by Paul Frith, Post-Doc Research Associate on The Eastmancolor Revolution Project
This final post in our series on amateur filmmakers features the remaining two of six titles from the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers collection digitised as part of The Eastmancolor Revolution project (see the previous Innovation and Experimentation blog posts for further details). Both of these films, Nebelung (Gerard Wills, 1976) and Specimens (Roy Spence, 1983), were shot using the professional Ektachrome stock (typically used for television productions) which provided the amateur filmmaker with a faster film speed and satisfactory colour reproductions when printed onto duplicating stock. In both Nebelung and Specimens, colour lighting, double/triple exposures and a variety of other special effects techniques (including scale models) are employed in the creation of a series of fantasy sequences. While Specimens employs these techniques in order to impart something of the scale of destruction left behind by the film’s gigantic creature from space, Nebelung creates an other-worldliness through the use of natural lighting captured during the ‘golden-hour’ of dusk’s approach.
Nebelung (Gerard Wills, 1976)
Gerard Wills worked a language teacher and was an amateur filmmaker for 10 years prior to winning the 1976 Kodak Award for Best Colour at the Movie Maker Ten Best Competition. Nebelung (roughly translated as fog or mist) depicts a German language teacher, who suffers hallucinations relating to his experiences of the Second Worlds War, and creates an otherness, a fantasy of the filmmaker’s imagination, contrasting the plain classroom scenes against the ethereal world of his mind. The shots of the young boy playing on the beach, as the sun sets on the horizon, demonstrate how natural lighting conditions were embraced by the amateur to full effect, providing a warm orange glow to this touching moment. Shot on Ektachrome 7242, the professional stock had an artificial light rating of 125 ASA, making it suitable for sizeable interiors and, with modified processing, it could be upgraded to 250ASA without any loss of sharpness or increase of grain. The 7242 stock also gives a high contrast image like Kodachrome IIA but is not as sharp, lacking in exposure latitude due to the high contrast, thus making it essential that this was accurate. As it was suitable for projection, the original could also be used for the cutting copy.
Specimens (Roy Spence, 1983)
Before becoming a school teacher, and later deputy head, Spence started making films as a teenager, always working within the realms of horror and science fiction. His 1983 Ten Best Colour Photography winner Specimens is a pastiche of the 1950s science fiction genre, in which a mechanical giant from another planet comes to Earth to collect samples of the human race to take back to its home planet. Shot using Ektachrome 7240 (an artificial film stock originally for TV news work and grainier than its predecessor 7242) this is another key example of the amateur cinematographer’s competence as both technician and camera operator. This is evidenced in the details of the scale models, made to emphasise the enormity of the creature and destruction it inflicts whilst in pursuit of the teenagers, with a number of these shots going through two or three exposure in order to add special effects. As stated in Movie Maker, June 1976, (in reference to Spence’s 1976 winner Keep Watching the Skies), one judge was heard to state ‘I gather it was made in Belfast: you could have fooled me, I’d swear it was an ingenious back lot at Universal with a full cast of up-and-coming contract artists.’