Jay Morong is an educator, film programmer and theatrical video designer. As a theater and film studies instructor at UNC Charlotte, his primary focus is on the relationship of digital media to performance and culture. Morong is the founder of the Back Alley Film Series and programming director of the Charlotte Film Society’s Saturday Night Cine Club.
Q. How is the speed and ubiquity of digital media influencing how people experience film and theater? Media is so readily accessible and ever-present in our lives. We engage at a very subconscious level. It is much easier to suspend disbelief with film because of all the immediate special effects and use of characters. In the theater, a play might ask a performer to play two or three roles and require the audience to imagine much of the scene or setting through the dialogue – it takes more effort to engage, there are actual people on the stage the audience must form a relationship with.
Q. You introduced Back Alley Film Series a year ago as a temporary series. Are you surprised at its popularity and staying power? We have a core group of followers and while our numbers aren’t huge, we are profitable. There are many films that just don’t quite fit our programming yet have a place. I hoped the interest in the series would grow and it has.
Q. You’ve described these films as “transgressive.” What do you mean? Films that push boundaries and at times can be unabashedly exploitative. It would be a mistake, however, to see them as strictly violent and blood and guts. These are international films that offer a perspective at times on political issues – such as growing up in Spain under Franco – and have themes that are clearly non-Hollywood mainstream.
Q. What is your process in programming? With the Cine Club, we have a committee and all screen many films and in particular look for those that spark discussion. BAFS is more me screening films and seeking validation from others. Balance plays a huge role, we want to give people a broad palate.
Q. What is the last film you screened? An independent psychological drama, “Compliance.” It is very provocative and disturbing.