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The A-Clip A-List 

A project to splice protest shorts in between mainstream film trailers

Wednesday, Sep 25 2002
A Merry War A German named Klaus Weber, dismayed by the frenzied redevelopment of Berlin that altered his city's character in the mid-'90s, conceived a novel form of protest: He and some friends shot several conceptual short films critiquing gentrification and gave them to projectionists at mainstream cinemas to splice into the mix of trailers and commercials preceding the feature. Weber called them A-clips, and his idea spread to Munich, London, and Los Angeles, where San Francisco filmmaker Sarah Lewison (Fat of the Land) heard about it.

In spearheading the nascent A-clip movement in our city, Lewison has identified different degrees of subversion: Screening an A-clip at the Roxie, for example, would have less power than smuggling one into the Metreon. Lewison concedes that it may be tough to find an ally on the inside at the chain theaters, even though no abetting projectionist has ever been fired in Germany or England. "In this country, projectionists are a lot more disposable, because they don't have to do so much -- they just push a button," she points out. In L.A., the A-clip group avoided the issue by holding a street screening in a parking lot. "It didn't have the same effect," Lewison admits wryly, "which was to co-opt the space of the cinema."

Lewison, who teaches "conceptual strategies" (whatever that is) at S.F. State and documentary production at UC Berkeley Extension, is looking for 10 to 20 individuals -- not necessarily artists or filmmakers -- to commit about 10 weeks to the A-clip venture. The collective will meet biweekly and produce a batch of 30- to 90-second films centering on a single topic. Lewison explains, "They have a cabal to make their cities more attractive for investments, and this is our little cabal. How can we resist? What kind of propaganda can we spread?" Lewison shows the best A-clips from Germany and L.A. and explains her intended project at the Other Cinema on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia; visit

Vincent and Theo "The main thing for me is to work with my hands," says Chris Maybach, "and a movie feels like such a handmade object." The S.F. native's colorful adventures in the film business range from working as an extra in Britain on Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket to editing an action flick in L.A. featuring rocker Mick Fleetwood as a gangster. Along the way, he's made a trio of documentaries about contemporary American artists, with the latest, Art City: A Ruling Passion, spotlighting high-profile painters such as Ed Ruscha and Michael Ray Charles.

Maybach spent the last few years in Los Angeles trying to line up backers for a black comedy about the art world. In frustration, he shelved the feature to make Art City: A Ruling Passion. Maybach admits he was torn between being a fan and being a filmmaker when he was shooting his subjects. "Part of you just wants to chat with this person," he says, "but it's 100 degrees outside in Texas and you're pressing your eye to the eyepiece and you have to hold the camera still." Maybach will be on hand when Art City: A Ruling Passion screens on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. at SFMOMA. Visit or call 357-4000 for details.

What Price Hollywood Former San Francisco theater and film director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld jumped five rungs from no-budget unknown to hip romantic comedy director with last year's Kissing Jessica Stein. Now he's poised to be the next George Cukor -- that is, the favored choice of screen goddesses -- with an assignment to direct Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. ... The Coronet Theatre has at least another year of life on Geary. The Institute on Aging, which purchased the theater more than two years ago with plans to erect a new facility on the site, now says it won't begin construction before October 2003. The Institute continues to lease the theater back to UA. ... Congrats to locals B.Z. Goldberg and Justine Shapiro, who won the 2001 Emmy for Best Documentary for Promises. ... Peter Barbosa and Garrett Lenoir's LGBT-themed short doc, De Colores, a finalist in Showtime's Latino Filmmaker Showcase, airs Wednesday, Sept. 25, on the cable network. ... If your indie auteur friends fail to return your calls this week, don't take it personally. The Sundance Film Fest's deadline for American features is Oct. 4.

About The Author

Michael Fox


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