straight 8 still


Article Monoplex #5: Straight 8

June 13, 2012

When does an obsolete format reach its peak of coolness? Does the speed at which recently deceased formats come back now mean we are in danger of reviving the technology we currently use as an ironic joke? Is that even possible? If it is, does that mean we will readopt every format that has been rejected? Are you ever gonna buy minidisks again? I don’t think so.

Rather, it seems that some, not all, old formats really are better. Take the sound of a record on a good turn-table and compare it to the same track playing as a compressed mp3 file. Sure, both have their time and place, but one certainly sounds a hell of a lot better.
We interviewed Ed Sayer, the founder of Straight 8, an annual film competition that has run since 1999 on a simple premise: shoot a film on a single roll of Super 8 – no editing – add to it a soundtrack and submit it to be processed. The first time it’s seen, by filmmaker as well as anticipant audiences, is at one of its world premiere festival screenings. Like the one Article are hosting in the Monoplex as part of this year’s Doc/Fest, which starts today.

Some might say that Super 8 film is a relatively obsolete format.
Some might say that but, whilst it’s still available, it’s a fantastic medium to try.

It is the cornerstone of Straight 8. What does this add? Does it make it better?
It’s been brilliant for straight 8 – it’s helped enforce the main straight 8 rules: only one take of each shot, editing in-camera, no post-production, separate soundtrack made without seeing your film first. Because we process the films, no-one can cheat. Not that they would!

Part of the appeal of Straight 8 is the restriction of the format, and the added restrictions barring filmmakers from editing the work. Do you think it is fair to say that artists love constraints? 
Filmmakers, artists, PEOPLE…  we all love and need constraints. Believe me.

How has the project managed to last so long?
Great question! It’s a most horrible way to try and make a film – I made a very ambitious one this year for the first time in a while. But you learn so much doing it that way and it makes for a much more dramatic shoot day.. I guess that’s why people keep giving it a go.

With the increase in availability to technology do you think independent film making has changed? If so, has it been reflected in the types of entries to Straight 8?
Evolution is everywhere.  Filmmaking is getting better too.  As more of the tools are in more peoples’ reach more often and as the language evolves like any other, it’s all getting better, more efficient.  Basic rules don’t change – a story, great planning, and the ability to shape-shift as your plan gets fucked up the xxx. But the regular practice and general volume of filmmaking has a collective effect i guess. Shame we can’t ask Darwin.

What can people new to Straight 8 expect?
A challenge to be taken seriously and lightly in equal measure! Something definitely not to be missed in the myriad great film challenges out there.


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