Member at Large
This February, I had to choose between attending either the Rotterdam International Film Festival (an expansive two week festival), or the Starting From Scratch Film Festival, (a small two-day festival of experimental films in Amsterdam). I chose to attend Starting from Scratch.
In December, I was invited to create several “ultra-short” 35mm films for the Wait a Second program in the Rotterdam International Film Festival. For this program, experimental filmmakers from around the world were asked to create two-second long films using 35mm stills photography film (24 exposure of stills = 48 frames of motion picture = one 2 second long 35mm movie). They played one of these ultra-short films before each of the feature films in the “Speed of Light” series. I made eight of these films, and it feels kind of funny to say that “my first eight 35mm films just played at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, and I decided not to go.”
The reason that I chose not to attend Rotterdam, was that while it’s very exciting to have films in this festival and the opportunity to attend, these films were very short, and the festival is very big. I’m sure I would have met some like-minds and interesting people, but most likely I would have gotten lost in a sea of large crowds of feature filmmakers, producers and distributors buying and selling films. I didn’t feel the urge to market or sell my two second long films, so I didn’t think this was the place for me; at least not this year.
So instead, I applied for and received a travel grant to attend the Starting from Scratch Film Festival in Amsterdam, where I had two other films (This Unnamable Little Dream: Or a Traced Sketch of Two Brothers [super8, 4min, 2005] and Mechanical Memory [16mm, 6 min, 2006]), as well as the eight 35mm ultra shorts (they each have names, but I won’t list them here, because some of the names are longer than the films). I figured that I would be much more likely to find films and people that I was interested in at this festival.
Starting From Scratch is a festival dedicated to experimental film on celluloid (the web site and stickers say “Adventures in Celluloid”); super 8; 16mm; hand-processing; optical printing; contact printing; and expanded cinema (experimental performative projection based work).
The line up of films for the festival included works by some of my favourite filmmakers including (but not limited to): John Porter, Alex MacKenzie, Kerry Laitala, Eve Heller, Phil Solomon, Peter Tscherkassky, Jem Cohen, and Francien Everdingen. The films presented by these filmmakers were beautifully breathtaking and inspiring. It was wonderful to be surrounded by filmmakers and filmviewers who have the similar interests in experimental works.
Ironically it took a festival in Europe for John Porter (a fellow Canadian) and I to finally meet face to face; and it was great. I’ve seen his films, he’s seen my films, we have mutual friends, and we spoken via emails on the frameworks listserv, but wound up going to Europe to meet. John was doing a European tour with his super 8 films, and ended the tour at Starting from Scratch where there was a whole program devoted to his work.
After the festival was over, I took a day trip to Rotterdam to see the Filmwerkplaats. This is an amazing do-it-yourself film lab. They have bolexes, steenbecks, projectors, darkrooms, optical printers, and more. They even have a sound printer so you can shoot your own optical tracks and hand process them on site, as well as a contact printer so you can make your own timed release print (with sound!) and hand-process it on site. I found this to be completely unique and amazing, but apparently it’s a common phenomenon in Europe, as there are several of these Do-It-Yourself film labs in France, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany. It’s not just open for anyone to drop in, but they do teach workshops and artists can work at these labs via special invitations. I would love to see a network film spaces like these across Canada. Imagine if we could convince commercial labs to donate their “outdate” equipment to experimental do-it-yourself artist labs instead of selling them for scrap metal!