Celluloid Dreams

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Posted July 9, 2008 by Kristian Lin in Film

“I ask my students about their dreams,” said Greg Mansur, who teaches filmmaking at Texas Christian University. “They think it’s silly at first, but film is like a dream. And when we analyze the dreams, our analyses wind up sounding like movie reviews. I’m teaching the students to think about their consciousness, not just directing and producing.”

An independent art-filmmaker and multimedia artist, Mansur is probably the last person you’d think would be the lead writer of a mainstream Western. Buthere the fiftysomething professor is, working on a DELETE for a film about Billy the Kid. “I thought it would be a challenge,” said Mansur, who, though primarily concerned with cinema as an artistic medium, has great respect for high-quality commercial cinema. “This was presented to me as something that already had funding in place, and it was good to be asked to do this. I just thought it would be fun.” Mansur signed on after meeting Randal Keith Duncan, who produced Christopher Abram’s After Sundown for California-based Barnholtz Entertainment. The project has stalled in negotiations over the film’s creative direction, and his DELETE has gone through several versions, but Mansur hopes to see his work come to fruition. “There’s nothing like writing for the screen and actually seeing it done.”

In both teaching and his own filmmaking efforts, Mansur is driven by complex ideas. Born in Massachusetts, he credits his experience at the University of Bridgeport film school in the 1970s with giving him a purpose after a rough childhood. “Andy Williams’ music was as much culture as [my family] ever had,” he remembered. “When I saw Last Year at Marienbad and Un Chien Andalou, it showed how cinema could open up your awareness. It was like seeing a Matisse for the first time.” He also credits Beat poetry with pulling him out of depression when he was 19. Indeed, he carries around a newish but well-thumbed copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, containing a signed postcard from Ginsberg himself (dated 1978) authorizing Mansur to use his audio recording of Howl in a documentary film about the poem that he was planning around that time. Money problems kept him from finishing the project.

“I mounted a camera on top of a car and drove from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to New York City. There’s nothing but industrial landscape on that stretch of freeway, and I was going to show it going by in fast-forward. But it would have cost $5,000 just to process, and I was broke.” He still thinks about returning to that project, but there’s no shortage of other things to occupy his time. He supervises his students’ work at TCU. (“If you really want to learn something, teach it,” he said, turning the old maxim nicely on its ear.) He also details his left-leaning political views on his personal web site, and he screens documentaries for AFI Dallas.

His own films address issues of identity and self-awareness, like Adrift, his half-hour short about an advertising executive who becomes sick of her job, an experience based on Mansur’s work for various TV stations and corporate outfits before he came to Texas. His life is also the source for a much different piece called Date.CON, a series of humorous vignettes about a man meeting various blind dates at a restaurant. “I’m so damn serious all the time,” he said with an air of self-criticism. “I wanted to see if I could be funny.”

For more, check out www.gregmansur.net.


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