2023 Rescue, Repair and Restore

February 2023. The story of rescuing a collection of 70 spools of cine film from 1930’s to 1980’s.

Mid 2022 I was shocked to learn I had damage to my spinal cord in my neck. The damage could be from an accident many years ago but possibly aggravated by the kilos of camera equipment I have hung around my neck in recent years. Consequently I needed to rethink my art photography. I also felt it important to look at any outstanding projects. Therefore in September, I set myself two …and what I thought at the time …very separate goals. I would investigate what might be achievable with the tiny camera I carry around in my pocket! Simultaneously, I would tackle an important outstanding task bequeathed to me by my father, who died 17 years ago.

My father, over his life time, had built up a significant collection of cine films – some his own work, some made with his Exmouth Cine Group members and a few commercially produced. This collection of 70 or more spools was a mix of Standard 8 , Super 8 and 16 mm films, with and without soundtracks. Seventeen years ago these all came home with me along with projectors dating back to the 1950. General condition was questionable as much had been stored in a Dad’s damp outhouse. I had always known it was down to me to rescue this collection and, where appropriate, digitalise and distribute for future generations. I had often contemplated the two chest of drawers full of spools of varying sizes and uncovered and then recovered the heavy metal boxes of equipment under my desk. However, I always seem to have decided it was a task for another day. Last year I realised time can slip away and, if I did not act, Dad’s treasure trove from a past era could be lost.

These last 6 months have been a roller-coaster of emotions – frustration, fun, sadness and satisfaction. I have researched who else may be working on similar tasks or who might still be interested in the cine films. I have investigated where to attain spare parts for the projectors (see above) and spent many hours reading relevant instruction manuals attained from internet sellers. I found in the Netherlands one small part needed for the Super 8 projector. A Eumig fan belt was purchased from a dealer in London and a couple of 1950’s replacement leads were bought from a seller, age 80, who told me he traded to keep his mind active. I followed up a facebook post by Bradford Movie Makers and have watched how their own film ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ has hit the silver screens around the world! (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2022/nov/09/a-bunch-of-amateurs-review-joyous-and-heartbreaking-celebration-of-film-making-passion) What a wonderful group of enthusiastic filmmakers to whom I am offering the comedy shorts made by Dad’s filmmaking group 50 yeas ago. I made contact with relevant museums and archives to gauge their interest, which was positive, pushing me to continue my ‘rescue’ work.

All the 8 mm films have now been viewed, catalogued and are stacked in piles for either digitalisation or distribution to museums. I am now viewing the 16mm films. To date only five 8mm films have been sent to new homes. Two have gone to MACE, (The Media Archive for Central England) and three have been sent to Bristol Archives. I continue to investigate relative costs of digitalisation and I am currently in dialogue with Exmouth Museum about how they might fund a project to enable Dad’s numerous Devon films to be on show.

Films sent to MACE at University ofLincoln 7.2 2023

super8mm Tulip Parade Spalding Lincoln 1978  Good filmwork bands, floats, Miss Tulip, vintage cycles etc

super8mm Tulip Parade 1984  Runs for about 10 mins  a break after titling so not viewed to end.

At the start of this blog I mention two project. Dad’s cine was one and the other was to learn ‘phoneography’. What a journey that has been and I have many miles yet to cover. However, a few days ago, I experimented further with my phone which led to an unexpected marriage of my two projects. Wondering how well my phone might be at videoing, I set it up on tripod and filmed the projected image of a 1955 16 mm film of Exmouth. The result, although a little speedy (I found no way to adjust frame-rate on the 16mm projector!) was a poignant record of Exmouth in 1955. I decided, as a way to gauge interest for Exmouth Museum, I would post it on Exmouth Past and Present facebook.

The subsequent week was my rite of passage into the world of Social Media!! The film quickly had over a thousand ‘likes’ and over 300 comments to which I responded to each one! People were so grateful and many remembered Dad. I have re-established contact with a lost cousin, 3 school friends and my father’s carer. I have had sons and daughters of 80 year old’s saying how therapeutic the film was for their parents and they hoped to see more. The film is below


I was aware the film is running a bit too fast and sort advice. A cine expert in Yorkshire, Andrew at 8mm2digital, has been so supportive. He has confirmed the speed knob is missing on Dad’s projector and suggests I look to find a non-working Bell & Howell Model 613 projector and see if I can buy the speed control knob. PLEASE let me know if you have one in your loft or outhouse!!!

In the meantime I continue my projects. I shall write up more about my phoneography in my next blog. My instagram account shows some of my progress to date. I hope to have more work ready for June, my first time at Suffolk Open Studios. So lots to do !!

Any comments, helpful hints or words of encouragement always welcome!.

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