Showing posts with label Canyon Cinema. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canyon Cinema. Show all posts

Important Letter From Canyon Cinema

Absolutely "sick-to-your-stomach" type news.  Hopefully the 16mm projector next to my bed gets a much needed workout soon...


To the Film Community:

This is a very serious letter. It was emailed to our filmmaker members and we would like to share this with the larger community. It concerns the survival of Canyon Cinema. As most of you probably know, film rentals over the past few years have been steadily declining. This is a result of the proliferation of digital media. Many of Canyon’s major filmmakers who have brought substantial income to the organization have now made their work available in digital formats. Many of our renters, especially in universities, no longer have access to adequate film projection. Often after the purchase of a DVD, instructors of cinema studies continue to use the digital media and forsake the renting of the original 16mm prints. This is partly due to their own dwindling rental budgets and the lack of well functioning projectors.

In addition, a part of our annual income has traditionally come from bank interest rates. In previous years Canyon has earned more than $4,000 per year this way. In the past three years we have earned almost nothing in this area. We are also very dependent on the money collected from our annual distribution fee from our filmmakers. Many filmmakers do not to pay their yearly fee. Canyon Cinema should be collecting more than $32,000 from its 320 members. Last fiscal year we collected approximately $21,000 in this manner.

During the past decades Canyon Cinema has been able to survive entirely from earned income generated from rentals, sales, distribution fees, bank interest and occasional donations. Each year, since our inception, Canyon Cinema has been successful economically, albeit with a very small margin of excess. We are now in a state where we can no longer continue to operate as we have in the past. This is a very real thing.

World wide interest in our celluloid film collection continues to be strong. There are even indications of a resurgence of interest by a new generation of film enthusiasts, filmmakers and scholars. Last year our gross rental and sales totaled more than (purposely left blank). This is not insignificant. However, this is not enough to continue to run our business in its present form.

It is apparent that Canyon Cinema can no longer continue as it was originally conceived and changes need to be made that are appropriate to our present day and age. The Board of Directors and the staff have been working on solutions. However, after many discussions, meetings with advisors, and inquires made directly to people who might help us we find that we are at a loss to solve the problem. Currently Canyon Cinema is losing $2,000 a month, approximately the amount of our rent. At this rate of loss, Canyon Cinema could be out of business within two years.

In short, we need any tangible help or advice that our community, or other contacts that might be able to offer. We mean this very seriously. The members of the Board of Directors and the staff of Canyon Cinema are experimental filmmakers like yourselves. We need all the help that our fellow members might be able to offer in terms of contacts or ideas. This is very important.
The five other major distributors of experimental film which are located in New York, Paris, Toronto, Vienna and London now receive substantial funding from government agencies on both a national and local level. These distributors, despite the fact they are “small businesses” are recognized as irreplaceable cultural entities which like any other municipal arts organization such as a symphony orchestra need additional support in order to survive. This is far more difficult in the United States.

Here are some specific examples of experimental film distribution companies modeled after Canyon Cinema currently receiving substantial funding. The Film-Makers’ Cooperative in New York City is currently funded by the Experimental Television Center as well as New York State Council for the Arts. They have also received a life saving donation of free rental space. Light Cone in Paris is funded by several governmental agencies including Le Centre National de la Cinematographie, Le Ministere de la Culture, La Region Ile-de-France and La Ville de Paris. LUX in London is funded by the Arts Council England and the Leverhulme Foundation for Educational Activities. In Canada the Canadian Filmmaker's Distribution Centre in Toronto is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, The Ontario Trillum Foundation and the Toronto Arts Council. In Vienna, Sixpack Film is most generously supported by the Federal Ministry of Art, Culture and Education (Department for Film), City of Vienna - Department of Cultural Affairs, the Provincial Governments of Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Salzburgh, and the Trade Association for Music and Filmindustry.

In contrast Canyon Cinema has not been able to obtain funding from federal, state or local governments. It is not that we have not tried. All recent efforts to procure funding have been rebuffed due to the nature of the way Canyon Cinema is structured as a for profit shareholder
corporation. This is how the organization was set up since the late 1960’s. Canyon Cinema has attempted to become an IRS approved non profit corporation at least twice in the past years without success.

Fortunately we have enjoyed many contributions from our members and members of the greater film community over time. We are extremely appreciative of that. Lucasfilm Foundation has been very helpful in recent years. However they have indicated that they will no longer continue their support. Stanford University Media Library acquired the Canyon Cinema paper archives for a generous amount of $100,000 in 2009. It is those funds upon which we are currently operating.

Now what do we do?

These are some of the ideas the Board and staff have been discussing. Nothing has been decided upon.  We feel that our filmmakers must be informed of some of the possible solutions being discussed. We need your help in determining the direction we should take. The solutions are not easy and some may appear radical but are necessary. The question is: what is most important to preserve in Canyon Cinema as a motion picture film distribution company. Is it to have faith in the eventual value of celluloid projection and find a way to survive through patronage? Is it to expand into a digital world, a transition for which we do not have funds or staff? Is it to face the reality of the present day and age of film presentation and radically alter the nature of Canyon Cinema as a celluloid distributor?  Here are some possible solutions that have been discussed and investigated:

1) Dissolve the share holder corporation completely and convert it into a small business, modeled as a non shareholder for profit company distributing filmmaker’s work that generates income. This would enable Canyon to streamline its operation and be responsible for a much smaller inventory.

2) Dissolve the corporation and start another organization that is a 501 3(c) non profit and still operates as a distributor. The cost of converting the present company into a non profit is prohibitive and not recommended by all of the legal advice we have received along with our past history of this request to the IRS. We have also been advised by many significant non-profits in the Bay Area that becoming a non profit is by no means a solution for fundraising.

3) Dissolve the company and create a 501 3(c) company that can expand distribution to include all media, and forms of moving imagery. This would include the difficult and expensive project of digitizing the current films in the collection.

4) Find a patron who can donate to Canyon Cinema approx 850 square feet of office/film storage space, saving us almost $25,000 per year. Or find a long term patron that can provide a contribution of $25,000 cash per year for operational expenses.

5) We have explored the possibility of merging with a large more stable organization within the film community such as the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, Pacific Film Archives, Stanford University Media Library. So far these organizations do not have the interest or resources to engage Canyon. There may be other film/art organization that might want to form a relationship with Canyon (possibly outside the Bay Area).. The idea is that Canyon’s unique film collection and distribution skills would be preserved under their protection.

Please take a moment to consider these options and what you feel would be in the best interest of Canyon Cinema.What can you personally do to help us at this urgent moment? What resources, connection or contacts can you share with us? We are interested and considering any kind of solution, including relocating from the Bay Area to a less expensive location.

Please email your offers of help, feedback and responses to: We have received private donations in the past and can continue to receive such if directed through our fiscal agent the National Alliance of Media Arts Center. Checks can be made payable to this center and mailed directly to Canyon Cinema, 145 Ninth Street #260, San Francisco, CA .

Canyon Cinema’s paypal account is info@canyoncinema.

If you have any helpful suggestions please contact

Dominic Angerame
Executive Director, Canyon Cinema

Quick Billy DVD/Ronald Johnson's Modernist Collage Poetry

Another day, another reason to get excited for the holidays, as two more essential items have arrived:

(Quick Billy by Bruce Baillie; courtesy Anthology Archives)

First, the long awaited release of Bruce Baillie's 1971 Masterpiece with a capital M (the first five minutes will make your head spin) Quick Billy.  This third release is available through Canyon Cinema , $50 for home use and $300 for institutional use.  An immense amount of sacrifice and effort went into the creation of this DVD, so sincere gratitude is owed to many (especially Baillie himself and John Carlson, who aided with the transfer and color coding).  The beauty of the film is difficult to put into words, but as Bruce Elder says of the film:

"One masterwork in the cinema that depicts the process by which its maker attempts to recover the true self -- or, if not the true self, an authentic self that enters into uncorrupting relations with the world beyond it -- is Bruce Baillie's 'Quick Billy (1970).  Here an attack on the body, a bout with yellow fever, brings Baillie to confront his mortality.  This confrontation brings him to revise his understanding of himself, his family, his personal history, and his goals.  'Quick Billy' tells the tale of his falling ill, of his becoming delirious and delusional and experiencing memories of his former self, of his transformation, and of his rebirth as authentic individual.  While Baillie patter the film on the 'Bardo Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead)', the matrix from which 'Quick Billy' arises is really Gnosticism.  Like the similarly Gnostic/Eleusian 'Cantos' of Ezra Pound, 'Quick Billy' is a tale of going into the underworld, experiencing terror, undergoing transformation, and being reborn.  The agency that brings on the transformation in both cases is the experience of light." 
- (Bruce Elder in 'A Body of Vision')

(Quick Billy by Bruce Baillie; courtesy Anthology Archives)


By now anyone who has followed this blog should know that the importance of Ronald Johnson's poetry in my life is and has been immeasurable, so the upcoming in-depth survey of his work (more or less the first of its kind aside from the wonderful Ronald Johnson: Life and Works) Ronald Johnson's Modernist Collage Poetry by Ross Hair is not to be missed.  I've yet to get my hands on a copy as it will not be released until the 21st, but when a groundbreaking work like this comes along there is no doubt that it demands consideration.  The description is as follows:

Ronald Johnson’s Modernist Collage Poetry is the first monograph to address the legacy of the American poet, Ronald Johnson (1935-1998). Drawing upon never before seen archival material, this book sets out to understand Johnson’s poetry in the context of the “New American” collage tradition, stretching from Ezra Pound to Louis Zukofsky and beyond. Additionally, Ross Hair assesses Johnson’s work in relation to wider questions concerning literary chronologies, especially the discontinuities commonly seen to exist between nineteenth-century Romantic and twentieth-century modernist literary forms. 

So far the reviews have been understandably effusive:

"Whitman’s famous injunction--'To have great poets, there must be great audiences'--can usefully be modified to say, 'Great poets require a great reader.' In this groundbreaking new book, Ross Hair proves himself to be the great reader Ronald Johnson’s work has needed: someone to connect and synthesize the different traditions Johnson availed in creating his powerful poetry – from the Transcendentalists, to Pound and the Modernists, to concrete and visual poetries from mid-century – all the while alerting us to the central creative principle that drives Johnson’s work. Namely, a recovery of an Edenic innocence enabled by unironic acts of assemblage and vision, where beauty and pleasure are the desired goals. Johnson was one of our finest visionary poets; Hair’s illumination of Johnson’s ‘ocularcentric concerns’ shows us why, especially in the ways 'ocular' is transformed into 'oracular' in Johnson’s generative poetics. Hair’s sense of Johnson’s work is as keen as it is profound; his readings of Johnson’s work – especially of Johnson’s major long works, including his masterpiece ARK – are invaluable for seasoned and uninitiated readers alike. Ronald Johnson’s Modernist Collage Poetry will take its place as the Thoreauvian cornerstone for all subsequent understandings of Johnson’s poetry."--Peter O’Leary, executor for the literary estate of Ronald Johnson, author of Gilding the Buddha: My Apprenticeship with Ronald Johnson

"In Ronald Johnson’s Modernist Collage Poetry, the first book-length study of Johnson’s work, Ross Hair ably demonstrates that Johnson’s poetry 'proposes innocence as an epistemological condition, denoting a way of experiencing and responding to the world of events without prescription.'  A visionary bricoleur and direct heir of the American Transcendentalists, Johnson brilliantly appropriated and revised the revolutionary principles of his modernist precursors (Pound, Williams, Moore, Zukofsky, Olson…), producing one generous vernacular masterpiece after another.  Exploring archival materials, analyzing intertextual relations, and closely reading Radi os, The Book of the Green Man, and most importantly, ARK, Hair shows both new readers and those familiar with the work why Johnson is one of the most important poets of the second half of the twentieth century: an invaluable contribution to our understanding of contemporary American poetry."--Norman Finkelstein, Professor of English, Xavier University and author of On Mount Vision: Forms of the Sacred In Contemporary American Poetry

"'The test of poetry,' Louis Zukofsky once wrote, 'is the range of pleasure it affords as sight, sound, and intellection.'  Page after page, Ronald Johnson’s poetry passes that test with flying colors, and Ross Hair’s new study shows how.  Exploring the poet’s relationships with Transcendentalism, the modernism of Pound, Olson, Zukofsky, and Moore, and with his poetic contemporaries, from Guy Davenport and the Language Poets to British authors Thomas A. Clark and Geoffrey Grigson, this book invites us to rethink the story of American poetry since the 1960s, putting Johnson and his collage poetics center stage.  Hair’s sharp eye and attentive ear serve him well in deft close readings and in fresh archival discoveries (Harold Bloom was a fan?  Who knew?), and he gives an illuminating, poignant account of the poet’s occlusion in the 1980s and ‘90s, as critical fashion passed him by.  That time in shadow has passed, this groundbreaking book suggests.  I am glad and grateful to see it."--Eric Murphy Selinger, co-editor of Ronald Johnson: Life and Works


The light that has lately graced these brisk Winter mornings certainly just got a little bit brighter...