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I love Super 8 

Pose brings Madden-Hagen back to old-fashioned tech

A couple of weeks ago we hauled a bunch of stuff down to the flea market in a bid to clean up our apartment. One of the harder choices were two old 8mm projectors we had collected through the years. They were a bit dodgy working-wise but so well made, so aesthetically pleasing to look at it didn’t matter. Their lifespan extended well past their obsolescence as exquisitely sculpted pieces of fine craftsmanship. Lots of people were intrigued by the projectors, and we listened to parents try to explain to their kids, that once, home movies were on film, and you ran it through this machine and projected them on the wall. The kids looked on, slightly confused but mostly bored. This was not an XBox.

click to enlarge super8camera.jpg
Coming up this fall I’ll be tackling a new short film called Pose, through the filmmaker in residence program at the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative. When I first conceived of making a film about nude modelling, I knew I wanted to incorporate Super 8 film into the process. It’s so intimate, so organic and has always opened up a side of me as filmmaker that is more personal and vulnerable. And yes, it’s still available and in wide use around the world.

The first time I shot a complete film in Super 8 was in 2005 during the Attack of the 50ft Reels program at the Atlantic Film Festival. The task---take a 50ft cartridge of Super 8 (about three and a half minutes of footage) and go out and shoot a narrative film in-camera over two days. In-camera means no editing and there’s no ability to shift the timeline. What you shot was what you got. Would it make sense?

No easy feat, really. It meant the concept had to be planned in advance, if I made a mistake I had to live with it, and if I ran out of film before I reached the end---well, tough. I decided to shoot the annual Terry Fox Run and wanted to try time lapse which some Super 8 cameras are capable of. Time lapse is basically taking a single frame of film or a photo at set intervals over a period of time. When all those little frames are played back at regular speed an entire afternoon can be boiled down to three minutes of action. Afterward, I created a soundtrack from memory and the processed film and CD were screened for the first time together in front of an audience at the Atlantic Film Festival.

In the end, the film turned out really well. Way beyond my expectations and my passion for Super 8 was born. What I really loved about it was the spontaneity, the single vision, the way I could conceive and shoot and produce a finished film without years of development, production and distribution that go along with bigger films. I realized that just because the process was so simple didn’t mean it wouldn’t tell a story and convey a message to the audience. It forced me to think on my feet---and create as I went---and sometimes I think that is a great way to flex the creative muscle.

Keeping all of this mind, back now to the Pose project. Once again, I plan to shoot in Super 8 using time lapse and slow motion (over cranking) to tell the story. After a few recent films following the traditional production timeline, I’m excited to get spontaneous again and create on the fly. Next blog, I’ll talk a bit more about how I plan to use Super 8 film. If you’re also a fan of Super 8, please join in the discussion; share your films, or tips for shooting.

Oh yeah, we sold the old projectors. They went to a good home.

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