Forget the stars, aim for right here

The Small Star Seminar comes to IFS

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Michael J. Casey

You’re the star of where you are” is the message Cory McAbee wants to tell the world. “Give up your goals, stop reaching for the stars and look for the stars within [your] own mind.”

The message has tiny hints of pessimism, but McAbee’s ultimate aim isn’t bleak. On the contrary, the Small Star Seminar is an uplifting and exciting approach to independent filmmaking. And Colorado residents will have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to sum up McAbee’s Small Star Seminars. 

“There are a lot of ideas in it,” McAbee tells Boulder Weekly. “When I talk about one idea, it makes it sound like that’s what [the Small Star Seminar] is about.”

The Small Star Seminar is a whole slew of ideas, aesthetics and mediums put together — a fascinating smorgasbord of endless possibilities for a project that can, and most likely will, take many forms.

It is equally difficult to trace the Small Star Seminar back to its origin — McAbee is an artist that tries to go beyond himself with many irons in the fire — but the watershed moment came in 2012 in Worclaw, Poland, when McAbee was under a presentation deadline. The former singer/songwriter for The Billy Nayer Show took a stab at a solo album and what came out ended up being the first iteration of the Small Star Seminar.

“I recorded [the first songs] D.I.Y. in my apartment in New York,” McAbee says. “When I heard them, it was as if I hadn’t made it.”

These songs lit a fire in McAbee’s mind: use the songs to orchestrate stage shows as a representative of the Small Star Corporation and go on tour. These shows will be documented — as will the peripheral events surrounding the shows — and that documentation will eventually form the basis for McAbee’s next film.

“In the end, it’s going to be a fantasy,” McAbee explains. “But for now, it’s a documentary.”

But documentary isn’t the right word either, because Small Star Seminar is something more, something altogether different. It is a crowd-generated road-film/concert-film/documentary/narrative. McAbee says, “Participation equals membership,” and anyone who attends one of McAbee’s Small Star Seminars, or contributes footage, artwork, music, etc., will potentially make the cut. Even this column might be included in the final product, McAbee says.

This participatory aspect is precisely why the Small Star Seminar will not be about just one thing.

“When someone asks you what [the Small Star Seminar] means,” McAbee advises. “Give a personal response based on your own interpretation.”

McAbee kicks off his tour with three dates in Colorado — including a stop at the International Film Series — before heading to Iceland, the New York Film Festival and beyond. In the end, it’s going to add up to something special, something wholly different and new.

“I know I’m going to be surprised,” McAbee says excitedly. 

Audiences will be too. 

Anyone interesting in participating can visit corymcabee.net for show dates, music and information on how to join the Small Star Corporation.

ON THE BILL: Small Star Seminar. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, Muenzinger Auditorium, 1905 Colorado Ave., Boulder, 303-492-8662. For more info internationalfilmseries. com.