Posted by Laurence Marchini
More years ago than I care to remember, my dad bought himself a rather splendid Bell and Howell 8mm silent film recorder together with the associated equipment with which to edit and project the films that he made with it.
Using his new toys, he carefully documented the early years of my life, creating a permanent record of the holidays that our family spent together visiting such exotic locations as Clacton and Merthyr Tydfil.
But it was only when I became a teenager that I realised the full potential of my dad’s new camera. Here was a machine that, I believed, could turn me into the next Orson Welles, creating masterpieces that would rival even the most talented film makers at the time.
So I saved my pocket money for a few months and with it purchased a single roll of film. After loading the film into the camera, I then set about creating a rather abstract film of my twin brother sitting motionless by a river as the camera moved around him in a circular fashion. It was a production that Yoko Ono would have been proud of.
Sadly however, the technology of the time had certain limitations that prevented me from making many more experimental motion pictures. First off, there was the price of the film itself - it cost ten shillings for just one film. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the film itself only lasted a few minutes - not long enough to create even a minor masterpiece. Discouraged by the whole experience, I gave up the idea of becoming a film director and became a magazine editor instead.
Fast forward forty years and I am now the proud owner of a rather splendid Sony digital recorder. I bought it a couple of years ago to record my daughter’s graduation from college. But in the back of my mind, I secretly saw the new machine as a means by which I might finally realise my dream of becoming an Oscar winning director.
After all, the new camera had none of the restrictions of the old 8mm machine. There was no film per se, just a bright shiny optical disk that could record up to half an hour of video. And the disks were so inexpensive that I could make a film longer than Ingmar Bergman’s Scener ur ett aktenskap should I chose to do so.
Sadly, however, the new camera has languished in a drawer for some time now. Oh sure, I do take it with me when I go on holiday, but for the most part, it remains unused. I’d like to believe that if I had had access to such a machine forty years ago, things might have been different, and I would be in Hollywood right now, as opposed to the UK. But somehow I don’t think so.
Because looking back, I now realise that it was easy option to blame the expensive analog technology for my lack of ability to create a motion picture masterpiece. And now that I have the technology to do so, it has become apparent that my lack of creative talent is really the reason that I have been unable to make a really great movie. Either that, or I’m just getting too darned old.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter