The Mailer Review/Volume 3, 2009/Editing Mailer: A Conversation with Jan Welt and Lana Jokel

From Project Mailer
« The Mailer ReviewVolume 3 Number 1 • 2009 • Beyond Fiction »
Written by
Michael Chaiken
Abstract: An interview with Norman Mailer’s two main collaborators on Maidstone (1970): Jan Welt and Lana Jokel.

In September 2008, three of Norman Mailer’s films were deposited in The Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For six months, I assisted in the archiving of these films, Mailer’s “sixties trilogy,” Wild 90 (1967), Beyond the Law (1968) and Maidstone (1968–70). The Norman Mailer Estate and Harvard University together have endeavored to preserve these important films. As I analyzed these cinematic materials, what immediately struck me was how much of a collaborative effort these films had been, evinced by countless notes affixed to film cans, coded in the private language of like-minded artists.

When I spoke to Mailer about his films in 2005, he was quick to dismiss the notion that these films were anything but a collective effort: “My editors Jan Welt and Lana Jokel were vastly more skillful at frame to frame cutting than I could ever be. They were both immensely talented and I turned over entire sequences to them. I built the structure of the films myself, for better or worse, working with them as closely as any Hollywood film director would.” In early 2010, Criterion will release these films in a DVD boxed set, digitally restored from source material. In helping Criterion prepare this collection, I had the opportunity to speak at length with Mailer’s two main film collaborators, Jan Welt and Lana Jokel. I spoke to Jan Welt by phone on the evening of June 15, 2009 as he is currently living in Anchorage, Alaska. My conversation with Lana Jokel took place in her New York apartment over a period of many months, concluding on July 21, 2009.What follows are our conversations over their recollections of working with Mailer during one of the most productive periods in his career, an experience that led to Jan and Lana emerging as filmmakers in their own right.

Jan Welt

Chaiken: Where are you from originally and how did you become interested in film?

Welt: I’m from Albany, New York and became interested in film through my father who was an avid amateur photographer. He was an attorney but photography was his passion so there were always cameras around me growing up. Certainly that had an influence, but my decision to pursue filmmaking as a career came after I had taken a course in cinematography during my senior year at Syracuse University. To get some money together after graduation, I went to work for a year in Albany at Capitol City Broadcasting and from there I enrolled in NYU Graduate School to get my MFA in film.

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