Getting set

By Stuart Heaney

Well howdy there, all you friends and budding audiovisual diarists!

We at the Jonas Mekas Diary Film Project are getting really excited as the time draws near when Jonas himself will be with us in London to lead a workshop in diary filmmaking, providing our talented young students with guidance and sage advice gleaned from over 60 years of making handmade independent films and of being an activist, journalist and irrepressible advocate for independent film. Of course that’s not all he’s here for: his visit will coincide with the launch of major retrospectives at BFI Southbank and the Serpentine Gallery – alongside further retrospectives at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Anthology Film Archives in New York celebrating his amazing 90th birthday – with no sign of anyone stopping him from doing what he loves anytime soon!

We’ll be busy providing you with frequent blogs, explaining the types of processes the students will be working with and reporting on the whole season as it unfolds, giving everyone the chance to be included in this fantastic once-in-a-lifetime series of events, whether or not you can be there in person. Not only will we be actively blogging about it in text form, we’ll give you the chance to experience it close-up with photos, video (including some shot on 16mm film with the same type of Bolex movie camera used by Jonas himself), audio clips and links to resources all across the web.

Check out this clip of Jonas’ film, As I Was Moving Ahead (2000), for a good example of the kind of material we’ll be working with. This clip shows how Jonas has spent his lifetime attempting to understand the chance encounters of his strange exile in America from Lithuania. The students are encouraged to explore the ideas represented here and think about their own experiences, travels and family lives.

Furthermore, we’ll be providing you with context and background with resources including an online tour of Mekas’ life, work and his most enduring achievements, plus pages introducing the lasting legacy of those achievements: the people, places and networks that enable these types of films to be seen now and by future generations. We’ll also point you in the right direction to find out more online and to further viewing and reading.

Here are some delectable dates for your diary, all you developing diarists!

Wednesday 5th December: the Serpentine Gallery’s retrospective show opens with a new work by Jonas  – we’ll be there right at the opening and we’ll tell you all about it.

Thursday 6th: Our students will meet and have a walk-through at the Serpentine Gallery where they’ll get a first-hand private experience of the show and Jonas’ work before they get the chance to see Jonas interviewed In Conversation with former London Film Festival director Sandra Hebron and British filmmaker Mike Figgis in NFT1 at BFI Southbank that same evening. That’s probably about as close to our idea of a perfect day as it gets!

Friday 7th: the BFI’s retrospective screenings of Jonas’ work, curated by Mark Webber opens with Lost Lost Lost (1976, 178 mins) and the students are encouraged to attend – we’ll blog about it and show you a clip or two. In the meantime, if you want the chance to see it, get your tickets here.

Then throughout December we’ll be blogging about the major screenings in the BFI’s retrospective of Jonas’ work.

Sat 8th: at the Serpentine Gallery, Saturday Seminar with Jonas – the students get to meet Jonas himself and hear all about his ideas and his work and to ask him for advice on how best to approach the diary videos and film work they will make on the course.

Wednesday 12th: an evening with Jonas Mekas and Friends at the Serpentine Gallery – music, poetry and surprises as Jonas holds court with some of his friends.

Friday 14th and Saturday 15th: two day-long practical workshop sessions at no.w.here with filmmaker and head of the lab and education dept at no.w.here, James Holcombe. James will take us through how the Bolex camera that Jonas used works, allowing the students to shoot, process and handle 16mm film so they can explore its textures and physical characteristics. On the second day the students will shoot and develop rolls of film that they will later use in their diary video work. These two days will be among the highlights of the workshop programme because no.w.here is the successor organisation of the London Filmmakers’ Co-Operative, which was founded in London in 1966. It was directly inspired by the Filmmakers’ Co-Operative that was founded in New York by Jonas.

Over the holiday season the students will work on their video productions. They will have access to the BFI’s digital edit facilities during that time.

12th January 2013: there will be a Jonas Mekas Study Day at BFI Southbank, including screenings and discussions with a panel of experts, led by curator Mark Webber.

26th January: the workshop culminates with screenings and discussions of students’ work in the afternoon. Then, that evening students are invited to attend the final screening in the BFI retrospective, his most recent film and tour through the twilight of Jonas’ insomnia, Sleepless Nights Stories (2011). It features Bjork, Harmony Korine, Yoko Ono and other friends. You can read a review here.

Finally your last chance to to visit the Serpentine show will be on Sunday 27th January.

WOW – what a packed programme, eh folks!

We’ll be back next week to tell you all about the opening of the Serpentine show, the launch of the workshop programme and Jonas’ In Conversation – so stay tuned and check back soon!

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