“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Liz Donadio, 32, says aloud. “We can’t say that enough.”
Donadio, a photographer, owner of Color Wheel Digital Printing and one of seven members of the Baltimore Video Collective (BVC), is giving a cheerful shoutout to all of the donors who contributed over $32,000 to BVC’s recent Kickstarter campaign to open a storefront location.
Beyond Video, the video rental location set to open this fall in Remington, is a concept that was born in 2012 by a group of former employees (and one loyal customer) of Baltimore’s beloved video store, Video Americain.
“We were still very interested in keeping a video culture in Baltimore,” says Donadio, explaining the roots of the Baltimore Video Collective.
After Video Americain’s two locations in Charles Village and Roland Park went out of business, seven film enthusiasts came together with one collective goal: revive the video store in Baltimore.
“I went to an estate sale down the street from my Dad’s in upstate New York,” Donadio shares. “The first group purchase was 300-400 excellent films, many from the Criterion Collection, and we kind of started from there.”
Scott Braid, 42, Associate Director of the Maryland Film Festival (MFF) and BVC member, estimates that the group now has about 5,000 films in their collection.
For Braid and his colleagues, film, and more specifically video stores, have had a lasting impact on his life. “I started out at the local video store as a kid, getting really excited about movies and gobbling up as much as I could,” Braid recalls. “Video Americain opened up this whole new world to me…it sort of became film school.”
Though Braid attended actual film school at UMBC, he credits the video store as an essential part of his cinematic education. “I met countless friends…it connected me to the film community in Baltimore. I certainly wouldn’t be at MFF if it weren’t for my experience [there],” he says.
Joe Tropea, 47, Curator of Films and Photographs at the Maryland Historical Society, documentarian, and a third member of the group, says a big difference between Beyond Video and the video stores that came before it is that it will be nonprofit. Braid emphasizes that “all of the money that comes in goes into building an even more awesome collection.”
Reflecting on his experience at Video Americain, Tropea recalls that “the payment wasn’t the paycheck, it was the community. Working there was like going to film school.” Sound familiar?
In the age of Netflix and iTunes, one might wonder why a place like Beyond Video is relevant–but the minds behind BVC couldn’t disagree more.
“It’s very limited, what you can get online,” Braid responds, “and there’s no real curation.”
“You can’t find every movie you want through live streaming services, but you can find them at a place like Beyond Video,” Tropea adds. “You can talk to a living person and they can give you their opinion on films that may change your own.”
Roberto Buso-Garcia, Program Director of the Johns Hopkins Master of Arts in Film and Media, agrees. “That kind of space to actually have a conversation, as brief as it may be, is amazing,” Garcia says. “It opens a up a possibility of discovering new movies, new experiences, new perspectives, that may entertain, challenge, or enlighten.”
“The people behind [Beyond Video] are splendid film lovers with diverse tastes, which is very important,” Garcia continues. “My first reaction was ‘what a spectacular idea—a bold and brave one, too.’”
“Becoming engrossed in something that another person has created for you to experience is an art form,” Donadio adds. “Working at the video store changed the way I thought about taking pictures [and] storytelling. I discovered female film makers, film makers of color and from other backgrounds telling different stories.”
Beyond Video plans to “give voice to underrepresented artists,” she says, including “having a section of highlighted local films.”
The new store will be located on Howard Street, next to Ottobar. BVC plans to have at least one full-time employee, and will split up the rest of the shifts between the seven members of the collective.
Braid assures that the rentals will be “very affordable” and will offer “a membership-style program” to regular customers.
“We hope to have a community education component, screenings, and film-centric events,” he shares, “and we hope carve out some space in the store so people can hang out and interact.”
Check out the Baltimore Video Collective and the Beyond Video Kickstarter at beyondvideo.org. BVC will hold a dance party fundraiser at Ottobar on July 15.