"How'd You Get That F@cking Awesome Job?" Q&A: James Wallace, Programmer for Richardon's Alamo Drafthouse
With Alamo Drafthouse's first DFW location opening this week, we talked to their creative manager, James Wallace. Those in the Dallas film community will know Wallace from Gordon & the Whale, a movie website that trafficked in reviews and advance screening, and following that, I Heart Cinema. He has also written for the Observer and Central Track. We wanted to know how he ended up with Alamo and what he plans to do as creative manager for what's staged to be one of Dallas' best theaters for devoted cinephiles.
Selig Polyscope James Wallace introducing The World's End in Richardson
Any number of of movie lovers would kill to be a programmer for Alamo. How did you end up with the job?
I'm still pinching myself every time that question pops up in my own head!
What I did with GATW (Gordon and the Whale) and IHC (i Heart Cinema) was always very inspired by Alamo's approach to cinema. Creating more of an experience around the film, where it's just as much about where you're seeing a film as what film you're seeing. Or with special events, to bring people into the movie watching experience even more with something extra and fun themed around the film. Especially with IHC, that was the heart behind it. And so when I found out Alamo was finally setting up shop in Dallas, I did whatever I could to put myself in front of the proper people. It was my dream job finally made a reality. Luckily I had this five plus years experience of doing stuff like this on my own as a resume.
So, because of your experience, what did you already know about programming and what have you learned since you started?
I understood the process of programming, rather, curating, a diverse selection of films, whether it be for a theater or an event like a film festival. And I had been able to do a good bit of it with my own events. But what I've learned since I started is just how fun and exciting it really is. Daunting, of course. You want to make everyone happy with what you program and offer a diversity...I'd be lying if I said I wasn't kept up some nights with programming ideas swirling around in my head. But to see some of the stuff I've already programmed and its reaction with movie lovers in Dallas, rather, just how many people are truly excited that a movie theater like Drafthouse is finally in Dallas and that there's a place that actually does the type of events we do, that's the most satisfying part of the job.
When you think about the local programming you want to do, what kind of audience member are you thinking about? What does that person look like, how old are they, and what do they like?
Since I found out I had the job, my head hasn't stopped spinning with programming ideas - the most prominent one being one that focuses on the rich film history of our fair city. Dallas has a wealth of great films that were made here, from well known classics like Robocop, Bottle Rocket, Logan's Run, True Stories, Office Space, State Fair, multiple Oliver Stone films and many more. And then of course there's this cool B-movie boom that happened in the late '60s with Larry Buchanan films like Mars Needs Women. There's a couple of series just in that idea and it only goes on from there!
What was it like being the one to interact with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright when they came through last week?
Those guys are the coolest! They're 100% genuine down-to-Earth movies nerds just as much as their fans are...so it's just like being up there with a few of your best friends talking movies...if your best friends had regal British accents...and you just talked about the rad movies they made.
As a side note, I was fortunate enough to have a few private moments with the guys and they on more than one occasion mentioned how much they loved Dallas and how the fans here always showed them the warmest welcome. They were truly blown away by the amount of people that showed up to Alamo's "Blood and Ice Cream" Trilogy event and humbled by just how awesome everyone was. Well done, Dallas movie lovers!
What are you most looking forward to as the soft opening/grand opening approaches?
Selfishly, seeing some of those titles on the big screen for the first time (The Transformers: The Movie and The Iron Giant, both in 35-mm, to name a few)...But generally, just plain and simple, opening! After all this time and all this work this amazing Alamo DFW team has been doing behind the scenes will finally come to fruition. And then the real fun starts because Dallas will finally officially have an Alamo, with events for everyone every night of the week. And the film scene in Big D will never be the same!