Innovation and Experimentation Pt.3: Film Societies and the ‘Lone Worker’

by Paul Frith, Post-Doc Research Associate on The Eastmancolor Revolution Project

Picking up from my previous blog (Innovation and Experimentation Pt.2, 13 July 2017) which featured the first selection of films from the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers collection to be digitised as part of The Eastmancolor Revolution project, two new titles from the collection are now available via the project website; The Magic Sea (Ron Chapman, 1979) and Where the Woodbine Twineth (Keith Pollard of Five Arches Films, 1984). These two films (see below) represent examples of the colour techniques employed by amateurs working either individually (Chapman) or as part of a larger cine society (Pollard).

The remaining two titles will be made available in the coming weeks. For more information on the IAC contact them at admin@theiac.org.uk or for details on the IAC collection contact EAFA at eafa@uea.ac.uk.

The Magic Sea (Ron Chapman, 1979)

This film gives a clear indication of the technical prowess of the amateur and their creative use of film stock. Shot on Kodachrome, all of the effects in the film were made in the camera, which was mounted on a rigid tripod in front of views of Marsden Bay, South Shields. For each shot the film would first be exposed through a red filter, back-wound and re-exposed twice more with a green and then a blue filter. This was made possible by the film being on spools, unlike the super-8 cassette which could only be back-wound to provide a short dissolve. By this method, as moving subjects, waves, seagulls and clouds show tricolour effects whereas the static coastline is rendered immovable, thereby providing a blend of psychedelic colour against natural backgrounds.

Where the Woodbine Twineth (Keith Pollard of Five Arches Films, 1984)

The 1984 Movie Maker Ten Best winner of Best Film and Best Colour Photography, Where the Woodbine Twineth is one of the few competition winners to be shot on Eastmancolor negative. Film societies such as Five Arches Films and Finchley Cine Society worked as film units in much a similar way to the professionals, with crews big enough to effectively recreate the period settings and costumes such as those seen in Where the Woodbine Twineth. The film demonstrates how amateur film societies, who had the resources many ‘lone workers’ did not have at their disposal, made every effort to replicate the production values of the professionals. This included the use of the more expensive Eastmancolor stock which, by 1984, provided an emulsion and speed that allowed the amateur to produce the type of high quality images as seen in Pollard’s film; here, costumes and exteriors benefit enormously from the process.

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