A life of film: Looking through filmmaker Ethan Minsker’s eclectic lens in the East Village

East Village filmmaker Ethan Minsker in front of window display
Ethan Minsker with his window display at 3rd and B’zaar. The work is from a series titled “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’
Photo by Bob Krasner

East Village writer, filmmaker, artist, publisher and zine creator Ethan Minsker has just released a new film, a documentary entitled “Scooter LaForge: A Life of Art” — but that subtitle could just as easily apply to Minsker.

He’s been making art since he was a kid, having produced films since the age of six.

“My grandfather gave me a hand-cranked Super 8 camera,” Minsker recalls. “I made a lot of films – but they weren’t very good!”

By age 11, he had graduated to a Super 8 that recorded audio and he began to shoot color film. At 13, he spent a summer painting houses to afford one of the first video cameras, a Sony Betamax 100.

“I made epic movies of me and my friends running around,” he proudly recounts.

He wasn’t just making movies — he had a side hustle selling band t-shirts in the Washington, DC hardcore scene, although they weren’t exactly authorized by the bands. “At one point, the Bad Brains came looking for me,” he admits.

Which was when he switched to actually collaborating with the groups, making clothing and jewelry for the bands. “There are a lot of learning curves when you’re making art,” he muses.

Minsker realized that living in DC was not the place to be, as it “became too violent.” “Ten of my friends were murdered in DC,” he explains. “I decided to move to New York.”

Minsker with the painting by John Vance that he posed for in 2006. The theme of the show , presented by the Antagonist Movement, was ‘Obscured Dictators”.Photo by Bob Krasner
Minsker discussing his piece titled ‘Village vs. Tank’. It was made at the start of the Ukraine invasionPhoto by Bob Krasner
Ethan Minsker with one of the props for ‘Film Threat Sucks’, a work in progressPhoto by Bob Krasner
Works (some unfinished) earmarked for the Art-O-Mat vending machinesPhoto by Bob Krasner
Cats in the bag……small cat sculptures ready to a local shopPhoto by Bob Krasner

He received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts  and an MA from The New School, all while making his mark in the local art scene with projects such as his zines “East Coast Exchange” (covering the punk and hardcore music scene) and “Psycho Moto Zine” which features short stories, reviews, and artwork and is still being produced.

Minsker became a founder of the Antagonist Art Movement, which was a reaction to the artificial nature of the New York art market. The group, whose numerous members included Arturo Vega, Ted Riederer, Lenny Kaye, Shepard Fairey and Legs McNeil, produced art shows, performance events, concerts, books, films and more and resulted in Minsker traveling to Berlin, Ecuador, Australia and Portugal, to name a few.

“I’m not precious about my art,” he explains. His primary output these days — besides films —  is sculpture created with recycled cardboard and paper mache. “I don’t need to be in a gallery. I sell the most art through East Village thrift shops and the Art-O-Mat,” repurposed cigarette machines that sell small art works in various locations around the country.

He makes over 2,000 small artworks every year that sell in those machines. He produces all of his art in his East Village apartment, which he shares with his wife and daughter, who has a cameo in all of his films.

Minsker is in them as well, always clad in his custom made camouflage suit.

“A lot of artists wear white suits,” he notes, “but that’s not my style. As an artist, you have to be ready for combat. You’re fighting other artists, among other things. This is my urban combat as a creator.”

After having spent 15 years working in bars such as Niagara and the defunct Black and White Bar, Minsker is now a professor at FIT. His films are all self-funded, which means that “I make exactly the film that I want to see.”

He spent five years working on the Scooter LaForge film and his subject is quite pleased with the result — a lively combo of interviews, animation and lots of footage of LaForge’s art.

“Working with Ethan Minsker during the film was wonderful,” says LaForge. “He goes with the flow. He followed me around with his camera for almost 5 years. I am so happy with the movie. My favorite parts are Ethan’s animation.” 

Scooter LaForge, standing, with Ethan Minsker. Scooter is holding a water tower created by Ethan and painted by LaForge. Minsker is holding the camera he used to shoot the filmPhoto by Bob Krasner
The Antagonist Movement is a part of his custom made camo suitPhoto by Bob Krasner
Ethan Minsker at the Spring Break Art Fair in 2021Photo by Bob Krasner
Ethan Minsker, in mask, with Helixx C. Armageddon, who is holding a prop from their film collaborationPhoto by Bob Krasner

Helixx C. Armageddon, a past and future collaborator with Minsker, is also in the new film.

“Ethan masterfully blends the emotional depths of his characters with the vibrant backdrop of New York City’s downtown art scene during a crucial historical moment, anchoring the narrative with authenticity and resonance through Ethan’s eclectic lens,” she says. 

Having also worked with Minsker on a film based on her music, “House of Helixx,” Armageddon notes that, “Collaborating with Ethan exposed me to a vision that challenged conventions and offered a fresh take on visual storytelling.”

Three of Minsker’s films — “Man in Camo,” “Scooter LaForge: a life of art” and the upcoming “Film Threat Sucks” all have a common theme.

“It’s about individuals and the desire to chase what they do creatively and how it involves the community,” Minsker says. “I used fast-based animation, fast cutting and not a lot of soundbites. They are to the point and laser focused. It’s like ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse’ meets ‘The Great Rock and Roll Swindle’ meets Kenneth Anger meets the version of what you thought MTV was going to provide.”

Minsker’s website is ethanminsker.com and you can follow him on Instagram at @ethanminsker. Watch for upcoming performance with Helix C. Armageddon, “Museum of my Heart,” at the Culture Lab in Long Island City in June.

You can see the LaForge film on Amazon, Googleplay and YouTube Movies. Also coming soon to Tubi.