Bret Wood's Efforts and Exploits

An updated guide to film and DVD work.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

TEAROOM in Atlanta

A while back I blogged about William Jones's Tearoom, which is a video art piece comprised of the Mansfield, Ohio police surveillance footage of gay sex in a public restroom in 1962. Tearoom will be featured in this year's Whitney Biennial.

But prior to that, it is being presented in Atlanta at Eyedrum, Friday 2/22 at 8:00 pm, with Jones in attendance.

Click here for info.

Having seen the footage, I can attest to the fact that it is a powerful and unsettling viewing experience. I have never watched it with an audience... in total silence... and I'm anxious to see how it plays in this context. This is not the kind of thing that will be released on DVD, and Jones only wants to screen it when he can be in attendance. So this is pretty much the only chance you'll have to see Tearoom, and I heartily encourage you to come out and see it with me.

Due to the explicit content of the film, it is recommended for adults only. The footage was used as evidence in court, resulting in one-year prison sentences for virtually everyone who appears on screen, so it is fairly explicit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


The three-DVD Houdini box set I've been producing for the past year is finally done.

It doesn't hit the streets until April 8, but here is a trailer I cut to help promote the package:

I curated the films, designed the packaging and menus, and wrote a detailed essay on Houdini's film career (which may be posted on Kino's website at a later date).

Friday, February 08, 2008

Standing up and speaking

To the Atlanta contingent -- thought I'd mention that I'm going to be making a couple of personal appearances in the next few days, in case anyone wants to come out, meet and greet.

On Sunday Feb. 10, at 6:30 pm, I'm presenting a handful of short films at the monthly meeting of The Woman's Angle, the organization I helped form a year ago as a means of encouraging women filmmakers in the Atlanta area. Every month they have someone come in and present some films for discussion -- sort of fueling people's inspiration while they finish their scripts and get ready to shoot their shorts. I won't be showing anything of my own. Instead, I've chosen four of my favorite shorts from years gone by (1904, 1928, 1965 1995), to address the topic of mood and tone. From the TWA promotional machine:

"More Than Meets the Eye"
There should always be more to a film than what the viewer sees on screen. A film should cast a spell that lingers in the mind long after the screening has ended. Bret Wood presents a selection of short films that demonstrate how enigmatic visuals and unanswered narrative questions can deepen a film's sense of mystery and atmosphere.

Then on Tuesday, 2/12 the Dailies Project is having a screening of Psychopathia at Push Push Theater in Decatur. It may (or may not) be preceded by a screening of my rarely-seen Dailies short Smut.

From the Dailies publicity machine:

The Second Tuesday of every month, from 7:30pm - 10:30pm,
PushPush Theater and Dailies host Feature screenings.

These small intimate screenings allow filmmakers to discuss their work
and film enthusiasts to speak directly with the filmmakers.

Tuesday, February 12th at Push Push Theater


PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS was an attempt to make a feature film in the style and structure of a medical text. It presents case histories of various sexual dysfunctions in a cold and clinical style -- assuming the perspective of a Victorian scientist. But as the stories unfold, the case studies start feeling like characters, and begin to pry their way out of these scientifically arranged boxes. Upon its theatrical release, the film was often maligned for its eclectic structure and its refusal to titillate the viewer with conventionalized erotica. Since its DVD release, however, PSYCHOPATHIA has gained a loyal international following and been deemed "A triumph..."

"A sinuous interweaving of four case studies and other interludes, this remarkably mature and beautifully photographed debut asserts its own voice (familiar from Wood's documentaries), while balancing fresh cinematic techniques with silent influences and devices (such as iris shots), and Krafft-Ebing's clinical texts with much-needed warmth and empathy. Unlike the pastiche-like ways in which silent imagery is manifest in, for example, Guy Maddin's fine work, Wood's absorption of such techniques evinces a broader range of familiarity and more organic expression. He rarely gives us shots that 'quote' or recreate the great silent masters; instead, he and DP David Bruckner present images those masters might have shot, had they somehow assimilated the last 80 years of cinematography." (SIGHT AND SOUND, UK)

The making of PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS was a direct result of my involvement in Dailies. It was while working on my first short, NOT LOVE (produced for the Dailies project set in Piedmont Park), that I met Tracy Martin, who produced and acted in PSYCHOPATHIA. The spirit of cooperation and idealism that fueled so many Dailies projects was what gave me the confidence to undertake a feature project on such limited resources. The cast of the PSYCHOPATHIA is a veritable who's who of Dailies actors circa 2002. PSYCHOPATHIA could not have been made without the dedication and talent of so many members of the Atlanta film community, and I am grateful to Dailies for its high ideals and boundless enthusiasm. (BRET WOOD -

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Esper Legacy Continues

Alright, I know that to most of my readers, this isn't going to mean a heckuva lot, but to some of us, it's pretty serious business.

I have an intense interest in a handful of historic film figures, the main one being exploitation filmmaker Dwain Esper. I few years ago I edited a volume of three of his screenplays and compiled as much historical information as could be gathered:

I also produced a DVD of two of his films for Kino:

When I interviewed his family members, they said Esper had produced low-budget Westerns with sound in the late 1920s. However, there was no indication in any historical index that Esper produced anything prior to 1932's The Seventh Commandment. Esper's daughter had a family scrapbook with photos of Esper with his sound truck on location, but she didn't know the name of any of the films.

Then, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from Richard Harrison via MySpace. He somehow came into possession of a pressbook that settles the matter once and for all:

You won't find it on IMDB, or in the AFI Catalog of Films. But here it is -- proof positive. Esper's daughter, Millicent, used to talk about how Tom Mix would pick her up and let her sit in the saddle. I couldn't imagine Esper making a Tom Mix film... and Harrison's find also explains how this anecdote was true -- except for one minor detail.

Inside the pressbook is this bombastic pronouncement:

"Mutual congratulations are in order between the ART
MIX series of pictures and Dwain A. Esper. To the
first for securing Mr. Esper as a releasing medium
for their product and to the second for securing so good
a product to release."

To which Richard added, "I hold serious doubts about 'the second.'"

So there it is, folks, a piece of the 80-year-old puzzle has been found. Heartfelt thanks to Mr. Harrison for sharing the information with me.