Yesterday, a few of us ActArcs volunteered at Home Movie Day – Brooklyn, just one of the many events that happened all over the world this past weekend in celebration of obsolete film formats. The Center for Home Movies has a loose set of guidelines for organizing a Home Movie Day in your hometown, but the general idea is to find a space, a screen, and projectors that work (not to mention a few people who know how to use them). Do a little local advertising, print out a bunch of waiver forms, and voilà, you have a screening event that raises archival awareness through the public sharing of personal histories.
Some Home Movie Days I’ve attended have been a bit on the dry side with more A/V nerds volunteering than audience members watching. And if the footage is silent – as it usually is – a stifling, dead air can hang over the audience. The organizers of this year’s HMD aimed to change all that and held the event at Bat Haus, a converted garage and co-working space in Bushwick, the artiest of Brooklyn neighborhoods. A refreshments table was set up in the back that served donated beer from Brooklyn Brewery and a cornucopia of homemade cupcakes and cookies. While the addition of sugar and alcohol to a public event might seem like a no-brainer, you’d be forgetting how persnickety archivists can be about handling food and drink too close to materials. But this is how home movies were watched back in their day, screened at private parties and family get-togethers, talking and laughter serving as soundtrack; we applaud the attempt this year to recreate that context as part of the event.
Starting at the ungodly hour of 11am on a Saturday, it took a couple of hours for the audience to trickle in, which is just as well for that was about how much time it took to get the four projectors – two 16mm and two 8mm – operating in a smooth tandem. ActArc Dan Erdman showed off his private-film-collector-handiness by leading mechanical team to greatness. Volunteers inspected each film on long tables illuminated by work lights, making for some interesting photo opportunities you can see in the gallery below. By about 1pm, we had a thick, lively audience milling about, folks toggling between watching the films and just hanging out in the back or around the inspection tables. Some even came to the Activist Archivist coloring booth to give some Crayola glory to the film storage tip sheets and Home Video Day postcard teasers. Our immersion-through-craftmaking idea was a bit difficult to maintain in the dark, although many of us did learn that day that using crayons after two beers allows for some interesting art.
If anyone came to this or any other Home Movie Day event, please share your experience in the comments below, we’d love to hear your feedback.