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FS: When we were filming Dope, Geno had been dead for only a couple of months, so his death was still fresh in many people's recent memories. In that sense, it's important as well as in the way we use it. Of course, we knew that the specifics would be shocking but a shock seemed needed. Using this recounting of his death at that point in the story became sequentially logical in that it was the right mood at that moment.


The "scene" at that time in London wasn't really so permeated with heroin as it was to become later on in the '70s. This was still after all the psychedelic ’60s. The Geno story therefore is also almost prophetic or prescient. It sort of underwrites the whole story of drugs in these two decades –how the exultation of the psychedelic revelation gave way to the heroin vibration, and apparently (according to another friend who was around in London in the ‘70s) this was especially so in London. The fact that this change would occur was of course not consciously known to us. Nonetheless the story (of Geno's death) felt important –and pivotal. It changes the mood of the film. After that we see Caroline spiralling downward. Everyone is seen after that point through the sobering awareness of death and time.


create a timeless quality, so that the movie Dope is almost a musical composition.


The editing was a whole other process. One of the best times of our life really in that we managed a true and inspired collaboration, knowing that we had no actual structure, and somehow following a thread of consciousness-energy, and finding a way to make the transition from one scene to another, often by means of the soundtrack.


Sheldon and I were always aware of form and breaking free of expectations - to a new "look." The "look" of Dope (unfortunately to be seen in its beauty maybe only in the original 16mm) is partly what it's all about. That and the "sound" of it. We were conscious of "breaking new ground", and that we were being "subversive". Sheldon and I were never outside documentarians but always proceeded from the sense of creating art which means from within.


SD: The editing is rapid throughout and, accompanied by a multi-layered soundtrack, vies for the attention of our processing faculties. In some senses, we become


SD: What was the connection with DA Pennebaker? How did he become part of the Dope story?


FS: When we arrived back in New York with our footage, we needed to find funding to edit. We managed to connect with Leacock-Pennebaker Inc. which was Ricky Leacock and Don Pennebaker who were not only documentary film-makers but had a distribution company at the time. Since they had done Don’t Look Back (’66) and Monterey Pop (’67), on the basis of a tiny edited segment that we showed them, they and the business guy David McMillan, felt that Dope would be suitable for their distribution. Ricky Leacock especially liked the movie and said that it was 10 years (at least) ahead of its time. Anyway, we signed a distribution contract with them, they paid for the editing and they agreed to blow it up to 35mm and to arrange and pay for music permissions. Editing was done in perfect circumstances in a country house and studio in Western New Jersey that we'd rented. Not too much later, the distribution arm of Leacock-Pennebaker went bankrupt and the original of Dope was literally as I understand it (having been told years later) "lost on the cutting room floor."


SD: What did you do after Dope?


SD: As well as the presence of Geno throughout, we are also occasionally reminded of Vali Myers as she makes brief appearances. It seems fitting that she does so given her importance as an impetus in the creation of the film. Were you consciously bringing us back to her throughout the film?


FS: Yes. Vali exists in the film as a shamanic presence –she appears as a being on another level –which she was. When she appears it's as if a quiet buzz occurs. So, her brief appearances serve to catalyse or underscore some change, some mood. She's a figure of freedom who punctuates the movie; her appearances are reminders of that consciousness, just as the appearances of needles puncturing arms are also punctuation of another sort. So, she can also be seen as a formal device in the construction of the film.


SD: Much of what you’ve said about Dope has been in its social context, as a document of a point in time. In filmic terms, what were your and Sheldon's ambitions at that time? Were you seeking to help to evolve the language of film and its potential to convey meaning?


FS: Yes, absolutely. Both Sheldon and I had watched many, many movies. Sheldon especially was knowledgeable about film history, and we both were quite conscious of "the language of film." We were perhaps trying to use images moving through time to


overwhelmed by the amount of visual and audio stimulation that we are receiving which could be said to mirror the drug experience. Was this part of the intention of the film?


FS: Yes. Maybe "mirror" is not quite the word. I don't know... "replicate" perhaps. Dope's intention is to be dope - to overwhelm so that one uses another part of the mind/senses to process it all. However, it's not just the fast stuff but the slow stuff where it feels as if nothing at all is happening, in other words, an altered tempo in general was part of the drug experience intention of the film. And this presupposed the same frame of reference from the audience as well. There are scenes where not much at all appears to be happening, a blessed nothingness as it were.... an "opening" into another realm and this too is important.


We wanted Dope to say everything. We wanted it to speak for a whole subculture generation - to express a unified point of view that we all shared. And in essence this was sort of a mystical magical unitary point of view. And, of course, we never said this to each other or to ourselves in so many words because it was simply one of our bedrock assumptions. So, yes, of course Dope is in a way very romanticised, but that's probably because it's not exactly a documentary; it's more or less an extended music video and also an anthem for a consciousness.


FS: Norman Mailer liked the "look" the style of Dope so much that he hired both Sheldon and me to be part of his camera team for the movie Maidstone (’70) which he was shooting, hoping that we could imbue it with the same stylish look, but I don't think that we managed to do so. Sheldon and I got a video camera in ’69, using (actually mis-using) a grant from The American Film Institute which was supposed to be used to make a film and not buy video equipment... but we were very taken by the new technology and its totally new way of "seeing." We participated in the fantasy of guerrilla TV and acid in the drinking water at least on a humorous level for a moment anyway. Sheldon went on to found a video distribution company specialising in spiritual and what he called the "human potential movement" videos, and I went on finally to do video art as you can see on my website. If you look at Dope and then look at my present work you will see a progression of the same sensibility, a continuity from then to now even though the subject matter, the content, is very different. A point of view, a certain "eye" is carried through and developed over a lifetime. So, perhaps this can place Dope in context not only historically but also within my own "oeuvre", which continues even now.


SD: After years of obscurity and the occasional special screening, you have made Dope available through your website. What other plans do you have for the film?


FS: I have now in my possession a D1 transfer made in ’97 from a pristine original print which itself needs to be transferred in order to preserve it. If anyone out there Is into helping to preserve this movie as film and as tape, as historical document and as part of film history as well I would really welcome help to do this. So, there's a pitch (for something worthwhile)…


My sincere thanks to Flame Schon for her assistance with this article and also for providing the images accompanying it.


Dope is available from www.dopethemovie.net


Find out more about Flame Schon’s current projects at www.reconfiguration.net and Vali Myers (1930-2003) at www.valimyers.com. Information about Geno Foreman from Baby, Let Me Follow You Down: The Illustrated Story of the Cambridge Folk Years (by Eric Von Schmidt and Jim Rooney) can be viewed at books.google.com


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