Re: Entry Fee Rereredux

From: Fred Camper (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Mar 11 2006 - 11:48:19 PST

Tony Conrad wrote:

> It is worth bearing in mind that the masochistic tropism of audience
> members...

And there's also the naive tropism of audience members, who turn more
readily to something advertised as a "film festival" than to the one
person shows I would much prefer.

I would much rather go to a one person show of films or videos by Ursula
Unknown, feeling that a whole program of work may give me better
understanding of what an artist whose work I do not know is doing and
even whether I like it or not, than a festival program with a series of
five minute films by Umberto Unknown, Usuama Unknown, Uta Unknown,
Ulrike Unknown. In such a context it is easy to miss things that might
be really tremendous, because sometimes one short film or video by a
really original artist just doesn't have enough time to establish a
viewing context, and gets too easily lost amid others.

In our capitalist system, people organize festivals because they
sometimes "work better" in terms of getting things funded (partly
because filmmakers are willing to pay, partly because of audiences, even
because of sponsorship availability) than other forms of exhibition. I
wish more not arts-oriented not for profits would fund regular programs
of one person shows, shows of older work, et cetera.

When I was young, the prevailing attitude was to arrange to get
filmmakers paid for their work. Around 1970, Brakhage made a stand with
his first MoMA retrospective, and insisted on being paid, and it worked.
(The correspondence around this was published in an issue of the journal
"Caterpillar.") Yet a few year later Hollis Frampton had to plead to
MoMA that he too be paid for a retrospective, and even offered them a
half price deal. I guess there was the naive hope that someone might
even be able to make a living from filmmaking. In the end, even Brakhage
could not, and the institutions took over, most significantly colleges
and universities, but also film festivals and the like. It really
revolts me that at colleges and universities today, instructors think
they can show pirated copies of work or DVDs intended only for personal
use without any payment to the artist. Thus, Canyon's income has
declined as a result of the "by Brakhage" DVD, and the fragile
distribution system is further imperiled. In colleges, the instructor
gets paid, the physical plant people get paid, the electric company gets
paid, the students pay plenty, and the artist gets nothing. It's not
like the people showing artist's work without payment and without
permission are operating outside the money economy; they are living
within it while removing the artist's work from it. (I know there's a
thread from many weeks ago that I still need to post a reply in and
that's slightly related to this, but this is my reply for now. More much
later.) Similarly, when a publication asks me to write for free, I like
to ask whether their printer or Web hosting company is being paid. There
are some publications in which the authors write for free but the
editors are paid!

Maybe those film professors who think they are themselves underpaid
could start charging artists to show their work in their classes? The
logic might be that by exposing the students to the artist's work, the
artist gets better known. Then the professors could increase their
income via these "product placements." (Yes, I'm being bitterly
sarcastic, not serious. This is my idea of humor.)

I have more than once learned that articles I have written have been
distributed to students in college classes, in some cases the same
article being used semester after semester. My response when I first
heard this about one article was to put it on my Web site for free, and
I've put many more there since. But still, in the on-paper distribution
cases, the instructor gets paid, the photocopy store and copier company
get paid, the textbook companies and authors get paid because typically
there are also textbooks required in such classes, the students pay
plenty, and the writer of the distributed articles gets nothing. I can
count on the fingers of one hand the times an instructor has written me
asking permission to distribute articles.

I'm not exactly innocent in this, because in 1973 when I was an
instructor at NYU I got the idea of doing a "course pack" of photocopies
because there were no textbooks adequate for what I was showing. Others
may have done this before me, I don't know, but not much before, and I
didn't know about earlier cases, and came up with the idea myself. At
the time, it didn't occur to me to pay anyplace other than the copy store.

After a legal issue was made of this, I believe that some copy stores
collect royalties now, but I haven't seen anything. (It is not really
practical for me to ask an instructor who wants to distribute 20 copies
of an article of mine to charge 30 cents a copy (or whatever I think
might be fair) and mail me a check.)

I suspect the reason a few people have expressed dissatisfaction with
FrameWorks of late is that so many people post one-liners of agreement,
intentionally silly comments, jokes, things not written in standard
English and thus much harder to read, and so on. Silly jokes are great
between friends, but not everyone here shares everyone else's sense of
humor, so that jokes with no real point behind them become just more
stuff to wade through. As the list gets more and more overwhelmed with
such things, it gets less and less usable.

Fred Camper

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