I did a new short piece about Louis Armstrong at Pop-Up Magazine in San Francisco recently. The show was at the fantastic Davies Symphony Hall – completely sold out. I had worked hard on the piece – it was far more ambitious in its craft than anything I’d done before – and was happy it worked. Leah Garchick wrote a nice item about it in her Chronicle column.
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My old friend Brent Green and I premiered a new live cinema program recently at the Parrish Museum in the Hamptons. A while back Brent suggested that we do an evening together of our short live film-music pieces. Brent is an animator and has been making fantastic live cinema for many years. I’m a big fan, so I loved the idea. We reached out to Brendan Canty, who is a longtime collaborator of both, to put together music. He was joined by James Canty and Kate Ryan. Brent and I alternated – he did one piece, then I did one, etc. I had been unsure how our films would play next to each other, but it was hands-down one of the funnest shows I’ve ever done. And the response from the audience was pretty rapturous. It was a special night. And an extra added benefit: we made the Southampton Press. (If you have five minutes to waste, it’s a hilarious article). We are looking forward to more shows in the fall.
A while back, a guy named Ian Daniel got in touch with me about doing an interview for a website he manages called Extended Play. He’d seen The Measure of All Things at the Kitchen and the piece resonated with him. Ian recently sent the finished interview to me, and I have to say, it’s one of the best I’ve participated in. I’m not taking the credit here! Ian is just a really smooth and canny interviewer. He somehow knew exactly what to pursue. I bristle a little at the personal nature of the interview, but I’m happy to have it out there – sheds more light on my work than perhaps any other.
I did a TED talk in Vancouver recently. It was about Louis Armstrong and the thousands of hours of audio tapes that he recorded over the years. I hadn’t known, but Armstrong was a huge taper – he taped himself talking and hanging out with people. The tapes are bawdy – lots of talk about sex, marijuana, and dirty jokes. They are now stored at the Queens College Library, and I’ve had great times over the past year going out there and listening to them. It was an interesting experience doing the TED talk. I got a nice pair of shoes out of the deal as swag. A lot of people have asked when they can see the talk online. I actually asked them not to make a video of it. If you know anything about me, you probably know that a big part of my live-cinema work is that it’s not documented. I’m a big fan of the ephemeral. Hope you can see this piece at some point in-person.
Here’s a bit about the panel that will be held on January 31st at 3:30pm: “The Doc Art Mix Tape — Perhaps more than any other cinema form, documentary is all too often discussed more in terms of content rather than its craft. But through its artful construction, distinctive storytelling styles, memorable characters, and groundbreaking aesthetics, non-fiction film has given us remarkable and lasting cinematic moments. Join us for a personal journey through documentary guided by Sam Green (The Weather Underground, Utopia in Four Movements) and Ross McElwee (Sherman’s March, Time Indefinite, Bright Leaves), who unearth the rare and special moments that illustrate the remarkable range of the form.” Check out all the “Art of Film” talks and programming here.
Tickets are now on sale for our screenings of The Measure of All Things at the Kitchen in NYC. I’m super excited about this – the Kitchen is one of my favorite venues and NYC is my town. The first night will feature a live soundtrack by the mighty yMusic and the second night will be with the fantastic trio Brendan Canty (Fugazi), T Griffin, and Catherine McRae. Hope to see you there.
I’m proud to have a short piece I wrote included in THE THING THE BOOK. I’ve long admired this series by Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan, and this iteration is called: “A Monument to the Book as Object,” which obviously resonates with many of my interests. It’s a damn impressive list of contributors: John Baldessari, Starlee Kine, Trevor Paglen, Miranda July, Tauba Auerbach, and others. My piece is about Zachary ZZZZZZZZZZra, the man who was at the end of the San Francisco phone book for many years.
I’m spending six weeks in Venice, Italy doing a residency with the Emily Harvey Foundation. It’s a great opportunity to step out of my normal, busy NYC life and think about new projects. I’m excited to start something. Plus, this is an endlessly beautiful city. I wake up every morning thrilled to be here.
I had a great experience recently being an advisor at the Sundance Documentary edit lab. We spent a week at the Sundance resort in Park City, Utah working w/ a handful of really strong film projects that are currently in the editing phase. It was a stellar group of advisors – the guy who edited “The Crash Reel,” the woman who edited “The Case Against 8,” the fellow who made “Sherman’s March,” and the guy who edited “Grizzly Man” . . . I was honored to be there.
I will be doing a lecture on “liveness and cinema” at UnionDocs in Brooklyn on June 27th. The talk will cover the history of combining film and performance—from the Benshi tradition to the travelogue to the Rocky Horror Picture Show—as well as look at contemporary filmmakers who are incorporating performative elements into their work in interesting ways. This is a subject that has fascinated me for some time, and is at the heart of my current filmmaking practice, so the talk has been a pleasure to put together. Hope to see you there!
You can read more about the lecture on UnionDocs’s website, here.