In creating this somewhat experimental, non-narrative video piece, my primary aim was to visually explore the form of the home movie and to discuss the ways in which these amateur documentary-esque products can be used to construct, fabricate, refresh, and prompt memory. I chose to experiment with the Super 8 aesthetic based on its past popularity amongst families who were looking to “document their lives through the moving image” (Wilson 2011). Additionally, I was interested to see how accurately I could recreate the Super 8 look in post-production, and to investigate the qualities and style of Super 8 moviemaking in the digital world.
As Shaun Wilson suggests, home movies fulfil two primary functions, allowing us to first capture and archive moments from our lives, and then to re-experience those moments from our past. In this way, the home movie is able to keep moments ‘alive’ indefinitely, freezing them and storing them away to be viewed in the future (2011). Ross McElwee’s 1993 autobiographical documentary film Time Indefinite supports this notion, presenting a narrative that is largely built around the McElwee family’s home movie archive. In watching through and editing his family’s old home movies, McElwee theorises that he is perhaps “trying to preserve things in the present, somehow keep[ing] everyone alive in some sort of time indefinite”. Efren Cuevas expands upon McElwee’s narration, stating that home movies “provide a kind of eternity to the fleeting moments of our lives” (2013).
This notion of of memory being kept alive by home movie archives is one which particularly peaked my interest, and linking these ideas with those of nostalgia and fabricated memory in analogue film/photography (which we looked into earlier in the semester) led me towards the concepts that would form the basis of this final project.
As suggested by Keightley and Pickering, the camera’s ability to preserve moments in time on celluloid film (and now SD cards) has somewhat established the practices of photography and filmmaking as ones of authenticity, being mediums which for the most part present “recorded fact” (2014). However, as I briefly discussed in Project Brief 2, the memories contained within photos and video recordings should be seen as somewhat fluid in nature, with the capacity to greatly shift over time as our own memories fade. This notion seems especially true in regards to the home movie genre.
In order to address the idea that meaning and memory can be retroactively injected into home movies (and other mediums/platforms) my intention was to create a piece which would present a somewhat fragmented sequence of visuals which I, and/or the viewer could later use as a visual mnemonic device to help shape and revive memories from the locations that I filmed around. In this way, I hope to demonstrate what Wilson describes as memory being “grafted in-between film and experience” (2011). Furthermore, in shooting reasonably uneventful, everyday sights my aim was to collect images which could hold more vague meaning – allowing for less precise and more hazy memories to populate the final piece.
In producing the video I came to a number of realisations which have proven helpful in developing my understanding and appreciation of the analogue workflow and its resulting aesthetic. Firstly, I now have a far greater feel for the shaky, grainy and somewhat more tangible essence of the Super 8 format. Despite not shooting on actual Super 8 I feel as if the shooting style that I had to implement in creating this project gave me a real sense of the raw, and imperfect nature of Super 8 filmmaking. In editing the piece, I came to embrace many of the imperfect shots I’d captured (which in my ‘normal’ digital workflow I would’ve discarded). Leaving these imperfections scattered throughout the piece helped emulate the concrete, unfixable aspects of analogue film.
Secondly, I realised that while my project aims to simulate the visual aesthetics and styles of the home movies of the past, it was still produced with the full intention of being shown on a public, and online platform – both via RMIT presentations, and YouTube/Vimeo uploads. It then became clearer to me that while home movies of the past were traditionally a private medium, today our versions of the home movie are almost entirely based around public/social platforms. We now share images of our home life, our travels, and our everyday encounters with the general public, publishing content that would perhaps have been considered ‘just for friends and family’ a decade or so ago. Facebook, and it’s more visually-oriented social peers Instagram and Snapchat now allow us to share our everyday, home movies like never before.
Lastly, to address the topic of analogue versus digital in relation to the home movie format, I’m not sure whether I can say one medium is more authentic or meaningful than the other. While I was sorting through my own family’s home movie archives (which I suspect were shot on Mini DV cameras) I experienced feelings of nostalgia and memory-retrieval that were similar to those that I felt when sorting through old family photographs (that were shot with analogue cameras). This leads me to believe that in the case of home movies the recording medium is secondary to the the visual content and the raw, undirected nature of the family documentary.
Ultimately I think my final work has been successful in addressing the concepts that I set out to explore. In creating a piece which seeks to assemble and solidify a sequence of memories, I believe that I’ve been able to (relatively) accurately simulate and investigate the spirit and feel of the Super 8 home movie. Prior to shooting my project I watched a lot of Super 8 video content online, and I think this was crucial in allowing me to more accurately recreate the visual aesthetic of the analogue medium in post-production. Furthermore, in forming this collection of sample work to draw from, I was able to more effectively understand how filmmakers of the past (and present) have utilised and explored the Super 8 medium. To quickly wrap things up, this experiment of embedding Old Media principles into a digital filmmaking practice was a really interesting one, and I think I’ll likely return to the Super 8 format in future projects and investigations.
Cuevas, E 2013, ‘Home movies as personal archives in autobiographical documentaries’, Studies in Documentary Film, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 17-29. Available from: EBSCOhost Art Full Text [29 May 2017].
Keightley, E & Pickering, M 2014, ‘Technologies of Memory: Practices of Remembering in Analogue and Digital Photography’, New Media & Society, vol. 16, no. 4, pp.576-593. Available from: SAGE Communication Studies [1 June 2017].
Wilson, S 2011, ‘Remixing Memory through Home Movies’, Image & Narrative, vol. 12, no. 2, pp.3-17. Available from: RMIT Research Repository [29 May 2017].