The Power of Pro8mm

I spent this last weekend out Left in LA-LA Land (apparently learning about alliteration) surrounded by a group of like-minded film makers at the Power of Super 8 Boot Camp operated by the folks at Pro8mm. In a previous post I chatted about a mini-seminar Phil Vigeant gave here in NYC that prompted me to go out there, so I won't bother writing much here about Pro8mm in terms of what they do. What I do want to say is that the boot camp was an awesome experience and well worth the time and money of anyone who's interested in small format film making.

I'd been to Pro8mm's facility in Burbank before and everyone seemed like nice enough people, but spending a weekend getting to know them was a really great experience. I have to admit that one thing I was a little skeptical about was the marketing push they've had over the past year - I'm always a bit wary of people who want to sell you something and the creative landscape these days is full of aggressive self-promoters who make as much a living putting on workshops as they do practicing their art. This concern was assuaged at the NYC event and shattered by the boot camp. You simply couldn't ask for a nicer group of people to work with.

And generous. Yes, Pro8mm is a business, but as I'm fond of saying, the 21st Century business model is generosity. These guys really want to support 8mm cinema and film makers, and they really are all about their community. After all, you almost would have had to try to not get in on the early-bird special pricing on this thing and either way it was a remarkably low price for any kind of film making workshop. There were 3 days, each with anywhere between 7 and 9 hours worth of lectures, presentations, hands-on, and networking opportunities. And Phil likes deals. There were a number of great discounts on film stock, processing, telecine, and cameras at the event; each well worth the price of admission. 

I had an opportunity to meet a lot of really great people attending the boot camp. Friday, at the Lunch/Tour/Meet & Greet I had the opportunity to chat for a good long time with Ben Kutsko who wasn't able to present it himself, but whose music video for Harper Simon's "Berkely Girl" I've admired since I saw it. Another presenter that I was really impressed with were Maxamilla Lukacs whose psychadelic music videos and commercial short films immediately brought to mind the visuals of Alejandro Joderowsky who I later learned was not only an influence on her, but also the subject of an interview she'll be conducting in a couple of weeks. This was certainly the film geek highlight of the weekend for me. Moy Perez's seasonal concept films were also great, especially the apocalyptic Summer Solstice; and George Manzanilla's punk-rock roots and gorgeous ad work for Billabong were just outstanding.

It was really seeing what other film makers were doing with Super 8 that made the weekend for me. Of course there was a lot to take in from the lectures and I loved meeting people, but it was really seeing this great medium in action that inspired me.

Being a cinematographer of course the films and music videos spoke to me; but I really have to compliment a couple people who are doing amazing things in another area. Kate Headley is a wedding photographer from the Washington, D.C. area and her Assistant, Rebecca, shoots some really incredible super 8 wedding films with her. Branden Lower also shoots weddings with super 8 and is working on expanding into lifestyle subjects. He also had some really good footage and great thoughts on the place of super 8 in the professional world. I'm not a wedding guy but I could easily write a huge blog post just on what I think about what these people are doing. This is not wedding videography. They're not documenting an event here, they're creating memories and capturing emotion. This is wedding and lifestyle cinematography.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the lecturers. Phil Vigeant spoke in several sessions demystifing the camera, photo processing, and the telecine process for his audience; many of whom had never shot a single frame of film before the event. Michael Bulbenko from Fujifilm provided a comprehensive and accessible primer on film lighting theory and practice and Professor Dan Jacobo's "Tao of Super 8" lecture was interesting and enlightening.

It was also a great experience to be surrounded by other attendees who shared my interest in small format film making. It can often feel like I'm a crazy guy out here on my own pursuing a kind of film making that nobody is doing and few people are interested in, so it felt very refreshing to be  among people who love the aesthetic, see the possibilities, and embrace the challenges of super 8 film.

The Vigeants are talking about having another boot camp in the fall, quite possibly in New York. I'd advise anyone who has the interest to plan ahead and take the time to enjoy it I'm certain I'll be there.

(Photos from Flickr users IdlHandz and Svet; used under Creative Commons license)