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The circumstances surrounding the first screening of my movie


Finding work as a scriptwriter is not as easy as we thought
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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We began, myself and my brother, writing scripts already, you know, in the displaced person camps in '58, in '48,'49 before we came to New York.

Then when we came to New York, I, we finished together one script and then I finished another one by myself and we thought, we had this illusion that, you know, there are people in Hollywood that will produce, you know, will buy and produce our scripts, so well, there was money, actually we asked for money, we did not try to sell. We sent Stanley... To Zimmermann to Stanley Kramer to Flaherty, to Kazan. We sent, and of course we, some of them never answered, some of them wrote back; I have the letters. Like Flaherty telling us, 'How can I help you if I cannot find money myself for my own films? Well, I like your script, you know, and I would like to help, but I cannot'. The same came, I think, from Jerry Walderson. And so we, at some point, we gave up on it, we said this is not, it won't work. And then, it came already around '54 when we were already practically 100% in our interest in the independent and avant-garde. We said, that's, we like, you know, we spent our nights, many nights on 42nd Street, watching all the Hollywood movies, but that was not what we want to do. And that's where we start to begin to split from, as far as the preferences go, what we are really interested in.

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: Fred Zinneman, Staley Kramer, Eli Kazan, Robert J Flahery

Duration: 2 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008