By joining forces, the James River Film Fest and Flicker ensure each other's future. 

Visionary Artists

When it comes to creative partnerships, few raise more than the occasional eyebrow. Sadly, that's because most artistic collaborations have a worse success rate than most modern marriages. But every now and then, a partnership takes shape that seems perfect, a natural combining of similar interests, similar goals, similar dreams.

One such rare union is the creative force behind the brand-new Richmond Moving Image Co-op, the first nonprofit film co-op in the state. Formed last summer, it brings together two dedicated filmmakers: Michael Jones of Virginia Commonwealth University's well-established James River Festival of the Moving Image and James T. Parrish of the popular venue for short films, Flicker. By joining forces, these two single-minded powerhouses have positioned themselves — and their similar passions — to thrive in the new century.

In the arts as well as in life, timing is everything. "When the James River Festival got too big for VCU to handle," Jones says, "it was time to see what other options we had." After six years of existence and boasting an amazing list of featured guests that includes such notables as William Wegman, Yoko Ono and Stan Brakhage, Jones knew ending the well-attended festival was not one of those options. That's when Parrish made his move.

Parrish first attended the James River Fest in April 1998 to seek help in promoting his burgeoning bimonthly showing of independent films at Cafine's. The outcome seemed destined. "We share a common interest," says Parrish of Jones. "We're both filmmakers, and we both want to build the area's filmmaking community. There was, and is, a great energy around independent films in Richmond."

Parrish would know, having overseen the growing interest in and attendance of Flicker. Since its inception in 1998, the Richmond Flicker has presented the super-8mm and 16mm works of more than 90 filmmakers. Attendance at each installment of the series now tops more than 250 people per show. Jones could not have been happier at the prospect of combining talents and festivals. "James is this young, energetic guy with lots of experience in arts development and fund-raising," Jones says, "things any nonprofit needs to survive."

A former VCU fund-raiser, Parrish is the new director of development for The Valentine Museum. Although VCU continues to help provide logistical support to the Co-op, the freedom of being able to make a decision without battling bureaucracy is exhilarating, Jones says. "Before, I used to have to fight for a check to buy festival T-shirts to sell," he says. "Now, I don't."

But nonprofit or not, money remains a top priority for the Co-op. Especially when Jones and Parrish talk about the future. They share a single vision: a permanent space for both the James River Festival and Flicker. "In 10 years, I'd like to see us in our own home," Jones says, "whether it's a storefront or something we've been able to build doesn't matter."

Parrish agrees, "Our plan is to have a space where we can not only continue the bimonthly Flicker series and the Festival in April, but also a place where filmmakers can learn about their craft, share their experiences and screen their work. I also see us maintaining filmmaking equipment for rent, to help new artists who can't afford to buy what they need to create."

Their true vision is a regional Media Arts Center. And to that end, the Richmond Moving Image Co-op is already branching out, forming productive partnerships. Currently, they're courting The Hand Workshop, where Parrish has been teaching a beginning workshop in filmmaking. The two see The Hand Workshop as a model for their future. But that's just the beginning. "I get goosebumps," admits Parrish, "when I think about the future." So does Jones. And so do area film fans and students who yearn for respect despite the noncommercial realities of their art. "Most of us media makers don't make a living at this," Parrish says. "We do it because we love

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