Alan Watts' life celebrated in his son's animated documentary
by Paul Liberatore, marinij.com
August 18th 2011 5:39 AM Click photo to enlarge
Marin Independent Journal
Alan Watts, the charismatic British-born Zen philosopher who lived and died in Marin County, is enjoying an unlikely rebirth — as a cartoon character.
He'll actually be three animated versions of himself at different phases in his extraordinary life in "Why Not Now?," a new documentary by his eldest son, 59-year-old Mark Watts of San Anselmo.
His "mediascape"-style film, which he is racing to finish, is set to have its world premiere Aug. 21 at the Third annual Sausalito Film Festival (Aug. 19 to 21). The three-day festival features 13 films, including 10 Bay Area and world premiers, as well as topical panels and other events.
As one of its colorful hometown legends, Sausalito is a fitting place for Watts, who died in 1973, to make his big screen debut. Credited with being a major force in popularizing Eastern philosophy for a Western audience, he lived on the ferry boat Vallejo on the Sausalito waterfront in the 1960s, holding court with the luminaries of those LSD-soaked times.
"There's a clip in the film of him and Tim Leary and Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder at the 'Houseboat Summit' in 1967, which was featured in a rainbow-colored issue of the San Francisco Oracle," Mark Watts said. "It's just after LSD was made illegal, and my dad's leading a conversation about the Great Society. It's fascinating."
Watts wrote about dabbling in psychedelics, experimenting
with mescaline, LSD and marijuana, once commenting on mind-expanding drugs: "When you get the message, hang up the phone."
In his celebrated career, he wrote more than 25 books on philosophy and spirituality, including one of the first best sellers on Buddhism, 1957's "The Way of Zen," which introduced baby boomers and the burgeoning counterculture to Eastern mysticism.
In the Bay Area, he became an intellectual celebrity through his entertaining weekly programs on Pacifica radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley.
To escape his flood of fans and to find peace to write, he fled from the houseboat community into the seclusion of a lotus-blossom-shaped cabin, called Mandala, in Druid Heights, an enclave near Muir Woods on Mount Tamalpais where he lived in what he called "shared bohemian poverty" with a group of alternative lifestylers. His book "The Joyous Cosmology" is dedicated to them. After an international lecture tour, he died in his sleep there when he was 58.
"He moved up there in 1971 so he could continue to write," his son remembered. "So I moved onto the ferry boat because there was so much energy there. There were so many people around that I ended up being, in effect, a gatekeeper. I had to decide who
See Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERbvKrH-GC4
I could give his phone number to and who to tell how to find him. There were some fascinating people who came by."
Married three times, Alan Watts had seven children, five girls and two boys. Although his parents divorced when he was 11, he has fond memories of his brilliant father during his childhood.
"My father was a busy person, but somebody who was a lot of fun," he recalled. "He would set up hay bales because he loved to shoot arrows and practice archery. He told us a series of stories every night that he would adapt from Hindu mythology about the great game of hide and seek."
Through the Internet, nearly 40 years after his death, Watts has been discovered by a new generation that includes Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the edgy animated series "South Park."
An audio field recorder and archivist of his father's work, Mark Watts had little or no experience in film production when Stone phoned him out of the blue late one evening in 2000, asking permission to make a series of animated shorts of his father's work.
"He said you probably don't know who I am, but I do this funny late night comic called 'South Park,' I love your dad's work and I wonder if you would let us use some of it for animation," he recalled with a chuckle. "I said, 'Matt, I know who you are, I love your work and, yes, you may use it for animation.'"
That resulted in three short "South Park" style Internet animation series, all available on YouTube. Mark Watts later used some of the "South Park" animators to produce three more on his own.
He has included some of that animation as well as vintage footage, recordings, photos, art and segments by other cartoonists, among them "The Simpsons" animator Eddie Rosas, in the hour-long "Why Not Now?" Rosas will appear with Mark Watts for a discussion at the screening.
Although there are a couple of other Alan Watts film projects floating around, Mark Watts wanted to make a documentary of his own to honor his father's legacy. After he raised more than $50,000 to begin work on the film, others have stepped up to help, including filmmakers from George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch.
"I wanted to make a documentary out of all the material I had," he explained. "Realizing within these hundreds of hours of recordings and productions I'd already done and others I had sponsored, we had a wonderful potential film."
Contact Paul Liberatore via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Original Page: http://www.marinij.com/lifestyles/ci_18692403
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