'Cinema KC' is more than just a television show.
"Cinema KC" is created by an all-volunteer crew.
The parking lot outside Real Media Studios in Overland Park is jam-packed. I score one of the two remaining spots and make my way across the quiet lot to a non-descript, single-story brick building. Inside it is anything but quiet. The energy is unmistakable: dozens of people moving briskly through hallways attending to paperwork, wardrobe checks, make-up schedules and all with an eye to the clock.
We are in production.
I’m led through a maze of corridors to the studio floor where an episode of “Cinema KC” has just wrapped.
Director Larry Garret has no time to take a break. There’s another episode up as soon as hosts Michelle Davidson and Erin McGrane change clothes. Seven episodes were shot yesterday and six more are scheduled for today. This is the fourth season of “Cinema KC” and all have been shot this way. A full season in two days. If it’s grueling, nobody here is letting on. They’re all too busy for that.
“It’s an all-volunteer crew,” co-creator Jerry Rapp tells me a few days later over coffee. “Everything’s donated. The studio space, the food. We have a long list of ‘Thank You’ credits at the end of the show.”
“Cinema KC” is the brainchild of Rapp, a Hollywood writer-producer who relocated to Kansas City in 2009, and John Shipp, a veteran film distributor and founder of the Kansas City Film Society. They met as Rapp was trying to find a way to bring together the wide array of filmmakers in the region.
“People were doing incredible work but it seemed to me they were all working in little pockets without much connection to each other,” Rapp says. “I kept thinking, man, if you could just get all these people to collaborate, it could lead to even bigger things.”
When he heard that Shipp was talking to people about the same thing, “we sat down and discovered we talked the same language.”
The two formed “Cinema KC” to be a sort of organizational “umbrella” over the various groups, facilitating screenings, seminars, meet-ups and eventually a television show. At one of the gatherings they were approached by KCMO and offered a program slot. After two seasons filmed at Stageport Studios and Outpost Worldwide, the show moved to KCPT, where it airs on Friday nights at 10:30 p.m. and again on Sundays at 5 p.m.
"Cinema KC" hosts Michelle Davidson and Erin McGrane
The goal of “Cinema KC” is to showcase the wide range of films and filmmakers working in the area. Rapp points out that there is a little of everything here, running the gamut from narratives, documentary, music videos and Web series.
“The filmmaking community in Kansas City has grown exponentially and the show is designed as a conduit, a channel, a way for people’s work to get seen,” he says. “We also spotlight members of the film community, like cinematographers and casting directors. Kansas City has a unique voice, with unique stories and we want to help expand the audience.”
Part of that mission to build new audiences involves partnering with other organizations to find unique ways of using film.
Last summer, Cinema KC partnered with The Whole Person and Boulevard Drive-In to create a “Drive-In Double Feature Night” with open captions for the hearing-impaired. It was wildly successful, with some visitors driving four hours to attend the event. It was so successful that a follow-up was scheduled and proved equally successful.
Other partnerships combine filmmakers with community organizations, as was the case with “We Are Supermen,” a documentary about the Troost redevelopment that was tied into an event with the American Jazz Museum.
As Cinema KC continues to organize film events, partner with film festivals and bring filmmakers together, the series on KCPT allows viewers a way to get to know the personalities behind the films and catch a glimpse of their movies.
The first three seasons are now available online at Cinemakc.com, and Rapp promises that this season’s shows will demonstrate an even wider range of topics, genres and personalities.
The common denominator, Rapp points out, is that they’re all proud to be making films in Kansas City.
Mitch Brian is a filmmaker and associate teaching professor at UMKC. He appears with Jason Heck as THE DVD GURUS on KCUR’s “Up To Date” with Steve Kraske. Archived shows can be found at KCUR/UpToDate.org.