[Interview with Jim Morrissette about Guerrilla Television]

Interview with guerrilla television pioneer Jim Morrissette about his career and the alternative video scene in Chicago in the 1970s. Shot for a University of Chicago BA thesis project called "Alternative Television: A Short History of Video Activism in Chicago."

“I started out as a filmmaker, doing documentary film on 16 millimeter. I was also at the University of Illinois at the time, in their Media Production Center. And in the early ’70s, when the first portable video cameras–affordable portable video cameras–arrived, they didn’t arrive at the media department, they arrived at the department of sociology. And these people would grab the cameras and run out and shoot events, whether it was a meeting or a street protest or whatever, and bring it right back to class and look at it and analyze it, just raw tape. And this was the first time that this was technically possible and financially possible. And I looked at that and got all excited and said “Well, why not do documentary filmmaking on video?” Because you can look at it immediately, see what you got, but more importantly you could shoot as much as you wanted to, because the tape was so inexpensive compared to film. And it really did change my whole way of approaching a documentary subject because with film, you waited until something special has started and then you start shooting, and you shoot very conservatively with your film. You always missed the beginning of something or you ran out of film and you missed something in the middle, but with video you could start shooting if you thought it might be interesting, and if it’s not, you could either erase the tape or throw it away or keep going or whatever.

There’s sort of a myth about rewinding the tape and erasing–nobody ever did that, they just kept everything. I think that’s still true today, where tape is so inexpensive and there’s always a possibility that that material may not be appropriate for one project but it will be for something else. So it’s important, especially with people that are recording their family history, not to go back and erase a tape because Johnny’s now 5 years old, and you know, who cares about his first birthday? Well, of course you care about his first birthday, and you want to keep everything.

So I think that’s how I got in to video and I got excited about it. At first it was very difficult because there was no easy way to edit the material–the only way you could edit was to copy parts of the tape to another tape. It was very clunky, it was inaccurate, you lost quality when you did that, but we forged ahead and as the technology got better and better, then editing became possible. And of course now everybody edits on a computer, and I think a lot of people forget that back in the ’70s and ’80s there were no video editing computers, computers weren’t powerful enough. So people were editing by hooking up two tape machines together, and it was a very slow, laborious, linear project. If you put 10 sequences or 10 shots together and you wanted to change the middle one, you couldn’t just pull it out, because you had to put something else over that tape, you had to put something right back in the middle, so you’d have to re-edit the material completely and a lot of people didn’t take the time or didn’t have the time to do that. So a lot of the early video documentaries before sophisticated editing came about were very long, lots of long takes, lots of very slow pace. Especially compared to today where computers have taken us almost in the opposite direction, where because we can make hundreds of little quick edits we end up doing that sometimes, when you really don’t need to.

[So then you started working at the Chicago Editing Center?] Right, in fact we created the first independent Chicago video production, right before the Editing Center was created, in fact, the Editing Center was an offshoot of this first production. We decided that we were at the point now where we could overcome the three basic hurdles of doing television production. The first was acquisition, and that was having to have these portable cameras, so we’d had those for several years. Then basic editing came along, so that we could make a program. And then finally, how do you get that program seen, because there was no cable TV at that point, there was no internet, so the only access was broadcast. And we were approached by a small UHF station, Channel 44, which is now a Spanish language station in Chicago. They were willing to give us an hour of airtime to air our documentaries. So we got together and formed what was called the Chicago Videomakers Coalition.

Back in the mid-’70s we used video editing equipment at the University of Illinois, because as independent producers the editing equipment was still too expensive to own. Cameras were sort of affordable, but the editing was very expensive for all the boxes and the timebase correctors and everything that you needed, so we used the University. And then we said, “You know, if we had a place where we could go and edit, we could get all the people in Chicago who wanted to do independent production and give them a place to work, and operate it as a nonprofit organization.” And that’s what caused the Chicago Editing Center to come into being. And years later, when people could edit on their laptop computers at home there was no need for the Editing Center, it disappeared. But it served a very necessary need for about 10 or 11 years providing post production capability to independents.

[So how was the Chicago Videomakers Coalition formed?] People knew each other, doing independent work. I was at the University at the time, so I had that base of operation. In fact, I was the one that invited everybody over to the university to use their equipment, which was just sitting there.

And you know, some people from there, Scott Jacobs, for example, went on to form his own commercial editing house, called Independent Production Associates, or IPA. Which initially allowed independents to do more sophisticated editing work and even corporate work or for-money projects. And that grew into a big business, doing documentary films, and that’s where Kartemquin Films did the final editing and the titles and the graphics and the color correction for everything from Hoop Dreams to most of our major documentaries. And it’s only recently in the last four, five years that we’ve been able, because of the power of the computers, to do everything in-house. And so now we’ve come to the point where you can buy a camera, buy a computer, shoot and edit a broadcast quality piece–by “broadcast quality” I mean technically, you know. If your story is no good, you’re still in trouble. For a few thousand dollars, which was unheard of back in the ’70s and ’80s.

[So you’ve primarily worked with Kartemquin over the years?] I worked with Kartemquin on their projects, primarily, and I also taught at the University of Illinois for almost 30 years in several different departments as they evolved. But eventually I taught in the art department, which is where film and video was taught.

[What types of documentaries did you make?] I’ve done all sorts of things. I’ve done everything from documenting peregrine falcons, birds nesting in the high rises of chicago, to a six hour documentary on a Nebraska farm family. Shooting is what I love to do and once I got hooked on video, I never really went back to film. In fact I turned down film jobs because they tend now not to be the kind of exciting real life documentaries that I’d like to do, they tend to be more TV commercials or corporate images pieces. Or narrative, which is a whole ‘noter world.

And I think even narrative fiction filmmaking now has its counterpart in video called digital cinema. Which takes advantage of the new technologies, again, to shoot and edit a feature film on video and then that can be transferred to film. And that’s what we did with Hoop Dreams. Everybody thinks because Hoop Dreams was in national movie theaters that it was shot on film, but it wasn’t–we tricked everybody. We shot it on video, edited it on video, and then transferred it to 35mm film. We sent it to Sundance, and it was the favorite movie of the festival and it went on to be nominated for an Academy Award in documentary. And this was unheard of back in the ’80s because it was done on video. And in order to get in to Sundance, we had to transfer it to film, and send it in. But we could never have done that documentary on film because of the costs–we shot hundreds of hours of video over six years and it would have been impossible to afford to do that even on 16mm.

I worked with Anda Korsts in Videopolis. In fact, we went and took a number of Studs Terkel’s Working people that he wrote about in his work and went to their place of business and documented their lives. And the piece of technology that enabled that at the time was something called the Tivicon. Which was a security camera. And we found that we could take this extremely low light camera–it would shoot in practical darkness–and we could plug it in to our portable video recorders, and use the same microphones that we always did, and shoot in extremely low light level conditions. And so we were able to follow these people through their lives–at night, on the street–without any kind of lighting or anything to interfere with the actual situation that was at hand. And I think color cameras now are just getting close to that level of sensitivity.

It was a special pickup tube in the Portapak. Back in those days–this was even before CCD chips–the image sensor was an actual miniature TV tube, vacuum tube, which was delicate. And it tended to burn, that was the problem with the Tivicon, if you aimed it at a bright light or the sun you could put a permanent burn on the tube. I remember at the University most of the cameras that the students used had all these black splotches all over.

[Do you know much about Communications for Change?] A little bit. A good friend of mine, Mirko Popadic, worked there. That was an organization that was in the same building as the Center for New Television and they used the Center for New Television to edit their material, but their mission was to document oral history. To take initially ordinary people who had some interesting stories to tell, either an immigrant who had a story to tell, or a musician that came to Chicago and had a story to tell. And it sort of focused primarily on older people, it was a way to sort of preserve their stories on tape. I remember they would edit those together and build up a big library of these things. And people were critical at first, thinking that well, why not just use an audio recording? But we were able to able to–I helped them with some of the technology, so that they could use still pictures from people’s photo albums and actually do an edit of these stories together so that it was coherent, it played out and was watchable as an actual program.

[Did most people edit at UIC or at Editing Center?] At the Center. The Center was the real focus and initially it was just editing, and I taught numerous workshops there, as did Mirko. Actually Mirko worked there for awhile as an editor, because a lot of the independent producers could shoot or knew somebody to shoot but they didn’t know how to edit–technically, they didn’t know all the buttons you had to push and all this kind of stuff. So there was always somebody there that could push the buttons. You’d tell them what shot you want and they’d push the buttons. So I helped out there, but we eventually decided that we wanted to make production equipment available as well, so they would buy color video cameras and camcorders and microphones and have field production packages. It was sort of like a graduate film program. You know, except for no credit. People paid a small monthly due to belong, and they could go out and take out $5,000 color cameras for their dues of $20 a month or whatever it was. And then they could have a place to edit as well. So I think that brought a lot of people in. We had workshops on how to shoot, and we had screening sessions because a lot of people weren’t quite ready to get something on broadcast TV, and cable still hadn’t come to Chicago so there were very few outlets. So we would have screenings every fourth Friday of the month or something. We’d open up the place and we could squeeze about a hundred people in and we’d watch tapes–sometimes it was raw tapes.

And we also did storefronts, people would take a tape player and a TV set to a storefront. Even a bar, occasionally, to show tapes because people wanted to get their stuff seen and a lot of what was shown was stuff like a recent aldermanic meeting where people got very upset about some issue and they would show it to the community. It wasn’t a mass audience kind of program, it was very narrow and very focused sometimes, which was fine. I mean, it was affordable to do and I think that a lot of what interested me in teaching video documentary was to try and get people away from this notion that they had to make some kind of TV show to put on Fox TV or something. To encourage them to tell their personal stories and to do some activist kind of work to generate interest in something they cared about, and video was a good tool for that. Still is.

[Were you able to get many things on television?] We did pretty well, and one of the main successes was that we got Image Union created on Channel 11. So we set up a permanent weekly place on broadcast television for our work, independent work. Tom Weinberg ran that for awhile, as you probably know, and then he found somebody else to take over so he could do other things. And that show is still ongoing. It’s the longest running independent outlet for our material. And of course, now it’s not as necessary because there’s so many ways to get stuff shown. There’s the Independent Film Channel, there’s Sundance Channel, there’s cable, there’s the web.

The web is still sort of a frontier and even though there are websites that specifically are set up to show independent films you still have this issue of quality. But it is a place where literally anybody in the world can watch your work. So then it becomes the challenge to get people to hear about your work so that they’ll want to see it or at least know about it.

[What technical shortcomings did you face shooting with Portapaks?] The battery technology was terrible. The batteries would run out after about 40 minutes, and they were heavy and expensive and the biggest challenge was that the camera and the recorder were two separate units hooked together by a big fat cable. And so you had to have one person carry the Portapak or recorder and the other person shoot and watch out for the cable. So just the mere sort of ballet of a crew working was very awkward.

Now simultaneously with all this, of course, 3/4″ video was created for TV news to replace the film cameras that TV news used. And a number of independents migrated to 3/4″ simply because the quality was better and because it was in color and color was a big deal once the cameras were there. People wanted to shoot in color, so after a few years of the reel-to-reel black and white half inch, 3/4 took over and everybody used 3/4. The Editing Center was all 3/4″. Communications for Change, all these places, by the mid-seventies everybody was shooting on 3/4 because you could edit it. And it was because of the need of the TV news people to edit that the manufacturers developed editing controllers and editing boxes that worked and were relatively affordable. So the independents have always sort of lusted after the broadcast equipment but couldn’t afford it, but once the portable equipment came out there were parts of it that we could use and take advantage of.

[Mirko said that everyone had different editing styles.] I’ll backtrack a little bit. Back in the early days of video editing, a good editor was somebody that was good with a knife because you literally had to cut the videotape and splice it together like film in the old days. Once electronic editing came about, which was the ability to copy elements from one tape to another electronically, then of course, editing skills–storytelling editing skills–became important. But there was always this need for technological mastery of this. And some people were fast editors but sloppy and some people were slow but very precise. People had different ways of working and because it was a linear process for so long, some people would do a rough edit and then another rough edit and then another rough edit and then finally re-edit it the way they wanted it. Other people tried to edit it all in their head and start from the beginning all the way through the entire half hour show, try and get it perfect the first time. Which was very hard to do, and of course if you made a mistake you had to go back and redo things or whatever. I don’t think that much has changed, I think there are a lot of editing styles, some of them have evolved because of the technology, which has enabled people to do multiple video streams simultaneously and split screens and fancy effects. There are editors that specialize in effects and then there are editors that specialize in storytelling or documentary work, which are what we call long form editors and that’s what we are at Kartemquin because that’s what we do. But there are other editors that are very good at doing 30 second commercials.

[Are you mainly a shooter?] I’ve mainly been shooting and acting as a technical consultant, sort of keeping up on what technology is appropriate for an independent producer to be aware of and to know. And of course, now with all the computer things that are around it’s amazing what you can do with a laptop and a DV camera.

You had asked if there’s anything different between New York and Chicago… We had a very tight knit community and the key to it was that it was non competitive. I shared my technical knowledge with everybody freely. People would work on other people’s shoots, they would swap editing time at the Editing Center, there wasn’t this sense that “I’ve gotta get the gig and I don’t want them to get the gig.” And I think there’s a lot of that competition now amongst like post production houses trying to get clients to keep the doors open. Literally. And we find some of that even at Kartemquin where we’re going after the same grants to get money to fund our documentary that somebody else is going after so there is always a little bit of competition, but sometimes we’ll co-produce something with somebody. We find out that they want to do a similar thing, and they’re applying to get the grant money, we say, well, why don’t we pool our resources and come up with a joint project where we can be joint producers and sometimes that can be more effective in getting grant money.

I started working at Kartemquin when they realized that they had to get involved in video and had to start shooting video, which was probably in the late ’80s. And I brought them in technically and set them up with the basic editing system. And we bought our first camera, I was involved in that, and I brought them into the computer age with video editing on the computer too. So those two things: that technological interest and then of course, the camera interest in shooting.

The Editing Center was truly focused to be an equipment resource, that was its main thing. It didn’t go after grants in terms of producing shows, it went after support grants from the Arts Council and other people to keep the doors open, whereas Videopolis was going after programming money, and they did dozens and dozens and dozens of Chicago documentaries and they had their own small little edit setup for their own projects. But they were more like a production company whereas the the Editing Center, which then became the Center for New TV, was like a post production house. Anybody could come, the only difference was it was a nonprofit, it was a membership organization. And at its peak there were almost like 100 members paying dues and hanging out and using the facility for whatever. And at one point they even started a big library of finished work, which I think Tom Weinberg inherited. But at least it’s been preserved.

We would have open screenings. We would invite people–I had my students show up, I said there’s going to be something pretty neat being shown or there’s a rough cut of some new documentary or whatever being shown, and you know, go see it. It certainly wasn’t a commercial success in that regard but it was a way to get some feedback and get some things shown. And you put a little blurb in the Reader or some local alternative newspaper and people would show up.

[Were you more involved in video for activism or for documentary?] Activism was one part of it. I think that what I was interested in is sort of like video for the masses–I wanted there to be a way for anybody to tell a story on video if they wanted to. So it would be a financial way, and it would be a training path, to train them on how to use a camera or give them some names of people that could shoot for them or whatever. So it was a liberation from the institution of commercial television, which really for many years made it impossible for anybody that wasn’t in the TV community to do anything. Because they didn’t have the equipment, they didn’t have the access, they couldn’t get it shown. But once the equipment became available where you could make a finished product and then start knocking on the doors and say “Hey, I’ve got something here that’s pretty interesting that I’d like you to take a look at.” And then of course the new outlets opened up. So I think it wasn’t just the radicals that were involved, I mean there were people joining the Editing Center so that they could learn how to make video recordings of their grandmother before she died, at that level, and then of course there were people that were out there trying to drum up support for an issue in their local communities.

[What do you think of new internet distribution opportunities?] Well, I mean it’s brought more people into it. Because there are more outlets, this whole notion of what we call narrowcasting. Which was impossible back in the days when the three or four TV networks ran the show. They would never air something that only a few hundred people would be interested in. But now you could make a dvd and send it to them all, or you could put it on the internet in a website and let people know that it’s up there, you can show it in a storefront or you can put it on cable, you can put it on cable access.

Cable access is a wonderful outlet for finished work. And I was on the Board of the Cable Access Corporation when it was formed in Chicago to get into their bylaws things that they never thought of before. Like they had this whole series of things like you come to their space, and you do a little talk show in their studio and it gets broadcast. And I said, “Well, that’s fine, there’s a real need for that, but what about people that produce documentaries and just want to use the time and get it broadcast?” So we made it possible for anybody that was a Chicago resident, all they had to do was submit a tape that wasn’t profane or 18 hours long, that fit within the timeframe schedules and they essentially had to air it. So that was a big access point. A lot of my students, their first screening of their finished work was on cable access, which maybe only a few hundred people will watch, but at least they could send out postcards to everybody they knew and say, “on Channel 19 at 8:00Copy video clip URL on Friday night is my tape.” And they’d usually run it through four times after that as well, so it got repeat business.

[How long did you teach at UIC?] I was there for 30 years. And I started out in their Media Production Center doing 16mm documentaries about all sorts of stuff, about grass roots politics in Chicago, about the fight with Commonwealth Edison over pollution issues in the ’70s, you know, a lot of stuff. And back in those days it was fairly easy to get grant money to do documentaries through a university, if you could make it seem like it was some kind of academic project. It was like writing a term paper or something, or a report. But that money is long since gone, and it’s very hard to get those kinds of monies and the kinds of budgets that we had. 90% of the budget was for film and processing–we were on salary at the university so it didn’t really pay for that.

[Judy said UIC had an urban mandate.] Yeah, we did for awhile and again a lot of these mandates come and go with the administration people, but we did a whole series of outreach tapes in urban and ethnic neighborhoods. And we would go to the ethnic leaders and say, “We’re here to do a tape about your neighborhood, a 20 minute program about your neighborhood. We would like to help you produce it. We will provide the equipment, you decide what it is you want filmed and how the editing should go and we’ll put it together for you.” And we applied for a grant, a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, and it was huge–by today’s standards it was nothing–but it was like $100,000. Back in 1970 that was a lot of money. It was all done on video, it was one of our first big video projects, done on 3/4″ video. And we did like 20 of these amazing things and we showed them at conferences and a few of them got on TV because a few of them were pretty good. Some of them were rotten–they were ill-conceived or they sort of fell apart because the community people lost interest. It’s very hard to explain to somebody how much labor is involved in making a video. You don’t just show up and it’s on the nightly news and you’re done. If you want something significant you’ve gotta shoot for days and days and you’ve gotta edit, and you’ve gotta put it together, you gotta show it to people and you have to re-edit it, so it really takes a lot of effort. I’m always amazed at the people on cable access TV, for example, who do that–people from walks of life that have nothing to do with video, will show up and do the Ukrainian hour or something where they’ll show some of their culture and talk to people. And that’s very similar to what we were doing for people back in the ’70s. Now with cable access’ mandate to provide the equipment and the air time for residents of the city of Chicago, now they’re taking over that job. That the University once did. Of giving those facilities and sort of trying to expedite some of these things.

I think that the Center for New TV sort of lost its way once people realized that they could edit on a computer and buy their own equipment for very little. So they lost membership at that point and the director left, and there were financial issues and they had to kind of re-invent themselves. And the new director that they hired kind of directed himself away from video and more towards internet and web design and what he thought was the new way of communicating visually. Which is fine, but all the original people kind of left and had no more need for the Center. And didn’t see that their mission was all that helpful–the equipment that they had left was obsolete by that point, it was tape machine editing, it wasn’t computerized. It was old 3/4″ equipment and quite frankly, people had moved on, they’d moved on to Hi-8, which was sort of a miniaturized 3/4″ system that was broadcast quality. And then of course digital arrived and took over from that. But I think that that was the main issue: it just changed directions and its new direction apparently didn’t do very well, because they don’t exist anymore. But there’s nothing wrong with that, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with an organization being created to serve a need and then when that need is no longer relevant you either reinvent yourself or you close the doors and open up something else.

[What is the video community like now?] I think it’s much more diverse now. There’s not like a place where people go or an organization that people join, but the community is still out there and there’s communities at universities that teach film and video production, there are communities centered around technology–there’s a Final Cut Pro users group in Chicago that meets every month, it’s got like over 100 people that are doing everything from commercials to documentaries. So I think that there’s still places where people can go, it’s just that it’s much more scattered and there are many more people involved. There are a lot more people doing some kind of video, whether it’s for the internet or for broadcast or dvd or home video or whatever than there ever were. So I think that the notion of a video community–you’d have thousands of people and there’s nothing that’s that central anymore. And in terms of activism, I mean, I’m a little disappointed that more people aren’t involved in using video in a kind of an activist kind of way, because it is so accessible. It’s like the perfect tool–we would have killed to get anything halfway this good back in the ’60s and ’70s when we were trying to communicate with the rest of the world.

And so now I think we’re all suffering from a case of media overload. There’s so many channels to watch, there’s so many things, and so much of it is garbage, I mean the whole reality show craze has quite frankly given documentary a bad name. People think all you gotta do is put a bunch of people in a house together or an island together and turn a camera on and that’s a documentary. But it isn’t. But for someone who’s 12,13 years old, maybe that’s all they know. Maybe that’s all they’ve seen. But on the same token you’ve got channels like the Independent Film Channel, and you’ve got shows on public television like Frontline and Independent Lens that feature independently produced works. Of social significance, I guess that’s the bottom line.

[Do you think activist video nevertheless remains marginalized today, despite the internet and other outlets?] No question, you know, it’s absolutely true. I think that it’s interesting that the struggle for distribution is always gonna be there. And it’s still a sticky point: even though there are all these other outlets, it doesn’t mean necessarily that you have access to them all. I mean, the internet is the only truly liberating point because you can set up your own website, stream your own videos, to literally the world, all by yourself. You don’t need any corporate support, you don’t need any grants, you don’t need anything, really, you just have to have the time and the willingness to do it. But I think there’s going to be much more of that, especially as the broadband capacity of the country increases to the point where people can actually watch a decent image on the internet. And the fact that it’s so instantaneous, you can literally shoot something and edit it on your laptop and have it on the web three hours later if you want, if it’s something that’s important that people see. And I think that any major event now is being recorded by dozens of cameras from all different angles, different people.

But history as we know it has changed, because there’s so much visual material now that the challenge is how do you coordinate that, preserve it, archive it, or whatever. We can’t even archive the few tapes that we did in the ’70s in any kind of coherent way. Much less the tens of thousands of tapes that are shot every day around the country, much less the world. And it also raises the issue of perishability–a lot of the original material isn’t being saved the way it used to be. We used to take those original tapes and they were like gold, we put them on the shelf and saved them. Now it’s such a throwaway society that I think you’re lucky if you get a finished edit saved. The raw material sometimes is just dumped into a computer and edited and then spit out as a finished show. All that data that was in the computer gets thrown away for new stuff. So the whole issue of how do you preserve visual history is an ongoing problem, just from the sheer quantity, not to mention the whole issue of perishability. Tape doesn’t last forever, what do you archive onto? What is there that will last a reasonable length of time before it has to be then copied to another format to continue with the preservation?

[Can you explain history of your involvement in video?] Well, Tedwilliam and Tom Weinberg and those people were all like the heads of organizations that focused on this. And my real base was at the University. And what I was able to do is, I got my hands on the first portable video camera ever to come in to Chicago, two of them actually, and we shot a whole bunch of stuff which still exists somewhere on a shelf, hopefully. And I was able to follow the technology and actually buy the technology through the university and develop it into usable forms that people could use to do these kind of independent productions. So that’s been my sort of thread through all this. And then, of course, Kartemquin came in there with all the work that Kartemquin has done that I’ve worked on. I’ve done the photography on a lot of things, I’ve worked on a lot of the edits, and sort of kept in that stream.

Watch the New Americans! The New Americans series, which is premiering in a week from now on national public television, could not have been done even five years ago. Just because it was shot in like five different countries, with eight different cameras, for a very little budget–hundreds of hours of footage, and we were able to finish the entire thing in-house. And that is a major accomplishment: most people that do sort of monumentally long and involved over long period of time documentaries have more of a foundation base to work from. Or they’re doing it through a TV station, a public TV station or whatever. But we decided to go the independent route where we didn’t want anybody telling us what to do or how to put it together. We said, “Here it is, what do you think?” and they said, “Oh, this is great.” And you know, broadcast it. The only real argument we had with them was where we could put the subtitles in the picture. We wanted–since it’s a letter boxed show, widescreen letter boxed show–we wanted to put the subtitles in the black part of the picture so we wouldn’t cover up people’s faces. It’s their policy that all of the active video has to be in the letter box and then they put their PBS logo in the black area.

The other thing that I think is great about today’s technology is it’s easy to repurpose or redo a project for another use. Like we’re doing modules from our show for use in the classroom to discuss immigrant issues. And a workbook has been created and so it’ll not just be seen as a one time TV show, but it’ll live on in classroom and educational venues. Which is not unlike what was done with the Schindler’s List pre-interviews. [Spielberg] did a lot of pre-interviews on DV tape, just a single little camera on a tripod, and a lot of that didn’t make it into the final movie. But he felt it is valuable historic material, so he put it together on a series of DVDs and made a workbook about it where you can explore this person’s story and how it intersects with somebody else’s story and it’s a wonderful educational program. You could never show it on TV ’cause it’s too long and it’s interactive and all this kind of stuff, but he was able to use all that early material for something worthwhile. And that information is preserved and that’s the important part, that it isn’t just thrown away as an outtake. And we have scenes in New Americans, we have a whole cooking scene where a family is cooking and the grandmother is there, and it’s the whole sort of documentation of how they put a family meal together. Well, it goes on and on and on, it’s like 2 hours long, which is way too much for the final film–I think it’s only like 30 seconds in the final film–but we put it together as a module, edited to half an hour or whatever it was, so you can really see how a family interacts around cooking and food.”



You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


Copyright © 2023 Media Burn Archive.
Media Burn Archive | 935 W Chestnut St Suite 405 Chicago IL 60642
(312) 964-5020 | info@mediaburn.org