HMD Report: London, England
Guy Edmonds’ report from London:
We’re still collecting ourselves after a bumper attendance of 79 stampeded through our door on Saturday, more than doubling our 2004 tally. Many thanks to Andreas Busche for cranking up the publicity machine to such a pitch. We benefited mostly from features, not just listings, in The Guardian Guide and Time Out but the newly-tapped resource of local area internet newsgroups also played a part. Both Andreas and I also did radio spots
The sheer weight of numbers meant I saw far less films than I did two years ago and our set up here with a number of small spaces rather than one large one (a makeshift corridor cinema for super and standard 8 and our 24 seat cinema for the 16mm) means no one is able to see everything, with some of the screens running simultaneously at times, but at least everyone who brings a film gets to see it. Therefore my report on what turned up is necessarily a little cobbled together.
A friend, Martin Pickles, sent me a precis of what he saw in the 16mm room:
“I saw three black and white 16mm films from the 1930s which were found footage by one filmmaker. The first had a Royal parade (a Coronation?) going along what looked like Shaftesbury Avenue. Then there was footage from the west coast of Scotland, including Mull, Iona and Oban with footage on a small ship, with well-dressed people playing games on deck. There was some colour footage of a Presbyterian gathering, which showed lots of young people having pillow fights and three legged races on a lawn.
“Then there was some colour 16mm from 1952 shot in Dorset with the filmmaker present (an older man with beard, white hair and glasses). He showed a house party full of young people (colour), young people on a beach, a walk round Avebury etc. There was also black and white footage of the house opposite him in Streatham being built. There was also b&w footage of the filmmaker cutting his 21st birthday cake.”
Ronald Grant, projecting the 16mm, said that the Presbytery footage was his favourite because it showed all sorts of hilarious group gymnastics by otherwise staid 1930s adults, which also jumped from black and white to colour within the same scene. I’m going to get in touch with the contributor and offer a transfer of this so hopefully I’ll get to see it myself soon – at the moment it sounds like our best candidate for the Best of HMD DVD.
In screen two we had a huge variety of material, from the avant garde (a woman who had in exemplary anti-preservation fashion hung her film in tree to let the sap drop on it and then buried it in the ground; another woman who had footage of a Fluxus happening in the 1970s) to the most personal of home movies which required the temporary evacuation of our corridor cinema. The material was not salacious, however, rather the contributor, who had not seen it since she was a child, felt it would be potentially upsetting for her to raise her familial ghosts and so requested this private screening. Other corridor highlights included some wonderful amateur narrative productions by Captain Zip, a movie maker and veteran of King’s Road Punk, some of which have already been preserved on video by The Wessex Film and Video Archive. One family finally got to see the premiere of some super 8 footage that had been returned from processing 17 years ago. In the meantime daughter Matilda had entirely grown up and was able to gaze upon her two year old self in pristine condition and vibrant colour. Another contributor had waited patiently since HMD 04, when he’d heard about the event too late, to bring along his cache of films made by a film industry insider which showed Reg Varney of “On The Buses” fame as well as other 1970s celebs.
A distinct trend visible is that already these movies are moving in to third party hands, with the inevitable loss of context that goes with that. Three of our thirteen contributors were people who had taken pity on the films in junk shops or flea markets without even having the means to show them but had at least started the preservation process by giving them a home and willingly sharing them with others.
As in 2004, Tom Adams of the Imperial War Museum did a fantastic job of projecting the 8mm material and we also gained a great volunteer in the person of Janine Lai who had seen our poster when she put it up in Peckham Library in her day job as librarian.
This is a response from Captain Zip one of our contributors who also includes many descriptions of what he saw:
Just a quick note to thank you for such an incredibly splendid Home Movie Day – which I enjoyed enormously. What a pity it is only once a year. There was such a nice balance of the family and holiday and arty and more ambitious (to varying degrees) films. I had very good feedback from people regarding the two films of mine which were shown (it was so good to see them in a different venue). It would be interesting to know how well my Windsor newsreel copied in the camera that was pointed at it for so long. I enjoyed all the other films on show too.
It was just a pity that I didn’t get to see many of the 16mm films, but I must admit to staying in “screen two” because I didn’t want to miss any of my own films. Charles Laughton was right. All is vanity.
The film about a fly in the beer was very enjoyable. The picture quality had survived so well. It looked like it had been shot yesterday rather than in the early 1950s.
I was amazed by the picture quality of your garden party film (which seemed very well edited-in-camera), especially as you didn’t seem to have much depth of field to play with in what I presume were tight telephoto shots.
The standard 8mm films seemed to run a bit slow in places, so I felt like I had really been to Tunisia for the Miss Cinema 1972 and 1973 film. I tend to run slow in the heat too.
I quite liked the arty films, especially Laura’s water damage film and the shots of distorted reflections of London traffic and split-screen effect achieved by holding a hand-mirror in front of the lens. I must give that a try myself.
I keep meaning to make another in my series of London films, which I started in the 1960s, but can’t quite get motivated to spend the money on film stock when both my fridge and roof need mending.
Even the family footage was a joy. It felt very special to share someone’s Christmas from the ’60s.
I liked the film about whipping (or was it caning?) by the lady from New Jersey. Interestingly, I once made a film with the same plot called Kidnap Lark. I remember she was particularly impressed by my production standards, though I found my Dick Dawkins film a bit embarrassing as the style of humour had dated so much. I was hoping no one would object to what had become politically incorrect jokes. They just seemed funny at the time. But it was good to get laughs from the audience.
I’m still trying to work out the Brixton-Kenya connection in the wedding film. Maybe it was simply that they had their honeymoon there. I didn’t think of anything so simple on the day.
I loved the museum itself too. What a joy to see one of Hepworth’s soundtrack
I knew it would be a good day when I found a 2 coin on the tube on the way there.
It was good to touch base with Dave Wyatt again after so long, he being a chum from the days when I could afford to collect film.
We couldn’t figure out if the 15 inch Pathe disc was a soundtrack disc or not. He thought it wasn’t because it runs at 90rpm, but I pointed out that films would only be two minutes long in those days so it might have been.
Anyway, thanks again for a very pleasing day and I look forward to the
Feature in The Guardian Guide (national newspaper listings mag)
Feature in Time Out (London Listings mag)
2 interviews on BBC London radio
Interview on Resonance FM available asPodcast here.
Museums, Libraries, and Archives London
University of Teesside
Film and Digital Media Exchange
Chain D. L. K.