Scott B and Beth B
|Other names||Scott Billingsley|
|Occupation||Film director, producer, screenwriter|
|Known for||No Wave|
|Occupation||Film director, producer, screenwriter|
|Known for||No Wave|
Scott B and Beth B (also known as Scott and Beth B, Beth and Scott B or The Bs after B Movies) were among the best-known New York No Wave underground film makers of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
They went on to form an independent film production company called B Movies (a pun on B movies), which made the feature film Vortex on 16-mm film, starring Lydia Lunch (of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks) with James Russo, Bill Rice, Haoui Montaug, Richard Prince, Brent Collins, and Ann Magnuson, among others.
Study and work history
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Scott B and Beth B were among the most significant proponents of the punk bohemia, No Wave, no-budget style of underground punk filmmaking that was concerned with issues of simulation typical of postmodernism. Beth studied art at the School of Visual Arts and Scott was an exhibiting sculptor. They married and became associated with Colab (Collaborative Projects) and worked out of New York City's East Village area in conjunction with performance artists and noise musicians. They created a series of noisy, scruffy, deeply personal short Super 8 mm films in which they combined violent themes and darkly sinister images to explore the manner in which the individual is constrained by society.
The Bs 8mm films were full of downtown obsessions: terror politics, torture, sexual domination and submission, and punk rock music. The brief length of these films allows them to effectively assault the viewer in a hit-and-run, belt-in-the-gut manner. They would cast musicians and other popular downtown personalities in their films. The Bs cleverly used the scene's social energy with weekly film shoots that were quickly edited and then screened as film serial episodes at music clubs such as the Mudd Club and Max's Kansas City. These films are at once contemplative and confrontational, penetrating and politically loaded. Films like this are virtually impossible to criticize because they glory in carefully DIY style of simulated amateurism.
In G-Man, Scott B and Beth B attack society's power structures as they depict a cop who feels compelled to employ a dominatrix. No Wave Cinema maker and artist James Nares appears in it, among others. It developed out of the short video "NYPD Arson and Explosions vs. FALN" that was part of the Colab project of weekly aired television programs on cable called All Color News. G-Man stars Bill Rice as Max Karl, a NYPD agent who hangs out with a jaded dominatrix. Scenes of sexual abuse are intercut with TV news footage (filmed directly from the television) of bombs being planted and planes blowing up.
In Letters to Dad, various people read letters to the camera (and the viewer, who takes on the role of dad). At the finale, it is disclosed that the letters were written by followers of notorious cult leader Jim Jones immediately prior to their mass suicide. The result is that the viewer has unknowingly assumed the part of Jones. Appearing in the film are both Scott B and Beth B, Ida Applebroog, Donny Christensen (musician with James White and the Blacks), Vivienne Dick, Arto Lindsay and Tom Otterness, among others.
Black Box is the name of a torture contraption that was devised in the United States and used in foreign nations. In Black Box, a man played by Bob Mason is imprisoned in one such box, where he is tortured and the viewer endures his suffering. Black Box encapsulate all the Bs' major themes: crime, mind control, and sexual repression with the "minimal perfect-build" aesthetic of the man-sized vibrating containers Scott produced in his 1975 sculptor days. The plot is simple. A passive innocent leaves his tawdry room, neon Big Brother sign blinking ominously through the window, Mission: Impossible flickering on the TV, and amorous girlfriend draped across the bed, to be kidnapped Patty Hearst-style by a gang of punk thought-police. Menaced by an ogreish mad scientist, stripped, hung upside down, and tormented by surly, "shut up and suffer", Lydia Lunch, the passive innocent is finally crammed into the dread refrigerator, where he, and we, are bombarded by a 10-minute crescendo of sound and light. Appearing in Black Box is Bob Mason (the hostage), Kiki Smith, Lydia Lunch, Christof Kohlhofer, Harvey Robbins, and Ulli Rimkus. According to film scholar Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Black Box is a "terrifying allegory of societal restriction of the individual."
The Offenders, also shot in Super 8 mm, is a punk savage satire about a kidnapping. It originally was presented as a serial that was screened at Max's Kansas City. Appearing in The Offenders is John Lurie, G. H. Hovagimyan, Scott B, Judy Nylon, art critic Edit De Ak, and Lydia Lunch, among others. The full version was shown at Film Forum and other film houses during the height of the New York City crime wave.
The Trap Door, their final Super 8 mm production, is the strange account of the plight of an unemployed and directionless man. Appearing in it are Jack Smith, John Ahearn, Gary Indiana, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Jenny Holzer, and Robin Winters, among others.
Vortex, shot in 16 mm and made for $70,000 thanks to a National Endowment for the Arts grant via Colab, is a film noirish drama featuring frequent collaborator Lydia Lunch as a detective who becomes immersed in corporate chicanery and the exploitation of politicians by companies soliciting defense contracts. The soundtrack for Vortex contains noise music by Richard Edson, Lydia Lunch, Adele Bertei, Kristian Hoffman, and The Bs. Vortex has been called the last No Wave film made. After Vortex, The Bs ended their partnership.
Scott B and Beth B filmography
- G-Man (1978)
- Black Box (1978)
- Letters to Dad (1979)
- The Offenders (1980)
- The Trap Door (1981)
- Vortex (1981)
Scott B solo work
Scott B, with Antenna Films, was the winner of Peabody Award, CINE Golden Eagle Award. Scott B and Sandy Guthrie joined forces in 2000. Their work has resulted in a number of highly regarded documentaries. Their Peabody Award-winning and Cine Golden Eagle Award-winning three-hour Discovery Channel special, Black Sky: The Race for Space, and Twin City Bridge: After the Collapse for National Geographic Channel. They developed and co-executive produced the Lifetime Original Movie, Karoke Superstars, Delta Divers series for National Geographic Channel and National Geographic International and Virgin Galactic: Will It Fly? that aired on National Geographic Channel. Scott B helped develop and was director of photography on the pilot for History Channel's Ice Road Truckers.
Beth B solo filmography
- 1987: Salvation!
- 1989: Belladonna (short) (actor, co-director with Ida Applebroog)
- 1991: American Nightmare (short)
- 1991: Thanatopsis (short)
- 1991: Stigmata (short)
- 1991: Shut Up and Suffer (short)
- 1992: Amnesia (short)
- 1993: Two Small Bodies (co-writer, co-producer)
- 1993: Under Lock and Key (short)
- 1994: High Heel Nights (short)
- 1995: ”Out of Sight/Out of Mind” (short)
- 1996: Visiting Desire (documentary) (cinematographer, producer, sound)
- 2013: Exposed
- 2016: Call Her Applebroog
- Thomas, Kevin (November 1, 1993). "Beth B and Scott B: Three Early Visions : Movies: FilmForum focuses on the work of two New York independent filmmakers and their stylish, darkly amusing work". Los Angeles Times.
- Carlo McCormick, The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984, Princeton University Press, 2006.
- Alan W. Moore and Marc Miller, eds. ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery New York: ABC No Rio with Collaborative Projects, 1985.
- Masters, Marc. No Wave. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-906155-02-5
- Pearlman, Alison, Unpackaging Art of the 1980s. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2003.
- Reynolds, Simon. "Contort Yourself: No Wave New York." In Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-punk 1978–84. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 2005.
- Taylor, Marvin J. (ed.). The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984, foreword by Lynn Gumpert. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-691-12286-5
- Canby, Vincent (October 1, 1982). "'VORTEX' FROM SCOTT B AND BETH B". The New York Times.
- Masters, Marc. No Wave. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007, p. 156
- Masters, Marc. No Wave. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007, pp. 156 – 157
- Hoberman, J. (May 1979). "No Wavelength: The Para-Punk Underground". The Village Voice.
- Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, 1995, Greenwood Press, Westport (CT) & London, Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary, Retrieved December 15, 2014, see page(s): 29
- Masters, Marc. No Wave. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007, p. 160
- Masters, Marc. No Wave. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007, p. 151
- Canby, Vincent (May 31, 1987). "Salvation Have You Said Your Prayers Today (1987) TV EVANGELISM IS SATIRIZED IN 'SALVATION!'". The New York Times.
- James, Caryn (April 15, 1994). "Two Small Bodies (1994) Review/Film; Did She or Didn't She? Commit Murder, That Is". The New York Times.