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Alternative Television:

A Short History of Early Video Activism in Chicago

©Sara Chapman -2005  
Orig. 5/16/04
Rev 1 - 9/03/2005




Alternative Television:

A Short History of Early Video Activism in Chicago










Sara Chapman

BA Thesis


Advisor: Judy Hoffman


Thirty-five years after the introduction of consumer video cameras to American markets, the medium of video is often misunderstood.  Perhaps because of the common perception that advances in video technology involve bringing the video aesthetic closer and closer to that of film, it can appear that the two media are ideologically equivalent and differ only in cost and convenience.  However, much of the work that has been done on video is quite different from that done on film.  In order to get a true sense of the medium, it is important to look back at how video was viewed when it was first introduced.  Video was immediately embraced as a vital tool for activists and brought with it the hope that it could function as a truly democratized media.  While important video work was springing up all over the country throughout the 1970s, Chicago’s videomakers were producing work with its own unique character.  As newsletters and videotapes begin to crumble and deteriorate, the time is ripe to catalog one city’s experiments with a new medium.  This paper will first examine the unique technical possibilities of video and the aesthetic of early alternative videomaking, and then will move more specifically to how these philosophies shaped the history of video activism in Chicago. 


Video: Historical Background and Theory


Today, the role of video within the visual media is relatively established.  However, when it first arrived, there was much sorting out to do.  Consumer video cameras first became available to the public around 1968, with the release of the ½” reel-to-reel Sony Portapak.[1]  Notwithstanding its relative affordability (approximately $1500), the immense importance of the Portapak was due to specific technical qualities that differentiated it from both film and video-based television.

While video was most obviously a less expensive medium to work with than film (due to the cheapness of tape stock and the absence of developing costs), videomakers were more attracted to video for other qualities particular to the new technology.  Of major importance was the fact that video could be played back immediately.  A cameraperson or crew could record a tape and then play it back either in the viewfinder on the site, or for a larger audience through a television set.  This meant that the people being taped could immediately see how they were being represented on the tape.  Editing could be accomplished quickly if necessary through an in-camera edit, which involves recording, rewinding through unwanted footage, and starting taping again at a point that cuts well with the previous footage.  The technique is difficult and requires careful planning, but it does allow the creator(s) to produce a finished tape instantly upon completion of shooting. 

Video had many qualities, besides immediacy, that gave it advantages over film.  Video reels were usually thirty minutes long, which allowed for longer takes.  This meant that it was much more likely that the full length of an event could be recorded without needing to switch reels.[2]  Also important was the fact that the eyepiece did not have to be held to the camera operator’s eye.[3]  This meant that he or she could maintain eye contact with the subject during an interview, only needing to glance in the viewfinder occasionally to check the framing of the shots.  This substantially changed the character of interviews.  The low cost of tapes and the ability to re-record onto them meant that a videomaker did not have to make decisions beforehand about whether an event would be worth documenting.  For these reasons, video was extremely useful in shooting live, unpredictable events and documentaries.  Jim Morrissette explained, “I was shooting documentary films for several years before that [1970], and it was always a struggle, because you had to wait until an event was well under way, decide it was important, and then start shooting film.  With video, you could start shooting and then maybe, if the event happened, great, if not you could rewind and record over it.” [4]  These technical qualities made working with video a practical choice for documentarians or other videomakers who wanted the freedom to record spontaneously.[5]

One major technical problem faced early videomakers, however, which impacted the style and feel of early tapes.  While an in-camera edit was possible without any extra equipment, videomakers who wanted or needed to create a traditionally edited piece were faced with a distinct challenge.  Although the cameras were relatively cheap and easy to acquire, editing facilities were expensive.  Editing had to be done in a linear fashion by recording each section in order on a new tape.  This primitive form of editing was difficult with the reel-to-reel system, as one had to manually wind both reels to the correct spot for each edit.  If an editor missed the precise edit mark, he or she might begin the edit in between two fields of video data, causing an obvious and uneven cut.[6]  Editing was a process that required much time, skill, and equipment.  In the early 1970s, it was financially impossible for most videomakers to purchase to editing equipment, and few places outside of universities (specifically, the Art Institute of Chicago and UIC) even had this equipment.  The result was that many tapes were unedited and made up of a series of long takes.  This shortfall became integral to the feel of the tapes as well as the strategies of the producers.  Deirdre Boyle claims that these editing difficulties actually helped video become part of the process art movements of the time:

Turning the limits of their technology into a virtue, underground videomakers invented a distinctive style unique to the medium…Video’s unique ability to capitalize on the moment with instant playback and real-time monitoring of events also suited the era’s emphasis on ‘process, not product’.  Process art, earth art, conceptual art, and performance art all shared a deemphasis on the final work and an emphasis on how it came to be.  The absence of electronic editing equipment—which discouraged shaping a tape into a finished ‘product’—further encouraged the development of a ‘process’ video aesthetic”. [7] 


As Boyle explains, the formal attributes of the technology combined with the attitudes of the tapemakers to create a unique video style. 

The lack of established precedents in video production and the technical qualities mentioned above interested many radical groups.  The introduction of equipment that was considered easy to use and relatively affordable brought about the feeling that it was a medium that would be more open to women and other disenfranchised groups. Anda Korsts explains:

We know that women have been consistently excluded from any but subsidiary work in television, both on a production and technical level.  The ‘porta-pak’ makes it possible for women to learn the technical skills of television so that they can begin to make programs which directly represent their point of view toward their own problems and accomplishments.  These programs might be addressed only to women, or they might be aimed at everyone.  The point is that we no longer need to rely on the occasional ‘specials’ on rape or divorce or other currently hot media subjects to examine issues of concern to us.  And we no longer need to sit passively while television presents the same male-interpreted face of women to the millions sitting before the television set each night. [8]


Jim Morrissette felt similarly about the sexism of television production:

I took, in college, television studio courses and found them to be very militaristic…Women weren’t allowed to hang lights because they might fall.  I couldn’t deal with it [the sexism].  So, I was much more enthusiastic about portable, personal technology, as I call it, where a person could go out by themselves [sic] or with one other person and produce something worthwhile that could be shown in public and have a point of view.[9]


Because video did not yet have an existing power structure like that of a television or film studio associated with it, disenfranchised groups, like women, felt there were many more opportunities for them to get involved in video. In addition, video collectives often had a practice of teaching video production and distributing equipment, which further opened up video to newcomers.  It was common to refer to video as a democratizing force in the visual media because of its affordability, perceived simplicity of operation, and this lack of formal channels of production.  These associations made the choice to work with video instead of film a distinctly political decision. 

Before the introduction of the Sony Portapak, video had been used exclusively for television. Because of this, many early videographers grappled with the relationship between video and television.  While portable video technology did not have the same resolution as broadcast television cameras, it did have some qualities that enabled it to produce better content.  The key difference between television cameras and the Portapak was size.  The Portapak was shaped like a rectangular box with a lens attached and a cable connecting it to the reel-to-reel deck.  The body of the camera was approximately nine inches long, five inches tall, and two inches wide.  In contrast, television cameras were sometimes as large as a person, which made them practically immobile.  These cameras were used only in studios, while any exterior footage of events was done on 16mm film, meaning that stations would have to spend a lot of money to allow a camera person to shoot for an extended period of time and wait for something interesting to happen.  In contrast, the portability of the Portapak combined with its relative affordability opened up entirely new areas to shooting.  This possibility eventually proved attractive to the television news stations, which gradually adopted the use of this type of equipment.  If television crews had not done this, much of the now standard location shooting and “man on the street interviews” would not have become standard components of television news shows. 

While it would be a stretch to say that the current practices of television stations were directly influenced by the independents, they did play a major role in proving to the studios that portable equipment was viable for their purposes.  The television stations were slow to appreciate the new technology, and it was not until independent videomakers proved it could be used effectively that it became a practice.  Anda Korsts, who worked as a print journalist before creating a video collective, explained, “The people who wound up doing this kind of video journalism came to it naturally.  When the equipment became available, it was of no interest to the professionals, who called it ‘Mickey Mouse’ and predicted that no one would be able to use it for anything but home movies.” [10]  However, it was not merely the equipment itself that caused the change in broadcast television.  Independents were integral in demonstrating the ways this equipment could be used.  Tedwilliam Theodore remarks:

I think the influence independent videomakers have had on broadcast television should not be overlooked.  Their style of camera movement and the use of portable equipment for newsgathering was first done by independents…TVTV, [who shot the Republican and Democratic National Conventions] in 1972, showed the news media what you can accomplish with portable equipment that’s unobtrusive in a room.  The impact on the field was great because of our experimenting, because we tried new things with the equipment.  We helped direct the development of equipment.[11]


However, even when the broadcast stations began to use this equipment, there were still major differences in how they used it.  Video groups distinctly situated themselves outside of the realm of broadcast television practices.  Deirdre Boyle explains a major difference in technique between these two groups: “Distinguishing themselves from network reporters who stood loftily above the crowd, video guerrillas proudly announced they were shooting from within the crowd, subjective and involved.”  As she points out, alternative videomakers developed methods of working that were not directly dictated by the equipment.  Boyle claims:

Once absorbed by television, the style and purpose of guerrilla television was transformed into something often at odds with its origins.  For example, independent videomakers’ preference for ordinary people rather than establishment spokespersons began to show up in “mockumentary” entertainment shows like Real People and That’s Incredible![12] 


These video makers were using the possibilities of the equipment to enable them to make a certain kind of tape, not the other way around.  Alternative video should be seen both as a result of opportunities afforded by the equipment and as a result of a conscious development of a new style. 

In the late 1960s, television was still a relatively new element of American society.  Many of the videomakers of the 1970’s were part of the first “television generation” – the first group of people who had grown up with television.  Academics argued about the changes that television’s widespread presence would bring to American culture; however, there was no way to conclusively study anything yet.  Television had been ubiquitous for only a few years – not until 1962 did ninety percent of American homes have a television[13].  Once video technology became available to the public, some radical groups such as Raindance began to question why only television studios were broadcasting programs, since any person or crew with a camera could record a program and wire a camera to a transmitter.  They determined that the reason that independents could not broadcast their work was not because it had never been technologically possible, but because home television sets had been designed to receive and not transmit information.  These groups claimed that television was structured as an opposition between the people with transmitters, who disseminated information, and the people with receivers, who could only watch.  However, the reason for this structure seemed to be only a result of power and money, not any technological limitations.[14]   

This movement to radically change the structure of television (as opposed to merely the content) was called Guerrilla Television.  Part of the urgency of this movement came from the feeling that the people who controlled the information in society were the ones truly in control of the country.[15]  People such as Michael Shamberg, author of Guerrilla Television, felt that the way information was disseminated in a society was one of its main characterizing forces.  He ironically asserted, “A system is defined by the character of its information flow.  Totalitarian societies, for example, are maintained from a centralized source which tolerates little feedback.  Democracies, on the other hand, respect two-way information channels which have many sources”.[16]  This movement was distinctly different because of the focus on changing the way television functioned, rather than its content.  Shamberg claims:

Most radicals misunderstand the bias of information systems.  They think all you have to do is substitute your message for the ones going across.  But the actual result would be that instead of being frustrated by a one-way system which hypes a plastic product-America, as people now are, they’d be equally frustrated by a radical political message which also gives them no chance to feed back.  True cybernetic guerrilla warfare means re-structuring communications channels, not capturing existing ones. [17]


While the main goal of Guerrilla Television was to create a system where people could respond to the visual information on their television, creating programs with meaningful content was still an important (and more realistic) goal.

One of the most influential groups to early videomakers was Top Value Television (TVTV).  This group (which included some members of the Chicago video scene – Tom Weinberg and Anda Korsts) videotaped the 1972 Republican National Convention.[18]  The tape was called “Four More Years” and it was broadcast on television stations across the county.  Many Chicago videomakers claim this tape as a major influence, because it was the first time they had seen anything like it on television.  The tape had many of the stylistic elements discussed above, such as including the interviewer and microphone in the frame, and having the interviewer speak casually to the camera.  One quality that differentiated the tape from television coverage was the access to new arenas given by the use of portable equipment.  Deirdre Boyle claims that “they [TVTV] tackled the establishment and caught it off guard with the portable, nonthreatening equipment that gave them access to people and places where network cameramen, burdened with heavy equipment and the seriousness of commercial TV, never thought of going.”[19]  As she points out, the most interesting quality of this tape is the way in which it related to traditional media coverage of such events.  The tape feels nothing like television news, in part because of the style, but also because of the content.  There is only brief footage of the formal Convention program.  The tape places more emphasis on the media coverage of the events than on the events themselves.  In a reversal of tradition, TVTV interviewed the broadcast news reporters about their own opinions about the Convention, and their opinions on the network coverage of the event.  We learn from Walter Cronkite that he finds it absurd that someone would get news information from only one source, especially one television station.  While one could say that we do not learn much “news” about what happened at the Convention, we do learn a lot about the formal mechanisms of television news coverage.  By de-emphasizing traditional news content and simply analyzing the way this information is gathered, we can begin to understand the potential biases of television news.  An internal letter for the TVTV crew says this of the group’s mission:

In toto [sic], what we are about is producing quality tape that will stand on its own to communicate that there is another and viable way to present the feel of an event and a social space that has been neglected and missing from media coverage to date.  Our documents should and must document OUR activities in the process of going about taping them.  The tape should be running when we sit with an interviewee-type.  How they relate to us and to the media is a crucial part of the total image we have to project.  Our ability to move in and out of process within the tapes will determine the success of communicating our point of view.[20]



Chicago Videomaking


Video groups were inspired in varying degrees by many of these media theories: some had more radical agendas corresponding to the guerrilla television movement’s desire to overthrow the current structure of television completely; some groups merely used the process of videomaking as a tool without interest in the final product; some strove to gain representation for social groups that were traditionally ignored by television.  True of almost all groups, videomakers in Chicago came out of a long tradition of activism and community organizing, from the Haymarket Riots to the work of activist Saul Alinsky. 

An important precursor to the Chicago video collectives was the use of video at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  UIC had purchased the first video equipment in the Midwest for use in the Department of Sociology.[21]  The equipment was housed in the Media Production Center, which was headed by Jerry Temaner, co-founder of the documentary film collective Kartemquin Films.  UIC was relatively willing to aid community video projects, partly because of Temaner’s influence and partly because of the school’s “urban mandate” from the city. This “urban mandate” required the university, which had displaced many residential neighborhoods with its extensive expansion, to fund community groups throughout the city.[22] 

It was through these initiatives that Videopolis was founded in 1972.  Although formally claiming to be a communal group, Videopolis mainly produced projects envisioned by its founder, Anda Korsts.  Korsts began her career working as a reporter variously at WBBM (an AM news radio station) and at the City News Bureau.[23]  Her dissatisfaction with the traditional news reporting she was doing and her quest for truly representative journalism led her to video, as described in her Video Notes (aka Freestyle Video Journalism):

After working as a reporter for a few years, it began to strike me that what was interesting about the assignments—about the people or the events or the situations—could not be put into words without becoming something other than what a reporter was supposed to be.  As the same time, it seemed to me that I understood the stories I covered not so much on the basis of the facts I gathered, but on observation of many subtle interactions outside the scope of formal news…[I felt that] there should be room in the definition of what was news to include those kinds of details on a regular basis and there should be techniques developed to bring a more expanded version of news to people.  That feeling eventually brought me into video.[24] 


To begin her experiments with video, Korsts contacted UIC, where she was able to gain access to some of the University’s equipment and staff and begin working.[25]  Korsts enlisted people such as Judy Hoffman, Lilly Ollinger, and Jack McFadden to be involved in the group.  They were initially located in a storefront on Halsted Street at Wrightwood Avenue and then moved to the Northside Auditorium Building (now Metro), which housed a theater group and various artists, on Clark Avenue near Grace Street.  While a collaborative effort, Korsts’ ideas formed the philosophical basis for the group’s activities.  Hoffman claims that Korsts taught her to question “who made television, in what settings, and for what reasons”.  According to her, the answers to these questions were that corporations made television, they made it in studios, and they made it to advertise or to perpetuate the status quo. [26] 

The main focus of Videopolis was improving the community through access to equipment.  The group tried to acquire as much equipment as possible, make it available to the public, and teach people how to use it.  Hoffman emphasizes that whenever the group screened a tape they would also bring their equipment and demonstrate its use, in an attempt to demystify the creation of videotapes.  In addition, the group made their own tapes and documented the activities of community groups, labor unions, theater groups, and artists.26  In late 1972, the group’s focus for the coming year was declared to be “experimentation with five uses of tape: education, community organization, arts documentation, historical documentation, and archiving.”[27]   

An important area of Videopolis’ activities was supporting women in video and film.  The group would collect pieces by women from all over the country and submit them to festivals for a program titled “Women Doing Video”.  This program eventually gained some corporate sponsorship and was then called the “Women’s Video Festival”.  This event was held October 26 and November 3, 1973 at respectively, UIC and the YWCA at 37 South Wabash.[28]  The program began with a half-hour demonstration of ½” video equipment, which not only included technical information on how to shoot and play back, but also “the basics of porta-pak style”.  At this demonstration people could sign up to check out the video equipment for a few hours to try shooting on their own.  There was also a general discussion of the alternative television movement and print materials on video.  Following this discussion, an open screening time was held where tapemakers from Chicago screened and discussed their works.  Three separate screening rooms were necessary to accommodate the volume of tapes submitted by women from all over the country.  Much of the work dealt with issues related to women’s rights, such as a tape about women who had gotten illegal abortions, a tape of a national lesbian conference, a tape on the making of a centerfold, a tape about the Miss California pageant, a tape chronicling a childbirth, etc.[29] Ron Powers of the Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the festival, and found that the women were presenting a viable and more personal alternative to broadcast television.[30] 

Another project of Videopolis, funded by the Illinois Arts Council, was to document a school of artists called the “Chicago Imagists”. While this type of project would historically have involved inviting the artists to a television studio to shoot and interview them, portable video technology allowed the videomakers to shoot in the artists’ studios instead.  Instead of simply having the artists sit in a chair and be interviewed, the artists could take the crew on a tour of their studios, talk about their art as it was being taped, and even create art for the camera.[31]  While this type of technique has become standard in even the driest PBS-style documentaries, it was a major breakthrough at the time.  The formal structure of documentary style programs--that of an interviewer on one side of the lens and the interviewee seemingly speaking to no one on the other--was altered.

While opportunities for wide exhibition of these tapes was rare, television stations would sometimes show videos by alternative groups.  In 1974, Anda Korsts and Tom Weinberg got a $10,000 grant from the Illinois Arts Council to create an hour-long videotaped version of Studs Terkel’s book, Working.  The tape was produced by Korsts and Weinberg, along with videomakers from around the country including Judy Hoffman and Jack McFadden of Videopolis, Skip Blumberg of the Videofreex, Jim Mayer of Optic Nerve, Paul Challacombe, Joel Gold, Tom Shea, and Jim Wiseman.[32]  Terkel’s book is a collection of interviews with people about their jobs, so the group decided to conduct a similar enterprise, except on video.  The group met with and taped six people at their jobs, in addition to Terkel, who became an additional character.  Shooting subjects at their places of employment provided a distinct technological challenge.  One of the subjects, for example, worked as a waitress in a dimly lit restaurant.  Rather than changing the lighting in the restaurant or foregoing subjects who worked in dark places, Videopolis utilized a recent development in video technology.  They managed to acquire the new Tivicon pick-up tube, which enabled shooting under extremely minimal lighting.  The tube was inserted into the camera in place of the regular pick-up tube, called a Vidicon.  The new tube was so sensitive that the light from something as small as a cigarette produced a large circular glow that was enough to shoot by.  This enabled the videomakers to go into workplaces of their subjects that would previously have been too dark for shooting video.[33] 

The program was titled “It’s a Living” and it was first broadcast on WTTW (Channel 11, Chicago’s PBS station) on May 9, 1975.[34]  The tape featured the stories of six different people at their jobs: four from Terkel’s book (a parking lot attendant, a barber, a piano tuner, and a waitress) and two new people (a model and a receptionist).[35]  The tape opens with footage of Terkel talking to the cameraperson.  He performs a sort of introduction by saying:

Remember, you said, “What happens to people who are in the book?”  Remember that their relationship to their friends has altered…and they become sort of celebrities in a way - from the book or that “being televised”.  Well, it occurred to me: that’s bad.  But is it?…Suppose 200 million people were photographed…I mean, suppose they were voluntarily in something, then all 200 million would say, “That’s me.  I’m recognized”, you see?  So then there is no celebrity, you see?  We’re all celebrities.  I’d like that.  That’d be kinda good.


This introduction by Terkel gives insight into what the group felt they were doing with this show – recognizing regular people and giving them a chance to be represented in the mass media.  Onscreen text follows the remarks by Terkel that speaks even more directly about the goals of the program and guerrilla television in general: “As experimental video journalists, we hope to demonstrate that small-format television equipment allows people to speak for themselves, simply and directly and that real people in real situations make good television”.[36]    These introductory statements reveal that Videopolis was attempting to take Terkel’s oral histories a step further, by also trying to prove the viability of this type of project for a television program and insisting that the existing exclusionary system was no longer valid for television. 

This hour-long tape was well enough received that the group was asked to make a series based on its premise.  Korsts, Weinberg, Scott Jacobs, and about a dozen local and imported videomakers produced six more half-hour episodes, which aired in 1975 and 1976.[37]  These subsequent episodes were not solely based on characters from Terkel’s book, but followed a similar format of showing a variety of people living their daily life.  One episode is called “Paper Roses”, which was made in 1976 about a home for senior citizens run by the Chicago Housing Authority.  The tape has a slow pace, with long takes and minimal editing.   Instead of adding commentary or direction, the videomakers [MSOffice1] let the senior citizens voice their own concerns and say whatever they want about their lives.  Each subject effectively directs his or her own appearance on the camera, saying whatever he or she finds most important in representing him or herself.  There is no attempt by the videomakers to produce a tape with a thesis – they do not make any judgments about the housing project or about any of the members living there.  Instead, the tape gives a voice to people who normally are not heard on television.[38]   

Another group that was exploring the activist uses of video was Kartemquin, a documentary filmmaking collective, founded in 1966 by Stanley Karter, Gordon Quinn, and Jerry Temaner.[39]  Around 1975, Judy Hoffman joined Kartemquin, where she introduced the collective to the uses of video.  Her video work at Kartemquin differed from the more Direct Cinema-styled documentaries that had been produced there in the past.  These tapes were mostly used as tools for activism without regard for the final product.  One tape, “Keep County Open”, documents a strike by doctors at Cook County Hospital.  These doctors were protesting not for higher wages, but for better patient care in their hospital, which served mainly underprivileged communities.  The leaders of the striking doctors were jailed, so Judy Hoffman and Sharon Karp of Kartemquin went to the jail and interviewed them.  This tape was used not only to inform the public about the issue, but also to unite the strikers and, years later, to inform a new group of doctors at the hospital who were considering a similar strike.[40] 

Another project of Kartemquin was an in-camera edit tape for a labor union, made again by Hoffman and Karp.  The Unemployment Compensation workers at one local office were on strike, so they contacted Kartemquin to help them document their strike in hopes of communicating with the other offices around the city.  The group wanted the tape done quickly, which meant that video was necessary and editing would have to be done in the camera.  Hoffman and Karp met with the leaders of the union the night before they planned to shoot, in order to research important topics to cover in the tape and to find articulate workers who could be interviewed.  The tape was shot the next morning and screened at lunch. 

The tape mainly consists of interviews with the strikers demonstrating outside the building.  To accomplish their in-camera edit, Hoffman and Karp would interview a person, rewind the tape to the spot where he or she seemed to make a point that could be elaborated on by somebody else, then move on to the next person and record from there.  It was not a professional edit, but the videomakers’ interviewing skills allowed them to direct their interviewees, making the edits flow as smoothly as possible.  The tape was short – around fifteen minutes – so that it could be shown at lunch breaks at other offices, after which one of the strikers could hold a discussion.  The tapemakers and strikers took the tape around to different regional offices for nine weeks, trying to gain support from the workers at other locations.  The tape was used mainly as an organizing tool, which led up to a demonstration at Grant Park, where the tape was screened again.  The group was eventually successful.  Hoffman emphasizes that while the tape was not the reason the strikers got their demands, it did function as an important tool for informing and uniting the strikers.[41]  The idea that video could be used as a social tool instead of merely documenting was important to many of the activists in Chicago.

The Community Television Network (CTVN) was founded by Denise Zaccardi in 1974 as a project of the Alternative Schools Network.[42]  The group provided (and still provides) video training in production and post-production to low-income African American and Latino students, both in alternative schools and through an after-school program.  Zaccardi initially started teaching video to kids during lunchtime at Bethel Academy on the West Side of Chicago, where she was a teacher, after having been given video training and equipment through Videopolis member Lily Ollinger.  The first tape made by Zaccardi’s students was called “Everything Must Change”.  The tape focused on the problems faced by the young videomakers’ neighborhood and their suggestions for improvement, a structure typical to all of CTVN’s tapes.[43]  CTVN gradually grew throughout the 1970s, gathering equipment one microphone or one cable at a time, until by 1979 they were able to provide ten of the alternative high schools in Chicago with the equipment to hold video production classes.[44]  Eventually three centers around Chicago were established to house the equipment used by the schools. 

In 1976, Zaccardi and Sister Ann Christine Heinz of Saint Mary’s Academy (another alternative school) organized a student video festival.  The program was sponsored by Alternatives, Inc., an after-school anti-drug program for kids where Lily Ollinger taught video.[45]  It was called “Electronic Kid” and it was held on February 28, 1976 at the YWCA at 37 S. Wabash.  The festival attracted entries from all over Chicago.  Dozens of members of the video and television community attended and provided critiques of the entries.  Judy Hoffman, who was then working at Kartemquin, gave a hands-on workshop on the Portapak for any novices to videomaking. [46]   The program was very successful, and CTVN’s tape “Everything Must Change”, won the first prize. 

In addition to video training, CTVN also employed students in order to aid their low-income families.  In the late 1970s, CTVN was able to employ around 70 students at a time through a government program called the Concentrated Employment Training Act (CETA) that provided funds to non-profit organizations in order to pay students to work for them.[47] The students aided community groups in video production and did general office work to keep the program running.  CTVN suffered a major blow in the early 1980s, however, due to massive budget cuts in arts spending by the Reagan administration, and the student employment project was essentially disbanded.[48]  However, the group has continued to function to this day. 

Like the video work done by Kartemquin, the primary benefit of this work resided in the process of creating it.  The youth involved with CTVN used video as a way to expose the problems in their communities and think through solutions.  Marcella Taylor of The Reader wrote:

While many Chicago adolescents crowd into public movie houses to find escape by watching films emphasizing the excitement in horror, violence, glamorous living styles, and casual sexual encounters, young people in three Chicago communities are being encouraged not to escape from the pressures around them.  Rather, through their own use of the video camera, they examine and articulate the forces and events that shape their neighborhoods, their own lives, and the direction of the future.[49] 


Zaccardi describes her program in much the same way.  To her, the main benefit to the kids is not necessarily a result of the actual completion of a tape, it simply comes from the experience of taping events.  She saw the video camera as a tool to allow her kids access to important community and political events, and the main benefit to the kids was witnessing these events and learning how to cause change in their own communities.  She claims:

I quickly understood that a camera would give you entré to anything.  So as I developed my program I got hundreds and hundreds and thousands of kids involved.  What I try to do is get them in to places that will change their lives.  Like when the first black person ran for mayor [Harold Washington].  I was sending crews out, like, night and day…It didn’t even matter if they didn’t get any footage.  The point was that they were present at a historical moment and that they were documenting it and making history.[50] 


Through their presence at community events, the kids were able to encounter African-American and Latino role models, learn how to organize, and feel like part of a positive force in the neighborhood.

While Zaccardi emphasizes that the main benefit to the students was the process of making the tape, the final product was still important.  Students would not only to address issues of importance to themselves and their communities, but also to spend time considering how to create change.  While the kids were allowed to make tapes on any subject they wanted, Zaccardi required them to emphasize the positive and not create disaster reports like one would see on the television news.  For this reason, the kids’ tapes look and feel very different from traditional media.  Zaccardi emphasizes the difference between CTVN and other groups that teach video to children:

Really, in TV, what people had been doing with kids was imitating broadcast TV shows, like the news.  So you would have an anchor, a little boy with a tie, and a girl with a helmet hairdo and they would just completely imitate what the news stations were doing.  And that was seen as TV and I was trying…I wasn’t exactly imitating TVTV, but the idea that you take these nice little cameras, and you make these black and white videos - half inch reel-to-reel - and you teach kids to tell their own stories.  And the idea is that a lot of times, first of all, you don’t see a lot of stories about poor people or poor kids…So that was the point…I knew from the beginning it was kinda like anthropological filmmaking.  It was introducing a new way to learn things.[51] 


While many programs involving video and children end up with products where children imitate television, the CTVN tapes bear a stronger resemblance to alternative videotapes.  The tapes feature the same emphasis on leaving the interviewer in the tape, portraying ordinary people, and a lack of concern with hiding the elements of production. 

The second tape made through this program was “Mary Ann”, which was produced by Debra Jackson, Karen Smiley, and Sandra Smiley, aged 12, 10, and 8, respectively.[52]  The ten-minute tape was edited at Videopolis, and despite the extreme difficulty in editing at that time, the girls edited it themselves (with aid from Zaccardi).  In this tape, the girls interview and pay tribute to 17-year-old Mary Ann Jackson, the sister of Debra and the aunt of the other two girls.  The tape incorporates interviews with Mary Ann in which the girls ask simple questions like “What type of person will you marry?” and “If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”  The interviews are intercut with footage of Mary Ann dancing in the family’s living room.  At certain points the there is a voice over with the producer talking about why she likes her sister. 

The tape is different from other programs one might see for many reasons.  First, the camera is always shooting from a low angle, which would naturally result from the point of view of a young cameraperson.  This point of view gives the tape a distinct feel.  The viewer literally and figuratively senses Mary Ann’s elevated status in the eyes of the videomakers.  The interview questions are obviously those a child would ask, calling into question the lack of representation of children’s voices and concerns in conventional television programming.  The tape not only allowed the girls to represent their point of view, it also gave the girls an excuse to talk to Mary Ann.  While most siblings, especially with such a great age difference, do not communicate very well with each other, one can see that the camera gave a distinct entrance into the world of the older sister.  The camera turns the structure of power so that the girls are able to get the information they wanted.  As Zaccardi claims, it is clear that the experience of making the tape was probably equally as valuable to the girls as the final tape. 

Another group that practiced social activism through videomaking was Communications for Change, founded by Tedwilliam Theodore in 1970.  The group was modeled after the National Film Board of Canada’s Challenge for Change, started by George Stoney.  The Canadian group functioned as a community-based program that taught video to members of underserved minority communities so that they could document their problems and concerns and take them to public officials.  Communications for Change expanded on this idea by using video in a more confrontational manner and by finding new ways to incorporate video into community activism, beyond mere documentation.[53]  The group worked mainly in the Uptown neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago, an extremely poverty-stricken area facing many struggles with negligent landlords.  A typical tape, such as one by Mirko Popadic labeled only “5117 N. Kenmore”, takes place inside a woman’s apartment.  She shows the places where the wall was broken and exposed, how she cannot keep any food in her cabinets because they have no doors, and how the rats eat everything.  She mentions that on a recent morning she awoke to find a rat crawling on her infant child’s face.  She mentions that her landlord had been promising to repair these conditions for two years.[54]  While the primary purpose of this tape was documentation, its function extends beyond that type of use as well.  This type of tape was used to pin down statements by authority figures so that they could no longer get away with promising one thing in private and denying it in public.  This reveals one of Theodore’s principles, that “video tape forces the opposition to act in a public manner”.[55]  When faced with actual evidence of promises and statements, people in power have no choice but to keep their promises. 

Theodore coined the phrase “video intervention” to describe the group’s methods.  He explains:

Whenever video recording or playback is introduced to a situation, the interpersonal and group dynamics of the situation are altered.  This video intervention, quite apart from the uses of the information recorded and exchanged, can have a major effect on that situation.  A community group that knows how to apply the techniques of video tape [to] social and political intervention has a powerful tool at its disposal.[56]


Importantly, Theodore feels that the introduction of the medium itself incites change, regardless of what is shot or what is played back.  In this document on video intervention, Theodore gives dozens of real life examples that highlight the ways video effected change for community activist groups.  The document is essentially a manual for “video facilitators” who provide a camera to a community group and either teach the members how to use it effectively or do the shooting themselves.  Broadly, Theodore described the work this way:

There were a couple of focuses initially on how to use videotape for social change and social action.  I worked with tenants rights organizations, block clubs, women’s groups, and welfare rights organizations.  We used videotape as a tool to confront the enemy.  For us, the enemy was either the alderman, a slum landlord, or the Department of Urban Development.  Our strategy was to make them respond on videotape about our demands and charges.  We also documented conditions in buildings and took the footage into court.  But, what we were really trying to do was help people find their voices, to communicate their situation and needs to other people.[57]   


Theodore’s document on video intervention provides dozens of different examples of ways in which video has been used for community activism and also generalizes the experience learned from each example.  One of Theodore’s less obvious principles of video intervention is that “video recording legitimizes an action”.  This refers to an example where a group had no excuse to meet in a public place.  Members seemed on the verge of leaving, but once the video cameras were introduced, it became a “press conference”.  The group was then able to discuss its objectives with a higher sense of purpose. Another principle of video intervention states that “video recording and playback objectify a situation”.  Theodore mentions the case of a meeting between community leaders and an elected official.  The meeting was taped and the community leaders left with a good feeling about the meeting.  Upon viewing the tape, however, they were able to see that they were talked down by the official’s fatherly tone, and that while he made them feel like they won something in the meeting, actually they were in the same position they started in.  In this case, video was able to allow people to view emotional events objectively and learn from them.[58] 

Communications for Change used video as more than just a communication tool; it was a medium whose presence changed the entire dynamic of a situation when introduced.  Theodore emphasizes the difference between his group’s methods and other alternative video movements:

A group like TVTV might approach this problem by making a videotape documentary showing all the tenants’ unions’ problems and trying to get it on network TV, but that’s not how we work.  We believe that the tape itself [is] not the answer, that change will come from the group action—the process—once the group understands power and how to use it.[59]


Mirko Popadic recounted how sometimes the group would approach negligent landlords with a camera – landlords who had refused to take basic care of their buildings for years and terrorized their tenants – and not even shoot or even necessarily have any tape, and the landlords would immediately consent to do the things that the tenants had been unable to force them to do for years.[60]  Marilynn Preston explains this phenomenon in her article in the Chicago Tribune – “Later on, Theodore explained, those same organized tenants found they actually could get in to see a top HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] official by waving their videotaping equipment his way; once in, they found his cooperation and responsiveness increased the closer the cameraman came.  It didn’t matter that it wasn’t really a TV news team and that the group had no broadcast outlet for the tape, Theodore says; it was the process that the official found intimidating.”59

The other major project of Communications for Change was a project called “Documenting Social History: Chicago’s Elderly Speak”, a joint project with Loop College. Theodore had been looking for new ways to spread the democratic use of video, while Carole Collins, who coordinated the adult education program at Loop College, wanted to facilitate communication between the older and younger generations. The two were awarded a small grant from the Illinois College Board and began a course at Loop College in the spring of 1974.  The course lasted sixteen weeks and taught students the basics of working with portable video equipment and interview techniques “in the style of Chicago’s own Studs Terkel”.[61]   The students were encouraged to videotape a person from a community that was important or interesting to them.  There were numerous ways in which the students understood “community”; the archive catalog for the project lists such communities as Uptown, Austin, Black, Ethnic White, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Work Experience, Labor Organizing, and Social Institutions.[62]  The tapes were shown around the city, and as this type of simple documentation of people’s lives was a very new thing, the tapes provoked heated discussions about the issues portrayed, conveyed new information to viewers, and helped people with similar perspectives begin to organize.[63]

While the individual groups in Chicago had different projects, they felt united enough to establish a formal group to determine what the needs of the video community were and find a solution.  Judy Hoffman, Lily Ollinger, and Denise Zaccardi organized the first meeting of what was to become the Chicago Area Videomakers Coalition at Kartemquin in 1977.  This group consisted of most of the active videomakers in Chicago, who met for monthly meetings incorporating screenings and production workshops.[64]  The group succeeded in getting a tape on Channel 44, which first aired June 18, 1977, and was called “Slices of Chicago”.[65]  The tape was edited at UIC, through the intervention of Jim Morrissette.[66]  The production of this tape emphasized that the most pressing need of the video community was editing facilities.  As mentioned before, editing was a major challenge to early videomakers.  Throughout most of the 1970’s, the only places in Chicago that had editing facilities were The Art Institute of Chicago, UIC, Communications for Change, Videopolis, and a few small video equipment vendors.  The first two were only open to those within their own University communities, the second two were not capable of providing facilities to the entire Chicago community, and the cost of editing time at a commercial outlet was prohibitively expensive for independents. 

To solve this problem, Tedwilliam Theodore, Tom Weinberg, and Scott Jacobs submitted a proposal to establish the Chicago Editing Center.  The proposal requested $53,100 for equipment and $43,800 for the first year’s operating cost.[67]  The Center was initially an offshoot of Communications for Change, and got grants through this group from the National Endowment for the Arts and Irving Harris.  Interestingly enough, one of the support “letters” attached to the proposal was a review of the first broadcast of “Slices of Chicago”, which shows that the efforts of the Videomakers Coalition did have a positive effect on public appreciation of independent video. 

The Center was opened in 1977 at 11 East Hubbard Street, the same building as Communications for Change and an office of Community TV Network.  It became an autonomous entity, separate from Communications for Change, in 1978.  Videomakers were able to use the facilities for only a small membership cost ($150) and an hourly usage fee ($6)[68], which helped to cover the operating costs of subsequent years.[69]  The Center published a monthly newsletter called Scan, held screenings, offered workshops, and included a technical staff (lead by Tom Finerty) to aid in post-production.  Jim Morrissette described the Center as equivalent to a graduate video program.[70]  Additionally, individuals could set up their own workspaces in the Center.  The primary impetus for development of the Center was closing the technological gap between the facilities available to independents and those of broadcast television companies.  For example, in a support letter for the Editing Center proposal, Denise Zaccardi emphasizes that television stations are reluctant to broadcast her students’ tapes due to technical problems, and that the Editing Center would help open up the opportunity for wider broadcast.[71] 

Because it essentially housed the only public video editing facilities in Chicago, the Center was the hub around which most of the videomakers in Chicago worked, from artists to documentarians to video activists.[72]  Many videomakers feel that it was due to the Editing Center that Chicago had such a cohesive community, since everyone was constantly meeting, screening their work, helping with other people’s projects, and participating in workshops.  This close sense of community was ingrained in the Center’s structure from the very beginning.  The initial proposal lists eight major groups that planned to use the Center, most of which were not actually groups that worked solely in video: the Chicago Area Videomakers Coalition (which included almost all of the independent videomakers), United Charities, The Center for New Schools, The Illinois Arts Council, The Organization of the North East, Metro High School, The World Without War Council, and The Loop YWCA.[73]  Some of these groups simply used video for mainstream projects, such as documenting events and training.  The Center became a meeting-place for all people interested in video, including local and visiting artists-in-residence, such as Woody and Steina Vasulka, Dee Dee Halleck, Wendy Clarke, and George Stoney.[74]  In 1980, the Chicago Editing Center was renamed The Center For New Television because new video formats meant that the needs of the community had shifted away from solely editing to more general production and post-production needs.

While the importance of this type of independent video work is undeniable today, it is illuminating to read contemporaneous reviews of televised programs.  Before the advent of cable public access channels, which in Chicago was not until the mid-1980s, broadcast airtime was limited for alternative video.  The important thing to recognize about these works is that, unlike video art pieces, which usually anticipate a more educated audience, the types of works discussed in this paper were always designed to be accessible to a wider viewership.  Most of the reviews share a discomfort with the technical imprecision of the tapes, but otherwise found them refreshing.  Some, like Jeanne Weimann, who wrote the article on Communications for Change’s “Documenting Social History” project, indicated that the new style of videomaking might require some acclimation by viewers before it could be appreciated:

The first few minutes of a tape inevitably drag a bit for most viewers, since people are more accustomed to tv’s fast action and quick cuts than they are to the relaxed “armchair interview.” But viewers soon find themselves becoming emotionally involved in the interviewee’s experiences, and when the half-hour tape reaches its end, they often ask if there is more.[75]


This reviewer also mentions a hesitation on the part of the interview subjects, who were hard to convince that their stories were worth documenting, and often voiced confusion over why the interviewers would waste tapes on them.  Weimann claims that these subjects were accustomed to television covering important people and did not understand the new focus on regular people.  Bill Granger, who reviewed the “Slices of Chicago” program, had a similar reaction: “I warn you again that the technical quality of all the pieces is not the best, but stay with it.  Watching Slices of Chicago is like reading Dostoevski--difficult and rewarding.”  Granger also explains his opinion on the difference between this program and the usual content of television – “Sometimes, the greed of television overwhelms you and you feel like that Greek looking for an honest man.  Sometimes, you begin to wonder whether any of it is on the square.  And then, in the Sahara of selling, you come upon an oasis where there is honest art and true feeling and a sense of greatness left untouched by all the slick guys”.[76]  Most reviews combined admiration, discomfort with technical quality, boredom, and discussion about the new possibilities for television brought about by portable video technology. 

            More representative than newspaper reviewers’ responses to alternative video is that of the general public.  To address this issue, a 1980 program called “The Pop Video Test” attempted to gauge the public’s response to alternative video projects and the viability of distributing the tapes on VHS for wider consumption.  “The Pop Video Test” was a joint effort between Scott Jacobs and Tom Weinberg of the Chicago Editing Center, and the Video Group of the Bell and Howell Corporation.[77]  They assembled ten hours of video pieces meant as an alternative to the types of programs regularly distributed on VHS, which were mainly Hollywood movies.[78]  Fifty VCR owners in the Chicago area agreed to examine and review the tapes.  Test viewers then received the programming two hours at a time, in groupings labeled Video Art, Documentary, Entertainment, and Potpourri.  The raters then turned in responses that measured the tapes on a scale from 1 to 6.  For comparison, the audience rated public television in general at 4.7 and movies on home videocassette at 4.8.  The sample tapes received 4.8 for documentaries and 3.8 for video art.  (The article does not mention the results of the other two categories.)  The main qualms the reviewers had were the technical quality and length, the same basic complaints as the newspaper reviewers.[79]  While the sampling number was very small (less than three-dozen raters returned responses), it is still interesting to note that viewers seemed to be receptive to independent video, and even more so if production values could be raised closer to that of mainstream outlets. 

            This analysis was proven correct by a show called “Image Union”, created by Tom Weinberg in 1978.  “Image Union” resulted from a controversial meeting between the Chicago Editing Center and WTTW.[80]  Initially, the videomakers were told that Channel 11 produced public television, not community television, but after the “Slices of Chicago” program was shown, the station acquiesced.[81]  While acquiring a regular timeslot on public television was a challenge, “Image Union” has been the most successful venture by the video independents of Chicago.  Tedwilliam Theodore described the show as the link between the alternative video community and the broadcast world.[82]  The program airs weekly on Channel 11 and showcases independent film and video work.  Anyone can submit to the show, including those from outside the area, although the producers try to retain a high percentage of tapes from Chicago and Illinois.  Contributors are paid a small fee for their work.[83]  This program is one of the lasting contributions by independent videomakers, as it still airs weekly on Channel 11, twenty-six years later.







Chicago’s early video groups undeniably used the new medium in revolutionary ways.  These early videomakers found uses for video that transcended mere documentation or traditional modes of communication.  Video was part of a wide movement in community and political involvement: Videopolis worked to train women and other disenfranchised groups to use video and to change the content of television; Kartemquin used video to help groups organize; the Community TV Network used video to give underprivileged kids a chance to participate in their communities and to inspire them to work for change; Communications for Change used video to mobilize communities; the Chicago Editing Center helped to give independents a chance to make broadcast quality work by making equipment and editing facilities available to the general public.  All of these groups made an impact on the Chicago community, but the ways that videomakers like them all across the country changed the uses of video and television are perhaps more important.

            As discussed earlier, many of the techniques used by early videomakers experimenting with portable equipment were eventually adopted by television studios.  The television news now makes extensive use of on-site footage and “man-on-the-street” interviews, neither of which would be possible without this video technology and the pioneering work of independent videomakers.  On a less positive side, the ubiquitous presence of humiliation-oriented “reality TV shows” would not be possible without the initial experiments of these independent videomakers.

            While videomakers in the 1970s had trouble finding outlets for their work, today there are many ways for tapes to be shown besides in community venues.  Cable access has been an extremely important outlet for work, in addition to the various channels like Sundance that screen more experimental work.  Many more festivals now exist for potential screenings of video-based work.  Videomakers can take advantage of these outlets, or go by a less formal route and stream video on the Internet.  Because of the advances in digital editing, video has come closer and closer to the democratized ideal of the 1970s.  Now it is actually possible for an individual to produce a program rapidly and for little money.  However, this change has also made videomakers less reliant on a community and more apt to produce videos independently.  It remains a question for the future whether these new outlets, university training, and individualized production will bring about a new era of video innovation or whether those same things will eliminate what was interesting about video from the beginning. 



[1] Bensinger, Charles, The Video Guide, (Santa Barbara, CA: Video-Info Publications, 1981): 10.  The date is listed as approximate because sources differ by a year or two due to regional release differences. 

[2] Although 16mm cameras could accommodate comparably long reels (1200 feet or approximately thirty minutes), the weight of these reels made them only useful in studio settings on a tripod.  If the camera was going to be handheld the operator would use no more than 400-foot reels, which allowed ten or eleven-minute takes.  From Judy Hoffman, personal communication, 19 April 2004.

[3] In film the camera operator always had to keep his or her eye to the eyepiece while shooting because light entering the eyepiece it could fog the film.  From Hoffman, personal communication.

[4] Tobi Johnson, “Interview with Jim Morrissette”, Video: The Center for New Television, Nov/Dec 1992:3.

[5] It should be made clear that although portable video equipment seems to provide similar advantages to the portable film cameras that made Direct Cinema possible, the cost of tapes and the ability to re-record on them made the two media very different.  The cost of film meant that even Direct Cinema was relatively well planned out.  To shoot these types of documentaries, there is a much greater amount of pre-production work.  Scenes were usually planned, such as knowing that a certain visitor will be present at the subject’s home and deciding to shoot that event.  With video none of this was necessary.  For a good explanation of the pre-production involved in Direct Cinema, see Gerald Temaner and Gordon Quinn, “Cinematic Social Inquiry”, Principles of Visual Anthropology, ed. Paul Hockings (The Hague: Mouton, 1975) 53-64.

[6] Video is composed of frames like film, but each “frame” of video is composed of two interlaced horizontal fields, which means that the starting and ending point of a field is not visible on the surface of the tape.

[7] Deirdre Boyle, “From Portapak to Camcorder”, Journal of Film and Video, 44 (1992): 67-68.

[8] Anda Korsts, “Women and Video”, Women and Film/Chicago ’74 catalog, reprinted in Video: The Center for New Television, Sep/Oct 1992:4.

[9] Johnson, 3.

[10] Anda Korsts, Video Notes (aka Freestyle Video Journalism), 10.  Notes from 1975 found and edited by Tom Weinberg.  A copy of this and all of the other non-published or obscure sources used in this paper are available from the author.

[11] Thomas Ciesielka, “Interview With Tedwilliam Theodore”, Video: The Center for New Television, Nov/Dec 1992: 4.

[12] Boyle, 71-72.

[13] Milton Shulman, The Ravenous Eye (London: Coronet, 1975) 29.

[14] For a technical description of how one can broadcast his or her own programs, see Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Book (Worchester MA: Abbie Yo Yo Productions, 1972) 141-5.

[15] An example of this type of rhetoric comes from Radical Software - “Power is no longer measured in land, labor, or capital, but by access to information and the means to disseminate it.  As long as the most powerful tools (not weapons) are in the hands of those who would hoard them, no alternative cultural vision can succeed.”  See Radical Software 1 (Spring 1970): 1.

[16] Michael Shamberg and Raindance Corporation, Guerrilla Television (NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Wilson, 1971) 9.

[17] Shamberg, 29.  This type of argument can be seen to flow directly from Marshall McLuhan, who was highly influential to some of the videomakers at this time.  However, his popularity persisted more in theoretical writings and much less frequently in the actual politics of people making tape, many of whom felt deeply that changing the content of television or video would change society. 

[18] “Four More Years”, Top Value Television, VHS, 1972.

[19] Boyle, 70-71.

[20] “Guerrilla Television at the World’s Largest TV Studio”, TVTV info-newsletter, reprinted in Video: The Center for New Television, Sep/Oct 1992: 6.

[21] Jim Morrissette, interview with author, 22 March 2004.  A copy of this interview is available on mini DV tape by contacting the author.

[22] Judy Hoffman, interview with author, 7 March 2004.  A copy of this interview is available on mini DV tape by contacting the author.

[23]City News was essentially the training ground for reporters in Chicago, from which they would go on to work at the major news outlets in the city.  Reporters at City News would be assigned to research events and then feed the reports to the local newspapers, television stations, and radio stations, where resident journalists would rewrite City News stories.  See Scott Jacobs, interview with author, 2 April 2004.  A copy of this interview is available on mini DV tape by contacting the author.

[24] Korsts, Video Notes, 1.

[25] Vital to the operations of nearly every group in Chicago was the aid of Jim Morrissette of UIC.  Because essentially none of the videomakers in Chicago had any prior training in video or film, Morrissette’s technical expertise kept these groups in operation.  Morrissette mentioned that he was interested in “video for the masses” – helping people make video through training and access to equipment and resources, which is why he was always behind the scenes and yet so vital.  For the quote, see Morrissette, interview.  For the praise, see all other interviews.

[26] Hoffman, interview.

[27] “Videopolis”, The Hyde Parker, Dec/Jan 1973.  Reprinted in Video: The Center for New Television, Sep/Oct 1992:14.

[28] Powers, 52.

[29] “Women’s Video Festival” program, 1973: 1-4.

[30] Powers, 52.

[31] Hoffman, interview.

[32] It’s a Living, Videopolis, ¾” videotape, 1975.  From the collection of Tom Weinberg.

[33] Hoffman, interview.

[34] Television listings.  Chicago Daily News, 9 May 1975.

[35] Tom Weinberg, personal communication, 3 May 2004. 

[36] It’s a Living.

[37] Weinberg, personal communication.

[38] “Paper Roses”, Videopolis, ¾” videotape, 1976.  From the collection of Tom Weinberg.

[39] Kartemquin Films, “Who We Are: A Living History of Kartemquin Films”, <>.

[40] Hoffman, interview.

[41] Hoffman, interview.

[42] The group was initially called the Alternative Schools Network Video Project, but was soon separated from the Alternative Schools Network and renamed. See Denise Zaccardi, interview with author, 29 March 2004.  A copy of this interview is available on mini DV tape by contacting the author.

[43] Zaccardi, interview. 

[44] Enrique Clunie, “Interview With Denise Zaccardi of the Community Television Network”, Video: The Center for New Television, Nov/Dec 1992: 9.

[45] Lily Ollinger, interview with author, 22 April 2004.

[46] “Electronic Kid” program, 28 February 1976.

[47] This program was a major contributor to the success of arts organizations in the 1970s.  From Weinberg, personal communication.

[48] Zaccardi, interview.

[49] Marcella Taylor, The Reader, 2 March 1984, reprinted in Video: The Center for New Television, Sep/Oct 1992:15.

[50] Zaccardi, interview.

[51] Zaccardi, interview.

[52] “Mary Ann”, Debra Jackson, Karen Smiley, and Sandra Smiley, VHS, 1975.  From the collection of Judy Hoffman.

[53] Tedwilliam Theodore, interview with author, 18 March 2004.  A copy of this interview is available on mini DV tape by contacting the author.

[54] Mirko Popadic, “A Video Anthology: 2002 –1978”, VHS.  From the collection of Mirko Popadic.

[55] Tedwilliam Theodore, “Social and Political Intervention: Video Field Experience”, 11.

[56] Theodore, “Social and Political Intervention”, 1.

[57] Ciesielka, 4.

[58] Theodore, “Social and Political Intervention”, 5-7.

[59] Marilynn Preston, “An alternative to TV is for and by the people”, Chicago Tribune, 14 October 1975.

[60] Mirko Popadic, interview with author, 22 March 2004.

[61] Jeanne Weimann, “A ‘History of Feeling’ on Videotape”, Chicago Reader 18 July 1975:7.

[62] Carole Collins and Tedwilliam Theodore, “Documenting Social History: Chicago’s Elderly Speak Video Archive Catalog”, 2-13.

[63] Weimann, 12.

[64] Listed in the credits for the Coalition sampler tape are: Eleanor Boyer, John Burns, Dan Dick, Justin Galler, Carol Gray, Judy Hoffman, Scott Jacobs, Phillip G. McCann, Valerie McLenighan, Omie McNamara, Jim Morrissette, Phil Morton, Lily Ollinger, Jim Passin, George Patay, Karen Peugh, Regina Shea, Thomas Shea, Dan Spiess, Tedwilliam Theodore, Jane Veeder, Tom Weinberg, Ted Wysokie, Denise Zaccardi, and Raul A. Zaritsky.  Many of these videomakers were producing tapes independently, outside the video collectives mentioned in this paper.  From “Slices of Chicago”, Chicago Area Videomakers Coalition, ¾” videotape, 1977.  From the collection of Tom Weinberg.

[65] Bill Granger, “It’s No Mirage; It is a Work of Art”, Chicago Sun-Times 17 June 1977: 62.

[66] Morrissette, interview. 

[67] Tedwilliam Theodore, Thomas Weinberg, and Scott Jacobs, “A Proposal to Establish The Chicago Editing Center”, 1977: 5.

[68] “Consumers’ Guide to Chicago Editing Facilities”, Scan, Sept/Oct 1981: 6-7.

[69] Editing facilities were approximately $300/hr cheaper than at commercial venues.  See Jacobs, interview.

[70] Morrissette, interview.

[71] Theodore, et al, 1.

[72] Theodore, interview.

[73] Theodore, et al, 3.

[74] Scan, Sept/Oct 1981: 9.

[75] Weimann, 7.

[76] Granger, 62.

[77] Thomas Ciesielka, “Interview With Scott Jacobs”, Video: The Center for New Television, Nov/Dec 1992: 4.

[78] Bell and Howell was one of the largest distributors of Hollywood feature films on VHS at the time; with this program they wanted to test the profitability of other types of content on VHS tape.  From Weinberg, personal communication.

[79] “Pop Video: The Viewers Response”, Scan, Nov-Dec 1980: 8.

[80] Thomas Ciesielka, “Interview With Tom Weinberg”, Video: The Center for New Television, Nov/Dec 1992: 5.

[81] Hoffman, interview.

[82] Theodore, interview.

[83] In 2004 the rate is $25 per minute.  See <>.

 [MSOffice1]what makes a tape slow-paced? Give specific examples. Segment analysis?



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