Re: Research question

From: rebecca meyers (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 21 2010 - 11:40:09 PST


I understand this may not be of interest for your project, but just to
clarify, re. James Benning's move from 16mm to video: the issue is not
really about cost.

[btw the determining factor of many of Benning's shots' lengths--eg the
maximum amount of film that can be recorded in a single take, or run through
a 400' magazine--are maybe more relevant, an example of an artist's embrace
of a medium's "limitations."]

Here's the link and an excerpt:

SCOPE: Maybe it would work with HD. Is it true that this is your last film
on 16mm?

BENNING: As far as I know, yes. I donít want to shoot 35mm as I donít want
to get into that kind of money. Iíve always been against spending lots of
money on projects, and I sometimes think that if a lot of my films were 35mm
or 70mm they might turn into a coffee-table book. Thereís something about
the small gauge that makes them more real for me. But now, yeah, Iím
disturbed that Iím being forced out of my craft by new technologies that are
developing that are getting more attention, that means thereís less
attention on what Iíve been working in. And nobodyís aspiring to be a good
16mm projectionist except James Bond in Chicago, thereís nobody else who
even can fix them. And the labs, they make believe they still do good work
but they donít pay attention to it at all.

SCOPE: So you would still shoot in 16mm if there were good labs and good
projection then?
BENNING: Yeah, I probably wouldnít even have thought of getting out of it.
But in a way Iím kind of glad, because I could just do the same thing for
the rest of my life. This is going to cause me to do a complete rethinking
of image making. Iím both mad and excited at the same time.

On Thu, Jan 21, 2010 at 2:08 PM, Jonathan Walley <email suppressed>wrote:

> Roger,
> Thank you - your "2 cents" are adding up (just like the cost of film/video
> making!). I think this is a really important point, one that my students
> would be well to absorb, as well as those authors of ecstatic paens to the
> digital revolution (lots of academics, unfortunately, as well as journalists
> in the mainstream press). Again, even if it's not true, there is this
> perception that video is cheaper and, flowing from that, more accessible,
> democratic, populist, etc. [It amazes me how many people assume that every
> single person in America could join the digital revolution on the grounds
> that "all you need is a cheap video camera and a computer." As if everyone
> can afford even the most basic home-use hard and software. Whenever I hear
> that - and I do, from students and colleagues alike - I invite the person
> who says it to my neighborhood].
> My reference to economics was partly in response to the posts about James
> Benning that came up earlier, which indicated that Benning felt he could no
> longer continue as a filmmaker because of cost. As your post suggests, it
> probably depends a lot on the scale of production and what kind of work you
> want to do. It's true that filmmaking can be very cheap, but only if you
> want to make certain kinds of films - that is, only if you're willing to
> accept certain constraints above and beyond those "built into" your medium.
> Unfortunately, the overriding assumptions in our culture about what films
> "should" look like means that the people who embrace these constraints and
> say, like Sidney Peterson did, "resources limited, content almost
> unlimited," are in the minority.
> Of course, there are video makers out there working in equally cheap and
> subversive ways - again, my personal feelings about film "vs." video aside,
> none of this is necessarily meant to make a whipping boy out of video.
> Jonathan
> Asst. Professor of Cinema
> Denison University
> email suppressed
> On Jan 21, 2010, at 1:11 PM, Roger Beebe wrote:
> Jonathan,
>> This has been a really interesting thread to follow, and I've loved both
>> the anecdotes that have popped up in response as well as the more
>> theoretical musings on this topic. However, I do want to trouble (again)
>> one of your assertions below, about the economics of filmmaking. There
>> seems to be some idea that making video is "cheap," and I want to suggest
>> that that's a total illusion. For the price of even a consumer-level HD
>> video camera, I could make several years' worth of short 16mm films. With
>> video technology constantly evolving, you're forced to upgrade (camera,
>> editing software, computer) every few years, thus requiring expense after
>> expense; with film on the other hand, I'm still shooting on cameras that
>> were made 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Plus, since everyone's decided that film
>> is basically worthless, you can pick up 16mm, super 8, and regular 8mm gear
>> for a song. I've got a fleet of 16mm projectors that I've purchased for $5
>> or $10 each; I shot a film on a ca!
>> mera that I got for $4 at a flea market. Sure, once the film starts
>> running through the camera, you'll start spending real money, but with the
>> tremendous startup costs for making work in video (costs that recur
>> regularly), it'd take a lot of shooting before the price of 8mm or 16mm
>> filmmaking began to approach that or working on video. Of course, there are
>> ways to make your experimental celluloid works really expensive (like having
>> someone else conform your negative, for ex.), but one certainly can avoid
>> many of those costs.
>> 2 (more) cents,
>> Roger
>> On Jan 21, 2010, at 12:23 PM, Jonathan Walley wrote:
>> Hopefully I cleared this up in my last post - that I was looking for
>>> examples in which filmmakers emphasize the constraints of their medium in
>>> ways that could be either positive OR negative, but that in most cases the
>>> constraints or limitations are characterized by said filmmakers as essential
>>> for their art and thus valuable. The one major exception, so far, seems to
>>> be economics - the expense of working with film, as in the case of James
>>> Benning, is a difficulty that is harder to "embrace."
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.