Tag: 8mm

Making Movies: Spiderman 3 – The Black Costume

Back in May of 1984 Marvel Comics released issue #252 of The Amazing Spiderman. As an avid Spidey fan it was no coincidence that Amazing Spiderman was the first comic book I ever subscribed to. But what was ironic was that this particular issue just happened to be the very first one I received in the mail.

You see, this was also the first issue where Marvel surprised readers by giving Spiderman a brand new costume. Something I did not particularly care for. You can check that story out here (A fun read).

The change away from the classic red and blue tights Spidey wore to a plain black design posed a dilemma for two young film makers (my friend Mike and me). If Spidey was going to change costumes then we also had to change as well in order to keep our films relevant.

A call went out to the hard-working people in our design department (Me and Mike). Under a tough deadline and with no money for anything but film and developing it was going to be a real challenge. It was a challenge we gladly accepted. After all, if there was a “new” Spiderman in town then it was our duty to showcase him.

In the end, it all worked out.

Spidey vs The Mime Part 3 introduces the new black costume. It was the only film we made that doesn’t have the wall crawler in his classic red and blue jammies (or in our case, the jeans or red shorts with tube socks).

Our story opens with the Mime returning to town to wreak havoc (what exactly that “havoc” is isn’t revealed). Meanwhile a short ways away our friend Peter Parker is busily sewing his new black costume. Suddenly his Spider-Sense starts tingling. He realizes that once again, The Mime is near so he gets the chance to try on his new duds.

Appearing as Spidey he jumps on to the nearest roof and spots his adversary. Let the fun begin.

Watch the video and see if you can spot the classic 1980’s reference and the flub. They should be quite obvious:

For Spidey’s costume what could possibly be better than a 1980’s black Members Only jacket? It perfectly matched the maroon-colored one I wore as the Mime.

As far as the flub is concerned: did you notice the shadow when Mime was rolling down the hill after being punched over the fence? Yup, that’s Mike filming.

I remember when we first got this one back from the developers and loaded it on the projector up in my bedroom. We must have watched it two dozen times. It was so good.

Now a days, kids can make films a thousand times better with the equipment that’s available. Had this technology and the Internet been around in 1985 I think Mike and I would have accepted at least a pair of Academy Awards by now.

Sure, you see the clothes hanging out on the line. And some shots are out of frame. And sure, Mike’s shadow is visible. But as far as the black costume is concerned, I think we hit a home run.

What do you think?

Making Movies: The Return of Spidey

Friday…FRIDAY…FRIDAY!!!! Did I mention that today is Friday? And what could possibly be better than Friday? Just one thing – a Friday with your friendly neighborhood Spider man. Or in this case, another home movie from 1985 with me and my friend Mike bringing the wall crawler to the silver screen.

I have to tell you, these movies were so much fun to make. Way better than playing Dungeons and Dragons or taking a walk downtown to the comic book store.

I think the cost to film just one of these shorts and have it developed was somewhere in the range of $20. Roughly equivalent to a billion dollars as far as a kid from 1985 is concerned. So for us to forego seeing a rock concert or buy a video game and instead try to make a movie was a huge investment and something that we did not take lightly.

Once again, let me set the scene for you:

In our last episode Mime (the bad guy in this story played by yours truly) narrowly escaped the clutches of Spidey (played by my friend Mike). Mime is now sitting on some steps next to a hill contemplating his next move when suddenly he hears someone approaching. He looks and sees that it’s Peter Parker, a young punk kid from school.

At this point Mime (who does not know the kid is actually Spidey) decides to have a little fun. He hides behind a fence and trips Peter as he walks by.

The “clumsy” child falls and then rolls down to the bottom of the hill. Distraught about his predicament and knowing that the evil Mime has just attacked him, Peter starts crying and immediately runs behind the fence to become Spidey. (Hey, no one said our Spidey didn’t get emotional).

That’s when the fun really begins.

This film would be the first to introduce the special effect of teleportation. It was a technique that we would also use in subsequent Spidey shorts as well and was rather simple to produce. Here’s how it worked:

In my role as the Mime I would touch my fingers to my temples to indicate I was about to do some amazing mind trick. Mike would then stop filming and stand perfectly still. Once I was out the scene Mike would begin filming again and PRESTO! I had “magically” disappeared. We did the reverse of this effect to make me reappear somewhere else. Pretty cool huh?

In addition to teleporting, this short also features a comedic showdown on the stairs and a daring escape by the heinous villain.

One word of caution: much of this footage is out of focus so do not adjust your settings. This error was actually the case when we originally got the film back from the developers. But the story idea is still there.


Some notable 1980’s references:

1. You’ve just got to love Spidey’s summertime costume. A red shirt/shorts combination with red mittens for gloves. Believe it or not, Mike’s “Coke is It” red t-shirt was all the rage back then. This was the logo used most by Coca-Cola back in the mid 1980’s.

2. The classic tube socks worn up to our knee caps.

3. The laundry hanging out on the clothes line. It may seem trivial these days but back then washer and dryer combos were quite expensive. Most families only had just the washer and would hang clothes out on the line to dry in the summer or take the wet clothes to the laundromat to dry in winter.

As was always the case when filming, the challenge in making these shorts was that everything had to be done in one take. Any kind of screw up couldn’t be erased. This episode shows two examples of mistakes. One of which we were able to “fix”.

The first mistake you’ll notice is one scene where Mike was filming and you see part of his mitten filling the shot. Obviously, there was nothing we could have done about that. But the next flub we knew about immediately and were able to quickly bounce back from.

Originally, Spidey was supposed to capture the Mime on his first attempt at spinning the web. I was the cameraman at the time and was pulling on the “web” as Spidey shot it but accidentally let go of it and it bounced back onto Mike’s arm.

We spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out what we were going to until at last it dawned on us. We both looked at each other, smiled and said: “Spidey’s Web Shooter Jammed!”. It was the perfect opportunity to film it again and this time get it right.

Having rediscovered and sharing these movies has been a great experience. I’m even considering sending in my resume to George Lucas. I think I’m a shoe-in for a position in the special effects department. What do ya think?

Have a great weekend!

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.