Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Home Movie


Remember home movies, which were silent, short clips that cost money to develop so you were careful what you shot?

In today's New York Times op-ed, Frank Rich writes about the above home movie, Disneyland Dream, by amateur filmmaker Robbins Barstow about his family winning a trip to Disneyland. In 2008, it was enshrined in the National Film Registry alongside many films including The Terminator and the terrific Elia Kazan/Budd Schulberg satire A Face in the Crowd.

Rich was waxing elegiac about a bygone hopefulness in middle-class America, but for me the primitive technology is as much a part of what's been left behind.



Barstow's film achieved Library-of-Congress status 50 years after he made it, partly because in 1995 he added narration to the silent film. Who has time to do that these days?

Every point-and-shoot camera and iPhone
can now shoot video or even HD video. It can be uploaded to YouTube or sent to America's Funniest Home Videos and shared with the world. But how many home videos will ever get to the extended narrative, amateur-yet-polished stage of Barstow's film, to have long-lasting, universal appeal a half century from now?

When I was a kid my dad bought a titling kit and an 8mm editor and at some point we actually spliced together some footage and animated some titles using puppets and magnetic letters. Who has the time for that in 2011? (Addendum: Obviously, faster ways to title exist. I mean, who has time to go back and cut together pieces of video into a coherent narrative.)

As I prepare to move apartments, I am confronted with VHS copies of my mom's home videos of my kids when they were little. Because she held the camera away from her eye, because she didn't have a great sense of framing, because the video kept rolling, a lot of these could use editing. If I transfer them to DVD, they'll be easier to store, but will I ever go through them?

These days my daughter can shoot, edit, and post You Tube videos in less time than it took me and my father to stop-motion a puppet spelling out "T-H-E E-N-D." Which is good, since we ended up boxing up the editor and titling contraptions in our basement with other lost causes. (Barstow's own "The end" is cleverly stop-motioned using tape made by his trip's sponsor, 3M,  right.)

But where will all today's visual information ultimately reside? Will the Library of Congress start archiving Funny or Die videos? Will families spend enough time together not texting or shooting photos to tell stories like Barstow's?

1 comment:

Profesora said...

Five years later, your last question is still a good one.