Underground Film Journal

Bruce Baillie

Bruce Baillie standing in a doorway

Bruce Baillie (1931-2020) was one of the most essential figures in the underground film scene of the 1960s, not only for his many visually evocative films, but for his organizing efforts on the West Coast.

Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Baillie studied art and film at the University of Minnesota and the London School of Film Technique in the mid to late 1950s. Seemingly born with a wandering soul, he eventually made his way to San Francisco and made his first film, On Sundays (1960-61).

As Baillie himself said about his foray into filmmaking, "I realized that making films and showing films must go hand in hand" (Canyon Cinema, Scott MacDonald, pg. 6). With no place to really show his work, he created his own informal screening group in Canyon, California that he dubbed Canyon Cinema. At first, Baillie would hang a sheet between two trees in the backyard of his girlfriend's house and casually invite friends over for viewing all kinds of experimental films, including, of course, his own.

With the help of friends like Ernest Callenbach and Chick Strand, the screenings would move to other, more formal, locations all over the Bay Area. As the screenings grew in popularity, the rapidly evolving group first published a newsletter then formed the Canyon Cinema distribution cooperative, which is still in operation today as an active distributor of avant-garde and experimental films.

In addition to all of this organizational work, Baillie would also create some of the most beautiful and poetic works of the underground film movement, including hugely beloved works such as Quixote (1964-65), Castro Street (1966), All My Life (1966), and Quick Billy (1971).

Baillie's wandering soul would not let him stay in San Francisco, so over the course of his life he would teach filmmaking at Rice University in Houston, Bard College in New York State, and Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

He would live out his last days on Camano Island, Washington.

Watch Streaming Films By Bruce Baillie:


The Holy Scrolls (collection of semi-edited films spanning Baillie’s career)
Salute (1999)
Pieta (1998)
Roslyn Romance (Is It Really True?): Intro. I & II (1978)
Quick Billy (1970)
Valentin De Las Sierras (1967)
Show Leader (1966)
Port Chicago Vigil (1966)
Termination (1966)
Still Life (1966)
All My Life (1966)
Castro Street (1966) (DVD)
Tung (1966)
Yellow Horse (1965)
Quixote (1964-65, revised 1967) (WATCH)
The Brookfield Recreation Center (1964)
Mass for the Dakota Sioux (1964)
To Parsifal (1963)
A Hurrah for Soldiers (1962-63)
Here I Am (1962)
Have You Thought of Talking to the Director? (1962)
News #3 (1962)
Everyman (1962)
Friend Fleeing (1962, unfinished)
The Gymnasts (1961)
Mr. Hayashi (1961)
David Lynn’s Sculpture (1961, unfinished)
On Sundays (1960-61)


Robert Beck Memorial Cinema: January — May Screenings, 1999

Continuing into 1999 at the Collective Unconscious theater space in NYC, the RBMC — co-programmed by Brian L. Frye and Bradley Eros — went on hiatus for the first week of the year, but resumed on January 12. Below is a list of screenings from then until a May 18 event that celebrated the RBMC’s first full year of existence.

Anthology Film Archives: The First Screenings, 1970

After years of planning, the Anthology Film Archives first opened its doors in New York City towards the end of 1970. That opening came with great interest and fascination of how the world’s first “museum of film” was going to operate like no other theater before it.

Canyon Cinema Cooperative: Catalogue Number One

In December 1966, the Canyon Cinema Cooperative in San Francisco, California published their first Catalogue of experimental and avant-garde films to rent. This was four years after the Film-Makers’ Cooperative had begun distributing underground films in New York City.

Robert Beck Memorial Cinema: 1998 Screenings

Brian L. Frye programmed the first screening on May 12, 1998 at the Collective Unconscious theater space. The screening included the feature-length documentary Underground by Emile de Antonio about the left-wing militant group the Weather Underground

Experimental Film Coalition: The Monthly Screenings

This is Part Two in a series about Chicago’s Experimental Film Coalition; and covers their screening series. Formed in 1983, the Experimental Film Coalition started holding regular monthly screenings starting in 1984. The screenings brought to Chicago the work of independent, experimental filmmakers across the country, as well as screening local work.

Boston Film-Makers’ Cinematheque 1966-67: The Posters

In 1966, as the underground film wave was sweeping the country, a Boston off-shoot of New York City’s Film-Makers’ Cinematheque opened at a performance space at 53 Berkeley Street. Underground films were shown on weeknights, while on the weekends the space transformed into a music venue called The Boston Tea Party.

Quixote — Bruce Baillie

Quixote by Bruce Baillie. Finished most likely in 1965, but sources place year range 1964-1967. In Visionary Film, P. Adams Sitney says the film was “revised” in 1967; while in his “Movie Journal” column, Jonas Mekas wrote that the “final version” of Quixote was screened in New York City in 1968.