J. Hoberman

Go Big or Go Bust: Day 118 (on making my first 16mm short film)

In the Fall of 1982, my first short 16mm film was invited to be in the New York Film Festival.  It had taken a year to make on nights and weekends and was, I later discovered, what they called an 'over the transom' submission. This is insider talk for a film which comes from out of the blue.  I was overjoyed. 

a still from my first 16mm film

a still from my first 16mm film

My parents came in from New Jersey for the Saturday night screening and my father didn't applaud so he could hear the audience's reaction.  WIthin hours of the screening, it was picked up for theatrical distribution by Don Krim's Kino International who then blew it up to 35mm.  Within the week, J. Hoberman wrote in the Village Voice: "... the shorts ...  by Anne Flournoy,  Ernie Gehr, Jean-Luc Godard ... represent roughly the same degree of seriousness and achievement as do the features."  Talk about 'go big or go bust'.  Hey, I figured, I'm on my way

But to start at the beginning, it was the year before, in the Fall of 1981, that circumstances pushed me to make this film.  I'd landed a plum Assistant Editing job on a documentary film with a kind, patient and seriously professional Editor, Sarah Stein.  The Producer Hilary Maddux and Director Deborah Boldt were equally kind and patient.  And I needed their patience because, unbeknownst to me, I was suffering from some kind of crazy allergic reaction to the coffee which was propelling me through the days, a reaction which looked for all the world like narcolepsy.  I couldn't keep my eyes open.  Our editing room at the Maysles' had a nice big couch and there was a communal coffee pot out in the main room where Bruce Sinofsky sat as a very young Office Manager.  I'd help myself to a cup of coffee, drink it as I looked for trims in the bin and then collapse on the couch.  I wasn't being lazy.  I literally couldn't keep my eyes open.  It was a miracle that they let me stay on, at union wages. 

One day when Deborah and Hilary arrived for a screening, I roused myself, determined to turn over a new leaf. I attacked the massive eight-plate editing flatbed with Windex and a dusting cloth only to hear them chuckling at my sudden burst of energy.  Beyond humiliated, I realized that the only person I was fooling was me.  (to be continued)