From production to screenings, the demise of cine film has been massively exaggerated. The process of converting film to DVD/Blu-ray and VHS video to digital has led to a common belief that cine film was dead, but several recent developments have suggested that the resurgence of cine film is well on its way.
Cine film production
A recent Kickstarter project, FILM Ferrania, has been fully funded within its deadline. The project is an ambitious attempt to buy classic film production equipment (nicknamed Trixie, Walter and Big Boy) and relocate it to a new factory in Italy. The Ferrania film was used to record some of the greatest classic Italian films. Directors such as Fellini, De Sica and Antonioni were all fans of the film stock which dominated the Italian market from 1923 through to 1965. The factory fell into disuse and now a group of enthusiastic film fans are bringing their expertise to bear on producing a small first batch of high quality cine film, using the purchased machinery, and giving that film to their supporters as a thank you. FILM Ferrania is an amazing project and has earned its funding requirement. It has begun the work of recreating this wonderful original cine film, as well as photographic film stock.
8mm, 16mm & 35mm cine film transfer
Cine film to DVD and Blu-ray transfer has been the traditional route to ensure that many documentaries filmed using conventional film are accessible to the general public. However, many people like to see the original productions on original film stock and while this is proving very difficult for the later forms of recording such as Mini-DV which were specifically designed largely for a hobby market, the oldest films from 8mm to 35 mm, including various formats of video are becoming not just cult preferences, but mainstream entertainment again.
Evidence of this comes from the recent funding of Jam Jar Cinema, a 42-seater venue in Tyneside which will be the first all-year-round cinema in the area for many decades. The entrepreneur whose idea it was, Dan Ellis, is breathing new life into an old Tyneside habit of basing small cinemas in working men’s clubs and town hall cellars, where children in particular would fund their cinema ticket by bringing a clean empty jam jar to the venue. Because the cinema could get a deposit back on the ‘empties’ the children would be allowed in, and a member of the cinema staff… usually the projectionist’s apprentice or one of the cashiers, would take the bag of jars to a local corner shop to get the money back on them!
Film transfer and film as a socio-economic history
The value of film as a record of history and ideas is not just limited to documentaries – maintaining an archive of film footage is vital to ‘mass observation’ the ability to observe and examine the behaviour, choices and clothes of the general population when they are not necessarily aware of being observed. Social history is often surprised by the evidence contained in old films and photographs once they are transferred to DVD, Blu-ray and digital and available for mass consumption. Similarly the history of film making reveals much about the preoccupations and ideas of people at a certain point in history and being able to share this vision with as many people as possible is one of the driving forces behind initiatives to restore film to its natural place in our communities.