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Karl Spreitz Film Collection
Biography and Collection Summary
"Karl Spreitz, The Master of Instant Retrospectives" - Andy Warhol.
Upon failing the entrance exams to art school in the 1940s Karl Spreitz
was told by the examining professor, "Fame is nothing but an empty ego
and success will only come with talent." Known today as a
painter, graphic artist, photographer, and documentary filmmaker - the
many creative talents of this man are, ironically, undeniable and his
success is equally evident.
Karl Spreitz was born in Graz an der Mur, Austria, in the late 1920s
where he was raised by his mother and stepfather. His family,
especially his stepfather, Ernst Spreitz, who was also an artist,
highly encouraged him to study the arts. Ernst introduced
multiple creative mediums to his young son including, mural and fresco
painting, puppetry, and photography.
Popular cinema became another major source of Spreitz's early visual
art education. Spreitz opted, on a regular basis, to spend his
days in the movie houses of Graz rather than in the schoolhouse with
the rest of his peers. Adventure and horror films like,
Frankenstein, Cowboys & Indians, and Tarzan excited Spreitz and
fuelled his story-telling imagination.
After the war, which had seriously disrupted the Spreitz family, it was
decided that Spreitz should go to art school. Spreitz, however,
failed the entrance exams and, distraught, decided that same day to
write entrance exams for Physical Education at the University of
Graz. He was accepted and very quickly progressed, finding ways
to incorporate his artistic creativity into his physical education,
especially through writing and pedagogy.
Through physical education Spreitz developed a fascination of how body
movements could be broken down into sequences and each one studied as
if it were made in slow motion. His work in this area earned him
a coaching position at the University of Graz. In 1948, he was
promoted to the position of Assistant Coach to the Girls' Olympic Team
of Austria. As Assistant Coach, Spreitz met and coached Olympic
bronze medallist Ina Mayer von Bojan, whom he married in 1953.
In 1950, during his Olympic coaching career, Spreitz acquired a 16
millimetre movie camera, which, he convinced the team officials, he
would use for training purposes. With this camera, filming the
European track and field events in Brussels, Spreitz began to teach
himself the skills of motion film production.
After immigrating to Canada in 1952, Spreitz took on a variety of jobs
in various industries. Of these early positions, Spreitz made his
biggest impact as a plastic extruder at General Tire in Welland,
Ontario. There, in collaboration with rubber chemist Jim Brown,
Spreitz designed the first successful plastic refrigerator door gasket,
a device still in use today by manufacturers.
In 1957, Spreitz moved to Santa Barbara, California to attend the
Brooks Institute of Photography. After completing his program at the
Brooks Institute, he moved to Prince George, BC, where he worked for
one year as a newspaper photographer. It was not until the 1960s,
when Spreitz moved to Victoria, BC, however, that his artistic style
developed and his career as an artist was realized.
Shortly after his move to Victoria, Spreitz met a variety of local
artists with whom he would develop close and influential
friendships. Included among these artists were Herbert Siebner,
Myfanwy Pavelic, Richard Ciccimarra, and Michael Morris who all
encouraged Spreitz in his painting and drawing.
In 1960, Spreitz exhibited his work for the first time in the Vancouver
Island Jury Show. Many of his pieces at this time were
reactionary photo-collages rebelling on the restrictions placed upon
him by the editors of Look, Star Weekly, the Globe and Mail, the Victoria Daily Times, and the Victoria Daily Colonist, for which he was working as a freelance photographer.
Spreitz's big film debut was in 1964 at the International Film
Festival, in Victoria. There, he won first prize in the British
Columbia category for Steelhead River, a film featuring Richard
Ciccimarra as a fisherman. This twenty-minute documentary,
depicting an actual fishing trip on the Cowichan River, was noted
particularly for its authenticity.
Spreitz continued to film the outdoors of British Columbia and the
lifestyles of its residents as a staff photographer for the magazine Beautiful British Columbia
from 1965 to 1968, then from 1968 to 1972 working for CTV
television. He has also worked as a freelance filmmaker and has
made films for the National Film Board, the Provincial Museum of BC,
and the BC Department of Travel and Industry.
While his reputation as a filmmaker and photographer rose, Spreitz also
maintained his interest in painting and collage. In 1972 he
joined his friends Herbert Siebner, Elza Mayhew, Richard Ciccimarra,
Maxwell Bates, Myfanwy Pavelic, and Robert de Castro, as a member of
the Limners Group of artists. Over the years Spreitz has
collaborated with these artists on various projects such as books, art
exhibitions, portrait productions, and short films. Karl Spreitz
still resides in Victoria and maintains an active role in the local
About The Collection
The Karl Spreitz Film Collection consists of more than 213 reels of
16mm film representing various stages of production. These films,
especially the ones which Spreitz has produced on his own or in
collaboration with various artists and friends, are of a very personal
and documentary nature. Covering a period over the last 35 years, the
content of the collection describes the working process of various
artists, the lifestyles of the local community, historical events, as
well as various special interest areas such as Native art and culture,
politics, and the environment. Furthermore, the historical quality of
the films is a tremendous value in itself, both in terms of film
production, and as a partial record of the career of Karl Spreitz.
Many of the films were produced in the 1970s, at the height of the
"underground" film movement, which was characterized by experimentation
and diverse forms of self expression. The influence of this spirited
time is evident in much of Spreitz's work. During this period, the
National Film Board was also highly supportive in the development and
exploration of various areas of film, especially animations and
All the films in the collection were produced on 16mm film with very
little funding and limited resources. The cumbersome and heavy
equipment used by Spreitz was markedly different than the compact and
versatile devices used today. The film he used, which is now obsolete,
had very little light sensitivity and was not, therefore, especially
forgiving when it came to low-light shooting. Most film was spliced
together with cement splices, which, when improperly stored, have dried
out and come apart over the years (tape splicing has replaced much of
the cement splice).
Camera Original: All of these films are 16mm, either colour or black
and white. The camera original is the film exposed in the camera and
will remain the first and most important source for the image.
Work Print: From the camera original, the work print has been made to
allow the editor to cut the film, handle it, and run it through various
machines, which could otherwise damaged the original. The work print
includes the edge numbers, which would eventually be confirmed to the
Sound Track: The sound track, recorded on magnetic 16mm film, would be
cut in sync with the picture and then, in a final cut, merit and an
answer print would be made.
Answer Print: The answer print contains the picture and the sound to be
projected and corrected. The first answer print usually needed colour
corrections and exposure timing for under or over exposed scenes. At
this point, the sound track still could be changed, rearranged, and
another answer print made.
Outfootage: Outfootage is mostly camera original which has not been
printed, but contains important information that is not included in the
final film. Outfootage could also be found as a work print that ended
up in the editor's bin.
Beautiful British Columbia Magazine.
Bovey, Patricia E. A Passion For Art - The Art and Dynamics of the Limners (Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1996).
"Colin Browne Section," The Capilano Review no. 18, 1980. pp. 5-33.
Emery, Tony. "Artists' Confidence Shown By Excellence of Exhibit," Victoria Daily Times April 29, 1967. p. 15.
"Extrusion of Plastics - New Projects in Progress," General Observer, September 23, 1955.
Gore, Tom. "Siebner and Spreitz . . . Sense of Whimsical Fantasy" Arts West, vol. 2, no. 4, 1977. pp. 7-13.
Nowosad, Frank. "The World Perfect And Apart," Monday Magazine (Victoria) September 3-9, 1987. pp. 1, 7.
"Plastic Extrusions now Operating Continuously," General Observer, October 28, 1955.
Siebner, Herbert. Color Line and Form. (Sidney, British
Columbia: Review Publishing, 1970). Skelton, Robin, et al. Herbert
Siebner Ð A Celebration. (Victoria: Morriss Publishing Ltd., 1993).
Skelton, Robin. "Karl Spreitz," The Malahat Review no. 37,
January 1976. pp. 56-64; with collages, ink drawings, and mixed media
assemblages by Karl Spreitz pp. 16, 28, 48, 52, 53, 96, 113, 128, 138,
Skelton, Robin. "The Limners: The Travelling Journeymen," Arts West vol. 6, no. 9, October 1981. pp. 40-47.
Spreitz, Karl. "Recent Drawings," Writing Magazine winter 1984. pp. 14-19.
Tuele, Nicholas and Liane Davison. Art in Victoria 1960-1986 (Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1986).
Other Works by Karl Spreitz in the Maltwood Collection
Spreitz, Karl Good Way to Make Heads Turn Mixed Media U976.5.1
Spreitz, Karl Maybe the Rooster Came First Gouache; Surrealist U996.25.100
Spreitz, Karl Where Do You Want to Go? Gouache; Surrealist U996.25.101
Spreitz, Karl Untitled Still-life U996.25.102
Spreitz, Karl Untitled Screen, Silkscreen U996.25.103
Spreitz, Karl Unmasked Clown Acrylic; Portrait U996.25.53
Siebner, Herbert; Spreitz, Karl Untitled Serigraph U996.25.85
Spreitz, Karl Look What My Girdle Did To Me Ink; Female Figures U996.25.94
Spreitz, Karl Government Drinking Fountain Screen, Silkscreen U996.25.95
Spreitz, Karl Untitled Oil; Surrealist U996.25.96
Spreitz, Karl Untitled Figure U996.25.97
Spreitz, Karl Self-Propelled Mixed Media U996.25.98
Spreitz, Karl Behind the Barn Gouache; Lanscape U996.25.99
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