How to get there.

Looking for an opening

Most people in film have an interesting back-story of how they became involved in the industry. For me it was an attraction to a medium I was not anymore acquainted with than the average person. Filmmaking was an organic way, I realized, for the expressions involving image, sound and movement.

A kind of epiphany occurred one night while I walked across a bridge to art classes I attended in Richmond, Va. The steady rhythm of my gait, the swishing sound of cars passing and the blinking colored lights of a huge Clique-O-Club Soda advertising sign on Belle Island in the middle of the James River, produced a symphony of visual and sound set to the tempo of my walking. The eerie undulating colors on the landscape, reflected from the sign, punctuated the rude engine sound of an eighteen-wheeler, belching smoke with percussive down shifting burps, rolling north on old Route One. I was inspired to be able to capture the experience. But how? Film was the obvious medium I realized in one of those blinks of the sign. The potential for using motion pictures as an expressive means dawned on me in an instance.

I was not overly enamored of the Hollywood movies, because of their slick patina. I was more taken by the experimental films of Stan Brakhage, Jordan Belson and the expressive works of composers Gordon Mumma, and Robert Asley, along with films by George Manupelli (Bottle Man, 1960). These and other artists sensitized me at “Happenings”, a popular performance art in the early Sixties,.

My first experiment came shortly after my revelation of what creative potential film offered. I hit the road with a Rock & Roll band in 1964. As a drummer, I was interested in visual rhythms as well as audible ones. I didn’t “sleep in” like most of the guys in the band, and would go out early in the morning with my 8 mm camera and explore whatever town we happened to be performing. I filmed anything moving that caught my eye. Shots of waving flags, trees blowing in the wind, or long grass that looking like ocean waves. Traveling shots of steel girders of a bridge strobe past in the foreground, as we drove through some gritty city glistening in the sun. These were the motifs I was attracted to – there wasn’t any real purpose for the film, it was purely impulse.

After a year’s hiatus from college, I returned to complete my BFA degree. One of my art class assignments was a design project for the annual report for The United Givers’ Fund of Virginia. I overheard the UGF representative mention that they were considering having a TV spot made for their annual fund raising campaign. I approached the gentleman and announced I was a filmmaker and would like the opportunity to make the spot for them. He asked to see some of my work, so I cut together the Visual Rhythms footage and got a group of musician friends to improvise music for a sound track. It was a rarity in those days to call oneself a filmmaker.

The UGF rep liked what he saw and I got the job. I knew nothing of producing the spot, but the storyboard was approved and I shot the visuals. There were only a dozen schools that taught film back then and my school was not one of them. I got a lot of assistance from a company named TV & Motion Picture Production, it was the only film company in Virginia at the time. The good folks at TV&MPP helped me put together a composite print of picture and sound. When I graduated, they hired me.

Most of the work at TV&MPP was government contracts. I did a lot of NASA pre-moonshot test for the Lunar Landing Space Modules at Langley Field Va. Filming from helicopters and photographing rocket tests was better than anything I had expected fresh out of college. Unfortunately the company went from making films to burning them for silver recovery, so I moved to New York to attend NYUs graduate school of Cinema Studies. I got a job with Universal Studios as an editor by day and went to school at night. In two years I finished school and Universal closed down the section where I worked. The Kinetic Arts Program was a compilation of short films from around the world, masterminded by curator of the concept, Brant Sloan. I started freelancing and a short time later, turned the corner, and changed direction.

~ by Larry Revene on March 7, 2012.

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