Good Film Chatting: Pic A Flic Video

Pic A Flic Video

Video stores do still exist. They may be a bit more elusive but your neighbour rental outlet is still out there, providing a community for movie lovers to mingle and peruse. Recently, I connected with Rob Nesbitt, co-owner of a Victoria, BC landmark: Pic A Flic Video, over the death of Roger Ebert. As technology continues to mess with the way we watch movies, I thought it would be a great opportunity to “pic-a-brain” (couldn’t resist) of someone who works in what is now considered old school so Rob agreed to answer a few questions… 

1) What makes a “good” movie?

That is a tough call. At times what makes one film great can ruin another. I think if you want to get down to some elemental truths, two come to mind.

First and foremost a movie, like any art form, should engage and entertain the audience. If it does that, I think it makes for a “good” movie.

Also achieving  what the director/crew/production team etc… set out to do is a key component. For instance, if a film manages to clearly convey the concepts it’s exploring or if a horror movie manages to terrify you, then it is a success, which I think makes it “good”.

(note: I’m using quotations around the word ‘good’ because that– for many people–is subjective )

2) What event or events happened in your life to make you realize you wanted to make movies a part of your career?

I never planned to have film be a part of my career. I never planned on having a career period, to be honest! I fell into it.

Music is my first love and my relationship with it is very different to the one I have with movies. I love music so much and am so closely tied to it that I’m highly critical of what’s being produced today. Also, my place within music culture is a relationship that is fraught with anxiety. I love movies too but I am able to accept and enjoy them each on their own merits (or lack thereof) then move on to the next one rather than obsessing about them to the point of mental illness!

I worked in record stores for most of my early adulthood and was truly unhappy during the 1990s when I felt the music scene was godawful.

A friend of mine worked at Pic A Flic and I liked movies and  loved renting from the store so I applied. Six months later I had my job, and four years after that I was managing the store. The owner took a liking to me and when he retired he sold the store to my partner Karen and I for a very good price. So yeah, my career was handed to me on a silver platter.

I did see from an early age that movies were an imaginative way to tell a story and that if you were a creative person, working in film would be the zenith because it involves all of the artistic forms I love–music (and sound), visual arts, writing–while making “playing pretend” a viable adult pursuit. That was highly appealing. My mom squished my dreams of being an actor pronto when I was about eight years old. “They starve,” she told me. “Yikes!” thought I.

3) I think that makes you a movie lover, not a fighter. May be not. If someone had no experience watching movies, what 3 films would you recommend they start with?

A tough question. But this is the type of challenge we face at the store all the time. The answer lies in finding out precisely where the aesthetic lies for the person you are trying to pick for. Not being able to ask this hypothetical person the key questions I normally would, I will resort to being broad in my choices (as well taking a liberty with time and plausibility)

1. Singin’ In The Rain would be my choice to represent both the classic “Nostalgia” arena of film and ” Hollywood musical” as I feel it is the most energetically entertaining of all them.

2. The Godfather would be my choice as an example of the second “Golden Age” of Hollywood (the 1970s). It looks great, fantastic performances litter the whole thing and the story is so compelling. Plus it’s LONG so you get your money’s worth!

3. I would somehow make it possible for this person to attend an IMAX screening of Avatar in 3-D so they could thrill at both the epic scope cinema can take as well as to bring them up to date with the magic that cutting edge special effects can bring to a movie.

4) As you mention changing technology, what is the best thing and worst thing about its impact in how we watch movies?

There is so much bad in the way technology is affecting how movies are made and watched that it will be difficult to narrow it down.

As far as the good, I would say that the cheap manufacturing costs (ie: DVDs being inexpensive to produce) of catalogue titles is contributing to a wider variety of films being available now than ever before. Things that appeared lost forever have gotten proper releases from various companies. Conversely, titles that had little chance of seeing a wide DVD release due to lack of a sizable market are pressed by studios themselves via various on-demand “Archive” like imprints.

The negative effects of the last decade’s explosion of file “sharing” alone has created such a seismic shift in the foundations of the film industry that I don’t think the effects will be fully realized for years to come. I can’t even talk about it here. It’s too big. We’d need an entire 3 hour podcast to even begin to get into the meat of the matter.

5) Well, if I ever get that podcast of mine going, I’ll definitely give you a call. So, you’re surrounded by movies, how many do you watch in a month? And do you have a favourite genre?

Considering the scope of what I have at my disposal for free, it’s shameful how few movies I watch a month. I’d say I average about 8-10 movies a month plus I go through 1 or 2 full seasons of various TV series.

I do feel that to name something as a genre means that it meets some very specific criteria. That being the case my favorite genre is probably Film Noir.

Or horror.


6) What does Pic A Flic offer the movie watcher that has allowed it to endure for so long?

The answer to this speaks to a component of the negative effects that the rapid progression of technology has had on the industry and culture in general.

As more and more services are offered online we, as a culture, are spending increasing amounts of time in front of our computers and less time engaged in activities where you are in the physical presence of another human. Websites like Amazon and IMDB can analyse your purchased or “favorited” movies and make judgements on what else you might like, but they are broad guesses and not always very accurate. Coming to a store like Pic A Flic allows our customers to meet and speak to knowledgeable movie fans who can help people make educated choices on what to watch as well as–and this is very important–what NOT to watch. These exchanges are often pretty passinate and will lead the customer and staff member on some unexpected tangents. I swear, I’ve had the conversation below:

Pic–“You like Searching for Bobby Fischer? You should check out ‘Fresh’ from 1994.”

Customer–“Oh it’s got Samuel L Jackson in it. I love him!”

Pic-“Oh. Well, another Samuel L Jackson film you might enjoy that you may have missed because of the subject matter is ‘Unbreakable’ from 2000. I feel it’s the best ‘super hero’ movie ever made because it treats the subject in an adult, dramatic fashion. Like this is probably what would really happen if you suddenly found yourself with super powers.” 

That personal connection and the sense of community it engenders is the single most important thing the store offers this city. That community connectedness I’ve experienced is also the most pleasantly surprising aspect of owning the store.

For a great example on film of the feeling I’m talking about, that only a small business with a ton of personality can deliver, check out the documentary “I Like Killing Flies”. It’s phenomenal.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Rob. To support your documentary recommendation, here’s a clip “I Like Killing Flies”

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