Okay, it's not what you think. I'm still happily married to Amy after 26 years and we still love being together and working together.
But today, my eight years on Project Shirley came to a conclusion. Amy liked to call Shirley Clarke the other woman in my life. I never met her, but through her diaries, stories from her daughter Wendy and from all her family still around, I got to know Shirley better than any director I've ever worked on or worked for. Her films have utterly fascinated us. Twenty years after her death, they still remain ahead of their time. When the world finally catches up to Shirley Clarke, she will be placed way up there in that cinematic canon that has far too few women. Especially courageous women who didn't care about conventions of their time.
So what did I finish today? Collected from those eight years are nearly eight hours of absolute fabulousness – an Oscar®-winning documentary (Robert Frost), a lost children's film (Christopher and Me), the incredible Pennebaker and Clarke-led Brussels Loops, her complete output of short films (dance, experimental, industrial and narrative), and dozens of unknown and/or unfinished work that will boggle the mind. Project Shirley has involved dozens of archives (with special gratitude to Maxine, Mary, and Amy at the Wisconsin Center for Film & Television), hundreds of deeds of generosity from esteemed archivists and lab technicians, countless composers, librarians, professors, and of course, Wendy, to guide me through hundreds and hundreds of questions. Not to mention the amazing, creative people we've met who worked with or knew Shirley. (Martha Clarke, your Angel Reapers is magnificent and we'll never forget it!) We have no regrets.
Through it all, I've held materials in my hand that would thrill any cinephile. One-of-a-kind 16mm prints that haven't seen the light of day since the 1950s, prints of films that were never screened, personal letters, diaries, an original button from the 1967 Portrait of Jason premiere (gifted to me by the darling Max), and dozens of items that bugged my eyes out. However, perhaps the coolest thing ever, was Wendy shipping me the family photo albums. Imagine having in your hands, the actual physical history of a great director from literally day one. These are photo albums that Shirley and Wendy kept for nearly a century. The photo of Shirley's wedding day (above) came from one album. Needless to say, I spent the entire week scanning them, took a great deal of time going over them with Shirley's niece Liza and other Shirley experts, and then sending the back as soon as I could!
So when will you all get to see these amazing discoveries? I've just sent the hard drive to our authoring and compression lab, the wonderful Luminous 7. There will be some weeks of them doing their magic to make sure they look their best when they are shown on your TV or up onscreen. We'll have to proof them a number of times disc by disc. (Both Blu-ray and DVD.) Our former intern now professional artist Lauren Caddick will be designing the cover and the brochure. Then it's all on to CDA in North Carolina (and Germany) to put it all together and get them ready to ship to our offices and our sub-distributor Oscilloscope will get them to the right retailers. Soon, Amy and I will be announcing the release date The Magic Box: The Films of Shirley Clarke, Project Shirley Volume 4. We hope to have them out before the end of the year.
So, am I really done with Shirley Clarke? Don't kid yourself. Definitely not. The WCFTR and Milestone digitized a huge number of Shirley's video output from the late 1960s through the 1980s and I'd like to help get them seen. Our friend Larry Kardish is also writing her biography and we'll be around if he needs us. We're also working with Immy Humes on a documentary on Shirley. Both projects will astonish the cinema world and give another boost to the rebirth of Shirley Clarke in history. And who knows? Perhaps Fred Wiseman will license The Cool World to us one day. (I hope so!) But for now, The Magic Box is our final treat; a brilliant gem that we have polished as much as we could. Is it the latest Star Trek? Of course not! But then, like Shirley, it's not about mass consumption and meeting expectations. That's too bleeping boring!!!
Shirley Clarke in 1919