F L I C K
The Newsletter of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative
Winter 2001 – 2002
LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR
On January, 2001, the Film Coop relocated to a wonderful new space in the Clocktower Gallery, 108 Leonard St., 13th floor, Room 12, New York, NY 10013. Our new telephone number is (212) 267-5665 and our fax number is (212) 267-5666 (we are temporarily using Anthology Film Archives’ fax number (212) 477-2714. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT US AT OUR EMAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com).
We are only 9 blocks from the World Trade Center and unfortunately, our phone service has been affected by the recent tragic events. IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE REACHING US, DIAL OUR CELL PHONE NUMBER (917) 538-9244. All of your films and videos and our staff are safe and sound.
We are extremely grateful to the Museum of Modern Art and to P.S. 1 for providing us with this wonderful new home after we were evicted from our office of 38 years at 175 Lexington Ave.
We want to thank the following organizations for making this move possible:
Anthology Film Archives, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center, The Museum of Modern Art and The Sundance Channel.
…and especially the following people:
FMC’s Board of Directors, MaryLea Bandy, Amy Schwartzman Brightbill, Peter Basta Brightbill, Tom Finkelpearl, Alana Heiss, Cynthia Kane, Larry Kardish, Matt Willard and Tara Young. We send our condolences to all the victims and their families. We are grateful to the New York Police Department and the New York Fire Department and all the rescue teams for their life-affirming dedication.
40th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
We are celebrating our 40th Anniversary as the New American Cinema Group/The Film-Makers’ Cooperative, incorporated July 14th, 1961. The kickoff celebration was on July 24th at the Robert Beck Memorial Cinema (“Cinema Killed the Video Star”), organized by Bradley Eros and Brian Frye.
The following celebration was a 4-day screening at the Pioneer Theater (“40th Anniversary Film Festival”), October 19-22. The Kuchar Brothers were stars on the opening night, the musical genius John Zorn curated and hosted the second night, the Village Voice’s brilliant J. Hoberman hosted/selected films (“Lost New York”) for the third night, which included a panel hosted and moderated by John Hanhardt. On the panel were Carolee Schneemann, Ed Halter, Michelle Handelman and M. M. Serra. For the fourth and final evening, Doris Kornish premiered her fabulous film, “Not Nude Though”, a tribute to Rudy Burckhardt. It was the usual successful event, organized by Michelle Handelman and M. M. Serra. The FMC thanks Doris Kornish and Phil Hartman for hosting the events.
Another successful event was SEXperimental, a screening on every Sunday night in November. SEXperimental cast a lingering gaze on underground film, the 1960s lovechild of two not-so-strange bedfellows: explicit sex and experimental form. The event was curated by Bradley Eros, Elena Gorfinkel, Karyn Riegel and M. M. Serra.
Next, we were honored to have a screening at the Museum of Modern Art, Monday, November 26, a celebration of the filmmakers featured in the Filmmakers’ Cinematheque of the 1960s, curated by Larry Kardish. And our final screening of the year was on December 15th at the Millennium. This event was organized by Joel Schlemowitz.
If you have any suggestions or ideas for helping us to continue to celebrate our 40th Anniversary in 2002, please let us know!
We want to thank Dan Ochiva at Millimeter Magazine for donating an incredible Xerox machine, our first! We also would like to thank the New York University’s Cinema Studies Department for the donation of a fine Macintosh computer we use for our Online Catalog Data Entry Station.
We’d also like to thank Colin Barton and his better half, Tiffany, for donating a bookcase, halogen lights, a filing cabinet and a terrific rug.
Jim Jennings, of course, needs to thanked for donating his truck and his muscle power for transporting all of the above donations.
We’d like to thank Dave Gearey and Michelle Handelman for designing the floor layout and measuring the shelves in the new space. And we want to thank Michael Gitlin for designing the wall plaques, which direct people to our office. And last, but not least, we’d like to thank Brian Frye for putting all the films and videos on the shelves.
— M. M. Serra
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Welcome to FLICK!
My name is Hans Michaud, and I’m the editor of the FMC newsletter you hold in your hands. Time’s-a-wastin’, so I’ll make this short and sweet:
This is the first newsletter to have appeared since Brian Frye’s wonderful Filmer’s Bugle a year ago. Sorry it’s taken so long…there are some reasons but I won’t get into that now. At any rate, this thing will be coming out ON A REGULAR BASIS! I’m already collecting stuff for issue #2 which I plan to release in the Spring. It’s a nice idea for this thing to come out four times a year, isn’t it?
With all the recent events in New York City, it’s imperative that the FMC Newsletter come out with some regularity, at least to inform its members of the current status of the Co-op, and to let them know that their films are safe and sound, they survived the move to another location and then they survived the horrible attacks on the WTC. I’d like to ask all of the readers/members at this point to submit stuff to FLICK. I’ll print (just about) anything, so what are you waiting for? E-mail stuff to me directly, Hans Michaud, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to the Co-op at email@example.com or snail-mail it to the Film-Makers’ Cooperative:
The Film-Makers’ Cooperative
c/o The Clocktower Gallery
108 Leonard Street, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10013
Okay, was that short and sweet enough? Here we go. I hope you enjoy this issue.
— Hans Michaud
WHAT IS THE FILM-MAKERS’ COOPERATIVE?
The FMC was founded in 1961 for the purpose of distributing independent, non-commercial, avant-garde films and videos. Since its foundation the FMC has become the largest distributor of avant-garde and experimental films and videos in the United States. It is artist-run and not-for-profit, linking the work of more than 700 media makers to 600 museums and exhibitors throughout the world, including hundreds of film studies programs in colleges and universities throughout the United States and Europe. It has proven to be an invaluable resource for countless institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Louvre, The Whitney Museum and The Cinematheque Francaise, as well as dozens of film festivals like Oberhausen, Sundance, Berlin, and Rotterdam.
Utilizing a Technical Assistance grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Coop is beginning the process of putting its catalog on-line. Towards that end, Jim Hubbard, filmmaker and consultant, has purchased a new computer for the Coop and extracted information on every film that the Coop distributes from the database used to track orders. Webmaster Joel Schlemowitz will format this data and put it on the website in alphabetical order. This will make basic information on all films, such as title, name of maker, length and rental fee, immediately available to anyone in the world. The ultimate goal is to have a searchable database of all films on the website.
Now is your chance to raise your rental prices, update your descriptions and send us your latest film/video/DVD. Don’t forget to send us your latest address and email. Also, you can link to our website!
1st STATEMENT OF THE NEW AMERICAN CINEMA GROUP
In the course of the past three years we have been witnessing the spontaneous growth of a new generation of film makers — the Free Cinema in England, the Nouvelle Vague in France, the young movements in Poland, Italy and Russia and, in this country, the work of Lionel Rogosin, John Cassavetes, Alfred Leslie, Robert Frank, Edward Bland, Bert Stern and the Sanders brothers.
The official cinema all over the world is running out of breath. It is morally corrupt, aesthetically obsolete, thematically superficial, temperamentally boring. Even the seemingly worthwhile films, those that lay claim to high moral and esthetic standards and have been accepted as such by critics and the public alike, reveal the decay of the Product Film. The very slickness of their execution has become a perversion covering the falsity of their themes, their lack of sensitivity, their lack of style.
If the New American cinema has until now been an unconscious and sporadic manifestation, we feel the time has come to join together. There are many of us — the movement is reaching significant proportions — and we know what needs to be destroyed and what we stand for.
As in the other arts in America today — painting, poetry, sculpture, theatre, where fresh winds have been blowing for the last few years — our rebellion against the old, official, corrupt and pretentious is primarily an ethical one. We are concerned with Man. We are concerned with what’s happening to Man. We are not an esthetic school that constricts the film maker within a set of dead principles. We feel we cannot trust any classical principles either in art or life.
1. We believe that cinema is indivisibly a personal expression. We therefore reject the interference of producers, distributors and investor until our work is ready to be projected on screen.
2. We reject censorship. We never signed any censorship laws. Neither do we accept such relics as film licensing. No book , play or poem — no piece of music needs a license from anybody. We will take legal actions against licensing and censorship of films, including that of the U.S. Customs Bureau. Films have the right to travel from country to country free of censors and the bureaucrats’ scissor. Unites States should take the lead in initiating the program of free passage of films from country to country.
Who are the censors? Who chooses them and what are their qualifications? What’s the legal basis for censorship? These are the questions which need answers.
3. We are seeking new forms of financing, working towards a reorganization of film investing methods, setting up the basis for a free film industry. A number of discriminating investors have already placed money in Shadows, Pull My Daisy, The Sin of Jesus, Don Peyote, The Connection, Guns Of The Trees. These investments have been made on a limited partnership basis as has been customary in the financing of Broadway plays. A number of theatrical investors have entered the field of low budget film production on the East Coast.
4. The New American cinema is abolishing the Budget Myth, proving that good, internationally marketable films can be made on a budget of $25,000 to $200,000. Shadows, Pull My Daisy, Little Fugitive prove it. Our realistic budgets give us freedom from stars, studios and producers. The film maker is his own producer, and paradoxically, low budget films give a higher return margin than big budget films. The low budget is not a purely commercial consideration. It goes with our ethical and esthetic beliefs, directly connected with the things we want to say, and the way we want to say them.
5. We’ll take a stand against the present distribution — exhibition policies. There is something decidedly wrong with the whole system of film exhibition; it is time to blow the whole thing up. It’s not the audience that prevents films like Shadows or Come Back, Africa from being seen but the distributors and theatre owners. It is a sad fact that our films first have to open in London, Paris or Tokyo before they can reach our own theatres.
6. We plan to establish our own cooperative distribution center. This task has been entrusted to Emile De Antonio, our charter member. The New York Theatre, The Bleecker St. Cinema, Art Overbrook Theatre (Philadelphia) are the first movie houses to join us by pledging to exhibit our films. Together with the cooperative distribution center, we will start a publicity campaign preparing the climate for the New Cinema in other cities. The American Federation of Film Societies will be of great assistance in this work.
7. It’s about time the East Coast had its own film festival, one that would serve as a meeting place for the New Cinema from all over the world. The purely commercial distributors will never do justice to cinema. The best of the Italian, Polish, Japanese and a great part of the modern French cinema is completely unknown in this country. Such a festival will bring these films to the attention of exhibitors and the public.
8. While we fully understand the purposes and interests of Unions, we find it unjust that demands made on an independent work, budgeted at $25,000 (most of which is deferred), are the same as those made on a $1,000,000 movie. We shall meet with the unions to work out more reasonable methods, similar to those existing Off-Broadway — a system based on the size and nature of the production.
9. We pledge to put aside a certain percentage of our film-profits so as to build up a fund that would be used to help our members finish films or stand as guarantor for the laboratories.
In joining together, we want to make it clear that there is one basic difference between our group and organizations such as United Artists. We are not joining together to make money. We are joining together to make films. We are joining together to build the New American Cinema. And we are going to do it together with the rest of America, together with the rest of our generation. Common beliefs, common knowledge, common anger and impatience binds us together — and it also binds us together with the New Cinema movements of the rest of the world. Our colleagues in France, Italy, Russia, Poland or England can depend on our determination. As they, we have had enough of the Big Lie in life and the arts. As they, we are not only for the new cinema: we are also for the New Man. As they, we are for art, but not at the expense of life. We don’t want false, polished, slick films — we prefer them rough, unpolished, but alive; we don’t want rosy films — we want them the color of blood.
End of the First Statement of the New American Cinema Group.
September 30th, 1960
FMC BENEFIT AT ROBERT BECK MEMORIAL CINEMA
What to do in the high heat of a New York summer night? Why, watch movies, of course. On July 24, 2001, the FMC presented the first of several summer/fall benefit shows — Cinema Killed the Video Star — at the Robert Beck Memorial Cinema on New York’s Lower East Side.
Though the RBMC isn’t stellar on the air-conditioning front, there were plenty of stars onscreen. For a paltry ten dollars, attendees were treated to ten classic rock n’ roll films from the FMC archive: Roadfilm by Standish Lawder, Black Coffee by Heather McAdams, Start Day Song by Michael Quinn, Rockflow by Bob Cowan, Fugs by Ed English, Dancin’ Monkey by Nat Zeller, China Cat Sunflower by Jud Yalkut, Beatles Electronique by Jud Yalkut, US Down by the Riverside by Jud Yalkut and Spaceways by Ed English. Musical “guests” included the Beatles, the Fugs Jug Band, the Chambers Brothers, the Grateful Dead, the Sun Ra Arkestra, the Banana Boys and more.
The films were selected by Bradley Eros and Brian Frye of the RBMC, who placed special emphasis on showing films that hadn’t been seen for awhile. But they were all fantastic, so if there are any you haven’t already seen, be sure to rent them. FMC Director M.M. Serra graciously introduced the program, and during the intermission, audience members enjoyed a raffle in which films and film equipment donated by the RBMC were fobbed off on unsuspecting raffle ticket holders, whether they liked it or not.
The benefit was a rousing success, bringing in much-needed funds, which will go toward the purchase of a new computer for the office. Surely it will only be surpassed by the upcoming benefit shows, which are bound to be even better and more successful. And to that, the RBMC says, “Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta!” or, “More vocals in the monitor, please.” FMC Vice-President Bradley Eros and board member Brian Frye have shown experimental films at the RBMC for over three years now. Members who are coming to town and are interested in showing films there can check out the RBMC website at: www.rbmc.net or contact Brian Frye at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bradley Eros at 718-599-0751.
— Brian Frye
THE COOP CATALOG GOES ON THE WEB
On November 1, 2001 the Film-Makers’ Cooperative On-Line Catalog came out of the wraps and went put up on our website. While this is certainly a great step forward it is really only the first step: This is because at the moment, while all the films are listed with title, year, running time, etc., only about one third of the films have their descriptions entered into our database. Any filmmaker reading this can email their film descriptions to email@example.com but even so, a great deal of typing remains to be done. It is also the first step because of the ambiguity in cataloging of video works. Some videos are original works in that format; others are transfers of films that are also for rent as films. And some have separate prices for rental, preview, sale to individuals, and sale to institutions. So even assuming the on-catalog was to remain in its current form, with no further improvements to the interface, there are still a lot of gaps to be filled.
A dedicated workstation just for typing catalog information has been set up at the Cooperative. Anyone who would like a tour of contemporary film history through working on the on-line catalog is welcome to come in as a volunteer in this process. And if your films are listed in the catalog you can send updates, descriptions and stills to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
The on-line catalog really mirrors the print catalog. There are 26 pages: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z, with all the filmmakers whose name begins with A on page A, etc. While some of these pages (B in particular) are a little slow to load, this arrangement allows the catalog to be leafed through, page by page, in a way similar to the print catalog.
The Film-Makers’ Cooperative On-Line Catalog is made possible with state funds from New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA).
— Joel Schlemowitz
MOVING IMAGES: THE FMC RELOCATES
Jonas Mekas discusses the present state of affairs with Joel Schlemowitz and M. M. Serra.
JONAS MEKAS: As far as the small organizations, alternative organizations for alternative forms of art, they never had any problems or when they had and had to close then probably they deserved to be closed because there was no need for them, they had lost a vital function.
JOEL SCHLEMOWITZ: Are there any you think that closed that did have a function?
MEKAS: I don’t know any. I do not know. I do not know any. I do not know any such organization. But many secondary organizations that performed secondary sort of functions have closed. Because they were not of primary necessity. On the seventh of January, myself and my brother — that’s ’62 — called filmmakers together to our loft four-one-four Park Avenue South, that’s corner of 28th Street. In any case, a good number of local filmmakers participated.
MM SERRA: And it was a group of twenty-two New York artists who were interested in forming a network of distribution, exhibition and publication to promote a new type of cinema.
MEKAS: From the very beginning we adopted three or four basic principles which we decided should guide the Cooperative, that is that no film is rejected, that your film is your membership card, that we issue a catalog and all films are listed with no preference but listed just alphabetically — they’re all even, good or bad, they’re all even — all income goes to the filmmaker with the exception of what’s needed to run the Coop. So that was the beginning, the first office became our loft. What — I slept under my Moviola and the rest was used by the Coop.
During the winter from ’66 to ’67 Cinema 16 office closed and it became available so we thought the Coop should have its own space and we moved into the previous headquarters of Cinema 16.
SERRA: The Coop’s location at 175 Lexington Avenue, that building had arts organizations in it, and over the years — over the decades — I guess that was in the late sixties, that area became midtown, it became very gentrified, so the art world started moving out. At that time Leslie Trumble was running the Coop, and in 1990 Leslie had a stroke and heart attack and I was on the board and I said that I would help till we found someone new, someone to take over, and then finally I just stayed, I became the director.
We had 1,100 square feet, and the rent kept going up and up and in 1993 we negotiated a new lease with half the space, we went smaller, because the Coop is an organization that’s very tightly run, it’s not run for profit so we need to keep our overhead very slim in order to exist.
In a way we’ve always been looking to move, and the building’s been for sale for ten years at least. And finally a man who bought our building owns fifteen buildings in Manhattan and he walked in the door and he said “You’re out” without even saying hello, his name, or anything, he just looked around and he said “You’re out.” Then I got a letter two weeks later that we were evicted officially but that if we were interested in paying 1,500 he had a space for us in the basement. thought, “I don’t know of any spaces in the basement.” I mean there’s a boiler. And a coal cellar — like the old time when they had furnaces — but the pipes are all exposed, the pipes from the furnace, the pipes from the furnace and stuff. But I couldn’t believe that he was actually going to use that for an apartment. He said “Well if you don’t take this I’m fixing it up for an apartment.” People are going to be living in a cold, damp, dirty…. I’m sure he’ll put a door on it.
Where we were in the old space we were considered a commercial business and we were responsible for any repairs. In ’93 I painted the walls. But it needed restructuring. The structure itself was really bad. The floor was bad. The new landord will go in and gut the entire place. It had a charm, because a space builds up mystique, because of its history and longevity.
I guess after I couldn’t get our lease renewed I started calling people, I called people that I thought cared about the Coop, because we have 5,000 films and videos, we have a paper archive, so we needed time to find a location, to move into that location, to fix it up. And so it was calling around, I mean, confronting each crisis step by step and figuring “Alright, we’re going to surmount this. How are we going to do this?” — rather than giving up or, you know, saying: “Is it time that this organization goes under?”
MEKAS: If you really believe in what you are doing you are not going to permit to be closed. No matter what.
SERRA: And eventually to our great good fortune we were able to move into the Clocktower Gallery, which is a PS 1 space. The 13th floor, which is turning out to be our lucky number.
I don’t believe it’s like “Oh it’s survival of the fittest,” because you know who the ideal and who the fittest are. Like the Collective for Living Cinema was a really important place for me when I came to New York. Because the Collective for Living Cinema, I remember when they started having trouble and moved into a space that was three times their old rent. It was such a wonderful organization, ’cause Collective for Living Cinema showed experimental film every day. And it was wonderfully programmed. But it was just the idea that you could go, you could see things. And when they lost their space they disappeared. And they’re not really replaced. You don’t replace the energy. Also there was a place called Rap Arts Center on 4th Street. They were a multimedia place. “Bang on a Can” was there, and they disappeared. The Gas Station, which was wonderful. Now what is it? It’s condos.
The East Village used to have 200 galleries, and where are they? Soho was bought up. And then what’s Soho now? Soho’s a big boutique. Then the arts can no longer afford the rent. Then they go to Chelsea and then — you’re not going to find a place in Chelsea, Chelsea’s very expensive now. I think that the art community is fractured and fragmented. The arts survive in a community, you need that community.
So many people were involved, the amazing thing is how many people actually helped. A cooperative is group of people working together to maintain and disseminate their films, their ideas, and its a community spirit. It’s not modeled after the pyramid where its one visionary, its a multitude of people governing and talking and working together to make things happen.
MEKAS: Several of my friends have been involved in cooperative systems in different levels, not in cinema. Even as a child my father used to send me to the meetings of the local farmers’ cooperatives. So I thought, “Why don’t we adapt the same system here?” You know, we should create a distribution center, that we would be the owners, and we would pass our own judgement on our own work. It was a sort of turning point, because suddenly there was, you know, a place where you could put your film — even if nobody rents it — but it’s there available and listed.
SERRA: The collection itself has a diversity and richness, so that it’s not one particular genre. Now that it’s been around for so long it has become an archive, it’s become an amazing resource, it’s almost like a century of cinema, of personal vision, of creative ideas.
MEKAS: It’s like in a bookshop when you walk in and you see thousands of books so you walk around and look. If you are looking for something specific, let’s say you… I don’t know, ok, James Joyce, then you go and look for specifically for James Joyce book. Or if you look — the same with a film, if you look for Brakhage you go, you know, and open the catalog on Brakhage. But then you walk into a bookshop and sometimes you just take chances. You know, well, you like the cover, you open, you look. It’s more difficult with the film, but you know there are some descriptions, so you take a chance. Same process.
CHEAP AND BEAUTIFUL: SOME NOTES ON 7378
Don’t let the high price of film stock prevent you from shooting. There’s a wonderful and cheap film stock buried in the Kodak catalogue. I used it for my film Trigger Happy and more recently for Grand Central. I use it as my “note-book” stock for casual experiments and shooting around town. It’s Kodak’s 7378. It is marketed and primarily employed as an optical track sound recording film and it’s absolutely beautiful when used as a camera stock. It has no visible grain and is extremely sharp. It has rich deep blacks and sparkling whites with a small but workable range of gray tones.
It’s one of the only readily available Orthochromatic stocks. Most black and white is panchromatic, which means that every color has a corresponding shade of gray. 7378 is red blind. If you use a deep red filter you will not get any exposure; red comes out black. This is actually very helpful as you can use a red safe light when you re-spool the big rolls (the smallest amount you can buy is 1000 feet) to camera usable lengths. The red blind aspect pops up in amusing ways. Red lip stick for example must be avoided as they will photograph black as ink. Green lipstick will look more “normal”. The film is very reminiscent in look to Hollywood silent films from the twenties and is actually very similar to what they used.
The great news is that it’s dirt cheap. My Kodak price list (dated March 1, 1999) has 1000 feet at $64.90. That’s $6.49 a roll. Cheaper than super 8 by half. A-1 film lab develops it for $10 a roll. It runs in the same bath with other black and white reversal films, which they run daily. So in by ten, out by four. So add fast to cheap. It can also be developed as negative, which I did in Trigger Happy. It’s extremely slow. I rate it at A.S.A. 12. The film itself doesn’t have an A.S.A. rating, as it’s a print stock. On an animation stand where exposures are nice and long it is not a liability. I have found however that it’s an interesting challenge to shoot stock this slow at higher frame rates. You learn to adjust your mindset to think of it more as sculpting or engraving with light. Shooting it changes the way you see light. A bright sunny day becomes a study in contrasts. When the film is slightly over-exposed it gives faces a Warhol portrait — like reduction of features; eliminating all skin texture and giving you just the eyes, nose, mouth and hair. Everyone looks glamorous. Shadows will be deep and dark. If you slightly under expose it you will see every pore and hair and get the opposite effect. Using diffusion has an interesting effect, by reducing the contrast of an image the film seems almost confused. If there is variation in the light source the image will leap from black to white in response. It’s a wild and dramatic effect. In Grand Central I used diffraction filters. These filters break point light into rainbow like streaks. In orthochrome these rainbows are turned into dramatic painterly effects of unexpected intensity.
It’s a great stock to use as a print stock as well. In Grand Central I printed tri-x (7278) onto this stock and it had the unexpected effect of making the grain much more apparent, by clumping it together into bigger “grains” which dance furiously on the screen. Using it as print stock will also give you the best 16mm optical track that can be had, as that’s what it was designed to do.
— Jeff Scher