Bill Creston

Initially a painter during the 1950's and 60's, Bill Creston discovered video as an inexpensive way to make sound films, pioneering that medium in 1969, and initiating programs at Cooper Union and The School of Visual Arts. In 1976, he began working in Super-8 sound film, and operating the only full-service Super-8 sound studio in NYC throughout the 90's. By 2003, nine of his narrative and collaged films had been shown at The Museum of Modern Art, twelve at Anthology Film Archives. Currently, Creston is co-director of eMediaLoft.org, which helps artists realize their projects, particularly in video. He has resumed painting while he explores digital technology.

Filmmaker/Videomaker Artist's Statement

In 1968 I decided to make movies. I had been a painter showing on 10th Street and on Madison Ave. for twenty years and had found myself becoming restless. I owned an 8mm Brownie Hawkeye silent camera and saw no reason why I couldn't make a feature film. With that camera, then soon with the brand new technology of CV, then AV black and white Video, which had the advantage of sound, I began to explore my city and my brain. In 1975, I bought a Nizo Super-8 camera, a tape recorder and a sound projector, switching back to film again, now able to work in sound and color. At first I collaged collected footage I shot and sound elements I composed and played on synthesizer or snatched from radio or surreptitiously recorded eavesdropping. In the late 1980's I created narratives, which I got my friends to act in, like they had in my AV videos. I had resisted transferring my Super-8 films to video, making about a half-dozen prints of each instead, because I preferred the warm look and large screen, but when I acquired digital video technology in 2000 and saw how good DVD projection can look, I re-thought. I began to digitize (and make a few new snips here and there in) early films from the original footage and fullcoat, pleased with the clarity, subtlety and rich color the prints had lacked. The screenplay I'm writing now, I plan to shoot in digital with my Canon GL-1. I've always worked with the lowest technology that would achieve my goals so that I could afford to own my own equipment, and could do almost everything myself, just like painting, which I began again in 2001, while working on the new script.

CRESTON, Bill (6 March 1932). Initially a painter, he was among the first aspiring film-makers to recognize that the technology of black and white video, introduced in the late 1960s, was a less expensive medium for producing moving images. Creston was early in teaching video around New York City and was, he thinks, among the first to keep a video journal (whose tape, alas, did not survive subsequent decades as well as handwritten pages). In the mid-1970s, he turned to another new medium, Super-8 sound color film, which was a gauge much cheaper than the 16 millimeter stock used by most independent filmmakers (or the 35mm. used in Hollywood), while it offered color at a time when, remember, videotape capable of recording in color was far more expensive than the standard black-and-white. "I chose Super-8 becase it was possible to make complete color sound films entirely on my own. The price of all the equipment, mostly used, was so low that I could purchase all of it myself from the receipts of taxi-driving in the City." Although this alternative film medium never became popular, it did have credibility├│at least as measured by screenings at major museums and occasional festivals around the world. Early into less expensive new media, Creston also pioneered another low-cost contemporary form. In 1969, as he recalls: I made a piece called Construction Site, which was meant to blend so well into the real world as to become a part of it, and not be noticed as anything special, obtrusive as it might be. I bought lumber, traffic-marking-yellow paint, special blinking lights, and other materials. I built a fake construction site, including an obviously fake hole, installing it on 6th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets, in front of a vacant store. It was up for weeks, and several times protected by the police, who supplemented my materials with barricades. Reflecting 1960s ideals of meshing art with life and of making art available to a public larger than well-heeled collectors, Construction Site also echoed Creston's films and videos in a fascination with New York City street life. Films: Open 7 Days a Week, 24 Hours a Day. New York: Bill Creston (463 West St., A-628, New York, NY 10014-2035), 1976; Six Short Films. New York: Bill Creston, 1976; Ola: A Film by Her Father. New York: Bill Creston, 1977; / Saw Where You Was Last Night. New York: Bill Creston, 1984; Garbage, Etc. New York; Bill Creston, 1991; Lunch Hour. New York: Bill Creston, 1996; Duets. New York: Bill Creston, 1996. Videotapes: Bert Lahr. New York: Bill Creston, 1969; Video Journal (and European Journal). New York: Bill Creston, 1970-75; Newsdealer. New York: Bill Creston, 1972; Urinals. New York: Bill Creston, 1974.
- Richard Kostelanetz, Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes (2002)

Films