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HMD Report: Austin 2007

HMD Report: Austin

Snowden’s event report:

The second Austin Home Movie Day event was a huge improvement over last year’s event, which was itself pretty successful! Our event took place at the Boyd Vance Theatre in the George Washington Carver Museum, which is on Austin’s historic and neighborly East Side. The theater is nearly new, and is equipped with everything you could want—cordless mics, video projector,
state-of-the-art sound and lighting boards, lots of folding tables and chairs and extension cords, even a green room where volunteers could put their stuff and go for a soda. We’ve already booked it for October 18, 2008!

Austin was one of the HMD locations that got amazing press this year; we probably owe that at least in part, if not entirely, to our collaboration with the Austin Film Festival. They provided us with a page on their web site, cross-promoted the HMD event with a special “Very Early Works” program of juvenilia by well-known Austin-area filmmakers (sorry, no Richard Linklater or Robert Rodriguez; maybe next year?), and had their PR person, Maria Bergh, work on getting the word out for us, too. We got no less than three local TV segments on HMD (two before the event, one last night during the 10 pm Sports Extra), a nice advance piece in the alternative weekly, and excellent notices from a two of the hippest local blogs. The local NPR affiliate also aired a PSA about HMD that many of my friends and acquaintances heard, although I missed that…and the mayor issued a proclamation officially declaring August 12 “Home Movie Day” in Austin, too. I’m going to get that framed!

With all this press, it’s probably not surprising that we had a really decent turnout. Doors opened at 2:00, and we actually had one couple arrive ten minutes before that, film in hand! At one point, there were almost 60 people in the auditorium—with only about 100 seats, it looked really full in there. Very nice. We got about 75 people all told, and about a dozen folks brought films to show—more than enough to fill the 4-hour time slot we’d reserved in the theater. We had an ample selection of projectors set up—a rank of three (8mm, Super8, and 16mm) down on the mezzanine level, close to
the stage and screen, and volunteer/film collector/local multimedia artist Luke Savisky brought his enviably nice 16mm, 8mm, and Super8 units and set up a second station on the upper level of the theater, near the sound board. We were able to run film pretty much the whole time, with occasional breaks to give out Home Movie Day Bingo prizes (the Spongebob Squarepants and Transformers stickers went first, even though we also had $10 Whole Foods gift cards to give out). We also showed a couple of pieces of video including one of the pieces screened at the AFF “Very Early Works” show—a self-portrait in VHS of a teenage girl called “Florence Vandertramp,” which was awarded the “Keep Austin Weird” prize for the day. It is my new favorite home movie and must be seen to be believed.

Highlights of the screening: Mr. Ramon Galindo, who was the hit of last year’s Home Movie Day event with his 16mm homemade horror film from the 1940s, came again this year and brought more of his beautiful film—scenes of a parade down Congress Street in 1964/1965 (shot from a second-story vantage point, affording a perfect view of all the floats and marchers, as well as a clown who pretended to take a dump in a chamber pot in the middle of the street). He had footage on the same reel of a “night parade” on Town Lake, part of an annual event called the Aqua Fest that continued into the 1990s—a spotlit waterskier strapped to a huge kite, boats lit up with garlands of
lanterns, and of course fireworks all looked lovely in 16mm black-and-white. Lots of oohs and aahs for that. We were privileged to host not just Robbins Barstow and his lovely wife Meg (who were visiting Austin this week) but their son and daughter-in-law David and Linda, too—David learned filmmaking at his father’s knee, and brought his own Super8 “Robin Hood” film to share. It definitely had the Barstow stamp, not to mention some extremely groovy 1970s fashions, and was enjoyed by all! Robbins signed copies of the DVDs that we had for sale, too—as Robbins “Tarzan” Barstow—and I bet those will be collector’s items someday.

There was dude ranch footage from a volunteer’s parents’ collection (the very concept of dude ranches gets a big laugh in Texas, BTW. The parents were New Yorkers who, smitten with the West, later moved to Arizona), and some really gorgeous long color reels of an Arkansas family in the 1970s
with a pretty mom, sporty dad, tow-headed baby, and lots of grandparents and aunts and uncles around, having fun all the time—the guy commented about how lucky he was to have such a happy childhood, and to be honest with you, I can’t remember when I’ve ever met such a nice, well-adjusted, friendly guy. We also got several reels of Super8 footage shot within the last five years—one guy had shots of a flea market in Berlin and a guy beat-boxing on a park bench there; another had documented the scattering of his grandfather’s ashes at sea in his favorite fishing cove in Mexico. (I’m
noticing that the cool thing now is to claim that YOU were the person who bought “the absolute last reels of Kodachrome film available.”) Home Movie Day Bingo was, as always, a huge hit—it got people asking things like “Is that an aunt? I need an aunt!” during film of a family gathering, and sparked lively debate about whether the cake at a christening counted as a birthday cake. People stayed for hours and seemed to enjoy every minute.

This town has a vibrant community of archivists and film lovers, and the local support for this event all came together in a great way yesterday. We got Whole Foods to donate $100 worth of gift cards—one $50 and five $10—so we raffled off the big one along with some copies of the DVD and some gift certificates from Home Movie Depot and the local transfer houses. Raffle tickets were free for those who brought films, $1 for those who came to watch—between that, and DVD sales, and a small sign we put up asking for donations to support next year’s HMD (which netted us a $50 check), we raised over $100 for supplies and expenses for the 2008 event!

We had an amazing volunteer crew, too: Anne Shelton, Laurie Thompson, Leanda Gahegan, Mike Wozniak, Susan Rittereiser, Steve Wilson, Megan Peck, Sarah Callahan, Karen Spern, and Luke Savisky all did a little (well, a LOT) of everything throughout the day to make it possible. Ben Grillot and Mat Darby (and me) were the core organizers for the Austin event—a very very special thanks goes to Ben for putting in endless hours of work on this, including setting up the mayor’s proclamation. This was all AFTER he had been accepted to law school in D.C. and realized he wouldn’t even be here to see it happen! What a trooper—he volunteered at the D.C. event, too, so he got his dose of HMD fun on the day of, at least.

Mat Darby, Anne Shelton, and Sarah Callahan deserve special mention for driving all the way up to Dallas and back (6 hours round-trip) to take part in the Sixth Floor Museum’s Home Movie Day event the day before the Austin one. HMD superfan Jackie Stewart, whom we all know from the South Side Home Movie Project, is doing research in Texas this month, by lucky chance. She came out to both events with her husband and adorable kids, too! Caroline Frick lent her 16mm projectors and all the goodwill of TAMI (the Texas Archive of the Moving Image). In addition to the Austin Film Festival and
Whole Foods, we had generous support from the UT Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record and the Harry Ransom Center, the Austin History Center, and the Center for American History—all of whom will, I am happy to think, be pitching in to support us next year.

A bunch of the volunteers went out for pizza and beer after the event—it felt like as tired as we were and as hard as we’d all worked, we didn’t want it to end quite so soon. Happy Home Movie Day, everybody!