The Millennium Film Workshop was founded in 1967 by a group of filmmakers, led by film artist Ken Jacobs, with a vision to expand accessibility to the tools, ideas, and networks of filmmaking beyond the confines of institutions and corporate studios. Millennium has put on countless educational workshops, artist-hosted screenings, printed our renowned publication The Millennium Film Journal, served as a production hub kickstarting the careers of many prominent filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage, Todd Haynes, Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneeman, Michael Snow, Nick Zedd, Andy Warhol and Bruce Connor and has played a large role in dismantling the monetary and educational barriers separating the art and craft of filmmaking from the general public.
For over fifty years, Millennium Film Workshop was based in lower Manhattan and served as a world renowned center of independent experimental film production and exhibition. Millennium was both a distinguished venue for leading experimental film artists and a community-based media arts organization dedicated to providing low-cost equipment rental and training programs. These two distinctive aspects of Millennium made it unique among media arts organizations.
Our organization was a vision that was created by filmmaker Ken Jacobs. In 1969, filmmaker Howard Guttenplan assumed the role of Executive Director and held the position until 2011. Guttenplan was a visionary who transformed Millennium into a leading workshop and showcase for experimental filmmakers. In 1974 Guttenplan moved Millennium to 66 East 4th Street in the East Village. It remained at that location for 39 years.
During the Guttenplan era, Millennium offered five major programs and services, including the Personal Cinema Series, the Workshop Program, Equipment Access Service, the Millennium Film Journal and the Millennium Gallery. Guttenplan also broadened the workshop’s field by inviting foreign filmmakers from Britain, Germany, France, Hungary, Poland, Japan, and other regions to make their American debuts at Millennium. Under Guttenplan’s direction, Millennium’s Personal Cinema series became one of the leading venues for experimental film exhibition in the world.
The Personal Cinema Series included one-person programs in which the artist discussed his or her work with the audience. The series also included curated group shows. Yet another feature of the series were “open screenings” that allowed any member of the audience to screen his or her work. Guttenplan strongly believed that open screenings were vital to Millennium’s mission of fostering an artistic community and helping to develop new film artists through eliminating the traditional barriers to entry and providing audiences who were receptive to new work. Artists who were given the opportunity to mount their first one-person shows at Millennium include Hollis Frampton, Clayton Patterson, Jennifer Reeves, Donna Cameron, Bill Morrison, Fred Worden, M.M. Serra, Todd Haynes, Vivienne Dick, Holly Fisher, Sharon Greytak, Lewis Klahr and Su Friedrich.
Other leading experimental filmmakers whose work was regularly featured at Millennium include Stan Brakhage, Jack Smith, Diane Bonder and Mike and George Kuchar. In particular, Brakhage was a passionate supporter of Millennium for thirty years. Many of his most acclaimed films had their premiere at Millennium.
Millennium’s film exhibitions were complemented by its production workshops. Millennium offered film courses and low-cost equipment rental. Instructors included Alan Berliner, Su Friedrich, Barbara Hammer, Paul Sharits, Jud Yalkut, Ross McLaren, Jennifer Reeves, Kelly Spivey, Noël Carroll, Nisi Jacobs, Rachel Shuman, and Jon Jost. Workshop topics include optical printing, Final Cut Pro editing, Steenbeck editing, 16mm and 8mm film and digital video.
The Workshop Program made its equipment available to prominent independent filmmakers and to fledging experimental filmmakers. Millennium also provided access to screening rooms, editing facilities, and film/video production equipment. Oliver Stone, Joie Lee, Jim Jarmusch and Susan Seidelman were members and equipment users. Andy Warhol used the editing rooms in the 1960s, and Jean-Luc Godard used the screening room services in the 1980s. Other participants in the Workshop Program included including James Benning, Bruce Conner, Todd Haynes, Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann and Michael Snow.
Millennium’s hub of production and exhibition activity also extended to film criticism and scholarship. The Millennium Film Journal was established in 1978 and continues to be published today. The Journal has a worldwide circulation.The journal is currently overseen by senior editor Grahame Weinbren. Notable authors from the Journal's history include Paul Arthur, Mike Hoolbloom, J. Hoberman, Fred Camper, Joan Copjec, David James, A. L. Rees, Mary Ann Doane, Birgit Hein, Chris Hill, Vivian Sobchack, Scott MacDonald, Amy Taubin, Noël Carroll, and P. Adams Sitney.
After nearly fifty years of service to Millennium and to the independent film community, Howard Guttenplan died in 2015. The New York Times, in its obituary, quoted him as saying that Millennium’s constant goal was to offer “very personal films by individuals working without large crews or budgets with the same kind of independence as a painter or a poet.” In the same obituary, Amy Taubin, a prominent film critic, wrote that Guttenplan’s legacy “is in the hundreds of films and videos that were made thanks to cheap access to Millennium’s equipment, and in the thousands of viewers who were inspired by nearly 40 years of experimental movie screenings.”
Today Millennium continues to offer classes and screenings in collaboration with various non-profits, in venues around Manhattan and Brooklyn. During the pandemic, Millennium has maintained a vital on-line presence with virtual screenings and podcasts. Millennium is committed to keeping alive its vision by offering a broad range of services and activities to emerging and established media artists at the lowest possible cost.
"Brief History of the Personal Cinema Series" by Howard Guttenplan provides a concise summary of Millennium's early history. Although this first person account does not provide an origin date, it was likely drafted during the winter of 1970-71.
Grahame Weinbren is a pioneer of interactive cinema. His installations have been exhibited internationally since 1985. His documentaries and experimental films have been widely screened since the late 70s, when he and Roberta Friedman had their first collaborative solo show . . . at the Millennium Film Workshop on East 4th Street. Weinbren has published and lectured for over three decades on philosophical and aesthetic issues in the still and moving image and media art. He is the senior editor of the Millennium Film Journal and a member of the graduate faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York.
In connection with Millennium Film Workshop’s historical archive acquisition, MOMA Chief Film Curator, Rajendra Roy, stated that “Millennium has been central to the film culture of New York since the nineteen-sixties, and so important to those of us who have benefited from its programs.”
Writing in the New York Times, art critic Amy Taubin noted on the Millennium Film Workshop’s legacy “it is in the hundreds of films and videos that were made thanks to cheap access to Millennium’s equipment, and in the thousands of viewers who were inspired by nearly 40 years of experimental movie screenings.”
To offer the non-commercial film artist – of whatever experience or proven degree of proficiency, and without interference in either film subject or style – the use without cost, or at minimal cost, of the tools of filmmaking, instruction in filmmaking, and a means of contacting others of like creative interest.
Executive Director, Millennium Film Workshop.1969-2011
Howard H. Guttenplan was the Executive Director of the Millennium Film Workshop from 1969 until 2011. Under Howard's leadership, the organization flourished and provided affordable resources for generations of filmmakers. It would be impossible to envision MFW without Howard's lifelong commitment. As the Workshop moves into a new era, we will continue to honor Howard's dedication to the non-commercial film artist.
Howard H. Guttenplan obituary, New York Times
Founder & Executive Director, Millennium Film Workshop.1966-1968
"In the late 1960s...Ken went through an awesome experience, but one that brought him recognition. He was appointed to create a workshop for filmmakers on the lower east side, as part of a government project. He named it "The Millennium Film Workshop," and in the hands of such an artist as Ken Jacobs it was shaped into a functional existence of which the present Millennium Film Workshop is a third- or fourth-generation descendant. It was a beautiful and powerful institution...
"Stan Brakhage, from Film At Wit's End