This year has been brought to you in part by the number eight—as in Super 8.
The little-camera-that-could led to another visit to the Atlantic Film Festival in September by LA-based filmmaker Norwood Cheek, who led a workshop of filmmakers as they made music videos for local bands. Also hailing from Los Angeles, the ukulele- and drumstick-toting Lisa Marr and Paolo Davanzo, Echo Park Film Center's operations director and executive director respectively, stopped in Halifax to screen Super 8 clips taken on their recent trips to the Ukraine and other points on the globe, as part of the Pop Explosion in mid-October. They scored each film with live musical duets.
Now, the Atlantic Filmmakers' Co-operative is set to screen its sixth annual Super Duper Super 8 Holiday Spectacular. "We like to do it around the holidays because people are excited and they could use a break," says AFCOOP production coordinator Chris Spencer-Lowe.
Just like Christmas itself, the Spectacular inspires anticipation. The filmmakers and AFCOOP staff don't get to see the film until the public screening. "It's totally live," Spencer-Lowe says.
For some, holidays past have been captured on Super 8. The cameras are easy to use, affordable and portable: your half-in-the-bag uncle or old man could've captured those special festive moments. Spencer-Lowe says, "Super 8 is not complex. Most of the cameras we gave out for use are baby's-first-steps stuff from the '70s and '80s. Everything's automatic—you do have to focus, you do need a lot of light, but outside of that it's pretty easy."
Filmmakers must use a loose holiday theme—a starting point. "Everyone stretches that. You give it to them, they stretch it," Spencer-Lowe explains. As well, AFCOOP deliberately limits the time—about a month from first call—to produce the piece. In fact, he sees most participants leaving the shoot to the last minute, which he likes, believing it allows the persona and expression of the filmmaker to shine through. "They can cut right through to doing it. does import a certain sort of honesty...an honesty filter, due to the last-minuteness—a last-minute honesty filter," Spencer-Lowe says.
Super 8 has long been a part of AFCOOP's programming, including educational and outreach efforts with kids. Internationally, Spencer-Lowe says, Super 8 seems bigger now than it's been in ages. "Some people say it's almost a Luddite rejection of digital video technology—an answer to "Don't use film, use video because video is so much more accessible.' Well, here's a medium that's always been high resolution and it's always been easy to use. And it's film."
Melanie Colosimo, who runs the Super Eight Super Theatre and Gallery in her shared apartment at 6015 Willow Street—where Gallery Deluxe Gallery operated until late this summer—appreciates the connection Super 8 makes with the past. "I look at it like I look at Polaroid film. I'm a photographer and I chose to mostly use Polaroid or medium-format cameras. There's a satisfaction in using these older models over the latest, fastest digital knock off," she says. "Polaroid cameras, and Super 8 cameras, are being found in grandparents' or parents' storage and can be bought for a cheap price on eBay or even Value Village. It's more accessible to people who can't afford a 10-megapix camera or the programs to edit a digital video."
Colosimo launched the theatre and gallery in the fall. She knew Super 8 was a popular format and art form in Halifax. "So far I've had two screenings to packed houses—25 to 30 people at both events, rotating groups of about five throughout the night."
Besides the screenings in the apartment's attic space, the theatre has just put out a call for work to display in the revived Diorama Gallery on its main floor. Colosimo hopes to occasionally exhibit work in the space that reflects the screenings in the attic.
In addition to physical venues, Spencer-Lowe points out, "The internet has allowed the Super 8 artist an even bigger venue than they used to have." With the resurgence of the medium that started six or seven years ago, Super 8 sites started popping up, he says. Festivals grew more popular, while "some have opened up out of nowhere."
Super Duper Super 8 Holiday Spectacular, Tuesday, December 18 at CBC Radio Room, 5600 Sackville (South Park entrance), 8:30pm, free. Super Eight Super Theatre next screening January 15 at 6015 Willow, http://super8super.blogspot.com