Monday, June 25, 2012

My 1975 Film: Mind Games

This is a Super 8mm film that I made in 1975, at the age of 17, but only recently converted to digital format so that I could share it with the world.

It is basically the story of a little stick man who is seduced by the promise of quick joy and happiness through drugs.  Essentially, it is my imagination of an acid trip, created about 3 years before I first experimented with LSD.

Some of it still impresses me; other parts underwhelm me.  All in all, I am pleased with what I achieved in this film, given the primitive equipment I had to work with.  The camera was a non-zooming, non-adjustable focus plastic camera that my dad bought me as Sears for $10.  It was a gift to me for Christmas, 1971.  Animation was a challenge, because it did not have a single-frame feature.  Rather, I had to quickly press and release the trigger, like a drag racer side-stepping the clutch.  Sometimes this ended up shooting 2 or 3 frames.  So, the results were not consistent.

For sound, I had available two cheap cassette tape recorders and a "record lathe" (a cheap, hand-me-down portable phonograph from my uncle).  For the parts in which I have 2 songs playing together, I first recorded Song 1 from the phonograph onto the first tape recorder.  Then I played Song 1 on the tape recorder while playing Song 2 on the phonograph.  To fade the songs in and out, I controlled the tape recorder volume with my left hand and the phonograph volume with my right.  Primitive stuff.

Perhaps the most interesting parts of this film are the trippy, psychedelic colors, which an artist friend described as being "like a live Kandinsky painting".  I produced them by various techniques.  For some of the footage, I began by using my mom's Clorox bleach to strip off all the color from a section of scrap film.  I then used every technique I could think of to mark the film:  I burned it with a match, colored on it with colored Sharpie markers, used India ink on it (the black India ink soon cracked, making beautiful hexagonal crystal patterns), poked holes in the film with needles, scratched the film.  For other sections, the base image was created by filming a projected slide image while continuously changing the focus on the slide projector.  It then added color and other effects over this manually.

Here are some still frames from the film: