The Future of Upstate: You’re Invited!

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Sana Cheema, Journalist

How many movies have you watched over the past year?

The entertainment industry has had some drastic changes due to the pandemic. Watching films has largely been reduced to what’s available on streaming services, taking away the atmosphere of being in an audience of a movie theatre.

In our very own small town of Rhinebeck, we have a non-profit run theatre called Upstate Films. Upstate Films originally opened in 1972 with just a single screen.

The movie going experience has always been very important to the previous owners Steve Dede Lieber and Susan Goldman, and that continues to be the case with the new co-executive directors Jason Silverman and Paul Sturtz.

Both have an extensive history in the film industry, including organizing film festivals and even making their own films.

Paul Sturtz spoke about what we can expect when they hopefully reopen in the summer. While continuing to check on vaccination and covid rates remaining optimistic, Sturtz says they plan to have outdoor screenings in Dutchess and Ulster county from July 10th to mid-October.

They have also added music in between and even food carts provided by Del’s in Rhinebeck. You might even see some surprise guests!

They are very excited for Upstate’s 50th anniversary coming up towards the end of fall, and are gearing up to welcome people back into the theatre after closure during the pandemic.

Sturtz and Silverman say their mission is to “connect the Hudson Valley to transformative cinematic experiences.”

“Inclusion, partnership, localism, storytelling for increasing empathy and progress” and an “environmental stewardship ethic” are all part of their core values.

Connecting with people and in turn having people connect with each other is very important; this community being “not as connected as it could be” leads them to want to be a “a populist institution that knits together different people and projects on both sides of the river.”

Going back to the difference between streaming and experiencing movies in a theatre, he believes streaming is not very sustainable, and we as human beings need to interact with people in real life.

“Being online, it just doesn’t afford the same level of connection that some people would want. We feel good about it. I think there’s a real hunger to come out again and you know be in public, in the elements. In this case under the stars, for the summer series, and eventually inside.”

Overall, Sturtz seems excited to be a part of such a beloved and established film organization, one where they “can make much more headway” in their efforts to preserve and promote the value of film.

With their dedication to helping communities, we are lucky to have them help us with our Reading Film elective here at RHS. Ms. Wheeler, ELA Chair, met with both Sturtz and Silverman to discuss collaboration during the 2021-22 school year.

Silverman suggested creating a “library” of films, made by independent and diverse filmmakers so that students might not have the opportunity of seeing otherwise. “Students would walk to Upstate cinema in town, watch films, and then have discussions,” Wheeler said.

According to Silverman and Sturtz, their collaboration with RHS might also allow students to try their hands at screening films for audiences in our school community.

“There would be SO many unique writing opportunities for students as curators and promoters of films,” Wheeler said.

Contact your guidance counselor now to sign up for Reading Film,.You will not only continue to enrich yourself but have lots of fun doing so.