In 1979 John Dorr began to experiment with using home betamax video equipment, to make long-form film-style works. Informed by cinema, and stage theater, these works were narratively based, as opposed to the more conceptually based videos being seen at art spaces throughout the world.
During the late 1970′s LA’s alternative theater scene was producing experimental works, both Queer as well as straight at a variety of alternative venues, such as the Deja Vu in Hollywood. Here playwright Terry Mack Murphy staged his play “The Other Woman”, which would be ultimately be videotaped, with a different cast, including Strawn Bovee, as an early EZTV project.
Frustrated with the lack of acceptance from mainstream Hollywood, for his original screenplays, John Dorr decided to write a satiric work, at first to be produced as a play. The play was never produced, so Dorr decided, instead to shoot the piece “Sudzall Does It All” on video, resulting in his first feature film. The project was shot with a black & white security camera and a home betamax video recorder.
Initially, Dorr considered premiering ”Sudzall” by creating “KGAY” a series of four-hour long screenings, focused on gay themes. He was unable to gain support for this idea, and proceeded with his second feature.
His first two projects (Sudzall Does it All and Case of the Missing Consciousness) were not screened under the banner of KGAY. Ultimately, Dorr approached Arlene Zeichner, video curator at the art space LAICA (Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art), who offered Dorr the chance to do a screening.
Dorr was happy to receive the screening, and was featured in the LAICA Journal. But he realized that traditional art spaces would not be the ideal venue for watching feature-length projects. Art spaces were set-up for seeing video work within the context of an art gallery set-up. Feature-films needed something more akin to a movie theater.
Dorr wanted to form his own venue, or at least connect with a group of like-minded videomakers. Now, instead of KGAY, he began to think more inclusively and was now considering the name “VideoVisions”. He imagined showing indie work on TV sets, at stores, banks and other local venues, and selling ads that would play between the videos.
Just as with KGAY, the VideoVisions name was never used. And no stores or other such venues were secured.
In 1982 he rented the community center in West Hollywood, and presented several evenings of his own work, as well as the work of other video-filmmakers, including Ken Camp (As the World Burns)and Richard Moyer (Rimbaud in L.A. starring Michael Kearns). This was Dorr’s first use of the term “EZTV”.
Dorr became convinced that betamax movies would proliferate and become a viable production alternative to the typical 16mm film that independent filmmakers often turned to, in order to create low-cost projects. Over a two-year period he produced “Dorothy and Alan at Norma Place” a two-hour bio-pic on the life of writer Dorothy Parker starring Strawn Bovee:
This inspired Dorr, to use a small ($25,000) inheritance he received to open, along with a number of other founding members, a full-time venue: EZTV Video Gallery.