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SEEMAYER STUDIOS presents
Edited by PAMELA WILSON
Produced by STEPHEN SEEMAYER and PAMELA WILSON
Associate Producer ZACH SEEMAYER
Prologue narrated by PATT MORRISON
Original Music by FAT & FUCKED UP
Additional Music by THE DARK BOB, PARTY BOYS and LINDA FRYE BURNHAM
Directed by STEPHEN SEEMAYER
From 1977 to 1981, multimedia artist Stephen Seemayer shot a Super-8mm movie of his creative friends in their unnatural habitat: the deserted industrial buildings of Downtown Los Angeles. His camera captured them at work and at play, discussing art and what it meant to share the streets with those less fortunate. A rough cut of “Young Turks” was screened in 1981 and never seen again. Newly digitized and fully reedited with additional footage, the film is a remarkable document of L.A.’s urban core at a crossroads … when rent was cheap and “loft living” was more than just an advertising slogan.
Long synopsis & artist info:
From 1977 to 1981, multimedia artist Stephen Seemayer took a Super-8mm movie camera and captured some of the artists and denizens of Downtown L.A. in their unnatural habitat. He filmed them at work and at play, discussing art and the experience of living amid the gritty alleys and deserted industrial buildings at the city’s urban core. A rough cut of the resulting documentary, “Young Turks,” was screened at a 1981 event called the Downtown Drive-In. The film was projected onto the wall of a warehouse that had been converted into artist studios. Then it was put into storage and never seen again.
Newly digitized and fully reedited with additional footage, “Young Turks” has been re-envisioned by Seemayer, along with film editor Pamela Wilson, with an eye to sharing it with a new generation. In 1981, rents were cheap and life was edgy in Downtown L.A. The artists featured in “Young Turks” (see following list) discussed their reasons for moving there and how it affected their work.
Bob & Bob, a performance art duo whose observations on American culture were laced with humor and irony. Linda Frye Burnham, a poet and
publisher of High Performance
magazine. James Croak, a large-scale sculptor
who lived in a fire station in the heart
of Skid Row. Woods Davy, whose precarious yet elegant sculptures mixed man-made and natural elements. Eric “Randy” Johnsen, the “Action Critic,” who never met a painting he didn’t want to destroy. Marc Kreisel, a mixed-media conceptual artist and owner of the legendary punk-rock dive Al’s Bar. Richard Newton, a performance artist and filmmaker who takes Seemayer on the “first tour” of the as-yet-unbuilt Museum of Contemporary Art on Bunker Hill. Jon Peterson, who placed his sculptural “bum shelters” around the alleys and vacant lots of Skid Row. Monique Safford, a conceptual artist and photographer who incorporated the literary with the visual. John Schroeder, who combined fossils and other remnants of life in moving, poetic assemblages. Stephen Seemayer, the filmmaker himself, was a multimedia artist known for working with fire and a human fetus. Coleen Sterritt, whose sculptures’ decorative, colorful surfaces belie their menacing structure. Andy Wilf, an expressionist painter whose personal demons infused every canvas.
These were not the only artists living downtown in the 1970s and ’80s, they were just some of the artists Seemayer knew best.
Seemayer also turned his camera on those less fortunate who made the streets their home. The result is an intimate snapshot of Downtown L.A. at a crossroads, before skyscrapers and MOCA, when “loft living” was more than just an advertising slogan.
Multimedia artist Stephen Seemayer shot “Young Turks beginning in 1977. A rough cut was shown in 1981 and then packed away until 2011, when he decided to reenvision the film for a 21st-century audience. He also directed “Sushi Olé” (1983), a video of a performance by artist Milano Kazanjian, and a few low-budget features.
Pamela Wilson met Seemayer at Al’s Bar in 1981 while he was shooting “Young Turks.” They married in 1984 and made films together until the birth of their son in 1986. After a 22-year career as an editor at the Los Angeles Times, Wilson returned to filmmaking in 2012 to produce and edit the reenvisioned “Young Turks.”
Associate producer Zach Seemayer, the son of Wilson and Seemayer, has made several award-winning short films, and he created and stars in the web series “Detective Lessons With Nick Mandrake.” He recently earned a Masters degree in film, television and theater from Cal State University Los Angeles.
“The Origins of ‘Young Turks’ “
“Young Turks” started as a sort of Super-8mm home movie by multimedia artist Stephen Seemayer.
In 1977, he moved from the white-bread San Fernando Valley into the gritty industrial heart of Downtown Los Angeles. He made friends among the other artists and various street denizens of his new neighborhood and shot footage of them at work and at play, discussing art and life on the mean streets of the city’s urban core.
Seemayer screened a rough cut of his film in 1981 at an event called the Downtown Drive-In, at which “Young Turks” was projected onto the wall of a warehouse that had been converted into artist studios and people watched from their cars in the adjacent parking lot.
A book of the film was published by Astro Artz and a gallery downtown hosted a show of work by the artists featured in the film. Then that rough cut of “Young Turks” was put into storage and never seen again.
Now, after being digitized and fully reedited by Pamela Wilson, “Young Turks” includes footage left out of the original film and a prologue narrated by L.A. Times columnist and radio personality Patt Morrison.
Today, it stands as a remarkable document of Downtown L.A. at a crossroads, when rent was cheap and “loft living” was more than just an advertising slogan.
THEATRICAL RELEASE / EXHIBITION
February 8-28, 2013: “Young Turks” plays a three-week run at the Downtown Independent Theater,
251 S. Main St. in Los Angeles
laobserved.com (September 13, 2012)A mention on local website laobserved.com with regard to upcoming previews of “Young Turks.”
“ ‘Young Turks’ shows downtown LA arts scene when ‘the rent was cheap, the streets were tough, and the beer was warm’ “
kpcc.org (February 2, 2013)Article and 8½-minute interview with filmmakers Stephen Seemayer and Pamela Wilson that was broadcast on KPCC’s “Off-Ramp” with John Rabe (89.3 FM).
Los Angeles Times (February 8, 2013)Capsule review of “Young Turks” by Times movie critic Robert Abele