In 1999, while living in a small desert town in Arizona, projectionist and film nut Mike Plante printed the first issue of a staple-bound zine called Cinemad. It was an era before social media, before torrenting; frustrated by the lack of information about the rare films he loved, Plante thought that starting a DIY publication would allow him to communicate with filmmakers and maybe get a few screeners in the mail. But Cinemad ranged far beyond the horizons of any typical fanboy outlook. In the xeroxed pages of its six print issues, Cinemad corralled a sprawling array of topics, organized by Plante’s own obsessions with fringe Hollywood, obscure independents, canonical avant-gardists and a new generation of experimental filmmakers. In any given issue, readers might encounter interviews with Haskell Wexler or Karen Black, Jonathan Rosenbaum or Charles Burnett, Miranda July or Jem Cohen, alongside accounts of people who lived in movie theaters, appreciations of recognizable but unnameable character actors, profiles of porn editors and stuntmen, reviews of bizarre television, and of course the occasional screed. “Just for the record, I talk about films you’ve never heard of because I can’t find them in other magazines and want to know more, forcing myself to search,” Plante ranted in his introduction to issue five. “I do my best, but when I get a crown on my tooth and then go to Mexico for a punk rock show and drag my ass home at 4:30 am, the next morning’s writing is probably gonna suffer.”
Riding the last big wave of the zine distribution era, Cinemad reached hundreds of bookstores worldwide before being reinvented as an online publication in 2003 and later transforming into a podcast. Plante began hosting screenings of the filmmakers he wrote about, eventually moving to Los Angeles, becoming a programmer for Sundance, and directing films of his own. Now, for the 20th anniversary of its debut, Plante has assembled a survey of the magazine’s rambunctious early years and subsequent evolution. A revelatory transmission from cinema’s outer limits at the turn of the millennium, his illustrated talk will be accompanied by original audio interviews as well as a screening of choice works that circled through Cinemad’s orbit: a new restoration of LA legend Nina Menkes’ first film, A Soft Warrior (1981), the flickering melancholy of Naomi Uman’s Private Movie (2000), Stom Sogo’s mind-bending transmedia memoir Periodical Effect (2002), Stephanie Barber’s cryptic, participatory Total Power, dead dead dead (2005), Bobcat Goldthwait’s home movies, and a gambling lesson from Orson Welles. bye.