The Ullage Group Film Festival in Brooklyn on August 19

Later this month, my friend Doug Skinner will be screening “brief, rare, and unusual” films at a theater in Brooklyn. The event, entitled The Ullage Group Film Festival, Volume One, will take place the afternoon of Sunday, August 19, and will feature, among other things, seldom-seen animated shorts by the late Fortean researcher John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies. Jalopy, the theater where all of the films will be shown, is at 315 Columbia Street, in Brooklyn. Doors open at 3:00 PM. Admission is $5.00… Following is a short interview with Doug on how the event came together, and the films being shown.

MARK: I know I’m a long way from Brooklyn, but, as I have a few readers in the area who I think might be interested in attending, I though that I’d ask you a few questions about your upcoming event at Jalopy.

DOUG: Well, I guess I can answer questions. What’s on your mind?

MARK: Let’s start with the Keel stuff. Can you tell us a little about these 1960’s experimental films of his that you’ll be showing?

DOUG: John loved movies, and made his own films for years. They were usually 8mm, but he did sometimes shoot in 16mm. He was a member of the Metropolitan Motion Picture Club, a group of amateur filmmakers in NYC in the ’60s, and encouraged the young Kuchar brothers to show their first films there.

John’s films are mostly funny, and he loved to experiment with special effects, animation, and montage. You can see a program of a showing he did in 1972 here.

We plan to show “The Whimper,” “Three On a Match,” and some others.

MARK: It’s a bit of a tangent, but I’m curious about John’s archives. Is someone cataloging what he left behind, and, assuming the answer is yes, are there new films and manuscripts that have been discovered?

DOUG: Well, we (meaning John’s friends) haven’t really catalogued his papers yet, but we’ve been organizing them. And we’ve been making digital dubs of the films, to preserve them before they deteriorate. There are plans to publish some of the more substantial unpublished material. Meanwhile, I’m posting shorter bits (like that film program) at johnkeel.com.

MARK: As you mention, “The Whimper” and “Three On a Match” were known to have existed, having been screened in the 70’s. Is that true of the other Keel pieces that you’ll be showing, or are any of them new discoveries? And, if that’s the case, can you tell us anything about them?

DOUG: Well, we may show “Murder of an Anatomy,” which is a rapid montage of soft-core porn… And “Fink Flats” is a brief film he did with Earle Doud, who wrote for “Mad,” and did some popular comedy records. We may show that, if we can clean up the soundtrack.

MARK: Which of your pieces will you be showing?

DOUG: Probably one of the bits I did with my old partner, Michael Smith. I also plan to dig out the 30″ MTV spot I did with your old school chums, Anne Shapiro and Jen Duffy. I also have some short found footage films that I showed occasionally in San Francisco in the ’70s. That might be fun.

MARK: How did the idea for the Ullage Group Film Festival come about?

DOUG: We (Anthony Matt, Lisa Hirschfield, and I) do events every now and then. We met to discuss what to do next; and since we were restoring John’s films, a film program seemed like a good idea.

MARK: I see that you’re referring to this as “volume one.” Are there plans to make this an annual event?

DOUG: We haven’t planned that far ahead.

MARK: Assuming you do keep this series going, and, over time, you seek to bring in film from outside your immediate circle of Ullage conspirators, how would you define what it is that you’re looking for to others? Are there, for instance, certain genres of rare film that you find more interesting than others? Are there specific years, countries of origin, etc. that you would be interested in exploring?

DOUG: Not particularly. I like short, personal, low-tech films. I can’t speak for Anthony and Lisa.

MARK: Are there any other pieces that you will be screening on August 19th that you would like to mention?

DOUG: I think Anthony will show an interview he did with an outsider archeologist in Mexico, who has a curious collection of dubious petroglyphs. Lisa may bring a film-strip or View Master projector. Morgan Miller and Russ Johnson do short funny films. Mark Newgarden, beloved creator of the Garbage Pail Kids, collects animated and industrial films; he’ll show some gems.

MARK: I know little about the rare film world, but I think, having known you for a few decades now, I have a fairly good sense of what it is that you’d find interesting. I’m curious to know, however, what you personally would perceive as the Holy Grail of rare film finds… Richard Shaver home movies? Outtakes from “Le Voyage dans la lune”? Grainy footage of Mothman descending on Silver Bridge? A lost Charles Bowers short? Early European ventriloquists in action?

DOUG: Those sound good. Maybe your readers could hoax some of them.

MARK: Is there anything else that you would like to say about the event?

DOUG: The great Irish writer, Flann O’Brien, once described a movie theater like this… “I believe it is a dark quarter and little can be seen at all except the photographs on the wall.” We can promise that.

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11 Comments

  1. KKT
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    When you ask in your exit interviews why it is that people want to leave Ypsi for the big city, this is why.

  2. anonymous
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I thought that he might have made up Flann O’Brien, but it appears as though there was such a person. Flann was a pen name, though. His real name was Brian O’Nolan.

  3. Posted August 9, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    O’Nolan is actually a pretty major writer. And he is better known under his pen name, just as Arouet, Dodgson, and Clemens are better known as Voltaire, Carroll, and Twain. Even the works he wrote under his other pseudonym, Myles na gCopaleen, are now published under the name Flann O’Brien. His most popular book is “The Third Policeman”; that’s a good one to start with, if you’re interested.

  4. Knox
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    While I was unsuccessful in finding any of Richard Shaver’s home movies on-line, I was able to find this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmKUCBPqkwQ

  5. Posted August 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Ha! I do prefer Shaver’s graphic style though; it’s wilder and funkier. Here’s one of his paintings:

    http://ullagegroup.com/2010/10/04/a-painting-by-richard-shaver/

  6. Posted August 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one that sees a screaming face and outstretched hands?

  7. Posted August 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    We are looking forward to a film of Flann O’Brien’s “At Swim-Two-Birds,” with a screenplay and direction by Brendan Gleeson and starring an array of Irish actors, including Gabriel Byrne. Set for 2013, if we are lucky!

  8. anonymous
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of things to do in Brooklyn, Shelley Salant will be playing as “old night” tonight at Muchmore’s (2 Havemeyer St, in Williamsburg), along with Calvin Johnson, Laura Leif, and Priests. It’s the release show for the Believer magazine’s July/August issue. It starts at 9:30.

  9. HH
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    There is audio of Richard Shaver being interviewed by John Nebel in 1956.

    http://archive.org/details/LongJohnNebelInterviewsRichardShaverAndRayPalmer

  10. Posted August 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    There’s also footage of Shaver’s editor, Ray Palmer, talking about him — and about Shaver’s time in Ypsilanti.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6VEV-UknBg

  11. Anonymatt
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m there. It’s been entertaining so far.

One Trackback

  1. By name Don’t Forget the Ullage Group Film Festival on August 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

    […] in case you missed it, is an interview about the upcoming event, as residents of Michigan look longingly […]

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