Now Streaming in Austin: "Vulcan Video: The Exit Interviews"
New series looks back at the local movieloving institution
By Richard Whittaker,
8:00AM, Sat. Apr. 18, 2020
Welcome to Now Streaming in Austin, highlighting locally made titles to watch while self-quarantining. Losing Vulcan Video, a true Austin film culture institution, was a hard blow to local movie lovers. It was never just the store's immense catalog, or the way it served its customers like friends: It was the people behind the counter.
The store, which had distributed high art and low brow movies with equal passion for 35 years across multiple locations, was one of the first economic victims of the coronavirus lock down. What hit many loyal loaners hardest was that they never had a chance to say goodbye: Not to the building, but to the staff that had made it such a homey place, where expertise and insight came with friendliness. It was a clubhouse as much as a business, where late-night screenings were the order of the day, and suddenly that community was gone.
Yet the memories remain, and, as any loyal Vulcan fan will tell you, there's no better way to save a communal memory than with a visual record. So that's exactly what Austin Film Society and lead film programmer Lars Nilsen are creating through a new video series: "Vulcan Video: The Exit Interviews."
Here's how AFS explains the series:
One of our favorite local businesses closed recently, but let’s get this out of the way: It was not unexpected; the sky is not about to come tumbling down on all of us; Austin is not over.
But this is a moment to hear from the people who, over the course of many years, worked at Vulcan Video, rented us videos, gave us some very good advice, occasionally some very bad attitude, and, above all else, embodied a huge part of what we mean when we refer to Austin Film Culture.
The people that you will meet, or renew your acquaintance with, in the videos that will follow over the next few weeks, are true scholars – some of them have the sheepskin to prove it, others come from the film school of hard knocks. All of them care a lot about movies and about the connections that movies foster among people. We admire them, and we are grateful to all of them for sending us their recollections and observations.
We have not been bound by any need to sugarcoat the experiences recounted here, but, despite some of the more unorthodox business practices you will hear about, we think that Vulcan was a heroic citadel among not only video stores but, in fact, among all cultural institutions. Shaggy and spiky though it may be, the legacy is staggering and will live on and on, like a particularly stubborn MS-DOS point of sale system.
The series begins with a brief video from Nilsen himself, plus the first episode, "The Customer Is Not Always Right," in which former management and clerks recall some of the times that people, well, didn't really appreciate what they had. There will be more episodes at www.austinfilm.org.
It may be a memorial of sorts, but it's also a sign of how vital and interconnected the Austin film community is. When Vulcan closed, it was a moment of mourning: But the response was to keep its spirit alive by another institution, to create something new, to share something through the visual arts that Vulcan celebrated.
AFS Presents: Vulcan Video: The Exit Interviews
• YouTube (Link)