A Fresh Look at the Past
We've all seen it before. Television shows like "The Wonder Years" use it to tug at our hearts. Movies like "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" glamorize it and make us long for a time long ago. An uncle of yours fondly recalls doing it until one day he simply stopped - he can't quite remember when or why. TV commercials cleverly try to mimic it to sell old products to a new generation.
What is "it?" Why, regular 8mm film of course. Our parents unknowingly created three-minute time capsules of precious moments of a life that never was.
whole generation of regular 8mm amateur filmmakers documenting our
into infancy. Our first Christmas. Our first bath. Our first steps.
Others went further and captured the moments that would shape generations
to come. Color scenes from a GI's two-year "police action" in Vietnam.
The John F. Kennedy assassination - captured in its horrific entirety
on regular 8mm silent color film by a businessman who would never pick
up a camera again in his life.
No one knows why, but the facts are clear. We all love looking into the past. And no other format of media quite captures our hearts like regular 8mm film. Can you hear the Credence Clearwater Revival song playing? Perhaps it is the simple fact the celluloid is SILENT. We don't get to remember what was said. Only how it looked. So we interpret the scenes individually, within our minds, and fill in what isn't there. And, given the choice, we prefer things to be happy instead of sad. So, we hear the music and watch the scenes roll by with gladdened hearts.
Super 8mm? Super 8mm appeared on the scene a little too late for the wonder years of our past. Created in 1965, it took a couple of years to become the preferred format for the household documentarian. Even then, it still had to compete with the 40-year-old standard of regular 8mm film. More profoundly, super 8mm partially missed out on capturing what may be considered the birth of Generation X and all its various entrapments.
Other reasons for regular 8mm's reigning title? Super 8mm missed the birth of the Ford Mustang (1964 1/2), the Beatles, the Beach Boys, NASA's Mercury Redstone, model rocketry, and countless other "firsts" that would shape the world of the future. Super 8mm film was actually created in this epoch of discovery! It would go on to become the most advanced film system of its day with cameras offering features few 16mm cameras could come close to matching. But that was still 10 years to come. Back in 1964 things were different. There were still riots to ignite. Bigotry to fight. Wars to wage. And yet, we still feel like the 1960's were a fabulous time.
Why? Regular 8mm carries with it an innocence the other formats could not, and cannot, match. It was the FIRST on the scene; having been brought to the general public in the 1930's. It was relatively simple: wind the camera, set the "sundial" to the right light conditions (cloudy, bright, sunny), aim, and shoot. It was fairly inexpensive if used only on special occasions. It was ubiquitous: approximately 50 million cameras had been produced by 1965! And, finally, it was produced during a time of renewed consumerism. All of this led to regular 8mm winning the hearts of a generation born during it's dying days.
of the first quality cameras...
So why the sudden interest in it? I, like many of you perhaps, have come into possession of approximately 35 rolls (1750 feet) of regular 8mm film all shot during the period from 1962 to 1966. A family member brought them to me in a plastic shopping bag asking for them to be converted to VHS. She had little interest in what magic the films may possibly hold. She thought more of just having a look at the old days on her TV when I was finished with the transfer. Of course, the VHS part is relatively simple but the purist inside of me has bigger plans. After we reviewed about five of the films, she, too, became excited about the prospect of seeing them all together on the big screen. So , we made a plan...
For our family Christmas party we plan to run the 400-foot movie reels that the 35 films will create! Shocked looks, hysterical laughing, and perhaps a few sad remembrances will all play out during our holiday cheer. What better time to look back on yesteryear than on the last Christmas of the "contiguous" 20th century - contiguous being my word for 1900 - 1999. Since everyone says the millennium is over, who am I to point and say the Emperor has no clothes?
As for editing, I won't edit too much other than to remove poorly exposed scenes, poor splices, scenes where there is no apparent person or subject (the typical "my kids grabbed the camera at this point" scene), and any others that appear to offer nothing to the overall picture of the times. I suspect that basically the ends and the beginnings of each film will be edited but not much more.