Bob & Alan Frye

Amateur Avant Garde

Originally from Dallas, brothers Robert and Alan Frye taught themselves to make films at a young age, continuing to experiment with film after moving to Austin in their twenties. Their work, some of the most popular on the TAMI site, illustrates the amateur as artist with films featuring claymation, special effects, and creatively shot footage of artists and musicians in Austin in the 1970s and 1980s.

Robert “Bob” Frye began playing with the family’s 8mm camera when his parents “got tired of doing all of the family filming themselves.” Paying for film and processing from his work mowing lawns and delivering papers, Bob Frye experimented with creating animation but became frustrated by his camera’s basic functionality. The boys’ father took the camera to a machinist shop to be modified, enabling him to further develop his techniques.

Assigned written essays in junior high, Bob Frye convinced teachers to accept his movies instead of essays, stating that “the teacher [probably] liked [him] taking up time showing [his] goofy little films.”  Bob began taking film classes at Skyline High School and was inspired by artists such as Duchamp, Dali, and Ernst, and special effects animators Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien. Bob and Alan, however, also both cite their friends and collaborators as major inspirations in their work, emphasizing the collective effort in their filmmaking.Read More

In Too Frightening (c 1970), the main character, played by Jeffrey Scott Arthur, was an aspiring comedian. Stanley Gilbert, Larry Brooks, and Bob Frye collaborated on the film and were inspired from the likes of the Marx Brothers and Woody Allen to Stanley Kubrick. The boys planned all the shots with thumbnail sketches they carried around in a notebook and used family and friends as extras. A soundtrack was made on cassette by Austin Jernigan; a new score is being composed by Jernigan now, as the original has been lost.

Bob’s friends Austin and Richard Jernigan collaborated on many of Bob’s films made after high school when they all moved to Austin and took film classes at the University of Texas. The Jernigans moved into a house dubbed “TV Ranch,” a play on Gene Autry and the Radio Ranch films, where Bob and the Jernigans shot and screened their work.

Alan says he learned most of his techniques from watching Bob and paying attention.  Particularly interested in animation, Alan researched movie cameras using trade magazines he found in the public library, and saved up to buy his own.  Alan’s camera employed quality lenses, zoom, and the ability to take single frame shots–the necessary components for animation. Animation appealed to him as Alan enjoyed “being able to create situations that are magic,” such as making people fly and giving movement to still objects. After graduating high school, Alan, too, moved to Austin and into the house at TV Ranch. Alan met his first wife, Clare Bresnan, who was taking film classes at UT, and the two began working on film projects under the name Big Day Productions. The film Birdwatching is the result of Clare’s crafting a paper mâché bird head and requesting that Alan film it.

Both Bob and Alan Frye believe their films ought to be viewed with music – they say they “ALWAYS played music when showing films. That was a requirement.” Bob and Alan ask that you please play an album you enjoy or put your music collection on “shuffle” as you watch their films.

Proceed to Carla Click.