Fine examples of Super 8 filmmaking, Vol. I

An old friend asked me recently for a few examples of newly-shot/processed 8mm films.  So here is my list of films I’ve watched online in the last year or so, just off the top of my head, plus a few that I return to regularly.  Some of the best examples of high resolution scanning (often 4K) and at least decent color grading:
Attack of the Legumes
Betty Feeds the Animals, dir. James P. Gannon
Facsimil, dir. Marc Marti (available for viewing every year on May 13)
Florida 2019, via Nicholas Coyle
Freelove Fenner: “The Girls from Hampton,” dir. Peter Woodford
Isolamento, dir. Carmelo Zucco
Meredith and Cameron Wedding Video, dir. David Cunningham
Perpetuum Immobile, dir. Marc Marti
Sheer Agony: “I Have a Dream,” dir. Peter Woodford
So Refined

Some perennial favorites:
Ignacio Benedeti
Nick Collingwood
Adrian Cousins
Pro8mm
Jose Luis Villar

(Longer) Films that must be paid for:
Brand upon the Brain! dir. Guy Maddin
Cowards Bend the Knee, dir. Guy Maddin
Format Perspective, dir. Philip Evans
How the Sky Will Melt, dir. Matthew Wade
It’s about You, dir. Ian Markus, Kurt Markus
Stories We Tell, dir. Sarah Polley

Trying to dispel the perception of Super 8 as the “crappy” format

Recently I’ve seen some new Super 8 films come out that are by some pretty prominent artists, like Spike Lee’s quarantine music video and Katy Perry’s pregnant music video.  And I look at their footage and I’m not that impressed by what I see there: pixelated footage, colors that make me cringe occasionally, nothing in focus, just on the whole not too fond of this style yet these videos are probably going to end up with millions of views (edit: since my first draft the Katy Perry video has become the most successful super 8 music video ever).  And that is what people are going to think of when they think “Super 8,” which also makes me cringe.

But then again whenever the format has been used in movies in the past it is with this mentality, and when movies have been put out on DVD, blu-ray, etc, it is I think in every case scanned with 35mm elements, however many generations removed from the original negatives/positives.  With the technology having improved so much in the last few years digitally scanning super 8 can look better than ever but it’s almost never used to its full potential.  I was reading an article recently from Criterion where the head of the restoration went to painstaking lengths to make the crappy ca.1999 digital video footage look as good as possible instead of just scanning the 35mm film-out, the way they would have done if it were a super 8-originated footage.  I just hope that in the future small-format film will get the same kind of loving treatment from Criterion and others that 20-year-old digital files currently enjoy.

Until then try to get the best out of the format, don’t settle for crap with the reason that “it’s just super 8,” see what the format can really do: it’ll surprise you!  edit: Now that’s more like it: Spitzbergen: Guardian of the Arctic (trailer)

Shipping Super 8 film

Ok yes I already figured total cost of shooting super 8 film…but I didn’t figure total total cost, as there are some additional costs: shipping, and the time it takes!  But it’s so subjective depending on how far you’re shipping, how many rolls at once, what courier, how fast you want it to get there.  I sent off some super 8 to Pro8mm, USPS Ground cost $11.05 shipping from my local post office in Colorado to Burbank, CA, and shipping from there to Nicholas Coyle in Denver (plus insurance) came out to $9.74.  So that’s a total of $20.79, and then the film has to be shipped from Coyle back to me at some point which will cost $4 more (he’s holding the footage until he gets his 6.5K scanner so I can compare/contrast with his current 2K setup).  So the grand total there is just under $25.  But let’s talk about X-rays:


How well do these work?  I don’t exactly know. 

USPS Ground took exactly one week; I use Ground usually because if it goes on an airplane the chances increase that it will pass through an X-ray and/or CT scanner no matter what is written on the package.  I talked to a nice young lady at FedEx about that a few years ago and she said that the handlers at the processing centers will usually honor stickers with official branding like Kodak’s, but there are no guarantees there.  I sent that package FedEx express because I needed film processed for a class and needed it there and back ASAP but talked to other shipping professionals for their opinion.  From what I’ve been told, USPS Ground is the only service guaranteed not to pass through an X-ray or other scanner, because it never travels on an airplane.  I still tape several of these on the box, just in case.  If I were in a hurry, I would use FedEx but only as a last resort: I’d rather it take a few days longer to get there and be completely safe.

I’ve written about avoiding x-ray scanners before, and I’ve even sent a roll of Tri-X through the scanner twice to see what would happen.  But I’m not about to take the chance with movie film.  If you need the “Do Not X-ray” stickers look no further:
DO NOT X-RAY label
I rarely send undeveloped film through the mail, thankfully have never had a problem, and I hope you don’t either!

There’s an additional additional cost: hard drives.  And I just bought another for my Mac (this one in fact) that cost $300 but that was to hold sound libraries, etc.  Thankfully I have a couple so if I have to send one with the film so it can be scanned this won’t be a big problem, because the last thing in the world I want right now is to drop more money on another hard drive.  But you should know that if you don’t send in a hard drive your scanning house will probably charge you for one, depending on where you go.  Now I’ve touted Nicholas Coyle Film & Video before (and will continue to do so!) because it’s the best-priced 2K scan that I’ve found, and I’ve done a lot of research on that front.  Another great thing about Coyle is that he’ll let you download the footage online for free which means no messing with hard drives!  For the larger projects you’d want to send one though, as it might be many Gigabytes.  This is the first time in 3 years that I’ve shot/processed/scanned super 8 film so it’s good I’m writing this as it’s fresh in my mind.

Now for the time aspect: I dropped the film at the post office on Monday 04/20, it arrived at Pro8mm a week later 04/27, was shipped out Thursday 04/30, arrived in Denver on Monday 05/04, and I was downloading scans 2 days later, so turnaround time was just a little under 2.5 weeks.

Total cost of one roll Super 8 film in 2020

Back at the end of 2018 I compiled all the information I could find about pricing of film/developing/scanning, looking at different film labs and scanning houses.  I don’t know everything, and there are probably developing labs and scanning houses I don’t know about, but these seem to be the main ones.  All values rounded up to the nearest dollar. Prices for D94 and ECN-2 developing.  In a few cases I’ve included some E-6 prices, expect to pay more for the film and the processing.  Shipping prices not included as they vary, the same with hard drives, but it must be said that those are extra expenses that must be taken into account.  Some labs will sell you a hard drive for a markup, but it’s always cheaper to buy your own to send in.  These are all labs and scanning houses located in the continental USA.  For the entire world I suggest this great list of film-related businesses.

So let’s get this out of the way first: The cheapest place to buy fresh newly-manufactured film is directly from KODAK.  The annoying thing is that they keep changing their online store every year so as you’re reading this maybe it’s up and maybe not, you’ll just have to click the link and see; I will try to keep the link updated.  You an always call 1(800) 621-FILM.  Kodak charges $30 for b/w reversal and color negative stocks (with a 30% discount if you’re a student, so about $21), Ektachrome is $40.  I don’t know why so many people buy from standard retailers other than general laziness.  Admittedly there are extra shipping charges with Kodak and to ship one roll by itself costs about $9-10 but that’s the same whether you buy 1 roll or 20.  But let’s look at a few other places:

Film Club of America: Tri-X $30 (currently on-sale for $27), 50D/200T/500T $33 (free shipping)
Mono No Aware: ORWO U-54/N-74 $25, Tri-X/50D-200T/500T $30, E100 $40 (I have no idea how much shipping is and they don’t necessarily have an online store, you would have to fill out their contact form)
Film Photography Project (FPP): Tri-X/50D/200T/500T $33, E100 $46 (shipping varies by quantity, $3.50-21)
B&H Photo and Video: Tri-X/50D/500T $33, 200T $35, E100 $46 (free shipping, but added sales tax)
Adorama: Tri-X/500T $37, 50D/200T $38 (free shipping on all)
Pro8mm Process/Scan package: Tri-X/50D/200T/250D/500T $58 ($33+25 processing which you’ll need anyway), E100 $70 (plus shipping)
Freestyle Photo: Tri-X $35, E100 $48 (plus shipping)
International Film Brokers: Tri-X/50D/200T/500T $33, E100 $42 (+7 shipping for 2 carts, varies for larger quantities)
Amazon.com: Tri-X $41, $500T $41, E100 $55 (at least when I last checked…I’m sure the price can fluctuate a bit)

You get the picture.  So on top of this you’ll have to get the film developed, and scanned to digital, unless you know enough about cutting/splicing as well as owning an 8mm projector.  If so I doubt you need much help from me.  It should also be noted that Film Club USA and Mono No Aware are non-profits, and FPP makes a lot of donations to photography programs all over America.  Adorama and B&H do things a bit differently when it comes to charging sales tax vs. charging more for the item sometimes, it usually ends up the same.

I was also given some information about regular 8mm film AKA Double 8, FPP started selling some and there’s also International Film Brokers.  Sometimes it’s not apparent who manufactured the film (though the only ones to my knowledge are Kodak, ORWO, and Foma), it’s slit (usually) by a third party, and the supply is low.  If you’re interested in Double 8 you’ll have to compile your own information.

FULL PACKAGE DEALS (film/processing/scanning)
FPP: 2K $93, 4K $103 (not really a combo deal but they do sell all three)
Pro8mm: 2K $98, 4K $118, 6.5K $158 (Ektachrome 2K $118, 4K $138)
Spectra: HD $125

PROCESS AND SCAN PACKAGE DEALS (not including cost of film)
Cinelab (student rate): 2K $46, 4K $63
Cinelab (regular rate): 2K $55, 4K $75
FPP: 2K $60, 4K $70
Pro8mm: 2K $75, 4K $88, 6.5K $128

So basically add whatever your film cost to that to get the total price, and compare to the full package deals offered above.  Here are a few examples of what you should expect to pay using multiple sources, though still to be factored in are hard drives and shipping.  There are so many options for that that I didn’t bother including any.

And then the old “PROCESS AT ONE LAB AND SCAN AT ANOTHER” (including cost of film from Kodak, presented as “Process”/”Scan”)
Spectra/Coyle (student rate & no telecine prep): 2K $56, 4K $61
Cinelab/Coyle (student rate): 2K $59, 4K $64
Spectra/Coyle: 2K $65, 4K $70 (no telecine prep)
Cinelab/Coyle: 2K $70, 4K $75
Cinelab/FPP (student rate): 2K $74, 4K $84
Cinelab/Gamma Ray (student & cheapest rate): 2K $74
Pro8mm/FPP (student rate): 2K $76, 4K $86
Pro8mm/FPP: 2K $85, 4K $95
Cinelab/FPP: 2K $85, 4K $95
Pro8mm/Cinelab: $85, 4K $105
Cinelab/Gamma Ray (student rate): 2K $92, 5K $108
Cinelab/Gamma Ray: 2K $98, 5K $117

PROCESSING ALONE (without film or scanning)
Dwayne’s Photo (Parsons, KS): $12 (E6 only, I’m listing because it’s the best price I’ve seen; prep for telecine is $2 extra for up to 8 rolls)
Spectra (North Hollywood, CA): $20 (E6 $20) (no prep for telecine)
Cinelab (New Bedford, MA): $23 (E6 $28) (student rate, with prep for telecine)
Yale Film & Video (Valencia, CA): $24 (E6 $26) (no prep for telecine)
Cinelab: $25 (E6 $30) (regular rate, with prep for telecine)
Pro8mm (Burbank, CA): $25 (E6 $25) (with prep for telecine)
Kodak Film Lab NY: $25 (this is according to people that have called them; they do not advertise that they process super 8 film)
Spectra: $44 (includes minimum $24 prep for telecine, assuming one is shooting 8 or more rolls of film that cost is $23 per roll)
Yale: $47 (includes minimum $25 prep for telecine, I think that’s ~$24.50-25 per roll on volume but is listed as $50 per hour, no other info)

SCANNING ALONE
Nicholas Coyle Film Film & Video Transfer (Denver, CO): 3K/2K $15-25, 6.5K/4K $20-30 (4K scans coming mid-2020) ($.30-.50, $.40-.60 per foot)
Gamma Ray (cheapest scans): $28 (SDR, ProRes422HQ)
Film Photography Project (Fair Lawn, NJ): 2K $30, 4K $35 ($.60, $.70 per foot)
Cinelab (student rate): 2K $30, 4K $45 ($.60, <$1 per foot)
Cinelab (New Bedford, MA): 2K $30, 4K $50 ($.60, $1 per foot)
Negativeland (Ridgewood, NY): 2.5K $32 (>$.60 per foot)
CinePost (Marietta, GA): 2K $35, 4K $45 ($.70, $.90 per foot, and some good volume discounts)
Gamma Ray (Allston, MA): 2K $43, 5K $62 (HDR ProRes4444HQ)
Movette (San Francisco, CA): 2K $44 ($.66 per foot but a minimum order amount of $44, otherwise would be $33 per cart)
Pro8mm (Burbank, CA): 2K $50, 4K $63, 6.5K $100 ($1, $1.25 and $2 per foot)
Spectra: HD $80

There are volume discounts applicable for each place I think, I didn’t take that into consideration as much because I’ve never shot enough for that to matter…yet. Still, I doubt that it’s likely to change the labs’ placement here.  All film processing costs include the prep for telecine.  I consider 2K to be the lowest acceptable resolution, and have also included the maximum resolution available, either 4K or 5K.  Pro8mm is offering a 20% discount if you’re not in a hurry and can wait 4-6 weeks.

Kodak Digitizing Box can be found here.  No info on what resolution, and it takes 4-6 weeks turnaround.  It’s a pretty new service but I thought I’d at least mention that it’s an option.  It’s $80 for two reels. It’s possible they’re sending everything to Pro8mm, but I don’t have enough information for that.

There are a few home scanning machines available new, the cheapest being the Wolverine (~$400) and the Reflekta (~$900), but they have low build quality and low resolution.  I know some people still say the top resolution of Super 8 film is about 720p and there’s no need to scan beyond that, but those people are largely idiots.  It has been proven that you’ll get sharper and more detailed images scanning in higher resolutions even if you’re viewing at standard 1080p HD, plus you’re future-proofing your scan as well.  Here are a few articles pertaining to this:
Busting the Resolution Myth
Is Transferring Super 8 Film to 5K Overkill?
Now for $400 you could transfer 26 rolls of Super 8 film and higher quality, so there’s no way it’s practical for small projects.  And if you shoot a lot?  Then you’d probably want something that can’t damage your film for starters, so don’t look at the Wolverine.  Maybe if you shoot enough that you’d spend $6500 in scanning, then look at the Retroscan Universal.  And you still wouldn’t be getting the same quality as is available with the latest scan that can cost as low as $15 a roll.  So if you care about what your footage looks like, then cough up the money for a good 4K/5K/6.5K (or at least 2K) scan from a reputable lab; you’re doing a disservice to the reputation of super 8 film otherwise.

Special thanks to the members of the Super 8mm group on Facebook who have chimed in on a few options that slipped by me.  I’m taking most of my information off these companies’ websites where pricing is advertised, though special mention should go to Gamma Ray Digital for taking the initiative and providing me with a PDF of their prices, the price sheet I have is dated 2017.  There seems to be an option for everyone with them (and they have a reputation as the best scanning house on the East Coast, if not the country). I’ve put up a few different options but it’s based mostly on what options personally interest me.

Some things of which to take note:
-Cinelab has some pretty good pricing, cutting some especially good deals for students that get the develop & scan package.  However, I know from experience that they are not very communicative and can make mistakes scanning.  I’m also hearing a lot from people that they take a long time to scan the film; a good problem I suppose, meaning that just that many people are shooting it!  A lot of people will have their film developed at Cinelab and sent to Gamma Ray Digital for scanning, as they are both located in Massachusetts about an hour away from each other.  That said, it’s still in the same ballpark price-wise as the package deals I listed.
-The Film Photography Project got into scanning just a few years ago, and while their prices started out extremely good ($20 for 2K or 4K, plus volume discounts), they’ve since raised prices significantly, though still under what a lot of other labs are charging.
-There was a film lab in Denver called Cinemalab, maybe 2 hours away from me but unfortunately it closed down between my first and second projects.  One of Cinemalab’s former employees, Nicholas Coyle, inherited some of their equipment and has built his own scanner from that, and can offer 2K super 8 scans at $15 a roll, the best deal I’ve yet found.  He also pointed out to me that one doesn’t necessarily need to get Spectra’s prep for telecine, so for one roll of film without it, that’s only $20, and that makes it probably the most affordable option, though quality may vary.  He’s in the process of buying a Lasergraphics Scanstation 6.5K scanner so will have the option for 4K (or 6.5K overscan) by mid-2020, plus he’s extremely flexible with lots of different options available.  For comparison, his best-light 4K scan costs the same as a standard HDR 2K scan from FPP.
-Pro8mm is considered the industry standard, and as you might be able to tell you’ll pay for it too.  I also assume you’re paying for the cost of living in Southern California.  Since Technicolor and DeLuxe don’t have any Super 8 services, large Hollywood productions go to Pro8mm as their default lab.  Back when the only film stocks available in Super 8 were Kodachrome 40 and Ektachrome 160 they were buying professional 35mm color negative stocks from Kodak, cutting them down to 8mm, and loading them into cartridges.  Since discontinuing Kodachrome and Ektachrome Kodak has basically followed their model.

Total cost of one roll Super 8 film in 2018

(edit: This pricelist is a bit out of date, the new 2020 page is here)

I’ve had a total of two 8mm projects sent off to labs, the first to Pro8mm and the second to Cinelab.  While I was quite happy with the results, I’m shopping around to see just what my options are and just how low I can get on price, mostly based around total cost of shooting one roll of super 8 film.  And what a plethora of choices there are!  I don’t know everything, and there are probably developing labs and scanning houses I don’t know about, but these seem to be the main ones.  All values rounded up to the nearest dollar. Prices for D94 and ECN-2 developing, no E6. Shipping prices not included as they vary, the same with hard drives, but it must be said that those are extra expenses that must be taken into account.  These are all labs and scanning houses located in the continental USA.

FULL PACKAGE DEALS (film/processing/scanning)
Pro8mm: 2K $98, 5K $118
Spectra: HD $125

(Now #1 thing is that the cheapest place to buy film is directly from Kodak, especially if you’re a student like me because there is a 30% discount, but also because there’s almost always a markup with retail sellers)

PROCESS AND SCAN PACKAGE DEALS (including cost of film from Kodak)
Cinelab (student rates): 2K $67, 4K $84
Cinelab: 2K $82, 4K $102
Pro8mm (student rate): 2K $96, 5K $109
Pro8mm: 2K $105, 5K $118

And then the old “PROCESS AT ONE LAB AND SCAN AT ANOTHER” (including cost of film from Kodak)
Spectra/Coyle (student rate & no telecine prep): 2K $53
Cinelab/Coyle (student rate): 2K $58
Cinelab/FPP (student rate): 2K $63, 4K $63
Spectra/Coyle: 2K $62 (no telecine prep)
Pro8mm/FPP (student rate): 2K $66, 4K $66
Cinelab/Coyle: 2K $67
Cinelab/Gamma Ray (student & cheapest rate): 2K $71
Cinelab/FPP: 2K $72, 4K $72
Pro8mm/FPP: 2K $75, 4K $75
Pro8mm/Cinelab: $85, 4K/5K $110
Cinelab/Gamma Ray (student rate): 2K $89, 5K $105
Cinelab/Gamma Ray: 2K $95, 5K $114

PROCESSING ALONE (without film or scanning, with telecine prep)
Dwayne’s Photo: $12 (E6 only, I’m listing because it’s the best price I’ve seen)
Spectra: $17 (no prep for telecine)
Cinelab: $22
Pro8mm: $25
Kodak Film Lab NY: $25
Spectra: $41 (includes minimum $24 prep for telecine, assuming one is shooting 8 or more rolls of film that cost is $20 per roll)
Yale: $47 (includes minimum $25 prep for telecine, I think that’s ~$24 per roll on volume but is listed as $50 per hour, no other info)

SCANNING ALONE
Nicholas Coyle Film Film & Video Transfer: 2K $15
Film Photography Project: 2K $20, 4K $20
Gamma Ray (cheapest scans): $28 (SDR, ProRes422QH)
Cinelab (student rate): 2K $30, 4K $50 ($.60, $1 per foot)
Cinelab: 2K $30, 4K/5K $55 ($.60, $1.10 per foot)
Gamma Ray: 2K $43, 5K $62 (HDR ProRes4444HQ)
Spectra: HD $80
Pro8mm: 2K $100, 5K $125 (all have 2 roll minimum, so that’s $1, $1.25 per foot)

There are volume discounts applicable for each place I think, I didn’t take that into consideration as much because I’ve never shot enough for that to matter…yet. Still, I doubt that it’s likely to change the labs’ placement here.  All film processing costs include the prep for telecine.  I consider 2K to be the lowest acceptable resolution, and have also included the maximum resolution available, either 4K or 5K.

Special thanks to the members of the Super 8mm group on Facebook who have chimed in on a few options that slipped by me.  I’m taking most of my information off these companies’ websites where pricing is advertised, though special mention should go to Gamma Ray Digital for taking the initiative and providing me with a PDF of their prices, they are very active on social media and usually respond to questions extremely quickly.  There seems to be an option for everyone with them (and they have a reputation as the best scanning house on the East Coast, if not the country). I’ve put up a few different options but it’s based mostly on what options personally interest me.

Some things of which to take note:
-Cinelab has some pretty good pricing, cutting some especially good deals for students that get the develop & scan package.  However, I know from experience that they are not very communicative and can make mistakes scanning.  I’m also hearing a lot from people that they take a long time to scan the film; a good problem I suppose, meaning that just that many people are shooting it!  A lot of people will have their film developed at Cinelab and sent to Gamma Ray Digital for scanning, as they are both located in Massachusetts about an hour away from each other.  That said, it’s still in the same ballpark price-wise as the package deals I listed.
-The Film Photography Project just recently announced their scanning service and it seems like a crazy good deal: $20 to scan any roll of super 8 film whether in HD, 2K, or 4K (that’s not advertised but I have confirmation from Michael Raso).  I think I’m going to give them a try next time.
-There was a film lab in Denver called Cinemalab, maybe 2 hours away from me but unfortunately it closed down between my first and second projects.  One of Cinemalab’s former employees, Nicholas Coyle, inherited some of their equipment and has built his own scanner from that, and can offer 2K super 8 scans at $15 a roll.  He also pointed out to me that one doesn’t necessarily need to get Spectra’s prep for telecine, so for one roll of film without it, that’s only $17, and that makes it probably the most affordable option, though quality may vary.

Help me get to film festivals

Hey guys, I started a Gofundme.com page.  I’m about to go to Wales for a film festival and I’d appreciate any help you can give me to cover expenses, and help me get to further festivals in the future.  If you can donate anything, I’d be grateful.  The only reward I can give is to continue to post updates from my travels, as I’ve done so far.  Please click here to help me out.

Overwhelming Majority is an experimental documentary short dealing with issues of loneliness, alienation, and social anxiety. A young woman recounts a suicide attempt, muses on the nature of connectedness, and ultimately yearns for understanding.

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, 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 Rejection, 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

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?

The Lights of Seven Falls

Video

Last summer, some friends gave me their old camera. It was a Minolta X-700 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens. With that camera and a few rolls of film I had in my fridge, I made this.

I feel truly blessed that people bring me things I can use. I’ve been given six cameras, and bought several more over the last few years, none of them costing more than a couple good SD cards.

While it frustrates me to no end that it seems like no one cares about shooting film anymore, I’m happy that I can provide a recycling service for people looking to offload (what to them is) junk. If you are thinking of getting rid of something like an old camera, please don’t just toss it – if nothing else you could donate it to your local thrift store, but ask around first, because someone you know might appreciate and use it.