#361) OffOn (1968)

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#361) OffOn (1968)

OR “There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Television Set”

Directed by Scott Bartlett

Class of 2004

The Plot: Film and video come together for the first time in the experimental “OffOn”. Have your recreational drug of choice at the ready and figure out the tracking on your VCR, because this is a hell of a trip.

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film a “landmark” and “the first avant-garde title to fully marry video with film.” There’s also a brief yet informative essay by film professor/NFR staple Scott Simmon.

But Does It Really?: Well someone had to combine film and video, and shouldn’t that someone have a place in the NFR? “OffOn” gets a pass for its representation of Scott Bartlett, and its merging of two eras of filmmaking. And as always, I’ll give a pass to anything that’s short.

Everybody Gets One: Born and raised in San Francisco, Scott Bartlett was part of the experimental film scene of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, eventually becoming part of Francis Ford Coppola’s band of filmmakers at American Zoetrope. With videotape on the rise, Bartlett was inspired to marry videotape and film in one short. He took some film he and Tom DeWitt had made for a light show, and recorded the projection with a video camera. He mixed the two mediums in real time, oversaturated the film in some places, and added food coloring to some frames to spice up the imagery.

Seriously, Oscars?: Oh, there is no way “OffOn” came even close to an Oscar nomination. That year’s winner for Live Action Short was the more conventional (and culturally relevant) “Robert Kennedy Remembered”.

I’m always wary of trying to decipher these experimental films beyond what they actually are, so once again we present “Things I Thought I Saw in ‘OffOn’”.

Legacy

  • Scott Bartlett continued making experimental films for the rest of his life, including a collaboration with his wife, fellow filmmaker Freude Solomon-Bartlett. Among his other accomplishments was as a technical supervisor on “Altered States” (another film that definitely came to mind during “OffOn”).

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