Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Hi everyone,


I've totally moved this site!

Find it now at:

Please reset your bookmarks/links, as this Blogger version of the site will no longer be updated.

Also please do feel welcome to follow me on Instagram, as my account there is an extension of what this site does, with totally different, much more frequently updated content:  @preservationinsanity


It's been three years since I posted anything here, though for about a year now I've been keeping a fairly regular Instagram version of what this blog does (@preservationinsanity if you're interested, please feel welcome to follow!)

I think one of the main obstacles to posting more regularly was the pressure I had felt (entirely created by myself) to make each post a fairly elaborate one, lavishly illustrated, super involved, etc.  I've realized this isn't at all necessary, and posts can be of any length really, including those overly long and involved ones that some masochistic souls to seem to enjoy...

So, annoyed at my own lack of contribution to this site (and, by extension, whatever humble contribution to the larger literature of experimental film and archiving it represents), and also buoyed by some recent interactions with enthusiastic archival grad students (thank you Nadja, Krystel, and Eric) for whom I wrote some lengthy thoughts on what I do, I decided to get back to maintaining this site as a hopefully useful (or at least curious) resource for information about experimental film and archiving.

However, reviving the site necessitated a move to a different domain, for a number of reasons, simplest of which is the fact that I'm much more comfortable with Wordpress now that I've been using it for a few years to make class websites for my CalArts students.

Another reason is that I hope to eventually include some additional information on the site which could be of use and/or interest to anyone involved or curious about film archiving, experimental film, the film medium, etc., and the new domain was more approachable to me in making such hypothetical additions.  This will hopefully include historical texts and anecdotes, technical information, and ideally, if I can put it together in a coherent form for the web, a guide to historical 16mm film stocks that I've been compiling over the past few years.

Anyhow, I hope you'll come check out the new site!  All of the past posts (except a few brief and obsolete ones) are intact at the new location, and in fact even spiffed up, more readable, and with a few very minor but necessary corrections introduced.  I've also added a few new posts already, and do intend to keep more regular track of it.

So please do come and follow the new site and the new location:

And as always, you're more than welcome to write comments requesting info or posts on certain films, filmmakers, technical info, preservation thoughts, etc. and I'll do my best to answer them!

Thanks for your time,

Mark T

Monday, August 11, 2014


Please visit its new location at (and reset your bookmarks to):

The initial instigation for this blog was my desire (in November 2007) to share a photo I’d taken of filmmaker Standish Lawder’s coffee can contact printer with whomever might find that interesting, which turned out, much to my surprise, to be a decent amount of people.  Over the years, as I’ve irregularly kept this blog, I’ve been amazed and quite happy to learn that people actually read it, and that the photo of Standish’s printer remains a favorite search/discovery for people.

Standish passed away in June of this year.  I hadn’t been much in touch with him over the past couple of years, during which time he had departed from his Denver Darkroom and moved to the Bay Area, though I would occasionally receive news.  We’ve been able to restore a few of his films, including Necrology (1970), Raindance (1972), and the little-known but quite lovely Catfilm for Katy & Cynnie (1973).  Many others are in the works.  Some present quite unusual challenges, and may someday be the subject of another post here.

The process of unearthing Standish’s film elements back in 2007 is a story in and of itself.  His studio spaces at the Denver Darkroom were loaded with the multifarious signs of past, present, and future activity.  There was a bit of motion picture film to be seen here and there throughout the place, and a small closet did contain several semi-organized stacks of projection prints. But as Standish’s last 16mm film (Regeneration) was completed in 1980, by 2007 his 16mm work, though still of some interest to and evoking some pride for him, had receded quite a bit into the background of his creative endeavors.  3D slide installations and other projects had taken the front-burner role, not to mention his photographic teaching duties.

Of the dozens and dozens of experimental/independent filmmakers I’ve worked with over the past eleven years to store, conserve, and preserve/restore their films, Standish is still, as of this writing, the only one who expressed some undisguised skepticism about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences taking an archival interest in his work.  I remember him saying, “I have no idea why the Academy would be interested in my work.  I mean, we thought we were underground back then.”  I didn’t know if I should say, “Well, to be honest, although the Academy is totally supportive of this work, it’s actually just me and a few other weirdos I work with who actually *know* your films,” because I nevertheless detected a certain pleasure in his tone at the idea of the Academy seeking out his work for saving.  Regardless, he was definitely skeptical, and I’m pretty sure it was primarily the fact that I worked with Robert Nelson (an old and trusted friend of his) that he decided to give me a chance.  His skepticism waned as he got a better idea of where I was coming from (he said at one point, early on, “I thought you just had an obsession for possession” but then realized I was just trying to save his damn films.)

I made a week-long trip to Boulder and Denver in Fall 2007, cramming as many things as I could into the time I had, including Brakhage research, a lab visit, meeting up with other filmmakers (like Phil Solomon, whose films I was also working on), a class visit, etc.  Before even arriving, I had a mildly alarming heads-up from Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder, who were teaching at Boulder that Fall.  Sandra and Luis have an excellent installation piece called Light Spill, in which a full reel of film is running through a 16mm projector situated in the gallery space, but with no takeup reel, so the film piles up quite dramatically on the floor around the projector instead of taking up on a reel.  The film used in the installation is primarily junk film, leader, etc.  It’s not meant to be important stuff.  While in Boulder, they contacted Standish to see if he had some junk film he wouldn’t mind parting with for them to use in Light Spill.  Without realizing it, he gave them some material which turned out to be elements for some of his films!  Thankfully, they did fully realize this right away, and let me know, and of course gave it back to Standish.  Luckily I arrived soon after and met up with Standish to attempt to assemble his surviving film elements and prints.

At the same time, Standish was planning for a multi-program retrospective at Anthology Film Archives.  In many ways, the timing was perfect, as it afforded me the opportunity and just enough time to go through his stuff and figure out the most safe-to-project print for each film, and to have an overall sense of what state each of the films were in, archivally speaking.  It was a bit difficult to wrangle all of this with Standish, as he hadn’t bothered to keep up on the organization of his film elements for many years.  (He wrote me, in the middle of all of this, “I suggest the following change to Anthology's introductory comment: “a retrospective of the work of Standish Lawder, one of the most hopelessly disorganized of American avant-garde filmmakers...”)

Back to Fall 2007 and the pickup of his films – it was, to say the least, complicated.  Even with the help of Robert David from Cinema Lab, we had to root around all over the place to turn things up.  And some things were found in a slightly precarious state – the original printing master for Corridor (1970), for instance, was found, covered in dust, run halfway through a projector sitting in a side room.

At one point, after it seemed we had exhausted all hiding places, Standish mentioned that there could be some film upstairs as well.  I went up to find a laundry room, with several milk crates and other containers spilling over with thousands of slides, prints, negatives, and film elements, much of it hiding under big piles of laundry.  I don’t want to give the impression that his place was a pigsty or anything – it was just kind of scattered and disorganized, and his 16mm films were for him somewhat relegated to a semi-distant past.  But it was clearly still very functional for him - Standish had all kinds of photographic projects going on in his studio spaces, in various stages of completion, some of them probably in progress for decades.  He was a consummate tinkerer.

I went into this visit knowing Standish’s filmography quite well, or so I thought.  I had seen all the films of his that had been at Canyon Cinema when I worked there, some of them, like Necrology and Runaway (1969) multiple times.  But digging through his films in Denver, and assisting a bit in preparing his retrospective at Anthology led to the unearthing of some films which had not previously been in distribution, or shown very much at all, such as Specific Gravity (1969), Sixty Suicide Notes (1972), Budget Film (1969), Automatic Diaries 1971-73 (1973), Headfilm (1969), and Prime Time (1972), among a few others.  There was even his very first 16mm film, a parody/homage to his then-father-in-law, Hans Richter, called 3x3: A Tic-Tac-Toe Sonata in Three Moves (1963). And in the course of these discoveries with Standish, a defining, epiphanous moment was given to me.  In light of these newly uncovered films of his, I started to ask him about some of the other items that were turning up, all labeled by him with Dymo tape.  One can said “See You at Mao”.  I asked him what this was, and whether it related to the Godard film.  He said it was a little thing he had shot during a visit by Godard for a screening of See You at Mao (1970) at Yale in the early ‘70s.  I asked him, “But is it a film?” (meaning “do you consider this a finished film of yours?”), and he looked at me like I was an idiot, responding, “Can you put it on a projector?”

It was also on this trip that he gave me the coffee can contact printer, the homemade machine on which he made Corridor, Runaway, Roadfilm (1969), and a few others.  Here are some new photos of it, to give a better illustration of its form:

Since Standish’s passing, I’ve been in touch with his daughter Cynthia, and she was kind enough to assemble all of Standish’s remaining film elements that she could locate, pack them up, and send them to me at the archive.  They arrived today.  They fit in one big box, a few dozen individual cans of stuff.  Some are prints, some may be originals (soon to be determined), some are prints of other people’s work, etc. :

One can in particular promised some very exciting contents:

And just like the labeling says, it contained the original loop Standish used to make Runaway, the film which Jonas Mekas said “achieves the perfection of all his techniques”, with “the visual strength of an old Chinese charcoal drawing.”  It felt a bit like finding the missing part of a machine – the coffee can printer – that was required to make it work.  A bit worse for wear, but still very readily discernible as a crucial moving part in the dormant apparatus.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cube and Room Drawings

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by David Haxton
16mm, color, silent (24fps), 12.5min.

The restoration of David Haxton’s Cube and Room Drawings (1977) is one of the very few in which I’ve actually cut a filmmaker’s original.  In this case, the camera original is not the same as the “original” conformed printing master for the finished film, which was lost.  But the presence of the camera original footage for the film enabled me to restore it using some atypical approaches in printing and restoration.

Here's David's own description of the film:

Cube and Room Drawings begins with a view looking down at an angle toward grey paper covering the floor.  A performer enters from the back of the scene and begins drawing lines on the floor.  The lines are the beginning of a drawing of a distorted cube.  The performer leaves the scene.  The paper begins to rotate on the floor.  As the paper rotates the cube gradually becomes correctly oriented, as if it were drawn on a vertical piece of paper.  The performer enters again and draws another cube that corresponds to the perspective of the other cube.  After leaving and re-entering the performer draws red receding lines on the floor.  He leaves and the paper rotates and the red lines become a grid that corresponds to the vertical screen.  The film continues with several additional actions that continue this theme.”

Cube and Room Drawings was shot entirely on 7242 Ektachrome EFB.  David Haxton frequently made use of negative imagery in his films (i.e. the image has negative polarity in the finished prints), and Cube and Room Drawings is no exception.  The film begins in negative (~100ft.), switches to positive (~300ft.) and then concludes back in negative (~100ft.).  The sense of action is continuous from beginning to end, and in fact it was more or less shot in a single session, with breaks only to reload the camera, or stop it briefly during some dead time in the execution of the filmed performance.

In 1977, to make finished prints of the film, David performed the following steps:

As mentioned, the entire film was shot on 7242 Ektachrome EFB, yielding a positive image on the original.

The camera original was separated into three parts, corresponding to the above description.  In the finished film, Parts 1 and 3 are intended to be seen in negative, and Part 2 is seen in positive.

The B-wind reversal camera original for Parts 1 and 3 were contact printed – as if negative – to 7381 color print stock, yielding an A-wind color print with negative polarity.

Part 2 was contact printed conventionally to a color reversal print stock of unknown type (likely Eastman 7389, 7390, or Agfa), yielding an A-wind color reversal print with positive polarity.

Part 2 was also trimmed at its head and tail, and edited slightly in three places to trim out unwanted excess material, such as some dead time or a flash frame when the camera was stopped at a few points.  These edits were done with tape splices.

The negative prints for Parts 1 and 3 were trimmed at head and tail and tape spliced to the beginning and end, respectively, of Part 2, completing its negative-positive-negative form.  This yielded a complete A-wind picture roll, an A-roll only, representing the finished, conformed printing master for the film.

Color reversal prints were then struck from this A-wind printing master.  The two extant prints I have access to are both B-wind Agfa color reversal prints.  It’s possible David also printed to Eastman 7389 (or, less likely, 7390 or 7387), but I have no confirmation of that.

Sometime in the years following the cessation of his filmmaking (ca.1982), the originals for nearly all of David’s films were lost, presumably discarded by the lab where they had been stored.

However, although the functional, conformed printing master for Cube and Room Drawings was among the material lost, the raw Ektachrome camera original material still existed in David’s possession, unexpectedly enabling me to restore the film using the camera original.  To do so, I needed to replicate the steps done by David in the creation of his printing master, though with reversal printing stocks no longer available, some modifications in the process had to be made. 

To restore the film in 2013, I took the following steps, using FotoKem and working with timer Doug Ledin:

Parts 1 and 3 of the camera original, still in separate rolls, were spliced together leader-to-leader, to be more easily printed together.

Parts 1 and 3 were then contact printed as if negative to an A-wind 3383 color print, to achieve a print with negative polarity.  This was done as a way to work out the timing lights needed to produce a negative print with good color/density.  Although somewhat faded, one of the vintage Agfa reversal prints was used as a general guide for timing.

Once this was approved, Parts 1 and 3 were printed again, but this time optically, so the image orientation could be flipped, resulting in a negative print with the necessary B-wind emulsion position.  This was returned to me.

Using the same vintage Agfa print (which conveniently had edge numbers printed through two generations from the camera original) as a reference, I set the various parts up on the bench, and built a set of A/B printing rolls, using a combination of the newly produced negative prints for Parts 1 and 3 and the Ektachrome camera original for Part 2.

All three parts were now in the correct polarity (neg/pos/neg), and wind (all B-wind).  I could have assembled them as an A-roll only, with tape splices, as David had in 1977, but was concerned that the mix of polyester (3383) and acetate (7242) material might cause some printing instability.  Instead, I composed the material as A/B rolls, with Parts 1 and 3 in the A-roll and part 2 in the B-roll. 

To save on the black leader (which is expensive), I used clear leader as the slug in both rolls, with the exception of a foot of black before and after the A/B switches, with 16-frame fades to open/close the fader leading into and following these points.

As mentioned earlier, in winding through the material in a synchronizer with the reference print, I also discovered the camera original for Part 2 needed an extra bit of conforming in five places.  These were the aforementioned edits David had made when originally assembling his printing master.  Using tape splices as he had, I trimmed the head and tail, and made the three necessary trims throughout Part 2, which was easier to do given the presence of the edge numbers in the reference print.  The conforming for Parts 1 and 3 was done by sight, as there were no edge numbers to go by.

The finished set of A/B rolls then went back to FotoKem, and an internegative was struck from it, and a check print struck from that.  Release prints followed.  (Thanks so much to David Haxton for providing the images!)

Preparatory sketches for Cube and Room Drawings (David Haxton, 1977)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Will She Get Over It?

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I don't know who the "she" is in the film's title, nor what it is that "she" needs to get over.  At least as of this writing, I've have not seen this film.  And yet I'm in the process of restoring it.  This has happened more than once (see my post on Gary Beydler and Venice Pier).  In my experience of working on the restoration of experimental films, this isn't the norm, but it's not totally unusual.  And in the case of Mike Henderson's films, it's quite common.  Will She Get Over It? is a ca.1971 film made by Mike with students in the class he was teaching at UC Davis at the time.

Before I get to this film in particular, I thought I'd say a little bit about restoring something I haven't seen.

First of all, the main reason for this to even occur is that there is no extant print of a given film.  For example, there may only be the original picture and sound masters, or an internegative.  So there's no way to very easily watch the film before working on it.  In some cases, I've had a print, but only a print, i.e. the film only survives as a single print, and although I trust the Pageant 250S 16mm projector I generally use here for quick viewings, I usually feel it's just not worth risking it.  This was the case with A.K. Dewdney's film Wildwood Flower (1971), which only survived as a single distribution print, and which I did not screen before using that print as the source for the film's preservation.

Of course, preserving/restoring something that you haven't seen involves a bit of curatorial chance-taking, but if the filmmaker is a known quantity (artistically/historically speaking), and/or I have it on good authority that the film is significant in some way, I don't consider it all that risky, especially if it really doesn't cost that much to do the work (as with Wildwood Flower).  I discuss this a bit in the aforementioned post on Gary Beydler, but with Dewdney's film, the same held true.  Dewdney had made a few films that I had seen, and felt were fairly remarkable (especially his masterpiece The Maltese Cross Movement (1967)), so I trusted him as a filmmaker.  Additionally, the print of Wildwood Flower had shown at Light Industry right before I got it, and a trusted friend who had been at the screening had spoken of how much he'd liked it.  That was enough.

Mike Henderson may not be a name familiar to many in the experimental film world, even among the very experienced and prolific viewers among us.  This is partly because Mike is known much more as a painter and blues musician.  (If you search him out online, you might find a different artist named Mike Henderson and a different blues musician named Mike Henderson.  The way you'll know if you have the wrong guys is that those guys are white.)

Here's a short piece about Mike from KQED, if you're curious to learn a bit about him.

Like so many other things, I got turned onto Mike's work because of Robert Nelson.  I was teaching a class at Cal Arts in Fall 2006, and one of the sessions was themed on humor.  Bob had suggested I look at Mike's film Dufus (1970/73).  I already knew about Mike through Bob, and the two film collaborations they had done (King David (1970) and Worldly Woman (1973)).  I had also seen Mike perform (with William Wiley on harmonica) at a reception for Bob at San Francisco Art Institute in 2002.  But I had no idea he'd made other films.

Turned out the Film-makers' Cooperative had two of his films - Dufus and The Last Supper (1968-70).  I rented Dufus, showed it in the class, and we were all pretty knocked out by it.  Immediately after that class, I called Mike and asked him about his films.  Soon after, I was visiting the Bay Area anyway, and we made plans for me to drop by his place to talk more about it.  We met up, had a good long talk, and I was thrilled to discover that Mike had not just made those two films, but also a few others.  He gave me a reel of four prints to check out back in LA - the aforementioned two, plus The Shape of Things (ca.1981) and Down Hear (1972).  Two other films - Too Late To Stop Down Now (1982) and Ducks Are No Dinners (1983) - were listed as being on the reel too, but were absent, so I could only be tantalized by those fantastic titles.  (Mike has a talent for titling, and many of his film and painting titles are packed with wonderfully implicit narrative suggestion.  Two of my favorite painting titles of his -- both abstracts -- are All You Do and She Worked For Years.)

Dufus (1970/73, 16mm, b/w, sound, 7min.)
Back in LA, the reel blew me away, especially the incredible Down Hear.  I had a few more chats with Mike, told him I really wanted to restore these films, and not too long after, visited him in the East Bay again.  Already excited to see those two other films missing from the reel, I was further surprised to learn that he had actually made more in the neighborhood of TWENTY-FIVE films, once we started digging them out of his basement.  I kept finding cans with new, unfamiliar titles on them like Harvey Hog (1970), Just Another Notion (1983), How to Beat A Dead Horse (1983), Will She Get Over It?, and more, and Mike kept saying, "Oh yeah, that's another one, I'd forgotten about that one..." and laugh his inimitable laugh.

To cut to the archival chase:  Although a number of Mike's films survived as originals plus prints, many survived only one way or the other - as ONLY an original or ONLY a print.  Of the films mentioned in the last paragraph, both the originals and a print of Down Hear survived, Harvey Hog and Will She Get Over It? survive only as originals (no prints), and Just Another Notion and How To Beat A Dead Horse survive only as prints (no originals).  This is a fairly representative sample that you could extend across his whole filmography.

Part of Mike's sensibility - to just get in there and MAKE things, don't worry about your hangups, don't be afraid of failure - led him to try all kinds of ideas in filmmaking.  And thankfully, he had no formal filmmaking training.  Bob Nelson just told him to get a camera and get someone to show him how to load it and how to make a correct exposure.  Aside from maybe a few other pointers from people about how to splice and where to get your films printed, that was it.  He learned the bare minimum he needed to know to actually make films, and then proceeded to create a singular body of independent film work that intertwines complexly with his painting and music, having perhaps more in common with those two disciplines than with other films.

From a technical/production standpoint, all of Mike's films (except one) were constructed in the same very basic way.  They were shot on reversal film (he used both black and white and color), spliced with tape on a guillotine splicer as A-rolls only, and the sound finished on 16mm fullcoat magnetic film.  Mike's mag soundtracks were often created not on regular dubbers with a mixing console of any kind, but on a 16mm projector with recording capabilities that his friend Michael Rudnick owned.  These two elements would then go to (usually) Monaco Lab in San Francisco, and an electroprinted reversal print would be made.  (Electroprinting allowed filmmakers to get an optical track on their print directly from the mag, bypassing the creation of an optical track negative.  For filmmakers who were only planning to make a couple of prints, this was cheaper, although the sound quality was often not as good.)

Sometimes, the splicing tape Mike used was cheap and shitty.  Sometimes he didn't even use proper splicing tape, but cellophane tape.  It didn't matter - whatever stuck the two pieces of film together and got it through the printer would work fine.  He shot cheap and outdated stock sometimes too.  And the prints were barely timed, usually just a one-light, but that was OK because Mike had learned how to make a good exposure.

In the case of Will She Get Over It?, a few of the things I've mentioned above are at work.

No print survives, or at least we didn't turn it up at Mike's place when we looked.  I only have the original tape-spliced b/w reversal A-roll, and the 16mm mag.  I know how they sync up because they have hole punches in their leaders, but that's it.

The tape splices have problems, as with a lot of his originals.  There are two different kinds of splice problems that Mike's originals tend to have:

1. The film ends have separated somewhat under the tape splices, like this:
original picture roll for Will She Get Over It?

This is not a huge problem, but it still needs to be dealt with.  Not only would printing this original as-is mean that you'd see a distracting, clear splice-line at every cut, but the improper pitch of the perforations at the stretched splice would create instability in the printer, leading to the creation of little jumps at each cut, possibly with brief focus issues in the few frames immediately before and after the splice.

2. Tape splices have dried up and crystallized on the film (emulsion and base), and tarnished the silver of the black and white image, like this:

original picture roll for Will She Get Over It?

As you can see from the above pictures, Will She Get Over It? has both of these problems.

So basically, I had to take apart, clean, and redo every single splice in the film.

The splices that were merely stretched were easy to fix.  Just pull off the tape splices, hand clean the adhesive residue with film cleaner, and resplice them with new tape so they join better.  

The splices have also usually left adhesive residue elsewhere too, where they rested against the preceding and subsequent winds of film.  This had to be hand-cleaned as well.

As I mentioned above, Mike's technical aesthetic was in some ways rough, though it's very much the roughness of someone who knows what he wants to express in a direct way, and doing what he needs to do to express it, without worrying about procedure, rules, or standards.  It's actually kind of punk, in the way that raw country blues is also punk.

As I also mentioned, Mike spliced these films in a very simple way using tape on a guillotine splicer.  Traditionally, in production and preservation, a splice (especially a tape one) is meant to be as invisible as possible.  Mike's splices are not invisible.  They're also not self-consciously visible either.  They're just there, and they don't care.  So I decided the best way to resplice all of these cuts was to do the same thing, on a guillotine splicer, not worrying about making it perfect.  I'm not deliberately trying to make them imperfect either.  I'm just doing it.

I've dealt with the badly dried up splices in a similar way, but they need a bit more help.

original picture roll for Will She Get Over It?

The adhesive wouldn't come off in a hand-cleaning, so in a moment of mild frustration, I just stuck the end of the film right into the film cleaner bottle, like so:

let it sit for a few minutes, pulled it out, and was glad to discover the dried up adhesive had weakened enough that a hand-cleaning would work.  I then respliced them.

Of course, this didn't help the problem of the tarnishing.  Here's a top-down view of the above splice so you can see a more extreme example:

original picture roll for Will She Get Over It?
Since the film is totally black and white, the brownish tone that you see will be eliminated in the printing process going to a black and white dupe negative.  There will still be some visible image degradation built in, but aside from chopping out the frames entirely, there's nothing that can really be done to fix it.  The tarnishing in Will She Get Over It? is infrequent and not that bad, so I decided to just leave the frames as they are.  In the case of Harvey Hog, the tarnishing is much worse, and has turned the two frames under each tape splice into nearly abstract compositions.  Talking to Mike, we decided I should cut those frames out of the film entirely, as they intruded too much on what the film is.  Although it's a compromise to remove the frames, and unfortunate, the film is not about those frames, and the minimal integrity of those frames should not compromise the integrity of the film as an overall artwork.

One last thing about preserving Will She Get Over It? that came up is something that's suggested by my hasty post-it note on the film can as seen above.  The original has yellow lightstruck leader at its head, which cuts directly to the first image of the film.  This suggests to me that the film, in its printed form, originally began with a fade-in, but I have no way of knowing for sure - there's no print to compare to, no lab paperwork, and Mike doesn't remember.  We talked about it, and he said sure, start it with a short fade-in.  So that's what I'm doing.  It's up to Mike, and it sounds good to me.  And it's not the kind of decision -- when dealing with films as beautifully unanxious and liberating as Mike's -- that I'm going to let keep me up at night.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Later That Same Night (1971) and Pastorale d'Ete (1959) by Will Hindle

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Later That Same Night (1971) by Will Hindle

This'll be a somewhat basic post, covering two of the Will Hindle films I've been working on lately.  (Also working on Pasteur3 (1976), which will perhaps be covered later...)

I have a particular devotion to restoring Will's films, for various reasons.  One of those reasons is that Shellie Fleming is amazing and an inspiration to me, and it's the least I can do for someone to whom Will was such an important person.  Another is that I really love Will's work, and definitely think its reputation has waned dramatically over the past 35 years, to the point where not very many people today know his work anymore.  There are several reasons for this, which I may get into later or elsewhere, but they have nothing to do with the very high quality of the work itself.  Yet another is the nature of Will's collection - upon his sudden death, a lot of his originals were spread around at various labs, and his materials were in somewhat of a shambles.  Thanks to Shellie, a lot more was saved than otherwise would've been.  Also, a few things turned up at labs, still sitting in their vaults after 35 years.  But a lot of it was lost, including the originals for the two films I'm discussing here.  So Will's stuff has always seemed to me in dire need of care.

Pastorale d'Ete (1959) is Will's first completed personal film, and Later That Same Night (1971) is the first film he fully created and completed in Alabama, where he had planned to build (literally and conceptually) a sort of filmmaking workshop that would be open to other artists.

The originals for both are totally lost.  The last known location of the originals for Pastorale d'Ete was Deluxe Labs in Hollywood, and the last known location for Later That Same Night was MPL in Memphis.  Nothing ever turned up at either, and in fact MPL stated that any materials not claimed from their vaults were discarded.  The original mag soundtrack for Later That Same Night did actually survive in Will's collection, so I at least had access to the original mixed soundtrack in very good quality and condition.

Actually, if the originals for Later That Same Night HAD been available, they may not have been usable anyway.  The film uses a variety of stocks, and different processing techniques, including at least one section that seems to clearly have been cut into the originals on color print stock.  Most likely, several sequences in the originals would now be moderately-to-totally faded.  On the other hand, one 350ft. roll of outtakes that Shellie was able to save are all on 7242 Ektachrome EF daylight, and they look beautiful.

On the other hand, Pastorale d'Ete was shot on Kodachrome and what seems to be Plus-X b/w reversal.  900ft. of outtakes survive, all gorgeous, which is a huge bummer in light of what this says about how nice the cut original must've looked.

So, in order to preserve these films, we just had to work from the best surviving original prints.

In both cases, the best prints were housed at Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, thanks to a 1960s/70s collector who was particularly a fan of Will's work, and who bought a number of prints from him at that time.  She treated them very well, so they remained in quite nice condition, eventually going to PFA.  We borrowed these Kodachrome (7387) prints of the films from (the very gracious and helpful) PFA to work from, and they went to Colorlab for duplication.

The original mag and a different print of Later That Same Night were both transferred to provide a sound source and reference, respectively.  The mag sounded great, and did represent the correct final mix, which was a relief.  In the meantime, Colorlab made a new internegative from the PFA Kodachrome print.  We then supplied them a new track negative from the restored sound, and they made a new print, matching the Kodachrome print as closely as possible.  After two printing passes, it was approved.  And it DOES look great, but of course, duplicating Kodachrome is difficult due to its heavy saturation, contrast, density.  But I feel confident that Colorlab did as good a job as is possible, and it really does look excellent.

By the way, I'd like to say here - Later That Same Night always felt to me like a problem film, and a weaker one, in Will's filmography.  It was always one of my least favorites, though I still thought it was curious and interesting.  But looking at it a number of times now during this project, I've changed my mind quite a bit, and think it's quite good.  The soundtrack is fantastic, and the sound/image relationships in particular are powerful and unexpected.  As an experimental cinematic look at the generational, social, and political disenfranchisement of youth and youth culture in the late '60s/early '/70s, it's really powerful and sharp, and feels weirdly contemporary now, with definite resonances in the current interest in so-called freak folk and radical/alternative culture, aesthetics, and history.

As for Pastorale d'Ete - though the process here is similar to that of Later That Same Night, it's a bit more difficult.  The soundtrack is not so hard to deal with.  It's just a recording of the titular piece of music, by Honegger.  We transferred the audio from the same print we're using as a picture source.

Some frames scanned from outtakes of Pastorale d'Ete (1959)

The above images (sorry, I only currently have low res versions) give some idea of the classical beauty of Pastorale d'Ete, which is a very elegant and inspired California landscape film.

Unlike Later That Same Night, one of the challenges in duplicating the picture for this film lies in the problematic fact that Will shot the color portions of the film on Kodachrome, and also made his finished release prints on Kodachrome print stock.  As a result, the Kodachrome prints are very saturated, and more contrasty than Kodachrome prints made from Ektachrome or other lower contrast originals (such as Later That Same Night).  Colorlab's first stab at an internegative was deemed too contrasty to work with.  It was made on the recently discontinued 3272 internegative stock, which has now been replaced by 3273, which is essentially a polyester version of the 50D camera negative stock.  As of this writing, the second try at a usable internegative is in progress.  I have to say, looking at the camera original outtakes for this film is depressing, as it gives me an idea of how nicely the preservation work would come out if we actually had the film's camera original to work from.

A few more images from Later That Same Night: