to shoot, Silmara said you’ve got to be a character in this film because Vernon is my hometown. That theatre was important to me because I’d seen a lot of fundamental movies of my childhood like “Superman” and “Superman II” there so it was great and magical being up in the projection booth and Silmara said it would be great seeing you up on the screen leading the audience through the movie and helping to give our documentary some shape- otherwise it would be just talking heads all the way through. I didn’t want to do it at first because I’m shy but the more I thought about it I agreed she was right- the film is a very personal story.


WC: What were your biggest challenges making your film?

Curtis: I think for us one thing was trying to make the film visually interesting when you have to include a lot of interviews.

Silmara: Also, we didn’t have a lot of equipment or crew- it was just the two of us. Our equipment was pretty minimal but we ended up actually liking working this way. We didn’t need super fancy equipment- we ended up feeling like we had more freedom and we made it work for us.

Out of the Interior​ co-director Curtis Emde in front of the Roxy Theatre – Revelstoke, BC
Photo: Silmara Emde

WC: What did you end up learning while making your film?

Silmara: I learned everything. I’m mostly a photographer- I didn’t work with video much but after making this documentary I became a filmmaker. I didn’t know how to use the camera properly at first so I had to learn that and, afterward, had to learn the editing software. So the beginning of the process was slow because I had to teach myself how to do everything.

WC: What were your artistic influences with “Out of the Interior”?

Curtis: We watched a few documentaries on similar topics and there’s a style to some of them that we tried to avoid- like fast cutting, rock music with every scene change. Instead we were more influenced by the slower National Film Board style of documentary where it gently leads you towards the story as it unfolds. Another influence is Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin- not that our film is abstract or experimental like his style but I just like his multiple formats in his use of Super 8 and 16mm film and we really wanted a vintage look to our film like that. I contacted Guy and he gave me some real good tips about shooting on Super 8 film. I told him I had an unexposed box of Kodachrome film with a 1968 expiration date and he said that’s the best and to go ahead and shoot it.

The historic Oliver Theatre at dusk – Oliver, BC 
Photo: Silmara Emde

Silmara: I think it’s good sometimes to expose yourself to other things but the problem is you can be a little overwhelmed so I stopped doing that and now I just let things develop in a way that’s more natural and unconscious. However, our movie’s poster was influenced by “The Grand Budapest Hotel” by Wes Anderson and the photochromes of 19th century tourism posters.

WC: So what does the cinematic future hold for you both?

Silmara: I think one of the biggest challenges for us now is to find a project that we both feel passionate about and want to do together. Also, coming to the end of this film is allowing me to take a breath and rest and re-evaluate everything because every personal project is a way of healing something inside you.

Official Website:​ ​www.outoftheinterior.ca
Facebook:​ ​www.facebook.com/ProjectionProject


Upcoming screenings in  BC

Oliver – The Oliver Theatre
Sunday, 17 September – 1:00 pm

Grand Forks – GEM Theatre
A Spotlight Films presentation
Tuesday, 19 September

Revelstoke – The Roxy Theatre
Thursday, 21 September

Nelson – The Nelson Civic Theatre
A Kinesis presentation
Sunday, 24 September
Program starts at 5:00 pm
Out of the Interior at 7:00 pm

Vancouver – VanCity Theatre/VIFF
Sunday, 24 September – 4:15 pm
You can buy tickets in advance here

Trail – The Royal Theatre
Monday, 25 September – 5:00 pm

Golden – The Golden Cinema
Sunday, 1 October – 4:00 pm

Vernon – The Towne Cinema
An Okanagan Screen Arts Society presentation
Monday, 2 October – 5:30 pm

Kelowna – Black Box Theatre
Kelowna Community Theatre
1375 Water St, Kelowna
Tuesday, 3 October

Salmon Arm – The Salmar Classic
Wednesday, 4 October – 7:30 pm

Summerland – Summerland Community Arts Centre
Thursday, 5 October – 7:00 pm

Viva La Cinema!