Oregon Film History Conference/May 4, 2018

by Anne Richardson


What is the history behind, and the meaning behind, Oregon’s regional strength in creating independent film artists? Where does this longstanding strength fit within the overall intellectual and cultural identity of the Pacific Northwest?

On Friday, May 4, 2018, Oregon Cartoon Institute presents the fourth annual one day Oregon film history conference.


The conference is designed to showcase the complexity and diversity of Oregon film history for educators, historians, and museum professionals. It is small in size, and designed to encourage interdisciplinary engagement, open ended conversation, and professional networking.

We limit the length of each presentation to leave lots of time for Q & A and discussion.

This year’s conference focuses on the minor cinemas of Oregon: newsreels, educational films, industrial films, promotional films, scientific films, television commercials, student films, experimental films, animation, home movies. It will culminate with a conversation with an artist who began in one of the minor cinemas, experimental animation, and became one of the most important figures in Oregon film history.

Here is the list of the 2018 presenters.



Ben Truwe, on A. C. Allen (1875-1972)

When A. C. Allen arrived in Medford in 1904, he was not a filmmaker. In 1915, he brought his first film, Grace’s Visit To The Rogue River Valley, to the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Ben Truwe researches Southern Oregon history, including its cultural history, and is on the board of Southern Oregon Historical Society and on the board of Oregon Cartoon Institute. His 2013 Oregon Cartoon Institute lecture, “More About Goofy: Pinto Colvig, Oregon Animation Pioneer”, was presented in partnership with ASIFA. He spoke about Pinto Colvig at the 2015 Oregon Film History Invitational, and at SOHS in October 2016.


Worth Mathewson, on William L. Finley (1876 – 1952)

William L. Finley, the first Oregon independent writer-director-producer to receive international distribution, sold newsreels to Pathé. He wore other hats as well – Larry Lipin wrote about Finley’s Good Roads advocacy (work he shared with A. C. Allen) in Oregon Historical Quarterly.

Worth Mathewson is the author of William L. Finley: Pioneer Wildlife Photographer, published by Oregon State University Press in 1986.


Ellen Thomas/on Oregon’s earliest independent filmmakers and their legacies

Portland’s appeal as a commercial film center began in the early 20th century when the city’s rail connections, varied scenery, robust theatre community and other resources combined to launch careers for local filmmakers and develop audiences for locally made films. What role did newsreel filmmaking in particular have in this setting, and how did those who made them shape the industry going forward?

Ellen Thomas published “‘Scooping the Local Field’: Oregon’s Newsreel Industry, 1911-1933” in the Fall 1989 Oregon Historical Quarterly. Her masters thesis at the UO, Commercial motion picture production in Portland, Oregon, 1910-1928, inspired other articles about early Oregon film for OUR TOWN, OREGON SCREEN MONTHLY and other publications. She is the director of education at Northwest Film Center.



Monte Wolverton, on Basil Wolverton (1909 – 1978)

Basil Wolverton grew up with the movies. In home movies made after he had achieved national success as a print cartoonist, he paid homage to the silent comedy he saw in his youth. Born in Central Point, Oregon, Basil Wolverton grew up in Vancouver, Washington.

Monte Wolverton is an artist, painter, sculptor and print cartoonist. He advised the 2014 Fantagraphics biography of his father, Creeping Death from Neptune: The Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton, and the 2016 Oregon Historical Society exhibit Comic City USA.



Sheldon Renan, on Douglas Engelbart (1925 – 2013)

On December 9, 1968, Douglas Engelbart gave a demonstration of interlinked personal computers to the Association for Computing Machinery/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in San Francisco. The demonstration, videotaped by a young technophile named Stewart Brand, became known as THE MOTHER OF ALL DEMOS because of the shockingly huge number of innovations unveiled within it. Engelbart graduated from Franklin High School in Portland in 1943.

Sheldon Renan’s An Introduction To The American Underground Film, published in 1967, influenced generations of filmmakers. He continues to write and speak about the intersection of art and technology. He grew up watching movies at the Blue Mouse in downtown Portland.



Dennis Nyback & Anne Richardson, on Will Vinton

Will Vinton transformed Oregon film history when, after winning a 1975 Oscar for the animated short CLOSED MONDAYS, an honor shared with co-creator Bob Gardiner, he returned to Portland to open his own studio. Hundreds of Oregon artists, animators and non-animators alike, were inspired by Vinton’s independence and success.

Dennis Nyback will give a rapid fire tour of downtown Portland theater history, explaining how and why CLOSED MONDAYS came to be discovered in a tiny art house theater on SW Taylor. Anne Richardson will discuss the way a key assist from a vestigial remnant of Portland’s silent era filmmaking infrastructure supported Will Vinton’s emergence as an independent film entrepreneur.

Will Vinton will join us.

Vinton_audience copy 2.jpg

Randy Finley, the Seattle based independent distributor who took CLOSED MONDAYS to Los Angeles for its qualifying run, will join us as well.


During this fast paced day of film history immersion, we take time out to salute our heroes.


Last year, film preservationist Gary Lacher presented the 2017 Elmer Buehler Award to Oregon Historical Society film archivist Michele Kribs. This year, Michele will make the presentation to the 2018 award winner, Sheldon Renan.

“Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say; This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better.” Tom McCall




William L. Finley, in Alaska

Oregon Cartoon Institute salutes our 2018 partner, UO Libraries. Thank you, Elizabeth Peterson.

Oregon Cartoon Institute salutes our sponsor Oregon Film. Thank you, Tim Williams.

Oregon Cartoon Institute salutes our sponsor Oregon Film Museum. Thank you, Mac Burns.

Oregon Cartoon Institute salutes our sponsor Dark Horse. Thank you, Mike Richardson.

Oregon Cartoon Institute salutes our sponsor James Blue Alliance. Thank you, Richard Blue & Dan Blue.

The fourth annual Oregon Film History Conference was made a success by the following participants:

Carl Abbott, PSU/emeritus
Gwen Asbury, City of Portland, Archives
Bill Baars, Lake Oswego Public Library
Libby Burke, Bonneville Power Administration Library
Devin Busby, Portland City Archives
Mac Burns, Oregon Film Museum
E. J. Carter, Lewis and Clark, Special Collections
David Chelsea, artist
Patricia Clark-Finley, artist
Hector Cobb, Portland Public Schools
Laurence Cotton, writer-producer
Hannah Crumme, Lewis and Clark, Special Collections
Ira Deutchman, Columbia University
Rich Dubnow, Image3D
Bill Failing, Oregon Historical Society
Randy Finley, Seven Gables Theaters
Mary K. Gallagher, Benton County Historical Society
Fellene Gaylord, Clark College
Kohel Haver, Swider/Haver
Gretchen Harmon, author
Eric Hillerns, Design Week
Kami Horton, Oregon Public Broadcasting
Brooke Jacobson, Northwest Film Center co-founder
Ron Kramer, author
Michele Kribs, Oregon Historical Society
Gary Lacher, Movie Preservation, Inc.

Brian Lord, Portland Film Office/Prosper Portland
Christopher Lucas, Southern Oregon University
Roberta Margolis, photographer
Worth Mathewson, author
Teresa McQuisten, Eltrym Theater
David Millholland, Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission
Nancy Niland, Oswego Heritage Council
Dennis Nyback, Dennis Nyback Films
Phil Oppenheim, Scripps TV/Panopticon Communication
Erik Palmer, Southern Oregon University
Elizabeth Peterson, University of Oregon/Curator of Moving Images
Heather Petrocelli, Manchester Metropolitan University
Ben Popp, Northwest Film Center
Sheldon Renan, independent scholar
Anne Richardson, Oregon Cartoon Institute
Brad Robison, Jacknife-Zion-Horseheaven Historical Society
Hunter Shobe, Portland State University
Larry Telles, Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
Ned Thanhouser, Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.
Ellen Thomas, Northwest Film Center
Ben Truwe, Southern Oregon Historical Society
Will Vinton, filmmaker
Tim Williams, Oregon Film
Monte Wolverton, artist
Precious Yamaguchi, Southern Oregon University

Thank you all!


Founded in 2007 by Anne Richardson and Dennis Nyback, Oregon Cartoon Institute uses new media, archival film, research, networking, and cross disciplinary discussion to explore Oregon film, animation, and print cartooning history.  It has no brick and mortar presence, and always works in partnership with organizations which do.