In his first reign as a programmer at the Sie FilmCenter, Keith Garcia became synonymous with the Sie experience, balancing the best in independent film with the fun stuff, from horror-flick and sci-fi series to cultish one-shots from the film and video underground. He moved on in late 2014 for another opportunity, and to devote more time to making a dream come true: a drag-scene tell-all called The Heels Have Eyes, for which he planned to infiltrate and document Denver’s queen culture, working up to taking the stage himself in full drag while the cameras roll.
While Heels is still in production (Garcia says he hopes to have something definitive to show in November), Garcia chose an offer recently that he couldn’t refuse. The Sie job came open again, and he grabbed it, with new responsibilities and programming options to work with.
“After a solid interim period, I’m back full-time at the Denver Film Society with a new title, chief programmer for the Sie FilmCenter,” Garcia says, citing big changes already happening on the Sie’s three screens as the sweet spot of his new job there: the ability to work more high-profile mainstream films into the mix. “We were given an open conversation to open a large film, Lady Bird — which finally closed after eighteen weeks,” he explains.
“Most people think all we play are small films, and we’re still a great platform for that,” Garcia continues. “We have to stay consistent in that market, but with the ability to play Lady Bird or I, Tonya — it’s good to have that balance. Moving forward, we have to figure out how to keep that balance — to book the higher-pedigree films that are bringing in people who have not been here before, but to also keep the retrospectives and the small films to keep our membership happy.”
That means changing the scheduling strategies while retaining the Sie’s reputation for diverse and creative programming. “It’s a place where I never have had the privilege of programming before,” adds Garcia. “It’s all part of a changing tide. Film distributors are now looking at how all films play everywhere, and that means they’re willing to give a bigger chance to everyone.”
Prescience has paid off for the DFS, Garcia notes. “We originally showed Lady Bird on opening night and I, Tonya on closing night at last year’s Denver Film Festival. These two films were a watershed moment for us. We were able to show other distributors and the general public that we are the place in town to show these films.” So in the future, he adds, “we’re looking at maybe turning our shorter runs into more focused events on smaller films. Those don't need to play seven days — some will work better with a few select shows, which we might turn into an event, or bring in a speaker. But even if we have a more popular title, we still need to stay fresh on other screens.”
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Looking forward toward April and May, Garcia says it’s a wait-and-see situation as far as those higher-profile bookings go, but Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is already on the Sie's docket to open April 12. That run will be offset on other screens by the annual Women + Film Festival, returning for six days beginning April 10, and the Czech That Film series, beginning April 19. Behind that, the Reel Social Club’s Shorts Fest is expected in May.
Garcia says the programming puzzle pieces demand a certain sense of rhythm, but he thinks he’s got that covered. “If there’s anything I've learned about coming back, there are plenty of fantastic films ready to play at any given time. We used to have to apologize because we had no opportunity to play certain films. Now the opportunity is there for us. It’s been fun feeling that things are falling into place in a more robust way.
“We’ll still always look for new opportunities,” he enthuses. “As the Denver Film Society, we’ll never limit what that title is, based on what fits in our theaters. Black Panther is fantastic, but we feel like our audience doesn't look to us to play that film. Other films of the Hollywood variety need that narrowing of a window to fulfill an audience.” And the Sie FilmCenter looks good in the throes of new beginnings. In turn, Garcia looks forward to pushing all the right buttons behind the scenes.
“The Hollywood film world in general is so fickle; the next set of films might be nothing, but we’ll always be looking for the next big film and smaller good films to play behind it. The Sie will be the place to see it all. The main thing is, we are here to be entertaining, educational and life-changing. As long as creators create, we’ll put it up on our screen.”