Frequently Asked Questions
For Local Hosts
What do I need to have/do to host a Home Movie Day event in my area?
Aside from a venue that’s available on Home Movie Day, you’ll need certain supplies and equipment to do this properly. It also helps to have support from local archives, libraries, film societies, or other organizations—they can help you reach a local audience that already has an interest in regional history, filmmaking, or preservation. Back to top
Isn’t it risky to project these old films? Shouldn’t we require that people make video copies of their films and submit them instead?
Sure it’s risky to project shrunken, damaged, and dirty film. That’s why we urge our local venues to inspect and prep every piece of film before it’s projected. We feel that the risk of damage to films in good condition, when projected with clean, well-maintained equipment, is far smaller than the risk that those films will be discarded or destroyed through neglect if they’re never seen. Back to top
I have equipment and I know how to handle film, but I need a venue. Where can I look?
Any big room where you can pull down the shades and put up a screen will do, so think creatively and keep your eyes peeled. Libraries, community centers, colleges, bookstores, museums, independent movie theaters, and even bars have hosted Home Movie Day events in the past. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to managers or owners of places where you think it’d be nice to have your event; Home Movie Day is a community-oriented activity that can help bring in local business, so there’s a benefit to them, too! Back to top
What’s a good projector/viewer for 8mm/Super8/16mm film?
We fielded this one to Ken Fountain at the Echo Park Film Center: “There are very few projectors that I have not run film through, but it is very hard to recommend a selected few…Elmo projectors would be at the top of the food chain, but they also fetch top dollar. There are a small handful of projectors that will harm film, but for the most part, a well maintained projector with a knowledgeable projectionist is usually what is needed to keep films from being damaged. I would advise anyone looking for a projector to look at what type of bulb the projector uses (some are extinct or very expensive), and how well cared for the projector was.” That good care should continue with you. Once you’ve found your viewers and projectors, you’ll want to give them some extra attention before putting them to use. Toni Treadway offers expert advice on restoring film hardware at:http://www.littlefilm.org/RehabLeaves/TechTips.html Back to top
Nobody really wants to see my dumb old home movies, do they?
Sure they do, otherwise Home Movie Day wouldn’t be happening. Lots of people are interested in home movies—of completely normal people, doing completely normal things—for lots of really good reasons. Home movies from just a few years ago show a world that looks pretty different from the one we live in now: kids rode their bikes without helmets on; men wore hats and spats, and women wore gloves and girdles; public beaches and facilities in the South were segregated—these are just a few examples! Seeing this world in home movies is useful for historians, writers, documentary filmmakers, costume designers, and even the ordinary people who live in those same (but somehow different) places today. If your home movies depict the everyday life of people of color, the differently abled, or others who continue to be under-represented in commercial films and on TV, we think it is especially important that they be shown.
Also, you may be surprised to find that your “dumb old home movies” aren’t like you remember them at all—they might have pictures of family members, friends, or places you haven’t seen or thought about in a long time. We think they’re definitely worth a look! Back to top
What kind of movies will be shown? Is it OK to bring my kids/ parents /grandparents to this event?
Home Movie Day is a family and community event, and we encourage families to come and watch their films together. We have never yet had a problem with explicit material being shown to mixed audiences at Home Movie Day. However, most HMD events are BYOF (bring-your-own-film) open screenings, and many people will bring films they have never seen themselves. For this reason, the organizers of HMD events cannot predict in advance what will be shown, nor can we absolutely guarantee that all material shown will be appropriate for young children or sensitive viewers. If this is a concern for you, please consider taking an aisle seat so you can leave the room quietly if something icky shows up onscreen. Back to top
What should I expect when I go to a Home Movie Day event?
Check your local venue listing for times and locations. Most HMD events are free and open to the public. Most will also offer a BYOF open screening, in which participants can bring in one or more reels of film from their own family collections, have them inspected, and (if they’re in good condition) see them projected on a screen. Some local venues may accept submissions of films in the weeks leading up to Home Movie Day and prepare them in advance so they can begin screening films right away on the morning of the event; again, see the local event listings for details. In most cases, though, the screenings will be first-come, first-shown, and coordinators may need to enforce a one-reel-per-person/family limit if there’s a big crowd. Back to top
The closest Home Movie Day event is still too far away from me. How can I get a Home Movie Day event started in my town, county, or state?
Start by contacting your local historical society, public library, university special collections department, or other cultural heritage institutions and asking them if they know about Home Movie Day. Let them know about our web site and ask them to consider hosting an event next year—Home Movie Day is held on the second Saturday in August annually. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
and let us know there’s public interest in your area—our organizers can add your town to the list of sites where we’d like to start a Home Movie Day in the future, and we’ll try to recruit local archivists and film lovers to get it off the ground. Back to top
I have/found/inherited/bought some old home movies that I don’t want to keep anymore. Is there an archive somewhere that wants them?
The ideal archive home for your materials will be able to provide proper storage conditions, adequate regional/historical context, and public access to researchers. Try sending a description of the home movies you have (provide as much detail as possible as to format, condition, origin, and contents) to archives and historical societies in your region first. There’s a list of motion picture archives organized by region on the National Film Preservation Foundation web site at www.filmpreservation.org
(click on “Community of Archives”).
The more an archive knows about your materials, the more interest they may have in providing a new home for them. If the archives you contact initially do not collect amateur film, ask them for help in finding a repository that does take the sort of material you have. And keep trying! Many archives have only begun to collect amateur film in recent years, and new ones are collecting in this area every year. Back to top
I see home movies selling on Ebay for lots of money. How can I tell how much money my home movies might be worth? Will an archive buy them from me?
It’s easy to confuse historic value with cash value when it comes to home movies. It’s true that some reels of amateur footage have been sold for surprisingly high sums—usually to collectors who want specific kinds of material, like World’s Fair footage or shots of famous people. Sadly, these films are sometimes chunks of larger reels that are cut down into segments because the seller thinks they’ll be able to make more money selling four 100-foot reels of, say, 1960s protest footage than one 400-foot reel—even though that means butchering material that’s much more meaningful as a continuous piece.There’s no easy way to tell if your home movies are worth a bundle of money. Holding onto them in the hopes that they’ll be worth more later is not a good idea—just like good wine, film becomes more complex and nuanced with age, but if it’s not stored properly it can literally turn into vinegar! At Home Movie Day (and in the archive world in general), we feel that some amateur film materials may fetch more on Ebay, but that all amateur films are priceless from a cultural and historical standpoint. Selling films in the collector’s market often means that no one (at least, no one who isn’t paying a licensing fee) ever sees the footage again. And archives almost never have the funding available to buy even the most important films that come up in online auctions. Materials donated to an archive, on the other hand, may be tax-deductible gifts. They also stand a better chance of being preserved for future audiences; of being publicly accessible; of being used in future productions like documentary films; and of becoming part of a larger, richer picture of our past. If your home movies have been important enough for you to keep all this time, aren’t they important enough to preserve and share with future generations? Back to top