Monday, October 16, 2006

Super 8 and Serial Killers

I know you're all horribly disappointed, but unfortunately I haven't felt like drawing much lately. All of my creative energies have been focused on shooting my graduating piece for uni - a short film shot on Super 8mm. I call it "Shoot".

I shot it on Friday using an oooold camera that's been in my family for donkey's yonks. The stock used was the new Kodak Ektachrome 64T, as they discontinued the brilliant Kodachrome Super 8 stock a couple of months back. Apparently you can still get it if you're willing to go hunting, but there's only one place in the world that still processes the stuff. Surprisingly, the new Ektachrome stock proved almost as hard to find (locally, that is). Every camera shop said they'd have to order it in from America. After some extensive searching (trawling the web and making lots of phone calls) I found a guy in Glenroy who always keeps a couple of reels in his shop for the lucky filmmaker (me). His name is Ed.

Ed was a funny guy. Not "ha-ha" funny, but more "weird guy who runs a small-format camera shop in the middle of Glenroy" funny. It took me a while to find his shop amongst all the clothing stores on this little strip on Wheatsheaf Road. The reason was that his shop was a clothing shop, at least it looked that way from the front window. It was like some kind of slick cover-up that Ed had devised to keep the fuzz from finding out about his completely legal camera shop. Ed's rouse would've worked too, were it not for the small sign on the front door that read:


I twisted the handle, but the door was locked. I noticed a smaller sign on the door: "Back at one." Before I could even pull my phone out of my pocket to check the time, the door jangled open and a tall, ashy looking man with crew-cut hair stood before me. "You here for the film?" I nodded. "Come in. I'm just having lunch." He showed me in and walked me past the clothes to a small back-area where he kept all the goodies.

I later discovered that Ed rented the building at a discount, on the proviso that he could only run his camera business if he also manned the clothing store. He didn't seem like the sort of guy who cared much for fashion, and I suspect his odd behaviour would've weirded-out many an innocent customer in search of a new cardigan.

The back-area behind the clothes contained a large glass cabinet, in which lay a multitude of vintage cameras and projectors, and a whole lot of shelves on the walls, with various camera accessories, reels and books. Ed didn't muck around. In fact, it seemed like he took every opportunity to let me know that he was "a real film buff". And he meant real film. There wasn't a video tape or digital camera in sight.

I spent a good twenty minutes chatting to Ed. Once I got used to his odd mannerisms, he was actually quite personable. Although, the way he never once looked me directly in the eye did remain somewhat disconcerting. It felt like I was conversing with a blind person at times (the thought that Ed may actually be vision-impaired did cross my mind, although this theory was laid to rest when he took a look at the Super 8 camera I'd brought in and pointed out specific details to me).

He told me about the film nights he ran, where he'd show classics like Star Wars, which he actually had on old reels and projected. It was quite fascinating. He also told me of his dream to run a small-format film festival in Glenroy "with a friend". He told me all this within five minutes of our meeting. I hadn't even purchased the film yet. I would've felt privileged to be privy to such information had it not been so blatantly apparent that Ed told this stuff to anyone who cared to listen.

After the conversation was exhausted, I finally got 'round to buying my reels. He charged me $26 per 50 foot reel, which isn't such a bad price. We exchanged departing pleasantries and, as I was about to leave, Ed asked me for my phone number... "So I can let you know when the next film night is." I suddenly had visions of a Norman Bates-like situation, me turning up to Ed's mother's house for a screening of Return of the Jedi and strangely being the only guest in attendance. I ummed for a second, and then, with a breath of reckless abandon, I threw caution to the wind and gave Ed my mobile number. I said goodbye again and left Ed to his cucumber sandwiches.

It's been a couple of weeks and I still haven't heard from Ed, but I have received a couple of odd phone-calls where I can just make out the faint flickering of a film projector under some heavy breathing. Just kidding. I do wish he'd call, though. His passion for film is strangely inspiring.


The shoot went pretty smoothly. One of the locations proved unusable, but we found another that shits all over where I had originally planned to shoot it. I took my time and made sure I rehearsed every shot with Leon at least three times. I didn't have the footage (or more importantly, the money) to be fucking around. Believe it or not, it took about eight hours to shoot six minutes of film. Granted, we had a break for lunch, and there was a fair amount of driving time, but still.

I sent my film off today to get processed at a place I found in Daylesford, VIC. I spoke to this guy on the phone. He seemed nice and personable and not at all like a serial killer. He develops by hand, as most in Australia do. He said he can get the processing done for me in a couple of days, and for a good price ($20 per reel), so I should get it back by the end of the week, at which point I'll send it off again to a place in NSW to transfer it to digital so I can start editing (I briefly considered purchasing a film splicer and editing by hand, but then I realised that I wasn't insane). The transfer people seem very professional, and least likely to invite me over and hack my limbs off while I'm taking a shower.

There's a lot of waiting around when shooting with film, which I'm not used to. Usually, when I use video, I begin editing as soon as I'm done shooting. With Super 8, it'll take a week before I even get to see what I shot, and another week or so before I'm able to edit. You may be thinking that this is the perfect opportunity to get some drawing in, but you'd be wrong. Instead, I'll be spending most waking moments praying that the film isn't under or over-exposed or out-of-focus.

Aside from learning that shooting on film is a bit of a waiting game, I've also discovered that it's a lot pricier too. By the end of it all, I would've spent close to $300 on this baby, and that's not including the Hungry Jack's I bought Leon to say thanks for helping out. Quite a bit when you compare it to the $20 or so I spend on MiniDV tapes when I'm shooting video.

Still, if the footage turns out as good as I'm hoping it will, it'll all be worth it. Leon looked great as escaped mental patient "Jerry", and the locations we used were pretty cool as well. Here's hoping "Shoot" will be a short film worthy of Ed's film festival.


Polia said...

Hey, can you post a link to our grad show site?? I can't remember the last part.



ps. I like the site.

Joe said...

The link is:

But it's only temporary.

lucyrogue said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Joe said...

Aw, thankee sweetness. :D