Category Archives: home movies

Home Movie Day update

Greetings Home Movie Day fans!

As many of you know, the annual Home Movie Day event occurs each October. Because of a hectic season here at the HFA we will not be hosting the event next month. Instead, we’ll hold an alternate HMD Boston next spring on MAY 6 2017!

May 2017 calendar with Saturday May 6 circled in red.

Details will be announced here on the HFA Collections Blog as the date approaches. In the meantime, feel free to contact us for home movie advice and questions regarding film care for your family treasures.

See you in May!

A baby pulls 16mm film loose from a film reel.

Kodachrome is the color of Home Movies

Today at work I looked at some anonymous home movies that are deteriorating, to decide if they’re worth keeping or not. Since every home movie is different, I had to watch them to gauge their worth – it’s impossible to tell quality from looking at them through a loupe on the bench.

Stack_of_home_movie_cans

This was a box of ten or so 8mm films from the 1940s-1950s, purchased by someone on ebay or something, and then they made their way here to the HFA. The cans have no information on them, although at some point someone, either here or there, put sticky notes on a few that say things like “1950s water skier, horseback riding, football arena, farm horse, snowlice (rabbit kill) spring (family), baseball game.” I don’t know about you, but aside from the “snowlice” (maybe it’s supposed to say “snow/ice”), I didn’t find this a particularly evocative description. Sounded rather dull.

I watched the first reel, which was OK. Beautiful Kodachrome, lovely 1950s rural scenes. People swimming in a lake, hanging out with animals on a farm, riding horses, etc.. It seemed like a family vacation reel. It was nice but nothing special. Then I watched a few more reels. I wasn’t expecting the whole box to be from the same family, but it is. The content is repetitive – spring baby animals and flowering trees, summer at the lake, swimming, bringing home dead animals from hunting, then it is winter and there is ice fishing and playing in the snow.

There are a lot of people in these films – many kids and adults. One kid manages to be the star, though. The house, with its made-for-Kodachrome red doors, was a lovely recurring scene. I couldn’t quite place it geographically – it looks like New England, perhaps Vermont, but could be some other northern spot where there is water and snow and hills and trees.

The mid-1950s Kodachrome film is a thing of beauty. It was a filmstock for all seasons, and this cameraperson knew it. It really showcases certain colors, transforming the natural world into art. Autumn leaves and blue skies, red doors and white snow, blue lakes and green fields. People in the films were dressed like they knew the magic of Kodachrome would preserve their visages for a century in red and black wool plaid jackets, blue cowboy shirts, and incredible bathing suits.

The more films I watched, the more I loved them. Yes, the same things were recorded over and over, but there was a touching intimacy to the films in addition to their colorful beauty. The family clearly loved animals, despite killing many black bears, bobcats, white rabbits, and a few things in between. They kept sheep and cows, dogs and cats, and tamed a deer and her baby (which led to a joke scene of a hunter being stalked by a deer). In one snowy scene, a young boy is walking in front of the house with something white stuck to his chest. Is it the baby we saw in the last scene?  He’s not holding the white thing, though; it’s just clinging to him somehow. The camera moves closer, and we see it is a giant white cat, which then licks the boy’s face as the film runs out. My eyes welled up. In another charming sequence, it’s lambing season, and baby lambs are jumping around all over the green pasture. Then the camera cuts to a baby crawling in the grass, dressed in white, looking like a little lamb.

It’s easy to love a well-shot film. Most scenes were correctly exposed, and the addition of a finger occasionally making its way into the frame only adds drama to the proceedings – who is holding the camera now? Who usually holds it? Sometimes the film is left to run as the arm holding the camera drops, filming a topsy-turvy world, most dramatically so during a toboggan run sequence, sadly underexposed.

To try to explain these films (this film?) by merely listing what has been recorded, which is often how home movies are explained in catalogs, is like doing the same for a feature film. It does not do it justice, and it does little to make sense of it unless you’re opening a stock footage mine. I wish I could somehow add smells to the description – the aroma of lobster cooking outside, the crisp autumn air, the flowering trees, the horses – the film is that evocative. The films are silent, but the sound of the projector is hypnotic. I feel like this is my own family and I feel nostalgia for this life before I was born.

Kodachrome is dead. LONG LIVE KODACHROME!

boy with cat

Photo album: Home Movie Day 2015

Thanks to everyone who made it out for a successful Home Movie Day last weekend! This year the event was co-hosted by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston’s historic Back Bay neighborhood. HMD15 Boston was an enjoyable evening of unique films under a crystal chandelier in the elegant NEHGS Reading Room. We topped past participant numbers and had a treasure trove of great material shared among attendees, including beautiful Kodachrome films of Maine, Gloucester and 1960’s downtown Boston with an amazingly small amount of traffic. Below are some highlights from the evening. Be sure to check out more event photos on our Flickr page.

A special thank you to our host at NEHGS, Ginevra Morse, and our staff of HMD volunteers: Sara Meyers, Derek Murphy and Adam Schutzman.

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We hope to see you next year!

Home Movie Day 2015 is just around the corner!

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HMD 2014

Greetings, home movie makers and fans! It’s that time again and we hope you will join us for our annual screening of your home movies.

What is Home Movie Day? For more than a decade, film archivists and the public have been convening in small spaces all over the globe and gathering around flickering images of times of yore. Grandmothers and babies, now since gone or grown, smile and wave to the camera-person as we watch them through the magical time machine of cinema. Vacations! Parties! Amateur theatricals! There is always something interesting and funny to watch, and we hope you will join us for this year’s event.

This year the Boston area HMD 13 will be held at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston’s Back Bay.
http://www.americanancestors.org/visit


As always, this event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, October 17, 2015
3pm film check in
5pm-7:30 film screening

early film drop off encouraged at the HFA offices in the lower level of the Carpenter Center, Harvard University, or by 3pm on October 17 at NEHGS.
http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/general_info.html#directions

Formats accepted: 8mm, super 8, super 8 sound, 16mm, VHS, DVD, digital files (playable via laptop)

Films will be inspected for damage prior to projection, so please drop-off early.

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The HMD 2014 volunteers

Join our Home Movie Day Boston 2015 Facebook Event Page to receive information and updates:

https://www.facebook.com/events/822016787916611/

As always, more information is available at the Center for Home Movies, found here:
http://www.centerforhomemovies.org/hmd/

In related news, this week we will be participating in #AskAnArchivist Day on Thursday, October 1st! This event is sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, and is an opportunity for everyone to reach out with questions about the archives on social media. We will be anticipating YOUR questions, which you can post on Thursday to the Harvard Film Archive Facebook page! This is a great chance to ask us anything about Home Movie Day, how we process our archival collections, or the most oddball items that we have found in the archive. No question is too big or too small!

Home Movie Day 2014

Greetings, home movie makers and fans! We hope you will join us for our yearly screening of your home movies this Saturday, October 18.

What *is* Home Movie Day?

Home Movie Day is a celebration of amateur films and filmmaking held annually at venues worldwide. Home Movie Day events provide the opportunity for individuals and families to see and share their home movies with an audience of their community, and to see their neighbor’s in turn.

For well over a decade, film lovers, film archivists and the general public have been convening in small spaces in the Boston area and all over the globe, gathering around flickering images of times of yore. Grandparents and babies, now since gone or grown, smile and wave to the camera as we watch them through the magical time machine of cinema.

Exotic and domestic vacations!

Parties, birthday and otherwise!

Amateur theatricals!

There is always something interesting and funny to watch, and we hope you will join us for this year’s event. The Boston area 12th annual Home Movie Day will be held at the Harvard Film Archive on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

11am film check-in noon,  3pm screening

Early film drop off encouraged, at the HFA offices in the lower level of the Carpenter Center, Harvard University.

Formats accepted: 8mm, super 8, 16mm, VHS, DVD, digital files (playable via laptop).  Video and digital versions have a 5 minute limit.  Please cue your tapes if possible.

Films will be inspected for damage prior to projection, so please drop them off as early as possible.

More information is available here: http://homemovieday.com/

Here is our facebook event page.

We hope to see you and your movies this weekend!

 


NE home movie sculptress

local camera shop film cans

If you work with small gauge film, you’ve no doubt seen these local camera shop film cans.

The can itself if kind of generic – blue or grey steel.  The name & address  of the photo/film place is stamped on the lid.

These cans are small monuments to a commercial culture that is pretty much dead in this country as of this writing.  Time was, small camera shops and photo processing places were everywhere.  If you had shot some movie film, you could bring it down to your local photo place for processing.  Sometimes they would process the B&W film in-house, and almost always sent the color film out to a larger vendor such as Kodak.  However, most people never considered who was doing the processing, since it was returned to them in a film can with the name of the store stamped on the cover.

Here at the HFA we are taking pictures of these lids and posting them here for your edification on our flickr page.

Some are local, some are not, but all contained Super 8, 8mm, or 16mm film when they arrived at the HFA.

Although our main goal is to preserve film, we like to preserve as much of the surrounding ephemera as possible because it can give us more information about the film, and is often just plain cool in its own right.  Local film lab cans can help us understand more about the film.  For instance, we are currently working on a collection of home movies from all over the country.  They are not always well labeled, and didn’t come to us from the person who shot them (the collector was buying them on ebay, etc.).   Knowing they were processed at Cheskis Photo Center in Philadelphia leads us to believe the filmmaker lived nearby.

I should point out here that not everyone took their film to a local concern.  Many were sent in small mailers directly to Kodak, and returned in Kodak yellow boxes with the address of the filmmaker hand written on the label.

Local film can lids are no longer being made (we assume) although local filmmakers carry on.  These days, just about everybody sends their film out through a website, and the film returns to them in more disposable packaging.  Nowadays packaging doesn’t tell us much about the filmmaker.

UPDATE: We’ve made a flickr group so you can add your own lids.

 

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unidentified artist identified!

Hello!  We are processing a collection that includes a lot of home movies, which is very exciting.  The person who collected these films bought home movies on ebay and other venues, so their point of origin is sometimes unknown.

The home movie in question today seems to have been shot in the vicinity of Keene, NH and points north, ca. 1931.

Do you recognize this sculptress or the bust she is working on?

(edited, 8/26/14 )

I wrote to the Saint-Gaudens national historic site, and they identified the artist.

The woman depicted is Frances Grimes (1869-1963) who was a long-time assistant first to Herbert Adams and then to Augustus Saint-Gaudens. She lived in New York City, but retained housing (usually rented) here in Cornish as well. She was a Trustee of the Saint-Gaudens Memorial founded by Mrs. Saint-Gaudens after her husband’s death in 1907. I believe she is working on one of the Platt daughters. ” ~ Henry J. Duffy, Ph.D.,Museum Curator

 

 

NE home movie sculptress

Home Movie Day 2013 is just around the corner!

Greetings, home movie makers and fans! We hope you will join us for our yearly screening of your home movies on Saturday, October 26.
What is Home Movie Day?For more than a decade, film archivists and the public have been convening in small spaces all over the globe and gathering around flickering images of times of yore. Grandmothers and babies, now since gone or grown, smile and wave to the camera-person as we watch them through the magical time machine of cinema.Vacations!

Parties!

Amateur theatricals!

There is always something interesting and funny to watch, and we hope you will join us for this year’s event.

The Boston area HMD 11 will be held at SCATV in Union Square, Somerville.

Saturday, October 26, 2013
11am film check in
noon – 3pm screening
early film drop off encouraged, either at SCATV or HFA offices in the lower level of the Carpenter Center, Harvard University.

Formats accepted: 8mm, super 8, 16mm, VHS, DVD, digital files (playable via laptop)

Films will be inspected for damage prior to projection, so please drop-off early.

More information is available here:
http://homemovieday.com/

 Here is our facebook event page:
We hope to see you and your movies next weekend!
Read about prior HMD events:
2012:

Home Movie Day 10!

We’re pleased to announce  Saturday, October 20th, the HFA will host, in conjunction with Somerville Community Access Television (SCATV), the 10th annual Boston area Home Movie Day.

The event will take place in Somerville’s Union Square, at SCATV, 90 Union Square.  Union Square is served by several bus lines, including the 86 and 69 from Harvard Square, and the 91 from Central Square in Cambridge.

Watch our video promo!

Each year we discover new treasures at Home Movie Day.  We’ve seen teenage versions of spy movies, lovingly shot family films of children long since grown, travels to exotic and not so exotic lands, and everything in between.

Read about 2010’s event here.

Thanks to the Globe for Sunday’s article, which you can read here.

Why home movies? Because these little films, yours, or your grandma’s, or the ones you found at the dump, are unique and personal, potentially interesting, funny, pretty, fascinating and strange, and certainly worth a watch. Be the star of the show!

We provide the screen, projectors, projectionists, film inspectors, music, and information about film preservation and home movies in general, you provide the films.

The films you bring can be new or old (but don’t bring films we’ve shown at Home Movie Days past), they can belong to you or someone else. They should be amateur (not mass-produced), but those are the only guidelines.

Check in with your films at 11am
Films will screen noon-3pm.

We can show your home movies on super 8, 8mm, 16mm, VHS, DVD, or other video format.  Video is limited to 5 minutes.  Local film archivists will be on hand to discuss home movie preservation.

Each film must be inspected for damage before being run on a projector, so please drop off your film as early as you can.  If possible, drop off your film at the HFA office or SCATV the week prior to the event.