The initial instigation for this blog was my desire (in November 2007) to share a photo I’d taken of filmmaker Standish Lawder’s coffee can contact printer with whomever might find that interesting, which turned out, much to my surprise, to be a decent amount of people. Over the years, as I’ve irregularly kept this blog, I’ve been amazed and quite happy to learn that people actually read it, and that the photo of Standish’s printer remains a favorite search/discovery for people.
The restoration of David Haxton’s Cube and Room Drawings (1977) is one of the very few in which I’ve actually cut a filmmaker’s original. In this case, the camera original is not the same as the “original” conformed printing master for the finished film, which was lost. But the presence of the camera original footage for the film enabled me to restore it using some atypical approaches in printing and restoration.
Here’s David’s own description of the film:
Cube and Room Drawings begins with a view looking down at an angle toward grey paper covering the floor. A performer enters from the back of the scene and begins drawing lines on the floor. The lines are the beginning of a drawing of a distorted cube. The performer leaves the scene. The paper begins to rotate on the floor. As the paper rotates the cube gradually becomes correctly oriented, as if it were drawn on a vertical piece of paper. The performer enters again and draws another cube that corresponds to the perspective of the other cube. After leaving and re-entering the performer draws red receding lines on the floor. He leaves and the paper rotates and the red lines become a grid that corresponds to the vertical screen. The film continues with several additional actions that continue this theme.”
I don’t know who the “she” is in the film’s title, nor what it is that “she” needs to get over. At least as of this writing, I’ve have not seen this film. And yet I’m in the process of restoring it. This has happened more than once (see my post on Gary Beydler and Venice Pier). In my experience of working on the restoration of experimental films, this isn’t the norm, but it’s not totally unusual. And in the case of Mike Henderson’s films, it’s quite common. Will She Get Over It? is a ca.1971 film made by Mike with students in the class he was teaching at UC Davis at the time.
Before I get to this film in particular, I thought I’d say a little bit about restoring something I haven’t seen.
First of all, the main reason for this to even occur is that there is no extant print of a given film. For example, there may only be the original picture and sound masters, or an internegative. So there’s no way to very easily watch the film before working on it. In some cases, I’ve had a print, but only a print, i.e. the film only survives as a single print, and although I trust the Pageant 250S 16mm projector I generally use here for quick viewings, I usually feel it’s just not worth risking it. This was the case with A.K. Dewdney’s film Wildwood Flower (1971), which only survived as a single distribution print, and which I did not screen before using that print as the source for the film’s preservation.
This’ll be a somewhat basic post, covering two of the Will Hindle films I’ve been working on lately. (Also working on Pasteur³ (1976), which will perhaps be covered later…)
I have a particular devotion to restoring Will’s films, for various reasons. One of those reasons is that Shellie Fleming is amazing and an inspiration to me, and it’s the least I can do for someone to whom Will was such an important person. Another is that I really love Will’s work, and definitely think its reputation has waned dramatically over the past 35 years, to the point where not very many people today know his work anymore. There are several reasons for this, which I may get into later or elsewhere, but they have nothing to do with the very high quality of the work itself. Yet another is the nature of Will’s collection – upon his sudden death, a lot of his originals were spread around at various labs, and his materials were in somewhat of a shambles. Thanks to Shellie, a lot more was saved than otherwise would’ve been. Also, a few things turned up at labs, still sitting in their vaults after 35 years. But a lot of it was lost, including the originals for the two films I’m discussing here. So Will’s stuff has always seemed to me in dire need of care.
Louis periodically comes up to L.A., so once he’d decided to deposit his films, he brought them up in a few separate carloads when he was visiting up here anyway.
I had never seen Studies in Chronovision before he brought his films in, but had read some intriguing and complimentary references to it here and there. Once I finally got to see it, I found it one of the more interesting, beautiful, and expressive time lapse films I could remember seeing. And given the fact that the camera original had been discarded by Louis (due to extreme color fading and deterioration), it seemed like an obvious preservation candidate.
As I mentioned, the 16mm reversal camera original was gone, having faded badly over the years. I don’t know for sure, but this is almost definitely because it was filmed on the dreaded 7252 Ektachrome Commercial (ECO) stock. When Kodak reformulated ECO from 7255 to 7252 in 1970, it may have improved the stock for production use at that time, but it would prove devastating for filmmakers and archivists down the line, as its color fades badly, pretty much without exception.
All that otherwise survived for Louis’s film was a 1970s internegative made from the original, and two reversal prints, both on 7387 (Kodachrome) print stock. The two prints were in good physical shape, and with completely stable color. Kodachrome famously – and very unlike 7252 – is incredibly color-stable.
One of the prints was a bit warmer and more magenta than the other. Louis and I compared the two prints on a bench, and he indicated his preference for the cooler of the two prints as more accurately reflecting how the film should look.
Also, the film is silent, so no sound work was needed.
From here, the process was pretty easy. I got the internegative and the preferred Kodachrome print to FotoKem Lab in Burbank, and asked them to print the internegative, matching the supplied Kodachrome print as a reference. In the 1970s, it was common for internegatives (from reversal originals) to be a ‘one-light’, meaning the color correction/timing was already built into the internegative, and striking a print from it could be done at a single set of printing lights, rather than numerous timing changes from scene to scene. This was generally accomplished by answer printing the reversal original to reversal print stock, possibly multiple times with corrections, and, upon approval of the reversal answer print, those timing settings would be built into the internegative. If a filmmaker planned to make several prints of their film, it would be ultimately cheaper to make an internegative, as release prints off a single-strand internegative would be notably cheaper than release prints off an A/B –rolled reversal original.
When printing one of these one-light internegatives these days, they may require a bit of extra timing, due to the changes in film stocks and the fact that a different lab with different printers is now printing it. But generally they’re not too tough to time.
Since Louis’s internegative was made as a one-light negative, a minimum of timing was needed at FotoKem, making the printing job a check print rather than an answer print. At FotoKem, a check print generally means a minimum of timing effort is needed, and it’s quite a bit cheaper than an answer print. An answer print job could require not just a lot of timing changes throughout the negative, but also potentially a few passes of the negative, making multiple prints with corrected timing changes until the results are to the filmmaker’s liking.
Once approved, an interpositive was made from the internegative, and an additional two release prints. This was a pretty basic preservation, as no additional internegative was made at this time. Though it’s always nice to have as many protection elements as possible, it didn’t seem necessary at this time to make a new internegative from the new interpositive. The only preservation benefit to having a new internegative would be to double the number of newly made elements. The internegative otherwise doesn’t offer any additional archival stability (it and the IP would both be the same stock, 3242), and no other prints are needed at this time. Louis isn’t really focused on circulating 16mm prints of his older works, so the three new prints made seem like enough for now. If additional prints are needed down the line, a new internegative will be made from the interpositive, to avoid over-printing the original internegative (which is now, practically speaking, the original).