A Film Column Without a Clever Name
by Emil Bacilla
The film courses at Wayne State University are kind of a nice thing. The university has two courses in motion picture production. And they provide a nice cop-out for people who want to learn some fundamental film making technique in a nice programmed manner. I know they were very helpful for me when I took them, because they make it possible to pick up on many things that are hard to find in books & that it might take years to figure out by yourself. The thing is though, it's kind of nice, if your thinking of taking them to have some idea of what they're about first.
I know that, in certain ways, I was disappointed with them. For one thing they weren't quite what I had expected. Actually when you come right down to it, I'm not sure what I expected. But one of the fantasies I had was that of walking into class & finding it full of hippies dying to make underground films. Didn't happen. But there were some very groovy people there, & some of them were really into film, in their own ways. Others weren't.
In fact that's kind of one of the reasons the courses, especially the first one, are so strange. The people taking the course cover a complete spectrum; from people who have been working with film for years and are now taking the course to see what else they can pick up, to people who have never held a movie camera in their lives & just want to learn how to take good home movies of the kids. The strange thing about the course is that it, as best it can, manages to accomodate everybody.
The lectures, primarily at the beginning, are aimed at the lowest common denominator. They deal with the most basic, basic things about film making: how to load the camera, how to aim it, how to adjust the exposure, etc. But at the same time they're like a Shakespearean play in that, while they are pleasing the "groundlings" they also manage to branch off into information for the more advanced film-makers, & there's lots of room left over for questions, which range from the most basic to certain subleties that veritably concern only the most professional amateur, if they concern amateurs at all. For example, a lecture on editing that spends a half an hour showing the class how to splice two pieces of film together, will go off into the fine details of A&B roll printing, off into optical effects & the advantages & disadvantages of different types of professional editing equipment.
Also, as a term project, all of the members of the class are expected to produce a short film & you can do just about anything that you want to do, from narrative, to documentary, to abstraction, to animation. In short, no matter where you are at in regards to making films, you can get something out of the course. & as far as the grade is concerned, as long as you know some basic things for the final & turn in something, anything, as a final project, you are just about guaranteed a passing grade.
The Center for Adult Education (?) occasionally provides a film-making course which I know veritably nothing about, but which I assume is aimed primarily at the home movie maker. & University of Michigan offers a basic course in cinematography, which is taught by George Manupelli, & which I assume is similar to the courses at Wayne, except that Manupelli would probably be groovier to take a course from, since he's actively involved in independent film production. But again, I don't know anything about the course. If anyone has any information about either of the above mentioned courses, why don't you send it to me, & I'll pass the information along. And remember what smokey the bear always says: "Don't be a fool, stay in school, and crush all roaches dead out." or something like that.
If anybody reading this was taking movies, or even stills, of the LOVE IN on Belle Isle, please contact me through Trans-love. We'd like to gather up everything we can to make one big collective film. Or maybe two big collective films, one in 8mm and the other in 16. Also, I personally am looking for I6mm footage of The Love In to possibly use as part of a larger film that I'm starting work on. I'm even willing, heaven forbid, to pay to have the footage I can use duplicated. Please contact me. I need the film.
Also, is there enough interest out there to make it possible to try and start a co-operative film laboratory, to help knock down the cost of I6mm black & white film-making. If anyone out there thinks they could use such a service, and if there's any kind of a response, it might become feasible to see about trying to dig up an inexpensive processing machine to get the thing started. If it works out, it should be possible to cut the cost of processing in half, at least. It's just a thought, and I haven't really looked into it, but if anyone's interested, or better yet, has some ideas, or could be of some help about getting the things started, please contact me, via Trans-Love. Love.
FLASH-FRAME! Beautiful Timing Department: The day after writing the above column I got a phone call from Peter McWilliams, who has some association (I haven't figured out just what, actually) with the poetry magazine Clod and Pebble . It seems that he's planning on organizing a film class -workshop in Lincoln Park. How 'bout that? More about this in the very near future.
In addition to the "regular" film column this issue, there is a special bonus. No make that TWO special bonuses. Yes folks, for the price of one film column you receive two, supplements making it Three columns that you get. That's right folks, not one, not two, but THREE. Now, if you'll just read this way...
...First we have a letter that came as a response to my first column:
Sir: I'm writing, you in response to your article in the SUN #2. As one who spent a disillusioning year in the NYC Underground trying to make films maybe I can pass a few words of advice regarding the emerging Underground in Detroit.
There is absolutely no cooperation in the NYC Underground, All the film makers are working at odds with each other. This anarchy has not been fruitful; witness 99% of the Underground films. Co-operation is considered very square in them thar hills. For example: I once made the mistake of going to the Cinematheque, NYC 's "co-operative" for Underground film makers, to inquire about renting some editing equipment. I might as well have tried to rent the moon for all the aid they could give me. When I suggested that their outfit was pretty goddamn useless if they couldn't give assistance in such an elementary thing as editing I was told by Gregory Markopules, one of the High Dalai Assholes of the NYC Underground, "The film artist will find a way to make his film without help if he be a true artist. " Such sentiments are typical of the whole scene. Take my word, it's a bad bag. The NYC Underground is dominated by decadents interested only in campy inbreeding. Those who are serious about the art of film and want to give America an effective alternative to Hollywood have a hard time breathing in the NYC Underground.
What is desperately needed is a national Underground union. Independent actors, scenarists, cinematographers, directors, editors, etc. would pay dues to finance a common labor pool, studio space, film equipment, and theatres. Right now, such a union is a pipe-dream, but it could be brought about if the Underground first organized in local areas. Here's how to get the ball rolling in Detroit: (1.) Round up all the independent film makers, documentarv and industrial and travel folk as well as "poets of the cinema, " and get them to support a fully equipped editing room they'll use in common. Most likely you'll have enough equipment from the sundry members. If not, try to purchase wholesale. Rentals are the last resort, but better than nothing. (2.) Have all the film makers purchase and process film at one lab and do their renting of cameras, lights, and sound gear from one agency; this will get them discount rates. (3.) Screen at one theatre in Detroit, for discounts, and scoop off part of the gate to finance equipment and activities of the union. (4.) Set up a clearing house for all Underground film labor so film makers can find the help they need. With these four points as a basis the union can radiate in many directions and eventually have their own local studios, theatres, and festivals. If you want to talk about these things, let me know. I'd like to help out any way I could.
I wish you luck as a movie reviewer for the Underground. A thankless job. Few have the stamina to sit through all the shit of the Underground in order to chance upon a jewel. Here's a guide I used to keep in my camera case to help keep my head straight in NYC:
How To Make An Underground Movie
First, ask yourself: Do I have imagination? intelligence ? an understanding of the film art? If your answers are all No you're qualified to make Underground films.
Apply for a Ford Grant or a Guggenheim to finance your film. The fact that you've done no previous worth-while work will be in your favor.
Rent the worst camera you can find and buy a spool of condemned film.
When loading the camera grime up half the film with your fingers and expose the other half to the light. Crack the lens with a hammer. Make sure your focus, exposure, and film speed are set incorrectly.
Aim the camera at your foot and press the button. Shake the camera viciously while shooting.
Remove the film and piss on it, then bake it in the oven.
Choose a title which will appeal to an Underground audience. (CONTINUED ON PAGE 17)
FILM (cont. from p. 12)
"The Freak-Out of a Black Muslim Yogi Faggot Crystal Head" would be catchy.
Take your masterpiece to the Cinematheque and give instructions for it to be screened backwards.
When the film is premiered at at the Bridge invite Jonas Mekas of the Voice. Give him a kilo of banana incense and a tube of Vaseline for payola and you might get written up as a genius.
Yours, John Patrick Larkin
As you know, the film scene in Detroit is veritably non-existant, and we definitely need help in getting it moving in the right direction, Also, as a result of my affiliation with GUERRILLA (I do kind of a half-assed job of being film editor, and oh. if you're interested, GUERRILLA is still trying to raise bread for issue number two, and is not dead yet. ) I got a letter from Scott Bartlett that he got from Bruce Baillie, and after reading it, felt that it was worth passing on, in full. Bartlett is a film-maker in San Francisco who made a really beautiful flick, that for some reason wasn't at the Ann Arbor Festival, sigh, called METANOMEN. And Baillie, is something else. If you haven 't seen any of his films, dig the Ann Arbor winners, that are going to be shown at the Wayne campus May 13, as a benefit for the Fifth Estáae. And sit there and let CASTRO STREET overwhelm you.
Scott: Finally saw MENTANOMEN-- borrowed to see up here at ranch. It's really a brilliant film---especially the sustained sequence of riding on the train. . . really worked out as good as anything gets worked out - - like real good talk, or like the exchange among jazz soloists. . . when it's under control - when they really have the whole thing in sight as though they could see it in front of them. If you can make it OUTSIDE - if you can make it outside all the competitive and technological enticement, like the Sirens-if you can move on by - through-them. . .like getting beyond the fear that others will get ahead of you if it is time to be in Rock Springs, Wyo. or on some street in ______, or just walking. Our age allows a slim balance between keeping on top of it and feeling the weight of it.
You're definitely in the right direction, for whatever the medium is to become - control over varied incoming "information" - the total "broadcast" coming into being at the point of juncture via poet. It's like contemp. people or anything in nature furnishing, momentarily, the basic songs out of which a poet on the scene can mix a total impression (poem). Or, for more formal labors, one can bring all kinds of material (information) from the outside world into his magic tower and create a grand work much in the way of composing a symphony. Instead of premiering at Carnegie Hall it would appear on CBS's channel or on 24 hour underground channel (whatever is to become of TV. . .which could be a room-filling experience for the folks at home---Really; not short of Rilke walking behind the old guy in Paris who began to twitch his, etc., until the thing got way out of hand or like my own terrible lust in Mexico, finally crossing the border again - like coming out of the sun into a world beneath the ocean, etc. .. . . . great poems put together, by great contemp. poets, for instantaneous transmission from SOURCE to SOURCE. This would be the makings of the next civilization. (The most recent American civilization was Indian, finished around the 13th C.)
Anyway, will come and see you one day or visa versa.
Please do favor and send this letter to you on to Emil Bacilla, GUERRILLA, 4863 John Lodge, Detroit, Mich. 48201. ..kind of odd request, but promised material there for reg. paper - film column - and haven't much strength for writing a lot. He welcomes anything on film for his column, so send anything you have time for - also Tom. He is running it in a good, loose manner - keeping it open to irregular sources (i.e., the artists themselves, as opposed to basic journalistic error of sewing up all their depts. with a steady employee, who immediately drops out of the scene). I am interested in the underground press, and all other underground vehicles becoming efficient to a point where material is coming. . . . from SOURCE to SOURCE without getting screwed up in between, like TIME.