Quick Q+A: Tim Alan Holly + Cinema of the Macabre

Not all heroes wear capes . . . or ninja hoods. Tim Alan Holly, one of the hardest working people in the MPLS + STPL Arts & Culture scene programs B-movie stuff all over town, including the incredible Cinema of the Macabre series at Emagine Willow Creek on Monday nights, the insane New York Ninja screening that’s coming up this Wednesday at Emagine, and even the long-running Tape Freaks series. You should go to all this—and then buy one of his custom shirts!

When my partner Colette and I started it more than 7 years ago I wouldn’t have thought we would still be going with it. We sort of started it thinking it would run a year or so and move onto something else but here we are.

DISPATCH: Ok, let’s start with Cinema of Macabre. What a great series! So many good films. Is it just a joy to program films like Phantasm 2 that was shown on Monday? And how much fun do you have doing the curated pre-show (that we cannot recommend enough)?
Tim Holly: Thank you! Cinema of The Macabre started as a test to see if I could build up a horror/genre crowd out at the Willow Creek theater last June shortly after I came on board at Emagine. So far it seems to be going well and the plan is to keep it rolling for the foreseeable future. The programming part is a ton of fun for me to put together but I probably spend way too much time second guessing myself on what people respond to and end up having to just go with my gut most of the time. As much as I try to guess what will draw people I’m still constantly surprised. The pre-shows can sometimes be a little daunting honestly if I don’t have a solid idea what I’m going to do ahead of time but since I’m putting them together every week I don’t have a ton of time to overthink it. But it’s all worth it when I figure out a hook for one or have a perfect clip or segment to play and hear the audience react.

Then where to even begin with New York Ninja? Just reading about how it was shot in ’83 then abandoned then rediscovered and finished and supposedly amazing . . . what can you tell us about it? Should we believe the hype?
Yes! This movie is going to be a blast to watch with an audience. It was shot in the 80s but never finished until the team at Vinegar Syndrome stumbled onto a stack of film cans that turned out to be the raw 35mm footage. After scanning all the film elements, they assembled it to the best of their abilities using the slates at the beginning of each take and tried to decipher the story since there was no script to be found. Then went and hired all genre/ era specific actors to dub the dialogue (because there was no remaining sound either) and had the group Voyag3r do an original score that feels truly authentic. The end result is a wildly entertaining film that has ninjas on rollerskates, a radioactive killer, and so much more. For this screening I put together an 80s ninja preshow, I have some fun stuff to give away, there will be a special guest Q&A and some more surprises. I tried to make this screening a bit more of an event since I’m particularly excited about it and if that all sounds intriguing? Throw on a ninja mask and join us!

Pre-pandemic you were doing a lot of this specialty programming out at Alamo, now at Emagine Willow Creek—how’s the vibe at Emagine?
I was the programmer/Creative Manager at Alamo Twin Cities pre-pandemic so any non new release programmed there (and even some smaller new releases) were all under my role there. While I was out of work I was offered a gig at Emagine and given a bunch of freedom to try different things out. My goal is to keep building out the programming more and more but I’m trying to be strategic about it so I can eventually get the 35mm & 70mm projectors running again at Willow Creek. Cinema of the Macabre Mondays have been a nice testing ground to see what works since I also have 100% control over every aspect of it. From the pre-shows, the vintage trailers, the poster designs, editing my own promo trailers, etc. It’s all been a good learning opportunity for me to settle in before adding more onto the calendar.

That’s just this week! You’re also still doing Tape Freaks at the Trylon, one of the most fun movie-going experiences in MPLS + STPL. Where are you finding the time?
Tape Freaks is still going strong even after the break when the Trylon was closed. When my partner Colette and I started it more than 7 years ago I wouldn’t have thought we would still be going with it. We sort of started it thinking it would run a year or so and move onto something else but here we are. It can be a bit challenging some months to find the time to design & print a new shirt, program the trailers, make all the button packs we giveaway, write up the clues and all the other stuff that goes into it but who needs to sleep anyway! Even with all of that, Tape Freaks continues to be something that I think we both look forward to each month. We get to share some extremely weird or a lesser known favorite to an unsuspecting audience that has grown to trust us which is something we definitely don’t take for granted.

New York Ninja will likely sell out, get your tickets to that ASAP. Then check out the incredible lineup of Cinema of the Macabre for February, many of those will likely sell out, too. 

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