Guest blogger Dan Fiebiger with his hand built “Dan-Cam”, a 35mm motion-control animation system.
Dan Fiebiger Remembers The Center For The Moving Image: A Four Part Series by Dan Fiebiger begins here with Part One:
Part One by Dan Fiebiger
I went to school (and was raised by wild nuns) at Holy Redeemer Grade School who saw my film interests as the work of Satan and forbade me from pursuing it, mainly because they knew nothing about it and thus didn’t understand it. I went to North Catholic High School who were a little more progressive and even eventually hired me to shoot 8mm film documenting life at that school. I graduated from North Catholic in the spring of 1970. Two months later vandals broke into the heavily insured building and burned it down. I had been the official “Audio-Visual Technician” and projectionist at the school during my Junior and Senior years and I did some repair on the two semi-burnt 16mm Bell & Howell autoload projectors and got them working again, with parts donated by the Moore Company (*) even if I was unsuccessful at getting the smoke smell and discoloration of the burnt aqua paint finish out of them.
* The Moore Company was the place to go in Portland for 16mm projectors, parts, manuals, belts, bulbs, etc. during the whole 16mm film era.
In 1968-69, I started attending the various film festivals (mostly the Ann Arbor and Bellevue) that the Portland State FIlm Committee occasionally ran in the basement of Lincoln Hall (then called “Old Main”) in room 75, the auditorium in the basement, just below the main-floor live-theater auditorium one floor above 75. Shoved into the SW corner of that same basement floor where cartoon voice-artist Mel Blanc used to practice his voices when he went to Lincoln High School in that same building before he got famous, located in two tiny rooms, each about the size of a janitor’s closet was the CMI (aka the Center For the Moving Image) department.
Usually locked in the evenings when the Film Committee screenings happened, it was two years before I was able to catch them open earlier in the day and see what was inside that always-locked door. A member of the Film Committee, Paul Dennis Merrium (who I later became pretty good friends with and co-worked with at various local movie theaters in the 70s and 80s) was the first person to tell me about CMI. By then I was about to graduate high school in the spring 1970 and was preparing to go to college at PSU, my only affordable option. On that summer day I met Tom Taylor who showed me the shelves of 8mm Bell & Howell cameras, a couple 16mm Bolex cameras, and one Auricon 16mm synk-sound camera, and encouraged me to sign up for film classes.
The Auricon news camera, CMI’s flagship camera, with an Angenieux 10-1 zoom lens, a very common lens for high-end 16mm film cameras:
Typical 16mm Bolex camera, one of many models, 2-3 of which CMI had:
Typical CMI Bell & Howell 8mm camera; CMI had about a dozen of these, some being similar models of other brands, including Bolex:
I soon learned that my Viet-Nam lottery draft number was 72, a guarantee of being shipped out and coming home in a box, and so the student deferment I got to go to college was my only legal option. I attended PSU knowing at every minute that my own government was trying to murder me, not a conductive environment for enjoying the college experience. Since PSU, and every other university, is in it just for the money and really couldn’t care less about my, or anyone’s, actual education, or if anybody gets a decent job after they graduate, I was also highly disappointed that I had to take so many irrelevant, and expensive, classes in fields I couldn’t care less about before I was allowed the time and opportunity to take the CMI film classes I desperately wanted, which didn’t happen until my senior year. (Same for classes in my major of music composition, which never even allowed me the time to take a class on orchestration ever for all the other extraneous classes I had to take that made no difference in the long run.)
To fill that 3-year gap in my film education, I worked for the PSU audio-visual department as a projectionist-technician, learning as much as I could from those experiences, which lasted three years more, keeping me on even past my BA graduation while I earned a Masters. I earned my MA in music, since there was no film degree offered, but music was relevant to creating soundtracks for film also. I had also dabbled in sound recording, slowly building a home studio all through the 60s to create the soundtracks for my 8mm films, and the additional experience operating sound and record equipment that the AV department provided me was valuable to me also.
(Why does “Valuable” and “Invaluable” mean the exact same thing? No PSU English class I was required to take could answer that question, and still can’t.)
Once I finished wasting the first there years of my PSU life taking and passing every irrelevant class they waned me to take, and Nixon ended the Viet-Nam war and the draft at the end of my Junior year, I finally had the freedom to start my “formal” film education at CMI, which had moved up to the N.E. corner of the third floor by the start of my senior year.
By then, CMI had acquired two full classrooms of space to work with, and bought a used 16mm magnetic film recorder, and a 16mm editing system borrowed from Tom Shaw, a Rhode-Island-Florida industrialist-filmmaker who had just moved into Portland in 1973 and was loaning his editing equipment to Tom Taylor for the benefit of our classes.
In 1984, I would later work on Shaw’s first completed feature length locally-produced movie, THE COURIER, which the distributer later retitled THE COURIER OF DEATH when it a released to VHS video in mid-1985. I co-edited both sound and picture, and did the musical score, among about 20 other duties, using that same editing system that had been at Tom Taylor’s CMI department in the mid-70s.
More about THE COURIER (Of Death) here.
More about the soundtrack CD of THE COURIER (of Death) here and how to order. Score composed and performed by Dan Fiebiger.
Continue reading the rest!
Dan Fiebiger Remembers The Center For The Moving Image: A Four Part Series continues with