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!!

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