Re: [Frameworks] Letter to other Filmmaker Artists

From: Mark Toscano (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jul 20 2010 - 11:12:01 PDT

Doug -

I say keep shooting as long as you can shoot, and finishing on film as long as it's possible. Many of us are doing that. Many of us are doing digital work too, but that's because many of us see the two as distinct motion picture media. Some folks conflate the two, as if there's an either-or to the equation, or as if digital is the logical or inevitable "successor" to film. That's a disservice to both media. They're both fascinatingly unique. Anyone who poo-poos the idea of working in film as somehow Luddite/out-of-touch/kidding oneself/a waste/not-with-the-times or whatever, doesn't know what they're talking about. Really it's a simple choice of media based on one's own personal interest/temperament/taste. And many folks do both, and work out amazing ways to engage each medium on its own terms, like Fred Worden or any number of other people. Most people wouldn't think that a still photographer sticking to photochemical processes is a
 technologically backward loser. Or a painter working with paint? Or a calligrapher? Anyway, I'm laboring the point. It's its own medium, simple as that, and equally valid as digital.

My own feeling has been that digital will certainly overtake film almost fully as the dominant industrial/commercial application for motion pictures, but that film will likely remain at the very least as a small-batch artisanal medium. Motion picture film does have a lot more to overcome in this regard than still film in terms of its attendant technology, but I think it's doable. Separately, I'm more worried about the continued availability of high quality film for archival preservation/restoration purposes, but that's somewhat of another issue.

As for money saving ways to work with film, it depends really on how you define what filmmaking is to you, and what "end product" you want to end up with. If ideally you want to end up with a 16mm projection print with sound on it, then of course it'll cost a bit more. If you work silent, that's much cheaper already (no sound costs, no optical track). Some folks just shoot reversal and project the original, taking as part of the work the fact that it will deteriorate a little bit with each projection, living itself, which may eventually result in it being unshowable.

If you get friendly with someone at (most likely) one of the smaller film labs out there, maybe you can get them to make you a cheap daylight spool of print stock to shoot in the camera instead of camera stock. It has an extremely low ASA and you can get some weird visual results doing that. B/W print stock can look cool shot in the camera too. You just have to be careful if you're using polyester stock (all color print and much b/w print is polyester), it will break your camera if you get a bad jam inside. Just listen carefully to the camera as you shoot it, and stop and check it out if it sounds weird at any point. (Related to this, you might try contacting all the film labs in southern CA to see if anyone might be hiring. This would certainly give you privileged access to film equipment and services.)

I also lament the lack or at least diversity of options once available, even though I think a number of the stocks these days are pretty nice. But on a side note - working in the archival field makes me constantly aware of all the technologies, film stocks, etc. that one can't take advantage of these days. Used to be you could assemble your positive original picture roll and just get a one-light reversal print off of it for relatively cheap. If you had sound on mag, you could (at many labs) get the track electroprinted on the print without making a track negative. The lack of extra steps like internegative, track negative, etc. made this a lot more doable for artists on tight budgets. Not whining, just reflecting.

You might have to compromise a bit, or just be extremely patient in order to keep working in film, but there's no reason to stop. I just brought some super 8 I shot months ago to the lab, because I could finally afford to pre-pay the processing for these rolls, which were not for a specific project and therefore seemed a little less urgent. Sometimes you gotta wait like that.

As for your film Palms, did you send it to Filmforum yet? As I mentioned, we'd love to see it. And there are definitely other curators and festivals who would be happy to look at unsolicited work like yours in consideration for screening.

Hope this is useful,

Mark Toscano

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