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Peter Kuttner Collection, 1965-1967

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Collection Identifier: C.2006-06
Extent of collection
6 reels of 16mm film totaling 3,630 feet
Inclusive Dates
1965 - 1967
Bulk Dates
1965 - 1967
The six films in this collection represent the early work of documentary filmmaker and Hollywood cameraman Peter Kuttner. The films include a student film made at Northwestern University, two films he made with students at Dillard University in New Orleans as part of the War on Poverty in 1965, and three kinescopes of shows he made at Chicago's public television station WTTW.

The items in this collection represent Kuttner's earliest media work. The films explore issues of civil rights, the political obliviousness of white college students at his alma mater, gender relations between African American college students, modern literature, musical composition, and the Vietnam War. The collection is comprised of a student film made at Northwestern University, Cause Without a Rebel (1965); two films made in collaboration with students at Dillard University in New Orleans as part of the 1965 War on Poverty, Mary Had a Little Lamb and Tackle is a Girl’s Best Friend; and kinescopes of three television shows Kuttner directed for Chicago’s public television station WTTW. The three shows include a satirical look at the Vietnam War, Ladybird Ladybird (1966); a visualization of Nabokov’s Pale Fire called John Shade – The Poetry of Everyman (1966); and a special on the music of local composer Ted Ashford from 1967. 

Kuttner, Peter (created by)
Since the mid 1960s Peter Kuttner has worked in the Chicago area as a cameraman and director of documentary films and as a camera assistant on Hollywood features. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1965. That year he made his first film, Cause Without a Rebel, about Northwestern University’s lack of student involvement in the civil rights movement. Immediately after graduation, Kuttner was employed by the federal government’s War on Poverty program to teach filmmaking skills to African American college students which resulted in two collaborative student led works: Tackle is a Girl’s Best Friend and Mary Had a Little Lamb.

By 1966 Kuttner was employed as a director at Chicago’s public television station WTTW. Kuttner worked on a variety of shows including a number of episodes of the station’s art program Facets. In 1967 he, along with Jon Jost and others, started the Chicago chapter of the radical documentary film collective Newsreel. In that capacity Kuttner filmed an April 27, 1968 peace march that was forcefully stopped by the Chicago Police Department. By 1968 Kuttner started working with the local documentary production company, Kartemquin – a relationship that continues to this day. For Kartemquin, Kuttner worked on the films Hum 255, Trick Bag, and Now We Live on Clifton. His commitment to political activism extends from filmmaking to his work with local community media groups and as a union member of the IATSE.

In addition to his documentary work, Kuttner has worked as an assistant cameraman on a long list of Hollywood feature films shot in and around Chicago including The Dark Knight, The Break-Up, Barber Shop, Mad Dog and Glory, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Custodial History
Peter Kuttner, the creator of the films in this collection, possessed them until he donated them to CFA in 2006.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Peter Kuttner retains copyright for the films in this collection and has authorized Chicago Film Archives to act as his agent on his behalf.