Super Gr8 Film Festival in Harrisonburg

The Super Gr8 Film Festival is scheduled for November 16th at The Court Square Theater at 7:30 pm, with an awards ceremony and VIP After Party to follow at The Artful Dodger. The screening will feature films made by local filmmakers on the magical old Super 8 format. Each film will be three and a half minutes long and in black and white. The screening will last for approximately two hours. There will be a small suggested donation for entry, but no one will be turned away as we are mostly looking to fill all 260 seats of the theater. You may be wondering why Super 8 right about now so I will try to explain mine and other’s analogic love for the format.

Super 8 did not used to be just the name of some motel. It used to be the home movie and amateur filmmaker’s format of choice. Historically, it is the second most popular film format, second only to 35 mm film for still cameras. The Super 8 format was perfected by Kodak, and its famous Kodachrome film stock. Most home movies made in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties were made on Super 8 film stock. After that, film students and amateur filmmakers continued using the format due to its image quality, cost, and intrigue. Today there are still filmmakers using the film, but why you may still wonder.

The design and engineering of Super 8 film cameras is fascinating to me and causes me to purchase them almost compulsively. The way they function stands proudly as a technological achievement allowing people to document not just an image, but the motion of that image. You can pop open the back of one of these cameras and turn on the shutter and see what I mean. While you hear that warm ch-ch-ch-ch sound whirring with profound precision, you see an image filtered, refined and turned upside down by the lens elements; to put it simply it is cool.

Then, there is the magic of watching a film made on actual film. Video is insanely common in our day and age, film is not, and there is a difference. Perhaps it is simple nostalgia, and maybe I don’t like any one format of motion photography better, but I do like them for different reasons. The motion is more jumpy with Super 8, because it is shot at 18 frames per second instead of digital video’s 30 frames per second.

The jumpy look recalls the days of silent films, and makes films made today with Super 8 film seem intriguingly bizarre, as it seems as if what we are watching happened several decades ago. This aspect of the format leads to its continued use by the likes of Oliver Stone for his films: Natural Born Killers, The Doors and JFK. He used Super 8 in certain parts of these films to make them appear dated. Think of the opening credits to The Wonder Years.

Local filmmaker Tim Estep approached me with the idea of this film festival a year ago, and I loved it. So we’ve been collecting old Super 8 cameras to loan out to local filmmakers who want to partake in this extraordinary film festival. The Arts Council of the Valley donated the theater and there are several other donors and supporters of our effort. The Artful Dodger, with its retro vibe seemed the perfect place for the award ceremony to follow the screening. We will be awarding filmmakers with trophies hand made for the Super Gr8 film festival by local artist Elliott Downs, who will also be designing and printing the shirts that will be sold for cost at the screening and after party.

The participants will range from those who will be shooting Super 8 for the first time to those who will be shooting it for the umpteenth time. The result is guaranteed to show a lot of distinction among the different films. The ideas we’ve heard so far are great and we are beside ourselves with excitement as we wait to see how these ideas will translate to the silver screen, and it will be silver, the silver of black and white Super 8 film. Come see it for yourself.

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This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

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