Champlain Film Professor on Future of Film Panel

The Future of Film: Convert or Die

The fate of small town theaters in Vermont in the wake of the "convert or die" ultimatum, and what this all means for local filmmakers and film audiences, will be the subject of this panel discussion. Although most moviegoers are unaware of it, a tsunami is about to hit the world of movies, and in its wake the landscape of movie-going will be changed forever. The tsunami is the demise of film as a medium for production and distribution, and the subsequent need for movie theaters, in the words of National Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian, to convert to digital projection or die. Unfortunately for the small town movie houses and independent theaters of the sort that dot the landscape of Vermont, the cost of conversion (anywhere from $70,000 - $100,000 per screen) leaves them few options, and the prediction is that, as a result, anywhere from 10 to 30% of existing theaters will be gone within the next few years. Some see the forced death of such theaters and with them the kind of varied film programming they embrace, as a deliberate move to eliminate the number of theaters muddying the picture for corporate studio and theater operations, in favor of the blockbuster and mega-theater paradigm by means of which the industry makes most of its profits.


About The Panelists:

Rob Schmidt drew the attention of Killer Films and producer Christine Vachon with his award winning shorts Earl's Demise & Saturn. Vachon produced his MGM feature Crime and Punishment in Suburbia, a Sundance favorite, and his feature Speed of Life drew the attention of Stan Winston, with whom he went on to make Wrong Turn. Stephen King listed Wrong Turn as his favorite movie of 2003. He released Alphabet Killer, based on the double letter murders in and around Rochester, NY. He has worked in television as well as film, on shows such as NBC's Fear Itself and Showtime's Masters of Horror. He is currently developing a High School ghost story for Critical Density Media and working on the documentary project, "The Worst Thing About Coming Out." Schmidt studied photography and filmmaking at SUNY Purchase and directing at the American Film Institute, making around a dozen short films. He has taught at NYU Grad Film on their Singapore Campus, for the New School for Social Research Grad Documentary Certificate program, at SUNY Purchase, and currently at Champlain College.

Terrence Youk began his career in film and television in 1985, first as a composer and later as a filmmaker - writing, producing, directing and editing independent documentaries. He has produced nationally acclaimed programs for PBS, A&E, the Wisdom Channel and the National Hospice Foundation. Award-winning films include: Thich Nhat Hanh: Roots of Peace and Pioneers of Hospice: Changing the Face of Dying. He has now entered the role of film exhibitor, purchasing the Savoy Theater in Montpelier, VT in 2009 and has been busy trying to improve the Art-House movie-going experience ever since. More recently he has become the president of Focus on Film which presents the Green Mountain Film Festival, now in its 16th year.

Claudia Becker, owner/manager of the Big Picture Theater & Cafe, Waitsfield VT. Born and raised in Germany, Claudia came to the US as a teacher in 1998 and quickly started using film as an educational tool in the classroom. That lead to her founding and running the MountainTop Film Festival — a renowned human rights film festival in Vermont, now in its 10th year. She and her partner in crime, Eugene Jarecki, bought what is now The Big Picture Theater & Cafe in 2006 and have been running it ever since as a two screen movie theater, community space and cafe with the mission to be: "A local gathering place with a global dimension". Claudia is director of programming and general manager of The Big Picture Theater, festival director of the MountainTop Film Festival and serves as an advisory board member of the film school at Burlington College. She is also a bee keeper and mother of two children.

Panel moderator Barry Snyder, founder of the Burlington Film Society, is a film historian, teacher, photographer and writer. Much of his professional life has been dedicated to creating opportunities for people to interact with, broaden their knowledge of, and participate in the arts and culture. Barry has been an instructor at Champlain College, Community College of Vermont and Burlington College, where he was also the chair of the Cinema Studies program for 10 years. Barry was also the president of the Vermont International Film Foundation for 5 years. In addition he created the Lake Placid Film Forum's "Sleepless in Lake Placid" 24-hour filmmaking competition, and is currently producing a similar competition for the VT International Film Festival, called Sleepless in Burlington.

The Burlington Film Society is a resource for local film events, meet-ups and an advocacy platform for cinema. The mission of the Film Society is to cultivate film culture in the greater Burlington area through the creation of an organizational mechanism for cineastes; by working with area theaters, arts presenters, granting organizations, educational institutions, and businesses to generate opportunities for theatrical screenings of films; and by increasing opportunity for engagement with and appreciation of cinema.

For more information about The Burlington Film Society, visit WWW.BURLINGTONFILMSOCIETY.ORG.


Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit champlain.edu.