Dev Thimmisetty
Mercury Staff
POSTED
6 months ago

New entertainment space in Plano offers student discounts, provide platform for creators to share content

Two UTD students are attempting to create a new source of entertainment for the Plano and Richardson area in the form of a short film lounge called The Kickback.

Currently, The Kickback is based in the AramArt World Music and Art Institute in Plano. It features a selection of short films chosen by the founders, including “Castello Cavalcanti,” “Betta Watch Out” and “Next Floor.”

Computer science freshman Oded Falik said he came up with the idea when he was out with friends.

“It really just came out of boredom,” he said. “I think everyone’s been in that position before where you are trying to decide what to do as college students who don’t have a whole lot of money. I thought we could provide a place for especially students like us to just hang out, do something fun and meet new people without having to spend too much money.”

At The Kickback, a projector displays a QR code that takes the customer to an online form where they can vote on which short film to watch. After three minutes, the poll ends, and the projector automatically starts playing the most selected film. The process is repeated every time a film ends.

“I wrote the software for that myself, so in the future we may even license the software to other companies or something like that,” Falik said. “It takes me a long time to write all the code, and it can be frustrating, but I think because it’s my passion and I’m working towards a real-life goal, I don’t mind as much.”

Software engineering freshman Ramin Nourbakhsh helped find the location and also helps manage the organization.

“Oded told me the idea and I thought it was very interesting,” he said. “I wanted to help because as college students who do not have a lot of money, doing something normal like going to the movies … is just not feasible every weekend.”

Nourbakhsh said he and Falik had always enjoyed short films, and The Kickback is a way to present short films to the public and the UTD community.

“It’s a form of entertainment that hasn’t really been in the spotlight,” he said. “There hasn’t been a place to show just short films, and many of these creators are amazing at what they do. It’s another form of expression with a shorter amount of time and a much smaller budget compared to a big Hollywood movie, but they still turn out to be great and different.”

Nourbakhsh contacted a former boss who used to stream documentaries at the Art Institute, and he was allowed to rent the space for the short film lounge. For now, The Kickback is more of a hobby than anything, Nourbakhsh said.

“Just imagine a lemonade stand a kid does in the summer,” he said. “We are just doing it to understand how a business works. It’s something we are doing for fun. If we can build it to a point where it is feasible and it is making enough money for us, then we can decide what to do next, but we aren’t near that point yet.”

For now, the short films available at the lounge are decided based on what Nourbakhsh and Falik think are noteworthy creations, as well as what is available online. However, the two are trying to contact creators so they can get more licensing agreements to display more films.

Nourbakhsh said the largest obstacle for him was advertising.

“Both of us don’t know how to do advertising for this,” he said. “We’ve made posters and flyers and we tried doing social media advertising, but that’s not going too well. It’s really hard to get the word out there. It’s the most frustrating part about this.”

Falik said possible solutions might be hosting an event at UTD or passing out coupons.

“We could do something at the Plinth or somewhere on campus where we demonstrate how our software works and students can watch a short film,” he said. “That might convince students to drive a few minutes to Plano.”

Nourbakhsh said what makes him really happy is the positive feedback he gets.

“We just want to show people short movies and to bring them together,” he said. “It’s a place to meet new people with maybe the same mindset or interests as you. It’s enjoyable to see that something that we have done is at a good point and can be successful.”

The lounge is open every Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and tickets are $5 for the entire five hours.