Say hello to the Fujica ZC1000

Well, what’s one to do when Kodak pushes back the release date for the new super 8 camera(again), and raises the price by 166%?  Go to their bitter rivals!  The Fujica ZC1000 was the top of the line single-8 camera back in the late-’70s which makes it a contender for the best small format camera ever.  It has many die-hard fans (especially in Spain, it seems) who consider Fuji’s cartridge design to be superior to Kodak’s in image stability.

The ZC1000 is among the most full-featured cameras available in the 8mm format, fully the equal of the Beaulieu super 8 cameras (and more robust in construction, it’s said) so comparing the specs to the new Kodak camera, it holds up quite well, only wanting crystal sync and a max8 film gate.  On the plus side it has a greater range of framerates, from 12-72fps, plus single frame (and can connect to an intervalometer), and I do prefer having all controls as easily-manipulable dials and buttons, not jogwheels and menus, with an optical viewfinder.  And if you do want video assist, it’s possible.

There is a downside, of course: with Fuji no longer making single-8 film, we’re left with using long-expired cartridges, cut-down 35mm reversal stocks from Retro8 in Japan, or reloading your own cartridges with Kodak super 8 film.  At least we have that option, and that the Fuji cartridges were designed to be reusable!  I don’t know how much trouble this is going to be, but I do admire the people who are keeping the single-8 format alive any way possible, and willing to give this a go myself.

As excited as I was about the new Kodak camera, I’ll wait until  it’s close to its originally-advertised price of $750 and skip the $2000 ‘limited edition’ version coming out in a few months.  And when I do have the new Kodak super 8, it should fit in nicely to my c-mount/8mm system I’m building here.  The Fujinon zoom lens is very highly-regarded, up there with the best Schneider and Angenieux zooms you find on the Beaulieus.  I’m sure the Fujinon will look great attached to the new Kodak camera…sacrilege perhaps, so I might as well go all the way and shoot some Fuji Provia super 8 film.

As well, I picked up the 10mm Kern Switar built for the Bolex cameras, and I hope to add a few more to that collection as well.  That Switar, incidentally, like the favorable opinions of the ZC1000 itself, came from Spain, from a filmmaker with whom I’ve become friends (This short film was shot with my lens on a ZC1000).  I found a British seller on eBay selling the single-8 cartridges and bought the entire stock.  The camera itself was, strangely enough, in Northeastern Colorado!  It was a 3-hour drive there, I tested out the camera for half an hour, then drove all the way back.  Even factoring in the gas money I’m quite happy with what I paid, and now have a great 8mm setup to make the leap from still photography to motion pictures.  It’s my goal to shoot my next film with this camera, and hopefully many after it as well.

Film festival information, pt. 3

The film festival submissions process still baffles me.  I have no idea if I’ve gone about this the right way, if there are things that I should be doing but aren’t, and what I can do from here to improve my chances.  One of the things I did is to send out emails to the festivals after they’re over asking for comments and some have been nice enough to respond.  I’ve gotten a few emails from festival directors who have taken the time to reply in depth giving me some interesting perspectives on my work, and it has helped me see exactly what these festivals are after, how I can improve for the next film, hopefully.  Actually, one of the most in-depth and longest critiques I got helped me understand how much of an idiot that festival director was (or at least how different out perspectives are), so at least I learned not to submit to that festival again.  I’ve also started taking the opportunity to get the programmers drunk and ask them in person when I go to festivals, to find out specifically why my film got in.  From my communication so far, here are some good points to take away:

-There will be festival directors and programmers out there that are idiots.
I appreciate the in-depth response that I got from this one guy, not least of which is because he took the time to respond: most didn’t.  And I don’t feel defensive about it, don’t want to use this post to lash out, but I will say this: he just didn’t get it.  Since none of you have seen my film anyway it’s hardly helpful to delve too deeply into specifics.  Everything in my film that other people have complimented me for was for whatever reason seen as a mark of amateurism, right down to calling it an ‘experimental’ film.  Some festival programmers will have no experience with (or interest in) experimental films, no art background, and no desire to play anything but the slickest Hollywood-style productions.  And to be fair, my film isn’t for everyone and probably wouldn’t have played well to that particular audience.  I’m still working out a way to know in advance which festivals my work will play well at, so I’m not wasting as much money in submission fees.

-Don’t submit unfinished work: only submit the best possible film.
If the film you’re sending in isn’t ready to go up in front of an audience that minute, it’s a waste of a submission fee.  Programmers will not watch a film in its entirety if it sucks, and I’m sure they have to watch a lot of shit.  And whether it’s true or not, they say they can tell from the first few minutes (seconds?) whether a film is worth their time.  You’re not guaranteed to have your film watched all the way through.  For the other side, rough cuts aren’t accepted well.  A direct quote: ‘If they can’t submit a finished film before our submissions deadline, how can I trust them to finish it on time for the festival?’  Really, I think that’s a legitimate argument.  ‘Submitting late is better for you than submitting an unfinished film.  Or don’t submit at all, wait until next year.’

-It’s really out of your hands.  Also, shorter is better.
There was a programmer who really loved my film, had it as a contender all the way up to the final notification deadline, but still didn’t program it.  He wrote me that people programming festivals see a lot of shit (which I can firmly believe) and that originality is greatly valued.  Talk about mixed messages, considering that he rejected me, so I’m not sure how valued it can be.  But he said it would have gotten in if it were shorter.  ‘Programmers love short films that are in the 5 to 7 minutes range in total run time. Why? Because they can usually fit it in easily anywhere into the schedule.’  Unfortunately, Overwhelming Majority is 10:46.

-Programmers will read your cover letter
Evidently that’s one thing that set me apart, or helped explain my work, or gave insight into my film for one programming director.  And because it’s so rare, finding the one person who totally gets this film is great…especially when he’s the one who picks the films for the festival.  My cover letter’s description of central themes and inspirations helped him build a program around my film.  Also, that guy from above, who thought the term ‘experimental’ was just a mask for it being severely amateur, read my cover letter too, and mentioned it as another reason he rejected me.

Even other filmmakers I’ve talked to don’t have any special insight into submissions, they’re just as confused by the whole thing as I am, and they’re on their third or fourth film now.  And I sure don’t know why I got into the festivals I did, except that the programming directors that saw them liked them enough to include them.  So in conclusion, I really don’t know anything after all, but I’m slightly wiser going into the process and hopefully others will be as well.

edit: this is post #200!  Congrats to me.

Part One | Part Two

Film festival information, pt. 2

My film professor gave me a couple good pieces of advice when I started applying to film festivals:
Don’t use Without a Box, do use Film Freeway
-Write a cover letter with your submission
-Apply to niche festivals, stay away from the big ones

Armed with only that knowledge, I started submitting to festivals left and right (I also found some other good information along the way).  Here are other things I wish I had known or followed from the beginning:
-Get the best festival you can for your film’s world premiere (oops…now I know…)
-Know the festival opening dates and earlybird deadlines, and always submit by that earlybird deadline.  It saves money and increases the chances of acceptance, before festival programmers are too burned out to care
-Look professional: get a website together, social media, etc, even for a short film (or maybe especially for a short film, if you want to set yourself apart).  An IMDB page isn’t a bad idea, either.
-Apply to festivals where you have a connection, like it being your hometown or the state in which you’re currently residing (I can partly attest to the efficacy of this one: the only state that’s been interested in my film is Colorado.  Even Ohio festivals don’t want me…yet)
-Research the festivals before submitting, know what they play to see if yours is a good fit

I’m really not good at following that last one: too long, boring and I hate watching most of the films.  My solution was to throw money at the problem (sort of the shotgun approach), and hope some would accept me.  Now, this way does work, as I can attest, being accepted to a total of 6 film festivals as of this writing.  However, that’s 6 acceptances out of nearly 150 submissions, so I don’t really consider that the best acceptance rate.  And you will pay the price for that approach!  I’ve spent $1700 of my own money submitting to film festivals; remember I made the film for $1000 (and $200 of that was dedicated to submission fees, so really I’ve paid $1900 in submissions).  Hopefully I’ve learned something about which festivals to submit to in the future and will be able to not waste nearly as much money next time.

That said, with all the wondering about festivals that program mostly from films that did not pay submission fees, I can say with confidence that it is possible to get into film festivals from blind submissions.  It’s happened to me several times, I’m happy to say, and hopefully will again sooner rather than later.  But I do happen to know one co-programmer of a local festival, so nepotism has also worked to my advantage.  I even submitted to one festival through their website where the payment was supposed to be sent in separately through Paypal, which I neglected to do.  A month or so later, I got an email from the festival director inviting me to screen at their festival, if and only if I paid my submission fee.  There are all kinds of festivals out there with many ways of doing business, and whatever the circumstances under which my film is accepted, I for one ain’t gonna look a gift horse in the mouth.  I’ve contacted festivals about waivers, but usually only if they’re available to students or for local filmmakers.  Usually they’re only applicable if you live in that particular state, but if an Ohio festival offers a waived fee for current residents, I’ll send out an email to see if I’m eligible for anything as a native Ohioan who lived his first 23 years there.  Sometimes the festivals can be generous.

I still don’t know about the whole film festival process though.  Maybe it will be a good stepping stone to making features later on down the road and hopefully learning the hard way with a short or two will make it easier in the future.  Let me talk about Film Freeway for a second: it’s definitely a double-edged sword.  Film Freeway makes things super easy on the filmmaker, as all one has to do is make a project, upload a screener to their server, find festivals that are currently taking submissions, load up the shopping cart, and connect to Paypal.  Isn’t modern digital technology wonderful?  But just like how DSLRs enable filmmakers to make a movie easily and cheaply, so it is with festival submissions.  Now that everyone can do it, everyone and their dog is doing it, and flooding the market with shit mostly, making it that much harder to get noticed.  On every rejection letter I’ve got (and there have been a lot of those), they always talk about receiving a record number of submissions.  Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference in my case if 500 or 5000 films were submitted, but either way the competition is growing year by year, and from here it will just get harder to wedge your foot in the door.  Any way you can set yourself apart (aside from making a really good film) will help, which is why writing a cover letter is so important.  I’ve had one festival director mention my cover letter in accepting me to a festival, so I don’t know if I’d be there without it.

So does the cream still rise to the top?  My professors seem to think so.  I could wish for a few more (and more prestigious) festival acceptances.  And I know I’m biased, but I know I made a good film; it’s the singular work I’m most proud of so far.  So getting so many rejections really does bruise the ego (and maybe that’s another consequence of that shotgun approach I mentioned at the beginning).

After all that, I’m still doing pretty well, having played 6 festivals since May:
2016 UCCS Short Film Festival (won best experimental film)
2016 Blissfest333 (won best experimental film, nominated best documentary short)
2016 Southern Colorado Film Festival
2016 London International Documentary Festival
2017 Durango Independent Film Festival
2017 Wales International Documentary Festival

film-banner8b1I’ll just post this again since it’s a relevant picture.  Free advertising!

One of the things that might have hurt me slightly is that I didn’t get the best premiere.  Of course I wasn’t thinking that when I submitted to my school’s festival but no one cares about your regional university’s student film festival, whether it’s in its 16th year or not (and according to my film professor school festivals are ineligible for premieres, which means that technically my world premiere was Blissfest).  He thinks that with a better world premiere I would have got more acceptances, say if I had held off for LIDF, though I think for an international premiere, I did quite well (Prof says there’s no such thing as an international premiere, but I’d disagree based on the criteria of some of the different festivals to which I’ve submitted).  So is premiering at a large, prestigious festival better than winning awards like I did at the smaller festivals?  I can’t answer that.  As it stands though, even if my film professor says it isn’t eligible, my world premiere was at the 16th Annual UCCS Short Film Festival.

Through all of that, the good side is that every festival I attend is better than the last.  I’m finishing up writing this from the Durango Independent Film Festival which has been a great experience for me.  After wondering whether it’s worth it sometimes (especially having spent $1700 of my own money), the counter argument is being able to attend a good festival, where people want to see your film, colleagues want to connect with each other, and everybody is there to have fun.

Part One | Part Three

Film festival information, compiled

I’ve decided to compile all the things I’ve learned so far as I’ve gone through all the film festival submissions process.  I’ve been tracking this info down for a while now, and this is what I tell filmmakers when asked about applying to festivals.

Here are three sources that I found to be useful:
Film Festival Secrets – Christopher Holland
The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide – Chris Gore
Official Selection, dir. Paul Osborne

Now one of the problems with those books and movies is that they all came out in 2009 and so are almost 10 years old now.  Information moves fast, and some of the stuff in there isn’t quite applicable.  That’s why there haven’t been any new books (or even new editions).  Supposedly, websites were supposed to take the place of these new books, giving us more up-to-date information.  To some extent, that’s true, as there are some good things to find online, however, Chris Gore’s Ultimatefilmfest.com (advertised in his book) isn’t there anymore, for one.  Christopher Holland’s Filmfestivalsecrets.com is still up, but I have no idea how long it’s been since it was last updated.

One of the problems I’ve found is that most of the information out there is directed towards people making feature films, and especially narrative feature films.  I made an experimental documentary short, and while the information I found was still applicable, it wasn’t directed at me.  So then, why write books, articles, etc toward helping people that have made a few shorts and are on to their first feature?  Why let people struggle through film festivals with a short and then give them information for taking their feature to festivals?

Here are some articles that I’ve found informative:

http://justshutupandshoot.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-definitive-list-o-recommended-film.html

http://therumpus.net/2016/05/the-great-film-festival-swindle/

https://stephenfollows.com/what-film-festival-directors-really-think/

http://reelplan.com/2016/06/01/the-other-sides-truths-about-film-festival-submission-fees/

http://www.raindance.org/worlds-top-short-film-festivals/

http://www.indiewire.com/2014/10/attention-filmmakers-heres-everything-you-need-to-know-about-film-festivals-68857/

http://www.moviemaker.com/archives/best_of/50-film-festivals-worth-the-entry-fee-2016/

A few of those websites have lots of past articles about festivals and have proven useful.

Part Two | Part Three

Yes, it’s that soft…

Do you know how rare it is to find a lens from the 1950s that isn’t scratched to hell, or at least loaded with cleaning marks?  Pretty rare indeed.  In fact, I had been holding off cleaning it until I got myself a UV filter for it (41mm is a pretty rare size for filters).  The plan was to clean it as gently as possible, screw the filter on, and never take it off again.  Good plan, but guess what…my best wasn’t gentle enough, and looking through the glass now, I wouldn’t call this lens near-mint condition anymore.  Ugh…

 

New framerate for the Kodak super 8 camera

Well, since January when the camera was first announced, they’ve managed to make at least one improvement…sort of…I just happened to be browsing Kodak’s super 8 site and noticed it.

Instead of speeds of 9, 12, 18, 24, and 25fps (as originally announced), it will now have 18, 24, 25, and 36fps.  We’re getting slow motion, is the “glass half full” reading.  Of course we’re also losing the two lowest framerates, so there are actually less options now.  Will there be firmware updates in the future to add more framerates?  What about single frame speed, and timelapse?  While it’s a step in the right direction, I don’t understand why Kodak doesn’t work more toward making all other super 8 cameras obsolete.  Here are a list of features cameras had 35 years ago that make them still desirable:
-single frame advance and timelapse features (already mentioned)
-72fps
-constantly variable framerate
-variable shutter angle
-physical, manipulable buttons and dials
-optical viewfinder

I suppose those last two are in some ways considered outdated, but it seems to me that without them, it’ll be like the difference between shooting a modern DSLR and my old Spotmatic.  And I know which way I’d prefer to work.  We also still don’t know how quiet the camera will end up being.  Will we be able to shoot sync sound without requiring a blimp of some sort?  Will that be another accessory, like the handgrip?

Another thing on the wish list for me?  New lenses.  I want an American-made Kodak Cine-Ektar 12.5mm f/0.95 macro lens in C-mount.  And I don’t want to spend more than $700 for it.  Might as well dream big, hmmm?

Milestone reached: 200 followers

Thanks, 200 people, for reading what I have to say and finding it interesting.  I hope I can stay relevant and continue to provide insight into how to shoot film on the cheap (which has been my stated goal).

Just a small update, I currently have 11(!) rolls of film in my backpack waiting to be developed and I will be dropping them off after class today.  Things can pile up when one doesn’t have the funds to develop film!  I suppose that the main thing though is to keep shooting, and thankfully I had (and still do have) quite a large stockpile of film in my freezer, so at that point shooting film cost me nothing.  And compared to last Summer, I actually wanted to take pictures (seriously, I made one roll of Tri-X last 2.5 months).  I shot 3.5 rolls just this last weekend while in Alamosa for the Southern Colorado Film Festival and as for the rest of it, I’m not even sure what’s all there, but surely there are many posts to come, maybe an entire series dedicated to “What I did this Summer…”  Besides working.