This Sunday, June 24th, the Dill Pickle Club hosts the final lecture in our series, A Place Called Home: Lectures on Filmmaking in Portland, with a program featuring presentations from three Portland film pioneers: Tom Chamberlin, Dennis Nyback and Tom Robinson. If you are interested in social documentary or Portland history, this is a great opportunity to learn more about our city’s excellence in the field. In case you missed it, check out this short preview clip we made with Tom Robinson.
As a way to give context to Sunday’s talk, we’re featuring short interviews with our presenters. Today’s featured guest is Tom Chamberlin.
Tom began making film in the mid-1960s. He soon found work as a documentary filmmaker, and produced films for Encyclopedia Britannica and Lucas Films in the ’70s and ’80s. In the ’90s, Tom turned his efforts to making community-based documentary video projects for nonprofits and social justice groups. He was kind enough to answer a few questions via e-mail.
Q: Tell us a bit about your history in the Portland fimmaking community…
A: After almost 9 years away from Oregon I returned in 1969. During the intervening years beginning in the spring of 1961, I lived with my family and on my own in Europe, the Caribbean and Chicago. I returned to Portland with contracts to do three films and several film strip series for major producers of educational films. My dear friend and long time collaborator, Richard Blakeslee, speaks of me arriving at Sunset films where he worked as a cameraman and editor, armed loaded with 16mm film cans and $10,000 in hundred dollar bills. He exaggerates but it is true I was flush, had a lot of work and was full of myself.
Q: What will you be showing at Sunday’s presentation at the Whitsell?
A: I will be showing 5 minutes from the 1st answer print of ‘Portrait of a City’ filmed mostly in Portland in 1971 – 72; 3 minutes from ‘An Oregon Message’ featuring a sequence with William Stafford reading and Tom Hill and Anne Gerety as ‘man woman’; and a 3 minute piece recently recorded in Portland Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Q: What’s your favorite piece in the program and why?
A: Probably my favorite video piece right now is 15 minutes recorded a few months ago getting my new dentures made and fitted. But I won’t be showing that on Sunday.
Q: What changes have you seen in the Portland filmmaking community over the years and what are you most excited about that’s happening right now?
A: The technology of 16mm filmmaking is virtually gone digitally doomed. Am I sad? Not really. It was nice to hold a piece of film to the light and see an image. I completed editing Land’s Edge in rubber boots, in a flooded basement. Revenge of the Ocean Gods for trying to steal her presence on celluloid. I kept most of the 16,000 feet we shot out of the water. There was so much great footage it was OK to loose some. Now it is the digital gods that we must appease. A lot harder for us old guys.
As to what is happening right now — I think we humans are destroying the planet as fast as we can. The industrial/ consumer/ military way of life is utterly non sustainable. ‘Paradigm shift’ doesn’t come close to describing the tectonic shift in values essential if we are to survive at all, with a modicum of civility, security and good will. I am very lucky to meet people of all ages but particularly the young who have a sense of urgency about the real challenges we face as a world culture. Through them I glimpse away out of the fog. A 5.6 f stop for all!
For more on Chamberlin, check his Website. Don’t forget, he’ll be speaking and showing his work this Sunday at 1PM at the Whistell Auditoirum! Get tickets and full details here. You won’t want to miss it.