Blogs Crosscuts

Hi8: Eight Questions with Justin Begnaud, Producer, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for an Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight […]

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for an Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight that best expose their current musings and fascinations. No two interviews are the same.

Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. Photo courtesy Kino Lorber 2014

Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. Photo courtesy Kino Lorber 2014

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night effortlessly blends genres. One part spaghetti Western, one part noir, and one part graphic novel, the film follows a skateboarding vampire as she strategically chooses her victims and falls in love. Director Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut is nominated for Best First Feature, Best Cinematography, and the Kiehl’s Someone to Watch award. The film’s producer, Justin Begnaud, took a moment to talk about Viking funerals and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off via email. Begnaud is the Chief Operating Officer at Crimson Forest Entertainment and has been producing film, television, and digital media for the past 15 years.

1.  What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

Oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips….hold on…I’m eating one right now.

2. What is your advice for young people today?

Get off your damn mobile device and live!

3. What’s your favorite place to people-watch?

Airplanes. Everyone looks miserable, and they all wear comfort clothes….which ain’t pretty either.

4. What’s your most vivid Minneapolis memory?

My dad was born in St. Paul and my uncle bought a 60 year-old cannery on the outskirts of town… used it as his house… and he had 7 couches inside… one to sleep on for each night of the week!

5. What was your favorite birthday like?

My friends surprised me by re-creating the entire day from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (rented a Ferrari, took me to a museum, a major league baseball game, and a fancy steak lunch… took me a while to figure it out, but once I caught on it was “so choice!”)

6. What’s your favorite comfort food?

Greasy Pizza! (From NYC of course).

7. What is your favorite place in the world?

South Island, New Zealand.

8. What do you wish to have done with your mortal remains?

I want a Viking funeral. Ya know, when they put you on a pile of logs, along with other flammable objects and get shoved out into the ocean abyss…then someone with a flaming arrow fires a shot toward my body. That’s honorable.

 

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominees screen annually at the Walker Art Center as part of a collaboration with IFP. Screenings are free for all IFP and Walker members. Click here for the complete list of screenings.

Hi8: Eight Questions with Lena Waithe, Producer, Dear White People

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight […]

Screen shot 2015-02-18 at 11.33.00 AM
Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight that best expose their current musings and fascinations. No two interviews are the same.

Dear White People seamlessly blends cultural critique and humor in its examination of racial politics in higher education. The film has a special relationship with Minnesota: it was shot on the University of Minnesota campus, screened to a sold out audience at the Walker in May of 2014 as part of the Next Look series, and was presented as a case study at IFP Minnesota’s 15th Annual Midwest Filmmaker’s Conference. Dear White People received two Film Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay. Director Justin Simien and producers Lena Waithe, Angel Lopez, and Ann Le raised over $41,000 through Indiegogo, a crowd funding site. Producer Effie Brown later joined the mix after the promotional video went viral. Lena Waithe took a few moments to talk about self-care, what she’s listening to, and her favorite pair of pants. Waithe first gained internet fame for writing the YouTube series “Shit Black Girls Say.” She is currently writing a pilot for a show called Twenties, about a handful of twenty-somethings trying to navigate their post-college years, that will air on BET, and developing another show called Bros Before Hos—a comedy about three black brothers—for HBO.

1. What’s your favorite place to people-watch?

Gay clubs and holiday office parties.

 2. How do you recharge creatively?

Walking around my neighborhood listening to whatever my favorite song is at the time.

3. What is your favorite article of clothing?

A pair of corduroy harem pants I found at a thrift store. They’re way too big for me so I often wear them with suspenders.

 4. What is your favorite film scene?

It’s a scene from Eve’s Bayou. It’s when Eve’s aunt relives a memory when her lover shoots her husband in front of her. It’s shot beautifully and it’s done in such a sad yet eloquent way.

 5. What have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to Siya’s latest mixtape “Better Late Than Never.” Oh and Jazmine Sullivan’s new album, “Reality Show”.

 6. What is your favorite inanimate object?

My remote control.

 7. What has been your favorite age so far? Why?

The one I am now (30) because I’ve learned the true meaning of self-care. It’s not a concept one can fully comprehend in your twenties. You’re still too eager to please everyone.

8. What recent album, film, or book did you consume recently that you wish you had created?

The Comeback—because it’s so smart and dark and a reflection of us as a society.

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominees screen annually at the Walker Art Center as part of a collaboration with IFP. Screenings are free for all IFP and Walker members. Click here for the complete list of screenings.

Hi8: Eight Questions with the Directors and Producers of Land Ho!

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for an Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, […]

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for an Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight that best expose their current musings and fascinations. No two interviews are the same.

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Land Ho! tells the story of two older men who, bored by retirement, decide to adventure through Iceland. The film received a nomination for a Film Independent Spirit Award in the John Cassavetes category for movies filmed with a budget of less than $500,000. Co-director Aaron Katz played an important role as a pioneer of “mumblecore”: an independent film genre that typically features a small budget, amateur actors, and emphasis on character rather than plot. His artistic partner, Martha Stephens, debuted as a director at the SXSW film festival in 2010 with Passenger Pigeons, a subtle film portraying life in her home of rural Appalachia. Katz and Stephens have been friends for over a decade and decided to shoot Land Ho! together while working on their own long-term projects. The film is produced by three women including Mynette Louie, president of Gamechanger Films, an equity fund that finances films directed by women. Louie won the Piaget Producer’s Award at last year’s Spirit Awards. Christina Jennings also helped produce the film and fell so in love with Iceland that she decided to move there post-shoot. Jennings first connected with director Stephens in Austin while attending school at the University of Texas. These four directors and producers took a moment to answer a few questions about dance hits, dinner parties, Ariana Grande, and the Australian Open. Land Ho! screens at the Walker at 6 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2015.

 

Aaron Katz, Director

1. What have you been obsessing about lately?

El Dorado rum. On its own or in a rum Manhattan.

2. What’s your most vivid Minneapolis memory?

A long time ago some friends took me to a house party and someone put on “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.” I hadn’t thought of this song as enjoyable or good until that moment. I was at the peak of my just out of college music snobbery and I was reminded then that music can be enjoyed in lots of different ways.

 3. What is your least favorite sound? 

I’ve been watching the Australian Open and there’s this commercial that has run hundreds of times for Melbourne as a tourist destination. I remember to mute it most of the time now, but I’ll be hearing it in my nightmares for years to come.

 4. What global issue most excites or angers you?

I’m angered by the lack of seriousness regarding environmental issues in mainstream political dialogue.

 5. What have you been listening to lately? 

Dance hits by CeCe Peniston and Crystal Waters. Also, Korean hip hop geniuses Dynamic Duo.

 6. What recent album, film, or book did you consume recently that you wish you had created?

Nightcrawler. I caught the end credits of the movie recently while I was walking into a screening of a movie playing right after it and I was reminded, even just watching two minutes of credits, how great it is.

 7. What is your favorite article of clothing?

The Fair Isle sweater I bought while in the Shetland Islands with my wife.

 8. What have you been reading lately?

John Dickson Carr. He wrote “locked room mysteries” and I’m having a hard time reading anything else right now.


Martha Stephens, Director

 1. What is your hometown like?

I grew up in the Appalachian foothills right outside of Ashland, Kentucky. People call this area Cancer Valley. We have several coal processing plants, oil refineries, steel plants, etc. It’s a gritty, depressed hybrid of the rust belt and coal country.

2. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

Mystic Pizza. But I feel no guilt for loving it. Julia Roberts in that pool hustling scene is GOLD.

3. What’s your favorite mode of transport?

Inclined planes and chairlifts.

4. What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

Bruce Springsteen. At thirteen I heard Born To Run and was never the same.

5. Whom would you like to spend three hours in an elevator with?

See above. I’m getting flustered just thinking about it.

6. What have you been listening to lately? 

Suzi Quatro. She inspired the spirit of my latest script.

 7. What’s your favorite comfort food? 

Biscuits and gravy, the food of my people.

 8. What artists would you like to collaborate with?

I’d love to work with Billy Bob Thornton one day.  I think of him as a kindred spirit.


Mynette Louie, Producer

1. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

ABC’s Scandal.

2. Who is your favorite villain of fiction?

Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.

3. What is your advice for young people today?

This is advice for everyone, including myself: Don’t let the Internet rewire your brain more than it already has. Don’t fall prey to digital mob mentality or allow persecution by social media without asking rigorous questions. Cherish and nourish nuance and critical thinking. Learn grammar.

4. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Good manners and optimism (at the expense of truth and honesty).

5. What’s your favorite comfort food?

Mashed potatoes and soup dumplings (but not together).

6. Who’s your favorite cartoon character?

Lucy from Peanuts.

7. What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?

Riding the NYC subway. It’s rife with humanity and ripe for existential musings.

8. Describe a recent dream in 15 words or less.

Hollywood agent disappears from office without a trace. Co-workers discover he went on a walkabout.


Christina Jennings, Producer

1. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

Nada. I own my love of Ariana Grande.

2. If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world, who would you invite?

Rashida Jones, Cara Delevingne, the Broad City gals (Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson), Emma Watson, Amanda Seyfried, Addie Bryant, Cobie Smulders, Anna Wintour, Tavi Gevinson, Drake and Paul Rudd.

3. What is your advice for young people today?

Don’t do something just because you think you’re supposed to do it. There are no “rules” in life.

4. Who’s your favorite superhero?

Joan Rivers.

5. If you own a pet, what kind and what characteristics do you share with it?

My cat Finn and I are both sweet-natured and gentle but we bite if we have no other choice.

6. What have you been reading lately?

Yes Please by Amy Poehler & Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness

 7. Name something you would love to possess, but never will.

A neck tattoo. My mom made me vow I would never get one. I love her so I will obey.

 8. What do you wish to have done with your mortal remains?

I’m working towards my immortality so hopefully this need not worry me.

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominees screen annually at the Walker Art Center as part of a collaboration with IFP. Screenings are free for all IFP and Walker members. Click here for the complete list of screenings.

 

 

Hi8: Eight Questions with Kiara C. Jones, Producer, She’s Lost Control

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering […]

P1010091_2Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight that best expose their current musings and fascinations. No two interviews are the same.

Director Anja Marquardt’s debut film, She’s Lost Control, starkly explores the life of a sexual surrogate in New York who becomes a bit too close with one of her patients. The film was nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. The “worst blizzard of the century” provided an opportunity for the film’s producer, Kiara C. Jones, to take a moment away from her busy life to talk to me about the subway, Malcom X, and breaking up with technology. Jones started her creative career as a poet and hip hop artist before moving to New York City to pursue a career in filmmaking. She’s Lost Control screened at the Walker earlier in January 2015.

1. What do you wish to have done with your mortal remains? 

I’d like for the people I love to skip the funeral and see the world. Cremate me and scatter my ashes in warm, beautiful, clear blue, water around the globe.

2. What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

When I was 17 my friend Dent gave me a shoe box filled with cassette tapes. It was recordings of Malcolm X speeches from the 1960s. Some would categorize him as an activist, but he was definitely an artist. He was a brilliant orator, clever and concise in his choice of content and presentation of thoughts. I used to listen to the tapes on my Walkman and would rewind the poignant and often inflammatory thoughts. I moved through the tapes in order. Then, one day, his voice, his pace, his message had changed. I was shook. In reality the distance between those speeches was years, but in my world I had gone to bed with pre-Mecca Malcolm and woke up with post-Mecca Malcolm. If you don’t know what that means, it’s worth a little research. For 17-year-old me, it was life-changing. I would go back and forth between the tapes, looking for similarities, differences, wondering what he would say if he were alive today. It taught me that people truly can change, like butterfly change. Yesterday crawling, today flying. It freed me to understand that being true to myself didn’t mean staying the same. I have the right to explore, discover, interpret, reinterpret and change. Thank you, Malcolm and Dent.

3. Describe a recent dream in 15 words or less.

Glitter dances, bubbles of snow, humble spotlight, applause and laughter, wordless speech, baby sister, proud.

4. What is your hometown like?

Like most of America, beautiful on paper with a torrid past and a volatile future.

5. What is your advice for young people today?

Get offline.

6. What have you been reading lately?

Scripts… lots and lots of scripts. The more I read, the more I discover about filmmaking. There are lots of bad scripts out there. Not bad because they’re bad, but bad because the writer didn’t find the most interesting “good” to put on the page. There will often be one character or a line of dialogue and I’ll think—there, that’s what this script should be about. They say directing is about knowing where to put the camera, writing is about knowing where to put your thoughts.

7. Fill in the blank. What the world needs now is_____________.

A 30-day power outage.

8. What’s your favorite place to people-watch?

New York City trains. I love to imagine where people are coming from. Where they’re going. What’s on their minds. What’s making them joyful or sad. You can see the entire world on the subway, every class, race, creed, color, orientation. It is a microcosm of the human experience. That’s the best thing about living in New York, if you need inspiration, just walk out your door.

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominees screen annually at the Walker Art Center as part of a collaboration with IFP. Screenings are free for all IFP and Walker members. Click here for the complete schedule.

 

Hi8: Eight Questions with David Zellner and Chris Ohlson, Director/Producer, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering […]

The Zellner Bros. and Chris Ohlson during their visit to the Walker in 2014.

The Zellner Bros. and Chris Ohlson during their visit to the Walker in 2014.

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight that best expose their current musings and fascinations. No two interviews are the same.

The Austin, Texas–based Zellner Bros., have been collaboratively making films for over a decade. For their latest—Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter—Nathan wrote, produced, and acted while David directed. After obsessively watching Fargo, their protagonist is convinced the film contains a map to buried treasure and travels to Minnesota to find it. The Zellner Bros. shot many of the scenes on site, in and around the Twin Cities. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter played to a sold out audience at the Walker in September 2014. Along with producer Chris Ohlson, the Zellner Bros. joined Variety chief film critic Scott Foundas for a Q&A afterwards. Their feature was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards: Best Director and Best Female Lead (Rinko Kikuchi).

On a warm Austin day in January, David Zellner writes to me about fond memories of yesteryear and the forces that motivated him.

1. Which creative talent would you most like to have?

The voice of an angel.

2. What is your favorite film scene?

It changes day to day, but the end of Aguirre, The Wrath of God is always a safe bet.

3. What was your most character-building experience?

Years of rejection.

4. What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

Tie between Morrissey and Kris Kristofferson.

5. Name an image from past visits to the Twin Cities that you can’t get out of your mind.

The amazing interior of Nye’s, a national treasure.

6. What was your worst (college/post-college/make-ends-meet) job?

A phone survey job in the late ’90s. You had to hit a daily quota of cold-calls covering everything from political/current events to favorite types of condiments.

7. What recent album, film, or book did you consume recently that you wish you had created?

Ida. It’s a pretty perfect film.

8. When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, never have had a choice.

Still from Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014)

Still from Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014)

Chris Ohlson lives and works as a filmmaker in Austin, Texas. He recently produced the Zellner Bros. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter which world premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and will be released theatrically in March 2015. He is the recipient of the 2015 Piaget Producers Award and previously was a Sundance Creative Producing Fellow.

1. What have you been obsessing about lately?

TIME.  I’m constantly struggling with TIME and how to be best friends with it. Please help me.

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

SLEEPING.  I’d like to eliminate sleeping from my daily life and ritual.

3. What is your greatest extravagance?

Completely unnecessary and completely extravagant… A 2nd CUP OF COFFEE in a single day.

4. What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?

In 1992, I was 17 years old, and technically still a teenager, yes. I was sitting in the back of my crappy blue Mazda pickup truck and I heard, for the very first time, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE… Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk… and Everything Was Turned Upside-Down.

5. What’s your favorite comfort food?

CHIPS AND SALSA.  Sometimes, it’s dinner.  Sometimes it’s dessert… and every once in a while, it’s breakfast. But always, always, always, chips and salsa.

6. Whom would you like to spend three hours in an elevator with?

I don’t know that we’d even talk—but I think silently staring at mirrored elevator walls with WERNER HERZOG for three hours, would be completely revelatory and altogether life-changing.

7. What is your favorite place in the world?

It’s less a specific place, but more of a specific SETTING. I absolutely love SWIMMING AT NIGHT.  Finding a moonlit body of warm water and diving in, that’s the good stuff.

8. What recent album, film, or book did you consume recently that you wish you had created?

I wish I had created HERE IT IS MY BEAUTIFUL FUCKING HEART (a wonderful chapbook of poetic comics by Jon-Michael Frank, buy it here).

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominees screen annually at the Walker Art Center as part of a collaboration with IFP. Screenings are free for all IFP and Walker members. Click here for the complete list of screenings.

 

Hi8: Eight Questions with Mauricio Zacharias, Writer, Love is Strange

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with  a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering […]

Still from Love is Strange (2014)

Still from Love is Strange (2014)

Hi8 is a new series of short interviews that serve as a quick hello to film figures we’re following. Inspired by the Walker’s 8-Ball Q&As, the series launches with  a look at writers, producers, directors, and actors nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award. In a self-navigated format, each artist picks questions from a list, answering those eight that best expose their current musings and fascinations. No two interviews are the same.

Love is Strange, the second collaboration between director Ira Sachs and writer Mauricio Zacharias, is nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards: Best Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor. The film tells the tender love story of two men—Ben and George—who finally get married in New York City after 39 years of partnership. Because of their recent marriage, George is fired from his teaching position at a Catholic school and the couple is forced to live separately while they figure out their finances. The Walker screened Love is Strange earlier this month with Sachs in attendance for a post-screening discussion.

The writing duo has a promising future ahead. Sachs and Zacharias are currently working on their third film, the final installment in their unofficial New York love trilogy. Fresh from the beach, Zacharias took a moment away from visiting family in Rio de Janeiro to answer a few questions about what inspires, angers, and comforts him in 2015.

1. What have you been obsessing about lately?

The Amazon series Transparent. I love the way it uses humor to portray a very complicated family situation.

2. What is something you have never done before?

Parachuting! To jump out of plane and free fall for a while sounds amazing (but landing safely on a sandy beach sounds even better).

3. When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

I watched Psycho as a kid. It made me want to make movies. I studied and worked hard to make it happen, but I’m always amazed to see that I’ve become what I’ve always dreamed of being.

4. What global issue most excites or angers you?

Global warming. It is the most pressing issue of our times, and when I hear governments denying to take action, I go: what are those people thinking??

5. They say dogs and their owners tend to look alike. What kind of dog would you own?  If you own a pet, what kind and what characteristics do you share with it?

Miles, a shiba-inu, is the first pet I’ve ever owned (I share custody with my ex). He likes to be alone as much as I do.

6. What is your least favorite sound? 

The ambulance/firetruck sirens in NYC. Can they turn it down, please?

7. What is your favorite place in the world?

My bed.

8. Whom would you like to spend three hours in an elevator with?

Absolutely no one. If this ever happens to me, I wish to be alone.

The Film Independent Spirit Award nominees screen annually at the Walker Art Center as part of a collaboration with IFP. Screenings are free for all IFP and Walker members. Click here for the complete list of screenings.

Alive From Off Center: Video Art in the 1980s

In the mid-1980s, television became a new frontier for independent and experimental video artists. In a unique collaboration between Walker Art Center and Twin Cities Public Television (KTCA), Alive From Off Center was born. This ground-breaking series first aired on PBS in the summer of 1984 and featured an assortment of performances ranging in discipline […]

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In the mid-1980s, television became a new frontier for independent and experimental video artists. In a unique collaboration between Walker Art Center and Twin Cities Public Television (KTCA), Alive From Off Center was born. This ground-breaking series first aired on PBS in the summer of 1984 and featured an assortment of performances ranging in discipline from dance to theater to comedy. Though the series was not quite a variety show, the producers brought in different artists every week to create and execute their own episode. To tie Alive From Off Center together, Susan Stamberg—a journalist who was the first woman to anchor a nightly news program— and later renowned musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson, hosted the show.

Over the last six months, the Walker has featured eleven episodes spanning the first three seasons of the series. The episodes are available for viewing on the Best Buy Video Bay through February 7, 2015. In the summer of 2013, Film/Video intern Anna Swanson sat down with two former executive producers, Melinda Ward (the first producer of Alive From Off Center) and John Schott, to discuss the series’ conception and legacy.

As Ward and Schott both noted, the 1980s were a golden age in television. Network giants like MTV and ESPN first gained their footing at the start of the decade and reached hundreds of thousands of Americans every day. According to Schott, offbeat, avant-garde shows like Alive From Off Center were also “right there at the moment that this larger cultural change was taking place, across a wide range of mediums.” For the first time, less well-known artists not only had new opportunities to work in video, but “a big new awareness of a mass audience.” Alive From Off Center offered a unique platform that tapped into PBS’s pre-existing viewers while still pushing the boundaries of network television.

The show first got its name as a riff on “Live from Lincoln Center,” the PBS series that broadcasts live music, theater, and dance performances. Alive was its alter-ego that featured experimental episodes from artists like director Jonathan Demme, storyteller Spalding Gray, photographer William Wegman, and dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown. Schott believes Alive came to fruition at an important cultural moment, when “a lot of people came forward who were kind of rooting for PBS to do something unusual.” Though Alive From Off Center never reached mainstream audiences, Schott asserts that “there was kind of a secret audience out there…for whom that show was something really amazing and important to them.”

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In the first two seasons of Alive, funding was limited so about half of the episodes were produced by KCTA-TV in the Twin Cities and the other half were preexisting segments that Ward acquired. But after three seasons and a grant from the Ford Foundation, the series was able to produce nearly 70% of the episodes at KCTA. The series was funded entirely through public organizations: National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, and Ford Foundation made up the majority of the contributions. The structure of the show varied from episode to episode: some included multiple short pieces by a variety of artists while others featured the work of only one person.

As both producers noted, Alive From Off Center pioneered an era of video art in the 1980s. Ward suggests that artists were attracted to the series due to “love of television, as television” because “suddenly anybody could do it for not very much money, and you didn’t have to worry [about cost]…with video you just play.” The show brought integrity and excitement to the medium (the New York Times gave it rave reviews). According to Ward, Alive “validated this idea that you could work seriously in television in some way, or television as a medium, as an art form.”

Alive From Off Center will screen at the Walker through February 7, 2015. Be sure to swing by the Best Buy Video Bay to view this innovative television programming.

Construction Zone as Pinball Game: Ericka Beckman on Frame UP (2005)

Speaking with the Walker’s Bentson Film Scholar Isla Leaver-Yap, New York–based artist Ericka Beckman revisits the making of Frame UP, a double-channel video work from 2005. Commissioned by the Walker during construction of its new Herzog & de Meuron–designed expansion, Frame UP uses chance elements of the construction landscape and its workers to conceive of the Walker as a vast pinball […]

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Still from Ericka Beckman’s Frame-UP, 2005

Speaking with the Walker’s Bentson Film Scholar Isla Leaver-Yap, New York–based artist Ericka Beckman revisits the making of Frame UP, a double-channel video work from 2005. Commissioned by the Walker during construction of its new Herzog & de Meuron–designed expansion, Frame UP uses chance elements of the construction landscape and its workers to conceive of the Walker as a vast pinball machine. Frame UP is on view in the Walker Lecture Room through March 29 and in New York on High Line Channel 14 through March 11.

Isla Leaver-Yap: How did your double-channel video installation Frame UP (2005) come to be? The key “figure” in Frame UP is the construction site where the Walker’s Herzog and de Meuron–designed building was being made in 2005. Building sites seem to be particularly fecund spaces for the projections of desire – they’re microcosms of world-building, especially in relation to the construction of cultural value (in this case the Walker). Could you say a little about the commissioning process and how long it took to make the work? How did the shooting and editing work practically? Were you seeking specific shots, or was the primary work in the edit?

Ericka Beckman: When Sheryl Mousley [the Walker’s senior curator of Film/Video] commissioned me to do a piece involving play and the construction site, I thought I would learn from the process. Which I did! In 1999, after my film HIATUS, I decided that it was time for me to work outside the studio in real locations. Frame UP is the second project I filmed outside the studio. (The studio being a black box where I created everything from a set of rules, and where each film project proceeded directly on the back of the other one.)

I was attracted to architectural sites – particularly industrial sites – because they reveal the process of construction. So having access to a construction site was developmental to me; it allowed me to investigate and observe how things get made.

I met Sheryl when I was shooting Cinderella (1986) in Minneapolis in the mid 1980s. I have been intensely aware of the role the Walker plays in the support of performance, film, video, and in all forms of temporal art for many decades. The Dada works and Fluxus objects, plus the films and documentation in the Walker Collection were instrumental to my commitment as an artist. Once I was offered this commission I felt I should like to make a piece that is in dialogue with that collection.

I was invited to film at the Walker during the construction of the new facility. I was restricted in my vantage point to the outside of the construction site, so I set up many recording cameras in various places to capture the site through time-lapse photography. These varied in formats, from Super 8 and Hi-8 to very low-definition VHS cameras. I also was unable to be there for the length of this commission (2003–2004), so I hired interns from the Walker’s Film/Video department to manage my cameras and send me the materials. I edited throughout the shooting process. I was on site in June to set up the situation, I returned once in December to shoot 16mm film, and then I returned in 2005 for the opening.

Ericka Beckman films construction of the Walker expansion, December 2003

Ericka Beckman films construction of the Walker expansion, December 2003

Leaver-Yap: In a 2012 interview with Frieze you mentioned keeping a notebook of your shots for reference during the edit of your works. I’ve always been interested in the how shoot-for-edit filmmaking has this quality of looking both forward and back throughout – a kind of in-built anachronism that is a process unique to artists’s moving image work. What parameters did you set yourself in the making of the work?

Beckman: From my description you can see that this was a “film for edit” project. However, I went into the project with the plan to make a game and, in place of real planning, I embraced chance and experimentation in the gathering of materials as well as in the editing.

The construction site became the pinball “backglass” for the structure of this film. I looked at the workers as dancers. With my camera, I followed the movement of materials through this space and, specifically, how they were transported and handled by workers. I looked for various pinball references on the construction site – that meant looking for shafts, for paddles, inclines and sockets.

Leaver-Yap: The action on both of the screens is antagonistic, and this notion of competition of course resonates in your earlier works, like You the better (1983), where the narrative builds on competition and accumulation. Did this notion of a double-channel work come right at the start?

Beckman: The idea of using two screens came early on, when I visited arcade centers where multiple players play games side by side. The games may have various backglass themes but the core mechanics are the same. Two players in the pinball arcade actually behave very similarly, hitting paddles, knocking balls around and trying to get them into slots. It’s a solo game but players are in competition for the score.

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Still from Ericka Beckman’s Frame-UP, 2005

Leaver-Yap: For me, Frame UP probes the structural aspects of how one looks/reads/frames a space, and how that framing produces – even in its most minimal and least-ornamented form – a narrative quality. And games, of course, are totally committed to narrative in this way. In Frame UP, the balls lead the eye, and this double-channel form (perhaps a “binocular” presentation) produces a way of looking. How did you consider the sound in relation to this narrative-making, and were considerations of other formal qualities like color significant in determining what you were looking for in the shoot, as well as afterwards, in the editing of the digital overlays?

Beckman: The sound for the work came from actual recording on the location, plus many found sounds from department store recordings, where I recorded toys and games and of course an actual pinball machine.

Editing is where the chance or “play” aspect was featured. Since I had multiple cameras covering the same day’s labor, I assigned cameras and shots to each screen. Then I linked game sounds to all the shots I chose to work with. At this point there was no linear structure just a “bin” of shots and their sounds.

Then I turned “off” the video monitor and cut a soundtrack from the found sounds. I gave myself one rule: I would start in unison and then build a separate soundscape for each screen. This allowed me to let go of building a competitive relationship between the two screens. Then I opened the video monitor and took a look at my action cuts. This first edit governed everything that came after – the graphics, the length of the shots. My second rule was to heavily rework the first edit.

It was a joy for me to take a very important architectural site and turn it into a simple pinball game, and to make the workers of a remarkable structure turn into handlers for the game. And why not? Isn’t that a joy itself to turn work into play?

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Still from Ericka Beckman’s Frame-UP, 2005

Leaver-Yap: I’m not sure if this resonates with you, but I was reminded of some formal similarities in this work to Hilary Lloyd’s videos and Rosalind Nashashibi’s films (specifically Lloyd’s Untitled multi-channel projection piece of a Glasgow building site from 2009 and Nashashibi’s Bachelor Machines Part 1 from 2007) – where these works are shot and edited by a female artist occupying a usually masculine environment or behaviors. This occupation of specific genders has often been true in video gaming, too (and recently problematic). Did you think of the camera eye or the viewer in a gendered state?

Beckman: I do not want to diminish your question about gender viewpoints. I am often asked the question if I understand what I’m doing from a gendered camera. But what struck me about the materials my camera shot was how varied in age these men where on this Mortenson construction site. They defied my stereotype of construction workers. For the most part, the workers multitasked. One day they would be building scaffolds, next laying rebar, then doing the wiring or steel welding. They seemed very well trained and very secure, and there was no stress visible on site. I did ask questions about the M.A. Mortenson Company – their hiring process, their loyalty to their workers, and their reputation in the Midwest. I learned that they are a union company and only hire a union workforce.

Leaver-Yap: Re-presenting Frame UP now at the Walker, ten years on since you made it, I’m conscious not only of how the institution looks back on its own biography, but also how Frame UP migrates to other contexts, namely where it is concurrently being shown on The High Line in New York, a Chelsea location with its own diverse cultural history, but also one of construction, accelerating skylines, high-speed capital and its own competitive rules of engagement. I was wondering if you find the resulting work significantly different from how you wanted to respond to the commission invitation more than a decade ago?

Beckman: This Minneapolis worksite now stands in sharp contrast with what I see going on all around me in lower Manhattan, where much of my immediate community is in a state of renewal or, better said, expansion. The buildings are going rapidly up by the hands of subcontracted non-union workers. When I look at these buildings I don’t see craft but capital, with no regard for the community, the workers, or even the inhabitants who will have to face management that does not care about the building.

Speaking specifically about the Minneapolis work site, I did see and follow a few young female workers on site. They were athletic, strong, and exceedingly involved in various work tasks, like their male counterparts. This reinforced what I saw as a very young female child growing up on the military base. I am not proud of this background, but it did form a strong viewpoint. My father was not an officer so, at his level in the military service, there were many women sharing the tasks of running the base operations. They both wore the same drab uniforms, and marched alongside their male counterparts in full display at military functions. This cut through many of the stereotypes of gendered bias in labor and probably gave me a utopian view of labor politics at a very young age.

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The Walker terrace provided Beckman a clear view of the construction site

2014: The Year According to Sam Green

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from animator Miwa Matreyek and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Eric Hu and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: […]

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To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from animator Miwa Matreyek and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Eric Hu and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 . 

 

Sam Green is a documentary filmmaker best known for his Academy Award–nominated 2003 film The Weather Underground, which was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. His most recent works include The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (2012) , a live cinematic collaboration with the indie rock band Yo La Tengo (which came to the Walker in October 2013) and the new live musical documentary The Measure of All Things, a meditation on time, fate, and overall human experience, coming to the Walker stage on February 6, 2015.

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Jackie Goss and Jenny Perlin, The Measures

My favorite film of the year. It’s an experimental documentary that retraces the 18th-century journey of two astronomers tasked with determining the true length of a meter. The story is wonderfully weird, but the form is what really makes the film so smart and sophisticated. Both Goss and Perlin filmed the same landscapes across Europe, each with their own Bolex, and the finished film includes the two images side by side. The two filmmakers perform a live version of this film where they read the voiceover in person. I loved it.

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Yo La Tengo, “Nowhere Near”

I went and saw my pals and collaborators Yo La Tengo play a 30th-anniversary gig at Town Hall in NYC in December. They recently re-released one of their brilliant early records Painful and at the Town Hall show played many songs from that disc. This one just slayed me. I’ve listened to it over and over again since and think it’s pretty much a perfect pop song.

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Miguel Gutierrez, Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note or &:-/ at the Whitney

Was knocked out by this dance piece and what a powerful performer Miguel Gutierrez can be. The piece, which was in one of the small galleries at the museum, was funny, disturbing, mesmerizing, poignant and both Miguel and Mickey Mahar danced fantastically. I left feeling wonderful and exhilarated.

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Venice, Italy

I did a six-week residency in Venice through the Emily Harvey Foundation and fell deeply in love with the city. My girlfriend, the choreographer Catherine Galasso, grew up in Venice and knows the city well. We had a magic, productive, and very inspiring time there.

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Heddy Honigman

Sometimes I go back and watch old films that especially resonated with me for one reason or another. The Dutch-Peruvian filmmaker Heddy Honigmann is probably my favorite documentarian. While I was in Venice, I re-watched her films Metal and Melancholy and Forever. I don’t have the space here to describe either of the films, but they are both gems. She has a way with people—is one of the most interesting interviewers working today—and both of these films are deeply, deeply human.

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Instagram

I got on Instagram to impress my 12-year-old niece. She’s a teen from central casting these days, and her phone, friends, and Instagram are pretty much the only things that matter to her. Initially, I thought that I would hold my nose and do a little bit of Instagramming just to show her that I’m cool, too (or at least I’m not totally lame). But to my great surprise, I ended up loving it. It’s playful, visual, kinda dorky, and because you cant post links, it’s free of much of the article-posting and event-promoting that often bores me with Facebook and Twitter. It’s coming up on my one-year anniversary on Instagram and I’m still high on it. (If you want to follow me, I’m sam_b_green).

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Particle Fever

I saw this documentary about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland at the Film Forum in NYC where it had a smash-hit run over the summer. The Hadron Collider is a huge underground tunnel (17 miles in diameter) and is designed to allow physicists to make important discoveries by smashing particles at very high speeds. Sounds kinda snoozy, I’m sure, but the film is fantastic and inspiring and dramatic. Much of the credit for this goes to the fact that it was edited by the great Walter Murch.

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Duncan Campbell

My friend, the film programmer Chi-hui Yang, shared some of the Scottish filmmaker Duncan Campbell’s documentaries with me: Make it New John, and Bernadette. I was very taken with his creative and sophisticated approach to history and odd historical footnotes. Both films lingered with me for some time after (which is my measure of a strong work). I saw recently that Duncan Campbell recently won the Turner Prize.

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Valerie Solanas by Breanne Fahs

Bill Horrigan, the curator at the Wexner Art Center, recommended this, and it turned out to be my favorite book of the year. I’d always been fascinated by Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol—probably part of my general interest in that time—and I’d also always been struck by the fact that she was a fantastic  writer (take a look at her SCUM Manifesto to see what I mean). This biography goes very deep into her history—lots of things I hadn’t known about her—and the effect is that for the first time one can see Valerie as a complex and very human person. The book was also fantastically written I couldn’t put it down.

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Xylouris White at Union Pool

I saw this duo made up of the Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian drummer Jim White (Dirty Three) at a small bar in Brooklyn, where they did an ongoing residency over the summer. An enormous, hypnotic, and roiling sound! I could watch Jim White drum for hours.

2014: The Year According to Miwa Matreyek

Miwa Matreyek. Photo: Eugene Ahn To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from filmmaker Sam Green and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Omar Sosa and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. […]

MiwaMatreyek_portrait+by+Eugene+Ahn

Miwa Matreyek. Photo: Eugene Ahn

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from filmmaker Sam Green and artist Alejandro Cesarco to designer Omar Sosa and the Office of Culture and Design in the Philippines—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2014. See the entire series 2014: The Year According to                                 . 

Miwa Matreyek is an LA-based artist who fuses animation, performance, and installation to create surreal cinematic animation videos. Also a founder of Cloud Eye Control–a performance group that combines interactive media with live performance–Matreyek has shown her works at TEDGlobal (UK), Sundance Film Festival, Wexner Center for the Arts, Anima Mundi Animation Festival (Brazil), Time Based Arts Festival, REDCAT, ISEA, Theatre de la Cité (France), the Exploratorium, EXIT festival, Fusebox Festival, S8 (Spain), Animasivo (Mexico), Flat pack Film Festival (UK), Future Everything (UK), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, City of Women (Slovenia), Santiago a Mil (Chile), Houston Cinematic Arts festival, and more. Along with the short Myth and Infrastructure, her animation This World Made Itself will be screened at the Walker in 2015 as part of the Expanding the Frame and Out There series.

 


 

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COSMOS

The reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, starring the dreamy Neil deGrasse Tyson: Quality. The beauty of science and miracle of our existence to the masses.

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Photo: John Strandh

iamamiwhoami

I love this Swedish songstress and her nature-witch persona. Her album Blue was released 2014, a song/video at a time.

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Photo: Phile Deprez

Still Standing You

My favorite performance piece I saw in 2014, at Fusebox festival in Austin, Texas. Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido pushing the boundaries of what two men can do in a duet, with just their bodies and the clothes they showed up in. Almost childlike but simultaneously emotionally complex as they span from violence to tenderness, humor to almost hypnotic exploration of the mechanics of their bodies. Very up my alley.

They will be in Minneapolis for the Out There festival at the Walker, January 15–17, 2015.

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Photo: Miwa Matreyek

Flying through an Aurora Borealis

My personal top-10 moment this year, while flying to the UK over the arctic. I was surprised that there was no special announcement from the flight deck that we were flying through a crazy natural phenomenon… and I might have been the only passenger to open my blinds in the middle of the night to see it. I always sit by the window when I fly. I find it important for myself to keep the awareness that I am a tiny human hurtling through the air in a metal tube with wings—and also see the vastness of the earth from this special aerial perspective—just a bit of my own small “overview effect” each time I fly. I recommend it.

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Photo: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta

Landing on a comet. Hooray, Humans! More of these kind of things, please.

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Boyhood

A beautiful film. It took me along with the protagonist through growing up again… and little disappointment in adults/world.

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Superposition: I really loved the percussionists as stage performers, tasks as performance.

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It sure takes humor to have any perspective on this crazy world…

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Careful’s album, The World Doesn’t End

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Photo: Jeffrey Wells

Karen Sherman

One With Others was my other favorite show in 2014, also at Fusebox.

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