Archive for the ‘For Memories’ Sake’ Category

Launched: The New Self-Reliant Film.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The new and improved SRF.

If you’re looking at this website in anything other than an RSS reader you can probably tell that we’ve completely overhauled the website. Thanks to our wonderful designer friends at Nathanna, we’ve both expanded and simplified the Self-Reliant Film website.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, our new look is based on some new directions for the website.

Today, with the launch of the new site you can do a few things that you couldn’t do before:

 

Sign up for the email list. Our new email newsletter will have exclusive content we don’t put on the blog. We’ll share tips on great films we’ve recently discovered, we’ll provide some extra filmmaking tips, and you’ll get access to see our films for free. The newsletter is only sent once a month, we never sell or share others’ email addresses, and it’s ad-free. Subscribe!

 

Watch our films: Some folks that visit this site do so because they’re fans of our films. Others visit the site because of the blog. If you’ve not seen our work, or you want to see our films again, or you want to see more of them… we’ve spelled out all the ways to watch.

The easiest and least expensive way is to sign up for the email list. But there are other ways, too. Find out more here.

Must reads: Look to the sidebar on the left. These are a few of the most popular posts on the site. Check them out if you’re new here or if you’ve not read these. The Declaration of Principles was the first post on the blog, and it’s still pretty much as relevant today as it was when it was drafted in November 2005.

 

Resources: If you click on “Resources” (look to the upper left of this page) you’ll see some of the more helpful pages we’ve assembled for filmmakers (and everyone) since beginning the site. Over the coming weeks we’ll be updating and expanding these pages.

 

Submission guidelines: We’ve always received emails from readers wanting us to watch and/or review our films. This has been done pretty much catch-as-catch-can in the past. We finally drew up some ideas about how to do this, as seen in the sidebar on the left. We want to review and put a spotlight on great films more than we’ve been able to recently. This is a way to encourage this. Click on the Submission Guidelines and and let us know if you’ve got a film you want us to watch.

 

What hasn’t changed?

 

Our blog still features all the same stuff that we’ve championed and discussed from the beginning — DIY, regional, and personal filmmaking. We’ve moved it to selfreliantfilm.com/blog, so update your bookmarks.

(If you bookmarked an old page from the blog it should automatically redirect to the new permalink structure, but if you encounter a broken link, let us know!)
 

Finally, one other thing that hasn’t changed: This site is still ad-free.

For us, self-reliance has always gone hand in hand with the idea of simplicity. While filmmaking is a vocation that often resists even our attempts to simplify the process of making movies, we feel the least we can do, sometimes at least, is keep our tiny corner of the internet quiet from flashing banners, pop-ups, and google ads buried within our own reflections. This website, like our films, continues to be a labor of love.

We hope you like the new site, and the things to come. If you do, spread the word by sharing with a friend by using facebook, twitter or, you know, by actually telling someone about it face-to-face.

Touring the South(s)

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Ashley and I have been on the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers for a week now. As I type these notes, we are driving on I-55, heading from Memphis to a screening tonight in Jackson, Mississippi.

The program we are screening on this tour have been appropriately packaged together under the title “Southern Stories.” The two fictional films (Gina, An Actress, Age 29 and Quick Feet, Soft Hands) were shot in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the documentary (For Memories’ Sake) is a portrait of a woman who’s lived in a rural area outside Nashville all of her life. The cast and crew for these films is largely drawn from the areas in which they were shot.

Charleston Guest House

Guest house. Charleston, SC.

So, while there is a truth, and a convenience, in advertising the films as “Southern Stories”, I’m also ambivalent about labeling them this way. I have long believed that the South is not a monolithic place, except in American mythology, but that there are, instead, many Souths.

Visiting the three places we’ve screened so far — Johnson City, TN, Charleston, SC, and Memphis — has driven that home in dramatic fashion. I can’t remember touring three cities in such short succession that are more different in their cultural, racial, economic, and geographic diversity.

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SRF on the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

During the month of March, Ashley and I will be screening our films in eleven cities throughout Southeast as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. We will be screening Gina, An Actress Age 29; Quick Feet, Soft Hands; and For Memories’ Sake.

Southern Circuit is a long-running program of SouthArts (formerly the Southern Arts Federation). As described on their website, “Southern Circuit is the nation’s only regional tour of independent filmmakers.” The program is supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with other support coming from the National Endowment for the Arts. To say that we’re honored to be selected and excited to screen our work this way would be an understatement.

Here are the dates and venues of our tour. If we’re coming to your area, come see us. If you have friends in any of these cities, spread the word! We’ll be posting Facebook invites to screenings and notes from the road to the new Self-Reliant Film fanpage.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 – East Tennessee State University – Johnson City, TN

Friday, March 4, 2011 – Halsey Inst. of Contemporary Art – Charleston, SC

Sunday, March 6, 2011 – Buckman Performing Arts Center – Memphis, TN

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 – Millsaps College – Jackson, MS

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 – Clemson University – Clemson, SC

Thursday, March 10, 2011 – Western Carolina University – Cullowhee, NC

Friday, March 11, 2011 – Center for Doc. Studies @ Duke Univ. – Durham, NC

Monday, March 14, 2011 – Capri Theatre – Montgomery, AL

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 – Manship Theatre – Baton Rouge, LA

Friday, March 18, 2011 – Arts Council of Central Louisiana – Alexandria, LA

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 – Lucas Theatre – Savannah, GA

Besides us, this year’s Southern Circuit includes tours by Alex Karpovsky, Jenny Abel, and Kimberly Reed, among others. You can read more about all the filmmakers here. For our tour page on the SouthArts website, click here.

Tape is dead! Long live tape!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

It struck me today that For Memories’ Sake will probably be the last movie I’m involved with that uses videotape. Ashley began shooting the documentary with the venerable DVX-100 in 2006 and, for consistency’s sake, we stuck with that camera through production. All the new projects that I have on the horizon will be shot with a tapeless cinema camera, whether it’s made by Panasonic, Sony, or Red. So tape is dead to me.

Or is it?

One of the issues, of course, about shooting tapeless formats is what you do with the data. While editing with tapeless footage, of course, I keep lots of backups on drives in different locations. But after the project is completed, using hard drives to archive the footage is not a reliable solution. Of course, I’ll confess that this is what I’ve done in the past. But as my hard drives age, and as I amass more footage that I’ll want to hang onto, I know I need to find another solution. Most pros will tell you that solution is (wait for it)…. tape. Specifically, LTO or “Linear Tape Open.”

Luckily, for us Mac users out there, Helmut Kobler recently did us all a service by summarizing how to get started with LTO4 tape archiving on a Mac. Kobler estimates the low-end price tag for a Mac-compatible LTO system as $3300.

That figure may seem like a lot to independent filmmakers. (I wonder how many fewer Panasonic HVX200s or Sony EX-1s would have been sold if this cost was factored into the purchase price?)

In the end, whether to spend this kind of money amounts to questions about risk and value: How much do you value your data? And how much risk are you willing to take that your data might be lost forever?

For me, that $3300 is starting to look like a decent value. Long live tape!

For Memories’ Sake, pt. 3: Organizing Content

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Once I had completed the most basic research and transferred Angela’s movies to video, I had to figure out how to keep track of the content of her collection. Though I only later learned about the importance of metadata and the availability of online archivist classes, I began simply and naively with a system that has served me well. I created a basic Filemaker Pro database with screengrabs from the home movies and just enough data to let me quickly find movies by persons featured, keywords, and/or their location on specific film reels or transfer tapes. I think this screen grab is somewhat self-explanatory:

As you can imagine, the keywords tend to be most useful. The beauty of using Filemaker Pro (as opposed to a library-designed data management software or, even worse, paper-based finding aid system) is that I can create ways to look for and quickly find what I want in a way that make sense to me. It’s also one of the most affordable solutions I’ve found.

Of course, I quickly discovered I would need hard drives and backups of those hard drives for all the data and the video files, and when you’re dealing with hundreds of hours of footage, it’s quite an investment. I’ve found this brand to be especially reliable and affordable. As part of the “best practices” I’ve adopted, I always keep one copy of master tapes and hard drives with data in a separate, secure, climate-controlled location (e.g. not in a basement, attic, or anywhere subject to big temparture fluctuations or humidity). I also set alarms to remind myself to power up and spin the heads on the harddrives at least once every six months. Failing to do so can mean a total loss of data.

**

Even for filmmakers who aren’t interesting in shooting small format or working with family archives, home movies have a lot to offer. As opposed to much archival footage that comes with hefty fees (my searches online yielded rates ranging from $25 per second to $350/second and up), home movies often come free for the taking (with attribution) or for a song at garage and rummage sales. More than that, I believe there’s something inexplicably beautiful in these smaller than life versions of everyday scenes. Maybe it’s because small things distill life to its essence…or maybe it’s because the world seems so big and wonderful when things appear so small. Whatever the reason, if you come across orphan or neglected home movies, I hope you’ll consider preserving and using these beautiful artifacts or donating them to an archive near you.

In the next making of For Memories’ Sake post, I’ll share how I scanned and catalogued 30,000+ photographs without taking too many years off my life.

Still from Angela Singers 8mm home movies.

Still from Angela Singer's 8mm home movies.