Monday, 23 June 2008

EIFF Preview: Super-8 Workshop - by Ryan Shand

Ryan Shand takes a look at the Super-8 workshop taking place Tuesday 24th from 10am at the Lyceum Education Space, followed by a DJ set and screening incorporating the completed films in the EIFF Delegate Centre 19:00 ‘til late. For full details and ticket information click this link:

Film festivals are about beginnings and endings, but very rarely are they the place where the messy bit in the middle happens. Let me explain; you (the delegate) are currently surrounded by hundreds of finished films, you might even be lucky enough to initiate a future project over late night drinks in the next couple of weeks, but not many people attending the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival will be leaving the upcoming events having made a completely new film. This missed opportunity is about to be rectified, as Steve Cook takes his Super-8 Workshop out of the classroom and onto the festival stage proper. Cook will help a small group go through the highs and lows of small gauge film production, over one accelerated day. He will provide the technical know-how to practice what he calls ‘Cameraless’ filmmaking, which is also known simply as animation. The fact that the finished films will be projected in the delegate centre to the accompaniment of a D.J. set should get the creative juices flowing in even the most uncompetitive participants.

The last few years have proved that retro attitudes are no longer confined to fashion. Coming off the success of the Straight 8 events, where since 1999 entrants have been challenged to make a short using just one cartridge of Super-8 film, which lasts only three minutes. The resulting silent film is then projected for the first time to both filmmaker and assembled audience, together with their chosen soundtrack, for the ultimate in instant test screenings. It is out of this movement that Cook and his partner Kathryn made their short film Autom b, having only started using a Super-8 camera a few years ago. His passion for collecting old photographic equipment, which Cook describes as his ‘Polaroid and Lomo fetish’, and with his still images for the EIFF and the GFT only partially satisfying his creative appetite, the move into Super-8 production could be seen as his final step towards retro chic.

What’s most intriguing is that this is by no means an eccentric quirk on the part of one individual, but rather a small part of a much wider phenomenon. Only two years ago Super-8 filmmaking seemed dead, as the famous Kodachrome processing plant in Switzerland closed down, and the last of the yellow envelopes containing film cartridges from all over Europe slowly halted. Yet despite this being an obstacle, it hasn’t stopped a surge of activity amongst the people perhaps least likely to have ever encountered a consumer camera that actually used film stock: the young. While we are familiar with the idea that limitations focus creativity in the world of music; The White Stripes being the best example of stripped down contemporary rock, the film world is only beginning to catch onto the possibilities. Time constraints were firmly in place last month in Edinburgh, as the 24-Hour Film Challenge tested the participants to work as fast as their musical counterparts, but Steve Cook’s workshop introduces technical restraints into the equation. In an era of digital film production, where creative freedom can be overwhelming to the technically deficient novice filmmaker, this return to earlier techniques represents not nostalgia, but rather a desire for simplicity amongst film fashionistas. Now, as Cook takes this technical revival from the classrooms of the Glasgow School of Art, to the Lyceaum Education Space, his brand of do-it-yourself encouragement promises to bring together a clash of the old and the new, as old-fashioned Super-8 visuals compete with a contemporary D.J. set; the winner being a re-invigorated grassroots film culture. Book now to get in on the act, otherwise the discerning should visit their local flea market to pick up a dusty old camera for the summer seasons item of choice.

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