When filmmaker Avery Willard didn’t use the penname Bruce King, he developed his films under the title of Ava-Graph Films. These pieces weren’t for commercial use, they were the kind of art he would create in his apartment specifically targeted for a small audience, then tucked away in a box until now. This coming weekend, In Search of Avery Willard will screen with a rare full program of Willard films, Unveiling Avery Willard, at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, January 26th and 27th. More…
IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD
The process of researching IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD was as unique as it was daunting. These days, documentation is more or less inevitable, and access is often a simple Google search away. In the case of Avery, we began with three cardboard boxes of decaying film and a few scribbled phone numbers. It was essentially an old fashioned detective story, filled with countless mysteries, dead ends, and a few precious breakthroughs. One of those breakthroughs came when our historical consultant – drag historian and NYU professor, Joe Jeffreys – introduced us to Agosto Machado.
Best known for his illustrious career as a performer at La MaMa and legend of the New York City experimental theater scene, Agosto has worked with everyone from Jackie Curtis to Candy Darling. A font of knowledge about the history of queer art, we turned to Agosto for some insight into the work, personality and motivations of Avery Willard.
Ira Sachs & Cary Kehayan: So when did you first get on stage?
Agosto Machado: All the time. I just thought I was blessed to attend these events, see all of these marvelous performers, and I never thought I could cross the footlights. I don’t sing, dance or act, and I just feel so blessed to have worked with all these people: Jack Smith, Ethyl Eichelberger of The Play-House of the Ridiculous, the Hot Peaches, the Cockettes, The Angels of Light, and so forth and so on. But truly, I don’t really do much.
But you do something. You get on stage and you…how would you describe it?
I perform. I don’t act, sing or dance, you know? I make believe, I pretend.
The ISOAW team would like to express gratitude to the generous contributors who made our Kickstarter fundraiser a huge success. It’s been less than three weeks since our world premiere and the film has already screened at FOUR international film festivals on two coasts! The response has been simply overwhelming thus far. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to share and connect with such dynamic audiences around the country. Thanks to your Kickstarter contributions, we are able to continue our journey with upcoming screenings at the Connecticut Film Festival (July 1), Philadelphia QFest (July 14) and Outfest 2012 in Los Angeles (July 15 & 17).
IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD will have its official New York Premiere at UnionDocs this Tuesday, June 19 at 8:30 pm as part of L Magazine’s 2012 Northside Festival. The screening is presented by Outfest and Newfest, and will precede the feature documentary DZI CROQUETTES about a groundbreaking Brazilian theater & dance group. Much of the ISOAW team will be present for a Q&A following the films! More…
We are thrilled to announce that IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD, shot concurrently and and featured in KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, will have it’s New York premiere at the 2012 Northside Festival in Brooklyn and will join KTLO at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco and Outfest in Los Angeles! Check out our current festival lineup below for a complete list of dates and ticket info.
Our team can’t wait to bring ISOAW to a theater near you, but we need your support now more than ever. There are only a few days left of our Kickstarter campaign and we need a final boost to reach our fundraising goal before this Thursday, June 7th! Many thanks to the amazing, generous backers who have gotten us this far!
Exciting news!! IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD has officially wrapped post-production and will begin touring festivals this summer! Produced concurrently and in partnership with KEEP THE LIGHTS ON, this companion documentary short chronicles the life and work of one of queer art’s most fascinating and elusive innovators.
We are proud to announce that IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD will have it’s official world premiere at the 2012 New Jersey International Film Festival! The festival will take place from June 1-17, and ISOAW will premiere on Sunday, June 10th at 7:00pm in Vorhees Hall on the Rutgers University campus. For details and ticket information, click HERE.
Many more exciting festival announcements are on the way, and we are so grateful to have the opportunity to finally share this film with the world. However, in order to do so, WE NEED YOUR HELP!
We’re in the homestretch, but this final leg – the distribution phase – requires funding for travel and exhibition materials that exceeds our micro production budget. Today marks the launch of our 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds for our festival tour. We are asking YOU to help IN SEARCH OF AVERY WILLARD reach audiences around the world by making a donation. As a token of our gratitude, we are offering a variety of unique rewards for contributors.
Watch our Kickstarter video above and CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION!
Please help us spread the word by re-posting the campaign link on social media and sharing with family and friends. On behalf of the entire ISOAW team, thank you in advance for your generosity and support!
Director, In Search of Avery Willard
The following clip is taken from Avery Willard’s 1966 experimental short, Reflections, starring Paul Ritchards. Here we see Willard’s keen implementation of double exposure, a recurring technique in his film work. As the camera moves elegantly across Ritchards’ body, abstract, superimposed images of New York City drift in and out of frame. The urban landscape begins to align with the landscape of the male physique. Provocative and hypnotic, Reflections calls to mind the mid-60s work of fellow avant-garde filmmakers like Kenneth Anger, Bruce Baillie, Tom Chomont, and many others.
In our last posting on Avery Willard, we spoke with the legendary drag performer Adrian about his friendship with Willard. This week, we turn to Amanda Hammett, one of the members of the hard-working team helping to put together In Search of Avery Willard. In the following post, Amanda gives us a little more background on Willard’s talents as a photographer and how he was seen by the photography community at the time. She also shares four astonishing shots of female impersonators from Willard’s never-before-seen collection. Here’s Amanda…
We were overwhelmed when we attempted to highlight Avery’s photographic work. The New York Public Library has ten boxes of his photos. As we started to examine the work, we noticed that Avery’s reputation as a master of the portrait was well earned – and he earned his income from it – most notably for stars on Broadway. But he didn’t stop there, moving from actors to friends, ad models to female impersonators to animals.
In one of our interviews for the documentary, photographer John Cox, who was Avery’s friend and collaborator, reflected on Avery’s work: More…
The story of Salome, the femme fatale who danced for the head of John the Baptist, has long been a source of fascination to scholars and artists. When Henry Arango saw a production of Salome at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1965, his first thought was, “Hell, I could be Salome.” In those days, Arango was one of the bright stars of the legendary East Village underground drag nightclub the Club 82 after emigrating from Castro’s Cuba in 1956. Arango performed under the stage name “Adrian” and was always seeking inspiration for production numbers to entertain the highbrow crowds who would descend into the 4th Street lair (now the location of the Bijou Sex Theater) to watch the glamorous, show-stopping female impersonators. When the cast was booked into a show in Florida, Arango went to work on the Salome number and mentioned it to his friend, filmmaker Avery Willard. Willard thought the duo should make it into a film. Thus begat the one and only filmed collaboration between Arango and Willard, Salome and the Dance of the Seven Veils, a 10-minute color film that remained in Arango’s possession, unwatched until many, many years later when drag scholar Joe Jeffreys presented it for an admiring audience at one of his Drag Show Video Verite screenings. Director Ira Sachs and documentarian Cary Kehayan, who are working on In Search of Avery Willard, a documentary about the forgotten gay experimental filmmaker, headed to Arango’s home in Astoria to talk about the film, Arango’s friendship with Willard, and what it was like being a gay man in New York in the ’50s and ’60s.
Ira Sachs & Cary Kehayan: When were you born?
Adrian: I wasn’t born. I was created, because I’m a goddess.
But you left Cuba in ’56, right? How did you get from Cuba to Miami?
I had a friend of mine who actually was gay and who worked at the American Embassy. And I said, “I have to get out of here.” I was working at a nightclub called Montmartre. It was a beautiful penthouse club with a bar and an elevator that opened up into this huge space. But Castro, I think, uh—There were a couple of guys with machine guns and they wanted to kill a couple of people there, and they did, they killed a couple extra people who were there. So they closed the place.
Were you there every night?
There had never been a female impersonator. But they created a whole themed show about Madame du Barry. They made me a huge contraption with a powdered wig and all that. And they had a line of eight boys who actually gave me a hard time because they didn’t want to back-up a drag queen. Though there were no drag queens. They were called “impersonators.” But we did it. The show lasted a week because they killed these guys and then my friend said, “I think it’s time for you to leave.” Already I had an audition at the Club 82. Two friends of mine who were working there got me an audition. I arrived. Got the job. Met Avery Willard in the club—he was one of the customers—and we were friends for many years. More…
This week in our quest to understand the life and work of Avery Willard, Cary Kehayan, the co-director of the documentary In Search Of Avery Willard explains how the project came to pass, how it relates to Keep The Lights On, and what intruiges him about this unusual but exciting endeavor.
It’s a great privilege to share with you the work of the late Avery Willard. Avery wore many hats – photographer, filmmaker, writer, editor, leatherman, pornographer. He was a creator in the truest sense. Ambitious, elusive and prolific, he was an unsung trailblazer of the queer art world. The work of innovators like Avery is what drove me to become a documentarian. I’ve always felt that a good doc filmmaker is, first and foremost, a disciplined and acute observer – one who isn’t afraid to take the side streets and embrace each tangent along the way. The process requires a tremendous amount of movement and obsession and perseverance. There’s a lot of joy but even more frustration and heartbreak. And yet, every once in a while, there is a discovery filled with such promise, it gives you the shivers. This was the case with Avery. More…