as creatives and residents in this sprawling metropolis, it’s easy to get so engulfed in your own project that you hardly come up for air. but we need to remember that on this island, we are not islands. which is of course is why we live here. we suffer through relentless winters and astronomically high rent prices and, you know, the rat thing… and this is why we do it. in this city we are surrounded by creators, dreamers, thinkers, mover, shakers, hustlers. you can practically breathe in the creative energy as soon as you walk out of your cramped 5-floor walk-up.
jay rinsky is at the pulse of all of the creativity, inspiration, and talent that paints the perfect picture of artistic collaboration in new york. i was reminded of the beauty that comes from this vital practice as i sat in the dining car of an amtrak train, heading east. i had set up a phone interview with jay and he had been almost suspiciously nonchalant about the time. the past 3 days had taken him from alaska to seattle and back to new york. “call me whenever, no need to worry about time,” he said. even this stressed me out. what?? giving him a ring from the train, i fully expected him not to answer. “hey liz! sure i can talk now…”
the next 45 minutes unfolded into the most inspiring and entertaining interview i’ve ever conducted.
jay rinsky is a modern renaissance man for a generation of hustlers. he’s the founder and creator of little cinema, an immersive cinematic experience that combines film, theater, live music, and audience interaction to bring a film off of the screen and make it into a living, breathing thing. familiar stories explode with life and give the audience, and the performers and creators involved a completely new perspective and feeling about what can often be a one-dimensional art form.
jay’s entire life seems to exist within the combustible ether of spontaneity, something that was palpable as soon as he answered the phone. “you were just in alaska?” “yes. i was on a 2-week artist residency on a 100-year old tug boat with a crew of 6 other artists, none of whom had any experience with boats. i made us all life aquatic costumes using materials i kind of patched together from amazon. we were out there for 8 days, and part of the project was a one-shot documentary film shot with a super 8 camera, which means there’s one scene, one shoot, no edits. once it develops, that’s your story. we had no idea what the film would be about and were filming as we were going through glaciers, and ended up running into a giant iceberg. so we parked next to it and chipped ice off of the iceberg and made cocktails from it and that’s what the film ended up being about, finding ice to make the perfect cocktail.”
and this was my introduction to jay rinsky. as i barreled up the east coast on an amtrak train, i was taken on a journey through his creative psyche and could barely hold on.
my conversation with Jay is below. keep reading.
Brooklyn, I’m Trying what is your artistic background?
Jay Rinsky i’m mixed bag of many things. I was born in new york, grew up in israel and spent most adulthood in austrailia. I’ve been back in new york for three and a half years as a video dj and artist. i use old dj turntables to mix both sound and picture and apply dj techniques to videos, and little cinema is the culmination of these two creations through movies. through my work i’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a 40-piece orchestra, i’ve performed at the israeli opera with an orchestra where we custom built a huge video screen. on my own video shows, i create a fusion of a dance party and video party, so it all combines film and other content into video art that stands on its own two feet.
BiT how was little cinema born?
JR i was working on a project that was very tedious in the editing room. it got me a bit lonely, and made me want to collaborate with other artists. i noticed that there’s not much going on in terms of live action and screen and interaction bw two, doesn’t make sense. i knew that my skill set could lend itself to a dialogue with other artists and performers to meet and use.
BiT how did you take this from idea into an actual performance?
JR I took a chance and pitched this idea briefly to House of Yes before they opened up. The first show was a collaboration with Anya and Kae, who are the founders and performers at House of Yes. They brought together whole other elements that i wasn’t experienced in before, including theater and circus and costume and put it all together in front of screen. I was in charge of that mixing in and looping video live, and thus somehow Little Cinema was born in that way, by accident.
BiT what was it like to see that first show come to life?
JR The first show was a tribute to david bowie, and we performed it the day after he died. we put it all together in 24 hours.
BiT it seems that the shows gain energy from this spontaneous creativity.
JR they do! we approach the whole thing with the goal of keeping artistic integrity present and personally having fun. the ground rules include fearless creativity, try something new every show, incorporate anyone who wants to be involved in this project, and to create and perform shows relentlessly. our first year we produced a new show almost every week, sometimes multiple, 33 unique show in about 18 months. this project has grown and developed to 1-2 performances that combine live action and interaction that is happening every 5 minutes and taking place in all forms; multi-sensory experience of sight, smell and sound; performers, projector screens, anything we can do or get or hands on.
BiT what challenges have you faced along the way?
JR (laughing) every single show is a challenge because we have no idea how it’s going to work. i always feel like i’m in over my head because inevitably, art of this kind with this set of rules creates problems. we’re trying something new every show which becomes difficult. as we progress, we still need to invent new things and that becomes challenging. what would be something we haven’t done before? we incorporated a live bingo game into our last show, which the audience didn’t expect. another huge challenge is logistics as the shows end up having 40 or more people involved in them, and it’s all produced and put together between friday and the tuesday of the show, and communicating to so many people as a little operation is hard. i’m at the heart of everything, constantly trying to fuse everything and everybody together. it’s a challenge but also that creative energy is what makes it feel like magic.
BiT so all of this basically unfolds live on the night of the show?
JR yep. during the performance, our communication becomes a different challenge because it relies a lot on improv. the artists are encouraged to bring their own creative touch to things. we never know exactly what will happen. even just a lighting standpoint, it’s important to somehow have everything punch at the right time. we never have a rehearsal so it all unfolds live on stage, and we just have to have a lot of trust that it will go well. there’s a lot of stress because the whole thing gets tightly compressed until the day of the show. for at least half of the shows, we are often writing the ending as the performance is starting. we have no idea what’s going to happen.
BiT was there ever a moment that you realized holy shit this is actually happening?
JR this whole project is collaborative and it’s an exercise in a creative democracy. i collaborate with other co-directors on the conceptual bigger level and make sure i bring in talent who are encouraged to self-direct their acts. in the beginning, i had no theater background at all so i was still observing and learning about circus, theater, lighting, stage management. i am so engrossed in the show during the performance that i don’t get to experience it until 1-2 days after when i get to look at the footage. i get to look at the other artists’ works and that i don’t get to see the night of the show and i always think, “wow, you completely nailed that there. i didn’t even know that happens!” all these things wasn’t aware of, it’s so fascinating to see how well it works on the screen. those moments is when i realize how amazing it is, what we’ve created. every time when i come back home and see this amazing aerial piece happening in front of screen and i think, this is the best cinema ever! (laughing) where else is this happening?
BiT how do you choose performances?
JR the films i choose are usually a combination of things. for the big lebowski, it felt seasonally appropriate and we knew it would be fun and a little crazy. i always get inspiration and suggestions from whom i’m creatively collaborating with, and i always wants some variety to keep things fresh. we’ll do a fun one, then dark one, then a documentary, then a comedy. we try to keep the curation very eclectic and diverse. and i always want to have a personal connection to the film so that passion is reflected in the performance.
BiT any surprises for the upcoming showing of The Dude Immersive that you want to share with Brooklyn, I’m Trying readers?
JR well you know, I don’t want to give anything away. guests will have action happening in all parts of the room, on stage and beyond stage, above their heads. they will be sprayed and hit by certain things, but in a pleasant way. you’ll see various metaphors come to life, like a drag queen representing a room that gets tied together. there will be a drinking game folded in, and lots of metaphors with objects brought in as people, pysch dreams interpreted by aerial performances, a lot of trapping and changing. about every 5 minutes the audience will get hit with something different, so just as they sink into thinking, “hey, i’m watching a movie,” something else entirely will happen.
BiT i seriously cannot wait to see what happens. can you tell me what’s next for Little Cinema?
JR I don’t have an idea yet for the next project, but for now I’m looking to plan out and curate a season and to establish a Little Cinema membership. I’d like to see the project grow up a bit in that sense. this whole project is very personal, as it is created and runs on people wanting to create and giving them a platform to do so. my goal is to keep it that way, both from the collaborator’s and from audience’s points of view. looking at our history, there’s several hundred people that have seen 5 or more shows, and we want to keep them coming back. in a way it doesn’t make much sense that we put so much work into one-off performances, but that’s what makes sense to us. we keep trying to keep magic alive and crazy and wild and ever-changing for as long as we can.
BiT …anything else you want to add about The Dude Immersive?
JR yeah. you can enter into a raffle for your chance to watch the show from a bathtub.
as much as i wanted to press him on this… will this person in the nude? what is the bathtub filled with? and where is said tub, on stage? however, i could tell by the reluctant divulgence of this statement that jay was actually doing me a favor by keeping this magic and mystery hidden until i see the show tuesday night. we hung up the phone around the time that the skyline came into view and that pure unadulterated love for this city and its inhabitants filled my soul once again.
“we often are writing the ending as the performance is starting. we have no idea what’s going to happen.”
by assembling so many talented individuals and giving them a platform to perform and create, the story and performance of little cinema unfolds in a masterful explosion of sound, lights, movement, words, music and pure kinetic energy that is felt by the audience and stays with them way after the curtain is drawn.
in this way, little cinema feels much like a metaphor for the life that jay has created. work hard and dream harder and contribute every fiber of your being to a project, and where there are gaps, surround yourself with people who are the best and believe the most in their craft. let life unfold in a harmonious cacophony, a tenacious performance to which the ending has not yet been written. and if i can tell you one thing, there will be plenty of twists in the plot of the life and work of jay rinsky, and the next scene is far from being written.
immerse yourself in the genius of his creation at little cinema. performances tonight and tomorrow are sold out, but follow Brooklyn, I’m Trying on Instagram to immerse yourself from afar, and check back with your social coordinator (i. e. yours truly) for their next performance, more info and ticket sales and all that jazz are here on their website and absorb all of the magic you can by following little cinema on instagram.