Tuesday, January 25, 2011


"One step inside Artists’ Television Access, a complex smell of incense, must and cedar awakens the nose. Underfoot, hardwood floors creak, and just through a small hallway, red movie theater-style seats await.  It’s the perfect place to screen under-the-radar films, and that’s what the nonprofit ATA has done on Valencia near 21st Street since 1986 — a time when people came to Valencia for underground punk shows, not upscale food." -

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


"This week, the film world got a little bit of a treat as what’s left of Quentin Tarantino’s first feature film, “My Best Friend’s Birthday” hit the web. Tarantino started work on the 16mm film in 1984 on a $5000 budget, and shot it over the next four years. The incomplete film (more on that in a second) has been shown several times for those lucky enough to catch it, but never released." - Kevin Jagernauth

Read the entire indieWIRE article here.  What remains of the film is available to watch here on youtube:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Bruce Brown (born December 1, 1937 in San Francisco, California) is an American documentary film director, known as an early pioneer of the surf film. His surfing films were Slippery When Wet (1958), Surf Crazy (1959), Barefoot Adventure (1960), Surfing Hollow Days (1961), Waterlogged (1962), and his most well known film, The Endless Summer (1964) which received a nationwide theatrical release in 1966. Considered among the most influential in the genre, The Endless Summer follows surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August around the world. Thirty years later Brown would film The Endless Summer II with his son in 1994.

He recently spoke to FILM THREAT and here is that interview..

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


He is a collector of early SILENT ANIMATION, a projectionist, writer for his Cartoons of Film. His research, film acquisitions and early film exhibitions are an asset to the community and film enthusiasts.  He lives in New York  and soon, he will launch a new version of  his website Cartoons On Film, and The Bray Animation Project's official site, and BUFS will update this change as it happens.

We asked silent era animation historian and archivist Tom Stathes to take us on tour of his personal thoughts through an interview conducted over email shortly after the 2010 holiday season.  So, without further ado...

1. BUFS would like to know about your first experience projecting a film. What are your roots in underground cinema?

TOM STATHES: "I started projecting films casually for one or two friends at a time almost immediately when I first collected around the age of 10 or 11, which was only a decade ago. I didn't get a whole lot of enthusiastic response from peers at that age, as you might imagine. As I amassed more and more for my collection, I decided a couple summers ago that I should start sharing these old films with the public. I had my first public "Tom Stathes Cartoon Carnival" screening in June of 2009 and I've just finished my 8th screening. The response has been very rewarding, and times and tastes are a little bit different ten years after I began collecting, at least here in NYC. The young arts communities are a bit more keen to discover these forgotten obscurities and ingest them happily."

2. Early animated films have preserved the art of homonyms, sight gags, and multiple story arcs.  In your view, what makes a good early animated film stand out from the others?
T.S.:  For the record, I collect silent animation of all kinds- "good", "bad", funny and mundane. I highly respect the art form and am trying to preserve an area of film history that isn't given much mainstream attention in the preservation community. To answer the question though, a really "good" silent cartoon stands out from the rest based on two aspects, as I've found. One would be the presence of timeless gags; period pop culture reference and jokes are lost on today's audiences, especially if they are textual and not visual. Second, good timing and fluidity in the animation helps greatly to elicit praise from today's viewers.

3. The destruction of some films such as Winsor McCays "The Centaurs" reveals the importance of preserving film, in terms of preserving the history of man. Can you tell us why you collect and preserve certain films?
T.S.: As said earlier, I seek to collect and preserve every single area of silent animation even down to technical and industrial type films. If a film was made before the sound era and contains any sizable amount of drawn or stop motion animation, it is of interest to me and I advocate for its preservation. In a grand sense, silent cartoons as a whole body of works gives personification to what the public was consuming in the area of humor and comical adaptations of real life. Silent animation differs from silent comedy or silent drama because it shows how man made light of (or educated about) life at that time through a more humanistic art form than film itself: drawing.

4. The heart of film preservation is really influenced by one's love of moving pictures, as if the people projected are resurrected and alive again. Little Nemo in Slumberland (1911) is an early example of this innovation.  Bobby Bumps seems to follow this tradition too, and perfect it.  Can you comment on Bobby Bumps Starts a Lodge (1916)?

T.S.: Bobby Bumps Starts a Lodge is part of a small group of what I refer to as "everyday silent cartoons." These are the films that have been circulated and shown the most to the public for the past two or three decades. Though I tend to shy away from this group because it has already had so much exposure, "Starts a Lodge" is an important entry in a very important cartoon series. Bobby Bumps was the creation of Earl Hurd who utilized celluloid sheets (cels) to perfect and streamline the animation process. His patent became an important factor in the Bray-Hurd Process Company (1915), a joint venture with animation pioneer J.R. Bray and these two issued licenses to other animators like Walt Disney until the early 1930s. 
 "Starts a Lodge" is crucial today because it shows Bobby Bumps, a little white boy, sinisterly initiating his black friend Chocklit into a [Masonic] lodge or kid's club. The presence of Chocklit in the Bobby Bumps cartoons might easily be misconstrued today for being a racist counterpart of the cartoons but as I've seen in viewing many Bumps cartoons, Bobby and his friend are equals and simply a product of their time. Viewing hundreds of silent films doesn't dilute the issue of racism that exists in early film, which it does, but it desensitizes the harshness of these characters and allows one to see that sometimes their treatment is not always purely negative. 

5. McCays' 'Chalk Talks' led to his animated films. Disney then mimicked McCay and Chaplin which, eventually ushered in his successful Steamboat Willie (which was a parody on Buster Keaton's 'Steamboat Bill Jr.'), and a began new way of looking at animation and ideas that came from those  parodies.  Which children's stories influenced your cinematic voice?
T.S.: As a child, I was highly influenced by children's' stories such as Goodnight Moon. Interestingly, this particular book has text but the action in the narrative is static--it can be said that the 'narrative' is purely a form of observing and interpreting stillness in this case. One might say a story like this is not particularly 'exciting', and some will say also that of silent animation. I believe interests and curiosities regarding stories like this are affected greatly by mentality and attention span, some of which probably forms extremely early on in a child's growth. I was a very patient and observant child and the few early cartoons I loved at the age of two or three were no zany, screwball Golden Age classics with dazzling color; yet the simple monochromatic images and twinkly soundtracks resonated deeply with me.

6.  What do you see in cinema that you can not find anywhere else?
T.S.: In cinema, there is a vision. It is true that literature, as a form of entertainment, creates possibly the most autonomous experience because a person must create his own vision of a narrative. However, in the cinema, the artists behind the camera demonstrate their creative visions and share them with us through the film. In literature, we read about the past and we see the words that were once commonplace, the places that no longer exist, and we learn of past events that way. Film is unfortunately limited by a past of only some 115 years, yet it presents the whole 'picture' of what literature conveys. We can see the past before us, we can see past events and we can see past interactions between people. The cinema is a truly dynamic sensory stimuli. 

7.  What can you tell B.U.F.S. about your current film screenings?
T.S.: My current film screenings, the "Cartoon Carnivals", picks and chooses items from my collection that are either bizarre or fit a certain theme behind a show. For instance, my last screening was Christmas-themed. I selected a few mainstream favorites (the few I own, as I don't invest much in popular titles) and filled out the show with extremely obscure items from the 1920s and 1930s. I began doing shows without themes and just threw random oddities together, but I think audiences are definitely relating to and enjoying the themes far more. I've had the great pleasure of collaborating with groups like the Cinebeasts and Kings County Cinema Society who have been a great help in organizing the shows and pooling audience members together.

8.  History has a funny way of repeating itself, what do you hope comes back that we don't get from films today?
T.S.: Today's films, save for an extremely few indies or student short films, are highly devoid of patience in narrative. Hollywood's productions are overloaded with special effects which steal the spotlight. Its dramas cut to the chase in every scene, none of which last for a great length. Films are always reflecting current trends, especially in attention span, and I hope that trends continue to sway back and forth so audiences evolve and so do the films. I would love to walk into a neighborhood theater (a venue quickly disappearing from the American landscape) and see a film with the directorial insight and pacing that could be seen in some 1920s and 1930s films. They say what is old is new again, so maybe this will again be commonplace some other time in my life span.

That was an interview with Tom Stathes, 21 year old proprietor of Cartoons On Film. The Berkeley Underground Film Society thanks him for his time and insights into the art of early animated films.  His website notes; "I've been collecting vintage animation for over a decade. In pursuit of this forgotten art form, I have found that much of it is simply unavailable. Although I've located a good amount of silent animation, it still eludes the public. That is why I started COF—to share these masterpieces and prevent them from being forgotten ever again. My colleagues, collaborators, and friends share my goal."