Back in the golden days of cable television, the SCIFI channel was rather entertaining. I’d sometimes sit down in front of the television and watch it all day long basking in stuff like “The Twilight Zone,” that horrible show “Sightings,” and “Lost in Space,” while Saturdays brought cartoons, and anime.
These days, though, I barely ever want to watch it unless there’s a marathon of “Firefly,” “Heroes,” or a crappy television movie on, and even then it’s debatable. I don’t WANT to see “Lake Placid 2,” but… I couldn’t keep from watching it when it premiered!
The reason for my hatred of the current Sci Fi Channel is because, I have them to thank for my exposure to short independent films. Why? Well, a long time ago Sci Fi had a great show called “Exposure.”
“Exposure,” for those of you not familiar, was a weekly series, where aspiring filmmakers would send in their short science fiction or horror films, and we’d watch for an hour or two sifting through their shorts; the specials usually lasted for about an hour, to sometimes three hours. And it was possibly my favorite show from the channel behind “Invisible Man.”
When I first started reviewing movies, all I wanted to do was review the mainstream. I wanted to watch free movies, go to the theaters with friends and write about them. But there were contributing factors that made me re-think why I wanted to review movies.
Along with online websites that premiered short films, “Exposure” was a series that helped me learn that there was more to movies than what Hollywood gave us, or magazines discussed. There was something else going on behind the curtains, in the dark rooms, with people we’ve never heard of.
“Exposure” helped build my interest for independent films, and really helped me learn about films made for lower than a thousand bucks that was struggling to be seen. “Exposure” helped me build a love for short films, and it helped me want to seek out the directors no one really heard of, beyond magazines like Film Threat.
And because of the interest the series built, I learned of great directors like Amanda Gusack, Shane Ryan, Larry Longstreth, and many others who really did make excellent films that deserved to be placed front and center. The Sci Fi Channel isn’t much these days. It’s infinitely dumbed down, it’s angled for the youth, and all traces of past programming is nearly gone.
But with this new revival, “Exposure” was one of the great series that showed some utterly excellent short films. One in particularly was an animated short which involved a soldier stuck in a military outpost with an alien soldier. Another involved a futuristic government that used a common house fly as a probe to stop criminals.
And sometimes, there were truly creepy horror films that had their own takes on urban legends, and presented more skill and suspense than most any other film out in the mainstream. The show had Halloween episodes where some rather excellent horror short films were played, including one about a trick or treater who ends up being a monster, and even a Star Wars Fandom one which is probably one of the more entertaining episodes of the series. “Exposure” went through a few phases with a robotic host and then there was a narrator, and we’d also learn of the filmmakers who’d introduce their own films.
Before the DVDs, before signing on to Film Threat, before starting my own site, hell before I even learned how to use the internet, “Exposure” gave me a small glance into the world of independent filmmaking to struggling filmmakers who needed a chance to be seen and explored, and I wish we had more shows like this, especially considering I have about fifty movie channels on my cable system.
The closest to this wish would when AMC hosted an anthology of thirty second short films on Halloween, as well as Starz picking up the excellent 30 Second Bunny Theater for their station, both deals that were well deserved. But I wish we had more television series like “Exposure,” that put new talent in the spotlight. Thankfully, there are more and more sites that acknowledge independent filmmakers these days, but I’d love it if “Exposure” returned once again to give me a reason to watch a channel that plays ECW and a reality show about wannabe superheroes.
“Exposure” holds a special spot for me because it was one of the first places I learned to love independent films, and I’d love to revisit it and hope someone else could catch on and learn to love independent filmmaking, too.
Bring it back, Sci Fi.
And, no more Stephen Baldwin.