Package Deals is an international artist film series program that explores artist videos through a site specific curatorial approach. Fueled by the work of Kelly Shindler and Deirdre Corley, Package Deals has explored a vast range of artist video selected from Iceland, Sweden and other Scandinavian and North American cultural sites. These video “packages” then travel around the world to locations such as Hong Kong, Athens, New York City, and Charleston, SC to be publicaly viewed. DailyServing recently spoke to Kelly and Deirdre about their previous projects and what’s to come. Read the full interview with Package Deals below. All images courtesy of PD.
DS: So, tell me a little about what ‘Package Deals’ means to you and how it was initially conceived? Where and when did you begin the first film screenings?
D:Kelly and I first worked together on a shorts program for CMJ Film Festival, I was working there and she got in touch with an idea she wanted to work into the program. We had similar tastes and thought it would be fun to keep working together after the festival, so we invented Package Deals. I’m not really sure how it was conceived, at the time we were in Brooklyn, drinking cocktails and throwing around ideas, the way most good things come to be. The first screening was in March of 2006 at The Tank in Tribeca. We have premiered most of our subsequent shows there since then.
K: To add to that, Package Deals is somewhat of a boutique concept: we select a city or place of exciting cultural production, research this site’s films, art, and music, and premiere a program of short films, music videos, and artists’ videos in New York City, after which we travel it around the world. At the premiere, we always try-and have succeeded so far-to bring in a liquor sponsor and dj from the place we’re profiling, and we throw an inspired after-party. For the “Daydream Nation” premiere last year, we even found some zines made by incredible artists in Sweden, which we had donated to the event for audience members to check out. So in that sense, we’re really trying to provide the total “package” experience from our own aesthetic and cultural perspectives. Viewers don’t need to leave their home town.
DS: . Exactly who is involved with the projects, and in what ways has ‘Package Deals’ grown?
D: Package Deals is Kelly and me at the core, but we are lucky to have some talented designers and editors as friends. They help us do the stuff we wish we knew how to do, like compile and author our screeners, design our website and flyers, etc.
Package Deals has grown a lot since we started, we thought we would do one show at The Tank, and maybe another one from a different country a few months later. I don’t know about Kelly, but I had no idea we would be doing screenings in places like Taipei and Croatia when we did that first show. We also get a lot more calls to work with cultural institutions like Scandinavia House in New York and different Icelandic arts and governmental organizations, which we like because it makes us feel like hot shots.
K: Yeah, when we started Package Deals, we thought we were starting a quarterly NYC film series at the Tank. The idea for touring our programs bloomed out of a desire to see the months of work we put into a show live beyond its one premiere night. I never dreamed we’d be working with organizations around the world, or have our work included in some incredible film festivals like the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival or the Antimatter underground film fest in Victoria, BC, not to mention shipping our shows off to a film fest in Israel or a film fest on a football field in Taipei. I think the notion of how much room for growth the PD concept had first hit me when the Sequences festival in Reykjavik commissioned us to curate a program of N.American music videos. It was our first international commission and show, and it got us to Reykjavik to boot!
Back to the collaborator question, we are always looking for creative, knowledgeable people to work with, so if someone was interested in getting involved in some capacity, from the technical to the content, side of things, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DS: What is the process for selecting the artists and videos that make up a particular series, and why have you chosen to create site specific videos in regards to exploring work from specific geographic locations?
D: Mostly we find artists through web research, by looking at artist websites, or programs from international film festivals. We also get recommendations from artists we’re already working with. In places like Iceland, most of the filmmakers are going to know each other and are happy to put you in touch with their friends.
K: Chances are, if we like the artist-recommendor’s aesthetic, we will love their friends’.
D: As far as choosing films from specific locations, we both love to travel and do it as much as we can. Part of that of course involves absorbing as much as we can about the creative culture of where we visit. Working on these programs is a bit like traveling without going any where-we immerse ourselves in the regions creative community as much as one can from their desk, and then we pass on the best of what we discovered to our audience. We also like the fact that this program is an opportunity to find and expose talented artists and cool work from places that are generally overlooked. For instance, there’s not a huge amount of Icelandic film being screened in the States, but that doesn’t mean there’s not great work coming out of there.
K: Working so much with Scandinavian film has been so rewarding, partly because the small region has a significant amount of user-friendly cultural infrastructure. Each country has its own film institute or centre that governs the production of its own films and their domestic and international distribution. This is very useful for getting a hold of big features or ambitious shorts. Of course, the underground films we exhibit-and these comprise a large amount of our content-are found through more underground and grassroots means: word of mouth, research on past shows at cutting-edge artspaces and unconventional exhibition spaces we admire, artists websites, etc.
In terms of the site-specific concept itself, I think we were looking for a meaningful aesthetic framework to grasp onto and through which to present our film selections-as any serious curator would-and geography seemed as good a starting point as any. Of course, within that, we try to anchor each program thematically. “Cold Hearts” was all about fantasy and whimsy, often from lo-fi angles, “Daydream Nation” is animated, “The Field Guide to North America” is prefaced on these amusing, fake categories describing American and Canadian wildlife and human experiences, and so on.
DS: How does your organization gross money from the video projects? Are you considered a non-profit or for-profit venture? If someone was interested in supporting your projects, how could they become involved?
D: We charge a small rental fee to the venues that screen our programs, and we have received a few grants which just about covers our costs. If someone wanted to support us, they could contact us via our website.
K: That being said, we’re certainly not making any money off the venture. Any income we get goes back into supporting the artists and covering our costs, which aren’t small. Mastering digital video, when we exhibit in that format, is extremely expensive and time-consuming. We’ve always kept our rental fees almost shockingly low, so that venues we haven’t worked with before have the financial opportunity to take a chance on the sort of film we’re championing. We’re not officially non-profit either, so I guess that places us somewhere in-between. Of course, we welcome sponsors, financial or in-kind or spacial or otherwise!
DS: What do you feel are the main perks for the artists involved in the videos?
D: Exposure. Our programs end up screening all over the world, at many film festivals, cinemas and gallery spaces, which is basically what most of the people we are working with are trying to do with their work in the first place. We’re happy to do it for them.
K: Definitely. I think the opportunity to show work in non-traditional environments or maybe just in different ways than the artist may have originally intended when he or she was making his/her films, in a cinema rather than a gallery, for example, or maybe even vice-versa, is a rewarding and mutually beneficial experience for everyone involved. And the artists we work with are all so different, ranging from established artists in the contemporary art world to fledgling filmmakers, art and film students, Sundance award-winning filmmakers, professional directors, tinkerers, musicians, and more. They’re making high-end features, lo-fi shorts, diary films, documentaries (animated and live action), music videos, abstract loops, experiments with friends, the list goes on and on. So the chance to see this work, and we consciously select films that are almost impossible to view outside of these countries, is rare to begin with and therefore all the more meaningful for the viewer. I really hope it’s reciprocally meaningful for the artist as well.
DS: How do you feel ‘Package Deals’ updates or advances the way that artist videos reach an audience today? What are the inherent advantages or disadvantages in showing a video in a traveling package over say posting on YouTube or being involved with a more typical film festival?
D: Part of the idea behind Package Deals is that the work is encapsulated, it’s a peek into the community we’re exploring, the artists are contemporaries and sometimes friends, they are influencing each other. You aren’t going to see that connection poking around on YouTube, you aren’t going to get an idea of the “scene.” (Not to mention videos on YouTube look like crap.) Another part of Package Deals is that our screenings, at least our premiers, are followed by a party, where people can talk about what they have seen, often with the artists or people from the country being featured, which isn’t something you get from your computer or even at most film festivals.
K: Also, film festivals offer extremely limited viewing experiences, you have to be present in the community where the festival’s on view, and you have to be fortunate enough to hold tickets to those screenings. Package Deals’ programs show in multiple cities, offering a range of viewing opportunities and a curatorial perspective that just doesn’t exist online and certainly not on YouTube. We’re really privileging that primary, personal (and traditional, sure) experience of viewing film and video in a physical screening space. It looks a lot better too. We’ve done our homework and thoughtfully selected and organized our films so that they engage in a dialogue with the other films in a program as well as inspire conversation after the screening itself. Those are the advantages. Disadvantage-wise, we put tons of time and research into booking our programs at venues all over the world, but that doesn’t guarantee a booking in a particular city or region. For example, we’ve yet to have a show in Los Angeles.
DS: What in your past experience has led you to be able to organize and successful accomplish a project with the scope of ‘Package Deals’?
D: I was director of the CMJ Film Festival for 2 years, so I learned a lot about programming, how to set up and run a screening, and also the technical nightmares that come with programs like this. Though those still happen sometimes…
K: I worked for a film curator years ago and learned how to tour film prints around the country. Shipping DVDs and DVCams is a lot easier than handling prints, needless to say. In my current role as Manager of Public Programs at Art21, I liaise with contemporary art spaces every day, and that really helps me feel comfortable with the relationship-building side of things. Deirdre and I are both naturally quite ambitious and aim high, and I think that’s helped us feel confident to go after grants, contact Consulates, convince artists to work with us, and so on.
DS: If budget wasn’t an issue for you, what you add to ‘Package Deals’ that you simply cannot afford to do at the moment?
D: Distribute the programs on DVD. We had the opportunity to do that, but we can’t afford the upfront licensing fees for the music or the artists. That and we really want plane tickets to Japan.
K: Salaries for ourselves and bigger honoraria for all the artists! And some more staff and more time…
DS: What can viewers expect from future video projects? Do you have plans to explore new countries and further develop your “cultural samplings from across the globe?”
D: We plan to explore Japan early next year, which I think will be the hardest and possibly most interesting thing we’ve done. We’ll continue to tour the programs we’ve already done until we stop getting requests for them. Perhaps someday we’ll get around to Kelly’s idea about a Greenlandic Hip Hop program. Who knows.
K: I’d love to do a portfolio of programs from each of the five Nordic countries. Only 3 left to go. Any Finns, Norwegians, or Danes out there who are interested in seeing this happen should get in touch! Japan is definitely first though. And Mexico is high up there too.