In 1960, Greg Barrios and David Berman started a volunteer-run film society at UT to bring alternative and independent cinema to the Austin community. The pair had an array of guest speakers and lecturers, from French film director Jean-Luc Godard, to pop art creator and eccentric artist Andy Warhol.
More than 50 years later, 26 year-old filmmaker Ryan Darbonne was so inspired by the group that he wanted to continue the legacy and start his own film series. He called it Cinema 41.
“I wanted to screen films that have made some kind of impact on the film community, films that are more obscure and mostly get overlooked,” Darbonne said.
Barely a year old, Cinema 41 strives to achieve the same goals as its impressive and determined predecessors.
Darbonne received a film degree from the University of North Texas in 2009 and has shot numerous music videos for his friend’s band, a web series about film students and sketch comedies.
As the executive director and founder of this ambitious non-profit, Darbonne’s job entails deciding what films to show and making contacts with other organizations. Cinema 41 consists of six volunteer staff members.
“All of us get together and pick a theme. From that theme, we each pick a film,” Darbonne said. “Is the film independent? Has it been a forgotten film? Does it have a cultural significance? Those are the questions we discuss before I make the decision on what film to screen.”
But before a film can be screened, Cinema 41 must obtain the rights to the film.
One of the early members of Cinema 41, Heather Cain, who now works in San Francisco, gets in contact with studios to obtain rights. Darbonne said it usually takes about a week to hear back and a standard fee is paid. The fees range from $200-300 dollars.
He said although the group tries to raise funds as much as possible, many times the fees to obtain rights must be paid out of pocket.
To garner initial interest for the group, Darbonne used Craigslist — one of the replies to the ad was Noah Romero, who works at the Lorenzo De Medici study abroad program, and is Cinema 41’s director of development.
“I came on board in July , I identified with the overall goals of the organization and liked the idea of creating a community around independent film and the scholarly community,” Romero said. “It also gave me the opportunity to hang out with really cool people and watch movies.”
As director of development, Romero works mainly on fundraising.
He tries to bring in money outside of the screenings. He organizes events that include profit shares with local businesses and benefit shows. Some events include trivia nights at Dive Bar & Lounge and a promotion with Amy’s Ice Creams.
Although the staff members have different skills and talents, one detail remains constant.
“At the end of the day we are a bunch of passionate film nerds,” Darbonne said.