Brent Stowe is a musician who occasionally dabbles in filmmaking — if that’s what you want to call it. Mostly, his attempts have been bad or unsuccessful.
Once, his lead actress quit before they finished shooting. One guy shaved his head before his scenes were done.
“I wasn’t paying anyone, so that’s how it works,” says Stowe.
In the end, the cast and crew that remained got together and watched the finished product on a TV. “It was nice,” says Stowe, a graphic designer. “But it would have been better to be able to show it on a bigger screen.”
It made him realize just how few places existed for aspiring filmmakers to show their work. So he started talking with Jeff Babinski, a friend and bandmate, about creating an outlet to support local film. They attended the 48 Hour Film Project last year and got a taste for the quality work being produced locally.
“Coming from a local band, as soon as you get some songs together, you can play out,” Stowe says. “But local filmmakers can’t really do anything with their films to show their friends.”
So last year, they founded Emerge Microcinema. Using their own screen, projector and sound system, they’ve hosted pop-up screenings for small audiences of about 15 to 75 at Skidmark Garage, Forest City Brewery and Praxis Fiber Workshop.
Previous films have included Rob Montague’s Long Way To The Top, a documentary about the life of a musician on the road, which premiered at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival. In April, they showed Swingos Celebrity Inn, a documentary that looks back at the Euclid Avenue hotel famous for hosting rock ‘n’ rollers during the late ‘60s and ‘70s.
“There’s no money yet at all,” Stowe says. “We just try to break even.”
On Oct. 13 at Forest City Brewery, Emerge shows Burn The Ships, a documentary directed by Danielle Miller and Julia Thorndike that follows the struggles of pro female softball players on the Akron Racers.
“It was a really good story,” says Stowe, who saw its premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival this year. “It is bigger that just softball.”
Staying true to their musician roots, the duo also plays all local music before and after the screenings with hopes of uniting musicians, filmmakers and their fans.
“Maybe by screening films, we can create a sort of grassroots support system for filmmakers too,” says Stowe.