Academy to Celebrate Experimental Filmmaker Pat O’Neill | BH Courier

Academy to Celebrate Experimental Filmmaker Pat O’Neill

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the work and career accomplishments of experimental filmmaker and optical effects artist Pat O’Neill on Thursday, April, 21, at 8 p.m. at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. 

Presented by the Academy’s Science and Technology Council, “Optical Architect: An Evening with Pat O’Neill” will premiere a newly preserved print of “Water and Power” (1989) from the Academy Film Archive.

The event will be hosted by David E. James, an Academy Film Scholar, author and professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Since the early 1960s, O’Neill has applied his unique perspective to the techniques of commercial special effects to create a varied, often startling body of work.

O’Neill began making films while studying design and photography in graduate school at UCLA.

As he continually refined his technical abilities, O’Neill expanded the boundaries of avant garde film by creating highly graphic, layered and reflexive assemblages that frequently combined found footage, abstract material and his own cinematography.

Making extensive use of optical printing, time lapse, motion control and other techniques, O’Neill interwove these materials into montages of unusual complexity.

Additionally, O’Neill has worked extensively in the mainstream feature film industry, contributing to the optical effects on such films as “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Dragonslayer” (1981), “Return of the Jedi” (1983), “RoboCop” (1987), “Dances With Wolves” (1990), “Tank Girl” (1995) and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” (1997).

O’Neill’s first 35mm feature, “Water and Power,” won a Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990 and was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2008.

By using a series of visually and aurally dense tableaux created with advanced motion control, optical printing and animation techniques, the film explores the complex battle for natural resources waged between Los Angeles and the Owens Valley.

The soundtrack was originally designed for stereo but mixed to mono because of cost and technical restrictions; this presentation will be the first to feature the restored digital remaster in stereo.

This event is presented in conjunction with the Academy display “Watching Abstraction in Hollywood: The Work of Pat O’Neill,” which features excerpts from O’Neill’s short films as well as examples of his film-related artwork.

Located at the Linwood Dunn Theater foyer, the display spans several decades of his career and spotlights his creative use of a versatile motion picture effects tool, the optical printer.

Public viewing hours are Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. and whenever public programs are held at the Dunn Theater.

It will be on display through Sunday, May 22. Admission is free.

Tickets for “Optical Architect: An Evening with Pat O’Neill” are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.

Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office (8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), or online at Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood.

For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit

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