In my films, the material format itself is a site of great narrative potential and, therefore, the migration of material from one format to another becomes a dramaturgical act. Hole in the Head takes this one step further, assigning both narrative and formal meaning to each moving image format and then obliterating it in an attempt to represent the missing time and broken narrative of our protagonists' past. To achieve this I needed to think and shoot like the amateur moviemaker of yesteryear. This lead me down a rabbit hole of research.
Many scenes in the film are created on VHS, VHS-C, Video-8, Hi8 tape, as well as super-8mm, 16mm and 35mm film, in addition to various high-spec flavours of RAW digital video. I wanted to shoot with this equipment as well as feature it on screen, sometimes as it is actively being used.
I began researching the home movie technology of the 1960s/70s/80s/90s in addition to what apparatus were still available and functional today. This research was twofold: what technology was being used and how it was being used by the consumer; in this case the amateur filmmaker. I use the term ‘amateur’ here as the definition of those who create cinema outside the ‘paying’ or ‘for-hire’ professional circles; those who create films out of a passion and curiosity for the medium itself.
I decided to gather some of the printed resources available to the amateur filmmaker of yesteryear, a journey that would lead me through a matryoshka of older publications subsumed by trendier publications. I managed to acquire scans from Amateur Cine World, a popular filmmaker magazine that ran from 1934 until 1967. Within its pages, I found traces of Miniature Camera World, another amateur filmmaker magazine that was incorporated into Amateur Cine World in 1944. Up until then, Miniature Camera World was “the only journal solely devoted to substandard cinematography”, a statement I would very much like printed, framed and hung above my desk. In addition to these publications, I found copies of 8mm Movie Maker, Cine Camera, and Amateur Movie Maker. Similarly, these were journals dedicated to surfing the wave of everything small gauge, including cameras, projectors, news on the latest domestic print releases, reviews and general tricks of the trade. In 1964, these publications were merged to create the legendary Movie Maker magazine, not to be confused with the equally important American publication of the same name founded in 1993. Movie Maker ran as a standalone publicatfrom 1964 until 1985 when it was absorbed by the then-popular publication, Making Better Movies, at which stage we drift into the world of Betamax and VHS.
From these resources, I was able to map certain habits of the small gauge filmmaker and later, the videomaker. DIY techniques in speed variation; visual effects such as backwinding and multiple exposures for in-camera composites; sound adaption; lens adaption; home processing, etc, would forge popular trends among amateur filmmakers using cine-film across the decades. A great number of filmmakers are listed among the hundreds of editions, including the fantastic Roy Spence and the controversial Bill Davison (described by Glenda Jackson as, “the Ken Russell of the amateur film world”), who are masterful artists in their own right. Both of their respective filmographies are available online or by request, either through the Irish Film Archive (IFI) or the British Film Archive (BFI). Both Spence and Davison had regular appearances in Movie Maker, the former sharing expertise on practical and in-camera effects, and the latter penning regular reviews of 8mm movies for collectors in a regular column titled Bootlace Cinema. By following the legendary “Ten Best” competition, which began in 1948 and continued through to the early 1990s, one can see an explosion of talent and technique. See Tony Rose’s Coming Shortly (1954) or Stuart Wynn Jones’ “Ten Best” winner Short Spell (1955), for example.