A BRIEF HISTORY OF AUTOMATIC VAUDEVILLE STUDIOS

To say that Montreal’s Automatic Vaudeville Studios irrevocably changed movies and the way we love them may be stretching it. More likely, however, such a statement may in fact hit the nail right on the head. In a province still haunted by the “Quiet Revolution” it seems a cinematic revolution has been happening, quietly.

The year: 1997. What’s going on? Not much. “Independent” filmmakers are deep in the mire of the post-Tarantino “scam” picture. Low-budget shorts are screened for drab cafes filled with beret-wearing Atom Egoyan fans. Number one at the Box Office? Why it’s Scream, by a country mile. The DVD is but a glimmer in the LCD eye of your old “VCR.”

Enter Automatic Vaudeville Studios. Its earliest inception was in a rickety loft on St. Laurent Boulevard, above breakfast institution Bagel Etc. It was there that Seth W. Owen and Daniel Perlmutter launched this crazed enterprise, in the company of Miss Jessica Moss and Mr. Eric Digras. Shooting on a beat-up old video camera and editing with two VCRs, AVS sprung into action, vowing to make a picture a week. The mandate was put into action on crisp October eve with the seminal fright flick When the Hippies Get Killed. More were soon to follow. Many more. This was the age of the Tomato Boys, of our German expressionist horror film Bluebeard, of the western classic He Killed for Love, the gangster pic The Southside 5, and many other beloved gems made in an enthusiastic display of community spirit. The Hi-Class Picture Show was born in our very own living room, packed to the gills with curious cinephiles. And so it began…

As the years have rolled by, Automatic Vaudeville has continued to evolve. Mark Slutsky signed on as Head of Talent. The Old VCRs were exchanged for a fancy shmancy on-line editing suite. The days of the old loft have passed... though our latest studio has found us back in the heart of Montreal’s plateau, after a stint in Park-Ex. Automatic Vaudeville has now made over 50 short films, and is continuing its mad dash for world domination.

The year is now (unless the upkeep of this website has gone to hell) 2005. Take a look around. Everybody and their cousin is running some hot little variety show out of their parents’ basement. Young ladies far and wide are squirming into leather corsets and shaking their tail feathers for sweaty burlesque houses. Troops of ragamuffin film students can be spotted on many a street corner, employing their handicam in the capture of some zany “Tomato Boys”-style antics. DVDs can be found next to beef jerky and pornography at your local dépanneur.

But to fully grasp the scope of Automatic Vaudeville’s near all-encompassing influence on modern mores and contemporary artistic practice, one must jump back further than a mere five years. One must return to a rickety movie hall in the early 20th century, where Les Frères Lumiére are projecting their experiments in light for a drunken Montreal crowd of fishmongers and debutantes. Picture yourself there, if you must, gasping as a monstrous “ghost train” barrels towards you at an unholy speed. “Criminy!” you yelp, your hot buttered nuts flying into the air, your chocolate phosphate spilling onto a nearby lady’s lap… Agh! What a frightful amusement, these motion pictures! In those tumultuous days of early 20th Century cinematic amusement, cinema is not the lofty artistic practice it is today, with goateed cineastes examining the “Structural Integrity” of The Lizzy Maguire Movie. Going out to the movies is raucous night on the town, nuzzling one’s sweetheart in the smoky, flickering light of a picture palace with hoots and hollers bouncing off great gilded walls along with the sweet sounds of the pipe organ, where the crash of clinking beer stines substitutes for an on-screen gunshot, where heroes and villain are larger than life, sexed up, spectacular.

It is to this abandoned heritage to which Automatic Vaudeville urges us to return, to this tradition that Automatic Vaudeville transports us in its fine motion picture entertainments and in the glittering glamour of their acclaimed High Class Picture Shows and DVDs. Cinema is dead! Long Live Automatic Vaudeville!

For More on Past Productions, please visit the Automatic Archive section.

For the whole astounding story of our movie-mad history, be sure to check out Automatic Vaudeville presents Here’s Looking at Us: Chapter One: The First Five Years: Automatic Vaudeville 1998-2004: Our Story, currently available on Your Hi-Class DVD Volume 1.