Spotlight: L.A.’s Jumpcut Cafe

By November 25, 2013
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If it’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s a decent coffee house. Ever since high school, when I’d bring my notebook and pen with me to one of my then-local haunts, I’d find my usual spot on the couch in the corner and set up shop all day to jot down all of my evil poetic thoughts that would one day rule the world. Unfortunately, though, times have changed and a good coffee house has become harder to find.

Nowadays, whether I’m hammering out an article here on the ol’ Nation O’ Geeks or working on that brilliant five year old script idea of mine, I still find my productivity works best when I am away from my home and in a cafe environment. We live in a reality now where fast food coffee has run rampant and those special sort of coffee houses have become fewer and far between.

Thankfully, there are still those out there fighting the good fight. One of these shining lights is The Jumpcut Cafe located in Studio City, California. The owner of this cinema-centric coffee house is none other than GeekNation’s own Elric Kane. Elric is one of the hosts of our weekly horror podcast Killer POV. I sat down with Elric to discuss coffee house culture, independent cinema and how The Jumpcut Cafe came to be.

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I’ll just cut to the chase here. Why did you decide to open a coffee house?

Elric Kane:  There was never a plan to open a coffee house. Almost everyone I know moved here to be an actor/filmmaker. I moved here purely just wanting to do film. That was still my goal.

So you wanted to direct movies?

EK: I directed a lot of Cassavetes-inspired films when I was in New Zealand. Taught film production in Chicago for a couple years. When I moved out here, I sort of went from job to job and it was pretty much everything except why I moved here. So at a certain point, I had an idea a long time ago of a place that would be a grassroots sort of spot for indie film. It would celebrate outsiders. Not just art house, but literally people who thought outside the box, you know, like Russ Myers to Cassavetes.

Those are two interesting sides of the spectrum.

EK: They don’t really celebrate cinema like you’d think they would in L.A. You’ll go to a place called “The Hollywood…whatever” and all they’ll have are pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin and that’d be the extent of the film interest, you know?

Damn tourists.

EK: Yes, exactly. So I wanted to make a place that was more community based. I like The Echo Park Film Center. I like what they’re doing. I like what Cinefamily is doing. I like The Alamo Drafthouse a lot. But you know, we didn’t have a lot of money and coffee shops are small and manageable. It was kind of like, you know, a space opened up and we had very little prep. It was very much like it was on a f*ckin’ lark. It’s open, you want to try this? We did it.

I had first heard about The Jumpcut through some mutual friends within the horror community. 

EK: The horror side was unplanned. That it became a hotbed for the horror community I can really just chock it up to my friends.

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That’s a good place to start. When did the cafe open?

EK: We’ve been open since July of 2012 but it was on October 31st that we showed our first films. We screened a bunch of short films and that was the night I truly felt like we were open. It was film appreciation and coffee. And that was always the plan – that we can do a bit of both, you know? And that was an amazing night of short films. Clu Gulager got up and gave a speech which got everyone roused and emotional. And then we did the same thing this past October. It was a great night. I try to find really good stuff and help champion it as much as I can. Part of it is just wanting to bridge that gap for films that don’t get into theaters and have trouble getting distribution but are still worth while, you know?

How did the screenings begin happening here? Did you reach out?

EK: I had done a show called Inside Horror for almost 2 years before The Jumpcut and that’s why most of the friends I had met were from the horror crowd. They started coming to the first couple of events and then were like, ‘Hey I have an indie feature and I really need a venue to show it, or show it to cast and crew.’ We’re great for those types of screenings since the venue is small and especially if the filmmaker can’t afford to rent out a place like Cinefamily for the night. So we did that and I guess it grew through word of mouth mostly.

I have been to a few screenings here and the intimate nature makes it very unique. 

EK: We just did a screening for The Battery which was probably my favorite so far. There’s something about showing a movie I genuinely love in an intimate environment with a great crowd. And this is a film that 50% of the people are seeing on their computers because they are doing the self distribution online. I really liked it when I first saw it but I loved it when I saw it on screen.

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I first heard about The Battery through AJ Bowen.

EK: Same here. He came while sick with pneumonia to introduce it. He was in a hat and a giant coat and literally had some sort of sickness but he still came to introduce it because he loves the film so much and wants people to see that film. That’s awesome when actors and other directors are championing other people’s films.

Aside from Dead Right Horror Trivia with Shock Till You Drop’s Ryan Turek and Fangoria’s Rebekah McKendry (both fellow GeekNation podcasters as well), what other events do you feature here?

EK: Yeah the horror trivia night is our biggest event and that’s just madness, as you know. Besides that, there’s Mike Williamson’s Secret Sixteen Screenings. I wanted a film event and I had no idea that Mike even existed. A mutual friend had told me I should contact him. We met and went over what he had and decided to start doing secret screenings of lesser known films in 16 mm. It has now morphed that when we show a horror title, Fangoria will pay the licensing fee so we can show it. We did that with Creepshow and Darkman. This means we can advertise it which means we get way more people. We still want to hold the secret events because they’re fun, you know?

Is your interest just with horror-related screenings?

EK: No. If there’s any downside, it’s the realization in L.A., once you do well consistently you have to balance with getting enough people to pay for working here and stuff. So you’re trying to get them in the door. If I try and show an experimental film night, only two people will come for that right now. So I need to make a lot of in roads and try and get a lot of other kinds of indie films to the likes of a Cinefamily crowd. Everyone has a different vibe. I mean, I embrace the horror thing. I do two different podcasts about the genre and have interest in directing horror films, largely so.

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Well that being said, have you thought about maybe doing a trivia night that isn’t horror specific?

EK: I’m actually trying to build one as we speak. I’ve been working with Brian Collins in hopes to get Badass Digest to host it. It’s tough because they don’t live on this side of town, but if we could do this I would love it. It’d be fun in the sense that each person on a team could shine at one category. So if you know there’s a horror category and an indie category, that team will need to build itself in a more unique way.

Hell, I’d come and play!

EK: We also have an open mic on Friday that has been going on for a long time. This coffee shop has been here for about 13 years. I’m about to start an “Out Of Print” night. We’re going to screen obscure films, that are great, that were lost through the transfer to DVDs and Blu-ray from VHS. So if that’s on VHS or a foreign import, I’m going to get these titles that we can get away with showing because they’ve fallen through the cracks. We also did a VHS Swap Meet here which was pretty cool. I’d love to do it more consistently so people will know about it. The one we did didn’t have a huge turn out but it really was a lot of fun.

So let’s change the subject here. It’s lunch time and I’m hungry. What’s the best thing you’ve got on the menu?

EK: The hot chicken sandwich is the best thing. We got lucky taking over a place that already had an absolutely all star sandwich. I had nothing to do with that. It’s all Mario, the cook. He makes a spicy mayo which is amazing. The hot chicken sandwich, if you’re a meat eater, I highly believe it’s one of the best things in L.A. I know that’s showboating but I’ve eaten a lot of sandwiches here and a lot of other good stuff but that’s the one thing if somebody’s wanting to try one thing and they can eat meat, that’d be it.

And you do also serve breakfast and brunch right?

EK: Yes. Brunch is different on the weekends. We still haven’t really broken through the brunch crowd, I’d say. Saturday and Sunday mornings are still really slow. There are a bunch of places around us so we’re still trying to figure out interesting ways to bring people in.

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Most importantly, for the coffee aficionados out there, what beans do you brew?

EK: Groundworks Coffee.  They’re really good. I viewed this as a coffee shop when we opened, not really realizing it was a full functioning cafe – which is part of the learning curve because I wasn’t planning on doing so much. But I realized quickly you can’t actually survive as just a coffee shop. We entertained a lot of places. I love Stumptown Coffee. I think it’s probably the best coffee in America. Intelligentsia’s really great. But we wanted to go local and we wanted somebody who would be there initially, because we didn’t know what we were doing, in case we needed help. Groundworks is really good for that. They catch you up to speed on certain things and sent in a really awesome barista when we were starting. It was cool, you know? And always go local when you can.

And finally, from one movie nerd to another, tell me your favorite film. 

EK: A Place In The Sun is my favorite movie of all time. It’s a classic movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. It’s a love film but it’s so dark at its core and it’s one of those films that I can watch once a year. There’s a lot of horror films too.

I’m glad you didn’t give me a horror film answer.

EK: John Cassavetes and Jean-Luc Godard, they’re the things you watch when you’re like 20 and in film school. I’m not as into Godard now but I will say Cassavetes has an independent spirit. If there’s anyone out there that’s the reason why I started pursuing film, it’s him. I remember walking in one day and under one of my photos of John Cassavetes, his daughter was sitting there. Alexandra Cassavetes is also an awesome filmmaker. She did Kiss Of The Damned and a great documentary about The Z Channel. And she was sitting there being interviewed by someone who goes to Horror Trivia and it just blew my mind. So you have those moments. Those little special moments. Wes Craven was the other one. A friend of mine brought him here on purpose. He knew I loved Wes Craven and said he was going to make sure he’d come here one day. And then a couple weeks later, we walk in and Wes Craven was here having the tuna melt. That’s pretty cool.

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We had to end our conversation there as Elric is one busy man. From the looks of things, there are many cool things on the horizon. Be sure to stay up to date with all the cool events Elric and crew are formulating by following The Jumpcut Cafe on Facebook and Twitter. And don’t forget to tune in every Friday for a new episode of Killer POV.

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.