Oct 29, 2010

Googolplex (1972) by Lillian Schwartz

Of filmmaker, digital artist, and computer pioneer Lillian Feldman Schwartz, filmmaker Jodie Mack (Helen Hill Award recipient and Dartmouth professor) recently wrote (on Facebook): "Love her long time."

In September 2010, Walter Forsberg (filmmaker and NYU Library Research Fellow) introduced me to Lillian Schwartz's work, and to Lillian herself, who we met for a lunch and Orphans talk. Delightful.

She talked about her work with computers, avant garde composers, kinetic sculpture, experimental video at WNET, and of course her 16mm films. Lillian also encouraged us to follow-up with Walter's idea of preserving some of that work. Fortunately, she has kept all the work safe at Ohio State University's Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, home of the Lillian Feldman Schwartz Collection. There, Lisa Iacobellis has been supervising inspection of the many film and audio elements; now Walter and Alice Moscoso (NYU Library preservation department) has have begun to prepare some of them for film to film preservation at Colorlab. The library's finding aid says:

The collection contains correspondence, journals, catalogs, awards, financial records, scripts, publicity materials, clippings, books and articles by or about her, stills, film and video masters, outtakes, and notes on computer-generated films. Correspondents include Nobel Prize winners, famous scientists, musicians, artists, and curators and others still unknown to the general public but who also had a tremendous impact on culture and technology. The collection also includes drawings, computer graphics, and sculptures, as well as sketchbooks, artworks, and drawings going back to when she was a child.

Several Schwartz films are on YouTube. This one, Googolplex (1972), is indicative of the work that emerged from her collaborations with computer scientist Ken Knowlton while she was artist in residence at Bell Labs.

The 1971 film UFOs, by Lillian Schwartz and Ken Knowlton, is one we plan to include on the forthcoming DVD compilation from the Orphan Film Project.


Final note: the short documentary The Artist and the Computer (1976, AT&T) is a profile of Lillian at work.

Oct 27, 2010

Two Mores Reasons to Love

Few knew that when Orphans cofounder Julie Hubbert was on stage in New York discussing the music we heard in the newly preserved 1940 film One Tenth of Our Nation she was half-way through a pregnancy that would bring twins into the world. On September 13, 2010, Mira Lily arrived at 8:50am, followed two minutes later by Max Henry.

From their swell blog --- www.maxandmira.com -- here's Papa Rich's photo of Mother Hubbert (sorry, I couldn't refrain) at home in Columbia with the two dearies.

The scenario was different in September 2002, when film music historian, Professor Julie Hubbert, hosted the 3rd Orphan Film Symposium in the USC School of Music. On that occasion she was clearly expecting and it was the deary named Eleanor who was born ten weeks later.

Ella, soon turning 8, doing some pet parenting while the twins were asleep.

As another symposium cofounder said after visiting this expanding family, Julie Hubbert "is one tough woman."

So tough that as she was waiting to go into labor she was choosing the cover illustration for her new and big book, Celluloid Symphonies: Texts and Contexts in Film Music History. So tough as I recall that after the closing panel of the 2002 Orphan Film Symposium, while everyone else went off to dinner celebrations, pregnant professor Julie stayed behind to do tech breakdown and lock up the music hall.

So Mira, Max, and Eleanor, be proud of your mom (and dad's) toughness.

And, please, gentle colleagues, no Miramax jokes.

Oct 24, 2010

The Orphan Film Project x7 (x2)

The Orphan Film Project. 

Since the Orphan Film Symposium, a biennial, has turned into a year-round endeavor, now seems the time to let all those efforts -- of students, teachers, archivists, labs, historians, curators, media artists -- become better credited as a Project with a capital P.  Informally, we have been working on lower-cased orphan film projects for several years.

The October 23 screening at the Museum of Modern Art was the first time a public event was branded as the Orphan Film Project. The audience responded enthusiastically to the 90-minute program. So let's take that as a good omen for the new surtitle.

Project here connotes a particular definition: a collaborative research enterprise designed to achieve a given aim. The aim remains the same: to identify and preserve all manner of significant but neglected films and to make them accessible and comprehensible. The in-person symposium is the big payoff every other year. The planning and design of the research need not (should not) be centralized. The work continues year-round and in many places. 

The MoMA screening was also an apt moment to "rebrand" the "Orphans" enterprise. The supposed off year for the symposium has been filled with special screening events. Next month, it's an "Orphans of New York" program for the DOC NYC Festival, at the IFC Center. In January 2011, there's an Orphans Redux night at Anthology Film Archives. Plans are afoot for a second Orphans West in Los Angeles next year. And the Wisconsin Film Festival has very recently inquired about adding something to its annual event this coming April. Each of these will have its own flavor of course, but they all stem from ideas, films, talks, and performances from past symposiums. 

Another new undertaking of the Orphan Film Project is issuing DVD compilations. The disc produced for the 7th symposium this past April turned into a fairly major undertaking: 11 titles, some original soundtracks, commentary audio tracks, and written annotations and preservation notes. The technical chops and creative juices came from Walter Forsberg, Jonah Volk, and Stefan Elnabli, working with the terrific collaboration of the NYU Libraries staff, especially Alice Moscoso and Ben Moskowitz in the Bobst Library's preservation department. Colorlab donated services of its top team and Broadway Video aided the pressing of the DVDs. Everyone who came to the symposium got a copy.

Only weeks after the April 2010 symposium wrapped, Messrs. Forsberg and Volk and Mlle. Moscoso decided we could do another DVD. The NYU Libraries is the supporting the production, and Colorlab insists on doing the best possible film-to-video transfers. By happenstance a few of the most likely suspects for inclusion on the DVD were related to the topic of space (as in outer space). Teenage Cosmonauts (1979-80) is a Soviet short found in the CPUSA Collection at NYU. John Lurie's Men in Orbit (1979) is a 16mm film that survives only on a U-matic videotape. And so we are compiling another eclectic group of orphan films, to be distributed (and not sold) in limited edition.  I am particularly excited about working with computer-film pioneer Lillian Schwartz, who made 16mm experimental works while artist in residence at Bell Labs, starting in 1968. 

More on the Project and its projects soon. 

Oct 22, 2010

To Save and Project: The Orphan Film Project x 7

Saturday, October 23
1:30 pm

To Save and Project
MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation

The Orphan Film Project x 7              

Host: Katie Trainor (MoMA Film Collections Manager)
Presenter: Dan Streible (NYU)

Trailer for Orphans 7

Beyond the Images in this Dark Box 
(Russell Sheaffer and Jim Bittl, 2010)

Scratch and Crow (1995, Helen Hill) 16mm, 4ʼ  
Source: Harvard Film Archive

[A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire] (1906, Miles Bros.) 35mm, 13’
Music: Agatha Kasprzyk and Rafael Leloup (NYU Film Scoring)
Source: Prelinger Archives

The Passaic Textile Strike (1926, International Workers Aid) 35mm, 13ʼ
Accompaniment: Avigail Malachi (clarinet) and Elad Kabilio (cello)
Source: NYU Tamiment Library, CPUSA Collection

 Dedication of "Park Row" (1928, Fox Movietone News) 35mm,  6’ 

Television Pictures (1931, Fox Movietone News)

Spain Celebrates Her New Freedom (1931, Fox Movietone News) 35mm, 2’
Source: University of South Carolina, Moving Image Research Collections

With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1938, Henri Cartier-Bresson) 35mm, 20ʼ
Narrator: Juan Salas (NYU)   
Source: Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (alba-valb.org), NYU Tamiment Library

A Letter from Colombia (1963, James Blue, USIA) 35mm, 10’
Source: National Archives and Records Administration

Fluorescent/Azalea (1976, Andrea Callard) 16mm, 4’   
Introduction: Andrea Callard
Source:  NYU Fales Library and Special Collections

8th Orphan Film Symposium, April 11-14, 2012