Filmforum is Los Angeles’ longest running venue for experimental film and video art, documentaries, and animation. We celebrate non-commercial, hand-crafted film and video. 2009 is our 33rd year!
To communicate with us, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filmforum is a a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is always strapped for funds. Sponsor a whole season for only $5000, or become a member for $60, or anything in between. We’re also looking for a video decks that plays HDV mini-DV and DV-Cam, PAL and NTSC tapes, and an additional one that plays Beta SP and DigiBeta tapes. All of your fiscal donations are fully tax deductible. We also have memberships, one year for $60 single, $95 double. Email email@example.com for details.
View David James’ Geo-History of Los Angeles Filmforum.
Mission Statement & History
Organizational Description and Mission Statement:
Filmforum was incorporated in 1975 “to promote a greater understanding of film as an art form and the filmmaker as an artist by providing a forum for independently produced, experimental films, which have little opportunity of reaching the general public through normal channels of commercial distribution.” Presenting approximately 45 screenings annually, Filmforum is currently the only venue in Southern California dedicated exclusively to the ongoing, non-commercial exhibition of independent, experimental, and progressive cinema.
Filmforum showcases alternative media that aims to inspire, enlighten, and empower, as well as to entertain. By featuring the underrepresented voices and visions of truly independent filmmakers, Filmforum exposes audiences to the full range of artistic expression, cultural perspectives, and critical inquiry.
Filmforum facilitates cross-cultural dialogue by collaborating with other arts organizations to bring alternative media into traditionally underserved communities and to bring work from those communities to its regular venue. This geographically-diverse, multi-site programming also encourages shared audiences among arts organizations.
Filmforum encourages the production of diverse independent media art. Through its eclectic series of in-person screenings and workshops, Filmforum provides the inspiration, models, and information necessary for the production and distribution of new work by local and emerging artists. Filmforum champions the dual imperatives of aesthetic and cultural diversity as necessary components for 1) enriching the art form and 2) assuring inclusive, democratic participation in social discourse.
Filmforum provides valuable exposure for local artists. Its First Sight Scene series features new work by artists in the formative stages of their careers, in a format highlighting new ideas and aesthetics emerging in our evolving city. Retrospectives of work by major figures in the history of alternative media are complimented by thematically-based programs combing works of all generations.
When Filmforum’s first screening took place in an Altadena living room in November of 1975, organized by Terry Cannon, alternative media was at one of its aesthetic, technological, and social high points. Bruce Baillie, Stan Brakhage, James Broughton, Joseph Cornell, Chick Strand, Sara Katherine Arledge, and James Whitney, to name a few, were expanding the boundaries of film. Nam June Paik was exploring the first video synthesizer and multi-media had emerged from the relative primitivity of the 1960s, spawning a whole new interdisciplinary genre. A few visionary prophets were predicting such absurdities as shopping via television and videophones and, lurking in sci-fi cellars and the darker corners of academe, a handful of closeted geeks were whispering words like “cyberspace.”
Since then, Filmforum has chronicled changes in social attitude towards the medium and society’s media-vision of itself. Those changes have been reflected in media-makers’ concepts of their art as a social force, evolving from purist aesthetics into today’s media, with the power to make and promulgate images shaping the future of our society. On the Information Superhighway, media is at the forefront between pluralistic, free access to the tools of information dissemination and profit-motivated commercial exploitation by multi-national conglomerates.
Filmforum continues as the longest-running showcase for independent, experimental and progressive moving-image art in Southern California. Filmforum presents and supports work by artists in all stages of their careers. Filmforum has shifted its primary venues through the years, moving from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood to Westwood and back to Hollywood. It currently screens 30-40 programs per year at our primary venue, the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, most with the filmmakers in attendance, and co-presents several other shows at other venues.
Among Filmforum’s programming highlights over the past 32 years:
Filmforum has given the world, national, or local premieres of almost every significant experimental/personal, non-commercial film of the last three decades. Many went on to garner national or international attention, such as Jon Moritsugu’s Der Elvis; Nina Menkes’ Queen of Diamonds; Greg Araki’s Totally F***ed Up; Betzy Bromberg’s cinematic plea for corporeal sanity, Body Politic: God Melts Bad Meat; Stan Brakhage’s controversial narrative, Faustfilm; James Broughhton’s Devotions; Abigail Childs’ Mayhem; Ernie Gehr’s Signal: Germany on the Air; Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci-Lucci’s From the Pole to the Equator; Todd Haynes’ breakthrough Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story; Jonas Mekas’ He Stands in the Desert Counting…,” to name only a few. New works by these artists are presented whenever possible, along with works by contemporary media artists whose aesthetic grows from or comments on their work. Most of these premieres were attended by the filmmakers who discussed their work with the audience.
Show for the Eyes, from 1982, the first international mail art film project, reassembling short films from many of the world’s most prominent makers into 2 now-legendary 90 minute films, one in super 8, one in 16mm.
Another significant series from Filmforum’s early years was El Ojo Apasionado: The Passionate Eye, a month-long showcase for alternative film by Mexican and Mexican-American artists. It was among the first festivals bringing together Latino artists in a forum elucidating the common threads of a culture in flux.
In spring 1993 Filmforum and the Getty Center presented Urban Activism: Notions of a New L.A., a city-wide series of screenings and panel discussions about the process of rebuilding the city, from the perspectives of community leaders and under-recognized voices.
In fall 1993, Filmforum produced Dirty Movies: A Peak at the Underground from the 60’s to the 90’s. This series of rarely seen films and videos were enormously popular, attracting a large audience of newcomers to contemporary media arts and its historical antecedents.
Filmforum’s major festival in winter 1994, Scratching the Belly of the Beast: Cutting-Edge Media in Los Angeles, 1922-94, was an unprecedented celebration of the rich tradition of alternative media in Southern California. Including 27 evenings of screenings, tributes, and roundtable discussions over seven weeks, this city-wide festival was guest-curated by a diverse committee and co-presented by the Getty Center for the History of Art and the humanities, the Central Library, LA Municipal Gallery, MOCA, UCLA, and Beyond Baroque. The festival’s catalog included key historical and critical essays, providing the first substantial study of the role of alternative media in the capital of the commercial film and entertainment industry.
In 1997, Filmforum received a special award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for its role in exhibiting experimental films.
Programming over the last few years has included eclectic series of historical and contemporary work, with many in-person presentations by local and visiting artists. Some of our major recent accomplishments include several shows introduced by David James in conjunction with his important book The Most Typical Avant-Garde: Geography and History of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles; a tribute to the late artist Nam June Paik, held at LACMA and co-presented with the Korean Cultural Center; and three nights of the documentary work of world-renowned Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Highlights of the 2008-09 season include the sold-out North American premiere of Driving Men, the newest work internationally acclaimed and Los Angeles-based video artist Susan Mogul; experimental animation by Robert Breer; two programs of animated documentaries; rare visits to Los Angeles by less-known filmmakers from the east coast such as Coleen Fitzgibbon, Ted Lyman and Walter Ungerer; and three screenings of video art by Southern California video artists Allan Sekula, Jordan Biren, and Bruce & Norman Yonemoto in conjunction with the Getty’s exhibition California Video. We also held the first West Coast version of the Orphan Film Symposium, a program featuring ‘orphaned’ works such as 1920’s newsreels, forgotten video art, and other ephemeral films and video. Over the 2009-2010 seasons, we are hosting the first complete retrospective in Los Angeles of the films of Yvonne Rainer.
Filmforum received a grant from the Getty Foundation as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles 1945-1980 initiative. Filmforum is researching the history of experimental film in Los Angeles from that period, conducting many oral histories, organizing a symposium in 2010, and curating a series of screenings of works both well-known and long-forgotten.
Filmforum is also one of the only low-budget non-profit arts presenters that guarantees an honorarium to every artist, regardless of attendance. All these activities have happened with only a volunteer staff, including the current Executive Director Adam Hyman. Filmfor um has survived 33 years almost entirely on a volunteer basis, where other similar organizations have dissolved.
(And no, we’re not related to Film Forum in New York, nor to Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, two other excellent venues that screen alternative work.)
Filmforum Board of Directors, 2009:
Thom Andersen is the award-winning filmmaker of the non-fiction films “Los Angeles Plays Itself” and “Red Hollywood.” He teaches film theory and history at the California Institute of the Arts.
Madison Brookshire is a filmmaker whose work includes the cinema/music hybrids “Cash Crop” (2006), “Opening” (2007) and “Five Times” (2008). He studied cinema at Binghamton University and the California Institute of the Arts, where he received his MFA. He currently works as an educator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Along with three collaborators, he was recently awarded a residency at the Hammer Museum.
Ben Caldwell is coordinator of KAOS Networks since 1984, a cutting-edge multi-media facility in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. He taught at Cal Arts for 12 years in film & television, and is a filmmaker as well.
Rita Gonzalez is Assistant Curator of American Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She is completing a PhD in the Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media at UCLA.
Elizabeth Hesik is a documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She has a Masters of Fine Arts in Film and Video from CalArts. In addition to film making, Hesik also runs a fundraising consulting firm for non-profits.
Adam Hyman is currently Executive Director and programmer for Los Angeles Filmforum. A native Angeleno, he has been a documentary filmmaker for the past ten years, producing and/or writing a variety of historical and archaeological documentaries that have aired on the PBS, the History Channel, the Learning Channel, the Travel Channel, and others. He has an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television.
David James teaches in the School of Cinema-Television at USC. He is the author or editor of several books on independent American film. His most recently published is the acclaimed The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles.
Leah Kerr is the archivist for the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum collection of African American film. She has a background in motion picture and television production, and co-wrote the feature film, “For Hire” (1997). For a time she was heavily into drag racing, and wrote articles for periodicals including: “Drag Racing Monthly” and “African Americans on Wheels.” She seemed to get it all out of her system with the Juno Books publication of Driving Me Wild: Nitro-Powered Outlaw Culture. Currently, she is a graduate student in the Moving Image Archive Studies Dept at UCLA.
Lewis Klahr is an internationally known experimental filmmaker who has been active since 1977. He also teaches at the California Institute of the Arts.
Jesse Lerner is a documentary film and video maker based in Los Angeles. His short films “Natives” (1991, with Scott Sterling) and “T.S.H.” (2003) and feature-length documentaries “Frontierland/Fronterilandia” (1995, with Rubén Ortiz-Torres) “Ruins” (1999) and “The American Egypt” (2001) have screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, the Sydney Biennale, the Sundance Film Festival, Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, the Los Angeles International Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and other festivals and museums internationally.
Mark Rance was the director of Filmforum from 1995-2003. He is a documentary filmmaker and DVD producer. He recently restored a lost masterpiece of the American independent feature movement, “The Whole Shootin’ Match” (1979, Eagle Pennell, Lin Sutherland).
Berenice Reynaud teaches film history, theory and criticism at the California Institute of the Arts. She is the Co-curator of the film/video program at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles, and a correspondent for the San Sebastian International Film Festival (Spain) and the Viennale (Vienna, Austria). She has curated a number of film/video series for the UCLA Film & Television Archive (Los Angeles), the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume (Paris). She is currently writing her third book on Chinese cinema.
Stephanie Sapienza, Board President, is an archivist who specializes in experimental film and animation. Currently she is the Assistant Director of the Iota Center, an organization that promotes the art of abstraction in all forms – film, video, live performance and installation. She has a master’s degree from the Moving Image Archive Studies program at UCLA. Before the program, she worked for six years as a researcher and producer of documentary films and television series. She has been volunteering for Filmforum doing outreach and publicity since 2001, and was elected to the board in 2004. She currently serves as Board President.
Mark Toscano previously acted as Assistant Director of avant-garde distributor Canyon Cinema before starting work as a film preservationist at the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles in 2003. He specializes in the preservation of experimental cinema, and has worked on films by Robert Nelson, Morgan Fisher, Roberta Friedman, Standish Lawder, the Whitney brothers, Pat O’Neill, Kathy Rose, Adam Beckett, Satyajit Ray, Ray Harryhausen, and many others. His largest ongoing project is the restoration of the complete film output of renowned experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage.
Billy Woodberry is an independent filmmaker who graduated from the UCLA Film/Television Department with a master’s degree in production. He has taught in the School of Art and the School of Film/Video at CalArts since 1989. He feature film “Bless Their Little Hearts” (1984) is an essential work of Los Angeles cinema. His works have screened at the Camera Austria Sympposium, Harvard Film Archive, Human Rights Watch Film Festival and Museum of Modern Art. His feature film entitled My Father’s House is in progress. He has been a member of the Filmforum board since 1998.