From Stan Brakhage Remembrances:

Flowers for Brakhage

M. M. Serra

Printed in MFJ No. 41 (Fall 2003) Lesbian and Gay Experimental Cinema/Stan Brakhage Remembrances


I first met Stan Brakhage in 1984 when he screened a retrospective of his work at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At that time, I was an assistant to Douglas Edwards, who curated programs at the Academy Foundation (the educational branch of AMPAS). With an often critical and baffled Hollywood audience, Brakhage was extremely articulate, patient (even with rude questions) and understanding in light of the fact that these people lacked exposure to avant-garde cinema. I was impressed with the beauty of his work and his amazing personality. I was especially astonished with his film Window Water Baby Moving: the shocking birth experience-bloody, painful and yet beautiful and joyful.

When I moved to New York City in 1988 I joined the Film-Makers’ Cooperative (FMC) first as a filmmaker looking for distribution and then on the Board of Directors (brought on by Saul Levine in 1990). At that time, FMC had more problems than anyone could imagine: no money (-$100 in the bank), no director (Leslie Trumbull had a stroke in 1990 and was paralyzed) and the office was in disarray. Larry Gottheim, Board president, suggested an art auction to raise money and the Board worked together to help FMC to survive. I called Brakhage, fearful that he would be angry rather than helpful. He was extremely kind, immediately offering to send us framed filmstrips for auction. He was generous and warm-hearted towards the coop, which helped me believe we would pull through this painful, frightening period (we raised $26,000 and survived, even flourished).

Brakhage and I spoke repeatedly over the years. He would call us often to see how we were doing and continually sent us his new, wonderful films to distribute. He had a warm, wonderful and powerful voice so I would call him rather than write letters or postcards.

In 2000, a developer (who owns 51 buildings in the city) evicted the Coop from its office of 40 years when the building was sold. The first filmmaker I called to ask for help was Brakhage. He immediately offered to make calls to help us relocate. He was supportive and believed strongly in the cooperative spirit not as a bank but as a community. In March 2001 Stan Brakhage, though extremely ill (having to use a cane to get around and in a lot of pain), came to visit us in our new office and signed our wall of dignitaries, celebrities and rock stars. I am fortunate that Ken Jacobs had his camera with him on this momentous occasion and documented his and Stan’s tour of Lower Manhattan. He made an incredibly moving portrait of Stan titled “Keeping an Eye on Stan”.

I will miss everything about him. He had a wonderful creative life and FMC is honored to have his magnificent films in its collection.