While the pilot of the Amazon series “I Love Dick,” created by Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins, has been available to screen since last summer, the streaming service isn’t the only way to watch the show — at least, if you happened to be in Los Angeles recently for a full-day binge of the upcoming series.
“I Love Dick,” based on the book by Chris Kraus, is an intense examination of what it means to be both a woman and a creator, seen through the lens of a female filmmaker named Chris (played by Kathryn Hahn) as she falls under the thrall of a stoic artist named Dick (Kevin Bacon). How this disrupts her marriage and her work is only one strand of the series, which features an eclectic ensemble cast all exploring the nature of art as it relates to gender.
The screening was held on a hot and lazy Sunday afternoon, the kind that feels like it’ll last forever, a perfect scenario for immersion in the world of Marfa, Texas, and the eclectic artists who live, work, love and rage there. Hosted at the Silent Movie Theater by Cinefamily, the marathon of all eight episodes of the first season officially kicked off around 12:15 p.m. — and ended about six hours later, as the audience – full of feminist theory and tacos – stumbled out into the fading sunlight.
Soloway has no ideological issue with the idea of consuming an entire season of television at once. “I think it’s a little too simple to reduce it to ‘when people binge, it goes by too quickly and you don’t get the full experience that you get with a screening schedule built around multiple weeks,'” she said in a phone interview with IndieWire. “I think that’s absolutely true for showrunners who are used to watching each episode come out week to week. But there are also these amazing things about the binge experience that I wouldn’t want to minimize.”
Her belief, when it comes to being able to consume a season rapidly, is that it adds an element of excitement to the show’s release. “The binge experience for viewers creates this really intensive… almost like an opening weekend,” she said. “You know, the movie comes out opening weekend and you’re wondering how many people are going to come out to see it. The opening weekend becomes the delivery system for the movie, and so the fact they can binge on the opening weekend in the initial binge is a very exciting idea for me. So that’s one of the things about binge-ing that, in terms of people watching at home, is a really exciting thing for creators.”
It’s an aspect to the “all episodes at once” release strategy that makes a great deal of sense, when you consider the success Netflix and Amazon have had in building buzz around their programming. Soloway was careful though to delineate the differences between what home viewers experience when they binge and what happens in a theatrical setting.
“What we’re doing at Cinefamily is a combination of a couple of things that are really exciting. One is the experience of watching it with a group. To ask yourself, what 200 women in LA are going to want to come together in a theater and spend all day watching?'” she said. “It’s just like a dream come true for me as we put together the theatrical experience for the show.”
The audience was largely filled with women (though not exclusively) and the theater started out so full that Cinefamily employees had to bring in extra chairs – although, by the end of the day, about half of the crowd had left. But the engagement with the series was consistent throughout, with enthusiastic applause erupting as the credits rolled for each episode.
Soloway traced her history with Cinefamily going back years, including a series of screenings branded as “Girl on Girl,” which she helped to curate. This wasn’t the first time Soloway had screened a marathon of one of her shows either. Cinefamily previously hosted a viewing party for Season 2 of “Transparent,” in a similar fashion. But the Sunday screening of “I Love Dick” included a pretty special intermission, featuring a Q&A with Soloway, Hahn, and Kraus, followed by a reception in the back patio with tacos, Jarritos and a station where you could write your own letter to Dick.
The “I Love Dick” screening was part of an ongoing series of programming put on by Cinefamily under the brand of Women of Cinefamily, which features guest curators and programming that spotlights female artists. As a companion event, in fact, tonight Cinefamily will present a program consisting of the short films made by female filmmakers like Naomi Uman, Carolee Schneemann, Cauleen Smith, Cheryl Donegan, and Maya Deren, which “I Love Dick” excerpts and references with a great deal of love and affection. “I Love Dick” consulting producer Logan Kibens, who curated the films for Soloway and Gubbins, will be in attendance as well as Uman.
Within the Los Angeles film scene, Cinefamily has always had an eclectic reputation for what it chooses to feature, largely driven by the personal taste of its programmers. And initiatives like Women of Cinefamily offer an important opportunity for the theater to explore who their base might be.
“The main idea for us is that there’s a symbiotic relationship between programmer and audience,” Cinefamily Program Director Kate Rouhandeh. “If we bring in more female voices and guest curators, that in turn has an impact on our audience.”
It’s a mission that goes beyond one small theater in Los Angeles to the general message of “I Love Dick” — championing and celebrating women artists who might otherwise go unknown. As you might guess, it’s something Soloway feels passionately about. “The most exciting thing to me about this theatrical experience is that we try to uncover what the female gaze is,” she said. “I think the viewing experience gives women and artists all kinds of artists the metaphysical experience of getting to question what the female gaze is, and to be able to experience the work of the female filmmakers whose pieces are in the show.”
“It’s our hope is that the experience people take away is not just one of having been to a movie all day, but hopefully — especially in Los Angeles — for artists to explore and investigate their own work,” she added.
“I Love Dick” premieres Friday, May 12 on Amazon. But if you’re in Los Angeles, Soloway just announced plans for another day-long screening this Sunday. There are far worse ways to spend an afternoon.