Are you bored of video? Do you want to shoot on film? Are you broke? Do you have a bathtub?
Although conventional wisdom would have you believe that you should avoid shooting on film
unless you have an inheritance to deplete, Fear not! Shooting on film CAN be as economical as
shooting on video, if you pour your heart and soul into it.
The first thing you need is film stock and a camera. You can get both for under 200 dollars.
Go to ebay and look for the Krasnogorsk-3. This is a wind up 16mm camera from the former
Soviet Union. You can find them on ebay for under 200 dollars. Buyer beware: Unlike the Bolex,
Arri or Beaulieu cameras which are hand made, the Soviets mass manufactured the Krasnogorsk
in one single factory, so you either get a good one right out of the box, or one that needs a little
bit of fine tuning. Either way, the camera is built like a tank, and even if you drop it a few times,
you'll be fine. Next find out where your local Kodak or Fuji vendors are. March into their offices and politely ask
them if they have any shortends or recans in the fridge. Often the big productions don't know what
to do with their leftover films and if there isn't a greedy camera assistant that takes the leftovers they
send them back to the manufacturers. They can't resell used film, so you should be able to get a few
rolls for free. Production companies will also have leftovers in their fridge. I was able to get over
1000FT of film from the BBC fridge via a friend who worked there.
My final film "The Secret Adventures of the Projectionist"
was almost entirely shot on Vision-2 shortends.
But BEWARE! You don't want to compromise your production!
When opening the cans (in a dark room or changing bag) make sure to find out if the film is A or
B wind. If the film is the wrong way around, there is a good chance that it has run through a camera
or worse still, a processing machine before, resulting in exposed images.
Next, go to youtube and type in "Krasnogorsk Loading."
There are a few videos on there about how
best to feed your film into your camera. Take a dead piece of film and practice this over and over
until you get it right. When your camera purrs like a kitten, you're ready to shoot!
So now you've got your stock, taken care to load it properly and shot your film. Your local lab tells you
that processing it will cost three figure numbers. What next?
Log in to ebay again and search for a "lomo tank" or a "morse tank." These are both developing tanks
from a bygone period, but they are essentially the same thing as 35mm photographic developing canisters.
Both are a bit fiddly, but I recommend the Lomo tank at first, as the morse tank is a rotation system, in which
the film only moves through the chemicals as it passes from reel to reel. With the Lomo tank, the film sists
in the chemistry at all times. What this means is that you will have to alter your chemistry times from their
original documentation when using the Morse tank and it's best to stick to the manual when you are starting out.
So now you have your tank, what about the chemistry? Several companies, such as Kodak, Ilford, Fomapan and
Tetenal make ready made kits which you can order over the internet. If you have a pharmacist in the family
it may be even easier to get a hold of chemicals.
Wipe down your bathroom or kitchen sink. Make sure to eliminate dust, dog hair or any other free floating particles.
If you have an attention craving dog (as I do) who needs to be at your side at all times, lock it in the garden.
Animals + chemistry + total darkness = bad idea.
Black out your windows, turn off all your lights and look for any stray light that may come into your home-made
dark room. If you can't black out your room entirely, make a little work surface which you can cover with several
coats. Remember: the higher ISO (ASA) your stock, the more critical absolute darkness becomes.
It's generally easiest to develop black and white negative film at first, as this is the closest to the photographic
process you may have already learned. If not, and you have the spare cash, I recommend taking a rudimentary
photo developing course before you start.
Find out process your film requires. E-4? C-41? Look on wikipedia and find out what these terms mean.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_processing
Wind your film from it's core or spool onto or into your processing tank. With the morse tank this is quite simple,
with the Lomo tank you will have to adjust the spool size and make sure that the film seats nicely inside its
threading and that no two layers of film are touching each other. Practice this a few times in the light with some
If you want to develop colour film, you will need accurate temperature control. Sounds complicated, but you can do it
with a bucket of water, a sink and a thermometer. Place the loaded processing tank into a bucket filled with water
and adjust to the temperature you need.
Now, follow the instructions of your chemical process. Pour the developer into the tank for the allocated time.
If you are using the morse tank, continuously rotate the film from one reel to the other. You should be doing this quite
quickly, so that the film goes from end to end in about a minute. If you are using the Lomo tank, push down on the little
plunger every 30 seconds or so. This will free up any trapped air bubbles between the film layers.
After the time is up, pour out the developer into a plastic bottle (preferably black or non-transparent) and mark this bottle as DEVELOPER or POISONOUS! Remember to label all your storage bottles. I once nearly drank anti-freeze because somebody (who shall remain nameless) poured it into a water bottle and left it in the car.
Remember that you can re-use developer and some other chemicals for as long as the stated shelf life. At a certain point,
they will loose potency though and you may need to remix or use a new batch of developer.
NEVER POUR ANY CHEMICALS DOWN THE DRAIN!
They can be extremely hazardous to the environment. Pour them into containers and take them to a waste facility.
Never mix chemicals that aren't supposed to be mixed. Hazardous gas clouds can suddenly fill your kitchen. Trust me. I've been there.
The complexity of your chemical process will vary depending on whether you are processing negative, reversal, colour or black and white film. Check the documentation.
After you've developed, bleached and fixed your film, wash it for a good 20 minutes or more. Half of the quality of your result will depend on how well you wash your film. Human fingers are the perfect sponge for wet film. Pass from and to a bucket of water and thread the film through your hands, rubbing off any excess emulsion or chemicals. It's a pain in the ass, but the more
you do this, the cleaner the result.
Now for the last obstacle. How do you dry your film? You can hang it across your flat, but that's not ideal as dust particles
(and dog hair) will settle on it. The best bet is to build some kind of drying rack, especially one that can be rotated.
I'll leave this up to your DIY skills.
It sounds like a lot of effort, and it is! But if you're as obsessed with celluloid as I am, you will find it a very rewarding process.
Once you've put this behind you you are a filmmaker in the true sense of the word. YOU MAKE FILM.
And you'll never touch a mini-DV tape again. Unless someone makes you.
I will post more detailed information about this topic on my website http://www.maxsacker.com