Interviews Conducted by Kathy - Experimental Television Center
EXPERIMENTAL TELEVISION CENTER Video History: Making Connections Conference (October 16-18, 1998) Interviews Conducted by Kathy High - 52 - TOMCZAK (Cont.): breakaway from Art Metropole, which was the first ever video distributor in the world. And then this group of five broke off and formed their own collective distribution company. And then in 1982, Lisa and I expanded that with a year long research project; in 1983, we got it up and running in earnest. And we expanded it to be the… Well, it’s certainly the largest distribution company in Canada of artists’ work, and it’s probably one of the largest ones in the world. And we— I like to always say that. It’s probably, in terms of the population of the country, it’s probably about five times more active than a place like the Video Data Bank, for example, if you think of the American population being ten times the size. We’re much bigger than that. And it’s been very successful, and we’ve managed to get into distribution a tremendously wide variety of artists’ work, and experimental, innovative documentary makers, as well. We don’t make a distinction between the two forms. And we have an interesting policy, that we accept all work that is given to us. You know, as long as they sign a contract and give us submasters and all that kind of stuff. So we’ve ended up with a tremendously wide variety of material, which I don’t think any other distributor in the world could claim to have such a breadth of material. It’s meant that we become a very important kind of central location for people to find stuff, which may, you know, find that right pair of shoes, as some people say about it. STEELE: But it’s also, we are— we encourage the collection and the cataloguing of the artists. We focus on the artists themselves. We don’t focus on thematic or anything else. If the artist has one tape in distribution, then if they have others, then we’ll— you know,
EXPERIMENTAL TELEVISION CENTER Video History: Making Connections Conference (October 16-18, 1998) Interviews Conducted by Kathy High - 53 - STEELE (Cont.): we encourage them, “Well, where’s your new tape? You know, bring it to us,” blah-blah-blah. Or we may go back and bring in to distribution earlier works. You know, we are sort of— we feel— there’s always been a kind of an archival nature to, I think, what we’ve done. But also, there’s a non— we felt that the traditional distributors, even the non-profit ones, were gatekeepers, to a certain extent; and that we felt that in fact, programmers, and festival people, and researchers needed more—since there was no other access to it—they needed to know the breadth of the field, and that their selections would start to reflect that. And it’s true. It actually worked out. We said it would happen, and it did. (laughs) The very unlikely programs and stuff get put together. Some works have only been shown once in their life publicly, you know, after they’re first made; but they probably wouldn’t have had that showing if they hadn’t been, you know, listed and had a curator see: Oh, that’s perfect for my program. So… TOMCZAK: And we give a very good home to… STEELE: (laughs) A very good home. TOMCZAK: …orphaned videotapes. STEELE: Orphaned video. TOMCZAK: Yeah. Orphaned video, that’s right.