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Making Movies

The other day, while doing some “pre-spring” spring cleaning I stumbled upon a bunch of old 8mm film equipment and movies down in my basement. You know how you have some things in your possession that are, for all intents and purposes, useless but yet you still can’t bear to part with? Well, this equipment is one of those things for me. Something I should have thrown away long ago but still managed to find a place for every time we moved into a new apartment or house over the years.

I don’t really know why it never made it to the landfill but I would soon be glad it didn’t reach its final destination.

Even though the high tech gadgetry that’s available in today’s video equipment has sent my 8mm camera and film projector the way of the dinosaur, I was intrigued to see what kind of treasure was still being held on those old reels. So one night, I decided to go old school and set it all up.

There’s a certain odor that comes from things that have sat idle in a basement or attic for two dozen years. The smell of which seems to get stronger as you start un-boxing them from the places where they’ve sat in silence. Most especially when they’ve sat in an old attic with the extreme hot and cold seasonal temperature changes like these things did. It tattoos an odor on every piece that can best be described in one word: Old.

I suppose it was sometime in the fall of 1984 when my friend Mike and I made our first 8mm movie. I’m sure we would have liked to have made hundreds of them but we weren’t able to due to the high cost of film and processing. I’m sure a lot of it also had to do with the frustration that went along with making them. Unlike today, where you can take anything you can film and edit the video to death, with our 8mm camera you had only one chance to get it right. Every scene had to be done in one take. There was absolutely no going back.

The movies we made were nothing like the caliber of the Steven Spielberg/JJ Abrams blockbuster from last summer. Ours didn’t have zombies, train wrecks or even aliens. Heck, our movies didn’t even have sound at all. And where as the kids in that movie chose to go the romantic route and even include <GASP!> girls in theirs, we chose to go the manly route and make our movies about the greatest superhero of all… Spiderman.

I like to think that in some way the Spiderman movies we made gave inspiration to the three Tobey Mcguire films and the new Amazing Spiderman movie that’s coming out this summer. As you’ll see, considering the technology available to 15-year old boys, our budget and time constraints, I’d say we did a pretty good job. Especially for only getting one take to shoot each scene.

So let me set the scene for you: The setting for this clip is at my house. Spiderman (my friend Mike) has just returned from searching the city for Mime, the evil villain (played by yours truly). Mime is a Dr.Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type character that transforms from good to bad. He has issues (much like the guy who portrays him).

As Spidey is taking off his costume he gets blind-sided by Mime. Spidey quickly recovers and tries to capture Mime by spinning a web around him but Mime is able to escape and bull rush him.

Spidey uses his super jumping ability to leap onto the roof of a nearby house.

As Spidey makes his way across the roof top and back down to the ground Mime has transformed back to his normal self and makes his escape.

Academy Award of Golden Globe nominee? I think so. And now, without further adieu, I give you, Spiderman:

Some classic 1980’s references: My Quiet Riot t-shirt (told ya I was a metal head). Also, if you look at Mike’s sneakers after he jumps off the roof you’ll notice they are different colors. Remember when changing your shoe-laces was all the rage back in the 80’s?

I found myself laughing over and over watching this and remembering just how much fun it was to make. Mostly, I enjoyed the stunt of having Spiderman jump from the ground to the roof. This was actually a dummy that I had spent two hours making before filming. I tied jeans and the costume together with twine and stuffed the entire thing with crumbled up newspaper to fill it out. For only getting one take to film it turned out ok. It reminds me of something you’d see in an old Three Stooges short when they’d fall off a building.

In an age when anyone can post a You Tube video we sometimes take for granted all the technology that’s available to us. I  can, and have, video taped the world around me with HD cameras. I’ve recorded my daughter’s school and sporting events without batting an eye. The technology is even available on the cell phone I carry every day (just in case the moment strikes me). Back then, it was a whole process.

Our children can have a video of their entire lives if we so choose. A living, breathing memoir if you will. And yet, these half-dozen or so 8mm movies Mike and I made almost thirty years ago are the absolute only recorded things I have from my childhood that are not a still picture.

But thanks to that same modern technology, I’m able to extract these precious moments from the film and put them on to a digital DVD before the oxidation process completely destroys them.

It’s amazing to see just how I looked, moved and thought back in a time when the only responsibility I had was getting up for school every morning.

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About James Wood

Influenced by life, love and the pursuit of the perfect song is what best describes my passion. I’m a closeted classic rock/metal-head from the 80′s who loves to write.

Posted on February 11, 2012, in 1980's, Childhood Memories and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I hope you make another movie with your 8mm camera. Sounds like a very cool find with great nostalgia.

  2. Great post, James, and what a wonderful film! I was reflecting the other day about being a teen in the 80s. If I wanted to get in touch with a friend, I had to DIAL a phone and hope someone was actually in the house to pick up. For two of my friends, it was easier just to get on my bike and drop by.
    For what it’s worth, I have two boxes and a duffel bag that have that moved-and-stored for decades aroma and patina. I also stil have a cassette dubbing deck that I just can’t quite get rid of…

    • Thanks! The whole process of making the film was so much fun. And the excitement would always reach its peak when i called the camera store and they told me the film was developed. It was like a huge movie premiere party at my house.

      I hear you about the phone and the bike. Two things I used constantly growing up. Some things are hard to let go of.

  3. I can’t watch this enough times Jim. That was so damn fun making……..I remember laughing my ass off when the dummy was finished, and we laughed 50 times as hard when we watched the finished product up in your attic. What an amazing find that was…..that old camera was just sitting up in the attic, gathering dust. I have to thank you again for the DVD copy………I just showed our creation to a group we had over 2 weeks ago….and we all laughed just as hard as we did 30 years ago!

    The “special effects” weren’t that different from what they used for that horrible first Spiderman show that was on TV………the dummy tricks, I actually think our string move for the webbing was better than the ridiculous “movie type webbing” effect they used on TV, and our costume wasn’t even that much worse off, than the one of TV back then! So nice to see it taken to the next level these days……..ok, maybe 20 levels above…….ha. But it all had to start somewhere.

    Good call with the different colored shoe laces, and can’t wait to see the members only jacket again!..Oh……and let’s not forget the excellent special effects of TELEPORTING!!!! ha.

    • I was just glad to get all of them off the reels and onto DVD. I can’t stop watching them either. I only wish we could’ve done it in true “Super 8” style with sound. That would have been the best.

      The dummy, the teleporting, the webs….everything was spot on. HA! And let’s not forget the showdown we had on the steps leading to your patio.

      We did it right. We even had the black suit and everything.

      Hey, take a look at them again….I could swear in one episode you’re wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers Championship shirt.. What’s up with that?? HAHA!

  4. Oh Jim, this explains so much.

    Kath

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