It began 10 years ago in a small New York town with a barn full of artists watching movies that lasted for only a minute each. It was the start of the One Minute Film Festival, an event that brought people together from different backgrounds and experiences to celebrate filmmaking on a small scale.
The festival was the brainchild of New York City-based husband-and-wife artists Jason Simon and Moyra Davey, who renovated an unfinished barn in Narrowsburg, N.Y. Simon and Davey found the small town to be something of a haven for New York artists looking to escape the city, and both came to the realization that their barn could house an annual event for their friends to celebrate the creative process.
Feeling that a decade
marked an appropriate end point, Simon and Davey decided to hold the final festival last summer. To celebrate 10 years of 60 second filmmaking, the couple have worked with Mass MoCA on an exhibition of work produced over the course of the festival's run.
Situated on the museum's third floor, and overseen by curator Denise Markonish, the exhibition, which opens Saturday as part of Mass MoCA's 3-2-1! opening celebration for three exhibitions, is a multimedia display of films and one-sheet movie posters designed by the filmmakers themselves.
"You know, a one-minute film is such a humble thing, and we love the absurdity that comes from making these full-scale movie posters that go with a one-minute film," Markonish said.
The exhibit consists of six screening areas showing films that play in a continuous loop. The screenings run chronologically by year, culminating in a one-hour "exquisite corpse" film, which represents the festival's final year. For this final year, artists were asked to craft a film based on the final screenshot of another filmmaker's work. The end result is a dizzying look at a mass collaboration of 100 artists.
"I'm really excited to see the show myself," said North Adams-based artist Mary Lum, who has a film in the exhibit. "It was such a generous act by Moyra and Jason to host it (the festival) every single year, and give this platform to so many people."
Markonish said she has fond memories of the festival. A friend of Davey and Simon's, she attended the festival almost every year, but always as a spectator.
"For me, it signaled the start of summer much more than July 4 ever did," Markonish said. "It was artistic independence day."
The desire for artistic independence is partly what drove Simon and Davey to start the festival in the first place. They hoped to give their friends and acquaintances, some of whom had never worked in film before, a safe space to explore new mediums.
The first festival attracted about 75 guests who gathered in the barn to watch the films on a large screen set up by Simon. After the screening, the event turned into a party, with the group spending the rest of the warm summer night with music and dancing.
"It kind of mushroomed over time," Simon said. "People started to take it quite seriously, and at its peak, about 150 people submitted films."
San Francisco-based Anne Colvin was one of those artists. Colvin met Davey during a trip to Orchard, a now-defunct gallery space run by Davey, Simon and 10 other artists in New York's Lower East Side. Davey told Colvin, who works primarily in film and video art, about the festival.
Colvin did not get to attend the actual festival, but did submit a film, "Cracked Actor," in 2006. Working with found footage, Colvin re-filmed a taped performance of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. Zooming in tightly on Bowie's face, Colvin said she wanted to make the piece vague, "leaving what is going on to the viewer's imagination."
Colvin said the festival's one-minute requirement was not difficult for her. The same can't be said for Gregg Bordowitz, who is friends with both Simon and Davey. Bordowitz attended the festival almost every year, but said he found the one-minute parameters to be a big challenge.
In an age of individualized viewing experiences, with people glued to Netflix-streaming videos on their laptops, Bordowitz said the magic of the festival rested in its old-fashioned approach to the viewing experience.
"Jason loves cinema and he turned this kind of YouTube format of constant videos into a public event," Bordowitz said. "It returned film to people sharing a cinematic experience -- it's a format many of us still adore."