Jonas Mekas has been at the forefront of avant-garde cinema for more than half a decade, and in that time has accrued a wealth of knowledge that few could match. The 93-year-old luminary has condensed some of his insights into 13 precepts for aspiring experimental filmmakers to follow in “Akademie X,” a new book featuring lessons from 36 “tutors” offering advice in their respective fields.
Number four seems one of the most pertinent. “I believe that the two best ways to begin the journey are: one, to work with another filmmaker whose work you admire, and learn the art and craft the way the old Renaissance artists did or two, by acquiring a camera, any camera, and beginning to film/tape as a daily practice.” As with Werner Herzog and countless other filmmakers, Mekas also insists upon the importance of reading — and being discerning about it. “I wouldn’t read the film magazines; they’ve all become very pedestrian. I’d say the same about most of the contemporary books on cinema.” His solution? “Read the early books.”
Mekas also offers more craft-oriented advice, including notes on the tools of the trade (which include an aside hailing Harmony Korine’s “Trash Humpers” as “a masterpiece”) and a rallying cry for actual film. “Please,” he writes, “do not listen to those who say that analogue film is dead and long live the digital technologies! No, no, no!” More on the book here.