Demon Lover Diary (1980) 

Demon Lover Diary (1980) 
(88min) 16mm, color, sound
Director: Joel DeMott
Grant Awarded to Chicago Film Society
Archive: Chicago Film Society


A documentary by filmmakers Joel DeMott, Jeff Kreines and Mark Rance about the improbable production of a regional horror film directed by two passionate but clueless amateurs, Demon Lover Diary is a personal reflection by director Joel DeMott (she/her) about being a competent woman in a room full of men who think themselves likewise.

Don and Jerry, factory workers who grew up on comic books and B-movies, are fulfilling a lifetime dream: they’re producing their own low-budget horror movie. Jeffand Joel, lovers and cinema-verite filmmakers, and a friend of theirs named Mark have come out to Michigan to help the dream come true: they’re shooting THE DEMONLOVER for Don and Jerry. Two weeks after production starts, Jeff and Joel and Mark are fleeing Michigan –bullets ricocheting off the car – lives and a complete film record of the events in jeopardy. The subject of my film isn’t just the ups-and-downs of making a horror movie. I’s about cultural snobbery, the disintegration of friendship, puppy love, violence, boredom, money … a diary about encountering the Midwest when you’re from someplace else. A note: I wouldn’t want anyone to think the horror movie wasn’t Serious Business. After all, Don and Jerry’s method of financing it is a model for all filmmakers. Don mortgaged his furniture and car – which netted $3,000 – and Jerry cut off his finger in an industrial “accident.” The finger netted $8,000. Jerry’s only regret was that it he’d waited a year, he would have gotten $15,000 for it.– Original Synopsis by Joel DeMott

Demon Lover Diary is both a technical and artistic milestone. Acting as her own cinematographer, sound recordist, and editor, DeMott effectively demonstrated that documentaries could be made without a large crew. After its 1980 premiere at the Whitney Museum, Demon Lover Diary went on to have a long and influential life in festival and academic circles. It set a template for chronicles of woozy, unchecked directorial ego, charting a path for films such as Burden of Dreams (1982), Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), and American Movie (1999). DeMott’s confessional style is also a clear antecedent to intimate, practically handmade documentaries such as Sherman’s March (1986) and Tarnation (2004). Demon Lover Diary has been recognized as both an exemplar of autobiographical16mm cinema and a critique of the embedded assumptions of the form. Writing about the film in a 1990 issue of the academic journal Genders, Patricia Zimmerman celebrated DEMON LOVER DIARY as a film that “clearly interrogates the traditions of direct cinema through the filmmaker’s own enunciation of her complicated, multiple positions as woman, lover, artist, gossip, girlfriend, and therapist to the characters. “The lurid incidents, absurd characters, and quotable dialogue have made Demon Lover Diary a cult classic, but they should not obscure DeMott’s achievement: as a young woman, she demonstrated that it was possible to produce a feature-length documentary of uncommon intimacy essentially on her own, long before camcorders allowed the average person to chronicle their lives. The proud product of a one-woman crew, Demon Lover Diary is not the chronicle of a film falling apart, but of another kind of film being born.

Joel DeMott studied film at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under Richard Leacock and Ed Pincus. She began making short films, and soon developed with her partner Jeff Kreines a streamlined system that would allow a one-person crew to operate a 16mm camera and a Nagra sound rig simultaneously. DeMott demonstrated the uncommon intimacy afforded by his system in her first feature,

Demon Lover Diary

. She and Kreines went on to co-direct


(1983), which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. She lives in Coosada, Alabama.