1. The Pre-History of the London Filmmakers' Co-op
2. The Foundation of the London Filmmakers' Co-op
3. The American Underground Film
4. A New Generation: The London Arts Lab
5. A New Constitution
Compared to the New York scene the British underground film had a slow start. It was only well after 1966 that experimental filmmaking began to flourish in London. Prior to this, during the mid '60s, the only practising filmmakers were the Brighton-based artist Jeff Keen, the Orcadian filmmaker Margaret Tait, who was still unknown in London, and the American Steve Dwoskin. Dwoskin had come to London on a fellowship to study design. He had already made four short experimental films and was part of the New York underground film scene. In the following extract he recalls his feeling of isolation at that time.
Dwoskin: But I had brought with me films that I had been working on anyway, I mean I had been involved with the New York Co-op and the underground thing anyway. I had made stuff in New York which I brought with me.
Dusinberre: You made Sleep in New York and you made Alone in New York.
Dwoskin: ...and Chinese Checkers and Naissant were shot in New York.
Dwoskin: The first year was a bit of a mish-mash. I didn't get much done. I was looking around for film people, film activities that year '64, '65. Two friends of mine came over from New York, Joan Adelon (Tape unclear) and I introduced her to the films and her husband, who actually he was an electronic engineer who did the soundtrack, the engineering part for Flaming Creatures . He was part of the crowd.
Dwoskin: We were looking around at that point the very beginning of '65 for any film activity in England.
Dusinberre: So that was early '65.
Dwoskin: I remember we called Jonas Mekas one night if he knew of anything. We could not find anything particularly to hang on. I was just looking around for what was going on here, we made no contact. We looked everywhere: Soho, all over, up North a bit and... nothing. And Mekas did not know anything. And that was about it.
Dwoskin's isolated position changed radically with his first public screening at the Notting Hill Festival in the following year, 1966. It was at the Notting Hill Film Night that Bob Cobbing saw Dwoskin's films for the first time. The encounter between the filmmaker and the film organiser had immediate consequences. The LFMC was founded soon after.
Dwoskin: Just about that time there were all these arts activities going on in Notting Hill. They were trying all these arts activities, mostly theatre, and there was the first Notting Hill Festival where a lot of the local people were asked to get involved. I think it was organised by Hoppy, John Hopkins, and they needed the film night, you see, they thought it would be nice to have film. They had people like Ron [Geesin] and David Graham, all these local ballad singers and what not, and the only films around were the ones I had done. So they got a projector and one night they showed all the stuff I had, really, and from that people like Bob Cobbing saw it, and of course then he was managing the Better Books department, and that part connected with these people, they had run a thing called ... Film 66 it was called.
Dusinberre: Cinema 65, actually.
Dwoskin: They had started this film club at Better Books in '65. They had a basic interest in film and from the Notting Hill Festival began the 'lets make a Co-op at Better Books' with Bob Cobbing, Simon Hartog was somehow involved and Philip Crick.
Dusinberre: Is that when you met Simon or did you meet him before that?
Dwoskin: That's when I met him. It was kind of a meeting pool. Bob Cobbing sort of had a list of people who were obviously part of his club thing to do with poetry reading, the British art scene, he had contacts. And a kind of notice came out that it would be a good idea to form the Co-op, which I went to and all that. And then it was was declared that, whatever it was '66, was the Co-op. Again only my films were around and the main interest was for people like Bob Cobbing and Phillip Crick to meet people who were more like film society people in their attitude towards film, but maybe a bit more.
The London Filmmakers' Co-op was officially founded on 13th of October 1966. It was based at Better Books, where regular film nights showed local and American films. Initially, the Co-op also published the film review Cinim .
Cobbing: There was a coming and going really, I suppose, of that impetus in Cinema 65 and the arrival of the people like Matusow and so on, sort of linked up with the possibility of a film co-op. Distribution started fairly quickly actually. I probably have got the publication date of the first issue of Cinim magazine. The Co-op started, here we are, the Co-op actually started on October the 13 th 1966, oh so it was later than I thought I was talking about '65, wasn't I, no it was much later. But all that time during '65 and during '66 we were beginning to feel that the filmmaking side was given more importance. There were a lot of people making films and...
Dusinberre: Steve Dwoskin...
Cobbing: Dwoskin came in, I can't remember when he came in, he was a member of Cinema 65, and Ron Geesin and people like that. So it was all fermenting at that time and the combination of that is now October '66. We had a lot of people who were very keen on film being made who weren't exactly filmmakers themselves. (Tape unclear) had made a number of films himself and he was very keen of course. The filmmakers were people like Dwoskin, Jeff Keen, and also David Larcher.