An Interview With Co-Writer & Director John Anderson

In Glorious co-conspirators John Anderson and Tammy Burnstock.

Tammy, 2019:

Chicago-based filmmaker John Anderson is co-writer and director, the editor and pretty much everything else for In Glorious Smell-O-Vision! the documentary. I asked John to remember how he got caught up in this international web of Smell-O-Vision! enthusiasts and this is what he said. 

John Anderson:

In March of 2017 I got an email from a friend who said that a woman in Australia was making a documentary about Smell-O-Vision! and might need some help in Chicago, where I’m based. It sounded interesting, and I contacted Tammy to learn more. She speaks quickly and the long-distance satellite connection doesn’t help, but it sounded like she said she needed me to get an interview with Art Shay, the celebrated photojournalist who documented Smell-O-Vision!’s Chicago premiere for Life Magazine in 1960. When I learned during our conversation that one of her most prized possessions is an audiocassette given to her in 1984 by the director of the first and only Smell-O-Vision! feature release, it became clear to me she was obsessed, and I knew I was in the right place.

Art appeared to be expecting me when I showed up a few days later. Few who experience Smell-O-Vision! have a neutral position on it, and Art, at the age of 95, is no exception. After we got the lights set and the camera rolling, he started by saying, “Smell-O-Vision! is like being a bystander in a street accident.” He described, “. . . the inventors of the process (Swiss scientist Hans Laube and film producer Michael Todd, Jr.), down in the basement of the theatre, piping up orange blossom scent over the audience’s face. You couldn’t help but wish that James Joyce were there to get all this down.”

Mike Todd Jnr., Hans Laube and The Smell Brain.

Art remembered every detail of that star-studded night 57 years earlier, and he went on to discuss other aspects of his illustrious career, including his work with Willie Mays and the time he slept with Elizabeth Taylor.

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She speaks quickly and the accent doesn’t make it any easier to understand what she’s saying, but it sounded like the next thing Tammy wanted me to do was go to NYC to interview Hans Laube’s daughter Carmen and meet Hans’ miraculous invention The Smell Brain.

Carmen makes it easy to imagine The Smell Brain’s plates spinning, pumps pumping, dials turning and sonic booms booming as precisely-timed scents were launched hundreds of feet into American movie houses, the whole process having been masterminded, manufactured and put into operation by her father, a visionary and sometimes eccentric Swiss osmologist. Carmen’s eloquence  in describing the creative spirit that drove her father, and its effects on his loved ones, provides one-of-a-kind insight into the how and why behind this important moment in cinematic history. Getting to know Carmen has been one of the highlights of this project for me so far

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Nadia Roden, Peter Dasent and Michelle French

Meanwhile, Tammy brought in the Power Trio of Post-Production: Nadia Roden on Animation, Peter Dasent on Music and Michelle French on Motion Graphics Design, each of whom went above and beyond in every way. Very special thanks also to Mia Barker, Brendan Young, John Foley, Dave Strohmaier and Randy Gitsch for their important contributions.

She speaks quickly and the 15-hour time difference is irrelevant because she doesn’t sleep, but I think what Tammy said next was that I should interview Susan Jane Todd, daughter of Scent of Mystery producer Michael Todd, Jr., in Santa Fe, which was made possible by Genevieve Russell’s beautiful cinematographic work. 

Many thanks to Susan for sharing her recollections of her amazing father and grandfather – the legendary entrepreneur Michael Todd – without both of whom Smell-O-Vision! wouldn’t have happened, and for the warm, thoughtful and humorous way that she does it. In this clip she explains the complicated relationship between the two men.

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Part of my role has been to organize the visual materials, given that the footage collected over the years from around the globe by Tammy and her team encompasses every format and frame rate available, plus a few not yet invented. Likewise, the countries inhabited by people who have contributed to this project span the globe, further testament to Tammy’s contagious enthusiasm. 

She speaks quickly and she knows what she’s talking about, and when I took Tammy to her first American baseball game she could explain the Infield Fly Rule. She’s fun and patient and mostly I want to thank her for leading the way with her passion, commitment, creative instincts and collaborative spirit.

Team Smelly Events, Jaslyn Hall, John, Tammy.

John Anderson and Sandy Warren’s new blues documentary ‘Horn From The Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story’ was hailed as the “#1 Rock Documentary of The Year” by Richie Unterberger / Folkrocks and is available everywhere.

John received a Grammy nomination for directing “Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE”.

You can visit John Anderson’s website below.