Meanderthals in Motion (Pictures)

By tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


I 1st met Rebecca Barten during the “International PXL-2000 Movie Festival” that I organized in BalTimOre on October 27-29, 1991. Very shortly thereafter, we became lovers & she moved into the 2nd floor of the warehouse where I was living. Rebecca was a film & video student at UMBC (University of Maryland – BalTimOre County) & I was a very active film & video maker in central inner city BalTimOre.  

Rebecca & I discussed that we knew a plethora of interesting independent movie-makers in the area but that there wasn’t much coordination between all of us. B/c of this, we decided to form a collective that wd meet every 2 wks at my spacious warehouse space. I looked in a thesaurus for the most interesting synonym for “film” or some such & found “Horse Opera” as a slang term for “Westerns.” I thought that was a pretty funny term & decided to use it for the group. My roommate Jhon Chien (John Sheehan) pitched in his neologism “Meanderthal” (a meandering neanderthal perhaps?) & the “H.O.M.E. Group” (Horse Opera Meanderthal Encounter Group) was born.  

By January 1992 I’d computer-designed stationery for the group that asked on its masthead: “Have you ever had a H.O.M.E.*? [*Horse Opera Meanderthal Encounter] Then H.O.M.E. Group may be for you!”  Given that I was a prolific correspondent at the time, I probably started announcing the group’s existence far & wide. I, at least, wrote Brian Goldberg, of the recently defunct Collective for Living Cinema & of the ongoing Drift Distribution, about it.  

Rebecca & I compiled a list of 20 potential participants, all but 3 of whom we had phone numbers for. My warehouse was one big room 30 ft X 150 ft. I set aside an area about 10 ft wide by 20 ft deep, put up a screen & one or more tvs at one end, seating for 20 people facing these screens & some film projectors at the back. I was, as always, somewhat impoverished, so all of the equipment that I had was far from state-of-the-art – but, nonetheless, I cd probably present VHS, 3/4”, 1/2” reel-to-reel, 16mm, 8mm, & Super 8.  

It was still winter when we had our 1st gathering. The warehouse was essentially unheated so it wd've been very cold inside. The idea was that people wd bring their own work to screen & we’d show & discuss it & get to know each other. I had a flu but didn’t want to postpone the meeting b/c I didn't want to lose momentum. Unfortunately, I was so sick when people got there that I barely knew who anyone was. I don’t remember everyone that attended but I think Alan Price, Jill Johnston, Steve Estes, & John Ellsberry, amongst others, were probably there. I had assembled a hand-out listing all the 142+ movies that I’d made to date & told attendees that they cd pick something from the list that interested them & that I’d screen it. The only time I can remember anyone taking me up on that was when Alan asked for Brain Waves Goodbye (1987) & I told him something like: “It’s not really worth showing.”
 

 

Image: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE in Toronto, 1992. Courtesy of the author.

 

Rebecca & I continued these meetings/screenings for usually pretty small groups that included Steve Estes &, later, Martha Colburn, as stalwarts. Why the rest didn’t come much is open to question: perhaps the screenings didn’t seem “happening” enuf, perhaps the neighborhood’s intense dangerousness was off-putting, perhaps the lack of heating or air-conditioning was unbearable. Nonetheless, we persevered.

I probably proposed putting together a 2 hr VHS compilation tape as I had from the PXL Fest. This wd include work from any participant in the H.O.M.E. Group or anyone else who submitted (altho there was some slight curatorial editing insofar as, later, one piece was rejected for being unfinished). Thus, H.O.M.E. Encyclopedia – 1992 – Volume 1: A - N was born. We created a formal framing device of associating each piece w/ a letter of the alphabet & one or 2 words beginning w/ that letter. Hence, “A. Academy Leader” had Rebecca's Relief Film (Film #4) (1989) as its entry & “I. Ilk” had my Ward of Mouth (1989) as its.  

There were 14 pieces: 3 from Rebecca, 2 from Steve, 1 from Jhon, 1 from Alan Price, 1 from John Berndt, 2 from me, 1 from Peter Walsh, 1 from Lee Boot, & 1 from K. Petrochuk. This latter was an excerpt from About d.a. Levy's Death (1982), a film that I finally got to see in its revised entirety (renamed if i scratch, if i write) on DVD 19 yrs later. Alan had the ability to grab stills using his Amiga computer that he did such wonderful animation on so we used stills from each entry & the packaging was designed to look somewhat “encyclopedic.”  

 

Image: Cover for H.O.M.E. Encyclopedia – 1992 – Volume 1: A – N video compilation. Courtesy of the author.

 

In my notes for this 1st volume, I wrote “Have premier @ Orpheum? Friday May 29, or Sat May 30 or Sun May 31” & “Don't use Picturestart as a distributor.”  The Orpheum was a small 2nd story rear-screen projection theater in the Fells Point area run by George Figgs who was largely known as the guy who showed rushes from John Waters’ films during production. Picturestart had picked up 1 of Steve’s rotoscoped portrait films, probably Bonnie Bonnell, Pretty Crazy (1979), & distributed it but Steve wasn’t happy w/ them. I don’t recall our even having a premier anywhere & I can find no record of 1 in my extensive files. That’s surprising. We also never got a distributor. That’s less surprising.

The basic idea was that I wd do the work of bulk buying the materials, designing & printing the packaging, & copying the tapes, probably in an edition of 100, & that all contributors cd buy copies for $4, the cost of materials, & then do whatever they wanted to w/ them. The hope was that all participants wd pay for a few copies & then exhibit them & distribute them as they wished. I probably sold a couple to video stores & libraries. WorldCat lists 2 libraries holding this 1st volume. As far as I know, no-one else did anything w/ them except, perhaps, give copies to friends. The video packaging marked 8 of the 14 pieces as available for 16mm rental. I don’t think anyone ever contacted us about this.  

By the end of summer 1992, Martha Colburn, a collagist & painter art student, moved into my warehouse. Martha got interested in film & video, esp from watching me work on my direct-on-film magnum opus entitled The Official John Lennon's "Erection" as Blocking Our View Homage & Cheese Sandwich (1990-1995), & started working on film & video too.  

 

Image: Baltimore City Paper cover. Courtesy of the author.

 

We struggled along, mostly undernoticed, until the February 12-18, 1993 issue of the Baltimore City Paper when Rebecca was on the cover in connection w/ an article by Richard Byrne, Jr, entitled “Strangeways; Here They Come.” This large 6pp article featured pictures & info about RB, fellow H.O.M.E. Grouper Alan Price, & Scott Loughery. All 3 looked very serious. It also mentioned the H.O.M.E. Group.  

Skizz Cyzyk, a person unknown to us at the time, read the article & got very enthusiastic. He contacted Rebecca & asked if we were still doing screenings & if we minded his doing so under our name. We were delighted. This was when the H.O.M.E. Group really started to take off. R & I put together the 2nd Encyclopedia volume wch now included new arrivals Skizz, Jill Johnston, Alan Rutberg, J. True, Martha Colburn (her very 1st movie), & Mike Jeffries – as well as Rebecca & myself & other previous participants: Peter Walsh, Alan Price, & K. Petrochuk.  

 

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interpolated interview w/ Skizz by tENT conducted July 2012:  

Skizz: I had written a letter to the editor saying that the article had just barely scratched the surface of what was going on in Baltimore’s underground film community. My letter started a discussion that got the ball rolling to start having screenings at the Mansion Theater, the former funeral home where I was living. The first screening was set up very quickly, with Craig Smith supplying Super 8 and 16mm projectors and Towson State University supplying a video projector. I think the first one was meant as a one-time event, but because of the good turn-out and response, I started setting them up on a monthly basis.  

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Skizz turned a former viewing room, complete w/ coffin, into a theater that cd seat about 70 people. Skizz got right to it & started his own H.O.M.E. Group screenings there in mid-March 1993. He was connected to Towson State University so many of the movie makers might’ve initially come from that scene. There was almost NO crossover between the “old-school” H.O.M.E.ies & the “nubies.” I was probably the main person w/ feet in both camps.  

This latter separation between the 2 groups may've had something to do w/ differences between U.M.B.C. & Towson. Most of the U.M.B.C. folks were more steeped in experimental lineages – partially thanks to the still-felt presence of one-time U.M.B.C. Film & Video Dept head Stan VanDerBeek. Towson had no such illustrious history. The older group’s work was more avant garde & the newer group’s more rooted in such popular forms as horror, SF, tv, & the like.  

What I liked about the newer H.O.M.E. Group was that the work was often based on the desperate insanity of impoverished working class life that characterized so much of BalTimOre society. 2 guys that regularly attended were Craig Smith & Don Ramirez. They might’ve both been from West Virginia but it didn’t matter: BalTimOre City was like the urban version of W VA at its worst. Craig’s Super 8 Psychedelic, Glue Sniffin’ Hillbillies (1994) was a look at the brain damaged derangement in his environment, & Don’s (post-H.O.M.E. era) Super 8 (initially at least) Trailer Trash (2007) is a look at murder w/in his own family. Both are crazed looks at things-all-too-common & all-too-overlooked by the more formalist avant garde.  

 

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tENT:
How did you go about getting people to present work in the early days?  

Skizz: I started by approaching anyone I knew who had a film or video to show – you, Craig Smith, some of my former classmates, filmmakers I met at Rosebud in DC. I also put a note at the bottom of every screening flyer, making it very clear that anyone who had something to show was encouraged to bring it. Every month I tried to line up a few films in advance, so that I had something to put on the flyer. There were regulars who got involved very early on, so I could always count on having something to show. I did, however, have 16mm films from the Pratt Library ready just in case we ran out of things to show.


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Rebecca & I organized a release party at Isospin Two South Gallery in connection w/ dancer Chris Dohse for May 23, 1993. I remember, w/ some wryness, that when very few people attended this event (including few or none of the H.O.M.E. Group beyond R & myself) Dohse exclaimed something like: “But you two are famous!” Apparently he’d been expecting a big crowd. Ha ha! I remember talking w/ musician John Oswald 2 yrs later about the lack of audiences for experimental film & Oswald’s telling me that he’d attended what might’ve been a premier of his friend, the truly famous filmmaker, Michael Snow’s. John told me that he & Michael were the only people in the audience.  

 

Image: The H.O.M.E. Group flyer. Courtesy of the author.

 

In the meantime, Skizz was very efficiently promoting his H.O.M.E. Group. A 26 or 27 yr old veteran of bands, he had the whole routine down of 4.25 X 5.5 inch cardstock ads sent out as post-cards & given away as fliers. He organized a mailing list & consistently sent out these promos a few days before his mnthly screenings.  

After Rebecca left BalTimOre, & before I did, I started checking 16mm films out of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, such as this November 1993 selection:  

Breathdeath (1964) - Stan VanDerBeek    
Mothlight (1963) - Stan Brakhage  
Motion Painting (1947) - Oskar Fischinger  
Frank Film (1973) - Frank Mouris  
Yantra (1950-55) - James Whitney  
Elasticity (1975) - Chick Strand  
Lapis (1967) - James Whitney  
Light (1973) - Jordan Belson  
Science Friction (1959) - Stan VanDerBeek    
Land without Bread (Terre sans pain) (1932) - Luis Buñuel
Secondary Currents (1983) - Peter Rose  


I probably projected these for people &, w/ Martha's assistance, made primitive video transfers of them. Martha went on to start a screening series of similar material at the 14 Karat Cabaret. We, & others, were trying to convince the library not to discard their fantastic (& endangered) 16mm collection – wch had been lovingly curated by librarian Helen Cyr.

 

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tENT: By 1994, the Mansion Theater H.O.M.E. Group screenings attracted a group of regulars that included the prolific NoBudget Productions & Fastman Productions. Now, 18 yrs later, are those 2 groups still making work & still screening it?  

Skizz: I don’t know about NoBudget Productions. I lost touch with them, but every now and then I’ll see one of their names pop up, so I think they’re still working. The guys from Fastman are still busy, though not as a group. Fastman’s J.R. Fritsch still makes films, and has helped out on many of my own projects over the years. He also runs the record label, Public Guilt. Fastman’s David Morley co-runs a production company with his wife, Alicia, and they’ve thrown a lot of freelance shooting and editing work my way, so that I can pay my bills without having to hold down a steady job while I’m working on my own projects. Their company, Zinnia Films, has produced some narrative and documentary films. The third Fastman, Dave Stalnaker, I haven’t seen in years, but he still owes me twenty bucks.

 

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By September of 1994, the daily paper, The Sun, published a positive article by Chris Kaltenbach called “Underground film surfaces in a funeral home” & the bi-weekly City Paper featured an article connected with the pronouncement: “Best Independent Film and Video Series.” Skizz deserved it. Much to his credit, & proof of what a nice guy he was, Skizz still continued to give RB & myself credit – even after we were gone.  

 

Image: The Sun cover. Courtesy of the author.

 

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tENT: Did mass media interest in yr work continue &/or intensify or die out?  

Skizz: That was the time when the press seemed to first take notice that I was here, I was working hard doing worthwhile things, and I wasn’t going away. They got to know me, and I benefited from years of exposure as a result. Sadly, it has died down a lot in recent years. A lot of those writers are no longer with those publications, and the newer writers don’t seem very interested in what I’m doing. These days, maybe one out of every twenty events I’m involved with gets a mention in the paper, so my relevance hasn’t died out completely as far as local press is concerned, but it looks like it’s headed that way.  

tENT: After I moved away from BalTimOre permanently in July 1994, I still went to BalTimOre frequently from 1994-2004 to work. When I was there, I tried to go to as many of yr screenings as I cd. I appreciated yr egalitarian openness to pretty much all submissions (or so it seemed) & the fact that you kept admission costs at a mere $2 – wch enabled just about anyone to attend. The result of this openness was, of course, that the work screened cd be of very varied quality. My impression of much of the work was that it was unoriginal & poorly done but still SOMETHING WORTH MAKING B/C DOING SO WAS BETTER THAN JUST SITTING AROUND WATCHING TV OR GETTING DRUNK AT A BAR OR BECOMING A HEROIN ADDICT – wch were, as we both sadly know, very common “lifestyle choices.” What's yr feeling about such egalitarianism now?  

Skizz: I once met someone who told me she had a film that had been banned at the Mansion, that I had refused to show her film. I told her those open screenings were exactly that – open. If she showed up and gave me her film early enough in the evening, it got shown. I’m glad I was able to provide an outlet for anyone to show anything, but yes, that opened the door for a lot of crap and bad attitudes. I frequently had the feeling that some people threw together videos the day of the screening just because they knew they could have an audience that evening. I do think it’s important for filmmakers to find an outlet like the one I provided, because the best way to gauge your own work is to see what kind of response it gets from a room full of strangers, but I don’t think I could stand to provide that outlet anymore, nor do I have much interest in being part of that audience. After years of programming film festivals and watching countless entries, I now feel that life is too short to waste watching bad films. I remember hearing about a film festival that was started by some disgruntled filmmakers who had been rejected by too many film festivals. Their festival pledged not to reject anyone. I made a mental note to never attend that festival.

 

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By 1996, Skizz’s screening empire had expanded as his name got around more & more outside of BalTimOre. On May 23rd, eg, he screened Craig Baldwin’s Sonic Outlaws (1995) &, on June 2, Russ Forster’s So Wrong They're Right (1995). This somewhat naturally led to Skizz’s founding of the MicroCineFest, still held at the Mansion Theater, in October of 1997. This featured work by people like Jesco White (Dancing Outlaw, Jacob Young, 1991), Jeff Economy (An Incredible Simulation: The Trailer, 1997), Jeff Krulik (Heavy Metal Parking Lot, 1986), Sam Green (Rainbow Man / John 3:16, 1997), Danny Plotnick (Skate Witches, 1986), & Jon Moritsugu (Terminal U.S.A., 1993).  

 

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tENT: Even tho such a name might seem self-evident now, why did you call it Microcinefest?

Skizz:
Between the touring filmmakers that wanted to come to Baltimore to screen their films, and the great films I was seeing at film festivals that I wanted to show to Baltimore audiences, it made sense to book everything in the same week, call it a festival, and promote it as one big event instead of several smaller separate events. At the time, my co-conspirators and I needed a name for our proposed film festival, and wanted something that connected to what we were doing. The term “microcinema,” which we understood had been coined by Rebecca Barten, was something that interested us for its encompassing of the DIY processes of filmmaking AND exhibition. Little films, little theaters. It fit what we were doing. Had we known the term would take off the way it did, we might have decided on a different name. Within a few years both the films we were showing and the venues we were showing them in grew bigger, we morphed into a niche fest for offbeat & psychotronic cinema, and we didn’t feel as connected to the “microcinema movement” as you would expect a festival called MicroCineFest to be.

 

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Shortly after, Skizz founded his prank film festival to imaginarily take place in Park City, Utah, where Robert Redford’s famous “Sundance Film Festival” happens in January.  2 spin-off festivals called “Slamdance” & “Slumdance” had already popped up & Skizz proposed “Son of Sam Dance,” named after the infamous serial killer.  Here’s an excerpt from his November 24, 1997 proposal letter that I rc’vd: 

This coming January [ie: 1998] there will be yet another upstart film festival in Park City... Son of Sam Dance – Park City's Only Outdoor / Mobile / Guerilla / Upstart Film Festival.  
         Son of Sam Dance Film Festival is essentially this[:] a white ‘84 Toyota Van with a banner displayed on the side of the van explaining that the van is in fact the Son of Sam Dance Film Festival. Inside, the van will be rigged up with a shelf full of 16mm films, a stand holding projectors to project out the side sliding windows, a generator to power the projectors, and a loud speaker attached to the roof of the van. The idea is that the van will double park in various locations around Park City and project films on the sides of buildings until the police ask us to move. No one will know when or where the films will be shown. Those lucky enough to see the films will simply be proud recipients of being in the right place at the right time.  
         The festival will be advertised around town via flyers announcing that the festival is happening and for more information the curious can access the festival’s webpage. On the webpage will be photos of the van, the logos of the festival sponsors, and the entire program (titles, lengths, filmmakers, synopses, previous awards & festivals, etc...). There will also be a way for members of the press to request copies of the van photos to run in any article that mentions the festival.  

HERE'S THE PART YOU NEED TO KEEP SECRET!:  
         The Son of Sam Film Festival doesn’t really exist. It will not actually happen. It’s a media prank. The goal is to see how many mentions the press will give it without it actually having to exist...


Wonderful! As I recall, I participated by having the festival announce that they were showing my entire body of work to date: something like 185 movies. That alone might’ve made the story completely unbelievable.  

 

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tENT: Do you have any thoughts about the impact or lack thereof of that prank?  

Skizz: Son of Sam Dance, or S.O.S. Dance, was mostly meant as a media prank, and I’m happy to say that it not only worked, but continues to work. The gist was that, like other Sundance-upstart festivals such as Slamdance, Slumdance and NoDance, S.O.S. was a film festival in the same town and at the same time as Sundance, but was a mobile festival. I put flyers around town announcing that films would be projected from a minivan, onto walls around Park City, Utah, so that only those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time would be able to see the films. I had a website made (thanks Scott Huffines!) listing all the films that would be showing. The press picked up on the story and wrote about it a lot. Just about every year since, S.O.S. has been mentioned at least once in Sundance press coverage. The joke is that the festival never happened. There was no van, no screenings, no films – just a website listing a bunch of mostly phony films, “made” by mostly real filmmakers who were all in on the joke. Over the years, I’ve met filmmakers in Park City who have expressed anger that my fake film festival has gotten more press than their real films. I can’t say I blame them. That’s the media for you.

 

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By mid-1998, Skizz moved out of the Mansion & the screenings were now exclusively MicroCineFest events held in various venues. The H.O.M.E. Group, per se, was no more. It lasted for 6.5 yrs, mostly thanks to Skizz.  

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tENT: Did anyone ever miss the H.O.M.E. Group name?  Or wonder what the fuck it meant?  

Skizz:
I was constantly asked what H.O.M.E. stood for, and after answering the question I would then get asked what it meant. Regardless of what it stood for or what it meant, I always explained that the name is what kept my efforts connected to the efforts of those before me. So yes, at least one person did miss the name – me – but I stopped using it because of the formation of MicroCineFest as both a festival and an organization, and I needed to get the new name spread around and established as much as possible.  

tENT: During what years did you work for the Maryland Film Festival & what did you do for them?  

Skizz: In 1998, because of MicroCineFest, the Mansion Theater, and my involvement with Slamdance, Jed Dietz asked me to join the Programming Advisory Board of a new film festival he was starting. It was, of course, the Maryland Film Festival, which finally launched in 1999. When a paid programming position opened at the end of 2000, I applied for it and got it. For the 2001 to 2009 festivals, my official title was Programming Manager, but I did a lot more than just programming (tech supervision, for example). I stepped down from my position after the 2009 festival, but have stayed involved as much as possible. My current title is Festival Consultant. Because I go to so many film festivals each year, I continue to bring a lot of films to the attention of the Maryland Film Festival programmers, and I continue to write parts of the program book and introduce screenings during the festival.

 

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From the fall of 1994 to the fall of 2004, I continued to go to BalTimOre to work from time-to-time & whenever I was there I tried to check out & participate in whatever Skizz was doing. Somehow, however, I never managed to contribute to a MicroCineFest until 2005 when I screened my feature Story of a Fructiferous Society (2005). This was held at a warehouse space called the G-Spot. Skizz, as usual, did a fantastic job of advertising & had a newsprint catalog printed that included a 2pp interview w/ me.  

 


Image: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE in BalTimOre, 2005. Courtesy of the author.

 

I attended wearing my brightly colored turkey-feather covered suit that I’d made & offered to answer questions to the, as usual, somewhat small (v)audience after my screening. Also as usual, almost no-one I knew in BalTimOre expressed the slightest interest by attending. Nemo Propheta in Patria (Latin: “A Prophet is never respected in his own home.”) I remember 1 art student girl throwing her hands up in the air in dismay during the Q&A – where to start w/ such an incredibly dense & complicated movie?!  

Sadly, Skizz discontinued the MicroCineFest the next yr. 10 yrs was enuf. Perhaps, I’ll restart the H.O.M.E. group in my house in Pittsburgh. Perhaps not.  

 

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tENT: I imagine you’d had enuf overwork for minimal or nonexistent financial or personal reward by then but can you explain to me in yr own terms why you stopped? What’s happened w/ you since then? Do people still write you all the time?  

Skizz: After ten festivals, MicroCineFest had run its course. Attendance had been down for the last few years. We usually broke even, but we were starting to lose money. Keep in mind, nobody got paid, so we only needed to cover our costs (venue rental, equipment rental, program book printing). The kinds of filmmakers we were most interested in were starting to discover YouTube, and as I would frequently hear when I asked filmmakers if we could show their films, “rather than make a copy of my film and ship it to you, I can put it on YouTube for free and reach a much larger audience than your festival could ever give me.” Combine these reasons with how much MicroCineFest (and Maryland Film Festival at that time) distracted me from working on my own projects, and it just seemed like the right time to stop. We didn’t stop completely. The MicroCineFest name has been responsible for many screening events since then, but we put an end to the big annual festival. Maybe one day we’ll bring it back. I certainly do miss a lot of it. Since then I’ve managed to get more of my own filmmaking done. I’ve made a bunch of music videos, and I’m almost finished the second of three feature-length documentaries that I simply didn’t have enough time to work on back when all my spare time went into watching film festival entries (Freaks in Love [2011] comes out on DVD in July 2012; Hit and Stay should be on the film festival circuit by 2013; Icepick to the Moon, which I started making in 1999, should finally get my undivided attention as soon as Hit and Stay is finished). I still get plenty of emails asking me for filmmaking and festival advice. I try to be accommodating, but it takes way too much time to answer every email.

tENT: By now, you’re certainly one of the programmers who’s been in touch w/ some of the most underground filmmakers. Who are the people whose work you’ve encountered in this way that you think is the most original?  

Skizz: You, tENT, are certainly one of the most original I’ve encountered. I’m very fortunate that I’ve seen and then programmed so many wonderful films, many of which are now on my favorites list, and I’ve managed to become friends with a lot of the filmmakers responsible, like Cory McAbee (American Astronaut, 2001; Stingray Sam, 2009), Coke Sams & Bruce Arntson (Existo, 1999), John Paizs (Crime Wave, 1985), Michael Langan (Doxology, 2007), Eric Dyer (Kinetic Sandwich, 2002), and so many more. The list is constantly growing.

tENT: You’re a musician as well as a film & video maker & an organizer of screenings. Are you still active in all those areas? Do you have any other creative pursuits?  

Skizz:
I am still very much active as a musician and filmmaker, and I’m still active as an organizer but not as much as I used to be. In other creative pursuits, I’ve taken up printmaking, and now use silk screening and wood & linoleum block-cut printing to make posters for my bands.

tENT: In the 19 yrs that I’ve known you, you’ve practically been an archetype of the DIY “MAKE THINGS HAPPEN” type of person. How do you explain yr high degree of motivation & yr ability to both support yrself at time-consuming jobs AND to do all the other work you do?

Skizz: In high school I had a hardcore punk band that wanted to play shows – this was the early-80s. Because we were underage and from out in the county, we weren’t exactly made to feel welcome downtown where the scene was. I learned quickly to take matters into my own hands. If no one would book us, then I needed to find a space, pick a date, make a flyer, and put on a show. If no one was handing me money to make a film, I had to figure out another way to get the money, or figure out how to make my film without money. When opportunity isn’t being handed to me, I need to go out and make my own opportunity. That’s been my philosophy now since the early-80s, and it was also my usual response to disgruntled local filmmakers when they complained to me about getting rejected from MicroCineFest (if I can make a film festival from scratch and show the films I like, what’s stopping you from doing the same?). I’ve had people tell me that I’m lucky because I’ve been able to accomplish so many things, enjoying some success along the way. It’s not luck that enables me to do the things I do. It’s sacrifices. I don’t spend a lot of money on cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, tattoos, cable tv, eating out, vacations, entertainment, etc., because my lifestyle does not enable me to work the kinds of jobs that would allow me to afford those sorts of things. What little money I make goes into supporting me and my lifestyle. It’s not just money I have to sacrifice either, it’s time. I don’t know how anyone can keep up with all the news, politics, new movies in theaters, the latest books, tv shows, videogames, new music, etc., and still have time to do anything constructive. It looks like fun, but you have to make sacrifices if you want to accomplish anything. You don’t get press without making the effort to let the press know what you’re up to, and often times that effort yields no result. That effort takes time, and while someone else might be drinking with friends at a bar, I might be home working on my projects or sending out press releases. I do regret that a lot of friends gave up on me because I’ve been too busy to maintain friendships, and I do hope that someday I’ll condition myself to be less of a workaholic and more of a social person.

tENT: Who are the unsung people who’ve helped you & encouraged you over all these yrs?

Skizz: My partner, Jen Talbert, has certainly gone above and beyond when it comes to encouragement and support. For anything I have done since 1994, chances are she was a major force behind it whether she got the credit she deserved or not. My parents weren’t always on board with my antics, but they’ve come around in the last decade. Eric Hatch, Kathleen Williams, Cheryl Fair, Mike White and Katie Brennan have all helped to greatly improve my feelings of self-worth. I had two wonderful, supportive film teachers in college, Steve Weiss (R.I.P.) and Dr. Greg Faller. I hate to think of what my life would be like now had I never met Erik Boring, Gabe Wardell, Don Peyton, Karen Coker, Jamie Griffin (R.I.P.) and Erik Jambor. I have a lot of friends who’ve done me favors that allowed me to accomplish many things I got full credit for: Craig Smith, Scott Huffines, Brian Daniloski, Joe Tropea, J.R. Fritsch. I’m sure I must be forgetting a lot of people, because there’s no way I could have accomplished all the things I’ve done without the help of a lot of people.

tENT: What’s an important question I HAVEN’T asked you?  

Skizz: “If you could be any vegetable which one would it be?” My answer: Karen Ann Quinlan (I’m borrowing that answer from a Dead Milkmen interview I did in 1987).

 

July 2012 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE has made 378 movies over 37 yrs (as of December 2012), including 103 features. To this day he's almost completely ignored & reviled by film & video historians.


 

 

INCITE Journal of Experimental Media
Issue Number Four (Fall 2013)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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