‘Film Jam’ returns for a collaborative performance at Bunnell Street Arts Center

On Saturday, Oct. 14, Film Jam returns to Bunnell Street Arts Center to offer an evening of cinema, performance and music featuring local artists. The event is a series of films in various contexts interwoven with contributions from other artists. The collaborative event has occurred eight times before for Homer audiences.

Film Jam is curated by Michael Walsh and will provide the audience a collage of performance pieces to demonstrate the diversity of the film art form beyond simply music, narrative and cinema. Walsh has presented eight of these events since then.

The project was started by Walsh with a preliminary Film Jam in 2011. Prior to that, Walsh was aware that the Anchorage School District was getting rid of their celluloid projector film collections in approximately 2007 and it was available for personal acquisition. These were generally informative films projected in public school classrooms on a single topic, such as physics or World War II, Walsh said.

“In general, these films were just getting dumped all across America because no one was using them anymore. They are a really bulky way to show film now that we digital techniques available,” he said.

Walsh took the film from multiple projections and recontextualized the material to turn it into a single projection running approximately eight to 10 minutes in silence while a DJ or musician would provide audio for the film.

Part of Saturday’s showing will provide two of the recontextualized films. In one, Walsh, in collaboration with Susannah Webster, took a collection of films from the mid-to-late 1970s that were originally part of a series called “My First Job.” The jobs highlighted were largely entry level, vocational positions such as drugstore clerk, gas service station attendant or food services. The three films will be projected simultaneously and retain some of the original soundtracks.

“We wanted to look at those films in the context of the current condition of labor in the United States post-COVID and the way society is rethinking the nature of work, employment and wage,” Walsh said.

Webster is also composing script for the labor films that she will read from the back of the Bunnell studio; some of her commentary will also be improvised.

Other contributors will provide a variety of audio and visual components to the show. Jay Bechtol will provide a live reading of a short story. Webster is also working with Craig Phillips and Lucas Thoning on a dance piece that has a component of music video to it as well.

Walsh is interested in the genre of music video and mentioned some historical experimental figures within the genre from pre-MTV: Bruce Connor, Robert Nelson and Kenneth Anger. These are artists with early ties to avant-garde cinema or counter-culture film, according to Walsh. In order to bring that component in he began by working with The Wet Spots, a local band, to make a music video.

“We are fortunate to have some great musicians in Homer but I really wanted to start working with this band because they’re really breaking into a new style, they’re more punk, kind of like an art band,” Walsh said. Band members of the Wet Spots include Charles Aguliar, Seussa Kandror and Dylan Smith.

Walsh approached the band to suggest the idea of creating a music video and they were excited about. The song that they use in the film is one inspired by the early artist Walsh mentioned earlier, Kenneth Anger.

“I told them that it would be more of an old-school, pre-MTV, educational footage video. So, I shot some 16 millimeter and we’ll be premiering that seven minute film at the show,” Walsh said. Webster also created some artistic orbs that are used as a sort of costume or prop for the video. They will also be used for a live dance at the event, Webster said.

“One unusual thing about the sculptural costumes is that you can’t see out of them, so I’ve been practicing by taping the floor because you have to find your place by looking down instead of out,” she said.

Other contributing performers include Dave Webster performing live saxophone as accompaniment to an animated film and a few solo sets, Lydia Moyer who is the October artist-in-residence at Bunnell and finally, Mike Conti, an Anchorage-based artist. According to Walsh, Conti collaborated with scientists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to collar black bears with a GoPro camera to show some scenes of Southcentral Alaska from the perspective of bears.

Film Jam will start at 7:30 p.m. at Bunnell Street Arts Center on Saturday. Tickets are available online or at the door.