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Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), Lithuanian-born poet, philosopher and film-maker, has made hundreds of films and set up the Anthology Film Archive. He emigrated to American in 1949 where he earned the title of ‘the godfather of American avant-garde cinema’. [Listener: Amy Taubin]
TRANSCRIPT: I shoot on reversal, I film on reversal where you can immediately see and that you don’t have to spend money making a print and plus when you begin to edit you are right there, you don’t, if you edit negatives then you have to, its so much unnecessary work and there it doesn’t make difference in quality at all because the best thing is its original. I learned this from Kenneth Anger, plus I mean before that, before Kenneth Anger, you know I used to, I edited the first “Guns of the Trees” and “The Brig” and the what’s known as A and B tracks, you see, was to hide the splice, Kenneth says, I never do that, I just put one piece next to other, I never do that, so hah! So what if you see some, that’s part of the visual activity if you, but actually you don’t see the splice. So I just work with the originals straight and it saves me a lot of money and time, a lot of money because much, what I don’t use, you know, why make print of it? Some it when I decide to use then I will you know, I make a work print also positive when I begin to work with sound that’s when I make a copy but not a negative, I make a cheap one they call untimed print of the original to work with sound already on Moviola, that’s when I begin to work already on Moviola, old-fashioned Moviola. Before that I just work on hand rewinds and little viewer.
So that once you make that work print-
Then I, You know, then I transfer, I pre-edit sound from whatever is on cassettes I put on, on reel-to-reel, I pre-edit and I make a copy on 16, 16 magno copy and with 16 magno and with 16 work print I then I begin to synchronise and match and work. That’s when I do the final work. And that’s it.
And so in the end what you would be doing is you would be conforming the original-
Then when I finish with it then I just cut the original which is, you know, for me the work print, if I make any changes during the sound adjustments then I just do those final little changes which I can do in a couple of nights. Not like when if I would try to match original to negative oh boy, little pieces, if, you know, one works in long stretches but I work in tiny little pieces. The one that sometimes, and you see, I don’t all, everything in my film stays the way it came out from the camera, like those little pieces of ten seconds, 15 seconds, but sometimes I cut out one or two frames and that would really mess me up if I would be working with the negative. I make little cuts, like if you’re a writer and you decide to take one word out from a paragraph or sentence, so only that much or a comma you take out a comma or you add a comma that I do, but not more than that.