Owen O'Toole

"I always hoped to produce great work that would awaken people to the beauty and wonder in the world and maybe lead to lives lived more sensitively to the fragile balance of life on Earth." - Owen O'Toole


[tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE note: In order to inform the interested public who the UNDERAPPRECIATED MOVIEMAKERS are whose work will be screened at the UNDERAPPRECIATED MOVIEMAKERS FESTIVAL. I've asked all the participants to date to provide:

1. a bio (short or long, you decide - short ones, obviously, tend to be read more)

2. a picture

3. a list of your works (either complete or selected - but make sure you list your earliest movie to substantiate that you've been at it for 30 or more years)

4. 1 or more links to relevant websites

5. AN ESSAY EXPLAINING WHY YOU'RE UNDERAPPRECIATED (This is very important. What I'm hoping for is not only an explanation of why you feel underappreciated but what it is about you & your work that you think leads to people neglecting &/or rejecting it. This can be a socio-political-cultural analysis of what might be shortcomings of our society.)]

Owen O'Toole

Alas, Owen O'Toole passed away in 2017. It's the decision of this festival's founder & curator (t,ac) to present his work because I feel like it was never appreciated enough in his lifetime. As such, the info provided below is my rather haphazard sketch & could certainly be improved upon. There's no pretense here of completeness, I'm only writing about Owen from my own limited perspective & from a few things that I've culled together either from online or from other friends of Owen's. - April 30, 2018 note from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE



[The red parts of this are from the August 17, 2017 Washington Post obituary; the green parts are from the "Some Assembly Required" blog (see link below); the black parts are from my own memory (t,ac)]

O'TOOLE, OWEN SINCLAIR, beloved and loving father of Evan (10), husband of Pamela Wylie, brother of Tom, Ellen O. Hubbard and Peter, son of Vitaline M. O'Connell O'Toole and Thomas P. O'Toole (d. 2003), uncle to Emily (21) and Annie (19) Hubbard and Jack (10) and Violet (7) O'Toole, and half-brother of Ryan O'Toole, passed away peacefully at his home in Monrovia, California on July 14, 2017 after a long illness. He was 56. A renowned artist working in film and sound, Owen was born on May 20, 1961 in New York City, living his first years next to, and playing in, Gramercy Park. He attended Rye Country Day School before his family moved to Washington, DC. in 1966, where he graduated from Landon School in 1979. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature from Tufts University in 1985 paired with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film, Animation and Sound from the Boston Museum School. A multi-instrumentalist, he employed unique collage techniques with turntables and effect boxes.

"Absinthe Radio Trio" notes:



"Absinthe Radio Trio" by Owen O'Toole. In the early 1990s, Owen started a record label called "Wafer Face". "Wafer 3" was my very own "The Official Wafer Face Record", "Wafer 4" was "The Plagiarist Trio", "Wafer 6" was the "Absinthe Radio Trio", & "Wafer 8" was my "Usic minus the square root of minus one" LP. "The Plagiarist Trio" & "Absinthe Radio Trio" were the same 4 guys: Owen: radio, samples, voice; Leo Loginov: keyboards, voice; Jeff Plansker: records, vocal; Michael Townsend: radio, samples, choice. The difference was that the "Absinthe Radio Trio" drank absinthe while performing on the radio. This documents that. Recorded at WMPG radio in Portland, Maine on what may be October 7, 1992 or July 10, 1992. This is the 12th upload, of a projected 13, of movies by Owen O'Toole from the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE aRCHIVE. - January 2, 2018 note from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

Tags: Owen O'Toole, Leo Loginov, Jeff Plansker, Michael Townsend, Absinthe Radio Trio, WMPG, free form radio, tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE aRCHIVE

In some ways all of my sound work is an extension of the radio shows I did on and off for 15 years. I studied experimental music and film, began making my own work involving sampling and "process," altering found sounds into new work, often involving slowing sounds down. A typical radio involved a few intro recordings and then beginning to mix sources, create looping patterns and record that on reel to reel; the halfway point of the program meant turning the tape over to mix the backwards first half of the night with ongoing forward motion, a kind of time stretch in 2 directions. Did many collaborative radio shows over the years. I have not fully moved into the digital/virtual sound world, still using table-top electronics, although I cut in ProTools. I'm a bit of a Luddite and resisted getting sucked into computer use as long as I could. I was also in a short lived group called Loaf of Wonder with Hahn Rowe (Hugo Largo, Foetus) and Jake Dillon (who played amplified electric football games) many years ago. Hahn also encouraged my use of tape loops and general sound exploration.

His favorite planet was Jupiter, writing later in life: "Its size and great red spot captivated a child concerned with the majestic." A born draftsman, Owen came to motion pictures through animation and progressed into original music and sound design for soundtracks for the entertainment industry, including commercials for Reebok and IBM, films and the web. To the end of his life he remained a prolific reviewer of music and film and his long history of audio production and music study made him a valued source for global artists, academics, journalists and others researching the deepest corners of world music and film history. His encyclopedic knowledge of and experience in the Super 8 film medium led to his 1988 globally-sourced Super 8 project "Filmers Almanac," which was screened at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1998 as part of MOMA's "Big As Life: An American History of 8mm Films" retrospective. His collaborations with the celebrated Los Angeles filmmaker Jeffery Plansker reached from WMFO Radio at Tufts University to the television pilot "Jalopy Hour" (1998), "The Lion Still Has Wings" (2005) for Sony Dreams and Pocket Radio films. Owen also collaborated with Los Angeles-based HiFi Project and German film groups Alte Kinder and Schmelzdahin on "The Flamethrowers," which traveled the world in the Goethe Institute's "German Experimental Film of the 1990s" program. Owen also cofounded the film performance group Wet Gate, which toured festivals around the world. When he and Pamela became parents to Evan on July 18, 2007, Owen wrote, "It is amazing to feel myself drawn to re-learning love." As life accelerated and became more complex, he wrote, eight years later, Evan's "flying at a million miles an hour past Jupiter and Saturn and I'm scrambling to keep up." Today, Owen is flying at a million miles an hour past his favorite planet, too - to a majestic destination that all who knew and loved him can imagine. A selection of Owen's writing on fatherhood and his fight against disease can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yd4u3v5p. A selection of his composing, performing and soundtrack work is available at https://soundcloud.com/oeinotoole. The original trailer for "Jalopy Hour" can be seen at https://vimeo.com/127522078. And other commercial work resulted in the CD project "Belief System: Possible Music for Television," which can be heard at http://www.geodesic.tv/belief-system On August 26, a memorial will be held at Lacy Park on Virginia Road in San Marino, California. In lieu of flowers, kindnesses may be made to the Multiple System Atrophy Coalition. Also, Owen would wish you to support NASA's work.

Published in The Washington Post on Aug. 21, 2017



(Incomplete) FILMOGRAPHY

Jalopy Hour (2009, 14') TV movie comedy, co-directed with Jeff Plansker

The Plagiarist (ca. 2001, unfinished)

As if It Was Your Own (1992?, complete 2005?, 25')

U.TV (September, 1992) - https://youtu.be/dFtTc0uvPFw (also online here: https://archive.org/details/idioideo_verizon_U.TV )

Radio Art (August, 1992) - https://youtu.be/hkIOX0x2C2g (also online here: https://archive.org/details/RadioArt )

O-wear Commersh (1992, 6' in total) commericials for organic clothing company "O-wear"

Absinthe Radio Trio (1992) - https://youtu.be/uzNV0aSzJIc (also online here: https://archive.org/details/AbsintheRadioTrio )

Bath Iron Works (1991, 5')

Anti-Almanac, pt II (1989? 6') - https://youtu.be/HYff94_boA0 (also online here: https://archive.org/details/AntiAlmanacpt2 )

Anti-Almanac (1989, 5') - https://youtu.be/GEMSzuPRkgc

The Flamethrowers (1989, 9') co-directed with Alte Kinder and Schmelzdahin

Almanac Trailer (1988-1989) - https://youtu.be/OIQXYU0fno8 (also online here: https://archive.org/details/AlmanacTrailer )

The Filmers' Almanac (1988, variable duration) - one version of this (1989) is online here: https://youtu.be/2ep7ljo6Jq4 ; another version of it is online here: https://youtu.be/9PeT4YaAX4E (that version is also online here: https://archive.org/details/FilmersAlmanacSelection )

Hammerhead (1987, variable duration)

Homeworks 1 (Pilot) (1987) - contains Owen's "Pisa, WR Theme" & "Siberian Tigers (excerpt)" - https://youtu.be/w4npCmTtC-w

Filmers Almanac TV PSA (1987) - https://youtu.be/U773WUBAq3w (also online here: https://archive.org/details/FilmersAlmanacTVPSA )

The Siberian Tigers (1987, variable duration)

Sonnet Lumière (1986) - a selection of early super-8mm work by Owenthat includes 1. "Pisa", 2. "WR Theme" ("Wide Receiver" was probably the name of his radio program at the time), 3. "Plaza I", 4. "Pool", 5. "Plaza II" - https://youtu.be/vbsvwv7LsZk

Proof of Midas (1985, 3')

Frames for Frampton (1985, 7')



onesownthoughts's Owen O'Toole YouTube playlist

Wet Gate: http://www.wetgate.net/

"Some Assembly Required" blog (2008.05.17) re Owen: http://www.blog.some-assembly-required.net/2008/05/owen-otoole.html

A selection of Owen's writing on fatherhood and his fight against disease can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yd4u3v5p.

A selection of his composing, performing and soundtrack work is available at https://soundcloud.com/oeinotoole.

The original trailer for "Jalopy Hour" can be seen at https://vimeo.com/127522078.

And other commercial work resulted in the CD project "Belief System: Possible Music for Television," which can be heard at http://www.geodesic.tv/belief-system

Obituary In Washington Post (2017.08.21): http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=owen-otoole&pid=186435893



Was Owen O'Toole UNDERAPPRECIATED? Probably not by his friends & family - but the type of UNDERAPPRECIATION that I'm writing about is that of the larger social context. Owen, despite doing commercial work, IMO, was always more at home in the personal-scale worlds of Mail Art, Home Tapers, College Radio, Cable TV, Small Gauge Filmmaking, etc.. These were the contexts in which he could have quality personal relationships with people, the contexts in which he could leave the least environment-destructive footprints but still have a media impact. Owen's work was like a good joke: if people enjoyed it, it would be worth repeating by word-of-mouth & spreading through personal pleasure rather than through high finance media blitz.

For his "Filmers Almanac" project he solicited one roll of super-8mm film shot on days chosen by a plethora of low-budget filmmakers for every day of 1988. He didn't get films for every day but he got enough to give a pretty good representation of a year in the life of the PERSONAL NETWORK. This isn't Hollywood, this isn't sensationalism, it's the lives of people with the drives of pen pals, the people who wanted to share their lives with other friendly folks around the world.

So why was Owen UNDERAPPRECIATED? Precisely because he wasn't bulldozing the minds of consumers. Instead he offered friendship. Perhaps we live in a world of primarily Pavlovian responses - many people can no longer sit down to a good meal unless the bell rings to tell them to salivate 1st.

To quote from my notes re Owen's "Sonnet Lumière" as presented on my onesownthoughts You Tube channel:

"Owen O'Toole was a free-form radio DJ on WMFO at Tufts University in early 1986 when he wrote to me inquiring about the audio tapes I published via Widemouth Tapes. The very 2nd thing he sent me was a VHS copy of a collection of 5 super-8 movies he'd made & organized under the name "Sonnet Lumière" for broadcast on Somerville, Massachusetts's Public Access TV. The 5 films presented are: 1. "Pisa", 2. "WR Theme" ("Wide Receiver" was probably the name of his radio program at the time), 3. "Plaza I", 4. "Pool", 5. "Plaza II". In my world, Owen was a major super-8mm filmmaker. In the early '80s, public access channels on cable tv were being struggled for by political activists. It's to their credit that there's some amazing programming that wouldn't be available otherwise. The handwritten note that came with Owen's VHS tape concluded with "please use this tape as you like." This was typical of the generous & open friendship that we had with each other. It was also typical of the best of the times, the 1980s having been the heyday of Home Taper exchanges. There was a plenitude of networking through the mails going on, people found their commonalities & supported each other, & had a great deal of fun doing so."

Finally, it's hard for a person to be appreciated when they don't get credit where credit's due. In March, 2016, as Owen's health was deteriorating, he wrote me an understandably frustrated email about the origin of the word "microcinema", a word whose coinage is commonly attributed to Rebecca Barten & David Sherman: "i would just like occasional credit for the term coming out of my mouth. Rebecca tricked me when she asked for the word as a wedding present as we were crossing the street. i know it's kind of silly. ("microcinema", actually subconscious influence of Mike Film Distribution Form)." Using the word "tricked" is probably unfair to Rebecca, there was a time when I knew Rebecca well & I never had any reason to complain about her, certainly not about her being dishonest. Still, I understand Owen's frustration, the word "microcinema" is now in wide use so I've been trying to set the record straight ever since Owen's complaint.

- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, April 30, 2018







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