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Learning editing techniques from Kenneth Anger


Film-making processes
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I never have an idea about how I'm going to put it together. Okay, let's say Lost, Lost, Lost. After... there was some since I had more material than that what's in the film. I thought that I will more or less deal with the... first, I looked and looked through it and then as was... as I was looking through it, it became clear that one... a lot of it deals with my life in exile as I see, as I'm changing so I decided just to stick to that theme and to use only that material that relates to it or could be used, manipulated to... just around that theme. When I went to He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life, I pulled out only the... As I was looking and looking again what I have... I discovered there was a lot of little scene, like scenes on various... in various places in various situations that lasted for only half a minute or one minute to two and it was only my concentration on what was happening there and none of those scenes relate to any other. There were like... okay, they were like Lumière, the first films of Lumière or none related to any other you know there different completely, there is the factory there is the train and one has nothing to do with the other. Or the same was I found that I have hundreds of such scenes so I eliminated everything else and just left those scenes and practically that whole film is like 150 of those scenes and they don't... they... of course they... they show my glimpses of my life, but sometimes they have nothing to do, I'm...

Actually, in that film mostly I keep my own life out, I concentrate on the situations and life of other people, be it like a niece's birthday or... or again, the factory in Pittsburgh or... or very little of my own life is there, everything is like outside. Reminiscences... is very clear, and then of course in the As I Was Moving Ahead Counting The Seconds... No, As I Was Moving Ahead Counting the Seconds of my Life, that's an interesting... As I Was Moving Ahead...There I, again, eliminated. My process is elimination, you see. I look and look and then I feel that that doesn't belong here and that doesn't belong so I take it out and then what's left... I left, I felt it became clear that I'm concentrating it now on my... just my life, my own life and I took out everything that dealt with the life of my friends and that's something else. Most of it I took out and it's still sitting on film. That's more or less how it works.

[Q] But then how does the sound come into it?

Then I collect all the sound of that period...

[Q] That you've already recorded?

That I have already recorded and I have thousands of reel-to-reel and cassettes when I carry very often a little, just tiny Sony in my pocket and much of that sound comes from my Sony. Also I have a Sony during my editing and I have tape recorder on the side and at the same time when I'm editing always ready to. If I... when I'm checking, looking through my footage very often I talk into my tape recorder which parts of it and I use in the film. So it's a combination of the material, audio material recorded during the filming and then my comments are... I have also a radio going all the time and if I hear something I pick up right there from a little tiny radio that I sometimes use also. P Adam Sitney has, you know, as a joke, he was very amazed he walked there in my room at Chelsea Hotel when I was editing Walden, look he has two televisions going, I had two television sets going, I had a radio going and I had a tape recorder going. I had four sound things going at the same time.

Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), Lithuanian-born poet, philosopher and film-maker, set up film collectives, the Anthology Film Archive, published filmzines and made hundreds of films, all contributing to his title as 'the godfather of American avant-garde cinema'. He emigrated to America after escaping from a forced labour camp in Germany in 1945.

Listeners: Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor for "Film Comment" magazine and "Sight and Sound" magazine. Her book, "Taxi Driver", was published in 2000 in the British Film Institute's Film Classics series. Her chapter on "America: The Modern Era" is part of "The Critics Choice" published by Billboard Press, 2001, and her critical essays are included in many anthologies, mostly recently in "Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank" published by Scalo.

She wrote for "The Village Voice" weekly from 1987 into 2001 both as a film and a television critic. She also wrote a column for the "Village Voice" titled "Art and Industry" which covered American independent filmmaking. Her first weekly film criticism job was at the "SoHo Weekly News". Her writing has also appeared in "Art Forum", the "New York Times", the "New York Daily News", the "LA Weekly", "Millennium Film Journal", "US Harpers Bazaar" and many other magazines. She is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online.

She started her professional life as an actress, appearing most notably on Broadway in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and in avant-garde films, among them Michael Snow's "Wavelength", Andy Warhol's "Couch", and Jonas Mekas' "Diaries, Notebooks and Sketches".

Her own avant-garde film, "In the Bag" (1981) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Friends of Young Cinema Archives in Berlin.

She was the video and film curator of "The Kitchen" from 1983-1987.

She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from N.Y.U. in cinema studies. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in both the undergraduate and the MFA graduate programs, and lectures frequently at museums, media centers, and academic institutions. In 2003, she received the School of Visual Arts' art historian teaching award.

Tags: As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, Lost, Lost, Lost, Walden, He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life, P Adam Sitney

Duration: 5 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010