Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

Mark Zenner
(Mark Charles Zenner)
b. September 18, 1955, Brisbane, Australia.

d. September 3, 2008, Melbourne, Australia.

BIOGRAPHY:   Born to Russian/European parents who emigrated to Australia in the early '50s, Mark Zenner was an only child who developed into a ferocious solitaire, intellectually and artistically active, but shunning all organised groups and institutions.

From his late teens, Zenner created poems, drawings, collages, photos, films, with most of this work unpublished or lost.

He was also a talented writer of criticism, as evidenced by his essay on Robert Bresson (see here).



As a filmmaker, Zenner was drawn into collaboration with certain figures around the Melbourne Super 8 scene of the late '80s: Bill Mousoulis, George Goularas, Mark La Rosa. In this time, he lent his services as actor and cinematographer to these filmmakers, but, more importantly, this creativity spurred him into action re: his own work as a writer-director. Original Copy (1989, 23 mins) was created, followed by several other Super 8 films (most of which, unfortunately, are now lost - see below for details).

Zenner died in 2008, aged 52. Upon his death, an early film, Big Risk (1978, 17 mins) was discovered. Shot on 16mm, it's an invaluable document of the Melbourne punk scene of 1978. It is hoped that more early work is unearthed from his holdings.

Whilst plans are now afoot to make his artistic work available, for most of his life it was not his work that was present, but he himself. Imagine a modern-day Socrates, but not peripatetic, and not Socratic, but Nietzschean, and you have the figure of Mark C. Zenner: in a cafe, cigarette and espresso in hand, mind acute and eyes alert, forever conversing on Nabokov, Goya, Bresson. He was a unique figure.

- Bill Mousoulis, July 2009.

Big Risk

CRITICAL OVERVIEW:   Mark Zenner was a cinephile who had a penchant for a certain type of cinema - dark, violent, male, intellectual, subversive: Welles, Peckinpah, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Lynch, Godard, Bresson, Bergman, Pasolini, Resnais, Buñuel, Ruiz. He increasingly lost touch with cinema however, neither making or watching any films in the last 10 or so years of his life.

With his own work, he set himself high standards, and this obviously resulted in a number of films being uncompleted and even destroyed. But he was proud of Original Copy, and the fact that he didn't destroy Big Risk is telling too. Seemingly a very simple, undistinguished film, Big Risk actually showcases Zenner's precision regarding rhythm and montage, and the film clearly gave him an outlet for his existential energy: not into the punk scene himself, he places himself in the film and sings along to the punk mantra "I'm not like everybody else" - an ironic but also iconic display, of the one and only M. C. Zenner.

But it is Original Copy that is his centrepiece, and masterpiece. A downgrade from his known 16mm. format, the film was made on the ramshackle but cheap Super 8 format, requiring ingenuity and deftness on the part of Zenner to achieve his desired end result: a prismatic narrative full of razor-sharp aesthetics and clever thematic ideas. A Resnaisian puzzle and Hitchcockian psychodrama, the film sparks and jitters with schizophrenia, intrigue and terror.

Who knows what the subsequent films were like, and why Zenner chose to destroy them. But maybe he knew - that nothing is as good as "the original copy".

- Bill Mousoulis, July 2009.

Original Copy

"Original Copy by Mark Zenner is quite a film.  Despite some technically inaudible sync dialogue passages, it is also quite accomplished; Zenner has a remarkable pictorial eye, and the montage passages are particularly striking.  As a poetic narrative, it is extremely worked, interlacing and coherent – if still rather cryptic around the edges, and often at the centre.  The full Euro-modernistic panoply of fictional devices: an exile returning to a home he no longer recognises, a map that can no longer be followed, an undecidable narrating ‘voice’ (several voices, actually) speaking from no particular time or space – all this leads into a fully paranoid phantasm of surveillance-in-the-everyday, everybody on someone’s file somewhere, the treachery of all relations.  Again, many strange identity-substitutions, lost looks, blind spots, dead ends, insertions of the auteur as Nosferatu or Dr Mabuse, controller of the text and master of death.  A kind of Melbourne Belongs to Us (after Rivette), in which, of course, Melbourne belongs to no one.  Mark’s own wonderful dry vocal delivery, full of fatal irony: “Any friend of Richard’s is a friend of a friend of a friend.”

- Adrian Martin, "Notes on 'Six Secrets'", Cantrills Filmnotes, Issue 61/62, May 1990.

See also - Interview with Mark Zenner by Mark La Rosa.

Big Risk (1978, 17 mins)


Big Risk
Big Risk (1978, 17 mins, 16mm)
Early film of Zenner's,discovered in 2009, featuring the bands The Boys Next Door, News and The Negatives, and Zenner himself. According to Mick Harvey (ex-Boys Next Door), Zenner screened the film at the Tiger Lounge at the time (late '70s), but the film then probably had no other screenings, until the Melbourne International Film Festival screening of 2009. Footage from it has been used in other documentaries, like Stranded for example, and in 2017 it was included in the Australian Music Vault exhibition in the Arts Centre of Melbourne.

possibly other 16mm. short films, in the period 1976 - 1986, details unknown at this stage

Original Copy (1989, 23 mins, Super 8)
Shot and completed quickly in 1989, featuring George Goularas and Mark La Rosa, this film had a number of screenings at the time, mainly through the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group. When Zenner abandoned filmmaking in the mid-to-late '90s, he gave the film over to Bill Mousoulis for preservation purposes.

3 AM (1990-91, 35 mins, Super 8)
A completed, or near-completed, film, featuring Simon Crosbie and Vikki Riley. Programmed by Melbourne Cinémathèque (along with Original Copy) in 1991, it was pulled from the screening by Zenner, and subsequently destroyed/trashed by him. See the program notes Mark wrote at the time.

Big Risk

The Confessor (1991-92, approx. 50 mins, Super 8)
Featuring Bill Jones and Darron Davies, it was uncompleted, and trashed.

Nada (1993-96, approx. 80 mins, Super 8)
Zenner's most ambitious film, feature length, shooting commenced in 1993 with non-actors, and continued sporadically for the next few years. Uncompleted and trashed by Zenner, save for a 30-minute edited section, a 4-minute excerpt of which constitutes Bill Mousoulis' The Color of Murder (2002, 4 mins). (Other footage of Zenner's, possibly from Nada, appears in Bill Mousoulis' film The Wild Bunch [1997, 2 mins].)

Other films Mark Zenner worked on:

Glorious Day (1987, 12 mins, 16mm, dir: Bill Mousoulis)
Cinematographer & Co-Editor

After School (1988, 20 mins, 16mm, dir: Bill Mousoulis)

Original Copy

We're Chained (1989, 4 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)
Photographer (a photo of Mark's makes up most of the film)

Between Us (1989, 37 mins, 16mm, dir: Bill Mousoulis)
Sound Editor

Crazy Motherfucker (1989, 3 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)

For Xaviera Arabella (1989, 15 mins, Super 8, dir: George Goularas)

In a Few Words (1989, 9 mins, Super 8, dir: George Goularas)
Cinematographer & Actor (voice)

Original Copy

Darling for a Day (1989, 32 mins, Super 8, dir: Mark La Rosa)
Cinematographer & Actor

Ride (1989, 8 mins, Super 8, dir: Mark La Rosa)

Every Dog Has Its Day (1990, uncompleted film, Super 8, dir: Mark La Rosa)

Open City (1993, 80 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)

Makes Me Stronger (1996, 8 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)

Original Copy

The Wild Bunch (1997, 2 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)
Cinematographer (footage of Mark's, possibly from his film Nada, makes up half the film)

Winter (1998, 8 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)

Underground Sky (1998, 16 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)

The Color of Murder (2002, 4 mins, Super 8, dir: Bill Mousoulis)
Cinematographer (footage of Mark's, from his film Nada, makes up all the film)

Mark Zenner also worked, as cinematographer, on a film or two of Helen Mihaljovic's circa mid '90s.

Tribute film:

Z is for Zenner (2009, 8 mins, digital, dir: George Goularas, unreleased)
After Mark C. Zenner died intestate, an acquaintance of his dreamt that Mark gave a clue to the whereabouts of his Will.  Zenner's cryptic gift from the collective unconscious didn't lead to a Will (yet...), but it did illuminate one of his secret artistic obsessions; from which issued a film, a visual eulogy of his compelling work.

one of Mark's artworks


Writings on Mark Zenner's work:

Adrian Martin, "Notes on 'Six Secrets'", Cantrills FIlmnotes, Issue 61/62, May 1990.

Bill Mousoulis, Original Copy review, Super 8 Newsletter, 1989.

Mark La Rosa, 123 Interviews, Super 8 Newsletter, June 1990.

Writings by Mark Zenner:

Various, for Super 8 Newsletter, late '80s / early '90s

Pataphysics journal, late '80s

"Notes on 3 AM", Super 8 Newsletter, 1991.

Program notes for 3 AM, CTEQ Annotations, 1991.

"Bresson: Destinies Making Themselves in a Work of Hands", Senses of Cinema, Issues 1-3, 2000.

What Babies Us Now?, Senses of Cinema, Issue 4, 2000.

How Art Turned Into Shmart: Utility in L'Argent, Senses of Cinema, Issue 5, 2000.

Four Nights of a DreamerA Post-Romantic's View, Senses of Cinema, Issue 5, 2000.

What are They Writing About?, Senses of Cinema, Issue 8, 2000.

© Mark Zenner and The Original Copies, 2017.

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis