C.L.G.M. Mike Osterhout and the Church of the Little Green Man
It’s a church with a stripper pole. In retrospect, I should have known that making a movie about it wouldn’t be straightforward. But, during that summer of 2017, when I first met Mike Osterhout, I didn’t know that the Church of the Little Green Man wasn’t a church at all.
Mike had granted me an interview about his career as an artist. The article I wrote covered his trajectory starting in San Francisco, then to the East Village and, finally, settling in the Catskills. We had talked about the church, but simply as a prime example of his performative work.
I had more questions. What was the relationship of this absurdist, performance art church to religion? Was it possible that this anti-church fulfilled all the basic functions of a church for its community? Can art replace religion? I wanted to answer these questions and explore the community that had blossomed around the church. So, I did what anyone would do, I asked Mike if I could make a movie about him.
Once I started shooting for the Church of Little Green Man, I was given unprecedented access to the church and its congregation. I’m the first to bring a camera crew into the live performances. The footage we gathered from two separate services anchors the film.
In addition to interviewing Mike and members of the church band, The Band of All Faiths, I interviewed two critical witnesses to the birth and evolution of the church. My interviews with artist Kembra Pfahler from The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black and writer, critic and scene chronicler Carlo McCormick help to narrate the church’s development and establish a link to its heritage.
I started out to make a movie about a faux-religion, but I ended up exploring the seminal performance art scene that emerged in the East Village in the nineteen eighties and tracing its legacy to a tiny church hidden in the Catskills. I started out to make a movie about an artist, but I discovered the power of art to build a community.
C.L.G.M. Mike Osterhout and the Church of the Little Green Man has completed filming and is currently in the final stages of the editing process. The final runtime, while not confirmed, is expected to be approximately 17 minutes. The finished film will be screened at film festivals throughout the country and internationally in 2019 before the film premiered online.
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The Church of the Little Green Man is a conceptual art practice that emerged from the East Village performance art scene. From tiny clubs in the mid-nineteen eighties to a restored historical church in upstate New York, the CLGM has endured for thirty years.
This is Mike Osterhout’s church. His approach is raw, provocative and gleefully absurd. He’s embraced his obscurity as a badge of honor. In his heart, however, he thrives on human connections. His devotion to his community has allowed him to create a home for his congregation and a safe place to transgress in the Catskills
Director – Roderick Angle
Cinematographer – Mitch Blummer
Music – Scott Meola