An Oregon Message

oregon messageA bi centennial grant from the Oregon Arts Commission permitted Richard Blakeslee, Susan Shadburne and me to collaborate in the making of AN OREGON MESSAGE. The film was completed in the spring of 1976.

Bill Stafford was, at every turn, an inspiration and joy to work with.  He made it clear in the beginning that we could use any of his poems in whole or in part.  If we wanted to use just a sentence or phrase that was fine too. 

I read four published anthologies of Bill’s work many times. Soaked in the poetry we took road trips of one to five days to different parts of the State. Usually just Rich and I, but with Susan and others sometimes.  Rich with a 16 mm Eclair movie camera, sometimes hand held, sometimes with ‘sticks’, recorded images from the Oregon Landscape. I recorded sound with a Nagra tape recorder. 

We had, as I recall, no plan except to collect bits of dialogue, moments of life of real people and places in Oregon  We didn’t screen the film after we shot it.  It went into a box.  We received footage from friends, bought home movies at garage sales, always had our eyes open for found movie scenes.  All went in the box.  

We devised man/woman scenes  with actors Anne Gerety and Tom Hill.  We shot scenes of Tom and Anne on Amtrak between Portland and Salem. All went into the box.  We recorded Bill reading thirty poems. Finally after a year of collecting images we carefully reviewed the original film and selected the scenes we wanted copied for editing. 

I set down with all the scenes we had copied and the sound track of Bill reading.  In about two and a half months we had a rough cut.  By now Susan was on to other things.  Rich didn’t know what to think about the rough cut but figured he could patch up some of the most obvious problems.  At the Oregon Arts Commission some voices were dismayed by the result of this particular ‘commission’. 

It was decided that not much could be done to save it so it was accepted with a few small changes.  My mother and father, who did not often agree,  did agree they didn’t care much for the film.  I had had much fun editing An Oregon Message. When I was at the editing bench with Stafford’s words and Rich’s images I was transported beyond my personal travails. My life was in shambles; three years after our daughter Mya was born Susan  and I were splitting.  I finished editing An Oregon Message and headed east for New York City.