John's 2nd Report from Europe

From: john porter (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Feb 09 2007 - 18:47:12 PST

JOHN'S 2ND REPORT FROM EUROPE - Friday, February 9, 2007
  Family, Friends & Filmmakers,
  I'm now in Dublin, hanging out at the company where my nephew Anthony works as a computer programmer ( He and his Irish partner Fiona recently moved to a beautiful house in the suburb Monkstown, so
  he drove me into work yesterday and today so I can see Dublin and use a computer here.
  Yesterday I went downtown looking for evidence of the Dublin experimental film collective Solus (, which I know of from its members Alan Lambert and Moira Tierney on the avant-garde film, email discussion group, Frameworks. The touristy Temple Bar area is crammed with film institutions - Irish Film Institute, Irish Film Centre, Irish Film Archive, Irish Film Academy, Irish Film & TV Network, filmbase, filmIreland, Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and more.
  I was walking around in circles, asking a couple of people at each one, and being sent on to the next one. Nobody had even HEARD of Solus or ANY experimental filmmakers in Ireland including the one I'm most familiar with - Vivienne Dick, who I photographed at The Funnel in Toronto in the 1980s. It was a very frustrating but interesting experience. I'd heard before from Moira that it's a sad situation here.
  I ended up at the Porterhouse Brewery pub for a pint of "The World's Greatest Stout".
  Now to backtrack, about my week in the UK (which is not Ireland).
  In London I hung out at the British Artists' Film & Video Study Collection office (within St. Martin's Art College) where my host Steven Ball works with David Curtis (who I met in Edinburgh on my 1981 tour of Europe).
  Steven and I got a tour of the film production co-op, conducted by its manager James Holcombe. James also projected some of his recent super 8 films for us, which were my favourite of all the work I've seen yet on this trip. He uses a variety of hand-manipulation techniques, including jamming junk between the camera gate and the film while shooting, which I've never heard of before, and for which he's found only one camera capable of doing it with.
  I was very inspired, but his films aren't available yet because he's too busy making films, running, teaching workshops and generally helping other filmmakers. He's a new, local hero, and I'd like to see him do a residency in Toronto.
  He also lent me an amazing "found" super 8 sound film with which to test my screening's projector. It was a black & white, commentated record of a huge, live, women wrestlers match in Mexico in the 1950s! I watched it twice while I had it.
  That same night, Steven and I went to Guy Sherwin's and Lynn Loo's house for dinner and to test my screening's two projectors. Lynn is an active member of cogcollective which presented my screening. I used her & Guy's small, silent Bolex, and David Lester's big, sound Elmo GS-1200 with a 200 watt lamp! David is an important supplier of film equipment in London, but very sadly there was a fire in his building last year, seriously damaging much of his 16mm equipment which, being heavier, was stored on or close to the floor. His lighter super 8 equipment was stored higher and survived, but still, Lynn and I each had to give his Elmo projector very thorough, seperate, cleanings.
  Also, David ended up in hospital just before my visit, so please join us in praying for his full recovery.
  Guy was working on a new 16mm multiple-projection performance for the Star and Shadow Cinema collective (previously Side Cinema 2001-2005) in Newcastle a week later, so he was able to demonstrate for me his trial set-up and film loop in-progress, and I got a good photo of him with it in his work-room. I had met some Star and Shadow people when they came to one of my Rotterdam screenings and expressed interest in me doing a show in Newcastle sometime.
  I knew I'd seen Guy's films before, but when he greeted us at the door and I recognized him, I said a line that I've found myself saying several times on this trip - "Guy, I photographed you in the 1980s!" For example at the Robert Beavers series opening screening at the Tate Modern Gallery the next evening I met Steve Ferrar and I happened to be CARRYING my photo of he and Jo Comino in the London Filmmakers Co-op office in 1981! So this moment was very exciting for both of us.
  Earlier that day I had made a pilgrimage to the site of that old London Filmmakers Co-op where I showed my films in 1981 and '82. The building was torn down in 2000 (they had had to vacate it because it was unsafe, and the Co-op folded soon after), but I shot some super 8 and still photos anyway, of the street and new building, which has a nice cafe/bakery at street level. So I sat in its window to get the old Film Co-op's view while having a "Film Co-op coffee" and I bought a big loaf of "Film Co-op bread" for my hosts Steven and Ooni.
  On Saturday Steven and Ooni took me on their regular trip to the weekly London Borough Farmers' Market (since 1756), under London Bridge, where we started by drinking hot, mulled, strong cider, and finished with coffee from the Monmouth Coffee Company and beer from the Market Porter Restaurant (which everyone takes in their glass out onto the street!). I also took a photo inside the wonderful Neal's Yard Dairy cheese shop to show to my mother.
  On the way there we also visited the 9th floor observation deck of the strange, new, London City Hall, nick-named "the onion" because it looks like a sliced onion. It was the only day it has ever been or will be open to the public, so I was very lucky. Up there, Steven took a great photo of me shooting super 8 of the strange, new "gherkin" (because it looks like a gherkin pickle) office building, with Tower Bridge in the background. The "gherkin" was on the front pages the next day because it had just been sold to Germans for 2 billion pounds. We took the photo of me specifically for the current issue of Super 8 Today Magazine ( which requested a rush photo of me to illustrate its short news item about my tour. That issue is out now, so some of you may have seen it already, but I haven't yet.
  My cogcollective screening Feb. 4 ( at Candid Arts Trust ( was their best attended yet (50), among their total of 8 screenings over the last year. As in Rotterdam, the audience was very animated, and included (besides Guy Sherwin), James Holcombe, Helene Martin (whose wonderful 16mm film I saw at a screening at Kingsgate Gallery in London on Jan.31 - see my first report), David Curtis, Stuart Pound (who I photographed at The Funnel in the 1980s), and old Toronto super 8 friend Tracy Jenkins and her partner Tom who both joined us for beers afterward and for dinner the next day. After beers, some of us went to an all-you-can-eat Indian restaurant.
  By the way, cogcollective's website (link above) has a 12 minute documentary made about me made by York University students in 2000. This is the first and only video of me online. Click on "Painting Porter".
  Also on that next day, my last in London, my old Halifax, Canada friend Helen Bredin (now a videographer at BBC-TV) took me for a classic, basic, English diner breakfast at her favourite New Piccadilly Cafe Restaurant (in Piccadilly Circus) which is actually very old and threatened by encroaching Starbucks' and rising rents. She's trying to help it by patronizing it as much as possible.
  The one re-occuring difficulty I've had on this trip is meeting up with mutual friends of mine and filmmaker Helen Hill's, for the first time since she was murdered in the USA on January 4 (
  After London I took the train to Leeds for just a 24 hour stay including my screening in Lumen film collective's small office ( It seats only 35 so they took reservations and it was all booked a week before I left Toronto. But after they and I were telling other interested people for 2 weeks that it was sold out, some reservations cancelled, and others just didn't show up, so attendance was only 25. I suggested they demand payment-in-advance in the future. The audience was also extremely and unusually quiet, but never-the-less respectful and appreciative. One attendee was Giles Perkins of (, and he interviewed me for the website. Also, I received a good fee from Lumen, and train fare from London.
  My hosts in Leeds were Lumen's William Rose, his wife Sarah, their months-old daughter Aida, and their 2 cats whose names I don't remember and who disappointed me by not visiting my bed while I was sleeping.
  I was very grateful to Sarah for bringing Aida to my screening, and I told the audience so, because I love having children at my screenings, even the noisy ones, although Aida is extremely quiet and co-operative. It's also a very political issue for me because in my home province no-one under 18 is allowed into unclassified films, even babes-in-arms belonging to the filmmaker or programmer of even abstract films! In fact my nephew who I'm visiting here in Dublin was barred from my screening in his home town when he was 9 years old, and he has never had another chance to see a show of mine. That emotionally devasting incident has made me ever since so passionately opposed to my government's Film Classification Act, that all the film people in Toronto are sick of hearing me talk about it. It doesn't help that in my opinion most of them are "soft" on fighting the law, and I feel like I'm fighting THEM as much as the law.
  In spite of my short time in Leeds, William led me on two of the extra-curricular highlights of my trip so far. Just a block away from William's house where I stayed, we found the site of the old Lyceum Cinema (demolished) where Martin Heath (originally from Leeds, but now the Toronto film hero of CineCycle underground cinema & bicycle repair shop fame) attended a Leeds Film Society screening in 1962 and discovered art cinema. At the Leeds library we also found and copied some Film Society season programmes from that period, and at the local tourist shop I bought their last copy of the book Leeds Cinemas which includes old exterior and interior photos of the Lyceum and of the Hyde Park Picture House which is the last operating cinema among Leeds' many old cinemas, and which Lumen still uses on occasion, and which is also in William's neighbourhood.
  But that wasn't all! William took me to the site of what is believed to be the first motion pictures ever taken. They were by Louis Le Prince ( of the Leeds Bridge in 1888, so I shot super 8 of the same view, of his camera location and of the commemorative wall plaque.
  Altogether, I found way more than I was hoping to, thanks to William's help.
  I was brought back down to earth by unhelpful check-in staff and incorrect display boards at Ryan Air (please boycott if possible) in Leeds, causing me to miss my flight to Dublin and to spend 9 more hours in the Leeds airport instead of in downtown Dublin!
  But that's already in the past, and now I'm excited to be meeting a Solus film collective member at the popular Solas bar (unrelated) tonight, then leaving tomorrow morning for a weekend drive and overnight stay with Anthony and Fiona to Anthony's and my ancestors' hometowns of Newtowngore and Five Mile Town (where we've already booked rooms in a beautiful manor house).
  On Monday I fly to the Netherlands (on Aer Lingus, thank goodness) for a screening in Groningen on Tuesday, Feb.13, then 5 days in Amsterdam including my final screening on Saturday, Feb.17, writing a 3rd report on the 18th, then flying home on the 19th.
  Cheers, John.

John Porter, Toronto, Canada
email suppressed
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