San Francisco, Artists’ Television Access, gentrification

Making Adidas Mermaid - Sophie Beresford on screen at ATA, San Francisco

Making Adidas Mermaid – Sophie Beresford on screen at ATA, San Francisco

Artists’ Television Access – or ATA is it’s better known – is based in the Mission District of San Francisco, a popular area that is seeing a lot of regeneration and gentrification. The development of the area, the increase in new bars, and the loss of the old neighbourhood comes up frequently in conversations with ATA staff and visitors. ATA’s programmer, Fara Akrami, mentions the change in the area several times, saying much of the character and culture has gone, with rising rents, techies and posh shops taking their place.

It comes as no surprise that ATA is seen as a bastion of cultural hope; it sits on Valencia St, now surrounded by bars and stores that you obviously need cash to visit. ATA sparkles with bright artists’ video on screens in its window, filtered orange, they crackle onto the street. ATA is volunteer run, much like Star and Shadow in Newcastle, or The Cube in Bristol; it is obviously run with passion and love for the alternative culture it nurtures.

The ATA audience is lively, talkative and engaging; most of the audience is made up of volunteers for the space; Fara insists this is the most volunteers that have attended a screening. It seems to go well, there’s a mixed response at the end, some cool responses, but some positive ones. I did get a great question asking if all films like this in the UK are of such great quality, and was told it’s not often that the whole of a film programme is of such a high standard for all the films.

Fara and I talked before the screening, he had several recommendations to check out in San Francisco: San Francisco Cinematheque, which has a prolific programme, including an experimental programme called Crossroads; Pacific Film Archive at University of California, Berkeley shows lots of international film programmes and themed programmes of artists’ film and other cinema; Other Cinema programme, which takes place at ATA, curated by Craig Baldwin; SF Exploratorium has a screening room showing expanded cinema and docs; Black Hole Cinematheque in City of Oakland; and Shapeshifters Cinema, Oakland, showing a monthly programme of expanded cinema.

Now, we move on to Phoenix for Selected with No Festival Required.




Seattle, traditional audiences and artists’ film…

Miracle Methods by Frances Scott on screen at SIFF

Miracle Methods by Frances Scott on screen at SIFF

Sophie Beresford stretches half-naked on screen to seemingly consider the next act in her film ‘Making Adidas Mermaid’, one of over 50 similar films she made in one day. Adding to the soundtrack is a deep sigh from the back of the theatre, along with a few chuckles. I’m in the company of a traditional film audience, it feels tense and awkward, especially having convinced several of the people waiting outside the cinema to join in watching the films.

At the end of the screening I talk to a couple of the people who came and they ask me why I decided to show the films in a cinema rather than a gallery. Not the first time I’ve been asked this; I don’t believe artists’ film should sit only in a gallery, I think the showing of a film, especially something as rich and heart-suspending as Naheed Raza’s ‘Silk‘, should take place in a cinema, where it can exist gloriously. And artists’ film is not just a gallery experience, artists’ films are to be experienced, from beginning to end, rather than walked past and glimpsed at, which often happens in a(n) (unsympathetic) gallery setting. The Seattle audience (for this screening) is small and conservative, and I had suspected that might be the case, but it’s still a bash at my / videoclub‘s confidence. Especially when I know this programme is so excellent.

San Francisco is next. I have great faith in Artists’ Television Access and the San Francisco audience; Ruth Jarman from Semiconductor sang their praises so well when I mentioned I was going there. I’m also excited to hear what artists they’ll propose for the UK tour of StateLand, a programme of new work from the States videoclub will be curating and touring in the UK in October 14.

Clinton McClung from SIFF, who has been so super in helping making this tour happen, recommended a few filmmakers I should take a look at, including Karl Lind, Janice Findley and Kelly Sears, who Clinton described as an ‘Experimental Filmmaker and curator with great connections and taste.’

I would also recommend Northwest Film Forum for showing experimental work, and great for Capitol Hill and Seattle University audiences.

And now, San Francisco.


Moving image, Northwest Film Center, Portland

Arrastre by Nicholas Brooks on screen at Northwest Film Centre, Portland

Arrastre by Nicholas Brooks on screen at Northwest Film Centre, Portland

Portland was a joy. The guys at Northwest Film Center are such a wonderfully friendly and generous group of professionals. I really enjoyed the experience of working with them.

Before the screening I had coffee with Morgen Ruff, one of the Northwest Film Center team, and we spoke about the moving image infrastructure and artists in the city. There’s the Experimental Film Festival that takes place in Portland, which shows varied experimental works by artists and traditional filmmakers. Apparently both Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland State University have great programmes for film and interdisciplinary practice, a good place to promote to for audiences – as I keep getting told, spring break’s not a great time for showing films, watch out for the student holidays next time.

40 Frames in Portland is a great place to get any restoration / conservation work done for film. Also, the Cinema Project in Portland does a roving curated programme of films, taking place in various venues, another really good potential collaborator. Morgen also recommended I contact filmmaker Jessie Malmed to get a better idea of the infrastructure in Chicago.

Seeing the Selected 3 programme on a big screen in the States was truly happy making; I didn’t get a lot of feedback at the end of the screening, but the few people who engaged with me said they loved the programme. I’m going to make sure I promote the screening better through all my contacts over here, including using the Art House Convergence Google Group. (Apparently there is some essential etiquette for posting up on here, which I am hoping to learn about shortly, I will post up details in a later blogpost.)

Next, Seattle.


Coming to America – touring artists’ film in the US


didn’t expect organising this tour of Selected round the States to be as manageable as it has been. Not that it was simple, and a lot of time and effort had to be put in doing research, and talking to contacts – a big thanks to filmmaker Ben Russell, Heather Corcoran at Rhizome, and Clinton McClung at SIFF – but it was surprisingly less complicated than I’d expected. Being determined and tenacious probably helped. 

An excellent tip I had forwarded on to me from Ben Russell was the 16mm Directory, which has a comprehensive list of exhibitors (and distributors and tech) across the US. A really handy resource.

The next stage was just getting in touch with people. Sending some professional looking info about the programme, along with programme notes, and film content, and a link to the programme when it toured in the UK. I think having had the programme tour already really helped. Also, highlighting recognisable venues that the tour had previously been to, like the Whitechapel, gave the programme some kudos, and linking out to artists’ work that have good profile. I also gave venues links to all the films online (via Vimeo – either public or private (with passwords), as artists had sent to me) so they could see content.

My plan had always been to do five venues, to keep it manageable for a first time activity like this. I ended up with 10. Then reduced this down to eight as I negotiated how I was going to manage the logistics, sadly this meant cutting out Chicago and Iowa City, but meant I could do Phoenix, Tucson and LA, and comfortably fit in NY and DC.

It’s a bit of a bonkers trip, but an enormous joy to undertake. I feel like I’ve learned a lot just from setting up the tour. Hopefully what I’ve learnt will unravel here as I write during this journey.

To Portland.