The 50th anniversary of the London Filmmaker’s Co-operative (LFMC) has instigated many screenings, discussions and publications this year including the Tate Modern’s Co-op dialogues , Reel to Real (23/9/16) examining the contribution of women and feminism to the LFMC, the BFI’s monthly Experimenta strand curated by the original LMFC programmers and the ICA’s book launch , Shoot Shoot Shoot, The first Decade of the London Film-Makers Co-operative 1966-76 edited by Mark Weber.
The launch of this archive rich book was accompanied by a short documentary film about the organisation, written and directed by artist and writer Matthew Noel-Todd; Soft Floor, Hard Film. A panel discussion followed with author Weber, key co-op member Malcolm Le Grice and Lis Rhodes coop filmmaker at the time and now renowned experimental cinema pioneer. The evening gave the uninitiated audience (me) a feeling of the time, the different social, political and economic contexts in which filmmakers were working in. There was then no real ‘alternative’ as Malcolm Le Grice explained. It was virtually impossible for individuals to make analogue films with no budget, yet LFMC’s open door policy accepting all submissions without judgement, encouraged a feeling of democratisation and increased control of all aspects of film to the filmmaker. At the LFMC the aim was, according to Le Grice, to eliminate the competitive spirit within the film industry and to provide a public space for anyone interested in film, not about pursuing a career. The process of filmmaking was part of a broader artistic movement in which all forms of authority were being challenged and the question of what cinema had become was a central question within this. Initially starting with the exhibition and distribution of film the LFMC evolved into production of films, taking over derelict buildings and supplying equipment and space to artists, encouraging many key figures of avant-garde structural filmmaking, where the form not the content took precedence. The end of the evening screened the iconic, experimental, film performance, Light Music (1975) by Lis Rhodes. Here two projectors were placed opposite each other projecting their beams of light in the room, which was partially filled with hazy smoke, onto opposing screens. Horizontal lines and marks flickered onto the screens and simultaneously created the intense audio track, a form of film called visual music initially explored by experimental filmmakers in the 1920’s, Oskar Fischinger , Hans Richter and Walther Ruttmann . The audience could move in and out of the beams and created shadows onto the screens, becoming participants to the final piece. This experience along with the emphasis on the machinery and the separating out of the basic elements of film, sound and visual, gave me a sensory appreciation of not only film itself, but of what structural filmmaking is.