I Need More Archival Footage!

A little context: I’m working on a Soleri clip wherein he is critical of hyperconsumption and suburban sprawl — and how sprawl creates a reliance on cars. I’m using interview footage of Soleri and Jeff Stein, AIA, as well as a lecture we shot of Soleri speaking to an audience at the New School here in NYC.

Okay, where to begin?

The first thing I did was set some parameters. What am I looking for? (Images that say suburbs and consumerism.) What decade am I looking for? (1950s and 1960s, this is when Soleri begins coming into his own as a thinker.) Black and white or color? (Both.) Commercials, industrials, home movies, b-movies, or something else? (Commercials and industrial.) I’m especially excited to use commercials. The hucksterism of commercials from that era makes us laugh now (and that’s welcome) but the message is the same. Buying stuff you don’t need or want will make you happy, successful, sexy, etc.

Great, I head over to the Internet Archive, and search “consumerism” and presto-change-o! An embarrassment of riches. Ads for appliances featuring ballroom dancers. Images from the 1950s of housewives in evening gowns. I like that, it echoes what Jill Tarter said about the gender bias she had to deal with growing up in the 50s and 60s. A nice layer. I’ll use some of that.

Search for “suburbia.” More goodies. Lots of white picket fences, middle class families, children playing in yards with trees. A really wonderful industrial made for Redbook is chockfull of images, including people shopping at malls. A banner that reads

Easy Living”! Good stuff in there.

Search for “car commercials.” And here, jackpot.

Take a look at this commercial (one and a half minutes). This suburban housewife felt like a prisoner in her home, until they bought a second car. Now her life is awesome!

The prisoner line and the “it’s a whole new way of life” are perfect.

I found another great industrial about the 1956’s new GM cars that will work nicely with Soleri’s riff on the American Dream, and other images of consumerism will be used, but this commercial will be the centerpiece of that section.

Now to edit it together and have it all make sense. That’s the really difficult part.

To see how editor Cabot Philbrick expertly did that in another clip, click here.

About the Clips

There are a bunch of original clips using footage shot for A Life’s Work on this blog. You can see a list of posts that contain clips by clicking here. If you visit the A Life’s Work Youtube Channel you can watch them without reading the text.

What’s With the Clips, Anyway?

Each time I put a clip up I have a little fear that someone will see it and think it’s part of the finished film. And then look at another clip and say, “Huh, what the hell are these two clips going to be in the same film?”

Editing at the MacDowell Colony, 2010.

Some are taken from the 36-minute sample editor Cabot Philbrick and/or I put together (“The Redwoods,” “Looking for Rare Gospel Vinyl,” “Jill Tarter on Growing Up in the 50s”), but most I edited especially for the blog. The film right now has a somewhat sturdy outline and many of those clips don’t fall within its parameters. Does that mean they won’t be in the finished film?

My Notebook

Some most definitely won’t be (“First Shots”)*, and others will most likely not be (“What’s My Favorite Tree,” though part of David Milarch’s answer and the archival footage might be). And the rest? Who knows? This blog has become a notebook for me, a way for me to focus what I’m working on and try some new things. Editing the clips makes me review footage and think of new possibilities. “Paolo Soleri Discusses Arcosanti Residents” is a good example of this. It’s quite possible that some of those shots and edits will make it in the final film, and that clip was really put together exclusively for here.

So, when you watch a clip, you might be seeing something like the birth of an idea that will be in the final film, or something that might make it to the DVD extras, or, in the case of something like “Ends,” just a favorite shot of mine that will only be seen here.

No matter where they wind up, it’s exciting for me to share them. Do you enjoy watching them? Let me know.

You can view most of the clips I mentioned and a LOT more by visiting the A Life’s Work Youtube Channel.


* “First Shots” and nine other clips are on Vimeo. These clips are mostly tangential, more like outtakes. They are usually just a series of shots or some weird little one offs such as this one: “Banter at the Allen Telescope Array.”



SETI’s Jill Tarter on Gender Bias in the 1950s: A Clip

Gender bias in the 1950s

[This post originally appeared on October 16, 2009.  The clip in this post is one of my favorite sections of the work in progress. The post is also a fave because of the comments it generated. I love the virtual exchange between artist Jane Deschner and scientist Jill Tarter. I would be thrilled if the comments continued on this post, and that’s the real reason I’m reposting it.] 

Here’s a clip from the sample of Jill Tarter, Director of SETI Research, The SETI Institute. I hope you enjoy it.


My favorite part of this clip is the edit that happens about 1:43 in.

Miss Jenkins:
… you need to know more than just how to run a house or an apartment. You need to know why as well as how.

Cut to

Jill Tarter:
All of this counseling …

The expression on her face–it’s as if she were watching Miss Jenkins dole out that advice–it’s so telling.

How did I find Why Study Home Economics, this educational film made by Lawrence, Kansas’ Centron Productions? (Was this directed by Herk Harvey, director of the cult horror classic Carnival of Souls, who worked for Centron for 25 years?)

Before I get to how I found it, you need to read the unedited transcript from that section of the interview.

Why do you want to take calculus, you’re just going to grow up and have babies. You want to take shop, no you have to take home economics. Oh, you’ve already taken home economics, well I guess you can take shop. All of this… this counseling that was so aimed at making you do what was expected and the norm rather than going off and being an engineer…

You may notice that the clip and the transcript differ. That’s not a big deal, that’s what editing a documentary is all about. But notice what we cut:

You want to take shop, no you have to take home economics. Oh, you’ve already taken home economics, well I guess you can take shop.

In that sentence Tarter tells us about the prevalent attitude of the time.

From the start I’ve always thought there was a place for educational films in A Life’s Work. When Cabot and I were editing, we thought a good place to insert some of it might be here.

I had discovered the Internet Archive when I was searching for stock footage quite a while ago. I went to the site (and I encourage you to do so, too; it’s an amazing site, more interesting and entertaining than YouTube) and I searched “home economics” because those words were planted in my mind by Tarter in the complete interview.

I found Why Study Home Economics and downloaded it. When we watched it, we realized we struck a little gold. That little bit of educational film shows and tells us the attitude of the time. Tarter’s sentence became unnecessary. It is, I think, an efficient, effective, powerful, and amusing edit.

But I would never have dreamed I’d find archival footage that cut in so well with her statement and expression. Never. Sometimes you just get lucky.

Did you like the clip?

Edited by Cabot Philbrick. Cinematography by Andy Bowley and Thomas M. Harting, CSC.

Special thanks to everyone at SETI, especially Jill Tarter, Seth Shostak, Frank Drake, Karen Randall, Cynthia Phillips, Rocco Mancinelli, Chris Neller; Susie Jorgensen and Rick Forster at Hat Creek Radio Observatory; U.S. Park Ranger Steve Zachary; and the students in SETI’s 2008 Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program in Astrobiology. More on the students in a future post.

Thank You, Timing Gods

Timing has never been my strong suit. But I must admit these last few months the timing gods have been very kind to me.

Final Cut Pro: L. Robert Darden walks down E. 53rd Street, Chicago, IL. In the bag gospel LPs he bought at Hyde Park Records. R. Minutes later a patron arrived on a bike with a box of vinyl. Were there any gospel recordings in there?

Edited like a lunatic. Worked intensely on the sample at VCCA, incorporating the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project into the existing sample.

Wrote grant proposals like a lunatic, edited like a sane person. Met the deadlines of five grant opportunities and a residency.* Also sent my reworked sample to Cabot the editor for his take on what I had done. I was thrilled with Cabot’s notes and addressed them, making the sample tighter for submission with the grant materials as well as to producer folks who have expressed an interest in seeing it. I’m very grateful January was spent home in NYC writing the grants, and that I didn’t have to do that at VCCA and won’t have to do that at MacDowell.

February-March (Not to get ahead of myself, but I do need to plan.)
Edit like a lunatic, think like a writer. This is what I hope to do at the MacDowell Colony. More on this next week.

I bow down in supplication to you,  Oh Timing Gods, please grant me more of this good timing through 2010.


Gucci Tribeca Documentary Film Fund
ITVS Open Call
Jerome Foundation
Puffin Foundation
Sundance Documentary Fund


Fine Arts Work Center

Cloning Redwoods: A Longer Clip

Back in August of ’09 I linked to editor (and new dad!) Cabot Philbrick’s website. He had included a portion of the redwoods section on his reel. That clip was truncated and sized for Cabot’s web site. Here’s the whole redwoods section (6 minutes 29 seconds–you get to see two and half minutes more) and the screen size is a wee bit bigger, too.


Let me know what you think.

It’s Artist Residency Time!

Soon I will be taking advantage of a most generous gift of time and space.

On November 15 I’ll be driving down to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts where I will be among 25 or so other writers and visual artists. I’ll have a nice little room to sleep in, a nice studio to work in, and delicious food to chow down on.

I find I’m very productive at residencies. I’ve done four now, and in February 2009 I was at VCCA and did a lot of work on the film, as well as write the first draft of a nonfiction piece. I also gained some much needed weight thanks to Chef Rhonda.

What do I hope to accomplish this time?

I try not to go in with too many expectations, but  I plan on cutting the Robert Darden footage Wolfgang shot in Chicago into the existing 27-minute sample Cabot edited. I’ve spent the last month preparing for this edit immersion, transcribing, logging, reviewing the sample, and just thinking. I also met with Cabot to discuss Darden and how to include him in the edit. If I come back to New York City with a 35 minute sample that features all of A Life’s Work’s subjects, I’ll be extremely happy.

I also hope to hone my ping pong skills. Last time I was at VCCA I discovered the artistic value of ping pong. A rousing mini ping pong tourney after dinner acts like a digestive and sharpens the senses, perfectly readying one for an evening back at the studio. At the residencies I did before I discovered ping pong, I was useless after dinner. Since ping pong, I do good work post-dinner. My only regret is that Mary-Louise, Sara Y., Nick, Josh, Deb, Art, Eduardo, Cheryl, Sara M., Reinhold, Kate, Linda, Lauren, and Walter won’t be there for me to reduce to quivering bowls of Jello. You hear that Jenn? You ready? Don’t think I didn’t notice you only played once when we were there the last time! You have been warned!

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Paolo Soleri at Dome House: A Clip

In October 2006, Wolfgang Held and I flew to Arizona to interview Paolo Soleri. While we were there Soleri visited his first commission, Dome House, in Cave Creek, AZ.  I was told that his trip there was something of a rarity and we were fortunate to be able to film it. I suspect this is because Soleri doesn’t live in the past.

Here’s a three-minute and 25-second section of the sample, edited by Cabot Philbrick. Let me know what you think.


Special thanks to Stefan Grace, Mary  Hoadley, and of course Paolo Soleri.

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What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]

Four Minutes of A Life's Work: A Clip

Editing is a collaborative process.

In the spring I worked with editor Cabot Philbrick and constructed a 27-minute work-in-progress sample of A Life’s Work. I’m delighted that Cabot is including a portion of that work on his editor’s reel and you can view it online. I’m especially tickled because he’s showcasing the footage I shot! Of course it’s hard to go wrong when you’re shooting tree climbers scaling giant trees in a redwood forest.

This clip  follows David Milarch at Roy’s Redwood Preserve in northern California. Champion Tree Project spearheaded the project to clone the redwoods. The climbers are from Bartlett Tree Experts.

This four-minute section can’t convey the structure of the film, but it will give you a sense of the style. Check it out and let me know what you think.