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The Very Beginning of the Beginning


Publishing without money
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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When we presented the first issue, the printing bill was not even paid, so we go, for the next issue and then we see where... where can we get breaks like that that you can publish and not pay. It was a very nice scheme. I knew somebody in the Franciscan Monastery in Brooklyn and I knew they had a printing shop so they printed it, they printed it. And then they said, 'Where is the money?' so we received you know, Franciscan monks... the monastery sued us, you're mugs, you shouldn't, you're holy people, how can you sue us? You shouldn't sue us. So, of course, we had to pay, we found the money. But my... some of my Editorial Board, members of my Editorial Board with the third issue had a meeting and said, 'You really have no money? We thought you had money. How can you publish?' That was Hendriks, a bright person, he did a great book on Hepperstein[?], the painter, he's a historian, art and film historian and music which is, 'How... you invited me to be on the Board and you have no money to publish at least four or five issues?' I said, if I would have told that to my, you know, colleagues here, none of them would have been on the Board and we wouldn't have the magazine. He resigned, he resigned that day at that meeting because we had no money. If I would have waited that we have money we wouldn't, there would be no Film Culture.

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: Film Culture

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008