John Reilly, 1939-2013

On July 28, 2013, video pioneer John Reilly died at the age of 74, but his contributions to independent video nationwide will live on.

Back in 1969, Reilly and Rudi Stern co-founded Global Village in New York, one of the first places to watch independent “underground” video. It eventually expanded into an annual video festival that lasted 15 years. Reilly produced and directed several video documentaries; two of the best-known are “The Irish Tapes” (1971-74) with Stefan Moore and “Waiting for Beckett” (1994).

Reilly also made a direct and crucial impact on independent video here in Chicago. In 1978, he and his then-wife/producing partner Julie Gustafson were invited to do a series of screenings and meetings at the Chicago Editing Center, a newly established facility for independent artists and documentarians. Several executives from WTTW / Channel 11 were invited screen video and meet with about 20 local producers, who made their feelings known about the lack of independently produced programs on local TV. Shortly after that confrontational meeting, a new and original weekly television series was born called Image Union. 35 years later, Image Union is still on the air, one of the many legacies of John Reilly and Global Village.

In the obituary in the New York Times, Douglas Martin writes, “In 1969, Mr. Reilly said his grand ambition was to create an alternative to commercial television. A decade later, he said, he and his colleagues had at least shown that TV can be more than ‘a baby sitter for the mind.’”

So today, in memory of John Reilly and his seminal contributions to independent video, we present one of the earliest Portapak videotapes produced by Global Village in 1969. It’s a document of the times called “The Ballad of A.J. Weberman.” It was transferred from the original half-inch videotape thanks to the support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.



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