The city scene, seen and unseen, real and abstract. The fact without the figure without the fact.

From: Tom Ditto []
To: []
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2000 10:00 AM
Subject: RE: [iota] Bruce Baillie's Castro Street

Dr. T wants to know:

> I find my self wondering if any other list members were inspired by
> this film, (alas now a distant memory, I don't believe I have seen it
> in 25 years).
> Did Baillie do any other works in this vein? Are they available on video.

You could visit
where it is listed in a compilation video (VHS tape #1)

Castro Street is unique in his oevre. If you like the style, you would also like Atmosfear my contemporaneous six minute film. It's also distributed by Canyon Cinema (under Tom DeWitt). In NYC MoMA and NYFilmmaker's Coop distribute it as well, and it used to be possible to borrow a print from the Donnell branch of the NYC Library. I've got a clean print of Atmosfear meant for video conversion, but I'm waiting to get access to a top of the line film2video conversion facility before I subject its sprockets to the test. Hope I find one before the color dyes die.

Bruce Baillie and I met in 1966 when we were both working on these surprisingly similar projects. Another parallel was that we were both working on the problem of marrying image to sound. My problem was so acute that I changed the first answer print title of my film to "Cityscapes", because the silent version failed to convey the feeling that inspired it. Then I got my hands on Don Buchla's first analog audio synthesizer which was housed in a dance studio on Divisadaro Street (which incidentally changes its name to Castro Street as it extends south of Market Street). Using a Siemens projector that had separate tracks for picture and 16mm audio tape, I was able to produce the sound track that had been in my mind as the silent version was being edited. Bruce didn't get nearly as far on that score (no pun intended). I think Castro street is a silent film. Funny, I seem to remember that he had a 16 mm audio tape recorder in his house and was asking me if I could help him get it to work. He lived in the East Bay with his mother. Together they put out The Canyon Cinema News. Not long afterward a group of us including the likes of Larry Jordan, Scott Bartlett, Robert Nelson, and the Bruces Baillie and Conner formed a distribution company for our work. It still exists thanks to the Bruces' relative success in cultivating an audience.

I didn't stop filming cityscapes after Atmosfear, although I had moved from NYC to San Francisco and the nature of the raw imagery changed considerably. I shot one 8mm sequence in San Francisco and tossed it into Atmosfear. Thereafter sequences shot in San Francisco were based on tunnels and found their way into The Leap. But this film was not "atmospheric", that is, with color film serving as the primary means of reproducing color scenes as it is in Bruce's Castro Street or my Atmosfear. Rather, in The Leap everything started as black and white, and I then converted the last section to selected primaries using optical printing. I also used transformations created in video as a way to carve geometries into the camera-recorded film. This was derivative of OFFON, the collaborative film I made with Glenn McKay, Scott Bartlett and others in 1967. Perhaps Castro Sreet was for Bruce what Atmosfear was for me, the work of a student, albeit Bruce had many years under his filmmaking belt when he started Castro Street, and Atmosfear was my first film. However, for both of us I think we felt that it was an interim style, a stepping stone to finding ourselves. Our styles diverged widely afterward, mine toward that art practiced by the iotaquois. Baillie's? He was drawn to narrative filmmaking. He is a very literate fellow.

I guess I could say that Castro Street for Baillie was Divisadaro Street for me. We have moved so far apart after 1966 that many years later when he was teaching at Bard College, a few short miles from my home, we never got together for a visit.

"So many voices,
so few choices."

Visit our website at

"An extraordinary film, which powerfully evokes the feeling of the city, but more important, a film of fine graphic design."

--Lenny Lipton

"Things to Watch For include: the way DeWitt thinks inside his camera, the use of single-frame techniques to enhance certain images, the lens-integrity in zoom and focusing effects (he borrowed Vanderbeek's equipment to make this film), and the moderate use of solarization (re-exposed/negative print) and multiple exposure. There is a lot to be learned from ATMOSFEAR"

--David Buehler
Zellerbach Award for Film as Art 1966;
San Francisco Intemationai Film Festival;
Independent Filmmakers Competition, First Prize, 1971.
Broadcast nationally on the Camera Three program, 1971.

1966, 16mm, color/so, 6m