The first ever retrospective of the films of Carson "Kit" Davidson was held, with the filmmaker in attendance, at the Association of Moving Image Archivists conference in Philadelphia, PA, on November 4, 2010 at 2pm. Titled Help, My Camera’s Burning Down: Carson Davidson’s Far-Flung Cinema, the panel was moderated by Geoff Alexander, and included the filmmaker as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive's Brian Meacham, who described the Academy Film Archive's successful efforts to restore two of Davidson's films. Brian showed the Academy Film Archives' newly and beautifully restored prints of the films 'Third Avenue El' and 'Help, My Snowman's Burning Down.'
The 15 films made by the 86 year-old Carson “Kit” Davidson epitomize the term “independent media.” In films such as the Oscar-nominated “Third Avenue El,” “One Hundred Watts 120 Volts,” a non-narrated tour through a light-bulb factory, and the Dadaist “Help, My Snowman’s Burning Down,” Davidson proved to be catholic in his of content, precise in his camerawork, and flamboyant in his sense of showmanship. In this first formal retrospective of his work and career, Davidson will be present to describe the milieu of an independent filmmaker. In addition to his films, he will discuss how to engage and work with sponsors, when to eschew sponsors entirely, and how to pay the bills between filmmaking ventures. In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive became the depository for Davidson’s original prints, and made a 35mm restoration of his film “Help, My Snowman’s Burning Down,” which will be shown in this session. The Academy’s Brian Meacham, who was responsible for much of the restoration, will speak on the Academy’s evaluation of Davidson’s work, and discuss the Academy’s restoration process. The moderator for the panel will be Geoff Alexander from the Academic Film Archive of North America, who coordinated the digitization and internet access of several of his films (Davidson’s webpage can be viewed at www.afana.org/davidsoncarson.htm ) Attendees will learn how an independent filmmaker goes about ensuring that one’s films actually reach an audience, how they ultimately attract the interest of organizations such as the Academy, and how they’re resurrected from a lack of distribution through the internet. Davidson's story is unique: an uncompromising filmmaker working outside the boundaries of formal sponsorship. His story and films will be excitingly new to attendees unfamiliar with his work, and of importance and value to archivists considering the work of independent filmmakers in their own collections.
On the program
Geoff Alexander's attendance at the conference was generously funded by Arts Council Silicon Valley