Forget about Brando, Bogart or Bobby De Niro: Linnea Beyer's favorite actor of all time is Dolph Lundgren.
OK, not really. But as I met with The Light Factory's film honcho for lunch last week, I stated that I might make up that fact just to help with any necessary transitions in the story. Beyer remained unfazed, stating that it was OK as long as I made her sound interesting.
No worries there. Even without a fabricated affinity for the Lundgren oeuvre, nobody would ever mistake Beyer for a dullard. Friendly, witty and intelligent, she enjoys conversing and often has an amusing story to share. On the few occasions we've interacted, we discussed a number of subjects — from Facebook to football — but not surprisingly, given our vocations, the topic always came back to cinema.
"I love movies," declares Beyer. "All movies. Art movies, action movies, horror movies ... You name it, and I'll give it a go. When I have a bad day, I want to go home and watch an action flick. And when I need to be inspired, I've got a list of films that will lift me up. At my job, I get to share that with people."
That job would be Film Director for The Light Factory, a gig she's held since 2009. It's a dream occupation for the film fanatic ("I still occasionally pinch myself to make sure it's real"), but she had to pay her dues before landing it.
Raised mainly in Virginia, in suburbs just outside Washington, D.C., Beyer's parents separated when she was young, thereby leading her to spend a lot of time with her father in Aiken, S.C., and with his parents in Queens, N.Y.
"After graduating college [University of Virginia], I wanted to live somewhere in between the halves of my family," she explains. "After researching film in Charlotte, I discovered The Light Factory. After I moved here, I volunteered at The Light Factory between 2003 and 2007 before I was hired in March 2007 as the Gallery & Office Manager. In addition to my regular responsibilities, I helped out with the film department and taught some film classes. A couple of years later, the position of Film Director opened up and I went for it."
The Light Factory is recognized as one of Charlotte's finest museums, but don't expect Beyer to exclusively subscribe to any highfaluting ideals regarding cinema. In other words, a film snob she ain't. True, she cites such art-house staples as Pedro Almodovar and the late Akira Kurosawa among her favorite filmmakers, but she's just as quick to get enthusiastic over more mainstream — and even decidedly lowbrow — offerings. In short, she believes that all types of film have something to offer.
"There's nothing like watching a film with an audience, like King Kong vs. Godzilla [which was presented as part of TLF's Attack of the Summer Film Series last year] — half of whom have seen it before, half of whom have never seen it. We're all experiencing it together; we're all on the same emotional ride. It makes watching a film that much better."
That's not to say that all of the movies she helps present are successful in bringing everyone together. "We showed some of our films in Blumenthal's Duke Energy Theatre last year, and we had to use their ushers for the screenings," she elaborates. "To make a long story short, the ushers for Antichrist had NO IDEA what they had signed up for. I sat behind one poor woman who watched the whole thing with her hands in front of her face. I felt badly, but then again, she did sneak a peek between her fingers every now and then. I hope she got something out of it ... or that at least it didn't scar her too badly!"
Some of the more conservative members of Charlotte's citizenry might balk at anyone bringing a film as divisive and controversial as Antichrist to town, but such a move is exactly one of the benefits of an arts institute like The Light Factory. As Beyer relates, "I have so many different types of programming and community partners, and I have many different reasons for showing the films that I do. I try to balance everything out and have a bit of variety. But ultimately, it boils down to: Is it worth showing, and will it benefit the community?"
Beyer is full of ideas on how to further benefit the community through cinema, though acquiring the funds to realize these visions is naturally difficult. "The most challenging part of the job is the same challenge that every nonprofit and arts organization faces: finances. Especially in today's economy, it's difficult to get people to fund art for art's sake."
Still, that hasn't stopped her from dreaming. "I'd like to bring in more filmmaking guests," she confesses. "We've had great success with our director series, bringing in talent like Charles Burnett, George Romero and Volker Schlondorff. But I'd like to bring in other artists involved in filmmaking: editors like Thelma Schoonmaker (editor to Martin Scorsese), composers like Clint Mansel (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), cinematographers like Roger Deakins (Fargo, True Grit). I'd also like to be able to bring in up-and-coming filmmakers and expose Charlotte to the next big thing."
Beyer will have to wait and see how the economy — and the resultant TLF budgets — shakes out before committing to such lofty plans, but for now, she's hardly shirking her duties. "There's so much coming up that sometimes it makes my head spin," she admits. "Up next, we have Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench [see blurb in this section for details]. In March, we're showing Enter the Void, one of the most visually stunning films not just from the past year, but maybe ever. We've also got a repertory film series to complement our photo exhibition, Bring the Family. And we're also taking submissions for the 11th Annual Filmmakers' Showcase. There are several other things brewing. Sometimes I feel more like a juggler than anything else, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
Beyer cops to being a longtime Martin Scorsese fan and, when pressed for a favorite film, cites the Director's Cut of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. As for that matter of her favorite actor? "My gut reaction is Vincent Price," she declares. "I watched all of his horror films as a kid. I also love Cary Grant, and I wish I could travel back in time to his heyday to throw myself at him. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were amazing physical actors; I'm in awe over the control they had over their bodies. For my ladies, I love Rita Hayworth, but then again, I'm a sucker for redheads. And I'll see anything with Cate Blanchett."
What's this? No Dolph Lundgren? Sorry, dude.
The Film Issue: