MacDonald, Scott 1942-

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MacDONALD, Scott 1942-

PERSONAL: Born October 10, 1942, in Easton, PA. Education: DePauw University, B.A., 1964; University of Florida, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1970.

ADDRESSES: Home—5 Sherman Street, New Hartford, NY 13413. Office—Department of English & Film, Utica College, 1600 Burrstone Road, Utica, NY 13502.

CAREER: Critic and educator. University of Florida, Gainesville, assistant professor of humanities, 1969-70; Utica College, New York, NY, began as assistant professor, became professor emeritus of English and film studies, 1971—. Visiting professor, media arts, University of Tucson, Tucson, AZ, 2000. Guest curator of exhibit Frames of Mind: Recent Filmmaking in Central New York, at Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, 1986.


(Editor) Critical essays on Erskine Caldwell, G. K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1981.

A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, three volumes, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1988-1998.

Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor) Screen Writings: Scripts and Texts by Independent Filmmakers, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1995.

The Garden in the Machine: A Field Guide to Independent Films about Place, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.

(Editor) Cinema 16: Documents toward a History of the Film Society, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Articles have been published in numerous journals, including Quarterly Review of Film Studies, Arts & Cinema, and Afterimage.

SIDELIGHTS: Scott MacDonald's special interest lies in researching avant-garde filmmakers. In an article for the Tucson Weekly, Mari Wadsworth quoted Mac-Donald: "I've never liked the term avant-garde. It sounds like the avant-garde gets there first, and then everybody else follows. That's true sometimes, but just as often Hollywood gets there first, and then the avant-garde satirizes it."

While MacDonald was visiting professor at the University of Arizona, he conducted a series of free lectures titled "American Place in American Avant-Garde Film," a series, Wadsworth noted, "aimed at those who may have previously assumed avant-garde is French for 'I don't get it.'" MacDonald acknowledged that, while he loves all kinds of film, he believes avant-garde requires special attention. "No matter how good [avant-garde] cinema is," he commented, "it doesn't get in front of audiences. Consequently, it doesn't get rented much, so prints aren't struck . . . so it's a bit like nature itself. It's endangered."

To that end, his publications focus on the film genre and its creators. For the first installment of his three-volume A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers MacDonald interviewed "critical" filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Larry Gottenheim, Robert Huot, Taka Iimura, Babette Magolte, and Diana Barrie. A Critical Cinema 2 consists of interviews with nineteen independent filmmakers, including Michael Snow, Robert Beer, and Bruce Baillie. He also focuses much of this second volume on women filmmakers, including Yoko Ono, who discusses her early work with the dadaist Fluxus group and joint projects with husband John Lennon. A Critical Cinema 3 expands the scope of the previous two volumes by treating independent filmmaking on an international and multiethnic level. Interviews include Armenian filmmaker Arthur Peleshian, Mani Kaul of India, Nick Deocampo of the Philippines, and British filmmaker Sally Potter. Neal Baker, commented in Library Journal: "The filmmakers in these volumes strive to create new kinds of imagery, narratives, and audiences that challenge Hollywood norms." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote: "MacDonald is a near-ideal interviewer—well informed, concise and unobtrusive—and his subjects are good talkers. The filmographies and bibliographies included here are especially welcome."

Of Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies, M. Yacowar and Emily Carr commented in Choice, "At last! A work on avant-garde film that is not as confounding as the films....He succeeds in his aim to show how this challenging and unfamiliar cinema can enliven even conventional film viewing." The book contains fifteen short chapters, each headed with the name of one filmmaker and one of that filmmaker's works, then studies that particular work in relation to other works by the same artist. For example, the chapter, "Su Friedrich: The Ties That Bind" also contains extensive remarks on Sink or Swim by the same artist. William Wees noted in Film Quarterly that MacDonald examines "the ways avant-garde filmmakers use serial organization—a kind of temporal grid—and, in most cases, long takes as well, to 'focus attention—an almost meditative level of attention—on subject matter normally ignored or marginalized by massentertainment films.'"

The Garden in the Machine is a far-reaching and original work focusing on place, especially American place, represented in literature, art, photography, and moving images. In particular, MacDonald analyses mainstream and alternative movies and their representation of landscape and nature. He garnered the title of his book from The Machine in the Garden, a famous book by Leo Marx, and explained to Wadsworth the opposing premises of the two books and how Marx depicts nineteenth-century American as an Eden into which rolls the locomotive. "He talks about trying to come to terms with the industrial revolution and what you would rather think of as a kind of dying, natural space. My premise is that a century later, as Americans, we're dealing with basically the same issue. But the whole country is a continental machine, and what we're looking for are the little moments of garden—not just physical garden, but what a garden means—in that machine."

MacDonald continued, "This is part of the premise, too, that when you go into a movie theater you're inside a machine. There's a machine in a room, and you turn out these machines (lights) and you turn on a machine (projector) and sound is going on. You're in an electronic, mechanical space, looking at a natural thing. And yet, seeing nature in a movie theater can re-alert you to reality."

An article on the University of California Press Web site quoted author Patricia Zimmerman as saying: The Garden in the Machine "is MacDonald's magnum opus: it represents a deep immersion in and advocacy for independent, experimental cinema." Scott Slovic also commented on the same Web site: "This is a brilliant study—learned, authoritative, and often eloquent. One reads this book with astonishment at the wealth of thoughtful and playful and provocative work that has occurred in this medium—and astonishment too that most scholars of environmental literature and nature in the visual arts have had minimal contact with independent film and video."



American Studies International, October, 1998, James Deutsch, review of A Critical Cinema 3: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, p. 87.

Choice, September, 1993, M. Yacowar and Emily Carr, review of Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies, p. 134.

Film Quarterly, spring, 1994, William C. Wees, review of Avant-Garde Film, p. 51.

Films in Review, September, 1995, review of Screen Writings: Scripts and Texts by Independent Filmmakers, P. 68.

Journalism Quarterly, winter, 1989, review of A Critical Cinema: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, p. 1021.

Library Journal, February 1, 1998, Neal Baker, review of A Critical Cinema 3, p. 88.

Publishers Weekly, August 31, 1992, review of A Critical Cinema 2: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers, p. 70.

Sight and Sound, October 1993, Ian Christie, review of Avant-Garde Film, p. 34.

Videomaker, April, 1999, Joe McCleskey, review of A Critical Cinema 3, p. 13.


Tuscon Weekly Online, (September 23, 2002), Mari Wadsworth, "Manifest West: A Series of Films from the Avant-Garde Breathe New Life into the Old West."

University of California Web site, (June 5, 2002).*

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MacDonald, Scott 1942-

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