Monday, October 18, 2004

some backstory...

More than ten years ago, my roommates brought home over 500 16mm educational films from an auction. I had to work and so wasn't able to attend the auction. I had begged my roommates to buy me a film or two - secretly thinking that they would probably only buy films for themselves since we were all broke, post-college students working crappy jobs. I returned from my job and asked the roommates if they had bought any films. They both grinned and pointed at the large stack of films that I had just walked passed (truth be told, the front room of our house was packed with stuff - band equipment, printing presses, photocopiers, old TVs, etc. - and it was easy to ignore the clutter). Excited, we started watching the films. They had come from North Carolina's Dept of Human Resources and covered a variety of topics - personal hygiene, public health, drug abuse, nutrition, VD, etc.

As I watched each film, something inside of me clicked. It was easy to watch these films and laugh at their dated messages, corny dialogue and low budget production quality, but there was something else here that really stimulated a part of my brain. I would feel the same way whenever I would go to the NC State Univ. library - walking through the stacks and randomly stopping and browsing some arcane trade journal. I would study the beautiful illustrations and advertising and giggle at the trade-specific cartoons I would find in this journals. Here was a glance into an alien world - a whole field of expertise that I just barely even thought about and certainly would never consider being a part of. Watching the newly-acquired, yet obsolete, 16mm films gave me that same thrill - an irrational passion, if you will.

So now, I have over 14,000 such films in my collection. Most of them have come from schools and government agencies. Almost none of them are feature films (theatrical films). Most of them are industrial, educational and almost all are ephemeral (made for a specific audience at a specific time). I periodically show the films and I make them available on DVD and online. But you probably already know that...

3 comments:

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