Jim Morrison:  Film Student

It is ironic that Jim Morrison, UCLA film school's most famous alumnus, never made a film--or not at least in the conventional Hollywood sense. During his short life, Morrison made an experimental film--HwY--and completed a documentary on the Doors, Feast of Friends, with two friends, Paul Ferrara and Frank Lisciandro. During his second year at UCLA, in 1965, Jim took a film production course with Terry McCartney-Filgate, a Canadian documentary film maker who was a visiting teacher. Here, in an exclusive interview with American Legends, McCartney-Filgate, who now lives in Toronto, remembers Jim Morrison.

AL: What was UCLA film school like back in the early 1960s?

MF: It was a very exciting place. The head of the school was Colin Young who later founded the National Film School in Britain. He used to collect all sorts of odd people. Anyone who interested him could get in the program. In my class, I had a former policeman, an Arab, an Israeli....

AL: And two guys named Ray Manzarek and James Morrison.


Yes. Actually, Colin gave me all the tough students. Since I was an outsider, not a regular faculty member, I got all the difficult characters. Morrison was assigned to my class because he got into some trouble. He threatened to beat somebody up, I think.

AL: Did you ever see that dark side of Jim Morrison?


I remember once I was at his apartment off campus. He was sort of a rich kid, by UCLA standards. His dad was an Admiral. He had some money. Anyway, Jim was shooting a scene there for his student film. I had agreed to play a small role, running a projector. I noticed that Jim had made a dart board on his wall of Playboy centerfolds. I remember thinking: Jim is not very fond of women. When I told him this, he just laughed. He was not very communicative. He was a loner.

AL: What was Jim's student film like?


It was a montage--a film that didn't have a story but that was made up of different images. I remember one scene, Jim's girlfriend danced on a television set wearing a garter belt. While she was dancing, a news clip came on showing a Buddhist monk burning himself. Jim could not have known that. It was, for a film maker, sheer good luck. Actually, Jim's film was not the most shocking--another student shot in the city crematory. But nihilism was sort of popular then and student film makers tend to be imitative. I presume Morrison had seen Triumph of the Will.

AL: Ray Manzarek was also one of your students.


Ray was sort of a student guru. He would offer other students advice. He was very organized. Jim had talent, but Ray had organized film talent. Jim was undisciplined. He never completed his student film. He refused to double-splice it. This was the '60s. It was too much trouble. I gave him an incomplete.

AL: What adjectives would you use to describe Jim Morrison?


He was a narcissist. The way he would stand around, crinkle his neck, and lean back. He already had this self-image....

AL: Did Jim show any interest in singing then?


Actually, Ray Manzarek had a group called Rick and the Ravens, I believe. One night I heard them at a student hangout in Santa Monica. Jim Morrison sang, but back then he was not very good. Nobody thought he would go anywhere.

AL: Did Oliver Stone contact you for his movie, The Doors?


I didn't know about the movie until it was released. I felt there was no point in seeing it. I knew Jim Morrison and formed my own impression of his personality.

AL: What became of the student who filmed in the city crematory?


I don't know. He's probably retired and running a motel somewhere in the Midwest....

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