Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

Habeus Cinematicus?

You know how sometimes you can get something that you may not know the significance of until it becomes valuable? Well, I found something tonight that I have had for years, but because it wasn't a particularly important item when I got it I promptly at the time forgotten about it.

whosamama is clearing out the basement to make room for work that needs to be done down there, and is going through everything in preparation for a yard sale as well. I ended up finding myself going through a bunch of old books - three voracious readers populated the household, and a strange mix of genres that represents the tastes of all three of us plus the phases that we went through over time - old games and knick knacks...

...and two videotapes surfaced, one titled "Films and Videos" and the other "Cappuccino." "Films and Videos" was definitely my handwriting, and "Cappuccino" was an untidy scrawl that I once had known all too well.

These were tapes of some of my early college work.


I was eager to check them out, but unfortunately the television isn't where it belongs at the house, so I brought the tapes home with me. When I first put them in, I found to my horror that they seemed to have been erased, but I could still hear the sound. When I fast-forwarded, however, the picture flickered in. When I played it at double speed, the picture was perfect. I put in another tape and got the same result. This means that the VCR is now shot. While I really liked this VCR (it was a super fancy $400 machine that I got for $180 because of a loophole in Circuit City's sale policy - one of the advantages of educated shopping) and was basically the height of VHS technology for its time, I know I can replace it for a rather minimal sum... and to be frank, I'd rather lose the VCR than what's on this tape.

However, this means that I can't watch these tapes here at home. We have a VCR at work, so I'm taking them in tomorrow.

Now, I know some of what's on these tapes, but not everything. "Cappuccino" was the working title of Sal's Café, a black and white 16mm feature length sound film, and this tape was most of the assembled footage from that disaster videotaped off of a Steinbeck editing table because that was the only way we had at the time to get the sound as well as we never got a married print of this (the sound was on a separate strip of mag stock). This means that the sound is awful, the picture is fuzzy and you can sometimes hear people moving in the room. This was only so that we could have something to take home and watch while working on the film, but work on the film kind of ended abruptly when the film footage disappeared (I know where it was now, but I still don't know why some people did what they did). Anyway, I don't really care about any of this, as the project was a mess that I really don't need to revisit for a myriad of reasons.

However, at the time that the tape was made, since we were going to be recording the Sal's Café footage, we also recorded a short black and white 16mm sound project we did called Habeus Corpus, which I know is on this tape because that was the dialogue I heard when I popped in the first tape. Now this is one of the films I really wanted to get back from Jonathan when I went back to school, but it became clear as time went on that he had lost all the original film footage. To have this little number on tape, though, is wonderful. I had such a great time on this one, and the short itself is really funny. I'm so happy to have this. Yes, I was quite aware that Habeus Corpus is the name of the film depicted in The Player. We do something a little different with the title, though.

I have no idea what else is on "Films and Videos," but what I could see on the tape showed me that A Day in the Life of a Living Television, an 8mm project that was the first actual celluloid film project that I ever worked on - there were three of us, Trian (who I most recently tapped for the bat special effects on Nocturno), Zamir (who I really would like to find out what happened to) and myself. We played all the roles as well as shooting and editing the film - which means I'll see an 18 year old me tomorrow. Yikes. This project was also one of the few times I've worked in color; I have nothing against color, but it used to be pretty expensive... and black and white always gave you such a deliciously tactile image that it wasn't worth it to pay the extra money for color when we could get such striking results with black and white. We basically took a silly little concept and ran with it, and maybe I just have warm fuzzies about it because of how much fun the experience of making this film was, but I'm really glad to have this too. It was a silent project; Trian took the film to get professionally transferred to tape and then created a soundtrack for it, featuring Mozart's Symphony 29 in A (Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields) along with a few sound effects to emphasize the cartoonish nature of the short. That's the version I have here, so it looks and sounds pretty damn good... although the film is still marred by the fact that for some reason Zamir printed out the intertitles, and he wasn't too good with written English, although his spoken was fine, so they're all misspelled). It's ironic that the one shot in 8mm would look better than the one shot in 16mm, but such the way that life unfolds.

The college had a 16mm telecine, so there is a possibility that some of the other films I'd been looking for may be on there. One of them, Dreams of a Dance, was transferred by telecine and scored by co-filmmaker Khach, whose demo track sounded great but the actual music he put to the film sounded horrific. Regardless of my feelings about the score, I like this film and hope it's on here... even though the music is pretty awful, it was a decent enough transfer of the film. There were two untitled works that we did that were also silent that I hope are on here. I'll find out tomorrow, I guess, but having A Day in the Life of a Living Television and Habeus Corpus in any form at this point was worth the life of the VCR.

There was so much freedom that came with having just those old Bolexes, a tripod and a couple of motivated people who just wanted to make a movie. I always had the tendency to compile temp scores for these films for when we'd show them, but there is really something so exhilarating about concentrating so heavily on just the image while shooting. It really motivates you to try to make it memorable. We came up with little cranes, pullies, dolly gadgets and all sorts of Rube Goldberg contraptions to get different types of camera moves, stuff you just can't do with a bulkier camera. And to just tell a story through images without the sonic element is so much fun, and then to see it projected...

It's been too long.
Tags: cinema, filmmaking

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