Librarian Filmmakers Program Postponed

InfoWhale writes "Librarian Filmmakers Program Postponed
By Steve Fesenmaier Jan. 18, 2005

Thanks to a small article in American Libraries and several postings on media librarian listservs and LisNews, I discovered that there are indeed several librarians other than myself who have worked on films. Everyone knows that there are many librarian-turned-authors, receiving regular coverage in the library press. However, this is the first time that anyone has planned to present films by librarians-turned-filmmaker (or visa versa.)

My proposed program for New York Public Library's Donnell Library Center in New York City will NOT be taking place. Marie Nesthus, the director of the Media Center, told me that budget cuts have required that she make hard decisions on what to eliminate from this season's planned programming. The Librarian Filmmaker program has been postponed. Mark Syp, one of the librarian filmmakers, expressed an interest in doing something at his library, The St. Louis Public Library. I myself also plan on presenting such a program, either at one of West Virginia's two annual statewide library conferences, or at one of the other venues I program.

About half a dozen library staff members contacted me about their interest. Ms. Nesthus herself has a staff member who has worked on several films. Mr.William Sloan, Nesthus' predecessor at Donnell and semi-retired MLS librarian who ran MOMA's circulating film program for several decades, informed me that a new documentary about him will not be finished soon. Erik Barnouw, past director of film at The Library of Congress, produced a famous film called "Nagasaki-Hiroshima 1945" distributed by MOMA and still shown all over the world on a regular basis.

I was going to make my MLS thesis on video. I had taken a course on video production from the University-Community Video Center at the University of Minnesota and hoped to make a program on the many small presses in the Minneapolis area. I was hired by The West Virginia Library Commission right after completing course work so I had to move. I ended up writing two MLS theses - one was on cinema anti-therapy that was partially published in Film/Psychology Review and the other, accepted, was on 16 mm film selection policies.

Two films about librarians may be of special interest to anyone interested in librarian filmmakers. Julian Samuel, a Canadian filmmaker, has produced two films - the first is "The Library in Crisis" and the second, "Save and Burn," is a feature documentary about British and Arab libraries. ( I provided some research for the film and my review is posted at Counterpunch magazine - l.) Mr. Samuel has used experimental film techniques to explore many issues of contemporary librarianship and should be shown in every MLS school. I have shown "Crisis" at a state library conference and plan on showing "Save and Burn" this April at our statewide conference.

However, my original inspiration for the series, Jeremy Horton, who directed a Sundance quality film, "100 Proof," while still not located, did get Facets to sell his film, including a VHS copy to myself. Horton worked at the Lexington, Ky. library shortly before he made "100 Proof." I have been working on many films since I gained my MLS in 1979 and Became the director of Film Services in West Virginia, being the only MLS listed in the standard productions guides for Hollywood filmmakers. I worked on Les Blank's "In Heaven There is No Beer?" while in Minnesota, and was assistant director for an indie film, "The Book of Love,"(1973) directed by Julian Smilian who is a teacher at the famed North Carolina School for the Arts. Recently I worked with Lars von Trier who sent his researcher to WV from Copenhagen to investigate the life of young men growing up in coal camps. ( Thomas Vinterberg of "Ceremony" fame directed the film that opens this week at Sundance.) I have worked on at least 30 productions since 1978 including John Sayles' "Matewan" and Mari-Lynn Evans' three-part series, "The Appalachians," to be shown on national PBS in April 2005.

Here is some info on librarian-filmmakers who responded -

· Christine Wallace, presently working as a library technician while in MLS school, produced a short film in 2002 that was directed by her brother and shot in 35 mm.

· Marc P. Syp is the media director for St. Louis Public Library. He shot a promotional film for the city that can be seen at - Click on "Media" and then "This Is Saint Louis: Media Campaign." He also directed a mock documentary on a young man who wanted to become a
clown just like his grandfather in 1998.

· Jenni Matz worked on a film called "Abe Lerner: A Life In Books" which was produced for the NY Typophiles and which was screened at APHA-NE last fall. It is about the life of a book designer and editor. She is a Simmons MLS student.

· Michael Wilson was a library assistant at the University of San Francisco. He has a MFA and has been making films for several years, and his work has been screened throughout the US and the world at film festivals. He sent me a VHS copy of his excellent film on the wife of Eadweard Muybridge, "Flora's Film."

· Richard Rivera has written and produced documentaries for Discovery Channel and History Channel before he entered graduate school in Library and Information Science at USC.

· Ann Seidl is well known for her mind-blowingly entertaining slide show, "The Hollywood Librarian," about Hollywood portraits of librarians, has offered to show her slides and clips of the 35-mm feature documentary she is producing on the subject.

Like Ms. Nesthus, I believe that there are many, many more librarians Who have worked on films, or who presently are working on films - as researchers, as producers, as actors. One new MLS in West Virginia will be working for her old employer, ABC News, on the Bush II Inauguration in Washington, DC.

I hope other people who are interested will contact me at - [email protected] including Jeremy Horton, and one day soon there will be programs around the country showing how librarians can make films, not just distribute them."

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