In 1983, John Dorr and a group of over two dozen co-founding members pooled their resources and skills to create a permanent space for the screenings. The following is a list (in alphabetical order) of official founding members of EZTV, as published on an ad in Variety’s 50th anniversary issue:
Brian Photar Bellamy
James Dillinger (aka James Baker)
Michael J. (aka Michael J. Masucci)
Ronald G. Rolnick
G. F. Watkins
The small space was called “EZTV Video Gallery” and it housed a 40-seat screening area and two editing systems. Two 25″ video monitors displayed the videos being publicly presented. The screening combined work produced by the in-house core group of artists, as well as a diverse selection of international work. Originally, the gallery ran four screenings a day at seven days a week, but within the first few months, it was scaled back to 1-2 screenings, Thursday through Sunday.
According to a publication from the American Film Institute, EZTV Video Gallery was “the first independent gallery to dedicate all of its space, all of the time, to ‘the box’."
Screening at EZTV circa 1986
From the beginning, EZTV was an early advocate of work under-represented by either mainstream Hollywood or the mainstream of the contemporary art/museum culture. Such under-represented communities included LGBTQ, computer art, physically-challenged artists, feminists, multimedia and performance art. The EZTV Gallery also served as a space for the exhibition of wall art. James Williams was its first wall gallery curator. Soon, live performances such as spoken word, music, or performance art began to weave into the programming as well. And the additional promise of the digital revolution also emerged.
However, during this time, video was typically exhibited in art galleries as ‘video art’ or, when done in theatrical-style, it was seen among the adult XXX theaters that switched from film to low-cost video projection. Video was also being presented to more isolated audiences at universities, festivals, or at professional conferences. EZTV sought to bring the burgeoning diversity of independent video to a more public arena.
Within the first year, 1984, EZTV began working with LA ACM SIGGRAPH, most notably Joan Collins, in collaborating to present a then pioneering example of the multi-city interactive possibilities of the internet for its creative uses. This was to be the first of a growing number of such occasional collaborations that have continued to this day.
An evening at EZTV would usually begin with an Opening Montage that played before the evening’s video programming. This 1984 version was typical of the way it began by combining footage from various EZTV videos, footage presented at EZTV, and would include key members such as John Dorr, Patricia Miller, and Michael J. Masucci. Old clips from classic mainstream and sci-fi films were also used.
Founding member Mark Shepard made these numerous trailers and often comedic clips, updating them throughout his tenure at EZTV (1983-1987).
In addition to screenings, art shows, performances, and lectures, from its earliest days EZTV threw great parties.
Here is Masucci in his "Video Man" costume, 1984
In 1985, the EZTV space was suddenly transformed following the unexpected, unprecedented, and overwhelming success of a documentary about the beat poet Jack Kerouac, “What Happened to Kerouac?” by Richard Lerner and Lewis Macadams. The documentary screened for over four months at EZTV while three other “EZTV Affiliate Theaters” around Los Angeles simultaneously screened what the LA Times called the 'first video theater hit'.
Now an ‘overnight success’, EZTV moved into a three-floor facility with six editing rooms, a music lab, darkroom, production studio, various offices, and a screening room/gallery with a 99-seat capacity. It became known as “EZTV Video Center”. This became the version of the space in which the public best identified.
EZTV Video Center, 1985
Video still from James Williams' "Clear Canvas" (1984), Betamax analog video.
John Dorr & Sondra Lowell
Dave Curlender & David Goodsell
Joan Collins & Robert Gelman