Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Whither Experimental Film?

I graduated with a Film Production/Studies degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

The film program was not so much geared towards learning the trade of a classical Hollywood kinda production, but more about making films that you would find personally interesting (and not necessarily commercially viable). Documentaries and experimental films were big at SIUC.

In this program I was able to see a lot of experimental films -- from the early days of Man Ray and Salvador Dali to more contemporary fare like Michael Snow, Stan Brakhage and Standish Lawder.

It was always interesting when I would walk into an experimental film class - what was going to happen? We could be discussing the filmmaker prior to seeing some of his or her films, but I really had no expectations -- it was exciting.

Years later, there is this huge history, this huge body of work out there, created by people funding their own expensive projects (film ain't cheap) that reflect their own personal vision. And where are they now? How can one see these films?

I looked for Real Italian Pizza, a film by David Rimmer that completely bowled me over when I first saw it. I found it at Moving Images, available only in 16mm.

I searched for some Standish Lawder films, a filmmaker who also I liked a great deal, and found his stuff available at Canyon Cinema, also available only in 16mm.

I searched for another film, Serene Velocity by Ernie Gehr (apparently an inspiration for the title of a recent Stereolab compilation), and couldn't find any way of seeing or acquiring it.

Are these films going to survive? Are these films going to be seen?

With the explosion of personal filmmaking on YouTube, it seems like it is a ripe time for people everywhere to see this whole world that for the most part has only been seen by film school students.

Is YouTube the answer for these experimental films? Often the quality of YouTube video is pretty substandard, due to the needs of keeping filesizes reasonably small. But if not that, what? Something has to be done.

From time to time, I'll try and post links to experimental stuff I find.

Here's Standish Lawder's probably most widely-seen film -- Necrology.


justacoolcat said...

I'm a fan of experimental film making too. I'm going to check out that Serene Velocity.

Cup said...

Very cool, Splotchy; can't wait to find a few minutes to watch Necrology.

My best friend studied film at University of Georgia and in the grad program at Wisconsin. She once wrote a paper about Stan Brakhage (I think this was during her UGA days) ... her professor sent it to him ... and Brakhage sent her a letter complimenting her on her insights. Cool, huh?

Have you made any films?

Splotchy said...

Wow, that's great getting a letter from the Stan-man himself!

If you're curious, there is quite a bit of Brakhage's stuff on YouTube.

Yeah, I have made a coupla 16mm films which turned out okay.

Cup said...

Will we ever see any of those films?

Splotchy said...

That's an excellent question, Beth!

No comment.
I don't know.

There is probably a better chance of me uploading something new here rather than uploading my chokey student films. They're not all that bad, just kind of embarrassing.