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Publishing without money


The first issue of Film Culture magazine
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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The first people that were helpful to make contacts were Hans Richter and Herman Weinberg. Herman Weinberg had very close to all the Hollywood people, and he called Orson Wells, to get people like Orson Wells. Others, you know, I called or wrote directly and expanded very... because everybody was very excited that there is a new publication because there was nothing. In '54, December '54, when the first issue came out, there was only Films in Review or Review of Films, that's Henry...

[Q] 'Films in Review', yeah...

... which is a miserable little nit-witty nothing, and in the University of California, there was the Hollywood Quarterly. I think it was called, Film Quarterly, which was very serious and very good. It used to just come out once a year, never maybe four or five issues that came out, and there was the extreme left publication Film Sense. It was nothing, nothing else. Everything else came Sight and Sound, Sequence from England and Cahiers du Cinéma and Cinéma from France, and nothing else here. So, when this came out, I mean it was very bleak and to them, enthusiasm and support and was very easy to test, sort of, you know, of course needed some persuasion, and especially and one of my co-editors that I had befriended some time before, to talk, we need somebody from Europe was George Fennin. George Fennin came from Italy and grew up there and knew everybody in France and from Bazin to Aristarto in Italy and traveled, went to all, because he was writing for Italian publications. So, I thought he will be and... we were friends and- drinking friends so, you know, come here on the Editorial Board. So, when they first see who came up, and he was also president of the Foreign Correspondents Association in New York. He said, 'Ah, we have a room at Waldorf Astoria, which is our room when we have meetings, and this next week, so, we have no meetings but we have that space. Why don't we present Film Culture magazine, the first issue, at Waldorf Astoria, in this room?'. This, of course, it's very nice. So, we are there at Waldorf Astoria and this huge space, you know, where all the presidents are staying, so the... told the local filmmaking community, and I remember Willem Mast come in with, 'How do you, where do you get this money to get?' In any case, after the opening, and plus, you see, they were provided... we were provided with drinks and everything else on the account of the Foreign Journalists Association, okay. So, later, the people did not know what to think about, you know, are we, first they got the idea that this is serious, if they can have an opening presentation of the first issue at Waldorf Astoria, we have to take them seriously. So, that helped, of course. On the other hand, when we were asking for money, it's, 'Why, you need money? I mean, you don't have money? You had this opening at Waldorf Astoria'. I said, no I'm slaving at Graphic Studios.

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: Films in Review, Hollywood Quarterly, Film Sense, Sight and Sound, Cahiers du Cinéma, Cinéma, Film Culture, Hans Richter, Herman Weisman, Orson Wells, George Benin, Wilem Mast

Duration: 4 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008