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L.A. WEEKLY September 23-29, 1983 6 (9 rm A- I genius who constantly played with the interaction between reality, video reality, and fantasy. (One skit, for example, opens with Kovacs in an empty white room. He draws a door on the wall, opens it, and walks through into a room where a TV repairman is working on an imaginary TV set, which he switches on and theres a picture and then off. He leaves the room.
Kovacs cant figure out how to perform this magic, so he draws another door that doesnt open, and rips through the white backdrop to get out of the room.) During a cable show on Kovacs earlier this year, industry people who were interviewed said Kovacs would never be allowed the freedom today to do what he did on live TV yesterday. But in those days TV was still a new medium open to experimentation, and Kovacs was able to achieve tremendous success with the mass public yet still do work that isnt out of place in the midst of the avant-garde videos that make up the bulk of AFIs presentation. In those days there was a great deal of self-consciousness about the medium and what it could be, Rosen says. But no one played with the possible esthetics of TV to the degree that he did. For example: He insisted on bringing classical music into a comedy show, and then played with pure movement as it related to the music on a comedy show.
And some of the skits were quite funny. There are artists who produce art for TV, but there are very few, if any, TV artists. Kovacs was one. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday, and features more than 100 videos, including the work of Robert Wilson and Jean-Luc Godard, as well as music videos, interactive video, artist-in-person presentations and much more. $10 a day for Thurs.
and $15 a day for Fri. and $50 for all events ($45 for students). (by the Doo-Dooettes Tom Recchion and Fredrik Nilsen) into a drumbeat on tape loops (the sound of a door slamming, for example, is repeated 72 times per minute, the rhythm of the human heartbeat). The second half of the soundtrack is romantic, luring. It is a powerful picture of life during wartime in a city most of us know to be at peace.
It is a picture of the deterioration of a civilization, ahd of the dumping grounds where it seeks to contain its deviants. That street corner is an interesting environment, or set, in which to watch the powers that be play themselves out, Branda says. The main downtown police facility was just around the corner, and its interesting that the police didnt do much to stop the violence. In the tape you can clearly see drug deals going down and a man pulling a knife on another man, yet the cops just stroll down the other side of the street swinging their batons menacingly. Nothing in this video is contrived I didnt want to impose my viewpoint 1 wanted to open it up and present the information in a way that the viewer would receive it in a trancelike state, as their own personal vision.
That was also the tack taken by the two USC students who made this years non-fiction winner in the student competition. Gunshot, by Shari Cookson and Adam Bleibtreu, is the story of five gunshot victims, a simple video of talking heads with absolutely no gimmicks or sexy sensationalism; it is, nonetheless, riveting. Shari got the idea for the video after the shooting of John Lennon. Cun control was a big issue, but we didnt want to get into a moral discussion of whether or not to carry a gun we wanted it to be a very personal account, says Adam. We just wanted to convey the point that when you get shot, it hurts, and that stays with you.
The tape of the interviews with by Gloria Ohland After a sneak preview of some of the videos that will be shown at the American Film Institutes third annual National Video Festival this weekend, I was struck again by the power of the medium and the way it can be used to challenge our perception of reality. Id forgotten because of all the drizzle and pap that is served in neatly cut-up hour and half-hour portions on TV. What a criminal waste of time and energy, a seemingly intentional effort to lull the American public into a land of no-thought Branda Millers L.A. Nickel an eight-minute-long edit of 24 hours of videotape shot in front of downtowns Hard Rock Cafe is one of the videos that will show Sunday at AFI. Branda works in the industry as well as on her own, and she had thia to say about the untapped power of the medium: We never see anything real on TV anymore nothing that stimulates us to take an active role in what we are viewing or to experience an emotional response.
And thats ultimately the greatest power of the medium its ability to take an audience there so the viewer can become the dreamer, and not just the passive receiver of information. Branda's video is a radical documentary in which she utilizes Hollywood industry techniques and tribal rhythms to suck the viewer into that wasted dream state that replaces reality on Skid Row. The opening shots of people hanging out and getting high, as cops in cars and cops on motorcycles patrol the periphery, give way to a dreamlike view of the city at night. The soundtrack is composed of random street noise gunshots, breaking glass, sirens, street conversations sounds of chaos that have been synthesized Scenes from (top to bottom) Gunshot, L.A. Nickel and A Tribute to Ernie Kovacs.
J- wr -4T ifanuji a truth about guns and violence that Ive never before encountered in the media. So why cant we see this stuff on TV? Ernie Kovacs is another case in point re the industrys concern with money, marketing and ratings holding back the power of the medium. Robert Rosen, director of UCLAs television archives, has put together a retrospective of Kovacs pioneering TV work. Kovacs was a Creystone has been raped by the film companies that have shot on location there. So Marc became interested in preserving the estate, and he put together a little archives.
Then, when Columbia Studios handed over to AFI a collection of some one million still photographs chronicling its history, Marc was given the job of sorting through and cataloguing them. It took him the better part of four years. As a fringe benefit, he got to keep what he wanted. No one had written any histories of the movie studios in the early 70s, so people began coming to Wanamaker with questions about the history of Columbia, prompting him virtually to take up residence in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library for the next four years to do research. After four years of study I started to compile lists of information and I was shocked to find I'd recorded the histories of 200 film companies even reading pertinent magazine articles into a tape recorder so I could keep the information, Marc says.
People had suggested I write a book on the history of Columbia and instead I found myself writing an encyclopedia! The book project was repeatedly turned down by publishers. Once they saw all my information they SAf imv f-c MARC WAHAMAKER KNOWS the victims is edited in such a way that the tension builds I said, you got the wrong guys, we dont have any money, and he said, maybe thats not what we came here for the tension was so thick you could feel it like soup when he shot me the hole just seemed to get bigger and bigger I felt like a target, just something to shoot at, to have fun with. The videotape brings home HOLLYWOOD producer of historical films and historian for the city of Beverly Hills. And it all happened quite by accident, really. He became an archivist essentially because in this part of the country where history is not reversed nobody else wanted to do it.
He bought most of his photos for a song. And he consumes historical data with an appetite for detail prompted by the awareness that no one else is filing away this information for posterity. It all began at Creystone, the old Doheny mansion on the hill above Sunset and Doheny, West Coast headquarters to the American Film Institute until two years ago. (As one of AFIs first West Coast employees, Marc got to live there as caretaker until AFI moved in in 1970.) He began researching the history of the old mansion (you should see the old aerial photographs, when the hills were covered with fruit trees, Sunset was a dirt road, and the only other houses in the hills were Ginger Rogers, the modest 6tucco where Marc now lives, and the mansion now owned by Phil Spector). There was little thought about preservation at that time, and wjtjp wmjj tmiltlJ said it was too much to successfully package and market.
Even when I cut the project in half for one publisher and submitted half the manuscript I was told it was quite simply too much. In the meantime, he began meeting other collectors and buying books and photo collections People would say to me, Sure, weve got boxes of old photos but we didnt think anyone would want so Id buy them for a song, Marc says. His passion hasnt abated. Hes compiled enough information for another half-dozen books, but hes been too busy locating information, pictures, film locations, sets, props and old film clips for filmmakers and others. And the more he's gotten into the history of the film industry, the more hes gotten into the history of L.A.
The connection is so strong from the aerial photographs you can see that when a studio was built in an area where there was nothing, shortly thereafter the town was built up around it, he says. I suspect you can ask Marc anything about the history of L.A. and he can wax eloquent. The more I research the more I am able to make a career out of this," Marc says. Meantime, his proposed set of encyclopedias keeps growing in size.
enough information about the old movie companies to fill a set of encyclopedias. Read any history of LA. and you'll find his pictures (credited to Bison Archives) throughout. He lands great jobs like historical consultant, film location and prop researcher, appraiser of movie memorabilia. illsmwj au At 36, Marc Wanamaker is probably already the foremost historian on the movie industry and the growth of this city around it.
In the space of ten years he has assembled a formidable archives of photos of old LA. 60,000 photographs neatly filed away in three rooms of his house and fr.V i.
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