WorkPrint — January 2022


IN THIS ISSUE

Feature: New Year’s Filmmaking Resolutions

Director’s Report
by Martha Cooley

Tech Corner: Ektachrome, Then and Now
with Abner Collette

Screen Memories
with Meg Shields

The Shot List
Calls, Grants, Opportunities

FEATURE

Sure, we all know New Year’s resolutions can be hokey, but what this month’s feature boldly proposes is: maybe they don’t have to be?

In late December, we put the call out to local filmmakers to hear what they hope to accomplish, attempt or leave behind in their filmmaking practices this year.

Here’s what we heard back:

To make it into the DUMBO Film Festival in New York

To shoot some of my 35mm film short ends.

Not to delete anything off your device without backing it up! Nocturne 2021 fail taught me this!

To stop diminishing my personal works by referring to them as little projects. I am new at making my own films and it is an amazing process even if it is a bit scary at times as I put myself out there. I am grateful for these opportunities and for the support of this community. This year I am proud to be creating two short films through AFCOOP & one short film independently. 2022 — Embrace the new and own your creativity.

This year I want to finish my ideas before I start a new one. This year I want to work quicker, with greater precision. This year I want to read more books.

A few months ago, renowned actor/filmmaker Koumbie used the phrase “results-based direction,” which I had never heard before, as an example of something one should refrain from doing, and I got confused as I could’ve sworn “results” were the whole point of giving direction in the first place. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and Judith Weston’s Directing Actors was on Hoopla (an app you can use for free with your Halifax Public Library card), and Weston explains exactly why results-based direction can be a bit stifling for actors, and I ended up buying a paperback copy because there are too many things to highlight and you can’t highlight an audiobook (far as I know). So my resolution is to find new ways to make the process easier, more involving, more creative, and more fun for actors.

Doing more editing jobs, so being the best editor I can be! And incorporating my illustration skills when possible.

Talk less. Listen more. But like, actually really listen: To advice, to feedback, to suggestions, to my mentors, to my characters and most importantly to myself and my own instincts.

Complete my first documentary film. Experiment and create my first short spoof silent movie/documentary as part of a theatre/film hybrid project. And go out and see, or stay in and see(!), new works by local and new Canadian filmmakers!

As a person who’s still new to the film industry, I know I still have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to carving out my identity as a filmmaker. My resolution is to set aside time every week to study an artist that inspires me, whether that be deep-diving a musician’s albums while making dinner, looking at a painting series during a work break, or setting up a double-feature for the weekend. I want to push myself to look closely at the artwork I respect and ask myself what draws me to it in the first place.

Create my first short film.

Trying to finish a set design contract this winter and perhaps another after this one is approved, simultaneously trying to finish a script to be submitted for [Telefilm’s] Talent to Watch by the deadline at the end of March.

My resolution is to experiment more and turn more of my ideas into writing.

Be truly/more vulnerable. Take more aesthetic/story/personal risks. Thrill yourself.

To make a documentary on a retired Canadian peacekeeper who deals with his PTSD by honouring the graves of Canadians killed in wars all over Europe and making friends grateful for their sacrifice.

I vow to keep the emphasis on entertaining storytelling and characters, and not become a gear head.

NEW YEAR, NEW WORK-WEEK

As I write this, we are squarely in the middle of another Halifax winter, with freezing temperatures and a snow-storm on the horizon. The AFCOOP office is closed, rentals are on pause and all our events have shifted online (again) again. The pandemic has shown many of us, however, how to work at home—from dining-room tables, couches and beds, we’ve all been keeping the wheels of filmmaking turning in whatever ways we can over this past year and a half.

And we’ve learned the benefits of gathering virtually for GMs, workshops and screenings. What we lost in togetherness we gained in wherever-ness. Folks can join from the middle of their busy lives, from their other commitments or simply from their non-HRM locations. What seemed so difficult—serving filmmakers outside of Halifax—is suddenly possible in a whole new way.

Meanwhile, as I’ve reported on in previous newsletters, we’ve been engaged in a process of rethinking the ways we do things: reducing unnecessary competition in our programs; reserving opportunities for women, non-binary folks, BIPOC, LGBTQ2+ and disabled folks on our juries and in our programs; and launching a new pay-what-you-can approach to our workshops. Now we’re turning our attention to our staff and what we can do to improve the working conditions for the people who work at AFCOOP.

In November of 2021, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report that calculated the living wage for Nova Scotians, a rate of pay that covers the average costs of rent, food and other necessities. This report was intended as a call to action for employers to improve wages across the province. AFCOOP had previously joined a living wage drive led by the Independent Media Arts Alliance to advocate for operational increases from government funders for the purpose of improving wages at the co-op. We did not, unfortunately, receive an increase substantive enough to cover the cost of higher wages and so our attempts at improving staff pay stalled.

In this exceptional time the living wage call to action landed differently. We decided to find a way to bring all our staff pay up to the living wage, even in the absence of new money. Working at AFCOOP should not be an opportunity only open to those who can afford it, and if we want to work on diversity in our staff, paying fair and competitive wages is a foundational piece of that shift.

Many of us have also been thinking recently about the balance in our lives between our roles as creators, family members, friends and workers. At AFCOOP we strive to employ artists, but do they have time to continue their practices? With these goals and priorities in mind, we landed on the idea of the four-day work week. While hardly a new concept (there are many similar organizations across the country who work reduced hours), this is a big shift for AFCOOP. Coupled with the reduced hours, we’ve increased wages to bring all staff above living-wage minimum. In other words, with this new plan we are able to pay staff better on an hourly basis while not costing the co-op money that it doesn’t have. Of course the living wage was calculated based on full-time hours, but the idea is that with the additional day off, staff are at liberty to pursue other projects, some of which may be remunerative (grants, other contracts etc.).

The good news for members is that this means the AFCOOP rental-weekend is now three days long. Renters will be able to keep gear on the weekend for an additional day without any extra charge. Our hope is that this new booking deal will help filmmakers’ budgets go further and allow for the creation of more work.

Whatever your stance on New Year’s resolutions, there is a certain momentum to the turning over of the calendar in this otherwise dark and freezing season. But without the gatherings and celebrations that normally mark this time, the beginning of 2022 feels particularly abstract. This shift to the four-day week is our version of shaking things up, trying something new and continuing to try to improve our corner of the filmmaking world.

Happy New Year!

Martha

EKTACHROME, THEN AND NOW

We all know the look of Ektachrome, whether we realize it or not. It’s an inexplicably distinctive film look that is almost as iconic as what it was used to capture. From classic North Americana family vacation slideshows and home movies, to National Geographic covers, to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon—Ektachrome was there to capture it all. And it still is … sort of.

Ektachrome is not just one type of film. It’s a family of photography and motion picture films that have changed and evolved for over 80 years. First introduced in 1941 for scientific and military use, it’s a natural-looking, extremely fine-grained, saturated (but not too saturated) colour film with sharp yet neutral tones.

Released to the public in 1946, Ektachrome was Kodak’s first consumer colour film that photographers could process at home themselves. It was a game changer! Although Kodachrome was arguably the preferred colour reversal film of the 20th century, with its dazzling and stylized colour palette, Kodachrome was only available in slower speeds, and had a famously complicated developing process that could only be done in a professional lab.

Ektachrome was more natural-looking, with faster shooting speeds, and was sold alongside a quick and easy home processing kit. By comparison, it was a workhorse. For example, National Geographic used Ektachrome only when they could not use Kodachrome in certain shooting conditions. Suffice to say, they ended up using Ektachrome much more often.

Ektachrome shifted the power away from labs and put it into the hands of the consumer. As a colour reversal film, it could be viewed and projected right after processing because the image was already a positive—as opposed to colour negative films, which require extra steps to turn the negative image into a positive one after processing. Now the home photography enthusiast could do it all themselves, and see nearly immediate results.

In the years that followed, Kodak rocked the filmmaking world as well, releasing Ektachrome on 16mm (1965) and eventually Super 8 film (1971). In more recent decades, Ektachrome even made its way into feature Hollywood films like David O. Russell’s Three Kings, Tony Scott’s Domino, and Spike Lee’s Inside Man.

Then suddenly, after enjoying decades of popularity, everything came to a grinding halt.

In 2012, Kodak decided to end their entire colour reversal line of photography and motion picture film stocks. After Kodachrome’s exit in 2009, it was now time to say goodbye to Ektachrome. This was slightly (okay, very) devastating to analogue enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Not only was colour negative film now the only remaining option for colour film under the Kodak banner, but the developing processes for colour reversal film in labs quickly disappeared for most of the Chrome line—out of reach even to those who had stockpiled their freezers. But you could still process Ektachrome at home, if you had it!

Just one year after it was discontinued, in 2013, Eastman Kodak (USA) divested its film business to Kodak Alaris (UK). Nearly immediately Alaris saw the need to bring back colour reversal film for photographers. However, all the manufacturing and developing processes had been completely dismantled. They would have to develop them all over again from scratch.

Kodak considered each film in the now defunct Chrome line for revival. They would all be difficult to revive, but which would be least difficult? Ektachrome’s ease-of-use came into play one last time to save the day.

In 2017, Kodak announced it would be bringing back Ektachrome. After 75 years of playing second fiddle to Kodachrome, Ektachrome had come out on top. Who could have guessed? They released the 35mm photography film the following year in 2018, and 16mm and Super 8 soon followed.

Obviously, it was a happily-ever-after story and the fairy-tale ended there. Just kidding! It totally didn’t.

Now, you will inevitably find folks debating and comparing the “old” with the “new” Ektachrome. You see, the ‘subtle’ changes Kodak had to make in order to get it back on the market have changed the look of Ektachrome. To be fair, since Ektachrome was a family of films, there was always a bit of variation anyhow.

Many claim that the new version of Ektachrome (now only available in 100D for filmmaking) is a far cry from the original, while others are just happy to have a colour reversal option from the Chrome line available at all. Like so many other film-related topics, it’s really a question of subjectivity. The ‘new’ Ektachrome was recently used to shoot Season 2 of Euphoria, and everyone is swooning over it once again.

But one thing is for certain, Ektachrome is still a natural-looking, extremely fine grained, colour reversal film stock that can be processed at home by amateurs or professionals alike—just like the original.

Now Kodak just needs to release that amazing new Super 8 Camera they have been promising us for the past decade, so we can shoot our ‘new’ Ektachrome 7294 with a digital viewfinder!

Happy shooting, everyone!

Do you have a tech question that needs answering? Ask Abner! 

Send your questions to: abner@afcoop.ca

SCREEN MEMORIES

with MEG SHIELDS

Remember that year or so we spent watching films in solitude? Every month, we’re asking AFCOOP members and staff to share a few memorable discoveries that have come across their screens.

Track of the Cat (US, 1954, dir. William A. Wellman)
An unmistakable chill is in the air. And that can only mean one thing: it’s time to cozy up to the “Snowy Western,” a sub-genre that does what it says on the tin … and then some! Set apart from its more heroic, sun-kissed peers, Snowy Westerns came to be around the same time Westerns writ large began reckoning with the ickier corners of the cinematic West. Not all Revisionist Westerns are Snowy Westerns, but almost all Snowy Westerns have a revisionist streak, actively undermining the once-sacred mythos of square-jawed men compelled to defend civilization from dreaded lawlessness. Track of the Cat is one of the earliest, and best, examples of what the Snowy Western has to offer. Claustrophobic and theatrically staged, William Wellman’s film follows the far-flung Bridges family, whose lives are fraying like a rotting rope under the strain of an especially harsh winter, made all the harsher by the awkward, impending question of which adult son will inherit the farm. Roused by the threat of a cow-hungry cougar, the family (including the pugnacious middle son, played with piss and vinegar by Robert Mitchum) must reckon with the threats inside, and outside, their homestead. A product of its time in some ways, and a remarkably self-critical domestic tragedy in others, Track of the Cat is an essential watch for anyone looking to expand their understanding of what a 1950s Western has to offer. Available to stream on Hoopla, The Criterion Channel, and Flix Fling.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (USA, 1971, dir. Robert Altman)
A death knell of frontier capitalism, best washed down with a frigid glass of whiskey and a generous raw egg, McCabe & Mrs. Miller tells of a gregarious, gold-toothed gambling man (Warren Beatty) who goes into business with an enterprising sex worker (Julie Christie) in a remote mining town. When a faceless corporation moves in on their land, the pair feel pressure to act fast to save their livelihood. Directed in a consummate naturalistic style by the great Robert Altman, McCabe & Mrs. Miller has a distinctly Canadian vibe (if the Leonard Cohen score weren’t enough, the film was aggressively shot on location in West Vancouver and Squamish, British Columbia). Beautifully filmed by Hungarian-American DP Vilmos Zsigmond, McCabe & Mrs. Miller consciously undermines its folksy frontier fantasy with a sinister and economically ruthless reality check. Available to rent on Apple iTunes.

The Great Silence (Italy & France, 1968, dir. Sergio Corbucci)
The Great Silence is the ice-covered crown jewel of snow-capped Spaghetti Westerns. A mute gunslinger (played stoically by French racecar driver/actor/filmmaker Jean-Louis Trintignant) finds himself in the middle of a doomed conflict between outlaws and bounty hunters led by the sadistic blackhat Loco (Klaus Kinski). Set in Utah on the verge of the Great Blizzard of 1899, The Great Silence broke with Spain-centric tradition and shot on-location in the Italian Dolomites. Very few snowy westerns feel this snowy. Politically charged and highly regarded for its subversion of Western heroism and the historical role of women of colour within the genre, The Great Silence is an unmissable watch (did we mention it’s scored by Ennio Morricone? Because it is!).  Available to stream on Hoopla and Film Movement Plus.

Hailing from the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Meg Shields has abandoned the Pacific Northwest to return to the East Coast. And with good reason! Meg is helping AFCOOP preserve and promote their historic film collection. When she’s not busy ghost-proofing her apartment, Meg is a freelance writer, avid hiker, and consumer of all things film-related. Her top four films (at the moment) are Re-AnimatorExcaliburThe Devils, and To Live and Die in L.A.

Want to contribute? Send your SCREEN MEMORIES to evan@afcoop.ca