Gus Van Sant’s first film, from “Image Union,” 1982

Since its first broadcast in 1978, “Image Union” has been a place on Chicago public television to celebrate the potential of the next generation of actors, documentarians, animators, writers, and directors. If it is independently produced and it is interesting, it has a chance of being seen on the air. “Image Union” was the first stop in many celebrated artists’ careers.

Take, for example, this short film called “The Discipline of DE,” based on a story by William S. Burroughs, which was aired on “Image Union” in 1982. It was the first film directed by Gus Van Sant, who went on to direct some of the most original and memorable movies of the last 25 years: Milk (2008), Good Will Hunting (1997), My Own Private Idaho (1991), Drugstore Cowboy (1989), and Mala Noche (1986).

Van Sant wasn’t the only person to get his start on “Image Union.” Celebrated Chicago actor Joe Mantegna appeared in the very first episode, on November 14, 1978. Jim Belushi’s first acting appearance was in a film that aired on “Image Union,” and there were early appearances by Gary Senise and many others. The films and videos of literally hundreds of producers and directors were shown for the first time anywhere on “Image Union.”

If you have a couple weeks, you can watch more than 150 of them, representing much of the first ten years of the groundbreaking show created by Tom Weinberg, at Media Burn.

The Discipline of De

Why not check out the whole episode, featuring a conversation with an 87-year-old Italian immigrant, “Washing Walls With Mrs. G” by Tony Buba, 1977 sketches of everyday life in China by Vincent Collins, and more at Media Burn.

Orphans Midwest

Media Burn is going to Bloomington, IN this weekend for Orphans Midwest, a symposium dedicated to so-called “orphan films” that are neglected by mainstream systems of distribution.

If you’re in the area, tickets are still available for “An Evening of Music in Orphan Films” at 8:30pm on Saturday at the IU Cinema.

We will be screening “Cheat-U-Fair,” a video documenting Maxwell Street that was produced by Jim Passin’s Visual Production Seminar at Columbia College in 1980. Like the film above, it was presented on Image Union before winning the Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival.

According to Passin, “During production we had the palpable feeling of capturing something fleeting, ephemeral, and we were right. We knew we were swimming through a world that simply had no place for a Maxwell Street anymore. Like so much of the city’s rich past, it is gone forever and after it has finally moved completely out of living memory, there will be films and tapes like this along with photographs and audio recordings to echo its ghosts.”

 

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