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Friday, April 15, 2005

Start Your Own Guerilla Drive-In


Guerilla Drive-Ins are springing up everywhere, coast to coast in the US and as far away as the republics of the former Soviet Union, in big cities and little towns. People are rejecting the idea of the $10 movie (twenty with popcorn and a soda) and embracing the idea of the do-it-yourself movie free to the community.

Additionally, you get the pleasures of participating in a gift economy, bringing together a broad community, providing a place to meet unmediated by commerce, and reclaiming public space.

The Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In collective is a loosely-knit group of folks who love movies, are involved in radical change, and are interested in reclaiming public and unused space. To say that Guerilla Drive-In operates on a shoestring budget is an understatement. We've gotten by solely on generous donations for several years now. It really doesn't take much to make it happen.
  1. Picking a Location
  2. Choosing the Movies
  3. Getting the Word Out
  4. Showing the Movie
  5. Equipment You'll Need
  6. GDI and the Law

The Location

Here's what you need: A big blank wall that is dark at night. You will be amazed at how few dark places exist anymore. However, it is still possible to find the odd corner of creation that is not lit with a billion watt flood lamp. In a pinch, lights can be covered with card-board boxes.

Check out warehouses, schools, under bridges, under freeways, parks, parking lots, ruins, and, if you are willing to hang a big screen, the woods.

Keep in mind that unless you are using batteries, you will need power from somewhere.

If you have a regular spot to show movies, get to know your neighbors. Bake them cookies. Invite them to your showings and give them copies of your sched-ule. Write down phone numbers they can call if there is a problem and promise them sincerely that you will be responsive to their complaints or comments. Good neighborly relations are an important element of DIY culture.

The Films

We maintain a master list of films that we've all contributed our favorite subversive movies to. We are constantly adding to and subtracting films from the master list. Maybe someday we'll post it here.

Over the years we’ve adopted a kind of quasi-bastard blend of democratic and consensus-based decision-making process that we call Multi-Round Infinite Voting. You make up your own collective process for choosing movies.

As much as possible, we try to balance the films we show in the winter or summer series. Looking over a series, we don't want a dozen films all with protagonists who are white, young, straight, well-heeled males. We don't want all slow, artsy films nor all frenetic, action films. We look at watchability, quality of a film, gender balance, sexual preference, class, documentary vs. narrative, classic vs. contemporary, age, and the underlying subversive message.

The Audience

Publicizing an upcoming movie is an important step when we produce a guerilla drive-in event. In general, we use the GDI email list, a few local event lists, posting to several internet sites, fliers and handbills, and word-of-mouth.

We usually create fliers for each event and post them all over town, at cafes, community spaces, the university, bus stops, farmers market, whole food stores, and other community boards. And since word about Guerilla Drive-In spreads primarily through word-of-mouth, we give handbills to everyone we meet.

The Showing

For each showing, one of us will not only host the event but bottomline all the stuff that makes a GDI film successful. A GDI host doesn't have to (and maybe couldn't) personally do everything, but they are responsible for finding someone who'll do it.

We always start off Guerilla Drive-In with shorts and previews followed by a ten minute intermission. The shorts are often short movies, of funny or weird stuff found on the net or submitted to us. Previews for upcoming guerilla drive-in films are usually pulled off the internet or ripped from DVD.

The intermission gives people a chance to mingle, get to know each other, and see old friends. To us, the most important aspect of the drive-in experience is coming together, sitting outside under the stars, and meeting old and new friends.

Part of our mission at GDI is to build community. For some folks this is their first experience with radical and do-it-yourself community. For many folks this is an opportunity to get more connected with other people and events in their community.

During intermission, we promote other events and projects we're involved with and invite others to tell us about other upcoming community events.

At the intermission and before the main feature, we ask for donations to support the project. This pays for fliers and handbills, as well as some of our equipment.

The Equipment

Here's a list of the equipment you need to do your own guerilla drive-in. Nearly all of our equipment we have was donated by the good members of our guerilla drive-in community.

Video: Low-power, high-luminosity LCD video projectors are dropping in cost. Good projectors can be found pretty cheap. You can get even better prices used, though you have to take into account the life of the bulb and the expense of replacement.

Sound: All of our sound equipment is second-hand donated equipment. We are not blasting out the neighborhood, so our sound requirements are modest. We have all of our equipment mounted in a weatherproof box from the local music store, but used to be in a milk crate.

Alternately, you can assemble or buy a low-power radio transmitter to broadcast sound. Free Radio Berkeley holds workshops and has info on building micropower FM radio transmitters.

Power: We have several hundred feet of power cord that we plug into whatever power we can find nearby. Thanks goes to the organizations who have knowingly or unknowingly donated power to Guerilla Drive-In.

For remote shows, we've used marine batteries and an inverter for remote power, but after someone donated a small generator we used that.

The Law

While you are showing your movie, the police may hassle you. You are providing free entertainment and building community, so proceed with righteous confidence. Stupid laws can and should be challenged. Our current attitude about civic control of grassroots projects is Fuck 'em.

If in your town, like ours, all public space is closed after dark, the police may kick you out of parks, schools, and other public spaces. All the parks, beaches, the levies, and the University are all closed after dark. If you want to meet friends or strangers at night, there is no place to meet in public that is unmediated by commerce.

Only in America would we think to close public gathering places after dark. In other countries, public spaces are where people spend their evenings, hanging out with friends, flirting, playing, drinking, singing, dancing. A vital nightlife is the sign of a live and thriving community. If we want to maintain a healthy connected community, we are going to have to draw people away from their televisions out of the malls into the night, to public places where people can talk and picnic and dance and look at the stars. If we want to have any public life at all, we are going to have to challenge laws that keep the public out of public spaces.

Sometimes the cops claim we are violating noise ordinances, trying to use the law as a blunt instrument to bully us into compliance to their narrow ideas of normalcy. When we show the officer the printed law, demonstrate our understanding of it and our willingness to hold our ground, the officer usually backs off. You can consider your knowledge of the law another tool in your toolbox of fighting tyranny. Knowing the minutia of the law can be a a useful tool.

A good cop tamer will have experience with non-violent communication, a cool head and a cool temper, a strong personality, and a good understanding of applicable laws.

We’ve rarely had anyone fuck with us about copyright, and only then when some reactionary asshole snitched us out to the copyright police. Those copyright lawyers can suck it. Copyright is brain theft. Plus there are plenty of public domain and local films out there.


Anonymous said...

Concerning "closed to the public after dark" ordinances don't count when they violate constitutional rights. And the constitution grants everyone the right to peaceful assembly. It doesn't say "...during daylight hours" or "...if permitted by local law". When the cops show up 1) pull out your tape recorder and start recording [don't forget to have them identify themselves...loud enough so the Judge can hear]. 2)Remind them that they swore an oath to uphold the laws of the constitution and the United States. 3) Warn them that if they violate any rights of the people at this event they will be immediately arrested [citizens arrest, then sheriff, marshal] under USC title 18 sect 242 of the United States Code: deprivation of rights under color of law. And if more than one officer is present...USC title 18 sect 241: conspiracy deprivation of rights. The latter is a felony under federal law. Usually this is enough to get them to think twice. A felony conviction would end their gun carrying career. Not worth risking to stop a free community movie.

Wes Modes said...

Yeah, good luck with that constitutional argument in your local court. The local county judge is not going to challenge a local ordinance on constitutional grounds no matter how right you are and how elegant your argument. Just not going to happen.

V3x0rG said...

It's not so much as the laws written by a local community; it depends on the nature of the law enforcement official that enforces the law, and the agency they work for.

If the local community is suffering from budget mis-management and shortfalls resulting thereof, you can depend on your local po-lice to be ordered in a subtile way that more tickets for violations = promotions to higher rank. Yes, it is true, under Federal law that cops cannot be "ordered" to write more tickets for violations...but "productivity stats" are kept on officers for promotion purposes...and guess what equals "productivity" ???

Even in a large city, you can get to know the "beat" cop; many agencies assign officers to the same patrol area so that the citizens get to know "their" officer. If you take the time, and let him or her know what's going on in can help smooth things out when Mr. Oldfart or Mrs. Busybody calls with a complaint on your public activity.

Words of advice from a former "cop"....

May 7, 2013 at 5:18 AM