Re: [Frameworks] John Writer

From: Steve Polta (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jun 03 2010 - 21:46:48 PDT

Very interesting to see this guy's name come up here.
This was a very strange film and a very intense evening. Writer's deal was that he had somehow reached an impasse in his filmmaking and was giving it up for ten years (when asked why ten he replied it was an arbitrary duration). He expressed this impasse by saying that he had "discovered a hole in his medium" and that this "hole" was "whiteness" (at least this is how I remember it)—I don't know what that means but that's what he said, and he said it like it scared the shit out of him. The film itself consists mostly of long passages of film leader—black, red, maybe other colors and definitely white, at least four "shades" of white, from clear leader to white opaque, all with different ways of holding the light and affecting the screen (some were flat white, some were scratchy, some had grains flying around, etc.). There was some camera footage in the film but not a lot: the moon, maybe some rapid landscape, shots of masturbation and some weird
 disturbing found footage production rolls from what looked like a student film of an african-american actor portraying a dead person (he would close his eyes and lay there with blood around, the clapper board would clack, etc), also shots of a color wheel (maybe held in front of the actor), also lots of punch-hole holes punched in black leader, which echoed the moon shots. But... most of the film was variations on white, which built up and built u as the film went by. The projector was in the room (of course) and each leader also had its own way of sounding as it ran through the projector (the film is silent, this sound I refer to is the engagement of the sprocket wheels, not the sound head)—the film is actual leader and footage, with tape spliced, i.e. not a print. So by the end of the 2+ hours you know that leader *really* well and can get into these really long alternating rhythms, like clear for two minutes/"white #1" for two minutes/clear/white
 #2/etc. And yeah, it sounds sort of dull or wanky but there was really something fascinating about the whole thing; and without a doubt it was due to the intense presence of John Writer himself, who presented this screening as this epic tragedy in his life and expressed this intensity of personal meaning to this, all the while it seemed (to me, who had never heard of the guy before this) utterly personal and beyond comprehension what this was all about. It should be mentioned that Writer's presentation was completely sincere and without any irony—this film and this screening was a major moment in this man's life, for purely personal reasons. And when the film finally ended (by running off the reel of course, with white light on the screen for a minute or so, loose reel flapping), Writer was nearly in tears and there was palpable tension in the room. A very mysterious and somehow profound evening that has stayed with me since. One thing I also recall
 was that he specifically said that post-film, "canvas is my medium." And it was clear that it was something to him other than painting.

Besides this, Writer wrote a very interesting essay on the state of filmmaking in a 'zine that TMH published around this time and participated in their scene a little bit mid-'90s, which was kinda before my time. I have a copy of the 'zine around here somewhere but I'd have to dig for it. While plenty of people knew him before this (and I never knew him at all), he wasn't seen by me much. I saw him exactly once at a screening, of films by Gregory Markopoulos the next year, but I also have seen him two or three times in Oakland CA, like on a bus or whatever. One funny thing was that I have this dim memory of meeting someone somewhere circa 2000 who told me she was working on some kind of personal documentary about this guy she worked with at a coffee shop (or somewhere), this intense guy who made these huge paintings and was really interestingly obsessive. Guess who she was talking about? (I do not think the film was ever made, fwiw).

Like I said, very interesting...

Steve Polta

--- On Thu, 6/3/10, marilyn brakhage <email suppressed> wrote:

From: marilyn brakhage <email suppressed>
Subject: Re: [Frameworks] John Writer
To: "Experimental Film Discussion List" <email suppressed>
Date: Thursday, June 3, 2010, 7:48 PM

John was a student at CU Boulder in the late 80s/early 90s and made some short personal films -- "light poems'" -- plus some longer, more 'structural' experiments, at that time.  After his graduation he moved to San Francisco and pursued very large-scale painting, rather than filmmaking.  Haven't heard from him in awhile.  Try Phil Solomon.
Marilyn Brakhage

On 3-Jun-10, at 5:01 PM, Jacob W. wrote:
I was wondering if someone might be able to help me out with any information about John Writer (who he is, about his films, anything really)?  Brakhage mentions him in the interview with Suranjan Ganguly, but so far I've come up empty-handed.  Thanks.

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