Re: why we shoot film (was: the word is out)

From: Captain P.J. (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Mar 06 2006 - 11:22:21 PST

('binary' encoding is not supported, stored as-is) Thank you, Pip.  I never join in on these threads, but you really touched upon something for me.  I just wanted to share some of what makes film special for me:

Yeah, I do some digital stuff.  I like the spontaneity of a video camera, love vlogging, etc.  Unhappy circumstances in my life left me few options for film for a while, so I played around with other things.  To me, it is the difference between writing an e-mail and having a face-to-face conversation with friends.  It communicates, sure.  I like it, fine.  It doesn't really move me, though. 

Knowing that people can buy my films on self-burned DVDs or watch them on the Internet is neat, but I'd rather thread up a projector, optical printer, or Bolex and make/show a film.  I like to think that my films are being handled by a projectionist, that I know roughly how they'll look if I can't be there, and that I can hug the heavy cans against my body when I transport them from screening to screening.  That is what got me here and that is what keeps me going.  It feels like the most "complete" thing I do!  I love to SEE the thickness of a finished film on the reel and feel its heft.  A numerical note of how many Megabytes a project is just doesn't do anything for me!  Additionally, I never feel that my video projects are finished.  I can always go back and "fix" them or edit them in some way.  It is deeply satisfying for me to send a final negative cut off to the lab for prints.

I will never forget special film moments in my life.  I remember my first sniff of "vinegar syndrome" and Stan Brakhage's explanation of it.  I remember him showing me the "saliva gets the hair out of the gate" trick.  I remember standing at the ginormous 16mm projector while Phil Solomon's films played at the Denver Film Festival.  The union projectionists, unfamiliar with "The Snowman" thought I was letting his print melt in the gate!  I remember sitting next to the projector at the back of a Lux screening with Mary Beth Reed as we watched our films play out on the screen and listened to the drum roll of sprockets and gears.  I love the curious questions and stares I get when I am filming with my Super-8 camera in a public place, popping these bizzare-looking little black cartridges in and out of the side.  I am giddy with anticipation every time I invite someone to my home to watch my films, and they are too!  It really is such a big deal for people- even Johnny Beercan (I've a few of them as friends/family) thinks it's a special treat.

I do not have a single memorable moment involving inserting a DVD into a player, playing a VHS tape or loading a Quicktime movie onto my computer.  I love all that stuff and use it all the time, but it just doesn't flutter my heart the way film does.  I don't care if one looks as good or better than the other.  Of course, this is just me.  Others may have very special feelings/memories involving digital media, but this being a film discussion list, I thought I'd share "why I shoot film."

So thanks, Pip.  This made my day.  Sorry I butchered pasting your post below!


>This debate seems to have become about artists vs nonartists, film vs nonfilm, and who is Joey Beercan with the 2.3 children, which is all starting to bore me. I feel so far from these issues. My relationship to film is incredibly personal, and it may be interesting to share, to foster more constructive debate. My very personal feeling about filmmaking, and I'm not sure how many on this list share it: the film medium inspires me, the textures, colors and punchiness of the image, the smell, feel and weight of the machines. I don't happen to take photographs, I don't happen to use video, and I don't "make things" with scissors, paper, pens, paint - I am not an artist in that sense. But I like working with 8 and 16 and capturing light in that way, as I have done since I was 6 or 7, and I doubt I would continue on another medium. Nothing against the other media, and nothing against the Duchampian artists who create out of whatever they happen to find. I just have never felt inspired in that way, not driven as I am to shoot film. Just seeing the sun makes me want to shoot a roll of film. I don't think we choose these things. If film disappears I'll go back to playing the guitar. I don't think film will disappear in my lifetime, seeing the momentum of the artist-run film labs and smaller manufacturers of film stock in eastern Europe and the proliferation of projectors in the unlikeliest places. Now, I learned to project when I was even younger, maybe 4 or 5. And the films that have inspired me most, I have gotten into the habit of programming, distributing and even publishing on video. But when the image doesn't inspire me anymore, I am not interested in sharing it with others. This often happens to me when I see certain films I love transfered to DVD. I lose interest. Digital compression has removed a little too much of the textures, colors and punchiness for my taste. The intentions and excitement are lost. But the prints are still around and they are still easy enough to show and share and get people excited in them. This is all very personal and must have something to do with earliest childhood and not meant to refute anybody's argument, but sometimes I wonder where people are coming from when they get all worked up on this list because the avant-garde is about to die because Kodak is mismanaged - might as well complain about polar ice caps melting, it's not going to help much. Our love for film is not simply nostalgic. We live with film. I feel very close in sentiment to many of the established experimental filmmakers of the past who simply captured the world around them and translated it into light and color and movement, or who got excited by what film can do and played with that, and I don't think they worry much about all these issues such as Joey Beercan buying HD plasma screens to watch football games. Dorsky is sitting on a few hundred rolls of Kodachrome and will continue quietly making his films and processing them at Dwayne's. Jonas's Bolex is dusty and his Hi-8 is rusty so he's just got a PD-170 and learning Final Cut at the age of 83. It's up to each of us to do what feels right in the circumstances. So for me, the question is not whether film is a replaceable medium, but simply why and how it inspires. This list is of course an hommage to experimental film and everyone on this list has some kind of direct relationship to it or they would not be on this list. Filmmakers have always bickered; I am not encouraging us to stop bickering; this list is also an hommage to bickering filmmakers. But sometimes the debates seem to undermine the very reason we are all talking to each other. We love film. Don't we? -Pip Chodorov

__________________________________________________________________ For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <(address suppressed)>.