Last Saturday, Stephen and I took a one-day course on 16mm filmmaking. I’ve always been fascinated by filmmaking and even wanted to major in it in college, but I was intimidated by the technical aspects of it and how unrealistic job prospects might be in the future—also, I have to admit, I was pretty into journalism back then and was sure my fate would be in the publishing world. But now, nearly 7 years out of college, I can’t stop thinking about the world of movie-making (helps to also live in Downtown LA and drive by a film set pretty much every day, which always gets my heart racing a bit). I’ve been reading up on independent filmmaking a lot but I think I just needed to start taking classes so this new pursuit/hobby/I-don’t-know-what-yet would feel a little more legitimate.
Stephen is personally fond of documentary filmmaking and loves cameras, so we signed up for the class together at Echo Park Film Center and it ended up being an awesome day learning the art of 16mm film and playing with a Bolex and a Scoopic (names I know now!).
Our teacher, Cosmo, (in the cool hat) hand made our instruction booklets (top left photo). He wrote, illustrated, and bound all 9 copies for our class! In the top right photo, you can see an open 16mm Scoopic—apparently named because journalists often grabbed these handheld cameras when rushing out the door to get the “scoop” on a breaking story. In the bottom left photo, we also learned how to use a light meter, which, after fiddling with a few dials and holding it up in front of a camera lens, tells you what the proper exposure should be. I really loved using that instrument in particular because I’ve seen it in so many behind-the-scenes looks at photo shoots and movies! (I felt like I was truly “on set” for a few minutes there.)
The first part of our class was spent getting familiar with the cameras and learning how to put film in (which is actually pretty tricky), and then we walked over to Echo Park a few blocks down to film.
Stephen going around the park with the Bolex, which was my choice camera over the Scoopic. It’s compact and the design just looks so classic. How Hollywood does Stephen look here with his camera, the blue skies, and the palm trees? ;)
We needed a subject to film, and found our star of the day in the form of this adorable miniature poodle named Terry, whose owners kindly let us borrow her for a few scenes. We shot her frolicking around the park, running around trees, and then got a few close-ups of that furry face.
After some time at the park, we went back to the film center and hand processed all of the film. It was such a process indeed! There was a lot of measuring, mixing, waiting, hanging, and drying (even outdoors, as Stephen demonstrates). I have so much respect for films made the old-fashioned way now. We actually didn’t get to see our film at the end of the day because it was still drying when class ended, but we’re supposed to get DVD copies of it soon. I personally can’t wait to see all the cute footage of Terry!
The majority of the class felt a little over my head—as I suspected it might—and there were even a couple of students from USC’s graduate film school in attendance, but I’m so glad I took it. Whether this continues as a hobby or something more, it’s funny how when you’re really taken by something, it’s like you can’t get away from it…even years later, it finds you. And for now, I’m more than happy to be the novice in all of this, taking baby steps and learning as I go. I still have so much to learn, so I’ll be planning another trip to the library soon to check out a bunch of books. And filling up my Netflix queue with as many classic films as I can possibly find. And slowly saving up for a new camera. Kind of perfect timing for that tax refund, right? :)