On Tour: West Long Branch, NJ

21 Apr

April 14th, 2014  | United in Anger: A History of ACT UP | West Long Branch, NJ

At Monmouth University, I got to talk in Andrew Demirjian’s class about the editing process. We talked about the difficulty of editing interviews, especially interviews not designed for TV broadcast. Real people don’t speak in sound bites, so there are issues of pauses, ums, you knows, unfinished sentences, irrelevant tangents. I talked about how you can use so-called B-roll footage to hide the cuts and enhance the meaning of the talk with appropriate and exciting footage.

It was also interesting to watch the students struggle with Final Cut. Some of them immediately get the hang of it and are off and running. Others are grateful to learn the most basic techniques and shortcuts.

Andrew Demirjian’s TV Editing Class

More footage from Andrew’s class

The screening took place in Woodrow Wilson Hall, which was originally the mansion of Hubert Templeton Parson, a president of Woolworth’s. It was designed by Horace Trumbauer, who also designed Widener Library at Harvard where the ACT UP Oral History Project tapes are being preserved.

The building is an insanely ornate, huge mansion. The screening room was actually a screening room when it was a private home. Could you imagine have a screening room large enough for 400 of your closest friends?

A glimpse of the central hallway (ballroom?) of Wilson Hall

The Screening Room in Woodrow Wilson Hall

The first question after the screening was about FBI infiltration of ACT UP.  ACT UP was always open, so anyone could attend meetings. Everyone assumed that New York City Police were there all the time and that the FBI kept up some sort of surveillance. There were some assertions of phone’s being tapped, being followed and odd goings-on in the middle of the night, but nothing was ever substantiated.

Another question was about The Split, which is touched on in the film, but I’m not entirely satisfied with that section. The problem is that when I first edited that section it was 3 hours long and still did not adequately address the matter. What is known as The Split was when 10 or 12 members of the Treatment & Data Committee left ACT UP to form TAG (Treatment Action Group). I’ve now come to believe that The Split is part of a larger traumatic period in ACT UP. So many people were dying – there were no effective medicines – that people were traumatized. Other groups such as Housing Works had earlier split off ACT UP without incident. Also, ACT UP continued to be effective after The Split, so it did not signal the demise of ACT UP as many people think. The culmination of the Campaign to Change the CDC Definition of AIDS came after The Split, as did the political funerals. But for many people, it symbolized the despair of that period and therefore it takes on a larger significance.

Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Jim Hubbard.
To listen to a podcast interview with the filmmaker, click here.


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