"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan


Dennis Nyback takes his films around the world. Find out how to book a show, what programs are available, how to arrange for custom programming, and just about anything you would like to know about Dennis Nyback.

An Interview from Many Years Ago

In 2003 I was contacted by a writer in Boston named John Chilson about being interviewed 
for a magazine he had created.  I never saw the printed interview and the web magazine is gone.
I corrected a couple of spellings and got rid of odd formatting garbage but did not 
edit any of the questions or answers. It is sort of snapshot of the time. 
All of John's writing is in italics. 
 
Yikes. I never e-mailed you my questions. I thought I
had, but was cleaning out my e-mail at the end of the
year. So, if you still want to answer them for
schlockmagazine.com that'd be swell!

I read other interviews with you with similar
questions I was going to ask, so I hope these won't be
TOO repetitive for you??

JC

Dear John;

Forgive me for the tardy reply.  I am in Kiel, Germany.  I've shown two of my   
film programs here (last night and the night before) and will show the third tomorrow.  
I'll be back in New York on the fifteenth. Here are some answers to your questions.

1.    I can kick myself for not going around to various
libraries and schools and asking for their old films
when they were throwing them out when video was coming
into fashion. [Not that I do anything with them.]
Anyhow, I read in one of your interviews that many
times you just walked into a place and asked for
films being thrown out? Where do you get films from
these days? Is Ebay an option?

Yes, Ebay is now a primary source.  I still drop into junk stores and ask.   
People give me films. Yesterday I stopped at a store and asked about films.  
They said they would bring one in today that I could have for five bucks.  
It is German and from the fifties, probably a half hour long.  I'll be over there soon.      

2.     Does Portland know how lucky it is to have such an
awesome theater as the Clinton Street Theatre?
Seriously, here in Boston we have a few theaters that
seem to show the same old stuff, such as Reefer
Madness at some midnight screening. [Ooooh, how
daring!] Can you describe a typical showing at the
Clinton? Is it a weekly thing? Daily? What kinds of
audiences do you get?     

The Clinton is a jewel.  I am no longer connected with it except I can still  
 occasionally show my films there.  There is no typical show or crowd.  The  
 programming is all over the map and crowds range from very small to almost  
 filling the place.  There has not been a sellout for several months.  It is  
open daily.  Some of my programs played for up to two week runs or for only  
one night.  One of the programs I have here is called Hillbillies in Hollywood,  
It is music shorts, mostly Soundies, from 1927 to 1964. I showed it
for one night at the Clinton and over two hundred people packed the place.  It ran 
over four hours.  I then did a two and half hour version at the Experience Music   
Project in Seattle.  The version I'm showing here is a streamlined 90 minutes.     

3.   So, you started out in Seattle then moved to NYC,
then came back to Portland? Why Portland?     

I grew up in Portland. My family (on my mother's side) arrived by boat in   
1843 and founded the city.  They came from Portland, Maine.  The main reason  
I came back here was to save the Clinton Street which was slated to close.  
I also needed to get out of NYC as it was too difficult to pay for an apartment  
there.  I am moving back to NYC now. I will concentrate on writing and 
touring with my films.     

4.     In your interview on the kulture-void Website, you
mentioned you stopped listening to the radio in 1973
[you ain't missing anything]. I have a pal who is
adamant about never watching films made after the
early 70s. He's pretty serious about this. What are
some of your current movie faves? Do you pay attention
to what's being churned out by Hollywood these days?
Do you show current indie films?

I don't own a TV.  I read newspapers for information.  I do go to movies.    
In Portland I get in free.  I walk out on about half of them.  Did you read  
 my article Hollywood Garbage and How to Smell It?  It is at othercinema.    
Here in Germany I watched Gangs of New York (dubbed into German).  It was 
so-so. I did stay to the end.  In Kobenhaven I watched The Navigators and The  
Man Without a Past (in Finnish with Danish sub-titles).  They were both   
excellent.  I haven't seen any of the Oscar candidates except Gangs.  I think  
the Oscars are hogwash.     

5.    Have you ever thought of doing some sort of
traveling show across the country? Ever been to Europe
to screen films? If so, were they more appreciative?
The reason I ask, was there was a screening here a
couple years ago of groovy opening titles [Saul Bass,
etc.] and the audience was HOWLING with laughter at
some of the stuff. Pissed me off. I was chatting with
the curator afterwards and he mentioned that he
screened the same show in Germany, and each one
practically got a standing ovation from the audience.
Is there more an appreciation over there than there
is here?

Oh, I thought you knew about my European travels.  This is my seventh tour   
of Europe.  They started in 1995.  I think there are appreciative audiences  
 everywhere.  For the offbeat stuff there just aren't enough odd balls to s  
support most venues.  I have that Saul Bass film.  I think it's great. European  
audiences are a little more solemn than Americans.  I think they appreciate  
the fun of the films but also are there for the educational aspect.    
America has much less funding for the arts.  Getting guarantees there for my 
film shows is hard.  That is only at funded operations such as Yerba Buena 
Center for the Arts in SF and Simon's Rock College in Great Barrington,  
 Mass.  The best film town for old films is Paris, but I've never shown my   
films there in regular theaters like I have in other European cities.      

6.    Public domain. How do you get around it? Is it
possible to screening and ask for
donations or something?

I try not to worry about the copyright police knocking at my door. There is  
no getting around it by making it a "free" screening.  It also wouldn't pay  
enough.   For the hotter titles that the copyright holders try to suppress  
I ask that venues do not mention specific titles.  Before the internet I   
didn't have to worry at all, except in high profile venues.

Thanks for taking the time to answer. Also, would you
have any photos, artwork,  or posters of upcoming
shows I could add with the interview?     

Yes I have photos and art work.  I won't have access to most of it until I  
I'm again in Portland in June.  Right now you could grab stuff off of the we  
Best Wishes

Dennis

 

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