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Historical Cinema From a Different Lens

May 16, 2017

Matthew Weber

Matthew Weber
Photo by Matthew Weber, CLAgency

As an eighth grader, John Moret moved with his family to a small town. His reaction to the change took the form of escaping into the world of movies, leading him to make countless trips to the local video rental store, always discovering something new to watch. This love for cinema, honed at an early age, shaped his approach to academic study and, ultimately, directed his career path.

With aspirations of teaching high school political science, Moret declared a history major and filled his credit load to fit this dream job. For his senior thesis, he decided to focus on Vietnam War-era film. As he delved into cinematic portrayals of the war and and studied references to it found in other films, he wondered if a different career path could combine his passions for film and history.

That possibility was confirmed when American studies Professor Lary May, who was also very interested in cinema in history, convinced Moret to follow his passion for cinema history. Moret describes a brief—but influential—conversation, in which May “immediately told me that this was my passion, and told me to forget about what kind of job I [thought I] wanted, but rather [pursue] the topic.” The permission to take film seriously was exactly what he needed.

Moret enrolled in a graduate seminar that May was teaching and spent the summer after graduation in California, assisting May with film research. Upon returning to Minneapolis, he began working at the Lagoon Cinema, where he eventually became assistant manager. He loved being around movies and knew by then that he wanted to build a career in this industry.

At the Lagoon, he learned a lot about booking and programming. Moret explains that he “learned how to put a cohesive series of films together, understanding what the audience would want to see, and how the history of the movies played off of each other.” After a few years at the Lagoon, he was eager for more freedom to curate programming selections and began to look for work at other institutions.

When the Walker Art Museum’s film department turned him down, they gave him something arguably more valuable than a job offer. The interviewer, Dean Otto, saw potential in Moret and advised him to continue doing his work. Inspired by this affirmation of his passions and abilities, Moret began volunteering at the Trylon Microcinema, where he would eventually be offered the job of film programmer. A big perk of the job is that he works in the evenings, allowing him to spend time with his children during the day.

Moret is thrilled to have a job that he is passionate about. He says that “in your professional career, it is all about finding the right job. If you can care about what you do and the place itself, it’s just different.”

Moret cannot say enough about how invaluable his history degree has been in preparing him for his field. “You can’t understand any of where you are supposed to go until you can figure out the history. Even when I think about cinema now, it is always rooted in what came before.” Since the Trylon is a repertory cinema—showing films of the past, rather than new releases—having a sound historical perspective is essential when selecting films to show.

For example, he says that “it's impossible to understand a movie like Medium Cool from 1969 without understanding the Chicago convention of 1968 and the Democratic Party, the Vietnam War, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Otherwise, there is absolutely no context.”

Moret’s focus now is on what’s ahead. Leading Trylon into the future, he is working on the best way to portray Trylon as the leading repertory cinema in Minnesota.

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.