Baby Steps: Mallary Abel
My name is Mallary Abel and I am a graduate from the San Francisco State University class of 2008. I’m a film programmer and filmmaker, and I live in Oakland.
Where I’m at
I am the co-director, along with Brenda Contreras, of an annual traveling film festival called Cut and Run. I still have a lot of goals to accomplish, so I feel it’s pretty early in my career.
Where I want to be in the future
There are a few different things I’d like to be doing. I’d like to be teaching Cinema, or something similar to that, at a University level. Ideally I would run or help organize a microcinema so I could be programming film all the time. Cut and Run is seemingly already a full-time job, but I also want Cut and Run to be very present in my future too.
Lastly, I also want be a successful filmmaker.
Has this ambition changed since your college days? If so, how and why?
No, not really. I feel like I’ve known since the day I left college what I wanted to do and manifest for myself, it was just a question of how and when to go about doing it. The more I learn about how to do it, the bigger my ambition gets, the more ideas and places I want to explore.
How I made my Baby Steps
There were one or two baby steps that I think got me started. One was my internship at Other Cinema with Sylvia Schedelbauer and Craig Baldwin for the 2008 spring programming season there. That was my first time seeing how a microcinema works. During that semester at school I also organized the SFSU MFA thesis screening, which was my first ever experience with curating and programming.
The internship at Other Cinema basically put me in contact with people who were interested in the same thing as me, or working in the field that I wanted to work within. I met so many people that kept introducing me to new things, and new people who wanted to collaborate. I also saw some of the first real experimental films that opened me up to experimental filmmaking ideas and processes.
Since then I’ve worked at a microcinema in Brooklyn where I was the associate programmer. We had a ton of artists and programmers coming through there who have become very constant in my life right now, and have opened me up to more great opportunities.
As far as the MFA thesis screening goes, that was a fun process and I really enjoyed the whole thing. I met Brenda in the same class that had assigned me the project, and she was doing a similar thing at the ATA putting shows together, so we decided to team up and form Cut and Run that way. We visit so many different venues and cities that exhibit experimental film, so we’ve been exposed to a lot through Cut and Run’s traveling nature.
It seems like with every step I take, there is definitely another one coming.
What lessons did you learn from your ‘baby steps’?
I learned that it’s really important to initiate things for yourself and just do it. There are so many possibilities, and there isn’t much to lose by just trying something out. My curiosity never ceases.
How do you keep your foot in the door?
I would tell people that if they have an idea, simply begin. I really think that if you have the passion and the desire – then you should explore it. Make the time for it. You have to live it to be it. And it’s really not that hard to just live it.
Also, do your research, but also get as much tactile experience as possible. My Dad always tells me the best way to learn something is to teach it.
Cut and Run keeps my foot in the door since it’s always happening every year. It’s a current thing – we get submissions all the time, invitations to come do screenings, incentives, etc. so it keeps activity happening year round.
It’s hard for me to sit still sometimes, I always want to be doing something exciting and new, so keeping my options open keeps my foot in the door too. Most of the people in my life have that same drive so they keep me inspired too.
And of course, networking keeps me in the loop.
[Follow the link to Tango Echo for an interview with Mallary and Brenda that goes into more detail about Cut and Run itself.]