Lenny Kravitz wrote, “Rock and Roll is dead”; he is right…and then again, he is wrong, which was the point in the first place. The same rings loudly in truth for the fate and state of film in general, and small format motion picture film in particular. The purveyors of the craft and the facilitators of its survival are in rare numbers these days, firmly planted on disappearing ground. The onslaught of newer advances in digital is both a death knell and the flicker of hope and sustainability. Despite its chemical nature, we can shoot green. In absence of major support or exposure, Super 8 has roots worldwide and support from many backgrounds and cultures of people. We are at an apex for the next step in this chapter of motion picture history. The future is unsteadily cupped in our wavering hands.
What has happened is not as important as what will happen. That is always the case as we watch landmarks, traditions and trades escape the bounds of our conscious means.
I know the debate and I am sick of it. The thing that is continually overlooked is substance. It is the same reason vinyl records have made a slow return, and why analog recording still stands superior to the harsh thinness of digital recording. I have talked to more musicians and engineers that are integrating analog gear into their studios than there are proponents of the latest marketing toys. When you latch on to what you’re told to buy and simply throw everything else to the side because it is considered obsolete, I have to say I’m not surprised that everything old is new again. The film industry does not help, since we are so eager to try to be instead of just being. If we followed our hearts and passions, we would create a lot more and follow a lot less.
This is a critical phase, whereas we can seriously shape the world around us. People have played with the toys and lost interest in their short-term appeal. Other systems are solid and have merit, but film is still an obstacle for the digital realm, a blockade that has yet to be overcome. People return to their roots when those roots are solid. Digital effects have given us many things, and yet the reality is still subpar, especially when looking at films such as 2001, relevant today as it was in 1968. Film is forgiving, and its purpose is felt and recognized. The time is now is now to react, and make a stand against the weakened opposition.
I am a living testament to the struggle of film costs. I have a few hundred dollars of spent cartridges waiting in queue, and yet I continue to shoot whenever possible. This is important. By staying active, there is a continuance of production. Editing can occur at any time; capturing the essence of a moment, a time or a story is much more fragile. Despite my struggle, I do what I can when I can, and I maintain a dedication to the format and my chosen artistic pursuits. Within my own personal scope of filmmaking, the dream is alive.
I find that less is not more, it can become better than nothing at all. I am currently intrigued by the many contests and festivals directed at one cartridge of film with an entire story or work impressed upon the emulsion. Shorter works can be a creative challenge that is easier to fund. Think of ideas and storyboards in terms of three minutes or less. That is the beauty of short film conceptualization; it can be thirty seconds or thirty minutes. Several one cartridge, three minute chapters can become the fuller thirty minute short over time. By focusing on a tighter budget with tighter concepts, you can amass a decent body of work over a long period! You can then create a compilation DVD and sell it for future film funding.
For some it is a hobby, and that is fine as well. Share the trade, lore and experience with others. You can still shoot highlights of a family gathering, event or experience, and do so with friends and family, especially children. It may only be a weekend moment with your son, daughter, nephew or nice, or maybe a grandchild, but it may also become a catalyst for the next generation of filmmakers and small format film enthusiasts. What we need to do is remain active. If we continue to “do”, even a little, then we keep the blood flowing. If interest is maintained or gained, then it will warrant continued industry and we won’t turn our heads someday to find something unique and beautiful has vanished under our nose. We can teach, mentor and facilitate.
The art and the pursuit of Super 8 filmmaking is such an accessible tool for the film industry, artistic or otherwise. Learning the process manually, or hands-on, is as important as learning the technological process. It can help with understanding and appreciating the modern motion picture environment. Inexpensively, it provides the backbone for time-honored techniques that will translate into tomorrow. By defining the process within the techniques for which it is best known, Super 8 production provides focus.
Many filmmakers are still using the difference in character offered by Super 8. Rob Zombie directed many of White Zombie’s videos, and he chose Super 8 as his medium. It has always been very strong in music, as well as many short films. People like Lindokhule Mnyandu and Aaron Vanek have produced several shorts in this manner, among many others. Feature films are possible as well, with directors such as Oliver Stone bringing Super 8 to the mainstream and undergroundbreaking auteurs the likes of Eric Stanze [of Wicked Pixel Cinema] choosing this format for their respective epics. It can be a serious means of producing cinema in this day and time, and it is cost effective.
So many people have worked diligent fingers to bone to preserve the vitality of Super 8. Places like Pro8mm and Movie Stuff have brought small film into the HD arena, and there are varied and better options, such as Pro8mm’s Max8, that allow more to be accomplished with the old standards. There are multiple ways in which to shoot, produce, transfer and edit, all for a lesser price than that of Super 8’s larger siblings.
It is imperative that we fight the propensity to accept the status quo. We must think of it as a war, and mobilize our forces to mount the proper response. I, myself, am looking at the technology of digital; however, this is a means to be versatile and sustainable during those unfortunate periods when I cannot shoot my beloved Super 8. It is not a means to eliminate, but to supplement. My primary goal has always been to shoot actual film, and that is the front on which we must unite to outflank our opponent.
Rock and Roll is dead, and it is alive at the same time. People who cherish and bleed for it, who live and breathe it, they keep a delicate yet undeniably significant flame burning in the night. Small format motion picture film is no different. Where we go and how we do it remains an unwritten chapter; we have the ink, and we’ve always had the parchment. What better way to write a new chapter, than by the light of a carefully tendered flame.
Copyright 2009 Adam Shea Chambers