I shot my film “Deadly Obsessions” on 16mm. The question being why? In my defense for me it was the professional way to shoot the film. I could have shot it digitally, but then I would have been locked into a process in finishing it digitally, and the one thing that concerned me was “obsolescence”. If I shot in digital I would have to post digitally, and I knew I did not have the money for that. I had read and watched “the Blair Witch Project” and other productions like “the Last Broadcast”, and thought I really liked how they were created yet I did not think that digital video was the way to go. Since I shot “Deadly Obsessions” there has been advances in digital filmmaking, and now I would say that if you have limited resources digital is the way to go. But back then when I was planning my film I was thinking of films that were shot in 16mm like “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer“, “Clerks“, “El Mariachi”, “Pi“, “Evil Dead“,”She’s Gotta have It” and even “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre“. I had trained on 16mm, and liked it a lot. I also knew that whatever format is dominant in the future I know having a 16mm negative would be to my advantage. Everything now is HD, and though I shot in 16mm I can scan the negative and create an HD product. This of course is an expensive proposition, but worthwhile, and at least I don’t doom my project to obsolescence.
In order for me to finish on 16mm I had to edit on 16mm. I found an old 6 plate Steenbeck editor someone was selling not far from where I lived. Getting the Steenbeck home from where I bought it from was a herculean effort. I enlisted my Uncle and even the guy I bought it off from to help me get it into the apartment. I already had reel to reel rewinds, and a syncing block, so I could sync up my magnetic track and work-print. By editing on film the big advantage for me was that I knew going into this that the film would be completed after a few years. I had a day job and had to work. On my time off I edited my film. This also provided me enough time to save more money for the mix, the negative cutting, and the answer print. It was from the answer print that I made a copy of the film on Beta digital tape which is where I made my DVD’s from.
Now I’m not going to say that I felt exhilarated at editing the footage this way because of the tactile sensation of handling my film. It was stressful, and I felt like a dinosaur. Cutting and splicing shots and effects was the only way I knew how to finish the film with the budget I had. I occasionally went out with my Nagra recorder and recorded sound effects that I would later lay into the sound effects track of the film. For me it worked. The only sound effect that I purchased was a shotgun blast. The rest of the effects were all created by me going out and recording it. Just like John Travolta’s character in the film “Blow-Out”. I have to say I used everything I was ever taught and even learned a few new tricks. One of those tricks was videotaping my footage off the Steenbeck, and then digitizing that footage into my computer where I edited it on Premiere. It was there that I could go quicker and see several different cuts before I attacked it on the Steenbeck. I do not shy away from technology. I embrace it, and use it to my advantage. I am amazed at seeing how now students use digital editing to their advantage. But in the end editing is editing. No matter what you use and how you go about it the rules to editing still apply, and as always rules are sometimes meant to be broken. The French New Wave and Sergei Eisenstein taught us that.
To sum up. I used what I had. If you have a prosumer camera I’d say go ahead and shoot your film. Do some tests and push that piece of equipment as far as you can. It’s now easier to create your own film then it was in the past. No excuses. Remember how do you want to show this film? There are great digital projectors now that project a fantastic image. Most theaters now do project digitally, so all you need is a Blue-Ray disk and your set, and Adobe Premiere does a great job at creating one, and there is now Adobe Premiere Rush for content creators. Go ahead and use what you have or what you can get your hands on. Format is important, but necessity is the mother of invention, so no excuses. Go make that film.
- A big thank you to my wife Phyllis who took the pictures of me. Alway my best cheerleader and partner in crime.