Thursday, December 18, 2008

Coming soon... a post on J.J. Murphy's Print Generation (1973-74)...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Scratch n Sniff?

Lewis Klahr originally assembled his 1987 film Her Fragrant Emulsion in Super 8 by taking lots of chopped up strips of film and collaging them together with splicing tape. This roll (about 30 or 40 feet in length) was then copied to Super 8 Ektachrome. Lew then constructed his edit for the film from this Ektachrome material.

Lew made quite a few Super 8 films, and had some of them blown up to 16mm, but felt they didn't translate well to the larger medium. He told me that Her Fragrant Emulsion is pretty much the only one that he thought benefited from the blowup, and this is the primary form in which the film has been shown.

Here are some photos I took today of the collaged Super 8 original:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More Insomnia.

Two more pictures of the original for Fred Worden's 16mm film Insomnia (1981) ...


Thought this photo came out pretty well, so I figured I'd share it here. This is a shot of a section of the 16mm original for Fred Worden's film Insomnia (1981). Fred made this film entirely by punching holes into black leader. I can only assume that the title perhaps refers to the sleepless nights during which I imagine Fred made this sucker. Talk about an economical film - after punching the holes (2 different sizes, I think), he struck a 7361 reversal print, and there it was: a movie.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rental fees.

I had to share this. For a few years, I had the honor of being the only distribution source for the films of Robert Nelson. As nice as this was, I had wanted him to put the films back into Canyon Cinema (which he co-founded), not just to take some burden off of me, but really to make them a lot more accessible. This was finally done, I think in early 2008. Anyway, sometime in early 2007, Nelson sent me this letter which detailed a plan for rental fees for his films and the various discounts for which interested parties might be eligible. I laughed my ass off when I got this.

About a month later, Bob sent another letter saying the films should instead all be rented for free.

(As it stands now, several of the films are available (not for free) from Canyon Cinema, with additional ones still available through Bob and me via the Academy Film Archive.)

Creative Soundtracking #2

Another unusual feat of homemade technical wizardry from filmmaker Standish Lawder, whose coffee-can contact printer can be viewed elsewhere on this blog.

When Standish made the film Specific Gravity (ca.1969-70), he only struck one print, and decided to give it a minimal soundtrack by scratching some sound onto the track area of the print (one instance of which is pictured above). This is the only print ever made, and technically the only place the soundtrack exists. When the time comes to preserve this film, I'm happy to say that Standish already gave his permission for me to replicate the scratching on the new prints. I know I could digitally capture the track off of this print and actually make a new soundtrack negative, but that just doesn't seem right.

By the way, as already evidenced here and by his coffee can printer, Standish was one of the more technically self-sufficient experimental filmmakers out there, and sometime around 1970 or 1971, he even obtained a (real) contact printer on which he made his own release prints for his films. All the original release prints for films like Colorfilm, Intolerance (Abridged), and Regeneration were made personally by Standish on his own printer.

Creative Soundtracking #1

It was pretty much impossible to get a picture that would really show you the extent of this incredible thing. This is a photo of the original edited 1948 35mm positive optical track for the film Muscle Beach, by Joseph Strick and Irving Lerner.

Those of you that know filmmaking and archiving at least a little bit will probably know what a bloop is. Basically, a bloop helps mask the sound of a splice in an optical soundtrack. Usually you cut a "V" shaped notch in the optical track where the splice is, so rather than a "thunk" on the track, you hear (or don't hear) a sort of quick, hopefully graceful absence of sound that would last maybe 1/12th of a second, or even less, depending on what size notch, what film gauge, etc.

This thing, in the photo above, has got to be the longest "bloop" I've ever seen in my life. To be fair, it's not quite a bloop, but a hand-applied tape masking used to create a fade-out/fade-in effect on the soundtrack. What you're seeing above is a small fraction of the actual tape-bloop. It's actually something like 20 feet long from end to end!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Know your enemy.

I hate hate hate this film.

Ektachrome Commercial, aka ECO. I know a lot of people used it and loved it, and it was especially handy for folks doing optical printing and animation work. It was low contrast, versatile.... But the shit fades like you wouldn't believe. As a preservationist working on experimental film, including MANY filmmakers who used this stuff extensively, the sight of this box makes me a little irritable. You can chalk up the faded color in the film originals for work by Pat O'Neill, Stan Brakhage, Chick Strand, Morgan Fisher, Kathy Rose, Adam Beckett, David Wilson, Peter Rose, Daina Krumins, and many others to the instability of the dyes in this film.

Its precursor - 7255 (pre-1971, I believe) is actually a lot more stable, for which I'm very grateful - the originals for Robert Nelson's 'Oh Dem Watermelons', Morgan Fisher's 'Production Stills', Thom Andersen's 'Melting', and plenty of other films are on 7255, and look pretty close to how they did originally.

But the color fading that occurs with 7252 has compromised the originals of numerous films made from roughly 1971 to the early '80s. This includes films such as Chick Strand's 'Elasticity', 'Guacamole', (and others), Brakhage's 'Unconscious London Strata', most of Pat O'Neill's '70s work including 'Easyout', 'Down Wind', 'Saugus Series', and others, Gary Beydler's 'Pasadena Freeway Stills', David Wilson's 'Stasis', Daina Krumins' 'The Divine Miracle', Will Hindle's 'Pasteur3', and Morgan Fisher's 'Standard Gauge', among many others. Urg.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Art as a subversive film.

Over the years I've worked with Robert Nelson on the unearthing, preserving, and screening of his films, there has always been an interesting back-and-forth related to his perspective on his own work. He has said that he views his films as "works in progress" in the sense that, at any given time, if he feels he wants to further modify or change or even destroy any of his films, he absolutely reserves the right to do so. In fact, not being hung up on his art (whether film, painting, sculpture, etc.) as being sacred or immutable in some way is part of his pleasure in being an artist.

I totally love and respect this viewpoint, but of course it puts the preservationist side of me at some odds with his efforts. At any rate, just wanted to give some background on this photo.

In the mid-to-late '90s, Nelson started to re-evaluate his entire filmographic output. Many films that he felt were problematic, he attempted to "fix" by re-editing them. A few of these attempts were successful for him, most weren't. Some he didn't even bother with and immediately earmarked them for destruction.

Eventually, everything that he planned to destroy (including also workprints, cut mags, and faded prints, in addition to originals for the aforementioned dismissed works) went into a huge pile. Some of it got shredded in a paper shredder. The rest of it got lacquered and turned into sculptures, several of which are visible in this photo.

May I draw your attention to one stack of film in particular, in the lower left, which has been turned into a stool seat...? When it occurs to him, I'm sure Nelson gets a certain kick out of planting his ass onto what may be the originals for Super Spread (1967) or The Beard (1968) or any number of other destroyed films.

Pasteur3 notes with added value.

In a can of outtakes from Will Hindle's film Pasteur3 (1976), I found these handwritten notes of his, which basically identify the footage it came with. I was just going to file these away as I usually do with accompanying paper material, when I realized what they were. These notes were written on fragments of the computer cards that fall abundantly from the sky and which Will attempts to organize and sort in his film Chinese Firedrill (1968).