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My friendship with Yuri Zakova prompts accusations of spying


Learning editing techniques from Kenneth Anger
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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I shoot on reversal, I film on reversal where you can immediately see and that you don't have to spend money making a print and plus when you begin to edit you are right there, you don't... if you edit negatives, then you have to... it's so much unnecessary work and there, it doesn't make a difference in quality at all because the best thing is it's original. I learned this from Kenneth Anger. Plus... I mean, before that, before Kenneth Anger, you know, I used to... I edited the first Guns of the Trees and The Brig and the... what's known as A and B tracks, you see, was to hide the splice, Kenneth says. I never do that, I just put one piece next to other, I never do that, so hah! So what if you see some... that's part of the visual activity if you... but actually, you don't see the splice. So I just work with the originals straight and it saves me a lot of money and time. A lot of money because much what I don't use, you know, why make print of it? Some... it... when I decide to use then I will, you know, I make a work print also positive when I begin to work with sound that's when I make a copy but not a negative, I make a cheap one they call untimed print of the original to work with sound already on Moviola, that's when I begin to work already on Moviola, old-fashioned Moviola. Before that I just work on hand rewinds and little viewer.

[Q] So that once you make that work print...

Then I, you know, then I transfer, I pre-edit sound from whatever is on cassettes I put on, on reel-to-reel, I pre-edit and I make a copy on 16... 16 magno copy and with 16 magno and with 16 work print I then I begin to synchronise and match and work. That's when I do the final work. And that's it.

[Q] And so in the end what you would be doing is you would be conforming the original...

Then when I finish with it then I just cut the original which is, you know, for me the work print, if I make any changes during the sound adjustments then I just do those final little changes which I can do in a couple of nights. Not like when... if I would try to match original to negative, oh boy, little pieces. If, you know, one works in long stretches, but I work in tiny little pieces.

The one that sometimes... and you see, I don't all, everything in my film stays the way it came out from the camera, like those little pieces of 10 seconds, 15 seconds, but sometimes I cut out one or two frames and that would really mess me up if I would be working with the negative. I make little cuts, like if you're a writer and you decide to take one word out from a paragraph or sentence, so only that much. Or a comma you take out a comma or you add a comma. That I do, but not more than that.

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: Guns of the Trees, The Brig, Kenneth Anger

Duration: 3 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010