I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Cincinnati is a cool city. Despite popular belief, there's a whole crop of young adults out there getting involved in their community and doing creative things. One of these groups is PROJECTMILL. What is PROJECTMILL? The answer, my friend, is many things, including the host of Dance_MF, the monthly dance party at the Northside Tavern. And, it just so happens, Dance_MF is coming up this Saturday (Oct. 4). So start doing your squat thrusts, deep lunges or whatever you do to limber up for a danctastic night, and read this little Q&A with Projector Mandy Levy...
MZ: What is PROJECTMILL and who is involved? What roles do they play?
MANDY LEVY: That’s a lot of questions for the price of one! PROJECTMILL is people helping people do cool things. It is—ideally—a network of artists and creatives who are constantly “on call” and willing to lend their talent, ideas, advice, equipment, know-how, critiques, time and enthusiasm to any PROJECTMILL creation. It started at the beginning of the year with just me, Pete Ohs, and Josh Mattie, and has already branched out to a strong sampling of 15 or more “projectors” (that’s what we call ourselves) from Cincinnati, LA, New York, and Chicago, all masters of different creative domains. We have writers, video people, graphic designers, fashion designers, classic artists, animators, musicians, comedians, DJs, actors, even chefs… I think that’s the bulk of it. A nice variety to boot!
MZ: What is the goal or mission of PROJECTMILL?
MANDY LEVY: A kick in the pants, really. It’s about being productive and staying productive by surrounding yourself with productivity.
MZ: This sort of goes along with the above question, but why did you start PROJECTMILL?
MANDY LEVY: We like the idea of team creativity, and were inspired by the impressive artistic community in Cincinnati. If a rising tide lifts all boats, then an institution like PROJECTMILL could help all the awesome people involved to stay motivated and find success.
MZ: What else does PROJECTMILL do besides Dance_MF?
MANDY LEVY: Our inaugural project was going down to South by Southwest with WOXY and creating video content for all their twenty-something lounge acts for the week. We also became an Emmy Award-winning production company this summer, when American Rhapsody, a video Pete and I made, won a Midwestern Regional Emmy for the Advanced Media category. And later this month, we’re putting on a live radio play for the opening night of a spoken word exhibit at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington.
MZ: What inspired you guys to start Dance_MF? What do you feel the response has been?
MANDY LEVY: Last New Year’s Eve, Bad Veins played to a packed house at Northside Tavern, and afterwards they (and a bunch of other friends and future-projectors) proceeded to take over the DJ booth and curate a crazy night of dancing with abandon. It made everyone realize how much we missed Girls and Boys, and how much the cool young people of Cincinnati needed a dance night again. “Bring Dancey Back” was the title on our proposal to the Tavern. But DMF is so much more than just music and dancing. It’s an art installation. Each month boasts a different theme, expanded upon exponentially with various elements of décor, video content, dancer-interaction, and extra-added bonuses (like Razzlebear). The response has been awesome. We’ve gotten a great crowd in both nights so far, and people seem eager to dance and participate in everything that’s offered to them, whether it be following along with the giant '80s workout video projected on the wall, writing obscenities on an overhead projector, or asking Razzlebear to pose for pictures. It’s been really fun.
MZ: Why do you think it's important for young adults in Cincinnati to be more involved with what goes on in their city- creatively, entertainment-wise, etc.? How does PROJECTMILL strive to inspire others to become more involved?
MANDY LEVY: Cincinnati, first of all, is an awesome city. I’m a relative newbie here—I’m from Chicago and I lived in LA before this, and I’m telling you, this place is the best of the three. It’s so undiscovered and unappreciated outside of our little Mason-Dixon bubble, and the only way to put it on the map in the way it deserves is to build it up with our own devotion. We have to make it an outlet for awesomeness. Already this year (or maybe it was last year), Cincinnati was mentioned in Spin magazine as the next big music city—and it’s true! We have incredible music coming out of this place! So it’s the little things like that. Cincinnati needs its young adult community—which, let’s be honest, is the most important gauge for coolness and modern relevance—to produce, participate and promote like there’s no tomorrow. And like I said, PROJECTMILL is meant to be a kick in the pants. People who want to be involved are encouraged to be, and we want to encourage people to be involved. Collaboration swings both ways.
MZ: What are your plans for the future?
MANDY LEVY: We want to make a feature film. Between all of us, we can tackle every part that goes into it. We can write it, direct it, shoot it, star in it, edit it, market it… It’s a big job with a lot of moving parts, but it seems like it should be the ultimate destiny of PROJECTMILL. It makes sense. Want to help?
MZ: Who is DJing Dance_MF this time?
MANDY LEVY: This month’s lineup of DJ-projectors includes: Derek Ruch aka Indian Giver, Matt Luken, Kevin Bayer, Yusef Quotah, Josh Mattie and Bill Rich.
MZ: Your thoughts and feelings on living in Cincinnati? What's good? What's bad?
MANDY LEVY: Cincinnati, again, is awesome. Pete and I recently moved to Over-the-Rhine, and we’re obsessed with the area. It’s got so much to offer, so much potential. The history, the architecture… oh, it makes me weak in the knees! We’ve become so passionate about the Downtown Renaissance; maybe someday we can use PROJECTMILL as a political platform and speak at city council meetings! So that’s good… And the other good thing, again, is just the breed of people. There is an overwhelming wealth of talent here, and it’s so inspiring, but the best part is that these uber-cool and talented people are also Midwestern. So they’re normal. (Sorry LA). The thing that saddens me about Cincinnati, though, is the fact that not everyone has “city spirit.” People prefer to ignore OTR, rather than help it get back on its feet again. They prefer to assume ours is a lame city, rather than explore and discover all the great things it has to offer in all the neighborhoods they’ve never heard of. It’s the wrong attitude. We can’t expect anyone else to swoon for Cincinnati if we don’t love it first.
MZ: Do you guys have a slogan or like words to live by?
MANDY LEVY: “Collective Creativity.” And also, “Knee Socks or No Socks!”