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Inside the Orson Welles

By Mark C. Frazier

ONE NIGHT ABOUT A YEAR AGO, drunk on sake, I went to see a film at the Orson Welles complex. I wasn't impressed. Since I suspected that a numbness to serious film rather than rice wine was at fault. I stayed away from Orson Welles for almost a year.

Three months ago I began to feel I'd run away from Art too long--from painting, from music, from movies. An attempt to find "awareness" on my own failed, so I decided to go back to the Orson Welles.

The first thing I noticed there was a lucite bubble. It sits in front of the entrance amidst a concrete slab, and stares blindly--a blank white eye--out at Mass. Ave, traffic. I asked what it was there for. A man next to the door said he wasn't sure--just a mixture of art and architecture, he said.

Nodding in agreement, I moved over to the ticket booth and told the occupant I wanted to look around to find material for a Crimson article--I had heard from a friend several days before that the Orson Welles was going bankrupt. The ticket-seller, who turned out to be co-director of the theater, assured me that the Orson Welles stood in no danger of ruin, briefed me at length of plans to improve the theater, and--more interestingly to me--told of a new program Friday and Saturday midnights called "The Underground Film Organization." In this program, well-known directors of underground movies offered their work and invited criticism of it afterwards. Ed Emschwiller, director of science-fiction movies, would appear that weekend, and I was invited to attend.

THE CINEMA WAS LESS THAN HALF-FULL when I arrived Saturday night. A second-rate French murder movie had just ended, and eighty film buffs sat down in clusters, still shivering from the cold outside. Many of them, I learned, came from a former Orson Welles affiliate, the Film School.

Emschwiller launched into his film with little introduction. Green and white blurs of a suburb, taken from a light airplane with a hand-held camera, shot across the screen and dissolved into a view of a city street. Picking out people, holding them for fifteen seconds as they walked towards the camera, freezing them, and then fading out, Emschwiller introduced his cast of players. Two of them, both women, one moody and loving, one stable but loveless, became the film's epicenters, while scenes of a nude in dance interrupted the story at intervals. As the film progressed, the nude became more and more alive, ending in near oestrus. Then the suburban blur came again, at night this time, and the town moved further and further away.

A good film, I thought to myself, though I wasn't too sure what it meant. It was better than the one I'd seen inebriated. I stayed around for the discussion and talked to some people from the Film School--maybe I wasn't devoid of an appreciation for art after all. I thought the Film School would bear some looking into.

I

WHEN TWO YOUNG Harvard Business School graduates conceived of the Orson Welles complex a few years ago, the Film School wasn't even part of the plans. Ralph Hoagland and Dean Gitter--the owner and the business manager--intended to organize a film production company, a theatre, a restaurant, and a camera shop under one aegis and one roof. The Film School began two years ago when a member of the Production Company put up signs in local laundromats offering a course in film appreciation. Eighty people signed up in two weeks, and the Orson Welles had found a way of using the building in slack hours.

The next fall, further courses were added, including some in film-making. Enrollment rose to 120. This fall, over 200 people chose from a total of 11 courses, ranging from seminars on "The European Director" to advanced courses in 16 mm synchronized-sound film-making. Many of those in the 16 mm course took advantage of the Film School's tie with the Production Company--being paid for assisting in the production of professional films, getting their names in the credits, and receiving free copies of the film for their portfolios. And as the school grew, so did its prestige: co-director Susan Leeds reports that 10 per cent of the incoming 16 mm class has moved to Cambridge from out-of-state for the specific purpose of taking the course. Last July, because of the School's tremendous growth, Hoagland established it and the Production Company as organizations separate from the Orson Welles.

Shortly after going to Emschwiller's film, I had a talk with Hoagland as he drove to a store to buy fifty pounds of meat. What, I asked, did he think of the future of the Film School-Production Company? With Hollywood dead or dying, wasn't film a dead end industry?

HOAGLAND REPLIED THAT FILM IS NOT DYING, that small producers are flourishing while large studios go under. Film is also developing into an art form accessible to many people, he said, and further innovations such as sound-synchronized super-eight film, and video cassettes, will make it available to even more. As for the Film School-Production Company symbiosis, it cut costs of both learning and producing by sharing equipment, using the time of skilled film professionals fully, and letting advanced students participate in commercial film-making.

Others associated with the school proved to be even more optimistic. "Boston may very well become the center of the young film-making industry," Dal LaMagna, business manager of the Production Company explained. "And I think the Orson Welles can be at the center." Already one Boston-based company, he pointed out, is making feature length films, and the number of smaller production companies has been growing. LaMagna said he expects the Production Company--which has been limited to promotion "shorts" until now--to begin making features within two years.

"The whole industry," LaMagna said, "is going to be resuscitated by young film-makers making Hollywood-length films in their own backyard."

The Film School seems to be doing its best to make sure the number of backyard film-makers is substantial. Over 105 students are expected to enroll in film-making labs this spring (applications close today) and another hundred have already signed up for the seminars.

Curious, I asked one of last fall's students, Jamie Cabot, what his course in the beginning super-eight lab had been like.

"We had about fifteen people in our class," he said. "We started out by learning what the equipment was, how to use it, what effects different kinds of lighting has, some basic camera techniques and editing, by making a short film as a class. Then we broke up into groups of five people each and decided to do group projects. Ours was about a girl who discovers a chest of old clothes and fantasizes about them.

THE PEOPLE WHO STUCK IT OUT feel very favorably about the course. Our group is still meeting, even though the term is over. Some people, though, get bored with the drudgery of learning the technical stuff--since you aren't told you have to learn, some people don't. You really get out of this place what you want to put in."

A little later I talked to another student, David Halpern, who had recently completed the advanced 16 mm course. His class began by making a sound-synchronized film about a newcomer to Elsie's restaurant, then split up to work on individual and small group projects. Here, he said, the Production Company had offered a great deal of help. In many cases, it raised money to cover all or part of project expenses by approaching groups seeking publicity or educational films. In two cases this term, Halpern said, the Production Company had also arranged for WGBH to commission films made by students.

Most impressive of all, at least to me, was the consistent praise of students for the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of the School. Halpern said he had been given control of the School-sponsored Film Society, which offers a weekend program of inexpensive movies, even though he is a student. Others cited the accessibility of the professionals of the Production Company, the willingness of the school to allot film for individual projects, and its receptiveness to new ideas. "Film is just incredible fun," co-director Leeds said to me one Thursday afternoon. "We don't want to avoid anything now on any level." Future experiments, she said would probably include video courses and workshops on directing and production . And one of the most popular of the School--its policy of bringing directors as George Segal, Otto , and Paul Williams--will continue expand, she added.

to sit in one of the courses-- begun to look good.

II

T SEMINAR, the last of the term, began poorly. The instructor, a tall sort of guy, held eight inches of cigarette in his mouth, wrote unnecessary the blackboard, and spent most of time reading from a book. Midway his reading a 6'6" giant burst noisily room, looked around, and dropped chair. The tail of his coat caught on back of the chair as he sat down, above shoulder level when he finally a comfortable position. An aisle in front , a woman perched an unlit extralong cigarette in her as if to imitate the seminar smokers greeted the instructor's about Catholic laymen and the moralizing.

My initial appeared quickly, however. The , Deac Rossell, was engaging and the passages he read were well quite entertaining at the end. The introduced--Lolita--had a colorful his and he traced its nimble course bureaucracies of censorship while at time alerting the students to devices by Kubrick in the film.

The seminar got better once the film had ended. The discussed the movie, comparing it to work of Hitchcock and debating good bad points in technical terms. I notice things I'd never seen before, such the reasons for the film's geographical the need for ending and beginning with the same scene, and why the Kubrick chose for the score differed so from his previous works. An hour after had officially ended, a third of the still there.

I even had an Insight as the discussion progressed. character of the film. Humbert had composed a poem for arch-foe murdering him in the opening scene. The poem was choppy and repetitive. later learned, Humbert was an accomplished writer and a professor of literature. I need my hand to point out the mistake.

An embarrassed silence sad to say, welcomed my observation. dismissed the point as gracefully as could--it was inanely unrelated, I realized to the flow of the discussion--and my into film appreciation ground to a .

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

to sit in one of the courses-- begun to look good.

II

T SEMINAR, the last of the term, began poorly. The instructor, a tall sort of guy, held eight inches of cigarette in his mouth, wrote unnecessary the blackboard, and spent most of time reading from a book. Midway his reading a 6'6" giant burst noisily room, looked around, and dropped chair. The tail of his coat caught on back of the chair as he sat down, above shoulder level when he finally a comfortable position. An aisle in front , a woman perched an unlit extralong cigarette in her as if to imitate the seminar smokers greeted the instructor's about Catholic laymen and the moralizing.

My initial appeared quickly, however. The , Deac Rossell, was engaging and the passages he read were well quite entertaining at the end. The introduced--Lolita--had a colorful his and he traced its nimble course bureaucracies of censorship while at time alerting the students to devices by Kubrick in the film.

The seminar got better once the film had ended. The discussed the movie, comparing it to work of Hitchcock and debating good bad points in technical terms. I notice things I'd never seen before, such the reasons for the film's geographical the need for ending and beginning with the same scene, and why the Kubrick chose for the score differed so from his previous works. An hour after had officially ended, a third of the still there.

I even had an Insight as the discussion progressed. character of the film. Humbert had composed a poem for arch-foe murdering him in the opening scene. The poem was choppy and repetitive. later learned, Humbert was an accomplished writer and a professor of literature. I need my hand to point out the mistake.

An embarrassed silence sad to say, welcomed my observation. dismissed the point as gracefully as could--it was inanely unrelated, I realized to the flow of the discussion--and my into film appreciation ground to a .

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

II

T SEMINAR, the last of the term, began poorly. The instructor, a tall sort of guy, held eight inches of cigarette in his mouth, wrote unnecessary the blackboard, and spent most of time reading from a book. Midway his reading a 6'6" giant burst noisily room, looked around, and dropped chair. The tail of his coat caught on back of the chair as he sat down, above shoulder level when he finally a comfortable position. An aisle in front , a woman perched an unlit extralong cigarette in her as if to imitate the seminar smokers greeted the instructor's about Catholic laymen and the moralizing.

My initial appeared quickly, however. The , Deac Rossell, was engaging and the passages he read were well quite entertaining at the end. The introduced--Lolita--had a colorful his and he traced its nimble course bureaucracies of censorship while at time alerting the students to devices by Kubrick in the film.

The seminar got better once the film had ended. The discussed the movie, comparing it to work of Hitchcock and debating good bad points in technical terms. I notice things I'd never seen before, such the reasons for the film's geographical the need for ending and beginning with the same scene, and why the Kubrick chose for the score differed so from his previous works. An hour after had officially ended, a third of the still there.

I even had an Insight as the discussion progressed. character of the film. Humbert had composed a poem for arch-foe murdering him in the opening scene. The poem was choppy and repetitive. later learned, Humbert was an accomplished writer and a professor of literature. I need my hand to point out the mistake.

An embarrassed silence sad to say, welcomed my observation. dismissed the point as gracefully as could--it was inanely unrelated, I realized to the flow of the discussion--and my into film appreciation ground to a .

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

My initial appeared quickly, however. The , Deac Rossell, was engaging and the passages he read were well quite entertaining at the end. The introduced--Lolita--had a colorful his and he traced its nimble course bureaucracies of censorship while at time alerting the students to devices by Kubrick in the film.

The seminar got better once the film had ended. The discussed the movie, comparing it to work of Hitchcock and debating good bad points in technical terms. I notice things I'd never seen before, such the reasons for the film's geographical the need for ending and beginning with the same scene, and why the Kubrick chose for the score differed so from his previous works. An hour after had officially ended, a third of the still there.

I even had an Insight as the discussion progressed. character of the film. Humbert had composed a poem for arch-foe murdering him in the opening scene. The poem was choppy and repetitive. later learned, Humbert was an accomplished writer and a professor of literature. I need my hand to point out the mistake.

An embarrassed silence sad to say, welcomed my observation. dismissed the point as gracefully as could--it was inanely unrelated, I realized to the flow of the discussion--and my into film appreciation ground to a .

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

The seminar got better once the film had ended. The discussed the movie, comparing it to work of Hitchcock and debating good bad points in technical terms. I notice things I'd never seen before, such the reasons for the film's geographical the need for ending and beginning with the same scene, and why the Kubrick chose for the score differed so from his previous works. An hour after had officially ended, a third of the still there.

I even had an Insight as the discussion progressed. character of the film. Humbert had composed a poem for arch-foe murdering him in the opening scene. The poem was choppy and repetitive. later learned, Humbert was an accomplished writer and a professor of literature. I need my hand to point out the mistake.

An embarrassed silence sad to say, welcomed my observation. dismissed the point as gracefully as could--it was inanely unrelated, I realized to the flow of the discussion--and my into film appreciation ground to a .

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

I even had an Insight as the discussion progressed. character of the film. Humbert had composed a poem for arch-foe murdering him in the opening scene. The poem was choppy and repetitive. later learned, Humbert was an accomplished writer and a professor of literature. I need my hand to point out the mistake.

An embarrassed silence sad to say, welcomed my observation. dismissed the point as gracefully as could--it was inanely unrelated, I realized to the flow of the discussion--and my into film appreciation ground to a .

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

An embarrassed silence sad to say, welcomed my observation. dismissed the point as gracefully as could--it was inanely unrelated, I realized to the flow of the discussion--and my into film appreciation ground to a .

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

PLODDING BACK HOME, I remembered a project I'd undertaken in ninth grade. Some of my friends and I decided to make a movie God. We borrowed cameras, wrote the script, rounded up the players, but we failed to raise any money. My dream of becoming a movie director disappeared, going the way of other dreams of being a musician and an artist. The Film School had put brief flicker of life back into the dreams, but I'd been schooled and stifled to bring them back.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

I promised to return nonetheless--at least to watch some serious films . After all, things might change. Some day might appreciate or understand the bubble I walked past as I left the Orson Welles.

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