Meet Filmmaker Walter Ungerer: an Evening of Short Films

On Thursday, April 11 at 7 pm we are delighted to present a program of recent short films by renowned filmmaker Walter Ungerer,  followed by a question and answer session with the artist.  This event is free and open to the public.

 In the 1950s – 60s Walter Ungerer was a fixture in The Village art community and underground film scene in New York City, along with Ed Emshwiller, Bob Lowe, Jonas Mekas, Tony Montanaro and Stan Vanderbeek. His work spans fifty years of filmmaking, from his cinema verité documentaries (THE TASMANIAN DEVIL, KEEPING THINGS WHOLE), to narrative films (THE ANIMAL, THE WINTER THERE WAS VERY LITTLE SNOW), to more recent DSLR computer generated works (KINGSBURY BEACH, BLUE PARROT, MONARDA, and PARVA SED APTA MIHI).

Ungerer learned his basic filmmaking skills working on various productions: THE COOL WORLD, a theatrical film directed by Shirley Clarke; and FREEDOM FOR THY PEOPLE, a United Church of Christ documentary shot in Nigeria. He produced his own experimental films MEET ME, JESUS and A LION’S TALE soon after. Then came the OOBIELAND films, which gave him wide recognition. The Museum of Modern Art included UBI EST TERRAM OOBIAE? Part Two of OOBIELAND, in a program that toured the world for one year, representing experimental filmmaking in the United States. In the next few years the OOBIELAND films (there are five parts), received awards at such experimental film festivals as Ann Arbor, Foothill, Bellevue, and Baltimore.

UBI EST TERRAM OOBIAE? – Part Two of Oobieland from Walter Ungerer on Vimeo.

In 1969 Ungerer left New York for Vermont and a job teaching filmmaking at Goddard College. He tapped into resources at the college, namely personnel for cast and crew (including BREAD AND PUPPET THEATRE) for the longer narrative films he was beginning to produce. For thirty-three years he lived in Vermont creating feature length experimental narrative films: THE ANIMAL, THE HOUSE WITHOUT STEPS, THE WINTER THERE WAS VERY LITTLE SNOW and LEAVING THE HARBOR; always using the talents of local actors.

In the late twentieth century several factors changed Ungerer’s way of working. He was no longer able to find funding for his projects, though he was the recipient of national and regional awards: American Film Institute filmmaker grant, National Endowment on the Arts grant, National Endowment of the Humanities grant, and several Vermont Council on the Arts grants.

The world was beginning to accept video as an alternative to film. Lack of funding and a curiosity about the creative potential for video and the computer, was the incentive for Ungerer to shift from film to video, and from the Moviola or Steenbeck film editing machines to the Amiga computer and non-linear editing. What occurred with this shift was a change in the look and duration of the projects that Ungerer began to create. They became much shorter in length from the 75 to 90 minute narrative films, to the 5 to 15 minute computer generated works. It was a move from the long form to the short form, much like the difference between prose and poetry in literature. The projects were also more frequently produced.

Click here to see some of Water Ungerer’s  films on Vimeo.

Ungerer moved to Maine in 2003. His methods are now different, methods he began to accept at the end of the twentieth century, working on computer editing systems and shooting with digital cameras. Nonetheless he still relies on an intuitive approach to decision making with a predilection for the themes of nature, earth, the unknown and unknowable.

Elemental Ghosts and Human Mysteries: An Interview with Walter Ungerer — June 9, 2011