homemoovies (part 1) by Rick Raxlen

home movies, poetry and continuity:
regarding how we see home movies, how
home movie how-to books were the first film studies texts
and how poetry and home movies connect…..


i’m home, its early 1950s its someone’s birthday.
My uncle george has come to the party .
he has four very bright flood lights
on a metal -bar- thing
which are hot and blind us
(why flood lights?? did they use them when
things got flooded?. …they’re for floods right?)

home-made movies.
like apple pie: home cooking; home base, home run
homecoming queen, homesick, homemade.
homing pigeon: a pigeon that always flies home?

How home movies are portrayed inside a real pro

First of all, they take the camera off the tripod and swing it round a lot.
Then they add grain and scratches and dirt sometimes.
and they forget about continuity, sort of throw away the book, and
nothing makes ”sense” visually all of a sudden–although it really does —
’cause its been scripted by about 36 writers.
And people mug a lot more in fake home movies.
In pro movies they “act” without us knowing but in fake home movies
they become themselves and can stick their tongues or stomachs
as characters they can’t do.
They often play sappy music under the home movie inserted
into real movies, music that seems to say: life was better, more fun, sweeter
fuller back then.

For some reason, I have a stack of film cans in an alcove in my four room house
in Victoria; I carried them to the coast in a truck with my mini steenbeck, my splicer, and rewinds…actually its five short stacks in metal cans.Stuff I’ve shot and saved; outs
and some neg. and it includes six or seven or eight decades of material if you include
my tiny stash of 9.5 mm reels. and nine decades
if you include my fragment of silent black and white 16mm Mutt and Jeff.

As I roll through it I’m impressed by something ephemeral;
I don’t fight the feeling of “I’ve got to organize this material”.
I make a list of decades and a color beside each decade and then start
painting my metal cans with acrylic paint–but that system falls quickly by the

But I keep painting the film cans anyway ‘cause they are kinda
bare and ugly-homely looking
with sticky labels and tape and marker writing–and I have lots of time –I’m taking
a year off, after 10 years of rotoscoping my brains out…


AND they wrote books for the serious amateur…
Discussing the finer points of shooting and editing;
they wrote about close-ups, seascapes, and something
called continuity.
Shadows were a problem and too-bright snowscapes,
and back-lit exposures.
And humour.Your home movies had to have humour,
they couldn’t be too serious. Be sure to get the familydog to put his head in the
ice cream pail and wander blindly round the yard.

Before people made home movies, they wrote poetry.
About the skies, clouds, trees, and the injustices of the world;
home movies did not deal with worldly injustices.
Unless they were made in Argentina or China or Somalia.

Poetry came into the world in little books, about 5 by 5 inches square.
Film came into the world on little plastic 8mm reels that held 3 minutes of film
or on slightly bigger metal reels of 16mm.

The Film Reference Library in Toronto has a Home Movie Appreciation Day!
Experts give free advice on the perservation and care of home movies,
and a certain number of “selected” home movies are screened that night
I believe this year’s event is in October.

Somewhere in Florida, on a shelf in a closet, are cans of film, containing my
Uncle George Cohen’s ouevre. I must ask my cousin about those cans of film.
I saw them once,and screened some of them but that was about 35 years ago.
I’d like another peek at them.
I copied a few hundred feet and still have most of it.

end of Part One