Crash Course: Sheldon Renan


Sent by Ben Popp, Michelle Mathews came to me with a request for a crash course on Sheldon Renan, one of the most important figures in Oregon film history.

Here you go, Michelle!


Sheldon Renan at the NEA, timeline

Sheldon Renan at the NEA, in MovieMaker Magazine

Interview with Sheldon Renan, on Oregon Movies, A to Z


Sheldon’s 1967 book, An Introduction to the American Underground Film, at Issuu

“The underground film is a medium of and for the individual as explorer and artist.” Sheldon Renan

If you want to see the size of Sheldon Renan’s influence, check out this page of citations on Internet Archive.

Sheldon Renan spoke at the 2018 Oregon Film History Conference, held on May 4 in UO’s White Stag Auditorium. Here he is at the reception for speakers held the night before the conference, at Black Hat Books. Thank you, Fred Nemo!


Sheldon is in the back, in profile, speaking with Will Vinton, seen from behind. Other conference speakers in the room: Ellen Thomas, Ben Truwe, Monte Wolverton, Dennis Nyback. Other guests pictured: Patrick Rosenkranz, Bartholomew Bott, Ira Deutchman, Janeese Jackson, Ross Lienhart, Bill Crawford, Tim Williams. Photo credit: Gretchen Harmon.

During this year’s Oregon Film History Conference, Michele Kribs, winner of the 2017 Elmer Buehler Award for Film Preservation, bestowed that honor on Sheldon Renan, the 2018 recipient.

Sheldon Renan also serves on Oregon Cartoon Institute’s advisory board.

Here’s a mini bio for people who don’t like following links:

Sheldon Renan figures into American film history because of his effectiveness as an advocate, on a federal level, for regional (what we now call “independent”) film. Even before he went to the NEA, he had impact. His 1967 book, An Introduction to the American Underground Film, shifted the paradigm for young filmmakers. You didn’t have to go to Hollywood. You could become successful in your basement/loft/backyard.

Born in Portland in 1941, graduated Cleveland High School in 1959, wrote his book in 1967. Changed the face of federal funding for film in 1970.

Sheldon’s NEA initiative funded Northwest Film Center, which was founded in 1971 by Brooke Jacobson and Bob Summers. The grant money set aside by Sheldon’s initiative also jumpstarted Pacific Film Archive (founded by Sheldon) in Berkeley, Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, and Detroit Film Theater. All are going strong.

That’s it, Michelle! That’s the OCI crash course on this influential Oregonian.


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.