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An Evening with Pat O’Neil


Thursday, April 21st @ 8:00pm


Hosted by Academy Film Scholar David E. James
Featuring an onstage conversation with Pat O'Neill, followed by the premiere of a newly preserved print of "Water and Power" (1989) from the Academy Film Archive.

Since the early 1960s, experimental filmmaker and optical effects artist Pat O'Neill has applied a unique artistic perspective to the techniques of commercial special effects to create a varied, often startling body of work.

O'Neill began making films while studying design and photography in graduate school at UCLA. As he continually refined his technical abilities, O'Neill expanded the boundaries of avant garde film by creating highly graphic, layered and reflexive assemblages that frequently combine found footage, abstract material and his own cinematography. Making extensive use of the optical printer, time lapse, motion control and other techniques, O'Neill interweaves these materials into montages of unusual complexity.

At the same time, O'Neill has worked extensively in the mainstream feature film industry, contributing to the optical effects on such films as "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), "Dragonslayer" (1981), "Return of the Jedi" (1983), "RoboCop" (1987), "Dances With Wolves" (1990), "Tank Girl" (1995) and "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997).

O'Neill's first 35mm feature, "Water and Power," won a Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990 and was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2008. By using a series of visually and aurally dense tableaux created with advanced motion control, optical printing and animation techniques, the film explores the complex battle for natural resources waged between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley. The soundtrack was originally designed for stereo but mixed to mono due to cost and technical restrictions; this presentation will be the first to feature the restored digital remaster in stereo.

Host David E. James is an Academy Film Scholar, author and professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC.

Directed and produced by Pat O'Neill. Cinematography and Film Editing, O'Neill. Motion Control Software Design by Mark Madel. Optical Printer Operator Beth Block. Sound Design and Music Design by George Lockwood. 1989. 35mm. 54 minutes.