Artists' Television Access

Meet Our Volunteers: Eric Stewart & Lizzy Brooks

Each month, we are featuring interviews with the volunteer staff that make ATA possible, recognizing their work at ATA and their contribution to our vibrant artistic community.

Here are the interviews with our volunteers Eric Stewart and Lizzy Brooks.


How and when did you first become involved with ATA?

I started volunteering about a year and a half ago.  I had moved here from Chicago,  and after all the drama surrounding settling, I wanted to get involved in the film community and see great films. I’d always heard great things about ATA and respected the programming, so I signed up!

What, if any, other organizations have you been involved with as a volunteer?

I help run a free workshop out of Noisebridge, called Elements of Image Making; we focus on 16mm and super 8 filmmaking.  We do stuff like hand processing, chemical manipulation, and direct animation. Elements is an open platform resource and skill sharing, our goal is to keep analogue film processes viable by sharing our craft with anyone who wants to engage in it.  Our next workshop is Sunday June 2nd at 4pm at Noisebridge, we will be doing solarisation and reticulation.

Is volunteering at ATA what you expected?

Definitely, it’s a lot of fun and you get to meet a lot of interesting people and see interesting films.

You are also a filmmaker. Do you have any projects on the works you would like to tell us about?

I make 16mm films that are generally interested in tracing the political, social and mystical histories embedded within landscapes and systems.  My films are often about the philosophy of science, perception and being.  My current project is a short film called ARBOUR; it is about systems of knowledge, museums and wilderness.  It is kind of an extended film poem shot at the Chabot Space and Science Center, the California Academy of Arts and Science, Muir Woods and an epic tide pool in the Puget Sound.  Hope to be down with it by the end of summer.

Why is ATA important to you? And to the community?

ATA operates in a spirit of total inclusiveness and as a platform that enables artists to flourish.  ATA provides opportunities for emerging artists that few other places do.  ATA encourages people to keep creating while offering a place for works to be seen and groups to be heard.  ATA fosters a culture of resistance to mainstream media and institutions while maintaining the general health of the creative community in the Bay and beyond!  ATA is an inspiration and a model for micro cinemas everywhere! ATA 4 life

What is the craziest or coolest thing you have seen at ATA so far?

The first event I volunteered for was a fundraiser for Occupy San Francisco.  A video was playing that documented an action taken inside of a bank; people sat down in the lobby of the bank and refused to leave.  Everyone in the audience was clapping and cheering throughout the entire video, the energy in the room was just incredible.  I remember thinking to myself “this is like… the magic of Cinema”. There are these myths that float around about the early days of cinema, about peoples shock and awe at the “reality” on screen.  We were all transfixed and connected to the screen and each other; it was powerful in a way that is unique to cinema.  In its essence that moment is everything I love and value about ATA.


When and why did you start volunteering at ATA?

I started volunteering at ATA in June of 2012. I had just moved to San Francisco, and I was looking for ways to connect with the art and film community. I went to a show at ATA and then I discovered that the whole place was run by volunteers. I loved the openness of ATA, and the way that it attracts a wide range of different artists without building hierarchies. I thought volunteering would be a good way to meet people who were making experimental cinema or projections, and also to be exposed to a constant stream of alternate cinema, films that are strange and challenging. So far, so good!

You are reviewing ATA shows for the blog. Does it make you feel like a film critic? Tell us about your experience so far.

I like to write reviews of certain shows because it cultivates a deeper connection with the piece.

The exercise of writing forces me to think about the work beyond just watching it in the gallery. I think that helps my own practice, as well as giving some good feedback to the screening artist. I think it’s a fantastic complement if someone takes the time to think enough about an artwork to write about it, so I’m glad to give that to other people.

I don’t think of myself as a film critic because, in fact, I don’t review work that I didn’t find interesting. If I didn’t connect with a piece, then I don’t write about it. I think that the critic sometimes builds his or her writing on the ability to break an artwork into its pieces, to deconstruct its influences and to deflate the weaker points. I am not so interested in deconstruction as in drawing connections or writing my own reactions as a viewer. I do write about issues in a piece that I find problematic, but I try to write for the artist as my primary audience. I think people can learn a lot from a well-considered audience reaction, and I try to give that to people whose work I respect.

You are a filmmaker as well. Can you tell us a little about the film you are working on?

I am actually making my first film right now. It’s a humbling experience. The film is called Kibuki and it’s about spirit possession rituals in Zanzibar. It’s a lyrical documentary, more like a memoir, about navigating cultural boundaries in search of these elusive creatures, the kibuki spirits, who take possession of their hosts’ bodies and then get drunk and dance and go wild and out of control. So if you get inhabited by one of these spirits, then there’s a trance ritual that teaches you to live in harmony with the demon. I see it as a way of finding peace with the different sides of our personalities.

I knew the people who practice this from a long time ago because I spent part of my childhood– or young-adulthood– in Tanzania. They told me that I had one of these spirits, i.e. that I was also possessed. I went to live with them to try to understand what that meant. And I was filming, which was problematic at times. There were some things that happened during my year there that changed me as a person. I hope the film gives glimpses of the whole story.

What is the best part of volunteering at ATA?

I like the people that I met through ATA. People are always the best part of a community space, right? Through volunteering I have also seen some really amazing videos and cinema art that I never would have discovered otherwise. There’s just a steady stream of cool material flowing through that space, and it’s great to be exposed to it.

Why is ATA important to you? And to the community?

ATA exists to support experimentation. It’s increasingly rare in this city to find a storefront space that puts interestingness above profit. As an artist, I feel like the presence of ATA and similar open and collaborative gallery spaces is what makes San Francisco livable and exiting for me.

What is the craziest or coolest thing you have seen at ATA so far?

I don’t know about the craziest… I loved the benefit screening, Cast Shadows. I wrote all about it in my blog post

Volunteer with ATA!

ATA is looking for volunteers to help with our Gallery and our Screenings. Volunteers run screenings, organize events, curate shows, and get stuff done. Volunteers can come to any ATA show for free. We need people who are creative and reliable.

Email [email protected] and become a part of something good.

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