Re: David Tetzlaff's rant

From: Jonathan Walley (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Feb 07 2006 - 09:06:34 PST

A few remarks on this thread. I've been teaching film studies and doing
film programming (both in and out of academia) for several years, and
some of the things that have come up on Frameworks over the past couple
days are all too familiar.

First, I think the debate has (at times) conflated two issues. The
first is whether or not video is an adequate form for viewing
experimental film, whether the videos are legitimate copies or not. The
second issue is whether or not making unauthorized video duplicates of
film prints is ethical. Obviously, not all video copies of experimental
films are illegitimate; I purchased a copy of the "by Brakhage" DVD
from Criterion (I also had the Denison Cinema Department and the
Denison Library each purchase a copy), which had Brakhage's "seal of
approval." Since this video was made with the artist's permission and
was purchased (and not duped from someone else's copy), I'm not sure
either of the above-mentioned issues applies. yes, I would prefer to
show films in 16mm, but given the circumstances of the "by Brakhage"
release, is it really problematic if I show the DVD versions instead?

The collection of Maya Deren films released on DVD by Mystic Fire is a
bit more complicated. Deren died well before the advent of home video
and DVD, so we can't ever know for certain how she would have felt
about the video release of her films. Given the tendency toward
medium-specificity talk in her writings, one could argue that she would
not have approved; given how important the promotion of avant-garde
film was to her, one could argue the opposite - that the video release,
while not being perfect, at least got the films circulating more.

All of this is to say that the artist's intent is obviously not always
that the films MUST ABSOLUTELY be seen IN FILM, and that it is not
always even possible to determine what their intent was. That is, we
can't conflate filmmaker's intent with "see it on film or don't see it
at all." The idea that video copies always distort the intended
film-viewing experience to the extent that seeing the film on video
"doesn't really count" as having seen the film needs to be
interrogated, especially as more and more experimental filmmakers, even
the so-called "purists," release their work on video.

The other, distinct, issue is the ethicality of unauthorized
duplication (which, by the way, does not necessarily - that is, by
definition - produce poor-quality copies). I can't say I know exactly
where I fall on this issue - an unauthorized copy of an experimental
film in my personal collection deprives the filmmaker and/or
distributor (those folks fighting the good fight, like FMC and Canyon)
of funds, but on the other hand it enables me as a teacher to expose my
students to said film when: a) I lack the funds to bring the film in as
a print, or; b) I lack the time to arrange the booking and shipping of
the print. This isn't to say that the "wrong" of unauthorized copying
is balanced by the "right" of spreading the word about avant-garde film
by any means necessary, but to point out potentially mitigating factors
related to the practice of copying. I think this reiterates some of
what Tony Conrad said earlier today, and with which I absolutely agree.

On that note: the only solution to the problem of a lack of rental
funds that I have read in this thread is "try harder, the money is out
there." But this simply isn't the case - at least not always.
Departmental/University budget constraints are real, and the financial
gatekeepers cannot always be moved to give you more money.
Grant-writing takes time that teachers don't always have, and grant
applications get refused. Small departments, small towns/cities,
community colleges, etc., don't have the money to support a semester of
avant-garde film screenings. I'm not saying this makes bootlegging
right - I'm asking this: in the very real and often unavoidable
situation wherein a film professor wants to put together a course on
experimental cinema but lacks the funds to adequately fill out the
screening schedule, what, OTHER THAN "GET THE MONEY ANYWAY," is that
person to do? What are some other solutions?

hoping to reconcile (??) the "purists" and the "realists,"

Jonathan Walley
Cinema Department
Denison University
Granville, Ohio
email suppressed

On Feb 7, 2006, at 9:59 AM, Scott MacDonald wrote:

> It's a busy teaching day, but I can't resist a few comments on David
> T's rant.
> 1. If David's posting to this list had been intercepted by Pip and
> revised to suit Pip's personal convenience and ideology, then sent to
> the list under the moniker "David T," my guess is that author David
> would not be pleased. My guess is that he wants his posting to reflect
> his intent (of course, we may wonder what his REAL intent is, but
> since he did post the rant, he presumably thought he knew what he was
> doing, and wouldn't want anyone to fiddle with his work). And since
> his rant is signed, we know he wants to be recognized as "the author."
> And, hell, I want to know what he thinks his intent is and to read
> exactly what he posts.
> 2. Respecting an artist's intent and desires is not the same as
> "worshipping" the artist. My life, and my career as a teacher and
> writer, have been immensely enriched by the work of the filmmakers and
> videomakers whose work is the focus of FRAMEWORKS. This work has
> often been completed as a result of considerable sacrifices by the
> makers and, even when they do get the rentals they ask for their work,
> these rentals rarely pay for the making of the work, much less
> anything more. The least I can do is treat their efforts with
> respect--in a practical sense: I can find the money to pay the rentals
> and I can show the work as the filmmakers would wish it shown. This is
> not "worship," it's simple decency.
> (Actually, to transmute "respect" into "worship" in this context seems
> to me to be a theoretical maneuver that allows for the exploitation of
> these cultural workers. Most of us would agree that worshipping a
> filmmaker is silly, since filmmakers are not in fact deities, but if
> not worshipping also implies not respecting, then, since the makers
> are not worthy of respect, one can do what one wishes with their work,
> including use it without paying for it. That ain't fair.)
> 3. I too have been very impressed by Roger Beebe's efforts in
> Gainesville. If I were close enough, I'd buy him a beer. But it's no
> mystery "how he does it." He works at it. He works to find
> projectors and money and audience. He seems to understand that
> theorizing why something cannot be done is less productive and
> valuable that doing what can.
> Scott
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.