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Save Film at LACMA, Michael Govan plan to meet

August 12, 2009 |  5:00 am

Michael Govan First, President Obama held the “beer summit” with Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Police Sgt. James Crowley. Now the founders of Save Film at LACMA are planning a “popcorn summit” with Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan, who recently made the controversial decision to cancel the institution’s 40-year-old weekend film series.

Journalist and marketing consultant Debra Levine (who has done freelance writing for The Times) and corporate publicist Kathleen Dunleavy — both dedicated film aficionados — are spearheading Save Film at LACMA. They said the advocacy group held a meeting Saturday with movie buffs and scholars to discuss ways to persuade Govan to restore the film program, which has screened both classic and contemporary fare from Hollywood and international filmmakers.

On Monday, they e-mailed Govan a letter requesting a meeting. He agreed to sit down with members of the group, although a date and time have not been set, according to a museum spokesperson.

In their letter to Govan, they stated their objectives: “how critical the LACMA film program is for

our community; help find ways to reinstate and enhance the museum’s commitment to film; and present you with our petition.”

LACMA officials have said that the film program has lost about $1 million over the last decade and that attendance at screenings has been declining.

Online reaction to LACMA’s decision to dismantle the film program and relegate its longtime film department head, Ian Birnie, to the status of part-time consultant has been met with outrage and spirited discussion online. About 1,450 people have signed the petition to reinstate the film program at www.thepetitionsite.com, including filmmakers such as John Landis, Paul Schrader and Alexander Payne.

Their Facebook group, “Save Film at LACMA,” has 2,210 members. And Save Film at LACMA put a music video Monday on YouTube based on Bob Dylan’s classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

The museum has launched its own electronic forum for discussion.

Several critics have also voiced their displeasure and concern over the closing of the film department, including Richard Schickel and The Times’ Kenneth Turan.

In an interview with The Times last week, Govan said that “donors have begun to step forward” to underwrite the film program, but he declined to mention specific names or dollar amounts. According to a museum spokesperson, as of Tuesday no money had been donated. Govan had said he was planning to meet with potential donors this week.

Currently, the museum plans to shut down the weekend film program after its Alain Resnais retrospective scheduled for Oct. 2-17, leaving only its Tuesday matinees and special screenings tied to art exhibitions.

--Susan King

Caption: Michael Govan. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (2)


As a New Yorker here's my letter to LACMA concerning their film program of 08-06-09 I sent to Govan & LACMA others, etc., & a part of their response today.

Advancing a new vision & purpose for LACMA's Film Department

Perhaps this can help. If LACMA's film program related more to the visual arts LACMA's audiences would surely increase commensurately. My archive of primary art openings of the NYC art world I covered for almost 20 years would accomplish that by forging a new link & giving renewed purpose/ meaning to LACMA's film program. I've uniquely filmed them -- not for hire but as art world insider -- starting with Leo Castelli's Gallery throughout the early 90's & consistently on to galleries like Gagosian, Pace, Deitch, etc., plus press openings at the major museums & major alternative spaces & other pivotal art world events including overview talks of the art world's evolution by art world leaders that even MoMA has come to describe as unique & world class. It's the ongoing evolution of the whole ball of wax, a sort of ambitious visual mega-narrative also incorporating insights from artists, dealers & collectors -- often filled with wit, charm & liveliness -- also giving a sense of how things related & derived from each other even across art movements. 

Although a year long negotiation with MoMA failed -- this is what LACMA needs in order to sustain a crucial unique arts related research film program that curators from around the world besides the ever more interested art public would be increasingly attracted to. It's the only thing possible in reconstructing things outside of a time machine. In our increasingly multimedia age it's also an advanced relational data base of contextual & interrelation meaning & personalized sense of art world life & entertainment just as things actually unfolded. It includes most all of LACMA's artists in their sometimes multiple NYC shows which will give further new meaning, long range purpose & justification to your film program by enormously enhancing the meaning of the art itself -- & a sense of the dynamic inspiring creative personalities within it for posterity. A feature film like no other can come from it. A detailed breakdown is available on request. Please convey this to any film group/ company/ foundation that may have interest. 

Bill Rabinovitch
Director of a new indie feature film about Pollock


Here below is part of the letter sent to me today by LACMA's Alvaro G. Vásquez that has just mentioned including artist made films -- which mine certainly are:

"Film has been and will continue to be an integral part of LACMA’s public program.  We hope to develop a more sustainable financial foundation for the program and to widen the offerings to include artist-made films, more industry forums and filmmaker discussions, and to continue to present the artform from the classic to contemporary."
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to your concerns, and please be assured that your comments and suggestions will be taken into consideration as we re-examine the future of our film program. 

Alvaro G. Vásquez
Associate Vice President of Membership
and Onsite Services
Membership and Development
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA  90036

Over the last three years, LACMA has done a horrible job of marketing their film series. The previously would provide a nice film calendar. Now, the series is just lost in the shuffle. On top of that, I have had occasions where I have gone to the LACMA ticket booth to inquire about upcoming screenings (as in two weeks in advance) and LACMA has had no information.

If LACMA doesn't tell people in advance about their screenings, people will not attend. Also, I thoroughly resent Govan's remark about artist-centered films as if cinema in and off itself is not a legitimate art-form.

Finally, if Netflix is sufficient for viewing film, then why isn't a coffee table book sufficient for looking at painting, sculpture, and photography. Based upon Govan's logic, we could just shutdown LACMA all together.

I'm disgusted with Govan.


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