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FAT FEET by Mimi Gross and Red Grooms

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FAT FEET, a Yellow Ball / Ruckus Films Production, 1965-66

An animated film,  ca. 20 min.

Director:  Red Grooms with Mimi Gross
Photography:  Yvonne Andersen ( Falcone)
Storyboard:  Mimi Gross and Red Grooms
Art work: Mimi Gross, Red Grooms, Yvonne Anderson
Flat animation: Red Grooms  and Mimi Gross
Set, construction, props and painting:  Red Grooms, Mimi Gross, Yvonne Andersen,
Visiting artist and filmmaker George Kuchar
Various visiting students and friends
Stop Action Animation (actors and life sized props):  Everyone around
Editing:  Yvonne Andersen, Red Grooms, Mimi Gross, Dominic Falcone
Sound:  Yvonne Andersen, Dominic Falcone, Red Grooms
Costumes and make up: Mimi Gross

Actors:
Dominic Falcone: “ policeman”
Mimi Gross:  “ old lady” , “ bum”, “ druggist”,  “black face walk-on”
Yvonne Andersen: “woman of the night”
Red Grooms:  “ black haired fatfoot man”, “candybar eater” “firechief”
Edmund Leites: “street sweeper”
Susan Leites: “woman of the night”
Paul and Jeanie Falcone: “the kids” (various parts)
   With  students of Yellow Ball Workshop, and dear friends living in the Cambridge and Boston area (1965)

Produced by:  Dominic Falcone, Red Grooms, and Mimi Gross

Remembering the time of making FAT FEET
by Mimi Gross (August 2011)

As I worked with Red at various intervals of time and projects, from 1960-1976, our collaborations became increasingly intense, and often lost the boundaries of ideas, aesthetics, and in the real time of making, craft and painting.

FAT FEET (1965-66)  was directly inspired by the early animated films of Georges Melies, Emil Kohl, and the marvelous movie, The Invisible Moving Co, all of which we saw from the collections of Joseph Cornell (via Robert Whitman and Rudy Burckhardt). In 1962-3, together with Rudy Burckhardt, we made a 16mm film called Shoot the Moon. It is a direct homage to Georges Melies.  There are some brief scenes with stop-action animation .Red and I made little cut outs, and Rudy showed us how he filmed the scene.  A few years later, we experimented with animating life-sized props with live actors (long before “green screens”).

When Yvonne Andersen and Dominic Falcone visited us in New York, we planned to make  a film together the following summer where they lived near Boston.  Red and I had  just moved into lively “Little Italy”(1964), a neighborhood where daily fires, violence, and long term elderly residents  lived near  the Bowery, filled with bums, and  (pre-immigration quota) Chinatown.  I was busy drawing in the streets, and making objects based on street life, and Red was obsessively chasing fires, fire engines, street life, he was incorporating into his work.

The explosion of making FAT FEET  resulted from our excitement living in  the new neighborhood.  Later, we made an ad, and called FAT FEET: “A day in the life of ‘nervous city’!’”

There are few funny stories making the film.  It was pure blood, hard work, but in the end it came out very funny.

We lived at the Falcone’s house (at the time ten feet wide, then  a new extension, was added. )  The old lady’s garbage scene took 8 hours to film in 90+ degree weather, heavy face puddy, foam rubber hump, and heavy winter clothes. She was inspired by a typical neighborhood elderly person. Red, as a candybar muncher, was inspired by his gallery dealer at the time. The street sweeper scene was inspired by “the Invisible Moving Co.” The burning building scene took 14 hours to film, using heavy cut out flames of different  “life size” scales (little, medium, large, and then variations). We were given a local fire station to film the cardboard hook n ladder and firetruck, very early in the morning.  The street scene with the different  firemen and trucks was filmed in 2 frame stop action animation near the Boston Fine Arts Museum.

A storefront was rented for one month, in Arlington, Mass (about 75’ long and 25’wide, 8’ceiling).

“Homasote“ (cheapest non warping when new thick cardboard)

Cut with  jigsaw, painted on both sides,  with removable wood frames.

Lumber and hardware:  1 x 2’s, quick metal connectors, screws, glue (pre hot-glue) staples,  hammer

“Savage”  seamless paper

Gothic Concentrated Theatrical Paint (black, white, some red and yellow)

Theatrical make-up

Costumes from local thrift shops

16 mm film, Bolex camera (now dvd, and on-line)

Lots of volunteer help!

George Kuchar visited, and helped paint some of the set, but he got out alive before the filming took place! Rudy Burckhardt , Yvonne Jacquette, Tom and Jacob Burckhardt visited while we were filming, and Rudy recommended our calling  his old friend James Ackerman whose kids came and helped.  My old friend from high school days, Edmund Leites invited his friends at Harvard, and we had students from Yvonne’s workshop helping almost everyday.  The title had a specific reference to “being earthbound”.

The nature of making films is collaborative, in retrospect, one can follow the momentum, we easily incorporated working with helpers for the painted sculpture installation projects following FAT FEET.

When the film was shown we dedicated FAT FEET to the firemen who died in the Chelsea (23rd St) fire of 1966.


THE MAKING OF FAT FEET
as remembered by Yvonne Andersen, August 24, 2011.

Dominic Falcone a poet, met Red Grooms a painter in 1957 when they were both washing dishes at the Moors Restaurant in Provincetown, Massachusetts. When Dominic learned that Red was an artist, he sent him over to see me at the Sun Gallery, owned and operated by Dominic and myself,1955-59.

We showed Red’s work there and gave him his first one man show the following summer. Dominic told Charles Rogers Grooms to call himself “Red Grooms” when he painted his name on the window of our gallery at the time of his first one man show. Later Red created the first “Happening” which used live actors at our gallery in the summer of 1959.

Red, Dominic and I shared a loft in New York City one winter, where we created a publication called City” that we printed on our own small hand printing press. Later Dominic, Red, painter Lester Johnson and myself worked together on a giant billboard project at Salisbury Beach Massachusetts. I made a short animated film with Red called “Spaghetti Trouble. Mimi Gross had shown some of her work at the Sun Gallery.

In the winter of 1966, Dominic and I were visiting Red Grooms and Mimi Gross in New York City, when we got the idea to work on a film project together. Red and Mimi moved in with us for the summer. Dominic rented a studio for us near our house in Lexington Massachusetts to make the movie “FAT FEET.”

Red was the writer, director, and acted as a fat man munching a candy bar, a fur coated lady walking her cardboard dog, a fire captain and other characters. I was the cinematographer, editor, and acted in one scene in the movie as a” lady of the evening.” Dominic played the pivotal part of the policeman. Mimi helped with the writing, and played two of the main characters, a witch, and a street bum.

Each morning the four of us along with Dominic and our two children Paul, 7 and Jean, 5 went to the studio to build the sets and props. We painted cartoonish black and white buildings on the paper walls of the set, painted and and constructed ¾ size flat automobiles with movable wheels from heavy building cardboard. Red built a dog which could be animated to walk in front of a live person.

Red was creating a cartoonish atmosphere depicting the types of city people who might be seen walking the street of a big city. For this reason the people wore giant shoes to connect them to the sidewalks. Those shoes were heavy! A normal shoe was screwed into a giant shoe manufactured by Red.

In the beginning this was supposed to be a four person project, but people heard about it. Each night people came to be in the winter crowd scenes. Some were friends of Red and Mimi, some were my animation students and neighbors. We got old coats from Morgan Memorial and there was a large make up table. People could come in, put on a coat, do their own make up, and become who they wanted to be for the evening.

It was summertime and unfortunately our studio had no air conditioning, so we worked on the sets in the day and filmed at night when we could open the doors to disperse the heat of our lights. One night a real policeman walked in, glanced at Dominic in the policeman’s uniform and mumbled in a dissatisfied tone that he heard the name of the film was to be “FLAT FOOT.” We asured him it was “FAT FEET, and he left without further comment.

FAT FEET was a combination of cut-out animation, pixillation and live action on a sureal cartoonish set. The fire scenes were shot in color, but the rest were shot in black and white for financial considerations. The film was produced by Red Grooms and Dominic Falcone in 1966, and is the winner of many awards at film festivals.

A Yellow Ball/Ruckus Film Production.

These video recordings are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights to this recorded material belong to the creators. © 2011. Used with the permission of Mimi Gross and Yvonne Andersen. Distributed by PennSound.