Diarised months ago by any serious collector of cinema ephemera was midday, August 6. That is when the latest incarnation of the Fitzroy Film Fair opens for business and pleasure. The movie-themed bazaar that springs to life periodically in Melbourne’s inner–city mecca for all things cool is nestled into the confines of The LuWow, the South’s most swingin’ Tiki-themed enclave. The traditionally vibrant get-together promises to be the celebration of movie pop-culture fandom that founder Stuart Simpson (pictured, below; far left, at a recent FFF) had always hoped it would be. “It’s a relaxed social event where you can come and pray at the alter of movie madness,” he tells SCREEN-SPACE…
“I loved going to flea markets but always ended up at the film/tv/comic sections,” says Simpson, one of Australia’s leading underground auteurs who, as principal at Lost Art Films, directed the cult hits The Demons Among Us (2006), El Monstro Del Mar (2010) and Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (2014). “I've always thought about how amazing it would be if the whole place was dedicated to the love of movies.” When approached by The LuWow founder Josh Collins with a concept for a film-themed event, Simpson envisioned a marketplace where true film buffs could indulge their passions with like-minded fans.
“I know there are giant conventions and all that, but (I wanted) something that was more about the old and forgotten stuff, the gems of yesteryear, those hard-to-find rarities,” he says. “The Luwow is such a perfect place for it, too; it even looks like a movie set. It seemed like a no-brainer to me.” The first event was held in September 2015 and proved so successful, Simpson moved quickly to ensure collectors and buffs never had to wait long for the party atmosphere to return; the second coming of the Fair was in December of last year, then again in April 2016. (Picture, right; actor Glenn Maynard manning his VHS-themed table).
The Fitzroy Film Fair ‘selling floor’ is a literal dream-come-true for the movie nerd, where the army of stallholders offer a myriad of collectible delights. The current craze for classic VHS packaging, aka ‘slicks’, and hard-to-find titles on the antiquated format is well catered for, as are those offloading newer libraries that have outstayed their welcome. “Variety is the key,” Simpson says, “I like to keep it open to all kinds of vendors of all sorts of quality. So you will find the old, dusty VHS right next to brand new Blu-ray.” Some of the most in-demand items are the vintage pop culture items, such as toys, promotional material and literature. “We've got something for everyone. One thing I do request is that prices are kept fairly low, (as) I want punters to feel like they are getting a bargain.
The celebratory mood extends beyond the buying and selling of silver screen artefacts. The December event hosted legendary B-movie goddess Kitten Natividad, star of the Russ Meyer classic Up!; in April, the Fair headlined a 16mm screening of the anarchic 80s nuclear-punk shocker, Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em.
Scheduled for the August Fair are three sidebar events that speak directly to the B-movie thrillseeker - live special effects makeup demonstrations from the students of the Australian Academy Cinemagraphic Makeup (pictured, right; work from the AACM student body); the launch of a new horror-themed T-shirt label called Squirm, the latest venture from The Search for Weng Weng director Andrew Leavold; and, a gallery of works from Brisbane artist, Jesse Breckon-Thomas. “He paints reproductions of Italian Giallo horror/pulp film poster art with his own unique stamp,” says Simpson, who promises the artist’s originals will become must-owns for lovers of Euro horror.
Adding to the unique ambience afforded by The LuWow’s vibrant décor will be soundscape and soundtrack selections piped into the two rooms that host the Fitzroy Film Fair plus an eclectic series of 16mm film projections, courtesy of Perth’s Revelation Film Festival director, Richard Sowada. For Stuart Simpson, the end result is enticingly simple. “To (create the) perfect place to meet, buy, swap, and sell with other collectors and film makers,” he says, “and have a drink or two as well.”