DOWNTOWN — Tom Kemper has been a card-carrying member of the independent video store Vidiots since shortly after it opened in 1985, while he was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley.
“It felt like a good bookstore, or a used bookstore, in its depth of collection compared to a chain store,” he said. “And there’s also a sensibility in the collection.”
Now, Kemper, a film studies teacher at Crossroads School and visiting lecturer at the University of Southern California, will employ his love of film and Vidiots to teach two film classes as part of the new Vidiots Annex.
The Vidiots Annex launches today as a dedicated screening room adjacent to the store offering lecture series in five subjects, free Saturday night film screenings and special events.
While other video stores are folding or shifting to online business, Vidiots’ managers decided to expand and incorporate the film studies program to help its business evolve with the times, said Patty Polinger, co-founder of Vidiots.
“One thing feeds another,” she said. “The annex brings new people in. We’ve already seen an increase in membership.”
The idea for the annex lecture series specifically came as an extension of Vidiots clerks answering customer questions and recommending films and directors, Polinger said. Vidiots also had extra space as a store room was no longer needed after Vidiots cleared out some clutter and got rid of the VHS versions of films that were also on DVD.
There will be five separate series spanning between four and six weeks long. The classes are: “What is a Cult Film,” “Auteurs,” “Anime Mythology,” “An Introduction to Essential Film Comedy Genres,” and “Censorship in Cinema.”
Kemper will be teaching the classes on auteurs and censorship. He said he decided to participate because it seemed like “an intriguing idea to get out of the classroom.”
While he will run his classes similar to a university lecture, Kemper predicts Vidiots Annex classes will be more informal than a school course as there is no pressure of homework, notes or grades.
“I’ve taught classes outside of school before,” he said. “They tend to be very stimulating, and people feel free to engage without the fear of grading.”
John Achorn, a professor at Santa Monica Emeritus College, will teach the comedy class. He said he looks forward to turning his students on to forgotten comedy acts such as Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, a vaudeville act that was in competition with the Marx Brothers.
The Vidiots Annex will also be host to the “Saturday Night Film Club,” free weekly film screenings at 8 p.m. The screenings kick-off July 17 with the 1987 German film, “Wings of Desire.”
Additionally, the annex will also feature special events, such as an appearance by actor/director/producer Tony Bill, known for producing “The Sting,” on Sept. 24.