BY ROSE ADAMS | It’s no secret that today’s art world has its gatekeepers. Young artists need networks and clout, not to mention a jaw-dropping portfolio, to enter the coveted halls of galleries and performance venues. And with the advent of social media, they need to be killer self-promoters, too.
No one knows this more than Ethan Minsker, a Manhattan-based filmmaker, artist and writer. Since moving from Washington, D.C., to the Lower East Side as a young man, Minsker has published thousands of fanzines, produced nine films, and collaborated with acclaimed Lower East Side artists like Arturo Vega, the Ramones’ artistic director, and painter John John Jesse.
Minsker’s latest work is something new for him, an autobiographical film called “Man in Camo.”
“It’s a shot of caffeine in film,” Minkser said of “Man in Camo.” The movie has won various awards in small film festivals across the country and makes its New York City debut on March 27. “The message is f— you to all those people who said, ‘You can’t pursue your dreams.’”
The 81-minute-long work stitches together home videos, interviews with family members, and voiced-over claymation to tell the story of Minsker’s artistic development. Beginning with his birth in D.C., “Man in Camo” follows Minsker as he discovers the severity of his dyslexia, joins Washington’s punk-rock scene, and moves to New York City, where he finds a community of artists.
The film’s rapid pace and violent asides (one scene depicts three claymation letters in a bloody shootout) give viewers an intimate peek into Minsker’s psyche. “Man in Camo” certainly feels like a shot of caffeine, if not something a little stronger.
But despite the film’s violent undertones, Minsker delivers an encouraging message: Keep creating art, no matter what.
“I try to pepper my films with a lot of concepts, a lot of visual cues, that hopefully make the viewer think there’s a possibility out there for them to chase or pursue their dreams without worrying about the negative connotations,” he said.
“Forget the haters; pursue your dreams” has definitely been a central theme in all of Minsker’s work, including his community organizing. In 2000, he co-founded an artists network called The Antagonist Movement that mentors, supports and creates spaces for lesser-known artists. The group claims to have collaborated with 3,500 artists around the globe since its founding. But while the Antagonist Movement may fly under the radar—even in its home in LES — it has left its mark in many communities.
“He empowers so many people and supports so many people,” said Anthony Pedone, a Texas-based filmmaker who started a film festival in Victoria, a small city in southern Texas. Pedone got to know Minsker through the Antagonist Movement in New York City. “Sometimes,” he said, “you just want to throw your hands up in small towns. But he gave us this validation.”
“Man in Camo” conveys the same motivational message that Minsker preaches to fellow artists around the globe. In its final scene, a montage of clips from Minsker’s life plays as he explains how his struggles have had an invaluable impact on his art.
“I hope more people go out and make movies just like this, because I’ll watch it,” Minkser tells viewers. “Unless you’re boring.”
“Man in Camo” will screen Wed., March 27, at 9:10 p.m., at Anthology Film Archives, at 32 Second Ave. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Minsker. For more information, visit https://newyork.carpe-diem.events/calendar/9642824-new-york-city-premier-of-man-in-camo-at-newfilmmakers-ny-at-anthology-film-archives/.