By Gary Meyer
Scenes from the movies stay with us. It is incredible how many of these indelible images we recognize as they are mentioned, seen on the Internet or on TV—that is the power of cinema in our lives and the popular culture.
In his 1986 short, Chuck Workman edited together half-second-long clips from over 470 movies spanning the history of the movies, from The Great Train Robbery (1903) to Rocky IV (1985)—all in seven minutes. They are organized by genres.
Precious Images has never been legally available on video or the Internet or shown on television. It only screened in movie theaters. Bootlegs give a poor visual representation.
EatDrinkFilms has made special exclusive arrangements with the filmmaker to show, for a limited time, a high-quality HD version. This is the way to see it.
You will no doubt watch it more than once.
When the film came out, Jack Matthews wrote about it in the Los Angeles Times.
His 2011 celebration of the Director’s Guild of America’s 75th
Anniversary is a whole new “take.” Watch here.
Chuck Workman’s theatrical short Precious Images won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short and was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. It has become one of the most widely-shown shorts in film history, still in circulation all over the world, and is one of five films by Workman circulating in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Workman wrote, directed and produced the documentary Superstar, on artist Andy Warhol, and produced and directed The Source, about the Beat Generation, with performance sequences starring John Turturro, Dennis Hopper, and Johnny Depp. It premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival. His history of the motion picture, The First 100 Years, appeared on HBO and received a Cable ACE Award. The Making of a Dream, on Martin Luther King, was televised on Dr. King’s 75th Birthday in 2004. His film history of the American Presidency and popular culture, The People’s President, was shown on PBS and was invited to screen internationally as part of a US State Department series called The American Documentary Showcase. Workman wrote and directed the documentary In Search of Kennedy, a modern look at JFK’s life and legacy, and a documentary on Jonas Mekas and avant-garde cinema, Visionaries, which was invited to the Tribeca Film Festival, Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, and several other festivals. His recent documentary on the artistic use of film, What is Cinema?, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. His newest work, Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and has appeared in several festivals and played theatrically this year in celebration of Welles’s 100th anniversary.
His short film Words, an unofficial follow-up to Precious Images focusing on great lines of movie dialogue, was produced for the Writers Guild. He has created shorts for Kodak, Paramount, Turner Classic Movies, and Disney World; A Tribute to Charlie Chaplin for the Cannes Film Festival; and others to celebrate cinema. He’s created projections for three Michael Jackson concerts, and recently made the film shown at Jackson’s memorial. He made the compilation short The Spirit of America in response to the events of September 11, 2001. This short played in over 10,000 theaters.
Workman is well known for masterfully edited sequences on 20 Academy Awards presentations, for which he’s been nominated for Emmy Awards 10 times. They are always-distinctive montages of great cinematic moments.
Not limited to nonfiction, Workman is the writer and director of the independent dramatic film A House on a Hill , starring Phillip Baker Hall, Laura San Giacomo, and Shirley Knight, which appeared at several festivals before its theatrical release in 2004., He has directed and written several dramatic shorts. The Money, his first dramatic feature, has been recently re-released on DVD with a new title, The Atlantic City Jackpot.
Workman directed and produced a compilation episode of Mad About You, created special sequences for theatrical and television films including Stalin and The Band Played On for HBO, and Protocol for director Herbert Ross. His video installations have been featured in London’s Museum of the Moving Image, San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the Nexus Institute of Amsterdam, Barnsdall Park Museum, and the Oakland Museum.
Earlier in his career, Workman was a leading creator of film trailers. He made trailers for Star Wars, Close Enounters of the Third Kind, American Graffiti, Paris, Texas and other major films. Workman also created main titles for movies and TV series, and directed numerous television commercials. Workman has also directed theater and opera in Los Angeles and New York, and was Artistic Director of the Chaplin Theatre Company in Hollywood. He has written four stage plays which have been produced in the Los Angeles area: The Man Who Wore White Shoes, Diplomacy, Bruno’s Ghost, and Bloomers, which he is currently adapting for the big screen.
He is a former President of the International Documentary Association and received its Distinguished Achievement Award. He was a Commissioner of the Santa Monica Arts Commission and former Board Member of the Directors Guild of America, was on the Documentary Executive Committee, and is on the Grants Committee at the Motion Picture Academy. He has been a lecturer in filmmaking at many major media arts centers and colleges, and has contributed articles on filmmaking to several magazines. He was recently a Distinguished Artist and Visiting Associate Professor at SUNY Purchase College in Purchase, NY.
Workman has received career tributes for his work at several festivals, including the Mill Valley Festival, the St. Louis Film Festival, the Big Sky Festival, the Ft. Lauderdale Festival, and others. Matt Zoller Seitz, former critic for The New York Times, called him one of the three most influential editors of the past 50 years.
All of his features are available on various home video formats from Amazon.com.
Enjoy more samples of Chuck’s work here.
Read a transcript to an NPR story about Chuck Workman.
Read an interview about his Orson Welles movie.