One of the sweetest homegrown creations to emerge in the Colorado film community in recent years is Davey B. Gravey’s Tiny Cinema: a mobile, four-seat screening room for short, silent Super 8mm films, complete with live musical accompaniment by charming huckster Gravey himself. Gravey, aka David Weaver, the big brain behind this tiny concept, spent the last year shooting a silent sci-fi adventure, Moonglow, and his Tiny Cinema will return this weekend for a premiere of that film.
Gravey's Tiny Cinema will be parked in back of Leon Gallery, and the short film will be shown to a handful of viewers at a time while the gallery slings drinks and gets people moving with a guest DJ inside. Music is intrinsic to the plot of Moonglow, which concerns the discovery of a space alien with a very special backside powered by musical beats — or, as Davey B. Gravey would announce to passersby, “An alien! A barn! The groove of the cosmos! Come see the modern marvel of moving pictures for yourself!”
We sat down for a tiny conversation with Weaver as he prepared to give his film a final edit before its debut on Saturday night.
Westword: Tell us about yourself and your beloved Tiny Cinema.
David Weaver: I’m the owner and operator of Davey B. Gravey’s Tiny Cinema, a Boulder native who went to film school at Emerson College in Boston, where I was exposed to Super 8 film and doing different experimental projects with Super 8 projection, live accompaniment and film exhibition in a small space. At some point two years ago, I was talking to a buddy about getting involved with a carnival festival that he was putting together in Oregon, and we jointly came up with this concept of the Tiny Cinema, which was originally called Dave’s Nickelodeon, that was to just be a one-time thing in a box with some folding chairs and a little dream.
But I got really excited about the idea, and the carnival festival never ended up happening, and I kept falling in love with the dream — and before you know it, I was the proud owner of a Craigslist cargo trailer. I got some vintage theater seats donated from the Boulder Film Festival and got to work, built the thing, and soon started finding cool events that would have me to exhibit it all.
Why didn’t you end up going to University of Colorado for film school?
Interesting that you ask that. I really wanted to leave Colorado when I was deciding my college — mostly that old hometown struggle was hitting me, and I didn’t think I would fit in. Granted, there’s a million students at CU and there’s a crowd for everyone, but the general “bro-ship” that occurs was not a community for me. Overall, though, I was having the itch to live somewhere else and to leave the nest and try somewhere else out, and in the end I didn’t even apply to CU. It does have an amazing film program, though, and one would guess that the Tiny Cinema was born of that program more than Emerson, with the whole Brakhage history; CU is just way more down with experimental film and celluloid. Emerson was great for all of that, too, and both of my parents went to school in Boston and it was cool. I had a very positive higher-educational experience.
So tell us how it is that you decided to make a new tiny movie, Moonglow. It became quite the production, didn’t it?
So the carnival festival that Tiny Cinema came from was going to be called the Cowboy Cabaret. I really liked the name and that genre-mushing of imagery, and so I ended up taking a trip to Los Angeles and slapdash throwing together the production for my first original tiny movie, Low Noon, and that amazingly worked out! I came up with a story, crew and cast amazingly fast; in fact, we didn’t even have a location locked down; we didn’t have the main bar location secured until the morning of that shoot. So Low Noon happened, became the first original tiny movie, and I’ve been screening it since the beginning.
That gave me a ton of good support and feedback ,and I’d always hoped to make a second film sometime. Sooner than later my grandmother died, and I went to her funeral in Virginia and got to revisit, for the first time since I was ten, the family farm that belonged to my great-grandfather. The farm was a Depression-foreclosure thing that has stayed with my dad’s side ever since. It’s really cool-looking, with a bunch of machines everywhere, though the whole estate is kind of derelict and defunct. Farm equipment from the ’30s now live where they died, rusting with plants growing through them. There's a giant tin barn that my grandfather built all by himself. Basically, it was all inspiring for a filmmaker like me. I shot some Super 8 footage while I was there, and it all looked so cool and ominous — and it was striking me that I really wanted to shoot a movie there.
So all of these ideas came together — maybe a horror movie or a creepy thing or maybe a monster movie would be fun. I love some of the oldies that I play in Tiny Cinema, where the practical effects that were used back in the day of making monster costumes happened, or whatever weird little animations and double exposure in-camera effects were needed; I love all of that. I started talking to a friend that I write with and a friend who does production design, and it kind of snowballed into this alien sci-fi mystery story.
Ultimately, I really wanted it to be different from Low Noon. I love that film, and it’s the best experience I ever had making a movie, but I wanted Moonglow to be a complete contrast, so I imagined it in black-and-white, and I wanted it to be a little bit of a tragedy; Low Noon is pretty happy-go-lucky. Moonglow is fun and entertaining, but it leaves you with a little “Oooh” in the end, which I kind of love. So I got a good idea going and then realized that in order to make it all happen, shoot it in that space, get costumes and special effects to make it happen, it was going to need more of a budget than I could finance myself. So I did a — thankfully — very successful Kickstarter, which afforded me a budget that is very cool, kind of crazy and a little bit frustrating at times.
What was frustrating?
Production was late March-early April of last year while I was on tour in Missouri, Texas and up the East Coast. And I collected a crew of old Emerson friends who are all New York-based and met them all in Cambridge, so we shot over a weekend at the farm and in my friend Riley’s basement in Brooklyn. Everything went great, but when I got the footage back and digitized it, it was much darker than I was expecting it to be, which was not detrimental overall — except for one very crucial reveal. I finally decided, after a bit of denial, that I was going to have to do a reshoot and ended up having to organize some buddies out here in Colorado.
So I flew out the alien actor from New York, which that old Kickstarter allowed me to do, thankfully. We shot at a barn just outside of Boulder, and it was honestly just like one single shot that we needed, along with a couple of pickups around it, and, boy, did we make sure it was going to be properly exposed this time — but still not too different from the rest of the footage that we already had.
In the end, it’s kind of an epic: It’s about nine minutes long, which is huge for a tiny movie. Regular tiny movies are usually two to seven minutes.
So it’s kind of your Solaris.
It is my Solaris! [He laughs.] I’m definitely embracing that length, and I kind of want to do a tiny intermission title card that comes up where I play a little “BaddaBupBaddaBupBOW” and then right back into the action. [Laughs again.] But maybe I’ll do that later.
And you shot it on the magic of Super 8mm film? Did that create its own problem?
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Yup, Super 8 Tri-X Black-and-White reversal. Unfortunately, nobody makes film prints of Super 8 anymore, so you can’t take the negative and correct lighting issues. And so the film that I have spliced together now is the one that rolled through the camera and the only one that will ever be, which is nerve-racking all on its own.
After all of that, how excited are you to finally be premiering it?
Quite! It’s been a journey — definitely the largest film project that I’ve ever headed up myself and been the main driving force behind, and it’s been a learning experience, for sure. That need to reshoot certainly brought about some emotional waves and a change in my enthusiasm for the project, and a worry that I was never going to get it finished. I worried that it was not how I envisioned it. Was it about to be my sophomore slump? My Heaven’s Gate? My worst tiny movie? Agghhh!
Every filmmaking project, I feel like I go through that process, because once you see it post-production, it’s intrinsically different from how you could’ve ever imagined it — because filmmaking is such a collaborative art form. There are always going to be other people giving you their input or their own performances or whatever, and so when you get to the other side and you say, “This is different,” it’s hard. But you have to go through that and work with what you have. After doing the reshoot, especially, and having those shots properly exposed the way that I imagined them, it turned me all the way around, and now I feel like it’s going to be a good movie! I’ve shown the rough cut to a couple of people with some feedback, and I think it’s going to go over great. I mean, I have no idea, I’m so close to it now — but I’ll be proud to release it to the world as the newest, biggest tiny movie!
Catch the premiere of Moonglow at 7 p.m. Saturday, February 27, at Leon Gallery, 1112 East 17th Avenue. Admission is $5 at the door; find more information at graveystinycinema.com.