Kickstarter Picks: Alt Cinema, 100 Story Houses and Aaron Cohens Galore

Kickstarter Picks: Alt Cinema, 100 Story Houses and Aaron Cohens Galore

February 03, 2012 at 4:00 am

Kickstarter is a Lower East Side-based startup that helps creative people “crowd-fund” their projects.

MetroFocus regularly highlights local projects that seem to make the best use of this platform and have the potential to leave a lasting impression on the New York area.

New York seems to have an abundance of almost everything (except cheap rent) but often that “you can get anything here” feeling can be overwhelming. In different ways, this week’s Kickstarter projects are about curating the city, making urban life just a little bit more manageable by appreciating the little things that get lost in the shuffle.

Alt Screen: New York’s Alternative Movie Hub

Alt Screen is an online clearinghouse for information and reviews of New York's alternative cinemas. Image courtesy of Paul Brunick.

The pitch: If you think movie tickets are too expensive, if films presented in IMAX 3D make you queasy or if you’re the type of person looking for “films playing outside the multiplex and under the radar,” there’s a place for you. It’s called Alt Screen and it’s an online hub of information about New York’s alternative cinemas.

“On a daily basis, there are usually 10 to 30 alternative film screenings in New York,” said Alt Screen editor Paul Brunick in an email. He said that dozens of venues like Film Forum, 92YTribeca, Anthology Film ArchivesBAMcinématek and IFC Center can be great places to catch non-commercial screenings, retrospectives and cult classics.

For donations between $250 and $1000, Brunick will reward contributors with a movie poster autographed by the auteurs behind the film. Image courtesy of Paul Brunick.

“New York has the most dynamic and sprawling alternative film scene in the entire world, full stop. It is an embarrassment of riches that no other city can touch,” gushed Brunick. With former Village Voice critics and professional authors like Michael Atkinson and Sam Wasson, the writing on Alt Screen is indeed crisp and engaging.

But perhaps the most exciting part of Brunick’s Kickstarter project are the cinematic rewards. For $25 there’s the set of Alfred Hitchcock refrigerator magnets, $50 gets a subscription to Film Comment magazine and, if your pockets are really deep, your reward could be an original film poster of “Manhattan” autographed by Woody Allen, or a poster of “Taxi Driver” autographed by Martin Scorcese, among others. Brunick said he traded in a lot of social capital to wheel and deal his way to the goodies. But he’s pretty satisfied with the results: “It made me feel like Jimmy Stewart in the final scene of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,'” he said.

“The Aaron Cohens” Film

The pitch: Aaron Morris Cohen’s idea of curating the city may sound somewhat self-centered…He’s culling NYC for people who share his name. His idea to meet other Aaron Cohens came to him in the late 1990s, but it took him until the Facebook era to get the project off the ground. (Take note, this isn’t entirely new territory as documentarian Alan Berliner charted it in 2001 when he convened 12 men who shared his name for his film “The Sweetest Sound.”)

After meeting online, three Aaron Cohens joined the project. There’s the writer Aaron Russell Cohen, the director of photography, Aaron Fisher-Cohen, and the producer of marketing and distribution, Aaron Christopher Cohen. The film aims to answer the existential question, “Who is the happiest Aaron Cohen in the world?”


A video trailer for “The Aaron Cohens,” a film about many men who share the same name. The film’s creators expect to release it in late 2012.

According to Aaron Christopher Cohen, there are between 50 and 100 Aaron Cohens in the New York City area and about 1,100 worldwide. Among the most notable included in the film are Aaron “Abolitionist” Cohen, a man who has dedicated his life to ending human trafficking, and Aaron “Revive” Cohen, a fashion designer who has been contacted but not yet appeared on camera.

A mere $18 secures a custom Aaron Cohen yarmulke. The design isn’t finalized, but the creators promise top of the line quality: “It’s going to be nice, not one of those flimsy polyester types they keep in the cardboard box at Temple for when your goy friends visit,” Aaron Christopher Cohen wrote in an email. He added that not all Aaron Cohens are Jewish. He said he’s met Aaron Cohens who are Catholic, Protestant and from other religious backgrounds. And not all Aaron Cohens are white.

But one question remains, if an Aaron Cohen falls in the woods, and no other Aaron Cohen is there to hear it, is it really Aaron Cohen?

“The Hundred Story House” Art Installation

"The Hundred Story House" is part public sculpture, part book lending library. Photo courtesy of Leon Reid IV.

The pitch: Serial Kickstarter Leon Reid IV is at it again. He’s the artist who turned Union Square’s statue of George Washington into a typical New York tourist and wants to hoist a giant sculpture of a spider over the Brooklyn Bridge.

His latest project combines public art with the pursuit of knowledge. “The Hundred Story House” is closer to six feet tall, but it’s what this miniature brownstone contains that’s important. Working with his partner Julia Marchesi, Reid wants to fill the sculpture with classic books like Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” and modern histories like “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” Passers-by can feel free to loan out the books or replace them with books of their own.

So why a brownstone? “You can’t get more Brooklyn than a brownstone and I wanted locals of all ages to recognize this art object immediately and feel comfortable interacting with it,” Reid said in an email.

We’ve been seeing a lot of Reid recently and we’ve never seen him without a bowtie, so we asked, does he always wear one? “My father Leon III sports one and I guess I’m just a chip off the ol’ block,” answered Reid.

Mutual of America PSEG


MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.


© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019