Celebrating a ‘best-kept secret’
For 25 years, the Wexner Center for the Arts’ Film/Video Studio has been a destination for artists and filmmakers worldwide, writes curator Jennifer Lange. In Picture Lock, the public can witness that legacy firsthand.
The first words out of nearly everyone’s mouth when they walk into my office are: “What a view!”
Perched on the east end of the Oval, deep within the Wexner Center, my office does have a pretty spectacular view. In the winter, I can see across the Oval to Thompson Library, and in summer, the view transforms into a sunny collision of leaves and sky.
The second comment most first-time visitors make is: “I had no idea this was here!” As open and expansive as my views looking out are, the program housed here — the Film/Video Studio — is widely referred to as “the Wexner Center’s best-kept secret.” It’s tucked away in the building and has no public entrance, but the work that occurs here has made it a destination for hundreds of national and international artists and filmmakers for the last 25 years. And the work that we’ve supported has carried credits for both the Wexner Center and Ohio State to festivals, theaters and museums worldwide.
We’re excited to celebrate it with Picture Lock: 25 Years of Film/Video Residencies at the Wex, a four-day celebration beginning Oct. 29 that tells the studio’s rich history through the reflections of artists we’ve supported over the years as well as the work itself.
But first, a little history.
Founded alongside the center’s opening in 1989, the Film/Video Studio Program (originally called Art & Technology) is a residency program providing artists and filmmakers free access to production equipment and post-production facilities, including our editing suites, as well as access to the technical and creative services of two full-time editors, Paul Hill and Mike Olenick. In return, we ask for a support credit and a copy of the final work for our archive.
The utopian spirit of the program was actually a practical response to the needs of filmmakers and artists at the time of its creation — at the height of the culture wars in the late ’80s, when direct funding for individual artists and independent filmmakers had all but disappeared and professional-level video technology was prohibitively expensive. The studio offered an invaluable service for filmmakers seeking support and — despite the challenges of constantly evolving video technology — that remains the case today.
In its essence, the studio is a synthesis of goals and resources that could happen only at a research-based institution such as Ohio State.
Indeed, Ohio State faculty and staff have been important resources for me and for many of the residency artists. They have been exceptionally generous with their time and expertise and willing to entertain the craziest of requests. Here are just a few of the more memorable residencies involving campus partnerships:
Laura Poitras may be best known for her 2014 Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour, about Edward Snowden. But years earlier, she made numerous visits to Columbus while working on her first feature documentary, Flag Wars, with Linda Goode-Bryant (which screens here Nov. 1 as part of Picture Lock). A film about gentrification set in Columbus’ Olde Towne East neighborhood, Flag Wars necessitated many trips here over a four-year period; we supported this project through equipment loans and shooting assistance from our former editor Amanda Ault. The Wex premiered the film here, working with WOSU Public Media to produce a program around the community forum that followed.
- Los Angeles-based artist Rebecca Carter needed a very specific shot of the view out a cockpit window (and specifically while it was landing at dusk!) for her video installation Beacon. Thanks to our friends at Don Scott Airport and the adventurous spirit of editor Paul Hill, we got the shot we needed!
- We’ve worked with Ohio State’s Michael Mercil (Department of Art) on a number of projects, but most memorable is probably his video The Greatest Sports Video Ever, which was recorded from the top of Morrill Tower during a home game but shows only the airspace over The ’Shoe. I’m told the view was incredible!
- In 1997, we commissioned filmmakers to engage with students during their four-year undergraduate career and to develop video projects with them. One of the filmmakers, Helen DeMichel, focused on female undergraduates from STEM fields, which evolved into The Gender Chip Project, a feature documentary on women and technology.
This is just a sampling of work the studio has helped produce. Picture Lock will shine an even brighter light on this program and includes events with former Film/Video Studio curator Jason Simon and filmmaker Gregg Bordowitz on the early history and evolution of the program; Tom Kalin and Isaac Julien on the topic of New Queer Cinema; Deborah Stratman and Kevin Everson on the challenges of working in 16mm film; Emmy Award-winner Steve Bognar and Film/Video Studio Program editor Hill on Ohio-based filmmakers; Oscar nominee Sam Green on experimental documentary practices; and Jennifer Reeder and Film/Video Studio Program editor Olenick on the creative relationship between director and editor.
In addition to the archive programs, we’ll also be screening a number of recently completed films that received support from the program, including Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room, Reeder’s Blood Below the Skin and Jacqueline Goss and Jenny Perlin’s The Measures.