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Feature Article

January 14, 2018

Experimental Film Coalition: Publications

This is the fourth and final entry in a series of articles on the Experimental Film Coalition. You can begin with Part One here.

In addition to screening films in their hometown of Chicago, Illinois, the Experimental Film Coalition published two different periodicals in support of experimental filmmaking and filmmakers.

The Underground Film Journal has, so far, not had a chance to acquire copies of either of the Coalition’s periodicals and we have found discrepancies in their publication order online. Despite this, we believe that the Coalition first published a newsletter named Workprint that was then followed by a journal named Lightstruck.

The Anthology Film Archives, which may hold the largest collection of printed matter on film anywhere, states on their website that their library includes the “EFC Newsletter, formerly Light Struck” and gives publication dates of 1980-1989. However, there is plenty of evidence that “Light Struck” is actually called Lightstruck and was published well past 1989.

In an article on Jump Cut that reviews U.S. film magazines, Lightstruck is described as an “erratic publication that evolved out of a newsletter” without giving the newsletter’s name. Jump Cut gives an excellent overview of Lightstruck, including what’s perceived as the journal’s agenda of praising film and regarding video “with great suspicion.” Jump Cut also criticizes Lightstruck of avoiding ’80s and ’90s political issues — such as AIDS, censorship and gay/lesbian issues — which is interesting since the Coalition seemed to engage with these same issues in their monthly screenings.

While Jump Cut describes Lightstruck‘s publishing schedule as “erratic,” an article on the Coalition in the March 07, 1986 Chicago Tribune, says that the previously published newsletter was published quarterly, without giving a name to the newsletter.

The book Women and Experimental Filmmaking gives a name to the newsletter: Workprint; and claims that issue 6.3 was published in 1989 without giving the exact date. This issue of Workprint included an “Open Letter to the Experimental Film Congress,” which was an event held in Toronto, Canada that year. The letter’s author was Keith Sanborn, working in collaboration with Peggy Ahwesh, Leslie Thornton and Ross McLaren.

Canadian filmmaker Mike Hoolboom wrote several articles for Workprint that he has archived on his website. However, he does not use the name Workprint and only refers to his articles being published in the Coalition’s newsletter. One of his articles, “Anna Gronau and the Rites of Reproduction,” appeared in the April/May/June 1989 newsletter. Previously, Hoolboom’s “Brownian Motion: The Films of Carl Brown (1989)” was published in the Jan/Feb/March 1989 newsletter, then reprinted in Lightstruck vol. 8, Nos. 3&4, Fall 1996.

Two other references to the newsletter to note is by filmmaker Albert Gabriel Nigrin, whose Spin Me Round/Shake Well (1986) was reviewed in an issue in 1987; while the October/November/December 1985 issue included the article “The Man Who Envied Women” by Michael Nelson, referenced in the book A Woman Who.

Other references to Lightstruck online include an interview with filmmaker Bill Brand conducted by Diana Lobdell in vol. 7 no. 4 published in Summer 1991; and the Stanford library has in its collection vol. 8 no. 1/2 that was published in Autumn/Winter 1992.

Below is a list of known issues published culled from the information above:

Vol. 2, No. 4 (Oct/Nov/Dec 1985)
1987 (exact year quarter and issue number unknown)
Jan/Feb/March 1989 (issue number unknown)
April/May/June 1989 (issue number unknown)
Issue 6.3 (1989) (exact year quarter unknown — could be one of two issues above)

Vol. 7, No. 4 (Summer 1991)
Vol. 8, No. 1/2 (Autumn/Winter 1992)
Vol. 8, Nos. 3&4 (Fall 1996)

Online Cinema

January 7, 2018

And Sometimes The Boats Are Low — Leighton Pierce

And Sometimes the Boats Are Low by Leighton Pierce (1983)

As of this writing, there does not appear to be much written about this particular film by Pierce, even though there is quite a bit written about his work in general, particularly by film historian Scott MacDonald.

Two known screenings of the film have been at the 3rd Experimental Film Festival in 1986 run by the Experimental Film Coalition; and at a “Personal Cinema Program” event at the Millennium Film Workshop in New York City on November 30, 1987. The “Personal Cinema Program” included Pierce’s And Sometimes the Boats Are Low, plus his films Not Much Time (1982) and The Miracle of Change (1984).

(Note: In the mid to late ’80s, Pierce credited his work as “J. Leighton Pierce.” Since that time, he has dropped the “J.” and is written about just as “Leighton Pierce.”)

Although there isn’t much written specifically on And Sometimes the Boats Are Low, the film seems to fit into the typical descriptions of Leighton’s work. For example, in an essay that appears in the book American Film History: Selected Readings, 1960 to the Present, MacDonald writes that “Pierce has produced evocations of American domestic space that transform the ordinary into the remarkable.

Woman sitting in a chair looking out the window

Also, in an interview with MacDonald that appeared in the The Independent v22 issue 6, Leighton himself said:

I embrace Zen — I would say that. I’m not sure it’s correct to say that shooting the films is like a Zen practice, but it is almost like meditation.

Lastly, the book Curricular Conversations: Play Is the (Missing) Thing writes and includes a quote by the filmmaker that Pierce “works with interfaces in architectural space to ‘explore the collision and intermixing that occurs between multiple images and sound over time, across space, and within the associative mind of the viewer.'”

The end credits that appear on screen are below, each line representing one credit “card”:

And sometimes the boats are low
by J. Leighton Pierce ©1983
with Kathryn Hall
music: “Sova Noub V-(AO)” by Anthony Braxton
produced at Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts