Howard Guttenplan 1934-2015

photo: Bruce Meisler

photo: Bruce Meisler

(February 25, 2015) It is with profound sadness that Millennium announces the passing of former Executive Director Howard Guttenplan.  He died peacefully in his sleep on February 23, in his own surroundings, while receiving compassionate care from hospice workers and friends.  He was a Navy veteran, and in accordance with his wishes was buried at Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton, NY.

Howard led Millennium Film Workshop from 1971 to 2011 – forty years, a biblical generation.  A brilliant administrator, visionary programmer, and pragmatic supporter of aspiring filmmakers, he worked tirelessly and with passion to make Millennium’s founding idea real:  “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.”

In the near future Millennium will coordinate a screening series celebrating Howard’s work on behalf of moving image artists.  Further information will be available on this website, our Facebook page, and through our email list (you may join in the sidebar).

Individuals may send reflections on Howard’s work and life by commenting here, or post them on our Facebook page.

  17 comments for “Howard Guttenplan 1934-2015

  1. Jeffrey Arsenault
    August 6, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    I’ve always felt Howard’s tombstone should read “It’s not seven o’clock yet.” When I’d arrive at the Millennium on East 4th Street, Howard would answer the door, say “It’s not seven o’clock yet,” and close the door. For one full minute. Sometimes two. Then he would open it at exactly seven o’clock. But you gotta love Howard. He made things happen. He made access to film equipment affordable when other places in town only pretended to. I always think of him fondly.

  2. Betsy Cunningham
    May 5, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    I haven’t lived in New York in many years and was surprised and saddened to run across an obituary in the NYTimes about Howard. He showed my films for the first time in the 70’s, I was very grateful to him for the opportunity. I really admired him. He was fiercely dedicated to film and Millennium and kept it going long after other organizations came and went. Thank you Howard for your deep eccentricity and singleness of purpose. I remember you fondly.

  3. March 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    A year late in writing this — but the Millennium workshop and Howard’s leadership was so important in allowing me and many artists in Colab to do their work in the 1970s and ’80s (my time of trying). At the time, it was one of a network of independent production facilities in downtown Manhattan, a wonderful round of institutions many of us were trying to crack into, all of which today are gone, I think. (DCTV remains, yes?) Of this circuit, Millennium was the wierdest — utterly divorced from documentary or news-related production, contemptuous of “video”, but crucially open to experiment. Howard was cranky, but he opened his doors. And that’s what counts, really. At the time, I resented his absolutism. But it was leadership in a European tradition — by an artist, with an artist’s understanding of the regular weirdness that comes through the door. Which was better? The stringent suspicious bureaucracy of Young Filmmakers? or the gimlet eye of Howard Guttenplan? Sadly, it’s no longer a question, since both are gone. I made peace with Howard at last, since I continued to produce over years of time, and he was finally open to all our ideas, and helped sort them out in line with the workshop’s capabilities. But finally, the relationship was broken by business. Someone ordered incessant type samples for an issue of the Millennium Film Journal, a job I worked on as a typesetter for many years. Howard refused to pay, and we were forced to sue. We won. I bought a painting. I think of Howard, and his sad discomfiture as he cut the check Millennium could not afford everytime I look at it. It’s a lonely boat sailing out to sea…

  4. Lara Dale
    December 29, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    I lived on 7th between C and D and I used to be Administrative Assistant for Howard from 1985 – 1987 as I recall. I still remember the long climb up the wide stairs at 66 E 4th Street, next floor up from the amazing theater company, La Mama, where I would inevitably see Ellen Stewart engrossed in some intense theatrical project or other. No matter how busy, she always broke her concentration to wave at me, even if somewhat distractedly.

    Then the long walk through the studios and screening rooms to Howard’s office where I would be given a lengthy list of tasks for the day. Everything from sweeping floors to scrubbing toilets to getting supplies for filmmakers, or for the screenings of the always fascinating selection of independent films that were going to be presented that evening or weekend.

    I remember standing in the office doorway early mornings with Howard leaning back in his chair, petting his beloved tabby, who was loudly purring and kneading his chest. He would have everything already laid out for me, down to the addresses and the exact cash and change for whatever I needed to purchase. I especially remember leaping down the stairs, three and four at a time, off to run errands for screenings and openings. I loved those long, hot summers spent roaming city streets, searching for some obscure projector light, or picking up food and flyers for some upcoming Jim Jarmusch or Kuchar Brothers event.

    My favorite part was organizing all the archived materials in his very crowded file cabinets. All of independent film history seemed to me to be stored there, and I was very reverent whenever I sat down to sort through the piles of priceless data that had accumulated over so many decades. I am so glad to hear it is now housed in a permanent archive at the MOMA – very fitting for such a rich history of cutting edge independent film and filmmakers.

    My deepest love and thanks to Howard, wherever he now is. He gave me an intrinsic understanding that even when a film is enigmatic and obscure, if it is from the heart of a true artist, it is priceless and worth fighting for. I would not be the educated filmmaker and Foley Artist I am today, with such a tremendous regard for independent filmmaking, were it not for Howard and Millennium. I am deeply grateful I got to be a part of that history, and it has informed everything I do.

    Lara Dale
    Foley Artist

    PS: I still have my Millennium Film Journals from that time and I treasure each one of them!

  5. John Edward Heys
    August 15, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    BRAVO Howard Guttenplan! I am by profession an actor. In 1987 after traveling to Morocco extensively, and witnessing a very special wedding , when I returned to NYC I decided to make my first video titled “The Moroccan Bride”- my interpretation of this wedding . Howard’s door on E.4th St was always open, I had already been to many screenings there . I approached him & asked if he would consider screening my work. Before I knew it I had my First PREMIERE- 1987 at Millennium , with no less than Jack Smith in attendance. Howard was a kind, so supportive and familiar face to see on 2nd Ave & of course E.4th St.

    Many mourn his loss & the original space on 4th St. Thank you Howard. R.I.P.

    Sincerely, John Edward Heys

  6. Su Friederich
    April 29, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Where would so many of us have been without the Millennium existing, and without the endless efforts of Howard to keep the place open? Yes, we had our battles with him, but nevertheless, he was the one who kept it rolling for so many years, and I have always felt a massive gratitude to him for that space. No way could I have started making films without it. May he rest in peace. And I wish I had known he was making his departure, I wish so much now that I could have thanked him in person.

    Su Friederich

  7. Yann Beauvais
    April 26, 2015 at 7:45 am

    To the Millennium

    It is with sadness that I learn about the death of Howard Guttenplan, who gave me as to many other filmmakers an opportunity to show works in New York for the first time in the early 80’s.

    This screening started a policy of exchange between Scratch an Light Cone in Paris and Howard and the film community in New York for many years.

    Howard, Thanks for all what you did for us and for the scene.

    Yann Beauvais

  8. Peter Cramer
    April 25, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Howard was devoted to Millennium and never suffered fools that thought they were going to be the next Hollywood superstar director. He admired people that pursued their own individual visions and craft.

    A curmugeon that always scared me a bit, but that only made me try harder to make him crack a smile with a funny remark or observation.

    If, at the end, he isolated himself too much to get the real support necessary to move the organization forward he was tireless in protecting what was there even as it fell apart around him.

    We’ll miss him but luckily his films and the journal will attest to his longevity and vision! Thank you Howard! Condolences to all those that knew him and that continue to benefit from all that is Millennium.

    Best wishes,

    Peter Cramer

  9. Brenda Webb
    April 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    To the Millennium family (staff, board, volunteers, members),

    Sincere condolences from the staff at Chicago Filmmakers. We all know how much heart, soul, and work goes into running organizations like Millennium and we profoundly respect the contribution that Howard made to experimental and independent film and filmmakers over his 40+ year tenure.

    We are saddened by his loss.

    Sincerely,

    Brenda Webb
    Executive Director
    Chicago Filmmakers

  10. John Knecht
    April 2, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Millennium Postcard

    I taught classes at the Millennium when I first moved to New York. Howard took my films all around Europe including Russia. Thank you Howard. R.I.P.

    John Knecht

  11. Wilhelm Hein
    March 26, 2015 at 10:42 am

    for howard

    i had my first show at the millennium 1974, three years after howard became the director of this singular avantgarde film place in new york. Is very difficult for the new generation to understand today, what he did not only for the filmmaker from west and east europe, who were not a part of the propaganda machinery of the mekas/kubelka clan. kurt kren, malcolm legrice, peter gidal, etc. had their first shows there but also more complicated persons like jack smith had more than one show at his place. like all people, who don’t want to make too much compromises in their life, he was not an easy going person. but we had very good time together, not only in new york, but athens or elsewhere. always, when we met, there was an understanding from the first second on. I miss him very much

    Wilhelm Hein, Berlin

  12. David Baker
    March 24, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Howard Guttenplan and the Millennium Film Workshop will be forever inextricably linked. With absolute devotion until the very end, Howard dedicated his energy and expertise to keeping the Millennium going. With inexplicable grace he withstood the recent indignities he was made to suffer. During his tenure as Executive Director, Howard single handedly demonstrated acute discernment in his “Personal Cinema” programs which made a place for the most accomplished and celebrated film artists to project their work in close proximity with totally unknown makers of consequence. In a kind of fearless visionary egalitarianism Howard insisted on a monthly Open Screening program which functioned as an important portal for the self-taught, socially misaligned and/or politically maladroit outsider to be discovered and to assimilate into the experimental film community regardless of resume or lack thereof. Howard’s Millennium was open to both the big fish and the little fish, the somebody’s and the nobody’s in vibrant aesthetic exchange. His great love was not film per se but the continuum of the experimental film medium, the linked progression of forms from one artist to another over time, with invention and innovation as its most telling attribute. The Millennium Film Workshop Archives will testify abundantly to the astonishing procession of makers who made this love manifest. Howard welcomed and treated each of these artists with uncommon respect. Howard’s own film oeuvre is a shining example of what is possible when one is totally dedicated to a highly evolved form of truth and beauty. In all these ways he changed my life.

    David Baker

  13. Adele Friedman
    March 20, 2015 at 11:41 am

    I am so sorry to read that Howard has passed on. It was an honor and a pleasure to have known him. He was intelligent, energetic, enthusiastic and always curious about so many interesting aspects of our film world.

    My first solo show at Millennium was in 1984. Fred Camper had written to Howard about my films, encouraging him to look at my work. Howard showed me this letter, as well as letters I had written to him over the years, when I was there for another solo show in 2006; he said they were in Millennium’s archive.

    He was rightfully proud of what he had accomplished with experimental film. Howard forged an important and long-lived venue with Millennium Film Workshop, and he will be missed by the experimental film community.

    I was looking forward to seeing Howard again this June, and I am very sorry that he will not be there to greet me, to talk to me, to tell me the film news of New York and to show me the new and old things he had collected.

    With best wishes and sympathy,

    Adele Friedman

  14. Rosalind Schneider
    March 15, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Just a note

    I remember Howard speaking of his approach to filmmaking as “Shooting from the hip”. He was the first to show my experimental films at Great Jones St. and launched my carer as an avant-garde filmmaker with roots in abstract painting.

    Rosalind Schneider

  15. Noe Kidder
    March 4, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Very sad to hear this news.

    Noe Kidder

  16. Lili White
    March 1, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I started showing my films at MILLENNIUM FILM WORKSHOP. Howard encouraged many artists, and that spirit has mushroomed into the making of ANOTHER EXPERIMENT by WOMEN FILM FESTIVAL and also AXWonline for those who can’t make it to NYC! THANK YOU, HOWARD, for your tireless effort and work in making MFW work and promoting the belief that experimental film is an art form and can be personal.

    Lili White

  17. Jay Hudson
    March 1, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Just this afternoon, I received the shocking and sad news that Howard Guttenplan, the long term director of the Millennium Film Workshop passed away February 23, 2015. He was laid to rest at Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island.

    Howard was a complicated person. Keeping an organization like Millennium going for so long was a solitary and difficult task. The funeral home director told me that he felt that Howard wanted to go out alone, only accompanied by a close childhood friend. That is so much the way that Howard was.

    When I was working on the gargantuan task of sorting old materials, the complete history of Howard’s tenure came before my eyes. Virtually every experimental filmmaker of note came through the doors. It is no accident that Stan Brakhage’s New York premieres were at Millennium, or that Jack Smith spent countless hours watching film and editing with scotch tape. Countless filmmakers were loyal to Howard.

    Despite the struggles that I had with him, he gave me a full set of the Journal as a token of appreciation. He gave me my first solo show. Even when he at his most pissed off at me, he always complimented my work.

    There was something very unique and special because of what Howard did and who he was. Millennium is still thriving. And from me personally, Howard’s New York Diary changed me as a filmmaker. I hope that his film and photographic work will be preserved and archived.

    Requiescat in pace.

    Jay Hudson

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