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August 4, 2015

Let’s All Go to the Fair!

State & county fair season is in full swing and we thought it would be a fun exercise to gather some of our home movies (plus 1 short film) featuring…well, fairs! From amusement rides to paint by numbers to preserved fruits & vegetables, these films offer personal & pleasant glimpses into Midwest fair life of the ’60s and ’70s…enjoy!

1965 Minnesota State Fair via Louise Walker McCannel Collection

 

1967 Butler County Fair (Hamilton, Ohio) via Robert Dockum Collection

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1968 Butler County Fair (Hamilton, Ohio) via Robert Dockum Collection

 

1969 Indiana State Fair via Stacy Maugans Collection

 

and last (but certainly not least!) a charming short film about the 1978 Wisconsin State Fair by Harry Mantel

 

 

July 13, 2015

Larry Janiak Films Head to NYC

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Larry Janiak in LIFE AND FILM (1965)

This week I’m headed to New York City to present a retrospective of Larry Janiak’s work at Anthology Film Archives (so E-X-C-I-T-E-D). Just in case, Anthology Film Archives is an archive and exhibitor of independent, experimental & avant-garde cinema…and in our opinion, the perfect place to present Larry’s films.

Larry created a stunning body of experimental work from the years 1960 to 1970 that mixes direct animation techniques and personal fragments of the everyday. His work is exciting, vibrant and vastly under acknowledged. Crazy enough, this screening at Anthology is the first time Larry’s entire filmography has been publicly presented…ever. It will also be the premiere of three newly restored Janiak titles, which were photochemically preserved thanks to a 2014 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation and to the hard work of Colorlab. All films will be presented in their native format (16mm) in chronological order.

Larry is a Chicagoan through and through. He grew up on Chicago’s southwest and northwest sides, attended Lane Technical High School, studied with Aaron Siskind & Harry Callahan at Chicago’s Institute of Design and worked for Chicago-based design firm, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates. Larry also taught animation and filmmaking for many years at the Institute of Design (his tenure at the university is succinctly captured in a video documentary that Larry and his friends made in 1999, which you can stream here) and worked as a freelance graphic designer.

Outside of school and work life, Larry made experimental films, worked on DIY publications and helped cultivate Chicago’s underground film community in the ’60s and ’70s. From 1967 to 1969 Larry and his friend, Robert Stiegler, set up a film and photography workshop in a large loft space in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The two’s workshop became a production facility for filmmakers in the Chicago area and host of numerous informal film screenings and discussions from local and visiting artists. Some of the filmmakers and artists who visited or participated in film screenings at the space included Mike Kuchar, David Katzive, Jon Jost, Red Grooms, Ron Nameth, Kurt Heyl, Peter Kuttner, Peter Kubelka, Strom de Hirsch, Jonas Mekas and the filmmakers of the Chicago Newsreel film group. Larry also played an active role in developing the Center for Cinema Film Co-op, an artist run film Co-op once located at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In 1968 Larry was elected to the Co-op’s first board of directors along with Ron Nameth and Tom Palazzolo. The aim of the Co-op was to serve as a focus for independent film and filmmakers in the Midwest and to function as a distribution center for the rental of their films. It represented over 175 independent experimental filmmakers, with over 400 unique films in the Co-op’s distribution collection. The Co-op lasted for ten years and was legally disbanded in 1978.

Another crucial and defining element of Larry and his work is his spirituality. Since 1965 Larry has been a member of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, a branch of the Hindu Ramakrishna Order with headquarters at Belur Math in Calcutta, India. From 1983 to 1990 Larry lived at the society’s temple and monastery in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood as a “spiritual resident,” joining a group of American swamis, young brahmacharis and other spiritual residents. During this time Larry gave himself a sabbatical from commercial film production, visual design work and university teaching. Larry still quietly resides in Hyde Park…and although he hasn’t completed a new film in decades, he continues his conceptual art practice today through various mediums, including lively medicine cabinet displays and pen pal exchanges (you can find a more complete bio of Larry over on our Larry Janiak Collection finding aid).

We first came to know Larry via the Goldsholl Associates, or more specifically, through our Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection. In this collection we found not only industrial films Larry had worked on for the firm, but also a print of one his own experimental films – Disintegration Line #1 (DL1) from 1960. To say the very least, this amazing direct animation film sparked our interest in Larry’s work. We reached out to Larry after re-discovering DL1 and presenting it at our Meet Mort & Millie program back in April of 2013…and to our surprise and delight, Larry donated his collection of films to CFA in two parts, once in April of 2013 and again in October of 2013. His films now all reside safely in our temperature controlled vault. And as mentioned above, three of his films (DL1, Adams Film and DL2) have been preserved back onto film thanks to a grant from the NFPF.

Below is the full lineup for next Sunday’s screening in NYC, but before we get into that: infinite thanks to Anthology Film Archives for hosting this long overdue retrospective. And Chicagoans…we haven’t forgotten you! A Janiak heavy screening is headed our way this October (more news soon!).

LIFE & FILM: LARRY JANIAK
Sunday, July 19th, 7:30PM
Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, New York, NY
http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/film_screenings/calendar?view=list&month=07&year=2015#showing-44484

 

Janiak_Allegro2

ALLEGRO 1960, 3 min, 16mm, color, sound
“Rhythmic colored linear patterns of abstract grids move in syncopation to the allegro from Brandenburg Concerto #3 in G Major by J.S. Bach.” – Larry Janiak

Fun anecdote and/or according to Larry: After Allegro screened at the 1961 International Design Conference at Aspen, Larry, and fellow Chicagoans, Wayne Boyer and Mort & Millie Goldsholl, joined Canadian animator Norman McLaren for ice cream floats (!). Here, McLaren (who worked primarily in 35mm) told Larry that Allegro was the best film he’d seen drawn on 16mm.

Janiak_DL1_2

DISINTEGRATION LINE #1 (DL1) 1960, 9 min, 16mm, b&w, silent. Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
“Black and White full frame field texture motion as opalescent as the dancing night sky. The abstract animation field textures subtly depict the infinitesimal nuclei of energy called Tanmatra, a moving field of aggregates of atoms and cosmic motion called the dance of Shiva.”- Larry Janiak

Larry made both DL1 and DL2 by shocking 10 foot strips of unprocessed black and white film into tanks of cold water, fixer, hot water, developer and then repeating the process. He then carefully washed the remaining chemical residue off of the strips, hung them up to dry on his mother’s clothes line (!) and then arranged them into what he called “interesting sequences.” For DL2, Larry went through an extra step of optically printing the shocked stock through various color gels, carefully labeling each color and repeating them at various speeds.

AdamsFilm_1

ADAMS FILM 1963, 9 min, 16mm., color, sound.  Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
A visual film collage experiment that combines live action footage with abstract images and textures drawn directly on 16mm film. The sound track is made from multiply-recorded tape loops of eclectic sounds, while the live action footage captures scenes from an early Chicago Earth Day parade and a Janiak family gathering. Inspired by musique concrète and the work and writings of John Cage and Gertrude Stein.

Fred Camper described the film as “an enigmatic combination of personal family images and dynamic shapes.” Cine-File Chicago‘s Doug McLaren goes further by stating, “Janiak displays an instinctive command of his techniques, an assuredness of process rivaled only by Pat O’Neill.” Larry just humbly refers to the film as a sketch shot on a 16mm camera that he had recently purchased from downtown Chicago’s Central Camera.

Glasshouse_3

GLASSHOUSE 1964, 7 min, 16mm, b&w, sound
“A documentary film on a large terrarium made out of wood and glass that Larry built using hand made wood joints, without nails or screws, during the summer of 1959. The structure’s design was inspired by a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.”- Larry Janiak

For Glasshouse, Larry created a hand-drawn soundtrack (pictured above on the left-hand side) to “sound like crickets…tap dancing bugs clicking in nature.”

Janiak_Agamemnon3

AGAMEMNON IN NEW YORK 1964, 4.5 min, 16mm, b&w, sound. Made in collaboration with Wayne Boyer.
What started as a film test on new sync-sound film equipment quickly became a short film documenting the typical nuttiness behind the scenes at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates, a Chicago-based design firm that employed both Janiak and Wayne Boyer. Janiak ad libs alone, as no one else would come out from the behind the camera. Shot by Wayne Boyer and edited by Janiak, a home movie.

Janiak_LifeFilm3

LIFE & FILM 1965, 4.5 min, 16mm, b&w, sound. Made in collaboration with Robert Stiegler and Jeffrey Pasco.
“This collaborative film was conceived as a “picture postcard.” The picture side of the postcard is equivalent to the moving images recorded by the film camera, while the sound track is like the message written on the backside. A lyrical look at a few Chicago filmmakers going on their way to make a film in the Michigan sand dunes on a sunny day. The soundtrack includes “Tomorrow Never Knows” by John Lennon and the Beatles.”- Larry Janiak

Janiak_HaleHouse3

HALE HOUSE 1965, 11 min, 16mm, b&w, sound
A documentary film about Hale House, a Chicago home where Swami Vivekananda lived while a speaker at the 1893 Parliament of Religions at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The film lingers on architectural details of the home while a soundtrack of Indian raga sitar music and Vedic chanting fills the air. The film was made by Larry for Swami Bhashyananda, the former head of the Vivekanandra Vedanta Society of Chicago.

Janiak_Homage2

HOMAGE #5 1970, 6 min, 16mm, color, sound
An unfinished film, or preliminary sketch, that pairs live action film with a recorded lecture on reincarnation by Baba Ram Dass. “The footage deliberately resembles outtakes, a lot like those accidental moments in life that can throw a new light on our understanding. An exercise of the non-literal relationship between image and sound.”- Larry Janiak

DL2

DISINTEGRATION LINE #2 (DL2) 1970, 12 min, 16mm., color, sound. Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
“An optically printed full color randomly animated texture field image film set to Gamelan music. Full field colored animated abstract images progress in subtle visual sequences in discernible steps of intensity. DL2 is a film expressing the spirituality in art, a view of the cosmos as dancing atoms.”- Larry Janiak

Janiak_SixShortStatements

“Six Short Statements On My Film Sense” ~ found in a Center for Cinema Film Co-op catalog

 

June 1, 2015

CFA receives 2015 NFPF Grant

We’re super excited to announce that we’ve received a 2015 National Film Preservation Foundation grant to photo-chemically preserve three titles from our collections! The three films slated for preservation highlight innovative programs introduced within the Chicago Public School (CPS) system in the 1960’s and 70’s:

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education [CPS General Superintendent of Schools, Benjamin C. Willis], 1964, B&W, Optical Sound, 27 min.

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education, circa 1966, B&W, Optical Sound, 20 min.

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS, Rod Nordberg, 1970, Color, Optical Sound, 18 min.

Each of these 16mm films introduces a distinct and newly implemented CPS program: summer school programs (From A to Z), gifted student programs (A Soil For Growth) and the radical Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies (Metro!!!). Combined, these three films offer a valuable glimpse into the country’s third largest public education system during a time of great educational reform. They incorporate and reflect the Chicago Board of Education’s response to an era when major institutions and social structures were being regularly challenged on a national basis. While the CPS has since cut or altered many of these programs, the content and stories within these films still offer some food for thought for the reshaping and reevaluation of Chicago’s public school system today. The films also provide an inspiring slice of history of the often volatile and turbulent relationship among the City of Chicago, CPS teachers and Chicago parents & students.

Goldsholl_FromAtoZ

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS (1964, Goldsholl Associates)

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM (c. 1966, Goldsholl Associates)

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM (c. 1966, Goldsholl Associates)

Chicago-based Goldsholl Design & Film Associates produced two of the films for the Chicago Board of Education, while local filmmaker & editor, Vince Waldron, produced the third. The Goldsholl Associate’s sponsored films thoughtfully present the views of their client and subjects, while Rod Nordberg offers a unique on-the-ground perspective of the newly formed Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies or “School Without Walls” – a bold experiment by the CPS that operated from 1970-1991.

The Goldsholls considered filmmaking a cerebral process that if allowed could thrive on serendipity. The firm’s two films made for the Chicago Board of Education are no exception, with the subjects at hand often mirroring the playfulness and experimentation of the firm’s own bustling design studio. The films introduce viewers to newly instated programs within the CPS from the early to mid 1960’s by simply presenting facts and quietly observing each program. Often the films present vérité-style footage of active classrooms as well as non-scripted voices of students, teachers and parents. The non-obtrusive camerawork and candid voices in these films give them a distinct humanist tone, a tone that is often absent from the sponsored film genre.

CPL_Metro

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

Similarly, Rod Nordberg’s Metro!!!: School Without Walls gives voice to the students and staff of the Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies (aka Metro) and more broadly introduces viewers to this progressive “school without walls.” Metro was a four-year high school that was part of the CPS system from February 1970 to September 1991. For Metro students, the city was their classroom. Students took classes at Metro’s Loop headquarters but also at such varied locations as the Art Institute of Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Second City. Unique in the CPS System, Metro sprung from the radical concept that students should take responsibility for their own education and that urban institutions and businesses represented countless and varied opportunities for educational enrichment. As former Metro history teacher, Paula Baron, states,“Metro was in the city, of the city and about the city.” Nordberg’s short film on the school gives us a rare glimpse into the early years of this ambitious program.

All three of these films are sorely at-risk due to uniqueness, and in the case of Metro!!!, severe color fading. To the best of our knowledge, CFA holds the only copies (16mm composite prints) of all three titles. The Goldsholl Associates films reside in CFA’s Mort & Millie Goldsholl Colleciton, while Metro!!! resides in CFA’s Chicago Public Library Collection. We were also very fortunate to receive several additional composite prints and printing elements of Metro!!! from filmmaker Rod Nordberg (thank you Rod!). Unfortunately, all existing composite prints of Metro!!! have color faded over time. This NFPF grant will provide the funds to create elements and strike new 16mm composite prints of all three titles.  It will also allow us to print Metro!!! on more color friendly 16mm film stock, giving us access to an accurate color version of the title for the first time in decades.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the restoration process, and last but not least: Thank you NFPF!

April 29, 2015

Game: a South Shore High School production

This Sunday our guest programmer series, CFA Crashers, returns with selections from Lavon Nicole Pettis. Lavon’s program consists entirely of Chicago-made films that reflect her strong interest in art and community. She chose the Black Cinema House to present her film selections, which include a documentary on acclaimed Chicago sculptor, Richard Hunt, as well as a documentary on inspiring poet, teacher, and Chicagoan, Gwendolyn Brooks. Filling out the program is Game -  a student film made by South Shore High School students in the early 1970′s and Super 8 home movies shot on the near-west side by Chicago artist & muralist, Don McIllvaine. The program will end with a trailer of the upcoming documentary Chronicles of Summer: Childhood in South Shore, which Lavon is producing with director Ife Olatunji.

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Game (1972)

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Game (1972)

I wanted to take some space in our blog to discuss one of these films – Game – in greater detail.  Game was made in 1972 by South Shore High School (aka South Shore International College Preparatory High School) students under the leadership of photography instructor, Jerry Aronson.  The film is an allegory on the wastefulness of war and the duplicity of those who wage it. Filmmaker Wayne Williams, who was 17 at the time, cuts back and forth between a chess game and a guerrilla theater war game to underscore the sense of importance of the fighters and the cynicism of those who control their lives and deaths. Jerry Aronson – mentor, instructor, filmmaker and subject of the best faculty yearbook photo I’ve ever seen (below)- encouraged and made the production possible. It was made with Aronson’s personal Bolex and lights and was shot in one afternoon at South Shore High School. This school is only a few blocks from the Black Cinema House, adding further significance to this Sunday’s venue.

JerryAronson

photo by Curtis Durham

Since 2004, CFA staff and volunteers have discovered rare prints and oddities (the good kind) within the Chicago Public Library collection, including many with local ties. These include children’s films, documentaries, industrial films and sixteen student-made films affiliated with the library’s short-lived Young Chicago Filmmakers competition. These sixteen student films, including Game, were found either individually in cans or compiled onto larger reels. Most are unique or one of kind and have therefore gained processing priority at CFA.  All have been carefully hand inspected, placed onto cores and into archival cans, digitized, cataloged and are available for streaming on CFA’s website.

Now back to the film festival for a bit: From 1971-1973, the Chicago Public Library sponsored the “Young Chicago Filmmakers Festival” – a film festival for “any amateur filmmaker, who is a resident or attending a Chicago high school, junior college or undergraduate college, as well as non-students, 25 years of age or younger.” Local teenagers and twenty-somethings picked up entry forms at their local library branch and submitted films that they made for class, community film workshops or just for the love of it. According to the CPL, the short-lived fest “encouraged film as an art and a means of communication by providing amateur filmmakers with a place to show their works, an audience to view them, and a jury to score them.”

So how exactly did these student film festival films enter the library collection? Unfortunately we are left to speculation. A Chicago Tribune article suggests winning films were accessioned into the library’s collection, while a recent interview with a former CPL Audiovisual Center librarian revealed that these films were just simply not retrieved by the filmmakers and never intended to be accessioned. The later account proves to be more likely, as no library catalog records exist for any of these films. It is also possible that these films were placed on reserve and only available for on-site viewing within the library.

Game

Seated (from left to right): Ronald Tyler, Kenneth Tucker; Standing (from left to right): Dr. Nicholas Kushna (Principal), Steven Boykin, Wayne Williams, Jerry Aronson (Instructor/Mentor)

We are genuinely so happy that Lavon has chosen to screen Game as part of her program, especially given the geographical significance or close proximity of production and exhibition sites. We’ll be screening our original print of Game along with other 16mm films and a handful of Super 8mm home movies from our Don McIllvaine Collection…hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 3, 2015 ,  4PM

Black Cinema House
7200 S. Kimbark Ave.
Chicago, IL 60619

Doors open at 3:30pm. Seating is limited, so we ask that attendees RSVP in advance here. Please note that we cannot guarantee seats for attendees who do not RSVP.
. . .

And while I have your attention…we’re also looking for any contact information for those involved with the production of The Game. We have recently learned from Jerry Aronson that  filmmaker, Wayne Williams, has unfortunately passed away. If any one has any leads for those involved (credits below), please don’t hesitate to get in touch –> anne [at] chicagofilmarchives.org …thanks!

 

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April 28, 2015

Faces and Fortunes Restoration

This afternoon we received our first DVD reference copy of the newly restored film, FACES AND FORTUNES. This 16mm sponsored film was made in the 1960′s by Chicago-based design firm, Goldsholl Associates, as a filmic treatise on “corporate identity” for Kimberly-Clark Corporation. It was directed by Morton Goldsholl, conceived by Millie Goldsholl, executed by Morton & Millie, Wayne Boyer and Larry Janiak and narrated by Hans Conreid (!).

Through live action sequences, delightful animation and simple design aesthetics, the film explores the legacy and importance of “personality” or branding of industries, organizations and companies throughout the ages. Unfortunately the only 16mm prints we previously had of this title were extremely color faded. Thanks to a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation and to the talented folks over at Colorlab (we call them magicians over here), the film has been color corrected back to its original glory and put back onto 16mm film. Take a look below for some stunning before and after shots…and stay tuned for more info on the premiere of this new print (the wheels are turning)!

Faces and Fortunes 11

Faces and Fortunes 10

Faces and Fortunes 9

Faces and Fortunes 8

Faces and Fortunes 5

Faces and Fortunes 4

Faces and Fortunes 3

Faces and Fortunes 2

Faces and Fortunes 1

March 30, 2015

CFA Media Mixer 2015: Meet this Year’s Artists

We are SO EXCITED to announce the artists for this year’s CFA Media Mixer event – our annual video re-mix benefit held at the Hideout. Over the next couple of months each filmmaker will work closely with his musical pairing to create and score a short video piece made from digitized films from our vault. We’re currently loading up our filmmakers with loads and loads of footage of their choosing (plus a few curve balls chosen by our staff). This year’s lineup is so awesomely talented that I had to take a break from writing this and head towards a window and scream a little bit. We hope to see you at the Hideout on Thursday, June 18th to both support CFA and to watch the world premiere of three films made by our artist pairings.

This year’s artists (filmmakers listed first, followed by musician(s)) include:

Amir George + The O’Mys
Jesse Malmed + ONO
Fern Silva + Phil Cohran

More on this year’s artsits:

THE FILMMAKERS:

Amir_George_small

Amir George is a motion picture artist and film programmer born and bred in Chicago. Amir creates work for installation, the cinema and live performance. His video work and curated programs have been screened in festivals and galleries across the US, Canada, and Europe. In addition to founding Cinema Culture, a grassroots film programming organization, Amir is also the co-curator of Black Radical Imagination a touring experimental short film program. He currently teaches and produces media with youth throughout Chicagoland. http://amirgeorge.com

 

Jesse Malmed

Jesse Malmed is an artist and curator, working in video, performance, text, occasional objects and their gaps and overlaps. He has performed, screened and exhibited at museums, microcinemas, film festivals, galleries, bars and barns, including solo presentations at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography, University of Chicago’s Film Studies Center, Chicago Cultural Center among others. Additionally, Jesse programs at the Nightingale Cinema, co-directs the mobile exhibition space Trunk Show, programs through ACRE TV and spends part of each summer as a Visiting Artist Liaison with ACRE. His writing has appeared in Incite Journal, YA5, OMNI Reboot, Big Big Wednesday, Temporary Art Review, Bad at Sports and Cine-File. A native of Santa Fe, Jesse earned his BA at Bard College and his MFA at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was named a “2014 Breakout Artist” by Newcity, is a DCASE In The Works resident and is a 2014-15 Artistic Associate at Links Hall, where he is organizing the Live to Tape Artist Television Festival May 18-24 2015. http://jessemalmed.net

 

Fern_Silva

Fern Silva (b. 1982, Hartford, CT) uses film to create a cinematographic language for the hybrid mythologies of globalism. His films consider methods of narrative, ethnographic, and documentary filmmaking as the starting point for structural experimentation. He has created a body of film, video, and projection work that has been screened and performed at various festivals, galleries, museums and cinematheques including the Toronto, Berlin, Locarno, Rotterdam, New York, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, Images, London and Ann Arbor Film Festivals, Anthology Film Archive, Gene Siskel Film Center, Wexner Center for the Arts, San Francisco Cinematheque, Museum of Art Lima, Cinemateca Boliviana, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, Museum of Contemporary Art/Chicago, Museum of Modern Art P.S.1, and Cinema Du Reel and the Centre Pompidou. He was listed as one of the Top 25 Filmmakers for the 21st Century in Film Comment Magazine’s Avant-Garde Filmmakers Poll, is the recipient of the Gus Van Sant Award from the 49th Ann Arbor Film Festival and was nominated for Best International Short Film at the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival. He received a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, MFA from Bard College and is currently based in Chicago, IL where he teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. http://fernsilva.com

 

THE MUSICIANS: 

OMys_small

The O’My’s are the new sound of Chicago Soul. Rising stars in the midst of a Chicago music and cultural renaissance, The O’My’s have recorded and shared stages with Chance the Rapper, Wyclef Jean, ZZ Ward, Ab Soul, Twista, NoName Gypsy, Mick Jenkins, Save Money, Yo Yo Ma, and Kids These Days. A multi instrument, multi-ethnic crew, The O’My’s are led by co-founders and songwriters, singer/guitarist Maceo Haymes and keyboardist Nick Hennessey. The crew’s rhythm section is comprised of bassist Boyang Matsapola and drummer Barron Golden. Erick Mateo on sax, William Miller on trumpet, and J.P. Floyd (formerly of Kids These Days) on trombone complete the horn section. All Chicago natives, The O’My’s sound captures the tremendous love, pain, warmth and bitter cold found in the city’s streets. Delicate arrangements, a pounding rhythm section and soaring horns provide a perfect home for Haymes’ commanding, smokey rasp and smooth falsettos. Drawing from Chicago’s rich musical traditions of blues, jazz and rock, The O’My’s pick up where their musical forefathers left off, taking Roots Rock’n’Soul to the present. The O’My’s are now in studio recording their third project, Keeping the Faith, a Psychedelic Soul record slated for release in the late fall of 2014. http://theomysband.com + https://www.facebook.com/TheOmysBand

 

ONO

ONO‘s members span several generations, ethnicities, and genders, but at its core the group consists of Travis Travis Travis, P. Michael Ono and Shannon Rose. As Moniker Records explains, “ONOMATOPOEIA BEFORE MUSIC was the band’s founding principle, and this conflation of language and noise has always been deeply, if not explicitly, political…Founded in 1980 and reemerging in the late 00s with astonishing vehemence and an expansive, multi-generational lineup, they’ve been embraced by a more fertile and experimental Chicago scene. travis has always referred to fellow-founder P. Michael ONO as the ‘leader of the band,’ but anchor might be more appropriate—P. Michael’s groundswelling bass and nasty, insectoid beats are unquestionably the glue that binds the sprawling noise. But then there’s travis, whose fierce brilliance carries echoes of punk prophets like Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Gil Scott-Heron but is always pure, raging ONO…ONO’s original mission statement (1980) runs through this music more truly and deeply than ever, so to quote it in full and let it speak for itself: ONO1980// Experimental Performance, NOISE, and Industrial Poetry Performance Band; Exploring Gospel’s Darkest Conflicts, Tragedies and Premises.” http://ono1980.com +  https://www.facebook.com/onoband

 

phil_cohran

“Women in wool hair chant their poetry. Phil Cohran gives us messages and music made of developed bone and polished and honed cult. It is the Hour of tribe and of vibration, the day-long Hour. It is the Hour of ringing, rouse, of ferment-festival. On Forty-third and Langley black furnaces resent ancient legislatures of play and scruple and practical gelatin. They keep the fever in, fondle the fever. All worship the Wall.” – Gwendolyn Brooks, “Two Dedications: II The Wall August 27, 1967″

Born in 1927 in Oxford, Mississippi, Phil Cohran played with Sun Ra’s Arkestra and co-founded the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) before establishing the Affro-Arts Theater in 1967. The honorific title Kelan was bestowed on him by Chinese Muslims on a tour of China in 1991. 

More on Cohran’s career via The HistoryMakers:

In 1950, Cohran joined Jay McShann’s touring swing band, playing with Charlie Parker and Walter Brown. He recorded with McShann for Houston’s Peacock Records where he backed up Big Mama Thornton and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. Drafted that year, Cohran trained Naval bands at Annapolis, Maryland. Discharged in 1952, Cohran moved to Chicago where he studied the Schillinger system and played with Jimmy Bell and Walter Perkins. For the balance of the 1950s, Cohran was a part of Sun Ra’s cutting edge Astral Infinity Arkestra where he played trumpet, zithers and harp on recordings such as Rocket Number Nine and We Travel the Spaceways…Cohran lives in Chicago, where many of his children are noted musicians in their own right.”

In 1966, Cohran’s Artistic Heritage Ensemble included Amina Claudine Myers, Ajramu, Larry King, Eugene Easton, Don Myric, Aaron Dodd, Bob Crowder, Pete Cosey, Charles Hany, Louis Satterfield, Verdeen White and Maurice White. The latter three later formed the nucleus of the musical group Earth, Wind and Fire, utilizing the thumb piano sounds pioneered by Cohran. One of his 1966 concerts at 63rd Street Beach in Chicago drew 3,000 people. As founding director of the Affro Arts Theatre in 1967, Cohran hosted a weekly cultural extravaganza that featured poets like, Haki Madhubuti (Don L. Lee), Carolyn Rodgers and Useni Eugene Perkins; dancers like Darlene Blackburn and Alyo Tolbert; and musicians from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) that he founded with Muhal Richard Abrams. In 1968, Cohran left Affro Arts to teach at Malcom X College.

From 1975 to 1977, Cohran operated Transitions East, a Chicago Southside venue featuring music and health food. In the 1980s, Cohran twice co-chaired Artists for Harold Washington. In 1987, he composed the award-winning music for the Sky Show at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. His music has been featured in countless venues including the Chicago Jazz Festival. Honored numerous times for his musicianship and teaching, Cohran was honored with the name “Kelan” by Chinese Muslims while on tour in 1991.

Cohran lives in Chicago, where many of his children are noted musicians in their own right.

For even more on Cohran and his amazing career we recommend reading “Blues and the Abstract Truth” – by PETER SHAPIRO (The Wire magazine, issue 207, May 2001). http://philcohran.com

Again, we hope to see you on Thursday, June 18th at the Hideout! Head on over to the event page for more info (raffle prizes, DJs, general excitement & more!): http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/current-events/4th-annual-cfa-media-mixer

 

 

January 12, 2015

Introducing the Jerome L. Schulman Collection

Schulman_BeforeAndAfter550

a good ol’ before & after shot of the Schulman Collection

Chicago winters are rough. We all know that. Both your body and emotions seem to be at war with the subzero. But for me, with this battle comes stronger emotions, or rather, the latching onto anything that makes me smile or feel a little more intensely - my neighbor’s frolicking huskies*, a good film, the discussion at last month’s CFA Crashers screening, listening to loud music while I walk to work, and lately, CFA’s Jerome L. Schulman Collection.

In September of 2014, Dr. Jerome L. Schulman and his wife, Joan Rehm, donated thirteen reels of 16mm film to CFA. The films were all produced by Jerome L. Schulman, M.D., who was a Child Psychiatrist in Chicago for more than forty years. He retired in 1993 after serving as Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Northwestern University Medical School and Chairman of Child Psychiatry at The Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. During his long career he authored numerous articles and books as well as wrote and produced a number of award-winning short films. Since September, we have hand inspected, re-housed, digitized and published Dr. Schulman’s films on our website for all to see. 

Schulman_afterDetail

“Another Side of Summer” (1979) inside its new, archival quality home

All of Dr. Schulman’s films relate to the interaction of illness and emotions, particularly in children, and were intended for professional (doctors, nurses and hospital staff) and non-professional (patients and their families) audiences. In the majority of them, young patients and their families speak for themselves about their experiences with illness, handicaps and hospitalization. 

It’s hard to ignore the heaviness of the topics at hand - mortality, life-threatening illness and the psychological effects of hospitalization, to name a few. But often overriding these subjects is a general sense of hope and positivity, especially from the patients themselves. We primarily see this in the documentaries of the collection, including  “Another Side of Summer” (1979) - a film about a summer camp for children with cancer and the campers’ remarkable abilities to cope with his/her respective illness. We see this in “Our Son John” (1973) - a film that deals with the heartwarming interpersonal relationships of a multiply handicapped, retarded child and his family. We see this in “Coping” (1974) - a film about an 11 year old boy dying of leukemia – as well as “Donnie” (1976) and its follow-up film, “Mostly I Can Do More Things Than I Can’t” (1983) - films that follow a young boy and his family as they discuss their experience with hospitalization and the social issues surrounding this experience. The positivity and calmness among these subjects is overwhelming. They truly make me want to be a better person. 

The dramatized films, often geared towards professional audiences, have a different tone. “The Chain” (1968) highlights the many opportunities for error within a hospital setting, or more specifically, the potential for error when prescribing medication to patients. The film is guided by a narrator and unusually upbeat music and utilizes a mix of actors and medical professionals to dramatize various scenarios. Through photo-montage (plus one very trippy intro), “The Child Beater” (1968), presents a dramatized and singular instance of child abuse. As the narrator states, the film “strives for an understanding of a unique problem.” Structurally speaking, “Point of View” (1967) (also streaming below) is the standout from this group. As the title suggests, we see hospitalization through a child’s eyes, or POV, and become witness to the child’s psychological response to hospitalization firsthand (and can we talk about the amazing fish/turtle/hamburger/etc sequence at 18m42s?!).

If you’ve been clicking around to the various titles, you may have noticed the majority of the color films are unfortunately faded. But despite this aesthetic flaw, the content holds strong and is definitely worth exploring. We invite you to browse and view all 13 titles here.

And warm shout outs to our intern, Sally Conkright, for her help with processing the collection. And to Monica Sullivan (the mother of John in “Our Son John”) for reaching out with appreciation and support…it was felt! So happy to hear that John is doing well in 2015.

*Huskies

November 21, 2014

JoAnn Elam Collection Update (part 2)

I thought it was about time to share an update on one of our most complicated and cherished collections – the JoAnn Elam Collection. Over the past few months, we’ve made a lot of progress and discoveries. And just this past week, we received a valuable package from JoAnn’s widower and former USPS colleague, Joe Hendrix. In the package was an unassuming blue-marbled Mead notebook, and inside this notebook were more detailed thoughts and notes by JoAnn about her unfinished film, EVERYDAY PEOPLE.

JoAnnNotebook

Shot & edited between the years 1979-1990, this work-in-progress  (which you can stream herehere) chronicles the work life of Chicago postal workers. It’s primarily based on Elam’s own experiences as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service as well as the political struggles JoAnn and her colleagues faced with the administration and the union.

This Mead notebook isn’t the first behind-the-scenes look into the project we’ve come across. Other notebooks, papers and approximately 250 film, video and audio elements associated with the film already reside here at CFA. Combined with this new acquisition, these materials provide an unparalleled level of access to her creative process, political and artistic ideas, and the practical, economic, and ethical issues that impacted her work as an independent artist and filmmaker (to learn more about JoAnn and to see more samples of her writings, we recommend checking our Jessica Bardsley’s amazing CFA Media Mixer film here).

So what’s so special about this particular notebook? In it, JoAnn more directly discusses the whys and hows of the project, or rather, offers detailed artist statements & musings and even notes on filming techniques and video equipment.

The first page of the notebook (pictured below. click for a larger view!) is my favorite. I know I’m kind of “in the zone” here, but it’s the type of reading that makes me wish I could time travel to meet and chat with JoAnn. It’s so personal. Raw but with a playful tone.

Elam_EverydayPeople_Notebookp1

Also in the notebook are notes on how to use various film and video editing equipment, including this great rendering (click for a larger view) by JoAnn:

Elam_VideoDiagram

There’s so much more to explore with JoAnn’s papers and ephemera…but to not bore you with my own musings & romantic sentiments, I’ll move on to JoAnn’s collection as a whole. In the past few months, we decided to organize the collection finding aid into series. We did this to help researchers and viewers gain an efficient grasp of her collection. The series include:

SERIES I: Finished Films, Home Movies and Sketches by JoAnn Elam
SERIES II: EVERYDAY PEOPLE Work Prints, Elements and Outtakes by JoAnn Elam
SERIES III: Medical Films by James O. Elam, M.D.
SERIES IV: Collected Films, Videos and Audio

The prints and elements in these series have all been inspected and re-housed, but not all have been digitized and published to the finding aid (so please stay tuned as we add more to these series in the upcoming months!). In general, we hope this organization helps people access (both virtually & intellectually) JoAnn’s collection more easily.

I’d also like to point out that we originally were going to separate JoAnn’s personal films (Series I) into sub-series (home movies, finished films, etc), but this just felt weird to us. Who are we to judge or determine what’s a home movie or sketch and what’s a finished film?…especially since JoAnn left us with such insight (& even a “manifestette“) regarding her filmmaking process. This kind of ambiguity is what makes JoAnn’s collection complicated, but also what makes her collection so unique and special. In the end, we kept her films together and invite you to dig through her varied filmography here. And also don’t forget to check out her father’s fascinating medical films here. As as I hinted at above, we will be adding more films and media to these series in the upcoming months. And who knows…perhaps another update post is in store.

Endless thanks again to Susan Elam, Chuck Kleinhaus, Joe Hendrix, Michelle Puetz, Kenneth Belcher and Sandy Ihm for their continued help and support with JoAnn’s Collection. Plus special shout outs to Lauren Alberque and Travis Werlen for their help in processing the collection.

 

Pic of JoAnn

Elam_IllinoisFilmmakersBook_Bio

Elam_IllinoisFilmmakersBook_Statement

 

September 12, 2014

Announcing our new YouTube Channel: “Wrestling From Chicago”

“This is Russ Davis, ringside, International Amphitheatre Chicago…”

“This is Russ Davis, ringside, International Amphitheatre Chicago…”

We are proud to announce the launch of our new YouTube page, Chicago Film Archives presents “Wrestling from Chicago.” The channel consists of digitized wrestling films from our Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection, and with one hundred videos already uploaded, visitors will have the opportunity to binge watch golden age wrestling predominantly shot in the early 1950s. To read more about the history and contents of the Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection, please visit its page here.

The wrestling matches found in this collection were filmed in Chicago’s International Amphitheatre and feature ringside narration by Russ Davis. The films were produced by Imperial World Films aka Imperial Wrestling Films (IWF), a production company started by Davis and his wife Sylvia in 1949. Russ Davis had formerly worked for Chicago’s WBKB as one of television’s earliest wrestling announcers. IWF filmed and edited the wrestling events in Chicago and subsequently distributed the finished films to television stations throughout the United States.

Bruiser and Thesz

One challenge in organizing and publishing this collection has been that many of the reels are labeled with identical titles. This means that when two reels have the same title, they could be duplicate copies of the same wrestling match, different production elements from one match (negative, soundtrack, workprint), one long match that continues onto a second reel, or a different match that features the same wrestlers. Another publishing challenge was that many of the reels included multiple bouts or match-ups on a single reel. For ease of viewing on our new channel, we edited down these compiled reels into distinct streaming links.

We encourage everyone to explore the channel and delve into the colorful world of faces and heels: see the Teuton Terror Hans Schmidt take on Killer Kowalski in a grudge match! See Ivan Rasputin, Chest Bernard and Fritz von Schacht team up to take on Don Beitelman, Farmer Don Marlin and Pat O’Connor in a 3-on-3 Australian tag team match! See June Byers apply her ‘Byers Bridge’ finishing move on Penny Banner! All that and much more on the new page, Chicago Film Archives presents “Wrestling from Chicago.”

Staff favorites:

Travis’ Top Five Wrestlers:
Dick the Bruiser
Fuzzy Cupid (not afraid to fight dirty)
Haystacks Calhoun
Yulie Brynner
Farmer Don Marlin (don’t make him mad… you wouldn’t like him when he’s hoppin’ mad)

Anne’s Top Five Wrestlers:
Yulie Brynner (“the world’s ugliest woman”)
Yukon Eric (he wrestles in bootcut jeans…hello!)
Lisowski Brothers (for that glistening pre-bout attire)
Shirley Strimple (blinding platinum blonde)
Gorgeous George (and his butler!)

Nancy’s Favorites:
June Byers
Penny Banner
Yulie Brynner
and the droll (devil-may-care) announcer, Russ Davis

 

Davis_flyer

 

Russ Davis posing ringside

Announcer Russ Davis posing ringside

 

Verne Gagne taking it to Great Togo

Verne Gagne taking it to Great Togo

 

"To a Valued Friend from Verne Gagne" (Click for larger image)

“To a Valued Friend from Verne Gagne”

 

Davis_Sylvia

“IWF President Sylvia Davis handles last minute details for evening’s ‘shoot’ of Amphitheatre show”

 

"Director Frank Diaz edits completed works prints of a wrestling shoot: three reels house film from three separate cameras along with a magnetic sound track. To effect perfect sound-motion sequence, all four films must be kept in sync during editing.

Director Frank Diaz edits completed works prints of a wrestling shoot: three reels of house film from three separate cameras along with a magnetic sound track. To effect perfect sound-motion sequence, all four films must be kept in sync during editing.

 

Russ Davis

Russ Davis

 

 

August 4, 2014

45 years ago….the Chicago Apollo 11 Parade

As Collections Manager at CFA, I love finding connections among our collections, or better yet, finding documentation of the same event spread across various collections. Whenever this happens I admittedly find myself daydreaming of filmmakers crossing paths…possibly chatting with each other, comparing cameras and stocks. 

In the context of our collections, having multiple films shot on the same day of the same subject is a fairly common phenomenon for big and notable public events. Examples of this include the ’33 Chicago World’s Fair, the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention, or more generally, rowdy Chicago parades. One of my favorite Chicago “same day” subjects is the Apollo 11 parade, which took place 45 years ago this month (August 13, 1969 to be exact) in downtown Chicago. Thousands gathered to get a glimpse of the first humans on the Moon aka Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, Jr. To celebrate this sapphire anniversary, here are stills and films of the parade found across genres and collections…plus one special guest appearance courtesy of Tom Palazzolo!

Our first example is a social-issue documentary by Dewitt Beall….

LORD THING (DeWitt Beall, 1970, 16mm.; found in CFA’s DeWitt Beall Collection)

This Thursday, CFA is delighted to premiere the 16mm restoration of LORD THING as part of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s 20th annual Black Harvest Film Festival. The film chronicles the genesis and transformation of the Conservative Vice Lords, one of Chicago’s oldest street gangs. In one particular scene, an “LSD” (Lords, Stones & Disciples) coalition marches on city hall during the Apollo 11 parade festivities. Along with LSD protests at various Chicago construction sites, the march took place to encourage the hiring of black youth for city sponsored construction projects. Unlike the other examples highlighted below, LORD THING doesn’t attempt at capturing the astronauts or parade as a whole, but rather keeps it lens tight on the LSD and their colorful berets.

Now from social-issue documentary to unedited B-Roll….

APOLLO 11 PARADE (Rhodes Patterson, 1969, 16mm.; found in CFA’s Rhodes Patterson Collection)

Chicagoan Rhodes Patterson wore many professional and artistic hats during his lifetime; he was a designer, cinematographer, photographer and writer. In the mid 1950s, Patterson started working for the Container Corporation of America (CCA), writing much of their advertising material, designing internal publications, and documenting various aspects of the corporation and its activities. The diverse subject matter and style of Patterson’s films reflect the interconnected communities of industrial and graphic design, commercial and industrial film production, fine art, and architecture in Chicago. Whether made “just for fun,” as documentation, or for commercial purposes, his films reflect his humor, interest in art and design, imagination and creativity. One unedited reel in his collection captures the Apollo 11 parade from various vantage points. Here it is streaming in full below:

+ my favorite shot of the film…a girl with her 8mm camera:

and now from B-Roll to home movie…

ASTRONAUTS PARADE 1969 (Carl Godman, 1969, 8mm.; found in CFA’s Carl L. Godman Collection)

CFA recently acquired the Carl L. Godman Home Movie Collection- a collection of films documenting the Godman family of Chicago and Evanston from the early 1960′s to mid 1970′s. It contains a whopping 95 reels of 8mm film, the majority of which were shot when 8mm Kodachrome was at its most saturated prime – the early to mid 1960′s.  Included among birthday, holiday and vacation films was a single reel documenting the family’s experience at the parade as well as attempts at capturing the famed three – Buzz, Neil and Michael. Stay tuned as we begin to publish streaming films of this exciting new home movie collection on our site. In the meantime, here are stills from the aforementioned reel appropriately titled “Astronauts Parade”:

and now from home movie to educational film…

THE METOOSHOW: “Where Does My Street Go?” (Gordon Weisenborn, c. 1969, 16mm.; found in CFA’s Jack Behrend Collection)

The MeTooShow was a Chicago produced educational program, focusing on children’s interactions and interpretations of the world around them. It was made by Chicago-born Gordon Weisenborn, a prolific director of educational and sponsored films (and creator of a CFA favorite, MURAL MIDWEST METROPOLIS). CFA is lucky to have a handful of Weisenborn titles in our Jack Behrend Collection, including two episodes of the Meetooshow. Unfortunately, though, both episodes are severely color faded. In the show’s  “Where Does My Street Go?” episode, footage of the city and its people are intercut with children at play within the classroom, providing real-world examples of their imaginative play. One of these city scenes features footage of our topic at hand, including shots of the astronauts and a streamer-lined LaSalle Street (pictured below with the show’s opening title card).

and now from educational film to experimental documentary…

YOUR ASTRONAUTS (Tom Palazzolo, 1970, 16mm.; courtesy of  Tom Palazzolo)

Chicago filmmaker (& legend) Tom Palazzolo generously offered us permission to stream his 1970 film YOUR ASTRONAUTS, which captures his distinct and witty perspective of the parade. During a recent phone conversation with Tom, he described the parade as “just one of those electric days.” He found it most intriguing that the majority of the crowd schlepped in from the burbs. To emphasize the strangeness of this suburban takeover, Tom added a soundtrack of cafeteria noise over footage of parade attendees (interpret as you will). Here it is in full courtesy of Tom:

+ one of my favorite shots from the film:

 

For the time being, that’s it for Apollo 11 Parade footage at CFA. We’ll continue to add to this post as we come across any additional footage. And this may be stating the obvious, but loads and loads of photographs and films (especially home movies) of the parade exist outside of our vault. I recommend checking out the Chicago Tribunes collection of photos here (the bunnies!).  

 

July 14, 2014

Nancy in the Tribune!

(E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune)

This past weekend CFA’s Executive Director, Nancy Watrous, was spotlighted in the Chicago Tribune. Take a look here or read below….

 

Nancy Watrous, film archivist

 

Executive director of Chicago Film Archives preserves pictures of the city in reel time

July 13, 2014|By William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers

Being executive director of Chicago FilmArchives has its perks. Why, you could sit all day and watch the movies of Margaret Conneely (an amateur Chicago filmmaker who worked in the latter half of the 20th century).

Not that Nancy Watrous has the time. Her calendars are full running the CFA, a nonprofit in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood that collects, preserves and makes available to the public films reflecting Chicago and Midwest history and culture that otherwise would be lost. It hosts events and has films viewable on its website, chicagofilmarchives.org.

Watrous, born in Riverside and raised in Glen Ellyn, was the moving force in establishing the CFA, which was incorporated in 2003. It was a natural progression for someone who quit school (Miami University in Ohio) to travel and later went to work in the film industry. When the Chicago Public Library was looking for a home for its collection of 5,000 films, Watrous was the right person at the right time.

Part of the library’s collection were the films of Conneely.

“She used to do these fiction story films, using family and friends,” Watrous said. “They all had this dark streak running through them. The first one we saw, we thought it was a mistake. But then we watched more. Now her films have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in London. Her work is traveling.”

Watrous, who lives in Chicago, is married and the mother of a 19-year-old son. What follows is an edited transcript.

Q: Were you always a film buff?

A: One of the places I took off to when I was in my early 20s was New Orleans. I got introduced to the film business there. I met a producer who had come out of New York, producing trailers. We talked, and he said he’d hire me once he got started. And he did. I was a production coordinator, I took script notes, arranged for locations. Later I got hired as an assistant in a prop department for films. My first film was “J.D.’s Revenge” (1976). When I moved back to Chicago (where she got a degree in Latin American studies and international relations from the University of Illinois at Chicago), I stayed in the business. This was late ’79.

Q: Did you just advance through the ranks?

A: I had a background in film production. I’ve been a (Directors Guild of America) assistant director (for) commercial and industrial films and feature films in Chicago. I worked on “Nothing in Common” (1986) with Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks. That’s how I made my living during the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Q: How was the CFA born?

A: I heard about the Chicago Public Library’s collection, and that they were getting rid of it (the library was moving to a new location). There was an experimental filmmaker who made a little noise because he heard the films were going to be thrown out. I went to the library and made a proposal that before they got rid of the films they do an assessment. They had about 5,000 films. I made the case for keeping the collection together, with the idea that I could help decide where the collection would be placed. … It became clear nobody wanted all the films. … Eventually they offered the collection to us if I’d start a nonprofit. I had help from people in film preservation, and people from the University of Chicago graduate program. We were offered space in a building on LaSalle Street, free. We used that for awhile — we actually broke their elevator; films are heavy. We decided we had to take this seriously. So we found the space we’re in now.

Q: And the library’s films were just a start.

A: Industrial films, home movies, experimental films. We now have 93 film collections, 20,000 films. A lot of the collections are amateurs, home movies, industrial films, all genres. Documentaries.

Q: People don’t think of Chicago as a film center.

A: Historically, the work that comes out of Chicago has been ignored. Chicago has always had a second position with regard to the coasts, definitely with the film industry.

Q: How? Why?

A: In Los Angeles, New York, even Austin now, it’s a major industry. Ever since I was young, people asked, “How can we become like Los Angeles, become like New York?” I’ve come to realize Chicago has always been huge for incubation. It doesn’t have the industry constraints or business constraints you have to deal with in L.A. or New York. (People in Chicago) do wonderful work, often more brilliant than things people do in those other places. Artists and musicians don’t have those standards they have to live up to. They can work outside the box and do work that’s unexpected, not derivative.

Q: What draws people to these films?

A: I think there’s a human continuity component that focuses on films from before our time, and people want current and past films to be there for the future. It’s part of the human continuum, whether it’s researchers who want to learn about architecture that no longer exists or people who want to learn about social movements or people who come to Home Movie Day (a CFA event where people can share their home movies; this year it’s Oct. 18 at the Chicago History Museum).

Q: The films you get, what condition are they in?

A: Some of them, it depends on how often they were used. And it depends on the stock. In the ’60s and ’70s the stock faded easily. That’s what got Martin Scorsese into preservation; he saw that films were deteriorating.

Q: Talk about some of the collections.

A: We’ve got a pro wrestling film collection from the ’50s from California. It’s one of our favorites. We got it from Russ and Sylvia Davis (who lived and worked in Chicago for many years); they produced these wrestling matches. He was the commentator. Very dry sense of humor. They’re really entertaining to watch. The cans were rusted out, but the films were in great shape. Then there’s Frank Koza’s collection. He was a newsreel photographer who passed last year. We haven’t been able to process (the collection) but Frank had over 1,000 reels. It’s one we really want to get to, but we have another large collection we have to do. Travelogues. Right now I’m looking for funding for the travelogues.

Q: What do you do with films when you get them?

A: We stabilize them. We hand inspect them and enter any data, put on a new leader, fix splices. It’s pretty time-consuming.

Q: Do you learn the history of some of these collections?

A: With a lot of the filmmakers, we try to get there and film them. Margaret Conneely was one of our first collections. We got her on film. She was in her late 80s when I first met her. (She died in 2007.) I think she’s a clever filmmaker, very funny and pretty bold.

Q: Any personal favorites?

A: I love the Margaret Conneely collection in general. Another film we’ve got that I also like is “The New World of Stainless Steel.” On the can the title was “Iran,” and on the leader was “Iran.” We put it on a projector, and it was this industrial film by Republic Steel. Hilarious. It was made in 1959 or ’61. Everyone is talking about all the uses of stainless steel. It’s very surreal. I haven’t found it anywhere else. It was in phenomenal condition.

Q: Do you have a favorite discovery?

A: There are really so many great finds, I can’t say I have a favorite. The Ruth Page collection goes back to the 1920s. There are hundreds of films of her performing that no one has ever seen. And they were sitting in a closet, these explosive, decaying nitrate films. Because she was so well known we were able to get funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Donnelley Foundation to get the film stabilized.

Q: Do you get random calls from people who have old film?

A: Yes, we do. There’s a lot of people who can’t bear to throw away any of their film reels.

Q: What can we get out of these old films?

A: We’re building this historical picture, a 20th-century picture, of Chicago through these films. But not famous events; life behind the scenes. We’re building this century of Chicago through these orphan films.

Q: Do you dream of finding a treasure trove of old films?

A: Yes, every film archivist does. The mother lode. You might find footage, even if it’s damaged, of 1909 Chicago. But most (film) from before 1920 is lost, 90 percent is the number they use. That mother lode isn’t as important as the orphan films.

Q: To do what you do, a person has to be very orderly and precise. Did that come naturally to you? Can a person improve that skill in themselves?

A: I think all archivists have an “organizing streak” to them. We all like order. But it’s not necessarily because that’s how our minds work. In my case my brain seems to take in different influences and messages all at once and on top of each other. … It’s sometimes pure chaos up there and it’s very useful to have organizing tools to deal with my very unorganized mind. I particularly like color-coding. I recommend color-coding for everyone.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: I don’t have a lot. I’m sort of angry because I like to travel. That’s one thing I worry about; everybody does. Everybody today is too busy with their jobs. I feel that sometimes you have to walk away from your job a little so you can come back (recharged).

Q: Where would be the first place you’d travel to if expense were not an issue?

A: Brazil. My husband grew up there, and he, our son and I went there a few years ago. We spent a lot of time with a large Brazilian family he became close with while growing up.

Q: Are you a music person?

A: I love jazz. That’s worked out here because there are silent films, and we’ve been partnering and commissioning jazz musicians to score some of them.

Q: Who are some of the artists you enjoy? Maybe someone who needs more fame?

A: I’m lucky that I know (music writer) Peter Margasak because he turns me on to current names that bring me to that same zone where I was years ago. So I’ve come to know Mike Reed’s work a little, David Boykin and Jeff Parker. Not sure if they deserve or need more fame but maybe more money.

Q: Who has influenced your life? A great filmmaker?

A: There’s many people, but probably my first was when I studied dance with Frances Allis. She was probably in her 70s. She was a modern dancer and toured the world. She was such an artist. She taught us how to move. She was one of the first who knocked my socks off. I never became a great dancer; I was an OK dancer, though. But it went beyond dance. She taught us how to take in and appreciate the different aspects of art. She was the real deal.

Q: Do you have an all-time favorite film, not one at the archives?

A: John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence.”

Q: At the movies, popcorn or Raisinets?

A: Twizzlers. I don’t like raisins. And the quality of movie theater popcorn got bad somewhere along the line.

bhageman@tribune.com

Drawing inspiration

“I’m inspired by what I don’t know yet,” Nancy Watrous said. “As I get older, and my experiences accumulate and the people I meet and engage with expands, I realize how much more there is to know and understand. What I don’t know feels a lot more vast and more exciting to me than when I was younger.”

July 3, 2014

Ruth Page Collection Update + a Surprise Find

RUTH PAGE COLLECTION UPDATE…

We’re almost finished uploading all of the Ruth Page films to the Ruth Page Collection Finding Aid (we have about 25 films more to go). After that we will be uploading the collection’s videos, whose formats range from 2″ and 1″ open reel formats to the more familiar cassette varieties of Betacam and Betacam SP.  Thanks to a grant from the NEA and Donnelley Foundation, we were able to ship the tapes out to Bay Area Video Coalition to have digital preservation files made of each video. Be on the lookout for these uploaded videos in the upcoming months! The content of the videos range from oral history type interviews with Ruth Page collaborators to taped rehearsals and performances.

Pamela Krayenbuhl

I’d also like to remind you all that none of these Ruth Page Collection films or videos are fully cataloged quite yet (more on our decision to publish these materials early here). But we have good news! Thanks to another grant from the NEA, we’re currently in the beginning stages of cataloging. As we’ve mentioned before, describing a dance collection can be tricky and requires a deep understanding of dance and dance history.  We are delighted to welcome Pamela Krayenbuhl on board to complete this project. Pam is a PhD student in Screen Cultures and a Mellon Foundation Fellow in Interdisciplinary Studies at Northwestern University, and holds an MA in Screen Cultures and a Graduate Certificate in Critical Theory from Northwestern as well as a dual BA with highest honors in Rhetoric and Interdisciplinary Studies from U.C. Berkeley. Her research focuses on screendance, primarily dance film, while her other academic interests include intermediality, adaptation, authorship, and American popular culture. Pam is also a ballet dancer, choreographer, photographer, and poet. Pam’s dance background and academic interests will certainly prove invaluable throughout the year long process to catalog CFA’s Ruth Page Collection dance films and videos.  

A SURPRISE FIND….

While uploading the remaining films we came across what we think to be a pretty rare find. It’s a 16mm camera original reversal print featuring another pioneering Ruth of dance – Ruth St. Denis (1879 – 1968). In the reel (embedded below) Ruth performs her famous East Indian Nautch dance….enjoy!

 

 

June 24, 2014

Introducing CFA CRASHERS

**CORRECTION** – please note the new start time of 6:00PM 

Exciting news! We have a new film series in the works. It’s called CFA CRASHERS and it starts this August (over happy hour) at the Hideout.

We’ve invited some of our favorite locals to guest curate a program of CFA films all their own (no rules or strings attached). The general motivation behind the series is to have a lot of different communities and voices engaging with our materials, as we’re increasingly interested in collaborating with those who are eager to mix it up with the CFA films in ways not thought of before. It’s also a nod to those around town who make us proud to call Chicago home -or selfishly, a good excuse for us to collaborate with some people we admire ; )

So…mark those calendars (!) and join us at the Hideout the second Tuesday of every month. Expect a mix of films and topics, ranging from women in the workplace to local architecture and the existence of UFOs, all of which will be presented in 16mm thanks to our tabletop Eiki. Each program will begin roughly at 6:30PM 6:00PM (feel free to stop by early!) and end at 8PM before the Hideout’s live music programming commences. And we realize most of you might be craving a snack or dinner around that time (we sure do). We’ve got food trucks and general snacking options in the works…stay tuned !

Now let us introduce you to our guest programmers aka Crashers: 

August 12, 2014: JESSICA HOPPER 

Jessica Hopper kicks off the series with two films about women in the workplace.  Jessica is a Chicago-based music journalist and the author of The Girls Guide to Rocking. She is the music editor at Rookie, an editor at The Pitchfork Review and an advice columnist for the Village Voice. An anthology of her criticism is due out next spring.

WOMEN IN BUSINESS (1980, LSB Productions, 16mm., Color, Sound, 24 min., found in CFA’s Chicago Public Library Collection)
Six different women who have successfully started their own business are profiled in this upbeat motivational film. Owners of a moving company, a security guard firm, a cooking school, a commodities brokerage & other businesses demonstrate how entrepreneurial spirit & hard work have made dreams into satisfying realities.

THE WILLMAR 8 (1980, Lee Grant, 16mm., Color, Sound, 50 min., found in CFA’s Chicago Public Library Collection)
Activist, actor and director Lee Grant shares the story of eight unassuming, apolitical women in America’s heartland–Willmar, Minnesota–who were driven by sex discrimination at work to take the most unexpected step of their lives and found themselves in the forefront of the struggle for women’s rights. Risking jobs, friends, family and the opposition of church and community, they began the longest bank strike in American history in a dramatic attempt to assert their own equality and self-worth.

event link: http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/current-events/cfa-crashers-jessica-hopper  

 

September 9, 2014: THE-DRUM 

Chicago production duo The-Drum consists of Jeremiah Chrome and Brandon Boom. Since arriving on the hybrid online electronic music scene in 2010, the two have put their touch on a variety of impressive releases (Le1f , Dre Green and as part of their R&B collective, JODY, to name a few). Just this past month they released their label’s debut compilation, Lo Motion Singles Vol. 1, which features 14 cuts of faded R&B from The-Drum and friends. More on Chrome and Boom here (via Britt Julious & Noisey).

Film program TBA
October 14, 2014: LEE BEY

Architecture Critic, Lee Bey, is one of Chicago’s keenest observers of architecture and urban planning. For four years he published the WBEZ blog, “Beyond the Boat Tour,” and before that he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Central Area Committee  and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Planning and Design for Chicago Mayor Richad M. Daley. Today, Bey is civic engagement and special projects manager at the Arts Incubator with The University of Chicago Arts and Public Life Initiative, where he manages strategic initiatives and partnerships with arts organizations, community groups and civic leaders.

Film program TBA
November 11, 2014: CHRISTEN CARTER

Christen Carter founded the Busy Beaver Button Company in 1995 after spending some time in England, where buttons (called “badges” over there) were still very popular. She moved back to the States and started making buttons for bands and record labels. Busy Beaver has gone from a one-woman operation in Christen’s college apartment to a Logan Square storefront with fifteen employees. Over the last 17 years, the Busy Beaver crew has overseen over 60,000 designs and produced millions upon millions of custom buttons for clients like Brooklyn Brewery, NBC Entertainment, The Art Institute of Chicago, Threadless, WordPress as well as thousands of bands, non-profits, small businesses and other great folks. Along with her brother, Joel Carter, Christen also founded The Busy Beaver Button Museum, one of the world’s only museums dedicated solely to pinback buttons.The museum, which is located at the company’s Logan Square headquarters, displays over 9,000 historical buttons and is open to the public M-F from 10-4 or by appointment.

Film program TBA
December 9, 2014: MIMI NGUYEN

Mimi Thi Nguyen is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her first book, called The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages, focuses on the promise of “giving” freedom concurrent and contingent with waging war and its afterlife (Duke University Press, 2012). She continues to understand her scholarship through the frame of transnational feminist cultural studies, and in particular as an untangling of the liberal way of war that pledges “aid,” freedom, rights, movement, and other social goods, with her following project on the promise of beauty. Nguyen was recently named a Conrad Humanities Scholar for 2013-2018, a designation supporting the work of outstanding associate professors in the humanities within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois.

She is also co-editor with Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu of Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America (Duke University Press, 2007), and co-editor with Fiona I.B. Ngo and Mariam Lam of a special issue of positions on Southeast Asians in diaspora (Winter 2012). She publishes also on queer subcultures, the politics of fashion, and punk feminisms. In 2012 and 2013, she went on the POC Zine Project/Race Riot! Tour to discuss and read from zines by people of color.

Film program TBA
January 13, 2015: GREG EASTERLING

Chicago native Greg Easterling got his start in radio while in twelfth grade at New Trier High School and later honed his skills at the University of Illinois’ WPGU. Now we know Greg as the voice of Chicago’s WDRV (97.1FM) overnight show, which airs Monday through Friday from midnight-5AM.

Film program TBA

 

May 15, 2014

Earthkeeping, Episode Six: “Help Yourself”

The final episode of Earthkeeping delves into behavioral concepts such as nature vs. nurture, and investigates the ways in which the environment shapes personal behavior. Several psychological questions are raised, such as the degree to which an individual may act independently of his/her environment.

The work of Dr. Roger Park, who spent 25+ years living in and studying a small Kansas town, is used as a case study for understanding how social etiquette is informed by different environments. This relationship is introduced as the “behavior setting”, and described as the “intersection of two environments: the physical and the social”. The “environment” in Oskaloosa is depicted as continuously in flux; it is constantly evolving depending on the actions of Oskaloosa’s citizens.

Once again, the members of Second City provide interludes to the program by staging a parody game show. On “This Was Your Life”, the host (Jim Fisher) runs through some of the important chapters of Jesus Rodriguez’ (John Belushi) life. These events include the destruction of Jesus’ childhood home due to urban renewal developments and making various acquaintances with characters like Harry the Junkie (Harold Ramis). The selected events of Jesus’ life are presented as a snowball effect, leading Jesus to life on the streets with a $90/day dope habit, and eventually doing multiple stints in prison (convicted by “an all-white jury and an all-white judge”).

Thanks for watching and reading, and please check out the other DeWitt Beall works we have streaming here! Additionally, stay tuned for more information regarding the “Lord Thing” restoration premiere at the Siskel Film Center this fall.

May 1, 2014

Helen Balfour Morrison (1901-1984)

Self Portrait, Helen Balfour Morrison

Our FIRST STEPS program tonight spotlights dancers/choreographers Ruth Page and Sybil Shearer, but let’s not forget about another talented woman behind these films – Helen Balfour Morrison. Helen collaborated with Sybil Shearer to produce a large collection of extraordinary dance photographs and films. Helen was behind the camera, while Sybil was in front of it.

The Morrison-Shearer Film Collection, which is owned by the Morrison-Shearer Foundation and housed and cared for by CFA, contains over 430 16mm films, 195 8mm films and 200 1/4″ audio reels. Almost all of the moving-image materials were shot by Helen.

Helen Balfour Morrison (1901-1984) was born in Evanston, Illinois, the daughter of Fannie Lindley and Alexander Balfour, an engineer and a proud, aristocratic Scotsman. When Helen was 17, her mother died, and Helen took a job in a photography studio to help support the family. At this studio she learned to use the portrait camera and helped expand the studio’s business with creative ideas of her own.

In the 1930s, Helen embarked upon a personal photography project – the Great Americans series. She photographed some 200 notable personalities including Robert Frost, Helen Hayes, Nelson Algren, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, Mies van der Rohe, Amelia Earhart, Jane Addams, and Saul Bellow. Most of these portrait sessions took place in Chicago or in New York and were exhibited widely in museums throughout the country.

In 1942, Morrison met Sybil Shearer, and although her portrait work and exhibitions of the Great Americans continued, her attention gradually shifted to Sybil as her primary subject. She finally abandoned the Great Americans series in 1945. Her collaboration with Sybil Shearer produced a large collection of extraordinary dance photographs and films, as well as an intense and sensitive documentation of the life of this artist. Today her extensive portfolio remains largely unpublished and unknown, something the Morrison-Shearer Foundation and now, CFA, are working to rectify.

In a real sense, Helen sacrificed her own career to promote that of Sybil. Besides designing the lighting, Helen took over the complete management of Sybil’s publicity, performances, travel arrangements, and hospitality. She experimented with the role of impresario, presenting dancer Ruth St. Denis in 1946 and both dancer Eleanor King and sculptor Richard Lippold in 1948. In 1949 she conceived a short-lived series of programs which she called “Rondo,” presenting other artists, including Uta Hagan, Merce Cunningham, pianist William Masselos, and Frank Lloyd Wright. In later years she made films to record Sybil’s dances, and made one artistic film of her own.

See Helen’s moving-image work tonight at FIRST STEPS  – Thursday, May 1st (7PM) at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash, 8th Floor). More on the program here

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