1987/88 Last Dance – the super 8’s
Besides mourning the videos that I have no copies of and therefore consider lost, some live videos frozen in formats no longer used, and attacked by bugs and moisture, I am happy that these four black and white videos all shot in 1987 and 88 in super 8, look as good or almost better now and constitute a unit in time and aesthetics, capturing a city open to creativity and low budgets, that is completely lost now. They are dance videos, danced by Chris Kaufman and Margret Whaley and the writer on his fixie.
Dieter Osten – Step into the Fire
B/W super 8. Edited on video ca 1986
Step into the Fire on Dieter Osten – East of Eden, Moon Records 1986
Video concept Collin Gillis/Michael Stiller, Direction/Camera Gillis/Stiller, edit William Kelly
In the video: Chris Kaufman, Dieter Osten, Joe Drake, Michal Stiller, Vinnie Signorelli, Ivan Julian, Mark Jeffrey
This is the first one in this quartet and during which I met William and Donald Kelly, with who I still am great friends. When we had shot the video Michael moved on to another project and I had to look for someone to edit. Stephen Wren a regular at Bandito suggested I’ll call William. Step Into the Fire shows us walking around the East Village (Joe Drake and me), mostly 10th St and 2nd Ave, hanging out with Vinnie Signorelli, Joe and Michael Stiller on 9th St and 1st Ave, the band rehearsing and Chris Kaufman and me dancing and playing under the Manhattan bridge.
The band rehearsing the song is not the lineup that recorded it, except me. The opening voice is Chris talking on my answering machine before my record release gig at the Pyramid Club in December 1986. The band for that gig is the one shown in the video.
I wrote the song on the train from back from a meditation workshop near Boston inspired by the fire-walk I did during the retreat.
Pain of Love and November 18th are basically William Kelly’s interpretations of my songs. William wrote and directed them. Donald Kelly handled the camera.There are several nods to the history of cinema, and both videos have great 360 degree shots. November 18th almost won a Long Island film festival 1st prize. The videos for Mystik Mood and Step into the Fire basically have little relation to the original songs, yet somehow they work. For details on the recording of the songs check last week’s blog.
Dieter Osten – Pain of Love
B/W super 8, Screen play, direction, edit William Kelly, edited in video, 1987/88Song: Dieter Osten 1987 unreleased
The music in the song is recorded by the band seen in Step into the Fire. Both videos have some great 380 degree pans, various film history references.
The closing scenes in Pain of Love, the reflection in the subway car, was very complicated and were filmed during a period of 6 month in 90 degree and 40 degree weather trying to maintain continuity (clothes, look, light, etc). The opening is in the subway tunnel in Grand Central Station were we shot several other scenes, all guerilla style. Eventually we got chased out of the high walkway. The clock with the bull is no longer there. Neither is the sign on the Pan Am building.
In William Kelly’s words: “I kept a journal at the time but I don’t have the time to look for it. It’s stored in a safe place where I can not find it easily! So I’ve come up with the following which I hope will help:
It was all a matter of no-budget Super 8 “guerrilla style”, “DIY” filmmaking,–the limitations of which forced you to find solutions to many problems. In Pain of Love, for example, the single shot in Grand Central Station when “The Guy” stands high above on the cat walk looking down and sees “The Girl” on the main floor below and then begins chasing her required some invention, much patience and a lot of luck. First of all, having no shooting permits and being where you’re not supposed to be–and in very prominent view–was pushing the envelope. So, with Margaret on the main floor of Grand Central along with Don and his camera, and Dieter up on the cat walk with me and my camera, coordinating shooting was a challenge because of course we had no walkie-talkies (cell phones were still a long way off). Thus we had to commence shooting with a visual cue. Several times we started to shoot and then were told to leave by the police. We respectfully complied and began walking down the stairs, waited a few minutes and went right back up and started shooting again, knowing we had little time before we were spotted again. That patience and luck helped us to eventually get the shot.
A shot from Pain of Love that required the same kind of determination and good fortune occurs on the NYC subway number 7 train. The idea was to alternate a kind of alternating superimposition of the image of “The Guy” over “The Girl” while both of them wait on opposite sides of the same train platform. This would be easy to do with compositing today but back then we had to adhere to the no-budget, in-camera aesthetic. We shot on a weekend so the trains arrived fifteen minutes apart. It took several trains to line up Dieter, Margaret, and the background graffiti with the camera. Then it became a matter of waiting for the right combination of the sun (it was cloudy that day) and an empty rear subway car. This did not happen right away; in fact, this necessary combination did not happen for a very long time, requiring much waiting (hours) outside for other trains. It was cold that day but know that during the waits we did give Margaret her jacket to wear. She was a real trooper. Once again, we managed eventually to get the shot.”
I remember that we filmed this shot during a period of 6 month in 90 degree and 40 degree weather trying to maintain continuity (clothes, look, light, etc). Each time we took a take the people Margret had to ride to the next stop and come back. It took time. There was no car or catering.
Here is how Donald Kelly, who did the camera remembers of shooting the videos: “The neighborhood was a lot different back then. The area East of First Avenue to the river was called “Alphabet City”, I think. At that time you just didn’t go east of Avenue A, as it resembled Beirut. Gutted and burnt buildings everywhere. No one but homeless squatters and junkies in their shooting galleries. At one point we were setting up the tripod when we heard a gun shot or M-80, most likely intended for us. Drug dealers don’t like cameras. We got out of there fast.”
Somehow, I don’t remember this, but what I mostly remember from shooting the outside scenes is how incredibly cold it was, in the 20’s or 30’s. The inside dance scenes were shot in a loft on East Broadway (Chinatown)
Watch the opening and closing scenes in November 18th carefully.
The song itself came to me during an early morning dream and I wrote it down in its entirety when I woke up.
Dieter Osten – Mystic Mood (bike messenger movie)
Super 8. filmed and edited by Dieter Runge,1987
(This video was edited by hand, really old school, with tape and clips all over the floor).
Song: East Of Eden – Mystik Mood 7” 45 rpm 1985
Dieter Osten East of Eden 33” Moon Records 1986
The edited super 8 was transferred onto video. Video deteriorates, especially since I lived in the Virgin Islands and Hawaii since leaving NY in late 88. This copy is clean and shows no stripes, unlike the version that is on youtube, which has credits.
The film captures scenes from working as a bike messenger in NY.
It played around the world during the International Bicycle Film Festival ca 2008
I wrote the song on the roof of 23 St Marks Place where I lived in a pretty-much unheated loft on the top floor and where the Velvet Underground held their Exploding Plastic Inevitable and were Nico had her residence at the Dom. The song expresses the moment when I came through a very rough period. It was recorded by the original East of Eden lineup in the fall of 1984: Eddie Steinberg drums, Fran Powers on guitar/vocals, Joe Drake, bass and Dieter Osten, guitar/vocals.
The video was shot over a couple of days working as a bike messenger. The fight during the second guitar solo was between a bike messenger (dressed up with tie and jacket) and a cab driver. I had witnessed an earlier part of the conflict when the messenger had thrown his bike on the hood of the cab, which took of, upon which the messenger grabbed hold of the rear window of the cab and got pulled down one of the center lanes of Fifth Ave on his heels. It was my first day of shooting and I didn’t have a battery in my camera. After delivering a package in a building on 41st (10th floor) I bought batteries and upon returning to Fifth Ave I saw the continuation of the action right in front of the public library. Cabdrivers were notorious for not liking bike messengers and I gotten run over and threatened with a baseball bat by a cab driver.
The super 8 camera I used was a simple 60’s model that William lend me, with just an on an off switch as the only control. Everything is handheld and all shots from the bike are done while riding my Panasonic fixie with one hand. Knowing the streets, I only shot on pretty good roads. New York was a completely different place in the 80’s. For example, there were steel plates everywhere, which are extremely dangerous. When they are wet, you can neither accelerate, break or turn, cruising straight is the only option. At one point there where 40 cops on the streets of Manhattan every day, just to ticket messengers. A scene ca 2:48 into the video shows a cop giving a ticket to a messenger. It is a quick shot right after two cop cars are shown. Most messengers had fake id’s. Bike messengers – Pit Bulls of the road was a headline in the New York Post during this time. Messengers met after work and rode slowly up Sixth Ave, probably starting what became the critical mass rides later on. I edited in film on a small machine that you rolled back and forth by hand. I was so excited by the project that I only shot 4 rolls of film. During editing I threw the shots I didn’t kike on the floor until in the last verse I realized that I was running out of shots and had to scramble for usable shots in the pile on the floor.
Links for the video and song: