Jason Simon will screen three films from his personal collection at Light Industry, Brooklyn, NY, January 8, 2019, 7pm.
During the late 1980s and 90s I sometimes worked on industrial video productions. These were corporate engagements lasting a few days or a week where I was the sound person on videos that were usually short, topical, and purpose made for annual meetings, employee training, or some sort of economic boosterism. The gigs offered terrific hourly wages (a week’s work would pay a month’s bills) and extended an employment network among people who were also working in artists’ media and independent film, documentaries, and public-access cable TV. When I was working in industrials (as well as TV commercials) I imagined myself a media parasite, in an economy I could productively abuse and then remove myself from. Industrials have long been a production sub-category that has since only grown and expanded, and, Blob-like, digitally morphed. But I don’t hear much about industrials as a source of income for artists anymore. When I meet skilled workers in the industry now, they are, of necessity, constantly pursuing full time employment. And when I meet skilled young artists working in video for wages, they are usually working for older artists, bridging a digital divide that will disappear in a generation.
I have a small number of 16mm film prints that I’ve accumulated over the years, but I have never been a serious collector in that area. Recently, however, this memory of the industrial film as a training ground and livelihood for artists helped me to organize a few from among what I do have: Les Enfants du musée, by Agnès Varda; Le Mystère de l'atelier quinze, by Alan Resnais; and Olympia 52, by Chris Marker. I’m pretty sure Varda’s PSA about children’s art classes in the museum was made for television, while Resnais’ was a commission by a national institute on industrial security. Marker was hired to make his first feature by an organization called People and Culture, where, I’ve read, he was working as a typist at the time. Translated, the content here is closer to public service announcements than industrials, funded by national post-war social investments. But I would never have thought to put the three together had I not first recalled those jobs of mine.
I like to imagine that the then future Left Bank auteurs were more active in this line of work—learning their craft by hiring on to these kinds of productions—than their Right Bank New Wave counterparts. But I have no real basis for saying so, or for even reinforcing those imposed, probably false, groupings among contemporaries. Yet Varda, Resnais, and Marker made more non-fiction than their Cahiers counterparts. And the ways they were active within each other’s support networks, beginning in the formative 1950s, with overlapping contributions on each other’s films, is generally celebrated. Less known, or at least much less seen, are these three films, one of which I bought in a shop in Paris called Bd-ciné; another which that same shop keeper gave to me because of my interest in the other, and one I got on eBay. Then, when writing this note, I looked again at the shipping carton and saw that even the one from eBay also came from Bd-ciné, which is still there. Small world.