Reel Fanatic: Mike White and The Projection Booth

Mike White knows movies. He shares his knowledge – in print, on line and most comprehensively via podcast – to a discerning audience. His focus: the vast library of under-appreciated films that don't make it to blockbuster status.

The Projection Booth his weekly podcast, has just reached a significant milestone: 100 episodes and counting.

Each week, Westland-based White and co-host Rob St. Mary, a Detroit filmmaker and journalist, take a deep dive into a single film, exploring every aspect, turning it inside out. Episode #100 was a doozy: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, a 1978 made-for-TV movie. It's definitive obscurity.

White invites anyone and everyone who had a hand in creating the films he spotlights to appear on the podcast. Among his past guests: John Waters, drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, Robocop star Nancy Allen, B-movie director Albert Pyun, and director Monte Hellman.

For the gala KISS centenary podcast, he persuaded the film's producer, Terry Morse, Jr., KISS superfan John Stockwell and KISS historian Ron Albanese to appear.

Growing up, White had no thought of a future as a film scholar."I wanted to be a truck driver, a stand-up comedian or a writer," he recalls.

"I started writing about under-appreciated movies in 1994 and I was pretty much done with it by 2000. I started listening to podcasts – they were not exactly what I would like," he says.

"The Projection Booth is not a bunch of chitchat. On the topic of one movie, we try to tell as much as we can about the film. Some longer podcasts have the most guests, like Robocop. Eyes Wide Shut (Episode #94) was a 3-hour podcast – longer than the movie. We did a scene-by-scene, going through the movie step by step," he says.

"On a typical week, we get over 500 folks who download the podcast from iTunes. Some of our older shows, like Robocop, have 1,500 hits. That's still our most popular episode. We've also partnered with Jackalope Radio.

They say we have listeners in the thousands each week," White says. "I have no way of checking that."

Lining up guests is easier than you might think. Writer-director Keith Gordon co-hosted January's episode on Woody Allen's Love & Death, (#98.) White calls the film a combination of Allen's wit, Dostoevsky, Eisenstein and the Marx Brothers. Gordon also participated in a bonus episode about the current state of Hollywood and his recent work (Dexter; a project with Christopher Nolan; and Rectify, a new Sundance Channel series.)

"People are fairly receptive – we've been fortunate. We'll try to reach out to anybody and everybody involved in a film. I didn't expect to hear from Woody Allen. Some stars are actually are on Twitter. (I say) 'I'd love to have you on the show,'" White says.

He's still waiting for the big payday.

"I wish I knew where monetizing the show is on the timeline. Once in a while, a sponsor comes on the show…for (a modest) $50 over two years," White says. "There is not a whole lot of overhead."

"I spend more than I make. If I can source the novel that the film is based on, if I can find the script, I buy it and read it. Recently, I bought the biography of the Heinlein (for Episode #99 Starship Troopers,)" White notes.

Lack of income doesn't discourage him. The Projection Booth has a list of potential films to cover that's a mile long.

"I'm trying to remember how many – I probably have it planned out until 2015 if not longer. Between Rob and I…we've got pretty eclectic taste. We just keep adding to the list," White says.

In his spare time, White judges film festivals including Slamdance, Cinekink and the MicroCineFest and attends many more. Cinetopia, the Ann Arbor Michigan Theater's first-run indie-film fest in June in Ann Arbor, is a new favorite.

Did we mention he has a day job? When does he sleep?

"I try to stay busy. I get my solid eight hours a night. I'm doing the AMC Best Picture Marathon in a few weeks," he says.

That marathon will murder sleep – it's a one- or two day screening (viewer's choice) of this year's nine Oscar Best Picture nominees.>White's filmic interests are nothing if not eclectic. The podcast ranges from coverage of mildly quirky mainstream movies such as Love & Death to Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom, an obscure, disturbing film based on a work by the Marquis de Sade, set in fascist Italy and directed by the late Pier Paolo Pasolini, an obscure Italian auteur.

White calls himself a cinephile, a loyal fan of movies…"if it isn't too hoity-toity," he says. The label is nicely considered, like his list of podcast films – avoiding the stigma of "film geek" and the pretension of "movie maven."

His hybrid print/online fanzine, Cashiers du cinemart, is sometimes confused with the fabled French New Wave film journal, Cahiers du cinema. Linked by a shared passion for film and unheralded aspects of the medium, the two publications have almost nothing else in common.

Cashiers du cinemart #17 is due soon. Impossibly Funky, a best-of compilation is available covering 1994-2007 at $24.95. White is also promising the imminent release of Cinema Detours, a collection of more than 400 film reviews. Both will be available through his website,along with back issues of

The Projection Booth blogis a feast of sidebars and links, including music used in each episode and suggestions for further reading and listening related to the film of the week. The Projection Booth's Twitter feed (@proboothcast) is a study in the mass culture of obscure cinema, not an oxymoron.

Constance Crump is Concentrate's Senior Writer. She's also an Ann Arbor-based writer whose work has appeared in Crain's Detroit Business, The Ann Arbor News, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard Magazine.

All Photos by David Lewinski Photography



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