Re: Research question

From: Jonathan Walley (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 21 2010 - 12:10:46 PST


As I look over some of the material that you and other folks on this
list have sent re: Benning, I see you're right - it isn't really about
cost. Or, at least, economics are just one facet, referenced somewhat
indirectly, in a more complex statement. Thank you for the


On Jan 21, 2010, at 2:40 PM, rebecca meyers wrote:

> Hello.
> 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>.

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