Tacita Dean – Super 8

400ft of Super8 Film on Gepe reel and can.

“Super 8 taught me time and how not to waste it. It taught me about light and how to look through a lens. But mostly it instilled in me an unshakable love of film. Super 8 is the perfect short form. A synthesis of time, place and experience distilled in to three minutes of evanescent magic”  – Tacita Dean.

I have always been a “film fan”, by which I mean movies. I was born at the perfect time to see the Star Wars: Chapter IV A New Hope, the first time around in the cinema, and have now seen all 10 of the Skywalker Saga in a cinema. I saw several films, over the years but the seminal moment came in 1982 when I saw ET. Sounds corny but it’s absolutely true that I came out of the cinema knowing that I was going to make films. I had no clue as to what that meant, but something had changed and I was never quite the same again!

Over the years I drifted from Super 8 to 16mm then to video, then digital video, HD, 4k.. on and on. In my time I guess I have made, by which I mean “crafted”, maybe 50 films, mostly short. I’ve had a couple things on TV, I’ve had a film on sale in WH Smiths, won a few awards, I am most pleased to have won the Oswald Morris BSC award for Cinematography. I owned a small production company at one point, the more of a “job” it became and the longer I spent in front of a computer, the more I fell out of love with it, at this point I haven’t “made” a film for a decade I guess.

I use the words “crafted” and “made” as film-making isn’t exposing a roll of film or 5 minutes of video, it involves editing, storytelling, having something to say, music, narration, titles, graphics – a whole blend of things. It amazes that with all the technology now available, GoPro’s, 4K video recorded onto a memory card at no cost, fantastic editing facilities, (I could now do green screen on my laptop for goodness sake!) that there seems to be less original “content” than ever before. Perhaps the cost of film in the 80’s and 90’s and before deterred all but the most determined to create – at this point I’m not so sure that was a bad thing.

In tandem with movies photography has always been there too, sometimes more, sometimes less, but always there. That too has gone from film to digital, then more, bigger, more expensive digital, a few professional jobs, and has now gone full circle back to the enjoyment of film. If I were ever to make a short film again, chances are I might shoot it on Super 8 – full circle, why? Because I’d enjoy doing it.

Super 8 taught me time and how not to waste it. It taught me about light and how to look through a lens. But mostly it instilled in me an unshakable love of film. Super 8 is the perfect short form. A synthesis of time, place and experience distilled in to three minutes of evanescent magic  – Tacita Dean.

Amen.

Postscript: A couple of nights ago I watched a BBC programme about Tacita Dean, and when the above quote popped up, I had to stop the programme and write it down – it just “chimed” with me, hence my need to share it!

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