Scratch n Sniff? [Her Fragrant Emulsion (1987) by Lewis Klahr]

Lewis Klahr originally assembled his 1987 film Her Fragrant Emulsion in Super 8 by taking lots of chopped up strips of film and collaging them together with splicing tape. This roll (about 30 or 40 feet in length) was then copied to Super 8 Ektachrome. Lew then constructed his edit for the film from this Ektachrome material.

Lew made quite a few Super 8 films, and had some of them blown up to 16mm, but felt they didn’t translate well to the larger medium. He told me that Her Fragrant Emulsion is pretty much the only one that he thought benefited from the blowup, and this is the primary form in which the film has been shown.

Here are some photos I took today of the collaged Super 8 original:

Lew used this technique a number of times, including for the music video for Public Enemy’s “Shut Em Down” (!)


Insomnia (1981) by Fred Worden

Thought this photo came out pretty well, so I figured I’d share it here. This is a shot of a section of the 16mm original for Fred Worden’s film Insomnia (1981). Fred made this film entirely by punching holes into black leader. I can only assume that the title perhaps refers to the sleepless nights during which I imagine Fred made this sucker. Talk about an economical film – after punching the holes (2 different sizes, if I remember right), he struck a 7361 reversal print, and there it was: a movie.

Here are a couple more:

Robert Nelson’s rental fees

I had to share this. For a few years, I had the honor of being the only distribution source for the films of Robert Nelson. As nice as this was, I had wanted him to put the films back into Canyon Cinema (which he co-founded), not just to take some burden off of me, but really to make them a lot more accessible. This was finally done, I think in early 2008. Anyway, sometime in early 2007, Nelson sent me this letter which detailed a plan for rental fees for his films and the various discounts for which interested parties might be eligible. I laughed my ass off when I got this.

About a month later, Bob sent another letter saying the films should instead all be rented for free.

(As it stands now, several of the films are available (not for free – he changed his mind again) from Canyon Cinema, with additional ones still available through Bob and me via the Academy Film Archive.)

Creative Soundtracking #2 [Specific Gravity]

Another unusual feat of homemade technical wizardry from filmmaker Standish Lawder, whose coffee can contact printer can be viewed elsewhere on this blog.

When Standish made the film Specific Gravity (ca.1969-70), he only struck one print, and decided to give it a minimal soundtrack by scratching some sound onto the track area of the print (one instance of which is pictured above). This is the only print ever made, and technically the only place the soundtrack exists. When the time comes to preserve this film, I’m happy to say that Standish already gave his permission for me to replicate the scratching on the new prints. I know I could digitally capture the track off of this print and actually make a new soundtrack negative, but that just doesn’t seem right.

By the way, as already evidenced here and by his coffee can printer, Standish was one of the more technically self-sufficient experimental filmmakers out there, and sometime around 1970 or 1971, he even obtained a (real) contact printer on which he made his own release prints for his films. All the original release prints for films like Colorfilm, Intolerance (Abridged), and Regeneration were made personally by Standish on his own printer.

Creative Soundtracking #1 [Muscle Beach]

It was pretty much impossible to get a picture that would really show you the extent of this incredible thing. This is a photo of the original edited 1948 35mm positive optical track for the film Muscle Beach, by Joseph Strick and Irving Lerner.

Those of you that know filmmaking and archiving at least a little bit will probably know what a bloop is. Basically, a bloop helps mask the sound of a splice in an optical soundtrack. Usually you cut a “V” shaped notch in the optical track where the splice is, so rather than a “thunk” on the track, you hear (or don’t hear) a sort of quick, hopefully graceful absence of sound that would last maybe 1/12th of a second, or even less, depending on what size notch, what film gauge, etc.

This thing, in the photo above, has got to be the longest “bloop” I’ve ever seen in my life. To be fair, it’s not quite a bloop, but a hand-applied tape masking used to create a fade-out/fade-in effect on the soundtrack. What you’re seeing above is a small fraction of the actual tape-bloop. It’s actually something like 20 feet long from end to end!