Sidney Peterson Biography

Sidney Peterson was born in Oakland, California on November 15, 1905. He attended the University of California at Berkeley. He worked as a newspaper reporter during this time for the Monterey Herald.

In the late 1920’s Peterson moved to Paris, France to paint and sculpt. He moved to Southern France in the early 1930’s where he met and married Ruth Bosley, with whom he returned back to Berkeley, California. Shortly after their return Ruth Bosley died leaving Sidney Peterson a widower. A few years later Peterson met Bernice Van Gelder who he married and with whom he moved to San Francisco.

At the end of World War II Peterson founded and ran Workshop 20 at the California School of Fine Arts, which is now called the San Francisco Art Institute. Not only was this the first college program to explore filmmaking as an art, it was the first course to teach filmmaking at all. “Between the years of 1945 and 1950 the Workshop produced five films under Peterson’s guidance that were extremely influential on the burgeoning American avant-garde cinema, and have since become regarded as classics of experimental film and significant artifacts of the San Francisco Renaissance.” (Wikipedia, 1) This term, "The San Francisco Renaissance," refers to the wave of mainly avant-garde poetry that was being written in San Francisco. It became a mecca for the arts starting around the same time Peterson began teaching Workshop 20 in 1947.

In 1950 Peterson co-founded Orbit Films in order to create documentaries. In 1954 Peterson moved to New York City and was hired by The Museum of Modern Art as their Director of Educational Television Production. He stayed in New York for only a year until 1955 when he moved his family, which now also consisted of baby daughter Nora, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was here that Peterson began his novel, A Fly in the Pigment. After a very short stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico Peterson moved his family to Los Angeles, California due to a job working for the United Productions of America as a scriptwriter for an animated series on the lives of historical figures. In early 1957 Peterson took a job with Walt Disney Productions in Los Angeles as a scriptwriter and storyboard artist for Fantasia II. Unfortunately, this project was never completed. After the Fantasia II project was abandoned Peterson returned to San Francisco to finish the novel he had started years earlier. A Fly in the Pigment was finished and published in 1961.

Peterson stayed in San Francisco writing and lecturing for many years until the early 1970’s when he and wife Bernice moved to England. From England they moved back to New York City where he continued to lecture for many years. He made his last recorded film, called Man in a Bubble, with Marjorie Keller in 1981. In 1990 Peterson’s second wife Bernice died leaving him a widower for the second time. He died in New York City on April 24, 2000 at the age of 94 leaving behind his only daughter, Nora and her son, his grandchild, Kevin. They still reside in New York City today.
--Dan Anderheggen, 2006


Canyon Cinema. (2001). Sidney Peterson. Retrieved 26 September 2006 from

The Film-Makers' Cooperative. (n/d). Sidney Peterson. Retrieved 26 September 2006 from

Wikipedia contributors. (2006). Sidney Peterson. Retrieved 26 September 2006 from

Sidney Peterson