Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bruce Conner

On Monday afternoon I received a phone call from Bruce Conner's assistant and to be honest the second i heard Henry's voice I knew. Bruce had died that morning. I didn't know the man well so i don't have any great Bruce Conner stories to relay to you. But i can tell you in his final years he championed a short film I had made and did his best to show it to as many of his friends as possible. For this I am immensely appreciative.
This story starts in 1979 - my first year of film school. In the C&P (Cinema & Photography) Department at Southern Illinois University I had two classes taught by Mike Covell. One of these was a History of Experimental Film. Now i had gone to film school to make comedies in the vein of Mel Brooks and Monty Python so this class was a bit of a rub. At first. Plus i was a young kid from Elgin, Illinois and knew Nothing about experimental film. What WAS this shit? If these were "Art Films" then Fuck Them.
Then, in that same Experimental Film class I saw Bruce Conner's Take the 5:10 to Dreamland and Valse Triste and all bets were off. The image of that little girl bouncing that ball on the sidewalk in Take the 5:10 to Dreamland will stay with me forever.

Cut to 25 years later and I had just completed Uso Justo. I sent a copy to my friend and ex boss at Monaco Video, John Carlson. He liked it enough to tell me that he was presently working with Bruce at the lab transferring his films and asked if he could show it to him.
"Yeah that would be great." (f-ing understatement)
Cool. Bruce Conner's watching my film.
A few weeks later i get a call. It's the man himself and he's telling me how much he enjoys the film and he's been showing it to some of his friends. To me this was like winning the Lottery, Wimbledon and the Super Bowl. Getting a phone call from one of your heroes is a pretty nice thing.
Since then we've spoken on the phone numerous times and he invited me to his home when i was out in San Francisco last March. We spent a couple hours talking film and old SF stories...him doing light shows 40 years ago at the Avalon, his disdain of "that singer for the Doors" and his love of Janis. We watched a film he had just completed. (Easter Sunday was edited from stuff he had shot in the 60's.)
A great visit that day and I'll leave it at that.
A few weeks later he sent me a check and a list of friends he wanted me to send copies of Uso Justo. A few weeks later another list. To say the least, the names on these lists were pretty impressive. Again, I'll leave it at that.
For those unfamiliar with his work (and there was plenty of it besides film... drawing, sculpture, painting, collage, photography) I encourage you to check it out. To say the least he wasn't big on having his films online (for obvious reasons) so i will not link to any of these. (But here is a link to other blogger's more eloquent than myself writing about him.)
Bruce Conner personally helped me get this film into the right hands and I'll be forever grateful. He was the Master of Found Footage and i was lucky to meet the man if only for a short time.

Thanks Bruce. For your films, your art and your support.


jmberes said...

Thanks for posting this. It's nice to hear about the good times and read the personal stories that come up amidst all the bad news.

Mikie said...

Nice tribute, chief. It's sad he's passed, but his work carries on thru your tribute. hope to see you soon.

Steven Fama said...

I must disagree with a small part of what you wrote -- you do have a great -- I mean really great -- Bruce Conner story! Thanks for sharing.

I am one of the lucky ones to whom Bruce showed your film to at his home, and who later through Bruce's kindness received a copy from you.

Bruce did love Uso Justo, including in a laugh out loud this is really truly brilliant kind of way, and why not? It's a great movie!

Thanks again Coleman for posting your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Nice to read what you had to say about Bruce, Coleman. Hope you are going to make many more wonderful films. Love that Uso Justo. Keep it going.

Geoff Muldaur