1945 after World War Two,
my dad bought an 8mm-movie outfit. We loaded the first roll of film in the camera
and he began filming immediately. I noticed how he handled the camera moving it
quickly across a scene and using only seconds of film. Apparently he felt a movie
camera meant it could be moved while using. By the end of the day he had exposed
one half of the film. Dad suggested that I expose the other half on subjects of
my choosing so we could promptly mail the film in for processing. |
the exposed film to Chicago, IL for processing. About a week later our processed
film was returned by the postman. After dark we set up the screen and projector
to watch the 3 minute film. The part my dad had shot was a blur of color caused
by camera movement. The half I shot was clearer because I held the camera still.
After this film was shown, my dad solemnly said, “From now on you should make
most of our movies”. I was happy to accept that job.
Kids then needed
imaginations more than now. I filmed my group of friends playing touch football
at the esplanade near my house. Other movies were of family gatherings and places
we visited. A lot of film was taken of us learning to water ski when Lake Houston
opened in the 1950’s.
The kid next door was five years younger and would
come over to watch my friends and I play basketball. He would usually climb up
on the garage roof and sit next to the goal. Afterward he would jump off the roof.
An idea came to me of how to make a trick movie. I offered to film him jumping
off the roof if he would face backwards while doing so. He agreed and I filmed
the action. When the processed film returned I spliced the film to reverse the
action but the picture was upside down. I realized if I held the camera upside-down
during the filming the film would be correct. The result looked good enough that
I didn’t even get into trouble. Later people called trick films like this special
That experience helped me decide to concentrate on making my
films more entertaining. Occasionally we went to the Saturday morning movies.
There we saw serials, short film segments from a continuing story. One of these
serials was called “The Perils of Pauline”. This is a simple story of a villain
causing Pauline to be in distress and needing a rescuing hero. I visualized how
we could film our version using just four people. Since it was a spoof of “the
serial” I named it “Pearls for Pearl”.
A problem arose when we couldn't
get a girl to play Pearl. To salvage the film I volunteered to wear a dress with
stuffing strategically placed underneath. During the filming the hero dislodged
part of the stuffing causing one side of it to fall to my waist. This lack
of chest symmetry was not noticed until the film returned from processing. When
viewed by the cast it was hilarious.
During the summer the City
of Houston would show a free movie one night a week in nearby Stude Park.
This gave us the idea to set up our screen in the backyard and invite the neighbors
to watch our home movies. They came with their porch chairs and were entertained.
Relations with neighbors were much closer before television and air conditioning.
Home movies were never very “professional” compared to what is available today
but the images were interesting because they were of people you knew.
outdoors meant we had to contend with some insects. Our projector had a 500-watt
bulb cooled by a blower and occasionally it sucked in a bug sometimes blocking
the light beam. When that happened I had to stop the movie for a few minutes and
disassemble the projector to correct the problem.
All this equipment
is sixty years old now. The films, projector bulbs, editing equipment and reels
are no longer commonly available. If they still exist at all they are stored and
Recently I found a company on the web that transfers home movies
to DVD. I gave copies of that DVD to all the people I could locate who might be
interested. I have jokingly thought the only difference between old home movie
makers and Spielberg is that he did what we did – but he continued to do it -
over and over.
22 , 2010