Canyon Cinema (2008, Scott MacDonald)

I first heard about this book (and Canyon, probably) at this screening at the Nashville Film Festival presented by Dominic Angerame, executive director of Canyon.

Had been meaning to buy it ever since. Coincidentally, the day after I placed my order, Dominic posted a letter declaring that Canyon “can no longer continue as it was originally conceived and changes need to be made that are appropriate to our present day and age.” I wish that such changes included more screenings like the one at NaFF (perhaps in two years, for Canyon’s 50th anniversary) since the book didn’t captivate me the way the films do. I guess infighting between partners and artists at an indie film distributor isn’t so exciting to me.

Divided into sections representing phases of the company’s history: Formation, Incorporation, Revitalization, Intellectualization, Maintenance

Little discussion about films themselves, but much about who gets paid what percentages, festival screenings and censorship, the difficulty of raising funds and the disparity between the famous members (Bruce Conner, Stan Brakhage) whose films rent out more than half the other members combined. Mostly interesting were the reprintings of original Canyon newsletter articles.

Some favorite pieces:
Saul Landau’s account of a 1964 police seizure of Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour
Robert Nelson’s 1968 summary of the Brussels festival films, followed by miscellaneous notes, then another summary of the Bellevue festival.
Robert Pike’s story about a three-minute film called God Is Dog Spelled Backwards
Brakhage’s story of the making of The Text of Light
James Broughton’s “How to Cope with the Question Period”
A couple of Kuchar cartoons
Larry Jordan’s “Survival in the … Film Market of 1979”
Warren Sonbert on film syntax