The Muse of Cinema series was inspired by the filmmaker’s research into the silent-era cinema-going experience. Many of these films received funding from the Princess Grace Foundation Special Projects Grants 2004 & 2007. All films in this series may be rented from Canyon Cinema in original format. The rental of the entire set includes a bonus 35mm work entitled Auld Lang Syne.

Link to the Muse of Cinema on Canyon Cinema's Website


Coming Attractions. 35mm silent, 2004. 3 minutes.


A hand-exposed, hand-made, hand processed investigation of ballyhoo, Coming Attractions will bring you through the whole gamut of human emotions! A trailer for the photoplay of the 20th Century.



Muse of Cinema. 35mm sound. 2006. 20 minutes


I started Muse of Cinema about five years ago using magic lantern slides found at the Alemany flea market as my source material. Dating from between 1905 to 1928, these magic lantern images directly address the movie audience. Some of them were used to keep the moviegoers in line — it seems that wearing hats that obstructed views, spitting on the floor, loud talking, and raucous behavior were big problems at the time! Other lantern slides would entertain the audience while the projectionist surmounted a technical disaster in the projection booth.

In Muse of Cinema, the photochemical properties of the filmic medium have been cultivated over five years using a flashlight, not a camera, to expose the film. All slide images were shot on a slide duplicator using the apparatus in a way that diverges from its original function. The original hand processed film material was then mastered on a 35mm optical printer at a film co-op in Vancouver called Cineworks. The soundtrack was made through a collaboration with Robert Fox. Muse of Cinema was funded in part through a Museum of Contemporary Cinema Grant. It won a Golden Gate Award from the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2007, as had the film documenting its creation, Torchlight Tango, in 2005.


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Screening History

Terra Firma. 35mm silent. 2005. 7½ minutes.

“Creating a gorgeous homage to San Francisco, the city that survived the 1906 earthquake, the filmmaker incorporates a series of found images (by Eadweard Muybridge and other photographers) and a decaying nitrate print of the [1906] film A Trip Down Market Street. Architectural motifs immerse the viewer in details of the city's Victorian sensibility. Underground shots of cables and machinery call attention to the new technology of transport prevalent during this period and to the equipment used to make the film. Muybridge appears as an apparition, and harbinger of destruction. Terra Firma is a moving love letter that speaks to city dwellers everywhere.” – Madcat Women’s International Film Festival


Over 100 hours went into the contact printing of the original nitrate print, all done by hand using a darkroom timer to expose the fragile film, and transfer it to modern day 35mm film stock. This attempt at re-mastering the print was also entirely hand processed. Terra Firma was commissioned by The Exploratorium for the Trip Down Market Street 1905/2005 Outdoor Centennial celebration, with support from Rick Prelinger, the San Francisco Cable Car Museum, and the Wells Fargo Museum.


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Retrospectroscope- 16mm, 5 minutes, silent, 1997

The Retrospectroscope apparatus has gone through many incarnations; its presence belies the processes that have created it. As a paracinematic device, it traces an evolutionary trajectory, encircling the viewer in a procession of flickering fantasies of fragmented lyricism. The Retrospectroscope is a reinvention that simulates the illusion of the analysis of motion to recall early mysteries of the quest for this very discovery now taken for granted. The Muses of Cinema represented by the female figures on the disk, have emerged from a dark Neoclassical past. Streams of images revolve around, in an attempt to harness notions of a cinematic prehistory tracing past motions and gestures to burn their dance on the surface of the retinas. This film known as the Retrospectroscope, and was described in the San Francisco Bay Guardian as “A spinning flashing UFO/roulette wheel of Athenian proportions.”


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Phantogram. 16mm silent, 2008. 9 minutes


Shivery bits of elusive emulsion, refractive light sprays ignite the depths of two dimensions to expand the terrain of undulating forms. Vertical motion of frameless space testing the limits, Phantogram unites the torch and surface, forms made mobile. Indecipherable messages from the dead, a telepathic telegram captured on the medium of film… The “redblind” refraction of elements explored, expand beyond the edges of the frame using sweeping gestures and textures both torn and tactile. Slippery shimmers slide across the celluloid strip, to embed themselves on the consciousness of viewers.


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Spectrology. 16mm sound, 2009. 11 minutes.


In 1646, Athanasius Kircher published Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, describing an early version of the magic lantern projector. Using this apparatus as a tool to enchant, spellbind and spook, Étienne-Gaspard Robert and other conjurors dazzled spectators with their unique bag of 18th Century tricks, raising up the spirits of recently deceased and reminding the viewer of the “fate that awaits us all”. Spectrology calls upon conjurors of the past and their secret repertoire of magical devices to simulate a modern rendition of the phantasmagoria. The medium of cinema is harnessed to entice the viewer and ruminate on the mesmerizing presence of various illusions made anew.


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Legerdemain, 16mm, 7 minutes, silent -2009

Legerdemain speaks about the relationship of magicians and early cinema. Magicians played an important role in disseminating cinematic technology as they used the cinematograph in their acts and brought their spectacles to far reaching audiences around the globe. Legerdemain, meaning sleight-of hand, will use shadowgraphs and create enchanting optical illusions. Using a mixture of black and white and color film stocks, the film will have a stark appearance with undulating forms that move between abstract and more representational forms. Legerdemain will employ several types of shadows produced through images including elaborate Indonesian and Chinese Shadow puppets as well as simple bold shadow figures made using actual hands. The progression of images will include metaphoric allusions to the material of celluloid film, the apparatus and the screen.


Conjuror’s Box 35mm silent, 2011. 6 minutes @ 18 f.p.s.


“…uses an amalgam of techniques in its evocation of the shadowy beginnings of cinema. Sinuous abstractions (and a few recognizable objects) are photogrammed directly onto a filmstrip, then step-printed to introduce variations in tempo and bring emphasis to certain chance formations, as Stan Brakhage did with some of his hand-painted films. The striking colors of these photograms led me briefly to wonder what they would look like through the chroma-depth glasses used to view Laitala's video works, but there was already so much apparent depth to the image that it wouldn't be worth hazarding its filmic texture. Conjuror's Box is soon augmented with fanciful images suggestive of magic lantern slides (that is perhaps what they are) inserted into the masked-off center of the frame, while in the periphery the film roils on as before.” – Carl Martin, Film on Film Foundation


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Moving Image


Expanded Cinema