In 1994, Jonathan Wells famously launched the film festival RESFest at a Christmas party in his San Francisco basement, when he showed a few friends some skate videos by a not-yet-mainstream director named Spike Jonze. RESFest quickly escalated into a global phenomenon — a decade later it had spawned the monthly culture magazine RES, a series of screenings in 18 countries a year, even a distinct and recognizable aesthetic that transcended film, bleeding into the tangential industries of music, art and design (people actually say “That is so RES”). After Wells sold RES in 2006, an entire generation of cool kids looked to Wells to tell them where to look next.
“This all happened by accident” says Wells, 37, by way of explaining his uncanny ability to latch onto the cultural zeitgeist. At 16, Wells was hustling music labels for videos to play on the first of his many public access shows and getting excused from school to cover U2 concerts in San Francisco. His coming-of-age at the dawn of video made him an early advocate for the new medium; at Sundance in 1997 he heralded the digital video camera as the future for indie filmmakers, even as reps from Sony denied it (a few years later Sony ended up buying space in RES to advertise its DV cams). Championing indie film also made Wells a champion of thousands of emerging creatives all over the world — RES helped to launch the careers of filmmakers like Jonze, Mike Mills and Michel Gondry — and cultivating those connections is the goal of his new endeavor, Flux.
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“What we’re doing with Flux is leveraging those relationships,” Wells says of the Web site, which began adding editorial and video early this year. “We’ve featured these people in various ways and now we’re interested in collaborating with them.” A Flux screening series held at the Hammer premiered the new Björk video in March, and Syd Garon and Sam Spiegel’s new work with Marcel Dzama on May 13, followed by two more in the fall. And when he announced the sale of RES, FuelTV snapped him up to curate last September’s Swerve Festival, a new two-day L.A. event celebrating film, art and action sports.
“The rule that I live by is that I always want to present these films in the best possible light, and I also love bringing people together,” Wells says from Flux’s office in the former Pacific Airline & Supply building in Venice, where he and his wife and partner, Meg, have just finished painting a few walls lime green and electric blue. But they’ve left most of the space unfinished — that’s so artists and filmmakers can mount small installations as backdrops for intimate Flux salons. Judging from Wells’ track record, these won’t stay intimate for long.
Photo by Kevin Scanlon