Anne Richardson

Month: September, 2018

Paramount Preserves REDS Talking Heads

Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, and winning three, REDS is about the tumultuous life of Portland journalist John Reed (1887-1920). To prepare for the film, writer-director-producer-star Warren Beatty conducted extensive interviews with people who knew Reed, or who knew of him as a contemporary.

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Not all of the interviews made it into the finished film.

In the snippets that did make it in, the speakers are pithy, wry, sentimental in turns. In REDS, you see brief excerpts of interviews with ACLU co-founder Roger Baldwin, literary legend Henry Miller, screenwriter Adela Rogers St. Johns, radical economist Scott Nearing, anti-Communist Isaac Don Levine, “writer’s writer” Rebecca West, historian & philosopher Will Durant, muckraker George Seldes, actor George Jessel, and John Reed’s Harvard classmate (’10) Hamilton Fish, who happens to also be the grandfather of Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. That’s a partial list.

The unused interview footage went into the Paramount vaults.

On Thursday, Nov 29, at the AMIA Conference in Portland,  a team of moving image preservationists from Paramount Pictures will describe their project to digitize all the REDS interviews and make that footage available to the public for the first time.

Comrades in Archiving: Preserving the Unedited Reds Witness Interviews

Chair(s) and Speakers

  • Jeffrey Osmer, Paramount Pictures
  • Nikki Jee, Paramount Pictures
  • Trisha Lendo, Paramount Pictures

Reds and Portland native John Reed take us on a theatrical journey back in time to the Russian Revolution. Interspersed through the theatrical release were interviews with the real people represented within the films narrative. These witnesses include a diverse group of writers, labor leaders, politicians, and classmates of the main character John Reed. The panel details the process of locating a quarter million feet of unedited film from the movie Reds, the creation of digital files for this footage, and the file cataloging process. Our task was to digitally preserve the assets and make uncut interviews easily available to all.  The hybrid nature of this Academy Award winning film, intertwining documentary footage with a historical recreation, made this a rather unique archiving project. This is a panel for archives undertaking their own massive digitization process (and/or for fans of the Bolshevik revolution).

This massive transfer of cultural wealth to an accessible format calls for a gesture of gratitude. Oregon Cartoon Institute is partnering with two PSU geographers, Hunter Shobe and Zuriel van Belle, to create a map of John Reed’s Portland to present to the three visiting Paramount Pictures moving image preservationists, and to their fellow AMIA conference attendees.

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Hunter Shobe is co-author of Portlandness: A Cultural Atlas. An associate professor of geography at PSU, he  began attending the Oregon Film History Conference in 2017. He recommended Zuriel van Belle, the director of the Urban Coyote Project, to create OCI’s map of John Reed’s Portland. Thank you, Hunter and Zuriel!

With this map, we salute Paramount Pictures and the team of Paramount preservationists who are making the REDS interviews, a treasure trove of primary sources,  available to present and future Oregon historians.

In recognition of the value of his work conceiving, conducting, and conserving the REDS witness interviews, I hereby make Warren Beatty an honorary member of Oregon Cartoon Institute.

Welcome aboard, Warren!

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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.

 

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Oregon Cartoon Institute@Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference, Nov. 28-Dec 1., 2018

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On Nov. 28-Dec 1, 2018, hundreds of archivists, librarians, collectors, curators, students, educators, artists, technologists, researchers, distributors, exhibitors, service providers, consultants, and advocates of preservation of the moving image will converge in the Hilton Hotel, right in the center of Portland’s film history rich downtown.

Downtown Portland is where young Mel Blanc sold newspapers. It’s where Clark Gable apprenticed as a stage actor, Gus Van Sant shot lots of MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (see above), Courtney Love performed at Mary’s Club, Bill Plympton animated his first film, and Matt Groening‘s mom used to drop him off at the Hilton to go swimming. Ernest Haycox, the Westerns writer (STAGECOACH), had an office in downtown Portland as did the dentist father of Gordon Scott, star of TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE.

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During the 20th annual conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, three Oregon Cartoon Institute members will be right there, in the middle of the action.

Ben Truwe, OCI board member, will be there wearing his other hat, as member of the board of directors of Southern Oregon Historical Society. His panel will discuss specific issues unique to creating and sustaining regional and community archives.

Dennis NybackOCI co-founder and independent film archivist, will screen three rare 16mm shorts from his collection.

Anne Richardson, OCI director and intrepid spelunker into regional caves of Oregon film history, will talk about the way films in private collections transformed her understanding of a regional strength.

Another presentation we’re excited about: a team from Paramount Pictures Library is coming to the conference to describe a project underway to preserve the interview footage from Warren Beatty’s REDS (1981).

Right up OCI’s alley, in terms of film history research.

Here’s the AMIA conference website: http://www.amiaconference.net

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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.

Liverpool/Portland/Who makes pop?

 

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Nike recently reminded everyone of Portland’s power as a pop machine.

In 2006, Dennis Nyback, PNCA students Mack MacFarland and Damon Eckhoff, and I did The Portland That Was, a TBA Festival project which explored Portland history using films from Dennis’ collection.

The project featured clips of interviews, including one with musician James Hawthorne.

During his remarks about Paul Revere and the Raiders, Hawthorne draws a parallel between Portland and Liverpool.

This comparison came as no surprise to me (producer) and Dennis Nyback (interviewer), although it may have startled cameraman Tim Smith. The parallel between the two cities, as engines of pop, is one Oregon Cartoon Institute has been contemplating since its very founding.

Dennis and I aren’t interested in comparing Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Beatles, or in their respective places in music history. We’re interested in the communities which produced these two bands. What kind of cities produce pop? More precisely, what kind of cities produce artists of unusual pop fluency.

The Beatles came to Portland on August 22, 1965, and played the Memorial Coliseum. The British Invasion already happened via radio, but now they were here in person. As it happens, Paul Revere and the Raiders made their network debut the same year, as hosts of ABC’s Where The Action Is, a half hour variety show which debuted on June 27, 1965.

Where The Action Is was on every single weekday afternoon. You could watch Paul Revere and the Raiders faithfully every day when you got home from school just as you could watch Warner Brothers cartoons voiced by Mel Blanc faithfully every day before you left for school. Portland children had wall to wall Portland influenced pop culture coming at them from the small screen. Both success stories came out of local radio: Mel Blanc from KGW and Paul Revere and the Raiders from KISN.

James Hawthorne confined his comparison of Liverpool and Portland to rock music. Oregon Cartoon Institute believes there is a deeper parallel between these two cities, which has to do with the very nature of pop culture.

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Matt Groening, far right, plays a greaser in Tim Smith’s SALMON STREET SAGA (1970)

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John Lennon fronts The Quarrymen, his Liverpool skiffle band, in the late 1950s 

In Paul McCarthy’s recent GQ interview, he mentions his hometown six times. “It’s a Liverpool thing.”, he says. He doesn’t explain what “a Liverpool thing” means except to say “it’s no fairyland”. What he gets across is that there IS a Liverpool thing. He has a regional identity, and he doesn’t expect you, as someone not from Liverpool, to understand it.

As it happens, I may not be the only person who sees a big parallel between Portland and The Pool (the nickname of Paul McCarthy’s hometown).

Matt Groening began his thank you speech, upon receiving his Hollywood star in 2012, with “Well, I couldn’t have done it without three other boys from Liverpool”. He was quoting the speech Paul McCarthy gave four days earlier, upon receiving his own Hollywood star.

That happened, but also this:

During 2006, the year we used an interactive map to explore Portland history via movies in The Portland That Was, the University of Liverpool was doing the exact same thing.

While our project focused on embedding films from Dennis’ collection within a map of Portland, the University of Liverpool’s The City In Film project focused on embedding home movies made by Liverpool citizens within a map of their city.  Both projects were built before Google purchased Youtube and made embedding video in maps a push button operation. Both projects were hand coded.

Here’s The Portland That Was.

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This website was made so long ago, Google no longer supports it. But you can see the rough idea, which was cutting edge in September 2006.

Here’s University of Liverpool’s The City In Film.

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They’ve kept their site up to date, and continued to add data. They now have 1,700 films in their database.

Sir Matt and Sir Paul both come from cities where artists/social scientists were anxious, in 2006, to get started using new media to explore history by embedding moving images into interactive maps. Maybe impatience is one of the defining characteristics of a pop fluent city.

In 2019, Oregon Cartoon Institute heads into a digital humanities project which will reflect the advances in design capability since 2006. I believe the University of Liverpool is keeping their interactive The City In Film project current. I hope so, since I would love to have an exchange program with them, and compare notes.

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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.

Crash Course: Tim Smith

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Tim Smith, with his trusty Bolex H16

When Tim Smith began making films in 1968, he was in junior high school. The quintessential independent, he wrote, directed, produced, edited & sound edited his own work. Should we call the films he made for the next eight years “student films”? One problem with that – he had no teacher. He taught himself.

Fifty years later, Tim Smith is having a moment.

In early November 2018, the 45th Northwest Filmmaker’s Festival is screening THIS IS PORTLAND (1971), from Smith’s high school filmography.

A month after that, the 20th international AMIA Conference will screen THE CASE OF THE KITCHEN KILLER (1976), a film Smith made shortly after graduating high school.

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James K. Angell III, as Dwayne Dwight, in Tim Smith’s THE CASE OF THE KITCHEN KILLER (1976)

Smith’s very first films experimented with stop motion animation. When he moved to live action, he chose parody, a genre well matched with his limited resources and non-professional, although very game, actors. In a quartet of no-budget shorts made between 1970 and 1976, each cheekier than the last, he sent up biker films, travelogues, drug scare films and true crime films. His “look, Ma, no shooting permits!” camera roams the city, while his sound design, increasingly complex over the years, adds a layer of sophistication to filmmaking which, purely on a visual level, was already restless, improvisational, ambitious, and cinematically astute.

Smith’s informed ridicule of genre is immensely entertaining. In DRUGS: KILLERS OR DILLERS, all drug users, from the beginning of time, jump off the same bridge. In THE CASE OF THE KITCHEN KILLER, a mother threatens her son with a rolling pin, and he fights back with an eggbeater. In THIS IS PORTLAND, a close up of a nose inhales an empty rose bush. If it sounds silly, it is. Wonderfully silly is difficult to achieve, and fun to watch, in much the same way skateboarding is.

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Tim Smith’s SALMON STREET SAGA (1970) “greasers”, in costume 

Bemused by our interest in his high school work, Tim Smith tolerated our questions about it for a 2006 TBA Festival project, The Portland That Was. He sat for an interview for that project, and donated, uncredited, his labor as cameraman for another interview in the project, with musician James Hawthorne.

Q: How do Tim Smith’s high school films fit into Oregon’s overall film history?

A: His choice to work with actors is distinctive. Animation was the more popular choice among Portland independents. The two most popular genres for beginning filmmakers in Portland at that time were animation and documentary. Tim chose neither. His location shooting preserves on film the scuzzy downtown Portland which predates the bus mall, the streetcar, and MAX. In Tim Smith’s Portland, Pioneer Square is still a parking lot. Gus Van Sant later would re-create this time period via careful art direction in DRUGSTORE COWBOY (1989).

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Young Smith scowls at the camera. 

TIM SMITH / TIMELINE OF PDX INDEPENDENT FILM

THE GREAT TURN ON (1967), PSU yearbook advertisement Dir: Bill Plympton; DP: Bob Summers. Animated short.

PSU’s Center For The Moving Image opens, 1969. Founding director: Andries Deinum; film production instructor, Tom Taylor.

NEA’s first media funding panel, 1970. Panelist Sheldon Renan (Cleveland HS ’59), with the support of fellow panelist James Blue (Jefferson HS ’49), secures funding for a brand new nationwide network of regional film centers.

SALMON STREET SAGA (1970) Dir & DP: Tim Smith. Live action short.  

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THIS IS PORTLAND (1971) Dir & DP: Tim Smith.  Live action short. 

Northwest Film Center opens, 1971. Founding co-directors Brooke Jacobson and Bob Summers, both Andries Deinum students, receive funding from Sheldon Renan’s NEA initiative.

THE CIRCLE (1972) Dir: Tom Moyers, Jr. DP: Will Vinton. Live action feature.

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DRUGS: KILLERS OR DILLERS (1972)   Dir: Tim Smith & Matt Groening, DP: Tim Smith Live action short.

CLOSED MONDAYS (1974) Dir: Will Vinton & Bob Gardiner, DP: Will Vinton. Oscar winning animated short.

THE CASE OF THE KITCHEN KILLER (1976) Dir & DP: Tim Smith. Live action short. 

PROPERTY (1977) Dir: Penny Allen, DP: Eric Edwards, Sound: Gus Van Sant. Live action feature.

Tim Smith’s films are now part of the Oregon Historical Society’s Davies Family Research Library. A musician himself, Tim Smith transitioned into a career as a sound editor before retiring from the film business entirely. He is currently working on a comic book – in German!

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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.

OCI/FAQ

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Bill Crawford, OCI secretary-treasurer, looms over a model of 1970s Portland.

Q: What is Oregon Cartoon Institute?

A: Oregon Cartoon Institute is a two person think tank, comprised of director Anne Richardson and film archivist Dennis Nyback. We investigate Oregon’s film, animation and print cartooning history, using every possible tool we can lay our hands on.

Q: What do you do?

A: We ask questions, and share the process of pursuing answers.

Q: What questions?

A: We’re interested in “Who makes Pop?” Exploring this question sometimes makes us wonder “Where is the West?” or even “Is there a West?”

Q: Why are these questions important?

A: Once upon a time there was a decaying blue collar town one thousand miles from Hollywood which produced artists who changed American culture. What happened? Where did Portland’s film, animation, and print cartooning artist-entrepreneurs come from? Pursuing a deeper understanding of this strand of our regional identity illuminates American history and culture, not just our own.

Q: Who are your colleagues?

A: So many! We’ve received guidance, encouragement, information, and occasional collaboration on live events from radio historian Craig Adams, artist Carye Bye, economist Larry Bissett, political scientist Richard Blue, archivist Libby Burke, producer David Cress, poet Walt Curtis, cinematographer Harry Dawson, filmmaker/inventor Walt Dimick, musician Tim DuRoche, UX designer Damon Eckhoff, pillar of moral support Bill Failing, historian Gus Frederick, journalist Richard Gehr, educator Lisa Groening, pop genius Matt Groening, writer Gretchen Harmon, historian Maurice Isserman, filmmaker James Ivory (thank you, James!), scholar Brooke Jacobson, historian Robert Johnston, radio historian Ronald Kramer, archivist Michele Kribs, film preservationist Gary Lacher, bookstore owner Fred Nemo, archivist Elizabeth Peterson, scholar Heather Petrocelli,  artist-entrepreneur Mike Richardson, comics historian Patrick Rosenkranz,  graphic journalist Joe Sacco, urban designer Tad Savinar, journalist Norman Solomon, theater historian Steve Stone, educator Ellen Thomas,  filmmaker Will Vinton (thank you, Will!), librarian Rich Wandschneider, filmmaker Chel White, graphic designer Josh Winsor, artist Monte Wolverton, technician Robert Zurcher, and untold others.

Q: Who runs OCI?

A: Our board of directors is comprised of Portland historian Carl Abbott, urbanist Bill Crawford (see above), designer/Design Week co-founder Eric Hillerns (president); educator Anne Richardson, and Southern Oregon historian Ben Truwe.

Q: Who advises OCI?

A: Artist David Chelsea, animator Bill Plympton, and writer Sheldon Renan, longtime informal advisors, recently became our advisory board.

Q: What does OCI bring to knowledge production?

A: We open the definition of Oregon film history to include films made by Oregon artists outside state boundaries, and we research that history from a statewide perspective. We access two new data sources: oral histories from artists and archival films, sometimes on loan from private sources. These shifts/expansions in data collection lead to a deeper, more accurate understanding of our regional strength.

Q: Who supports OCI projects?

A: OCI’s public history/arts education events have been supported since 2010 with grants from Kinsman Foundation and the James F. and Marian L. Miller Foundation. And with the skilled labor of many volunteers!

In 2018, Oregon Film, Oregon Film Museum, Dark Horse, James Blue Alliance, and UO Knight Library/Special Collections supported OCI’s annual Oregon Film History Conference, held in UO’s White Stag Auditorium in Portland.

Q: What’s next for OCI?

A: OCI became a 501c3 non-profit organization in 2017. We’re looking to add a paid, professional, non-profit administrator to our staff. If you are interested in our mission, and can see yourself in this role, contact us and tell us everything you’d like us to know, including your salary requirements.

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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.