Sunday 4 November 2012

New book on Lindsay Anderson

I'm very excited to share with you that Lindsay Anderson: Cinema Authorship has now been published! This book is one of the outcomes of the project I worked on for three years at Stirling University 'The Cinema Authorship of Lindsay Anderson' and it is so satisfying to see it in print. I'm really enjoying reading back through it and I'm sure it's going to lead to more viewings of his films and lots of happy memories of cataloguing! 

The Lindsay Anderson project was the reason I started this blog way back in February 2009 and I still find it hard to believe sometimes that I got to spend 3 years cataloguing and researching in the Lindsay Anderson Archive - I do love being an archivist!

The book is published by Manchester University Press and is available on Amazon.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Dreams of wings

A rather whimsical post to ease myself back into my archive related blogging (it's been all about the sewing this summer). I came across this magazine cover (the back cover) when we were doing some recent appraisal work on a large collection. There were some real gems in there and this advert, from a Japanese magazine,  really caught my eye - what does it all mean?! I really can't work it out - the only wings women have that I can think of are from certain sanitary products that I can't imagine men aspire to using! so what? is it just a weird translation? or maybe it means 'men' as 'mankind' and is talking about architecture as a tribute to God and angels? Or could it be to do with the lapels on his jacket?  Any suggestions warmly welcomed.

In a very unprofessional way I forgot to note the date of this magazine, or it's title - but it's too good not to share!

Advert from Japanese magazine

Friday 11 May 2012

Visit to the Cinema Museum, London

This is a post I originally wrote as a piece for the newsletter of the London Region Archives and Records Association (I still have to concentrate not to say Society of Archivists!).  I've altered it slightly since and included a few more photographs. The newsletter is available here.

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) have a monthly film club: a free drop-in event with ‘screenings of archive films from LMA and other organisations, occasional guest speakers and plenty of opportunity for discussion'.  Sounded perfect - two of my favourite things, film and archives - together! When I saw the March film club was a visit to the Cinema Museum in Elephant and Castle I was even more excited as I'd been meaning to visit for years.  Emily, the organiser of the Film Club, was very friendly and arranged to meet everyone outside.  She had arranged for us to have a tour and a film screening.

Exterior of the Cinema Museum, photo by me
Ronald Grant was our host for the evening and he told us the story of the development of the film museum, the history of the building (it was previously a workhouse where a young Charlie Chaplin spent time), and a great history of film itself.  Ronald started working as an apprentice projectionist with Aberdeen Picture Palaces Ltd at the age of 15.  On moving to London he worked for the BFI and the Brixton Ritzy.  A trip back to Aberdeen led to a chance encounter with his old employer who showed him warehouses full of artefacts from the cinema chain he had worked with.  In order to save these from being destroyed he returned to London with a large quantity of artifacts and film equipment which formed the basis of the museum (there more on the history of the museum on their website.

Category Board featuring 'H' for Horrific!, photo by me
The collection has continued to grow since then and covers everything you could think of from the doors and display boards of the cinema to the interior fixtures, film projectors and the films themselves (over 17 million feet of film), film journals, books and magazines, uniforms of staff from the cinemas, posters and original artwork, publicity stills and photographs of cinemas, and I’m sure lots more that I’ve missed out!

I really liked this carved poster frame with Mutiny in the Bounty (which starred Richard Harris) in the centre, photo by me
Ronald was a fantastic tour guide, weaving his personal history in and around all the objects and artefacts in the museum. He also showed us the space they use for doing events including film screenings and sessions with film makers and actors – I’ll definitely be going back!

The evening ended with an archive film screening of a selection of films including some a film made about the last tram in London ( 1952) and, to my delight, a film by the New Zealand film-maker Len Lye which I think (I knew I should have written this up when I got home that night!) was A colour box (1935). I would highly recommend a visit to anyone interesting in film, film archives and film history.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the April meeting of the film club so I can’t report on how that went but I’m looking forward to the May Film Club on Wednesday 23rd May.  Information on the dates of the upcoming film clubs are available here.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

The history of the print

A weekend film screening served as a great reminder to me of what it is that makes the cinema and the medium of film so important - asides from the quality/enjoyment of the film being watched.  The film was Lust for Life - a biopic of Vincent Van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Vincente Minnelli - intrigued, I decided to go and see it without reading any reviews.

The film was screened in one of my favourite London haunts, the British Film Institute. When a man came on stage before the film started I was surprised as hadn’t remembered reading about an introduction. Turns out he was just there to inform us that the print we were going to view was from Spain, with Spanish subtitles, but that it was the best print available so they had decided to run with it and hoped the subtitles wouldn’t put anyone off. This immediately sent me off on a reverie imagining  the cinemas and venues around the world where this film might have been seen and I found something very comforting in this. Is it nostalgia or something more? For me it was the reminder of the materiality of the film that I loved, to think of the care and attention needed to keep a film in circulation, of the various projectionists and film enthusiasts who have handled the film, the film goers who have responded to it. There’s just something magical about the history of the print itself. This isn’t to say I’m against digital projection in cinemas but just that seeing this old Spanish print of ‘Lust for Life’ reminded me that much of the power of the cinema, and of film itself, lies in it being this shared experience. The history of the print itself made me feel this on an even wider scale, not just sharing it with those at that particular screening, but with film lovers in other countries and in other times.

The notes given out at the screening informed me that the film is based on a book ‘Lust for Life’ written by Irving Stone, which is in turn based on the letters Vincent exchanged with his brother Theo. The letters are used as a very effective story telling device at various points throughout the film and they’ve left me with a desire to re-read the published letters at some point. Although there are, I am sure, some inaccuracies in the film, to me it really worked to convey the passion and creative life of Vincent Van Gogh and Kirk Douglas excelled in his role as Van Gogh. It was also a very welcome surprise to me to see a Lindsay Anderson regular, Jill Bennett, playing Van Gogh’s sister Wilhelmina.  This is the second film directed by Vincentre Minnelli and starring Kirk Douglas that I've seen in the past few weeks and I'm turning into a real fan - I think it's time to go seek out some more of both of their films!

Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh (Image taken from here)

Tuesday 1 May 2012

'A Confederacy of Dunces' - a missing manuscript and a found history

This is the story of a researcher who went searching for a manuscript and discovered the memories he found instead were more valuable - I just loved this when I read it so thought I'd share it!

Cory MacLauchlin has recently published a biography of the writer John Kennedy Toole.  Butterfly in the Typewriter: the Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of the Confederacy of Dunces tells the long and sad tale of  John Kennedy Toole and his novel A Confederacy of Dunces. MacLauchlin tells how, after writing the book, Toole corresponded with an editor for two years.  When after this time they still could not agree on the revisions Toole shelved the manuscript.  He didn't write any more novels and after suffering a mental breakdown committed suicide at the age of 31 in 1969.  However the story of the book didn't end there as Toole’s mother found the manuscript and eventually found a supporter for it in the author Walker Percy, who found a publisher.  It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.  However the original manuscript which Toole's mother passed on to Walker Percy has never been found.

MacLauchlin states that
"I have been researching and writing about Toole for seven years, digging through archives, interviewing his friends and family, trying to decipher Toole’s character, his fears, his desires, his angels and demons. And I have often contemplated that missing manuscript. "
He tells how he almost thought he had found it when talking to Lynda Martin, the sister of Toole's best friend in High School.  He flies on a plane to go meet her, full of excitement at possibly finding the original manuscript.

The subsequent deflation when he realises it is a copy and not the original is quickly dispelled when Lynda Martin offers to recount her memories of John Kennedy Toole.  I think this bit of the article is a wonderful example of the importance of oral history, of the first-hand record, the completely not-impartial sharing of stories, of life.  Cory MacLauchlin expresses it far more eloquently than me here:
Earlier that morning, I thought I was going to find a rare artefact of literary history, which would help me gain a clearer picture of Toole’s descent towards suicide. But Lynda’s memories were far more profound to me than dissecting how Toole edited his famous novel. Of course, I had to report to my agent and my editor that I had not found the manuscript. But I took heart in what Lynda freely offered me: a vivid portrait of a young aspiring artist, exploring a city filled with unique characters. No documents in the Toole Papers offered such a depiction, a depiction far more valuable than his manuscript.
As he says, of course he would still like to find the original manuscript some day and I don't intend to denigrate the importance of original manuscripts in my re-telling of this story either.  When I thought was so lovely about this story was his surprise at what he did find, at these wonderful memories which won't be around forever and which, unlike the manuscript, could not still be discovered another 30/40 years down the line.. until of course MacLauchlin turned up to find the manuscript and instead ended up filming her oral testimony of John Kennedy Toole.

Friday 30 March 2012

Archival links in published books

I think this is a tendency in all archivists really, or in anyone who loves their jobs - finding connections everywhere!  In my case I always seem to find archive connections in what I'm reading, listening to, talking to friends about, or going to see in exhibitions.  I'm still really enjoying reading through Raymond Chandler's published letters in The Raymond Chandler Papers (sadly reaching the end of the book now!).  I was particularly happy when I came across a Lindsay Anderson link (if you're new here then I should point out that I spent 3 years working at Stirling University Archives cataloguing parts of Lindsay Anderson's archive). Towards the end of the book there is a letter from Raymond Chandler to the editor of Sequence magazine.  This is undated but is in amongst the early 1952 letters which would have been about right given the content of the letter.
“I hate to see the magazine fold. There is so little intelligent writing about films, so little that walks delicately but surely between the avant garde type, which is largely a reflection of neuroticism, and the deadly commercial stuff. I think you have been a little too hard at times on English films, which even when not top notch do give you the feeling of moving around in a civilised world – something which the Hollywood product falls pretty short of as a rule. Even if you had been less intelligent, I should be sorry to see you go. Sight and Sound is all very well so far as it goes. I suppose it is subsidised, and everything that is subsidised compromises, and everything that compromises ends up by being negative."
Sequence covers, ready to go up as part of an exhibition at Stirling Uni ©Lindsay Anderson Archive, University of Stirling 
Sequence was a film journal started by Lindsay Anderson, Gavin Lambert and Peter Ericsson. It started in 1948 and fourteen issues were published, the final in 1952. I still get so happy when I come across links to Lindsay Anderson so of course my first thought was to check the catalogue. I knew I'd catalogued all the Sequence correspondence and I didn't have any memory of a Raymond Chandler letter but of course there's no way of remembering everything you've catalogued! Unfortunately it's not there so the original of the letter didn't make it to the Lindsay Anderson Archive. In the book the authors say that Raymond Chandler's archive is held between the Bodlein and UCLA, though neither of these have their Chandler collection catalogued to item level online so I can't even see which archive holds Chandler's carbon copy of the letter he sent.
It's disappointing the letter isn't in the Lindsay Anderson Archive but then it would be impossible for an archive collection ever to be 'complete'.  Maybe the letter is in the archive of one of the other founders of Sequence (Gavin Lambert's papers are at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre in Boston) , maybe it ended up with someone else who was a fan of Chandler, or maybe it just got lost of misplaced at some point before the collection arrived at the University.  We'll never know I suppose.
Interestingly, there is a mention of Raymond Chandler in the Sequence series of the Lindsay Anderson Archive. It's in section LA/4/1/6 'Letters from readers and subscribers to Sequence' and is a letter from J. B. Priestley to a Mr Panting and my catalogue description reads
Thanks for sending a copy of Sequence; and expressing interest in an article on Raymond Chandler. 
It's dated 30/05/1949 so I wonder if there was an article in Sequence which discussed Raymond Chandler's writing, either novels or screen writing, or a film adaptation of one of his books. Mr. Panting seems an odd name but I seem to remember that the authors of Sequence would sometimes write under pseudonyms. I know from the Raymond Chandler Papers that Chandler knew Priestley, but I don't know when from - the earliest mention of Priestley in the book is from 1951.  I'm going to have delve a bit further into this sometime, starting with another good look through Sequence - a good excuse for a visit to the new BFI library at Southbank!

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Archives and the filmmaker - Pedro Almodóvar

Sticking to the same format as their previous '..Archives' books on the Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick Archives, Taschen have released 'The Pedro Almodovar Archives'.  This book came out in October 2011 according to Amazon but somehow it managed to pass me by.  All three of these books look very beautiful, are well laid out with high quality reproductions and very well researched.  However I'm only going on having seen them online as at roughly £100 a pop I can't afford to buy one!

It's an interesting concept, particularly in the case of Almodóvar, as the film director himself is authorising and controlling the use of his archive to project an image of himself which, we assume, is the image which he wants people to believe in and buy into.  Here's a quote I found from the Taschen web page for the book:
For this unprecedented monograph, Pedro Almodóvar has given TASCHEN complete access to his archives, including never-before-published images, such as personal photos he took during filming. In addition to writing captions for the photos, Almodóvar invited prominent Spanish authors to write introductions to each of his films, and selected many of his own texts to accompany this visual odyssey through his complete works.
It's not that I think the use of personal archives in the construction of self-image is a new idea, or a bad idea.  It's just interesting to see it in this form.  As well as constructing self-image these books really seem to glorify the archives (would fetishises be too strong a word?) in a way that equates their uniqueness with something exclusive that can be yours if you can afford the asking price.  With the added incentive to get in there quick to ensure you get an' actual piece of the archive' in the form of a piece of film strip, in the Almodovar book from 'Volver' (2006).  I'm all for glorifying archives, it's just a shame when there's such a price tag attached.  However I'm happy it's available online for a browse through, and, you know, if anyone wanted to buy me a copy I certainly wouldn't say no!

Sunday 19 February 2012

Canyon Cinema - the impact of the digital on film access and preservation

Home from a weekend back in Scotland today I was saddened that the first e-mail I read was from the AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) list saying that Canyon Cinema is under threat.  Canyon Cinema is a film collective based in California who provide over 3,500 film titles for rental, sale and distribution on film and DVD, though mostly on film - Super 8, 16 and 35mm.  I first heard of Canyon Cinema at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in LA in March 2010 where I attended a panel - 'Celebrating Chick Strand through screenings and discussions'. The co-operative started in the 1950s and their website gives an account of their history which just makes you wish you'd been there in the beginning!  Chick Strand is one of a huge number of the film makers who are represented by Canyon - other famous names include Len Lye, Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger.

The story of the threat to Canyon Cinema of course ties in with the ever increasing news coverage being given to the impact of digital on the film world, in terms of preservation and availability of 35mm prints for viewing. The New York Times article which was highlighted on the AMIA list refers to the growth of digital film as the main reason for the large drop in profits from renting, selling and distributing films.  The article quotes Dominic Angerame, Executive Director of Canyon Cinema, as saying that about 70% of their film titles are not digitised and that its annual film rental income has dropped from $133,000 in 2004 to about $90,000 now.    The suggestion is that they would need to digitise the majority of their film titles in order to survive, and the cost of this is so prohibitive as to make it impossible. 

Now I know that nothing stays the same forever and that technologies have to change but I am just so saddened by the implications of the take-over of digital film.  The thought of never seeing a film on 35mm in a cinema again, of the ever-increasing difficulty which film archives, film schools, and individual film lovers are going to have in getting hold of and maintaining the equipment needed to project and repair films.  All this makes me so sad and I really don't think that change is always a good thing.Of course digitising all the film titles in their collection would increase their accessibility but I just don't see that digitisation is the solution to everything - many of these films were made by the artists to be experience in the particular medium they were made in.  Not to mention that there are still many viewers who want to experience the films in their original format.  However I'm not a Luddite either and I get that there are lots of benefits to digital over film - I just don't want to have the new over the old - can't they co-exist?

Interestingly the article also says that the money problems of Canyon Cinema have been around for a while and that in 2009 they got $100,00 from Stanford University for selling them their paper archive.  I did wonder why the paper records weren't actually held at Canyon - I thought maybe the didn't have the space, the staff, or the time to make them accessible.  It hadn't occurred to me that this would be a way of trying to ensure survival of the film collection.  Again, although I understand it is rarely practical to house entire paper collections with the film collections they relate to - different preservation needs, storage conditions, different archive specialisms to name but a few issues that spring to mind - in an ideal world I'd love it if more archives did contain the films themselves alongside the paper records relating to their creation, even better if it was all catalogued on the one database - ah well, it's nice to have archive dreams!

I was glad to read in the article that they do have some options and ideas for how to ensure the survival of the film co-operative.  The proposition is that by turning themselves into a non-profit they would have a much higher chance of survival - well, I hope this turns out to be true.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

A Useful Life - a love letter to film and film preservation

Well, I've been slightly lax with blog posting since the start of the New Year, partly because I've been doing more posts on my work blog. However I thought I should post this while there's still a possibility for readers to catch this film in the cinema.  The reason being the film is a love letter to cinema, 35mm, and as a result of that, the work of film archivists.
My first cinema trip of 2012 was on January 2nd to the BFI to see Manhattan but this is not the subject of this post. One of the trailers I saw was for A Useful Life - a Uruguayan film set in a cinematheque with shots of the cinematheque's film archive in the trailer - how could I resist!

The film is the story of Jorge, the projectionist of the Cinemateca, an art house cinema in Montevido. It’s a sad story in many ways, the seemingly inevitable decline of a cinema which can’t or won’t adapt to new ways of working, the drop in the number of visitors coming to see the films, the increase in the costs faced by independent cinemas – all these issues are played out in the film. However it’s also an incredibly heart-warming story as it’s the story of Jorge, the projectionist, as he moves from being a part of the decaying cinema to creating a life for himself outside of, but definitely not apart from, his cineaste identity.

There are so many wonderful moments in the film – the discussion about money between the members of the cinematheque team, Jorge fixing the seats in the cinema, the radio interview he does for his radio show, and of course the shots of the projection room and the film store! It’s a film that’s full of love – love for the cinema, for film itself, and I thought for the work of film preservationists. Well it turns out I wasn’t just projecting my own views on that last point as the director Federico Veiroj not only worked at cinematheques but also at the Spanish Film Archives. I can’t recommend this film highly enough – it still makes me smile when I think about it. There’s an interesting interview with Federico Veiroj reprinted on Mubi here where he talks about his love of film and film archives/archivists.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

On reading other people's letters

The joys of cataloguing correspondence - I'm sure I've gone on about it plenty on this blog, and on my work blog so apologies if you're bored of it by now.  There's a real feeling of privilege I get when reading someone else's correspondence.  I hasten to add this doesn't mean I steal people's mail or anything like that - I 'm very lucky in that I get to read other people's mail as part of my job!  I also enjoy reading edited collections of correspondence such as The Raymond Chandler Papers.

[photo by me]

The letters can be quite hard-going sometimes, particularly when he's suffering from writer's block or has finished up working on a film script.  Like with any collection of letters, you really get the sense that you're getting to know the individual, and for me, they also give a real sense of the richness of archives - but then I'm slightly archive-obsessed!

One of my favourite exchange of letters so far has been about Farewell, my Lovely. The title of the book was the cause of some disagreement.  In a letter to fellow writer George Harmon Coxe on 27 June 1940 Chandler explains that the publishers wanted to call his second novel The Second Murderer.  Chandler goes on to say 'when I turned the manuscript in they howled like hell about the title, which is not at all a mystery title, but they gave in.  We'll see. I think the title is an asset. They think it is a liability'. Apparently this book was largely ignored by the critics and the publishers blamed this, at least partly, on the title.  I really enjoyed Farewell, my Lovely when I read it recently but I've yet to see the film - I can't imagine anyone else but Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe!

The book includes some non-fiction writing alongside the letters and, as it's topical at the moment I thought I'd include a piece he wrote on the Oscars.  In 1946 Chandler, fed up and jaded from working for Hollywood studios, had moved to La Jolla to focus on his own writing.  However, he returned to Los Angeles to report for 'The Atlantic Monthly' on the 1946 Oscar ceremony.  Here are some of my personal highlights from his report:

‘in the motion picture business we possess an art medium whose glories are not all behind us.  It has already produced great work, and if, comparatively and proportionately, far too little of that great work has been in achieved in Hollywood, I think that’s all the most reason why in its annual tribal dance of the stars and big-shot producers Hollywood should contrive a little quiet awareness of the fact.  Of course it won’t. I’m just daydreaming.’

‘If you can go past those awful idiot faces on the bleachers outside the theatre without a sense of collapse of the human intelligence; if you can stand the hailstorm of flash bulbs popping at the poor patient actors who, like kings and queens, have never the right to look bored; if you can glance out over this gathered assemblage to what is supposed to be the elite of Hollywood and say to yourself without a sinking feeling, ‘in these hands lie the destinies of the only original art form the modern world has ever conceived’; if you can laugh, and you probably will, at the cast-off jokes from the comedians on the stage, stuff that wasn’t good enough to use on their radio shows... if you can do all these things with grace and pleasure, and not have a wild and forsaken horror at the thought that most of these people actually take this shoddy performance seriously ... if you can do all these things and still feel the next morning that the picture business is worth the attention of one single intelligent, artistic mind, then in the picture business you certainly belong.”

It doesn't really sound like a whole lot has changed in Hollywood, or at the Oscars, does it?! 

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Evangelist of Happiness

'Evangelist of Happiness' - this phrase was used to describe Pipilotti Rist by the New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl, I saw this written in a review of her recent London show at the Hayward Gallery and couldn't think of a better or more apt description for 'Eyeball Massage' - her recently-finished show at the Hayward Gallery.

[photo by me]
The first thing you see when you go in to the exhibition is Massachusetts Chandelier -  a light-hearted start to the show and a nice way to begin.  The underwear was donated from her family and friends and in the booklet accompanying the exhibition she refers to underpants as 'the temple of our abdomen' and goes on to say 'this part of the body is very sacred, as it is the site of our entrance into the world, the centre of sexual pleasure and the location of the exits for the body's garbage'.  So straight away you get one of the main themes of the exhibition - the celebration of the human body.

My photos are, to put it bluntly, crap! However the video review at the bottom was filmed in the exhibition so watch that if you want to see more of the films.  The photo I've included here (below) is of 'I'm not the girl who misses much', made whilst Rist was a student.  It shows her singing the words of the title (a line from the Beatles song Happiness is a Warm Gun') while dancing around topless.  This was really weird as you had to stick your head up through holes in a wooden board in order to see the film - it felt like watching a peep show, but with other people as there were quite a few holes - even weirder!  Both image and sound were at varying speeds and there was a definite air of hysteria to it, but still a real element of fun as well.  There were lots of films shown on the floor, in the floor, in seashells, in handbags - so innovative!  My absolute favourite, and the one I could have spent all day in was 'Lobe of the Lung'.  This was projects on three screens, a slightly different film on each one, with lots of cushions for folk to sit and watch it on.  It was like a cocoon, with hypnotic music as well.  When we were in there were children in, dancing about and enjoying it and lots of people lying about on the cushions.  The colours in this film were totally saturated - I remember lots of shots of rotting fruit, water lillies, a girl underwater, a wild pig eating grass shown at the same time as the girl eating an apple. 

[photo by me]

In his audio review Peter Schjeldahl says “She resolves no critical problems of contemporary art. She just makes you forget that there are any”.  This isn't meant as a criticism at all as he begins by saying she is one of his favourite artists.  I don't know much about the critical problems of contemporary art but this exhibition didn't make me forget issues in contemporary art and art history which I think are important.  This show really made me think about the way that women are often portrayed in art, of the absence of women throughout the history of art (not a complete absence just a distinct lack of).  I would also say that in the positive depiction of sensuality and of the human body in all it's shapes and sizes, the theme of reconnecting us with nature, with animal instincts, makes it in a sense very political.  And, as Schjeldahl said, 'it made being a member of society seem like a great idea'.

Another description of the show, which sums up how I felt when I walked out - happy, dazed, calm, on a bit of a high, in love with the world - comes from Adrian Searle in the video shown below.  His description? 'You come out and the world feels better'. Thank you Pipilotti Rist for making my world a better place on Saturday January 7th.


Wednesday 11 January 2012

Cinema in a suitcase

I'm not sure if I can count this as my January fulfilment of Resolution No.4 'Try and visit a new-to-me Cinema/film screening venue once a month' as I've been to the ICA bar before and their cinema, however it was the first time I've seen a film screened in their bar. Also the first time ever I've seen film I've 'made' screened!

So, I better back up and start at the beginning.  When my friend Sarah said she was coming down for the weekend and did I want to meet up I said of course! I happily cancelled my plans for, well, having no plans and staying in, and went out to meet up with Sarah and Bob instead.  We headed down to the ICA for the launch night of the London Short Film Festival as Sarah had spotted that Suitcase Cinema were going to be doing an event/workshop in the ICA bar.

Now I had never heard of Suitcase Cinema before but one look at their website and I knew I wanted to go.  Suitcase Cinema are all about the celluloid and for this particular event this meant salvaged 16mm films they had found in skips and at flea markets.  Here was the event information from the LSFF website:
write and draw directly onto transparent film, or deface a strip of their flea market found film by bleaching, scratching, rewriting and re-imagining. When your work is done, they’ll thread it up and feed it straight into their projector, so you can see your images instantly transformed into moving, living beings.

choosing my tools, Suitcase Cinema event, 06/01/2012

What an amazing opportunity to try making a piece of film (however short it was - as it turned out very short due to my previous lack of understanding of how quickly the piece of film I'd drawn, scraped & bleached on would move through the projector!).  Also looking at it very simplistically it's the very antithesis of my professional work - defacing and altering something rather than preserving it as it is.  My only previous experience of working with film was running it through a Steenbeck and using a splicer to repair film. 

Me and Sarah, at work/play!

As the films were salvaged and bought second-hand this was film strip with content and a story already on it. We were given pens, scrapers, paint and bleach to alter/deface this film and create our own images and ideas on top of it. The effect of the bleach on the film was pretty dramatic and I liked using the scraper as well to create lines and patterns. Sarah pointed out to me that any patterns would have to be continued over a number of frames in order to show up when projected - I hadn't realised how much so until I saw the tiny bit of film I'd worked on projected - it was pretty much a case of 'blink and you'd miss it'. It really made me appreciate just how much work must go into any experimental film - Norman Mclaren's work immediately sprang to mind - not, I hasten to add, out of any parallels I drew between his work and my own meagre attempt - just in terms of drawing straight onto film.

I had so much fun at this event and I really think that the experience of making films - even just playing about with it a wee bit like we did - would do so much to enrich the experience of film preservation.  I'm sure that most archivists working in film preservation also have experience of film making, definitely of film projection but for me it was a first-time of film-making (however short-lived and fleeting it was).  All in all, I'm so glad we went (thanks Sarah, for bringing the event to my attention - and for coming down as I probably wouldn't have gone alone!).  And of course a big thanks to Suitcase Cinema, and to the LSFF and the ICA for hosting the event - what a fun and creative way to spend a Friday night.
Long live Celluloid!!

Sunday 8 January 2012

Resolution time - Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! Well, I'm already falling a bit short on my first resolution - to organise my time better.  Where has this first week gone?!

My first full year living in London  - it's been fun, it's been busy, it's been overwhelming at times but on the whole I'm loving it!  It took both me and Oliver a while to settle in to London life - at first we felt like we had to be busy all the time as there's so much to do, but now we've realised there's always going to be lots to do and it can't all be done as time is needed to relax too - this was a hard lesson for me to learn as I'm not very good at relaxing!

I didn't write any resolutions last year so I thought I'd write some this year - here goes!

New Year Resolutions

  1. Organise my time better, at home and at work
  2. Sign up for the Archives & Records Association Registration Scheme
  3. Get back to reading more non-fiction
  4. Try and visit a new-to-me Cinema/film screening venue once a month 
  5. Keep a record of all the films I watch and books I read
  6. Buy less clothes/get back to learning to sew
  7. Introduce the idea of Analog Sunday's as I saw it on a blog I recently found 'Someday. by Avalonne Hall' Try and have at least 2 a month
1. hmmn, not quite sure how easy this will (see above)
2. I think I'll leave this till February as I've got quite a lot on at work this month already and I don't want to spend all my time when I'm not in my work still doing archive-related work.  I went to a Registration Scheme workshop so I need to a. find my notes from this then b. write them up for the London region newsletter - this will be my first step towards signing up for registration.

3. I have lots of non-fiction sitting on my shelves just waiting to be read so time and motivation are the only constraints here.
4. Can't see any problems with this one!
5. I used to keep scrapbooks that I would fill with all my gig, cinema and exhibition tickets.  I'd like to get back to doing this but make it a bit more personal by trying to add in short notes on the films/books/gigs.
6. Ahem, well motivation is the main one here, as well as organisation of course.  I could have done some sewing today but instead filled my day with housework, cooking and watching 'The Philadelphia Story' for the third or fourth time!

7. Well, apart from today that is!  I would like to try and have more days without opening my laptop.  It might be harder not to check Twitter on my phone though!  Over the Christmas holidays we were back in Scotland for 9 days and only went on a computer once.  I really enjoyed the break, and even though I checked Twitter I didn't really engage with it at all over the holidays.  So yes, I'd like to make an effort to have computer/Internet free days.  I didn't add 'No television' to mine as I enjoy watching films on a Sunday. Similarly I phone my Gran most Sunday's so I certainly couldn't make Sunday a phone-free day!

So, let's see how these go. I don't think I've set myself anything groundbreaking or to difficult so hopefully I can stick to them all!