WHO ARE YOU?
NAME: Eric Veillette
BIRTHPLACE: Timmins, Ontario
WHERE DO YOU LIVE: Roncesvalles
WHAT DO YOU DO: Programming Director at the Revue Cinema. Formerly a journalist and columnist for the Toronto Star.
How did you become involved with the Revue?
I was hooked by the Revue Film Society’s community-driven spirit and the way it saved the building. I joined the volunteer newsletter team shortly after it opened. Back then we published twice a month, promoting new movies and events, but also telling stories about the neighbourhood. I learned a lot from the newsletter editor, Ellen Moorhouse. The Revue has always been about creating opportunities for people.
What was the first screening you hosted at the Revue?
I’ve been obsessed with silent film since I was a kid. In June of 2009 I hosted the first Silent Sundays event, which featured a Buster Keaton film accompanied on live piano. Panic set in on the day of the screening as I wondered if anyone would show up. Would it be me and a few friends whose arms were twisted into attending? To my amazement, people were lined up around the block, onto Howard Park. I’ll never forget the laughter in the cinema that day. The series continues to this day as the Silent Revue, and launches its eighth season on October 29.
What does The Revue mean to the community?
My motto at the cinema is to go “beyond the screen,” to use film as a conduit for discussion on a variety of subjects that are important to the community. We accomplish that with some of our in-house programming, but most importantly, by helping various groups and organizations produce events. Over the last year, we’ve worked with Raising The Roof, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, The Redwood, Students For a Free Tibet, The Mapuche Society, among so many others. We helped raise funds for Planet in Focus Festival’s Attawapiskat Film Lab; Trans Lifeline through Chandler Levack’s Feminist Live Reads; the Hope Goes North organization, which fundraises for asylum seekers in Canada; and after a screening of Desmond Cole’s documentary The Skin We’re In, we donated all proceeds to a charity benefitting the family of Andrew Loku.
What is your role at the cinema?
We’re a very small but dedicated team. Our board of directors consists of nine very dedicated volunteers; our Executive Director, Aileen MacDonald, helps steer the cinema’s vision; Rachel Welsh handles operations, staffing, event management, among other important things; I handle all the film bookings, calendar production, cinema rentals and much of the business development. And we all sweep popcorn at the end of the night. The best part of the job is producing our special events. I work with an amazing team of curators who helm different series, like Designing the Movies, which is hosted by Globe & Mail critic Nathalie Atkinson, and Rendezvous With Madness, hosted by programmer and author Geoff Pevere.
Has cinema always been a passion of yours?
From a very young age. My first language is French, and I learned to read English via a giant book at my grandmother’s house called “The Movies.” I grew up on the outskirts of town, where cable TV wasn’t accessible, so I saw many classic films for the first time on a snowy television with bunny ears. Every weekend meant Elwy Yost hosting Saturday Night at the Movies, and a late-nite movie of some sort. Most of the profits I earned from my paper route went to the Victory Theatre or Cinema Six in my hometown. I’m lucky that as an adult I got to make a living writing about film for various publications and now manage a movie theatre.
What is your favourite movie?
That changes all the time, but the list usually includes City Lights, Duck Soup, Jaws, a Hammer Horror film of some sort, and anything pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy.
What are some of your routines in the neighbourhood?
I usually start my day with a coffee at Coffee & All That Jazz (72 Howard Park Ave.), while I pore over box office results for the films we want to show at the cinema. My days are usually spent at the cinema, meeting with renters, collaborators, or at my home office, where I produce the cinema’s in-house trailers and pre-show content. When work is done on Friday, I usually saunter over to She Said Boom! (393 Roncesvalles Ave.) to check out new vinyl arrivals.
What do you like about living in Roncesvalles?
I’m lucky to live around the corner from the cinema (most of our staff live within a stone’s throw of the building) in a gorgeous apartment I share with my partner, pastry chef Cora James.
I store a sizeable collection of 16mm film prints at the cinema. On weekends during the summer, our patio becomes an outdoor cinema, and we invite pals (and sometimes a racoon or two) over to watch classic films while drinking cocktails.
If the whole community were listening, what would you say to them?
It’s so easy to get tunnel vision and go from Point A to B when we’re out and about and not fully take in our surroundings. When you’re walking down Roncesvalles, take a look at the second storeys of buildings, they tell you so much about the neighbourhood, from different architectural periods, the year they were built, former tenants, like the art deco signage underneath the blue and yellow sign at the Royal Bank branch just north of Fern Ave. We try to highlight some of that history during our pre-show.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I have too many hobbies. I was once an opera singer, and although my voice isn’t what it used to be, I still sing and practise a number of instruments in my home studio. I do watch a lot of movies, there’s no escaping that. But my favourite thing — and I wish I had more time for it — is working on my miniature town, dubbed Spruce Mills. Built using model railroad kits, it’s inspired by the works of the cartoonist Seth, as well as the towns I’d pass by on the train up to Timmins when I was younger. (Instagram: @Sprucemills)
The Revue turns 10 this year. Can you tell us about the challenges of running a not-for-profit cinema?
Despite so much success, it’s a break-even proposition. Our costs increase year after year, and while we’ve been the ever-grateful recipients of two Trillium grants, one to upgrade our projection equipment, the other to renovate the auditorium and lobby, we rely on support from the community (check out our various membership options!) as well as advertising revenue from neighbourhood businesses, many of whom, like Bill Mohan of Sutton Realty and Phila Optical, have been with us since the beginning. Fundraising is a top priority for 2017, and we are also about to submit a charitable organization application, which will open us up to more funding and grants.
How does someone go about organizing a screening or proposing a film series or fundraiser at the Revue?
Please get in touch! We are always open to new ideas and our rental rates are very reasonable. So much of our success over the last ten years is due to the tireless work of our volunteers. We always need help with marketing (flyer delivery, graphic design, social media) and other areas, so if you’d love to help us make it to a 20th anniversary, we want to hear from you!
Eric can be reached at email@example.com.