New York Filmmakers Co-operative is formed
In January 1962, Jonas Mekas, a Lithuanian émigré, filmmaker and writer, held a meeting with twenty independent filmmakers, including Ken Jacobs, Gregory Markopoulos, Jack Smith and Ron Rice, at his New York apartment to propose the establishment of a New York Filmmakers Co-operative. The newly founded Co-op was inspired by the New American Cinema Group formed in the previous year (the critic Peter Bogdanovic and Mekas were members), which had declared the 'official' cinema to be dead and was virulently anti-Hollywood. In opposition to this 'official' cinema the Co-op would offer independent filmmakers a practical alternative to the type of distribution provided by the commercial sector.
The Co-op was established along essentially egalitarian and non-commercial principles. Firstly, the Co-op operated an open submission policy and, in its early years, would never refuse a film being entered into the catalogue (titles were listed alphabetically). Secondly, filmmakers would be able to submit a print of their film to the Co-op and then set their own rental fee, of which the filmmaker received 60% and 40% went towards the running of the Co-op.
The Co-op also gained its own film journal Film Culture (founded by Mekas in 1955), in which filmmakers and interested critics wrote enthusiastically about the emerging avant-garde scene along with profiles of celebrated European directors and some classic Hollywood directors.
The activities of the Co-op's members during the 1960s included impromptu screenings at a number of run-down cinemas and theatres in New York's Lower East Side; these were set against a background of radicalism across the arts in New York, notably the events at Andy Warhol's Factory, experimental painting, theatre and music and happenings of all kinds.
The New York Filmmakers Co-op provided the basic model for other film co-operatives and groups throughout America, e.g. Canyon Cinema in San Francisco, and throughout Europe e.g. the London Filmmakers Co-op.
From the 1960s the Co-op's catalogue featured a wide selection of works by artists like Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger and formed the basis for touring programmes such as P. Adams Sitney's New American Cinema, which toured throughout Europe.
The New York Filmmakers Co-op has, despite several changes of address, continued to distribute and support artists' film throughout the following decades and is still running successfully today much along the lines of its founding principles. Jonas Mekas is still a key member of the New York Film Co-op.
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