Mechanical Analogue Digital (MAD) February 20th 2023 – Come Home Journal #6
For my 28th birthday I asked for money in lieu of gifts. I was a uni student, working part time in a women’s refuge, soon-to-be mother of two, living with my partner in a hundred year old falling down-ish house. There was plenty the money could have been spent on no doubt! However I wanted a 16mm camera, specifically a Bolex and cine edit equipment for sale at $2000 from my university. They were closing their film department in favour of cheaper video equipment. It was a lot of money, still is now, however I managed to raise it (squeeze it), and with it raised my expectations of what I was capable of.
I made some of my favourite early films then – Der Bug (self portrait), Distractions (about a guy who wants to write but can’t), Stars on the Floor (music clip) and Stepford Wives (homage to the 70s feminist horror film, shot on 16mm and super 8) to name a few. But all too quickly the costs of stock and development and lack of access to a lab where I could do it myself was exhaustive. So I too moved to the cheaper version of image making. VHS, Video 8, SD, HD, Mini DV. I hated the way video looked, kinda plastic, but I also loved using it. It was easy, quick, could involve the kids and accomodate short lead-ups, shoots, reshoots and long edits.
The digital edit suite has given me access to layering techniques that, while possible in analogue, would take me eons to complete. I love the reveals I get in the digital suite, the unexpected bumps and swirls that would not be able to be reversed in analogue. With digital I can make as many versions as I can experiment with. Each version refined in different ways, each taking tangents that can be explored and left to dangle. Versions for small sreen and large, versions for longer and shorter opportunities. Each frame speaks for itself in a cinematic language we are understand.
Screens now though are synonymous with traditional storytelling. Yet stories do not always have to have beginnings, middles and ends. They can be moments, connections, fine links or simply a character or feeling. Traditional hollywood movies have made us lazy consumers instead of engaged viewers. Which is great when we need to zone out, but not all the time, surely.
Film artists work for audiences ready to be curious and encourage us to bring our thoughts and feelings to the work on screen. The language of cinema sits silently within us, we read screen without realising. Film artists create experimental works that can leave us with a wtf moment sure, but others can move inside us to live for many years. A frame, a character, a moment of understanding.
The idea dictates the format to use. Straight pieces that envelope the idea with clarity I’d used digital. For ideas that sits just beyond my sight or need the surface to not be clear Id use analogue.
Analogue cameras capture light and digital camera repeat the light. They are different. The blacks are blacker and the whites lift like ghosts from some great beyond. Using actual film that I can touch hold and roll over in my fingers gives me a sense of being a maker, a fine craft and technician. Tactile touch, strong smells, tiny frames of fabulousness.
So the plan is shoot analogue, edit digital and film out for a mechanical projection. So not MAD, but ADM, not as catchy!
For my birthday this year I asked for money in lieu of gifts. To be clear I’ve said no gifts for many years so I’m owed! This time its to fix that same camera so I can get the feel of analogue again. It’s still a lot. They say I am too.
IMAGE CREDIT: Tammy Fence film still by Erin M McCuskey