NEW LOCATION? I decided to move Preservation Insanity (man, do I regret that name now) here from its previous location for various reasons, and fix it up a bit. All previous posts are intact. If you’ve bookmarked or listed the site on your site, please do update the address (and thanks for your support!) The following is just background/contextual information for new/masochistic visitors.
FIRST TIME HERE? For those who haven’t been here before, this site is basically an ongoing collection of material usually pertaining to the conservation and preservation/restoration of experimental films. Other stuff will creep in from time to time, but that’s the primary focus. My name is Mark Toscano, I’m based in Los Angeles, and have been a film preservationist specializing in experimental films since 2003, prior to which I worked at Canyon Cinema for three years, so I’ve been pretty deeply immersed in this work for quite a while now. I love what I do, and I also love sharing information, discoveries, filmic anomalies, and whatever arcane empirical knowledge I’ve picked up by doing this work, so thanks very much for your interest in this site.
As mentioned in my initial FIFTEEN YEARS post, I’ve asked a number of artist friends to send me an image that relates to the notion of “film restoration” somehow. I’ve already gotten a bunch of a great ones from various people, but what better way to follow a post about a visionary animator than a drawing sent to me by another visionary animator, Martha Colburn! This RIDICULOUSLY made my week when I got it:
Huge thanks to Martha Colburn for the incredible drawing – I didn’t expect this amazing portrait and can only wish that my job were as wild as this!
I had seen at least a few of visionary animator Adam Beckett’s films when I worked at Canyon Cinema. The iotaCenter put out an extensive DVD of his work a few years ago, and I should say very clearly up front that I was able to work on Adam’s incredible films thanks to iota, as they had negotiated with Adam’s family to move the films to the Academy and also applied for funding from NFPF so the films could be restored, so thanks much to them for that. Additionally, iota founder Larry Cuba, who had known Adam at CalArts in the ‘70s, is a big fan and even owned a couple of prints of Adam’s films, both of which ended up being quite helpful in the restoration of his films (more on that below).
So much could be said about Adam Beckett as an artist, as a person, as a near-mythological figure, but though I’ve learned a lot about him from his films (and working on them), and from numerous friends of his, I’m not really the one to say it (Pam Turner is), and plus that’s not really what this website is about! But let it just be said that he genuinely pioneered some visionary techniques in animation and image manipulation that are still being used today by special effects artists and independent animators. Although his drawing style and animation thinking was utterly virtuosic, his particularly visionary innovation was to use the optical printer in combination with his animation to extrapolate his images and forms into incredibly elaborate, kaleidoscopic, psychedelic phantasmagorias. His memory and legacy are still very strong with effects whizzes like Richard Edlund, Richard Taylor, and Robbie Blalack; esteemed friends and mentors like Pat O’Neill, Roberta Friedman, Beth Block, Sky David, David and Diana Wilson, and Chris Casady; and younger animators who’ve been inspired by Adam’s utterly unique and boundary pushing work, like Jim Trainor, Henry Selick, Jodie Mack, and Helder Sun. (These are just a paltry few of the names in each category – Adam Beckett’s memory and legacy are pretty large in the world of experimental animation.)
In early 2004, I was in touch with Marilyn Brakhage a number of times to arrange the use of material by and related to Stan Brakhage for inclusion in the Academy’s ‘In Memoriam’ segment of the broadcast that year. One unexpected piece of information that emerged from these conversations was the revelation (to me) that all of Stan’s originals were still in Marilyn’s possession, housed at Underground Vaults & Storage in Kansas. I had assumed they were already conserved in an archive somewhere, but this was unexpectedly not the case. Over the course of the next few months, many conversations were had and arrangements were made, with the result that just about all of Stan Brakhage’s originals, filling 56 boxes on three skids, were transported via truck from Kansas to be deposited at the Academy. Amusingly, we realized in the late planning stage that the length of truck that would be bringing the boxes would not be able to turn into our rear parking lot to our loading dock, due to the narrow street and sharp turn required. The alternative was to have the truck instead drop the boxes off at the Twentieth Century Fox lot, as we have a good relationship with Fox’s archive, and they were graciously willing to help us. On August 4, 2004, a group of us took the Academy’s cargo van over to Fox and picked up all of Stan Brakhage’s originals. And it definitely amuses me that for a few hours, Stan Brakhage’s entire body of work was on the Fox lot.
As I mentioned in my post on 6/25/18, I’ve asked a number of artist friends to send me images responding to the theme of “film restoration” or perhaps “experimental film restoration”. I’ll be posting the results here and there over the next few weeks (and beyond).
Given my post from yesterday about Robert Nelson and the restoration of his film Limitations, I thought I’d begin this recurring feature with an art object from Robert Nelson himself.
Bob was also a painter, photographer, and sculptor, and he drew and collaged and worked in other mediums as well, beyond being a filmmaker. In his last 15 years or so, one form of sculpture he got into was making poured resin objects, with painted embellishments, with the basis of the forms usually being tightly wound rolls of film!
These rolls were usually bad prints, outtakes, and possibly even the original A/B rolls for a few of his films which he decided to destroy (or “transform” might be a better word). I’ve previously described these objects here but wanted to post images of the one that he actually made for me. I don’t remember when he sent me this, but it was around 2008-10, I think, a big heavy box out of nowhere. He referred to it as “a gift for an archivist”, and I thought it was a perfect introduction to this idea of “film restoration art”.
Anyone who knows me probably knows that filmmaker Robert Nelson was a really significant, formative, and meaningful influence for me as an artist, mentor, and friend. With my friend Martha Hunt (my predecessor at the Academy), Nelson’s films were the first I had any involvement in preserving, collaborating with Martha when I worked at Canyon to concoct what we imagined could be an ongoing project to restore American experimental film between Canyon and the Academy. Robert Nelson was my first choice because I had recently (in 2001) become totally enamored of his work, his films badly needed restoration, and he was the primary founder of Canyon as a distributor in 1966-67, yet his films were no longer in distribution there at that time. This latter fact meant that as an initial collaborative project, I felt there couldn’t really be claims of conflict of interest (not that I need have worried about that, really).
I reached out to Bob in Fall 2001, and some anecdotes about this meeting and the ensuing 10-year collaboration and friendship is detailed already in my post following his death in 2012, “Goodbye, Bob.”, so I won’t repeat it here. It’s pretty amazing to me that he’s been gone over six years, and there are still so many traces of him all over the place in my life and work.
When I got to the Academy on June 25, 2003, Nelson’s films were, meaningfully for me, the first collection I personally brought into the archive. Two of his films had already arrived and were preserved by my friend Martha (The Off-Handed Jape and Deep Westurn), but there were plenty more to go. Originally, Bob had intended to just choose the films he wanted to send and ship the elements for each as we needed them, but I convinced him that it would be a lot better and more effective to just send me everything so I could go through it all.