John Reilly

John Reilly_crop

John Leo Reilly was born in Jersey City on June 8, 1939. A graduate of Seton Hall University, who later earned a master’s degree in film at New York University, Reilly began his career as the creator of a radio program about avant-garde theater, making experimental films

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 in collaboration with his wife/producing partner Julie Gustafson.

Reilly made a direct and crucial impact on independent video in New York, Chicago, and around the world. Between 1971 and 1974, Reilly worked with director Stefan Moore on “The Irish Tapes,” one of the first major video documentaries produced with 1/2-inch portable equipment. Partly financed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the video profiled one of the most volatile and violent moments in the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland from the vantage point of those who lived through and remembered it. Perhaps one of Reilly’s most famous documentaries was WAITING FOR BECKETT (1993), produced by Melissa Shaw-Smith, which provided one of the lasting records of Samuel Beckett’s life as he watches one of his plays on video, offering suggestions to improve it.

In 1978, he and 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 documentary makers. Several executives from WTTW / Channel 11 met with about 20 local producers who confronted the executives about the lack of independently produced programs on local TV. Shortly after, a new and original weekly television series was born. Image Union, now considered a seminal television series that featured independent producers, is just one of the many legacies of John Reilly, Julie Gustafson, and Global Village.

Reilly and Gustafson’s creative partnership and marriage ended in 1989. At the time of his death in 2013, Reilly left behind his second wife, Lauren Chambers and two children, Lars Reilly and Maire Gustafson. In an obituary for 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 babysitter for the mind.’”

Our complete collection of John Reilly’s work can be found here.

Subjects: Video Pioneers, Global Village Founder, Irish Republican Army (IRA), Irish Troubles, Lifestyles, Birth in America, American Families, Pursuit of Happiness, Anti-Nuclear Activism, Plowshares Movement, Samuel Beckett, Documentary Production, Video Educator,  Independent Producers, Public Television

Selected Videography: 







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