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Film Club Fall 2021 with Host Stephen Whitty

by Clayton Bushong

When Marshall Fine announced his retirement last year, we huddled up and talked about the direction we wanted to take with The Picture House Film Club. Marshall had a great run with many sold out seasons, so we knew we had some big shoes to fill. We went through a long list of critics we had cultivated over the years and talked a lot about the future of the Film Club — particularly as we were coming back together in person after over a year of being virtual. When we discovered that writer Stephen Whitty had grown up going to The Picture House, and had seen some milestone movies at our historic theater as a kid on his way to becoming a critic, we knew we’d found our match! 

If the Picture House has taught me anything over the years, it’s the power of a community coming together through shared experiences. Nothing beats a personal connection to bring depth to this type of collective understanding, and that’s exactly what Stephen has brought to our lovely club. Since the very first film club of the season, when Stephen shared his childhood memories at The Picture House with our subscribers and delighted us with an advance screening of the critically acclaimed Bergman Island, he has been a gracious and engaging host. In the following weeks his conversations and interactions with our guests both on stage and on screen have taken Film Club in the exploratory and inquisitive direction that we were hoping for.  

Of course, I always want our Film Club guests’ films to succeed, but never before have I felt so attached to the guests as I have to the ones Stephen has brought this season. When we screened Being Cousteau, I had the pleasure of having a drink before the Q&A with the highly energetic and intelligent Mridu Chandra and learned so much about my boyhood hero, not to mention gaining incredible inside knowledge on how many moving parts there are to producing a documentary.  

My heart broke for the amazing Amy Koppleman, who generously brought an advance screening of her movie A Mouthful of Air to us on the day she received unkind reviews. Amy was happy to be at a place that celebrates films — and to be among real people who enjoy and appreciate them — as she navigated the harsh rhetoric of faceless critics who had (in my mind) savaged her unjustly that day.  

The next week we saw two buddies, Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe, who have been making movies with every dollar and chance they could get since their college days. And even if I didn’t love The Beta Test, I still wanted it — and them — to succeed because their creativity and grit represents everything the film industry should be about. 

This past week, I got to be a fan boy with the amazing Rebecca Hall, who I have enjoyed as an actress and filmmaker for many years. I loved her in 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and now with her directorial debut, the powerful and beautifully-shot film, Passing, and the deeply personal story of how and why she wanted to make the film, I found myself even more of a fan and excited to see what she comes up with next.

Next week marks the last film club of the fall season, and just like a movie that you don’t want to end, I’m already sad to say good-bye to Stephen’s first season with us. 

So thank you Stephen, for coming home and delivering a very personal Film Club Fall 2021 when we needed it most. We’re all looking forward to the amazing movies, conversations, and stories that spark our curiosity and keep us coming back for more in the seasons to come.