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The Amateur Movie Makers Association folded last year after 53 years.

Its first meeting was in the fall of 1956, in the basement of the Tappan, New Jersey home of  Sidney and Helen Horitz. Initially begun as the American chapter of the Institute of Amateur Photographers, a British organization, in the 1970s it became the Society of Amateur Cinematographers. Reflecting the changing times and technology, in 1991 it transformed into the Society of Amateur Videographers and Cinematographers. Its final change came in 2002, when it became the Amateur Movie Makers Association.

In its time the AMMA was one of America’s largest cine clubs, and had up to 371 members before beginning its gradual decline. As with other clubs, it was a way for amateur filmmakers to stay in touch with other filmmakers and trends in filmmaking. Through newsletters and meetings its members were able to view and critique each others films.

The organization had annual contests in which awards were given for best films of the year as well as the “Magic Moments” contest for films one minute or less. At the last AMMA convention in Buena Park, California in 2008, the Oscar Horovitz Memorial Award for the Best Motion Picture by a member of AMMA was granted to Leo Tallieu of Michigan, who won for his nature film Kayaking on the Oxbow.

The PDF file below is pages 1-12 of the last issue of the AMMA newsletter, including many memories of the organization’s history by some of its longtime members.

AMMA Newsletter Spring 2009

Roughly a decade ago, filmmaker/professor/homesteader Melinda Stone started showing film archivists a tape she had acquired from a member of a San Diego filmmakers’ club that she had come across while she was working on her Ph.D. dissertation.  The film was called “Multiple Sidosis” and the creator was Sid Laverents, one of the superstars of the film club scene.  The film is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, involving special effects made almost miraculous by the fact that Laverents had created them all in his home.  News of the rediscovery of the film spread like wildfire in the amateur film circles, and almost instantaneously “Multiple Sidosis” was named to the National Film Registry and UCLA embarked on a project to preserve a selection of Laverents’ films.

Sid’s films had hardly been forgotten among his cine club fans, however, since he had been screening them around the United States and selling them on VHS from his home.  As remarkable as his films are, they are but one aspect of an amazing 100-year long life (he will reach the century mark this August) that he chronicled in his self-published autobiography The First 90 Years Are the Hardest as well as in his multi-part cinematic autobiography The Sid Saga.

Sid Laverents Online:

An annotated filmography, from the fanzine Roctober.  Roctober also released a CD of Sid’s music in issue #36.

A page on Multiple Sidosis from the San Diego Amateur Movie Makers Club, Sid’s sadly defunct film club.

Melinda Stone on Sid Laverents.

A January 2004 article on Sid in the New York Times.

A downloadable version of Multiple Sidosis (plus an mp3 of one of his songs).  More mp3s here.

And, finally, a poor quality YouTube version: