Tuesday, April 14, 2015

chapter five: the bohemian affair continues – with more strings attached

In cinema the battleground is neither between nor outside. The battleground is narrativity itself, both its constructs/images and the means with which they are constructed: both its signs and its signifiers.” [134] Yvonne Reiner, 1985.
The filmic then, lies precisely here, in that region where articulated languages is no longer more than appoximative and where another language begins.” [135] Roland Barthes, 1982.
“The Super 8 scene moves so quickly at times that it tends to blur where no matter how crucial or significant the object if it takes place within Super 8’s black hole it is quickly pulverised, lost in the turn of events. This is where much of S8’s seductive quality resides. But I would claim that S8’s specifity lies only in its simple sterile difference of quality of image. It looks different. That’s where it ends”. [136] Michael Hutak, 1985.

A purposefully detailed history …

The Group started 1985 with same the core group of six people: Andrew Frost, Virginia Hilyard, Michael Hutak, Catherine Lowing, Mark Titmarsh and Gary Warner.
In January, Mark Titmarsh writes a letter to Murray Brown (AFC) enclosing a copy of accounts for the ‘Fifth Festival’, drawing attention to poor ticket sales in Melbourne due to poor advertising, having to transfer cinemas due to financial collapse of AFI Longford Cinema, as well as the inability to coordinate campaign from Sydney. [137]

Murray Brown writes back in February noting a letter had been written (to the Group) on 3 October 1984 advising an AFC offer of a $15,000 operating grant for 1984/5 [presumably there had been no response] and the pressing need to receive an operating budget from the Group for 1984/85 by 13 March 1985 or the offer would be withdrawn. He also sends his ‘best wishes’. [138]

On the 5 March, Titmarsh replies to Brown’s urgent request enclosing revised operating budget for 1984/85. This includes $4,100 for part-time coordinator, $2,495 for operating expenses, $6,475 for film equipment and $1,930 for office Equipment. [139] On 15 March Vikki Molloy (AFC) authorises an operating grant of $15,000 to the Group. [140]

On the same day, Titmarsh lodges an ‘Organisation Funding Application Form’ (with the Super 8 Film Festival budget included) to the AFC. Funding request includes: Coordinator ($19,800) and Part-time Assistant ($9,900), a total request from the AFC of $31,576. A detailed report is also included of four the main areas of the Group’s activities: production, distribution, exhibition and publication. [141]

In 30 July the AFC, a handwritten note [142] lists its concerns in regards to the Group after a meeting between Mark Titmarsh, Vicki Molloy, Murray Brown and Virginia Hilyard. The official minutes [143] are less comprehensive in regards to these concerns. Concerns include an increase of 240% requested for the 84/85 grant, no performance indicators for 85/86, no trial balance, that the proposed Super 8
Reader 3 publication overlapped with the recently published Hands On magazine, as well as increased subsidies for Festival and projected expenditure increase of 48% for 1985 Super 8 Festival.

On 3 October, despite the concerns regarding overlap with Hands On a Special Purpose Funding Program grant of $2,000 approved for the publication of the Super 8 Film Stills Reader. [144]

On 17 December a letter is sent from to AFC to Hutak and Titmarsh stating that deadline (30 November) for provision of quarterly account has passed and would they attend to matter as soon as possible. The Group subsequently provided this on 20 January 1986. [145]

As can be seen from the ‘detailed history’ above the ‘limited’ funding by the AFC for the Group continues to increase. Over the years, funding has increased from  $1753 in 1982/3, to $7,995 in 1983/84 and now to $20,500 in 1984. To function effectively the Group projects a minimum figure of around $31,000 an optimum figure would be more like  $70,000. Basically the Group is working for no wages and all money is going in to screenings and a limited amount of super-8 equipment that can be hired out to members.

There is a restrained discontent from both parties in the funding affair.  The AFC being frustrated with poor accounting and reporting procedures and the Group being resentful of the operating restriction being placed on them as a requirement of the grants.

In an article published in Fade to black (1985) the Sydney College of the Arts Film Group publication, Michael Hutak clearly outlines his frustrations:

“Last year after two years concerted lobbying from the S8FG, the AFC saw fit to recognise our efforts by providing financial assistance. This support came with strings attached – a commitment to well-defined areas of operation. And so we defined our operations and after a year operating under them it would be true to say that the operations now define us. These operations are: the annual festival; consistent and year-round exhibition and the establishment of an effective distribution network; occasional publications on S8 film culture; and the administration of the office, studio and production facilities set up in the past year with AFC support. Production facilities provided are inadequate due to funding restrictions and people are only charged for equipment hire because of AFC requirements”. [146] Michael Hutak, 1985

The Group was genuinely committed to making the super-8 scene more visible through its organisation of screenings throughout the year, the publication of its readers and the provision of exhibition and distribution networks across Australia and overseas. This fostered a both super-8 film production and a healthy discourse on super-8 film culture, which always fought hard to counter the prevailing mainstream opinion that the super-8 gauge and its Sydney scene was not worthy of serious attention.

The [Group] are geared to answering and turning prejudices against it. These moves are not undertaken within some cornball economy of perverse right-wing stand against S8’s famed inner-city status as defender of the faith. They are taken within the nether world of a public film culture, and are aimed at redressing the imbalance which exists with respect to the prominence and recognition given to films produced on the S8 gauge within the larger framework of film culture”. [147] Michael Hutak, 1985.

Event Six: ‘L’Eight’ series

The late night L’Eight series continued at the Dendy until L’Eight 4 with screenings in May, August and October. In May’s program there is a call to arms for films from women filmmakers by Virginia Hilyard and Catherine Lowing stating that the Super 8 Film Group is for equal opportunity and ‘that it is only through the lack of films offered that the program is seemingly unbalanced … and [we] know there are lots of you out there with full spools.’ [148] [This will become L’Eight 6 in May 1986]. In L’Eight 5 Retro program the attendance dropped to 70 people due to management committee of S8Fg being ‘thoroughly consumed with organising the Festival’ and having no time to promote event. [149]

We set out a year ago to hold late-night screenings at two-monthly intervals at the Dendy [L’Eight screenings] with then idea that a regular, consistent opportunity to exhibit in a cinema, those filmmakers who seem to only work towards the festival would have an incentive to work through the year. This has proved a success with the third L’Eight getting full houses and the consensus was that the standard of work had improved with each event. After a mutually agreeable relationship with the Dendy, we have parted ways because their management wants to hold their own late sessions. So now ‘L’Eght screenings too are held at the Chauvel [from L’Eight 4]”. [150] Michael Hutak

No Frills Fund … an affirmation of Super 8 and experimental film
The No Frills Fund was developed by the Creative Development Branch through the second half of 1984, and a one-off trial operation of the Fund was announced in 1984. The Fund was established in response to a perceived need to support low cost, innovative but speculative work that formerly was assisted by the Experimental Film Fund. Meetings in early 1984 with groupings of super-8 filmmakers, specifically the Group, revealed an enormous vitality and wealth of ideas in the area which was held back or handicapped to an extent by a lack of low level funding for basic materials and facilities. The Fund was set up to provide grants of up to $5000 that would pay for the material cost of production only. Stephen Jones and Gary Warner were appointed assessors for NSW.
Gary Warner noted that ‘the establishment of the Fund galvanised a large number of film and video workers into action’. [151] Warner felt ‘that applicants, particularly those planning to use Super 8, were familiar with film theory and were using that film language to establish non-conventional conventions’ … ‘Super 8 based projects formed twenty four per cent of the applications (299) – and obtained over fifty per cent of the approvals. [152]
The No Frills Fund basically stemmed from two meetings. We were lobbying the AFC, Vicki Molloy and Murray Brown, for some funding as the Creative Development Fund was 16mm based and there wasn’t much response to Super 8 proposals, let alone an understanding of the difference between what Super 8 was up to and what 16mm was up to at that point in time. So, they didn’t really believe us that there were so many people out there making these films and doing these screenings, that kind of thing, so in an attempt to call our bluff, they called a public meeting at Artspace one evening to which about 60-70 people turned up in Sydney. Unfortunately they’d forgotten to get hold of a key so the meeting was held in the stairwell with people yelling from one floor up and one floor down.
“Due the huge response the AFC asked me if I was interested in coordinating the second round, in late 1985 and have become more and more deeply involved with the AFC and its policies and changes within it, consulting with Cultural Activity and that kind of thing. Which is good, I enjoy working at the Commission, it’s a good place to work”. [153]  Gary Warner, 1990.
Titmarsh’s Legion was funded through the No Frills Fund. [154]
The grant paid for the rental of the studio, some rolling end credits, some time in the sound library at Film Australia. It was a princely sum of $1100 but I got an enormous value out of it. The NFF existed mainly to service the Super 8 Phenomenon.” [155]
Publishing … Super 8 Film Reader No. 3
The third in the series of Group’s, AFC funded Readers, was published as Super 8 Film Reader No. 3. Compiled by Michael Hutak, it consisted of 22 full-page stills from the films of 22 individual filmmakers, the core of the Sydney Super 8 film movement, as well as a film-still from Sydney Girls High’s 6 Minute Warning. In the Reader the ‘film-still’ is examined in its power to be a signifier for the film itself. 

Another publication Fade to black (1985) put out by students of Sydney College of Arts Film Group, headed by Stephen Cummins, devoted a whole issue to the shimmering qualities of the film image that is ’externally dynamic and internally static’. [156] The film-still was seen an advertising image that was independent of the film and the filmmaker, the post-modern trailer to a post-modern cinema.
Event Six: Positions of Super 8 Film Culture
Sydney Film Festival Film Forum
Dendy Cinema, Martin Plaza – 19 June 1985

Virginia Hilyard screened the very funny post-nuclear bomb scenario Six minute warning made at Sydney Girls High obviously for zilch. Pornographic images seem to concern some filmmakers. Catherine Lowing’s Knife in the Head, Spooky uses leather gear images to comment on “voyeurs and being voyeured” (her words). Lyn Hearn talked of documenting events on film, illustrated with a most disturbing film where the filmmaker (Petrovitch’s Cut) is cut with a scalpel and the camera dwells on the blood. Tim Burns questioned whether the ‘new wave’ of Super 8 was duplicating the old with filmed events. Ben Crawford gave a bizarre talk on the decline of post-modernism and showed a provocative film Cruisin’ for a bruisin’ about ‘the anti-nuclear madness’ querying the paranoia of the anti-nuke movement (also very funny). There followed a parody of film festival guests, with one Mlle. J. F. Lyotard talking in dog French. The refreshing aspect of the forum was that funding problems were largely ignored. The AFC was not mentioned. Although the discussion of aesthetics was not very extensive, due I think to the different styles and aspirations of the filmmakers, at least they discussed films rather than raising money.” [157] Richard Keys (Australian Film Commission), 1985 

Event Seven: The Sixth Sydney Super 8 Film Festival
Chauvel Cinema, Paddington Town Hall, 249 Oxford Street Paddington, 13-17 November 1985

The Fifth Sydney Super 8 Film Festival was held on 15-18 November at the Chauvel then to Glasshouse Theatre in Melbourne on 22-24 November and Centre Cinema in Brisbane in December.  The program was double-sided A2 broadsheet [158] with pop-collage graphics, centred on travel iconography, provided by Virginia Hilyard and Gary Warner.
Sixty-three Australian super-8 films were shown over five nights, as well as a special program of fourteen films brought from London by Victoria Kirkwood. On the Wednesday night Kirkwood talked about the films, the filmmakers and the filmmaking activities she encountered in London whilst living there. 
Below are a few vox-pop excerpts from the opening party taken on video on Wednesday November 13, 1985 as a segment on the Off Air Video magazine produced by students at University of Technology, Sydney. [159]

A1: I liked ‘Just a drummer’ [Peter Mackay video clip for Sweat] one and the guy that was doing all the dancing in Caramba [Nick Meyers].

A2: ‘Caramba’ had some energy in it and didn’t send me to sleep. Some of them did. I’m quite tired.




A3: It’s all fuckin’ rubbish, fuckin’ rubbish!




A4: Well the dead dogs were good. [T.G.E. Endorphinis]



A5: I find it really interesting. Every time I come along and see a festival like this I want to make some myself. I feel like its possible after watching them.

A6: I like the fact that its simple, It’s cheap and it’s accessible. Anyone can virtually pick up a Super 8 camera and do something with it. And you’re not limited by needing years of technical experience. The more it flourishes the better as far as I’m concerned.

A7: I loved the ‘Caramba’. I loved the guy dancing. It didn’t attempt to say anything in particular. It just was entertaining and colourful. And I loved ‘Just a drummer’ [Sweat] as well.

A8: I was disappointed but inspired and I would love to go home and get out a Super 8 camera and make a film and take it on a trip with me. In fact I’m going on a trip soon and I might take it on the plane with me.

A9: I’ve made some films and I hate making them. I don’t want to make any more.

A10: I think there’s imagination in these people but they don’t have enough money. And they should use tripods more often! The ‘Caramba’ film was fantastic because the tripod was used all the time.

Film Five:
Nick Meyers
(1985) Colour Sound 2:00 mins

no caps rave 1: with the raucous sounds of hillbilly music and swinging  fiddle we see meyers wildly dancing with long open overcoat in cold downtown times square new york - the image is slowed down and passers by nonchalantly walk by in a new york ‘this is nothing unusual’ kind of way - meyers is then transported to the park below golden gate bridge which dominates the background – same music, same clothes – back to times square – with bright red neon flashing in the background amidst the grey bleakness of new york – now meyers is on the edge of grand canyon – he is touring america – linked by the clothes and music – he is imposing himself over the cultural landmarks of america – cutting them up and mashing them with music and dance – reclaiming them in a post-modernist appropriation of downtown soul & country funk fiddle – a modern tramp doing his his own video road movie – then a flash of las vegas high board diver plunging into pool – straight out of elmore leonard’s tishomingo blues (2002) – back to times square - now we see nick dancing on the white line on a lonely stretch of route-66 tarred highway just to consolidate the collective memory of jack kerouac’s on the road (1957) –-  finally nick is back in times square running straight towards and past the camera – a post-modern smashing of the fourth wall many -  many super 8 films took advantage of the powerful synchronicity between music and image but probably none so effectively as caramba – hugely popular with its hipness and craziness this clip postdates mtv but brilliantly predates its successor, fat boy slim’s praise you (1990) that won three mtv music video awards in 1999! 

1985: Australian Super 8 film first screenings in Sydney from Sydney Super 8 Film Group
L’Eight 2 … Dendy Cinema 1 March 1985
Shock corridor (1985) … Mark Titmarsh
Translation of a ghost story, told me by Wassily (shortly before his demise) (1985) … Richard De Souza & Gary Warner 
Dinosaurus (1984) … Harry Hausen                  
Wild Boys (1985) … Milton Reid
Love (1985) … Vesna Malnar
Spinout-takes or Positions on Super 8 (1985) … Frankie Goes To Avalon (Michael Hutak & Ben Crawford)
There’s no medium like the present (1985) … Andrew Frost
Another world (1985) … Richard De Souza
L’Eight 3 … Dendy Cinema 31 May 1985
Deadpan (1985) … Stephen Cummins
318 Pitt Street [1922-1985] (1985) … Peter Mackay
Cut (1985) … Debra Petrovitch
Wave (1985) … Andrew Frost
And drum (1981) … Kevin Sheehan
End of work (1985) … Lynette Hearne
Alibhai (1985) … Michael Hutak
Seduce and abandon (1985) … Simon Cooper
Sweat (1985) … Peter Mackay (artist) & Just Drummer (music)
Knife in the Head, Spooky (1985) … Catherine Lowing
Gone South for the Winter (1985) … Richard De Souza

L’Eight 4 … Chauvel Cinema 23 August 1985              
Feel for you (1985) … Christina Vidinotis 
Every house should have one (1983) … Catherine Hourihan 
Honeymoon Killer (1985) … Anthony Foot & Emmanuel G.Editorial (1985) … Gary Warner
Train of events (1985) … Michael Hutak
Yes It Is (1985) … Virginia Hilyard & Melanie El Mir
Share accom. (1985) … Vesna Malnar
Agitate (1985) … Agitate
This Is the way that Jack dies (1985) … Mark Titmarsh
Journey (1984) … Anne-Marie Crawford
Bill Kelly and his book (1985) … Andrew Preston
Love letter (1985) … Bill Mousoulis
Junky (1985) … Liz Aroney
Lunar sea (1985 … Alex Karr & Steve McLaren
Melancholic baby (1985) … Catherine Lowing

L’Eight 5 – Retro … Chauvel Cinema 4 October 1985
Birthday 82 (1985) … Virginia Hilyard
The mightiest eye in the world (1985) … The S*8*F*G
Day by day (1985) … Virginia Hilyard    

The Sixth Sydney Super8 Film Festival … Chauvel Cinema 13-17 November 1985
Caramba (1985) … Nick Meyers
Masterpieces (1985) … Sef Townsend & Gillian McGregor
To anyone (1985) … E. Chronopolous
Greetings from Australia (1985) … Tony Kastanos
Intuitive strategies (1985) … Richard De Souza & Tony Forde
Transglobal editing endorphins (1985) … Victoria Kirkwood
The turntable Incident (1985) … Emmanuel G.
This is Super 8! (1985) … Nick Meyers
1984 (1985) … David Nerlich
Not enough (1985) … Jacqui Farkas
Framing the subject, subjecting the frame (1985) … Merilyn Fairskye
Access (1985) … Paul Scott
Shooting day for night (1985) … Catherine Lowing
The butcher of Lyon (1985) … Bruce Leyland
War crimes: 1984 (1985) … The Violent Four
Sex association (1985) … Virginia Hilyard
Vision (1985)            … Stephen McLou
Can’t you hear the phone, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean? (1985) … Jacqueline Lawson
Little soldier (1985) … Ben Crawford & John Cooper
Whatever happened to the young man who got on countdown (1985) … Astrid Spielman
A figure in front of a painting (1985) … Kathy Smith
Scallop or the dog (1985) … Lou McDonald & Ellen Comiskey
Laura (1985) … Students of Sydney Girls High
Ayers Rock Animation (1985) … Kathy Smith  
Skirt, garter, hat, shoe (1985) … Ali Higson & Sean O’Brien
Post-war miracle (1985) … Michael Hutak
Edge of nowhere (1985) … The Marine Biologists|
The big hurt (1985) … Vesna Malnar
Trouble in paradise (1985) … Simon Cooper
Fear of affection (1985) … Lionel Doolan
The humans next door (1985) … Lionel Doolan
Crosswords (1985) … Jenni Bruce
Red movie (1985) … Sarah Kirkwood
And it’s a beautiful day, today, in Berlin (1985) … Gary Warner
Obsession/Execration (1985) … Ece Arda
The renegade (1985) … Coutts
Somalia (1985) … Peter Brookes
Gibbon Island (1985) … Richard Randall
Scoolop or the dog (1985) … Lou McDonald & Ellen Comiskey
When women had tail (1985)s … Kit Quarry
Trajectory (1985) … Adam Boyd
The Mitty Complex (1985) … Nick Donkin
Johnny Metal - the adventures -the human spirit (1985) … John Hoey
Jaqui’s film (1985) … Annon.
Skilled operators removing meat (1985) … Eca Arda
This city is dead (1985) … Stephen Stockwell
Point of interest (1985) … Jim Kerr
Tyro (1985) … Roberta Lowing
Monster beetle (1985) … Chris Windmill
Rap attack (1985) … Students of Sydney Girls Hig
Model Architecture (1985) … James Marshall, Simeon Bryant & Brett Clough
1985: Major Events & Screenings
Still Film: Super 8 Film Reader No.3, The Sydney Super 8 Film Group (publication).

Fascination 2, E Block Theatre, Gorman House, Braddon, Canberra,

Andrew Preston. ‘The Fifth Annual Super 8 Film Festival’ Filmnews (article).

31 May
l’eight 3, Dendy Cinema, Martin Plaza, Sydney.

19 June
Six Positions of Super 8 Film Culture, 32nd Sydney Film Festival, Dendy Cinema, Sydney.

19 July
Films From The Super 8 Film Group, City Art Institute, Sydney.

Films From The Super 8 Film Group, City Art Institute Sydney.
Super 8 Plus, Artspace, Sydney.

23 August
l’eight 4, Chauvel Cinema, Paddington.

4 October
l’eight 5 Retro, Chauvel Cinema, Sydney.

3-13 October
Fringe Festival Melbourne 1985, Sydney Super 8 films Glasshouse Cinema, Melbourne.

11 October
Fascination 3: a retrospective of Super 8 films from Sydney, E Block Theatre, Gorman House, Braddon ACT.

13-17 November
The Sixth Sydney Super 8 Film Festival, Chauvel Cinema, Paddington Town Hall, Sydney.

11-13 December
The Sixth Sydney Super 8 Film Festival, Media Resource Centre, Melbourne.

[134] Rainer, Yvonne. ‘Looking myself in the mouth’, in A woman who…essays, interviews, scripts, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore & London, 1999, p. 95. in Cummins, Steve., & Toula Anastas et al (eds.) Fade to black, Sydney College of the Arts Film Group, Sydney, 1985 p. 1.

[135] Barthes, Roland. ‘The Third Meaning’, Image Music Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. London: Flamingo, 1982, pp. 52-68 in Cummins, Steve, & Toula Anastas et al (eds) Fade to black, Sydney College of the Arts Film Group, Sydney, 1985 p. 2
[136] Hutak, Michael, ‘The Super 8 Film Group – More than Informative’ in Cummins, Steve, & Toula Anastas et al (eds). Fade to black, Sydney College of the Arts Film Group, Sydney, 1985, pp. 53-54.

[137] AFC File 85/16 (2)

[138] Ibid.

[139] Ibid.

[140] Ibid.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Ibid.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid.

[145] Ibid.

[146] Hutak, Michael. ‘The Super 8 Film Group – More than Informative’, in Cummins, Steve., & Toula Anastas et al (eds). Fade to black, Sydney College of the Arts Film Group, Sydney, 1985, pp. 53-54.

[147] Hutak, Michael. ‘The Super 8 Film Group – More than Informative’, in Cummins, Steve., & Toula Anastas et al (eds). Fade to black, Sydney College of the Arts Film Group, Sydney, 1985, pp. 53-54.

[148] Sydney Super 8 Film Group, L’Eight [4] [program notes], Sydney Super 8 Film Group, Sydney 1985, p. 2

[149] AFC File 85/16 (2}

[150] Hutak, Michael. ‘The Super 8 Film Group – More than Informative’, in Cummins, Steve., & Toula Anastas et al (eds). Fade to black, Sydney College of the Arts Film Group, Sydney, 1985, pp. 53-54.

[151] AFC No Frills Fund 85/8.1

[152] Filmnews April 1985 vol. 1 No. 3 in  AFC No Frills Fund File 85/8.1

[153] Warner, Gary, Unpublished interview by the Ben Crawford, 1990.

[154] AFC No Frills Fund FILE 85/8.1

[155] Titmarsh, Mark, Unpublished interview by the author, 2007

[156] Gibson, Ross. ‘Framing the film still’, in Cummins, Steve., & Toula Anastas et al (eds). Fade to black, Sydney College of the Arts Film Group, Sydney, 1985, pp. 6-7.

[157] AFC File 85/16 (2) – document 10

[158] Sydney Super 8 Film Group. 1985 Sixth Annual Sydney Super 8 Film Festival [program notes], Spot Printing, Sydney, 1986.

[159] University of Technology, Sydney. Off Air: Video cassette Magazine No. 2 [1 December], University of Technology, Sydney., 1985. [duration: 01:00:00]