Curtis Caesar John, The Luminal Theater

thursday interview creatives brooklyn film

Curtis Caesar John, Executive Director, The Luminal Theater

***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers, small business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.

Keep reading for the story behind  micro-cinema The Luminal Theater from executive director Curtis Caesar John. Enjoy!

Name:  Curtis Caesar John

Organization: The Luminal Theater

Launch date:  July 24, 2015 (official)

Motto: “the microcinema for the Bedford-Stuyvesant community…and beyond”

Describe your path to founding and launching (congratulations!) The Luminal Theater
Working in exhibition over the past seven years, I was always thinking of creating a space for filmmakers, especially filmmakers of color, since there are limited regular spaces for us to display our work.  But the idea of launching the microcinema – a one-screen and usually simply designed venue often made affordable to niche and independent filmmakers – really came to me in the early 2014.  I was already familiar with a few other micros, but learning more about the history of exhibition while getting my MA from NYU’s Cinema Studies program opened up even more possibilities to me about how this all could work. Later in 2014 I approached my now business partner Clairesa Clay, who also worked in exhibition over the years, primarily with helping to launch the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, and she soon thereafter agreed to come on as Artistic Director.  Cut to late Spring 2015, and the opportunity arose to use a pop-up space in Bedford-Stuyvesant! Though launching so early wasn’t in the original plan, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and thankfully were granted the space for a few months. Then the madness began!

How has the Bed Stuy community responded to the screenings?
The Bed-Stuy community has been very gracious to us.  Bed-Stuy has always been an enclave of talented and famous artists, and in the past decade that has grown to a lot of filmmakers – especially young ones. So we’re glad that their work has been able to be put on display here. The best part though is that the community is grateful to have an alternative to just restaurants, hair salons, and the like around. They want access to local entertainment and we’re proud to be able to provide it to them.  

How did you connect with artistic director Clairesa Clay?
I met Clairesa when I was in college at LIU –Brooklyn. We work in the same circles and have kept in touch pretty well over the years.  She was one of the first people I thought to approach, and did, when deciding to launch The Luminal. Clairesa really brings some out-the-box ideas to the Theater’s programming that I probably wouldn’t have thought of!

What are your go-to resources for managing a film non-profit?
Beg, borrow and beg some more.  I somewhat joke, but we are dependent on the kindness of friends and strangers.  Our alma mater, the Long Island University – Brooklyn Campus’ Media Arts Department, has lent us some crucial equipment that we would not able to operate without. Because of the relative speed that we got the venue, some key resources we could have relied upon were not accessible to us, but we are currently applying for local and national grants.  

What’s on the schedule for September 2015 and beyond?
On September 11th we are hosting a pre-festival event for the Reel Sisters of the African Diaspora Film Festival on which the focus is on gentrification.  They are screening of Bed Stuy Do or Buy directed by Negesti Cantave and Why We Stay directed by Crystal Kayiza and Peter Quandt. The talkback, hosted by community activist Lumumba Bandele, will be a discussion on the impact rising rents have had in pushing long time residents out of their neighborhoods and the fight to preserve the culture of their community.  

The following day September 12th we are hosting the New York premiere of the documentary Adina Howard 20: A Story of Sexual Liberation which focuses on the titular singer’s struggle of being a provocative singer proud of her aggressive sexual nature before it was popular for Black female artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj to do so.  It’s pretty dope.  We will also be showing new short films from Bed-Stuy filmmaker Shaka King (we showed his film feature film Newlyweeds on Sept. 4th) as well as fresh films from others, and we are also hosting a special event on seniors and the community put together by The Laundromat Project. There’s a lot going on here!

Wow! I’m impressed with how much The Luminal Theater has been able to accomplish in such a short time. I hope you are able to support by attending a screening this month and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

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