People’s Video Theater / Survival Arts Media




Peoples Video Theater (PVT), along with its successor Survival Arts Media (SAM), was a pioneering video documentary collective best known for bringing their Sony Portapaks into the streets to film everyday New Yorkers. PVT was founded by Ken Marsh and Elliot Glass in 1970, who with Elaine Milosh, went on to other endeavors by late 1971. Howard Gutstadt and Ben Levine, who had been doing therapeutic video feedback at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, joined in 1971. Other members of PVT included Mollie Hughes and Richard Milone. The group developed their community-oriented documentary approach and their video feedback methods, in which they immediately showed their footage to their subjects and allowed them to respond to it. In 1973 evolved an expanded collective into SAM subsequently located in SoHo, adding Dan Bucciano and Gail Edwards. As the decade progressed, SAM expanded their work to encompass more immersive experiences, including live-feedback performances that mixed music, projections, light shows, video synthesizer effects, and more. The collective ceased its work in the late 1970’s.

PVT/SAM would frequently bring cameras and monitors onto a sidewalk to speak with pedestrians, and to show them their own image on television – a novelty that few, if any, of their subjects had experienced before. This method characterized much of their early practice, but they quickly branched out into explicitly political work, recording and collaborating with activist and revolutionaries – perhaps most notably the Young Lords – and filming protests, demonstrations, and political actions. Their tapes chronicled the struggle for civil rights in the 1970s, including gay liberation, the Puerto Rican independence movement, the disability rights movement, criminal justice reform, and more. They filmed New York’s first Women’s Liberation March and the first Gay Pride March, the Young Lords’ occupation of a Manhattan church, and “Indian Thanksgiving,” a demonstration by Native American activists at Plymouth Rock, among many other political actions. They also recorded a wide range of art, music, and performance among the incredibly vibrant arts community. 

PVT/SAM also innovated the use of video in health care. They used it both for education – explanations of disease and proper function of body parts and the working of a hospital – and for documentation, including the struggle for recognition and treatment for workers whose jobs had adverse effects on their health. PVT sought to create dialogue between patients and health care workers, and to find new ways to communicate important health care information to the public. 

Among their early subjects was Camp Jened, a summer camp for teens with disabilities. That camp and those campers would be foundational for the Disability Rights Movement, as Jened gave them a community and a network of support but also to experience daily life without the sorts of stigmatization and lack of consideration that marked their existence in able-bodied communities. Much of that footage would be used by directors Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht as the basis for their 2020 documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, executive produced by Michelle and Barack Obama. The acclaimed film won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, a Peabody Award, and an Alfred I. duPont/Columbia University Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. 

More information about PVT/SAM can be found online at

Our complete collection of PVT/SAM videos can be found here.


Selected Videography:

St. Mark’s In the Bowery Poetry Project Art Auction: Part 1, Part 2

Air Pollution: Bridge & Tunnel Workers: Part 1, Part 2

Artist Charles Simonds Building, March 23, 1973

Forum on the Young Lords Party

Young Lords Party March on the U.N. [Raw footage]

New York’s Message to San Francisco: First Day Part 1, First Day Part 2, First Day Part 3

Erotic Arts Coloring Book

Virtual Talks with Video Activists: Howard Gutstadt and Ben Levin of Peoples Video Theater / Survival Arts Media

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