'Film Jam' Brings Celluloid Back From the Dead

Peter Sheppard

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Director Michael Walsh took old educational films and turned them into something new (Peter Sheppard photo)


     This past weekend, the Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer held a special event known as “Film Jam,” featuring the work of several local filmmakers and artists. 

     One of the hardest parts of being a filmmaker is finding new ways to push the envelope and challenge the expectations of your audience. This was the task of Michael Walsh, who put together the exhibition, involving the use of old educational film reels spliced together in a unique way.

     With titles such as “My First Job,” “Death of Dr. Seuss” and “American Angst,” the films were presented in an unconventional manner. They had scratches and holes punched into the emulsion, they were played side by side to create a sense of juxtaposition and all of them were scored by musician Steve Collins.

     Walsh says that by doing this, he actually managed to make the films watchable.

     "I was re-purposing these old, abandoned 16-millimeter films that are absolutely terrible to watch individually," he said. "We re-edited them to make them a little more exciting."

     The educational films used by Walsh were given to him courtesy of Laura Spaan, who saved them from being thrown out several years ago.

     In addition to Walsh’s manipulation of the film reels, the “Film Jam” also featured several acts by Homer performance artists in between each film. 

     Following Friday night’s “Film Jam,” Walsh set up a station at the Bunnell for anyone desiring to manipulate some film themselves, an event he called “Celluloid Deconstruction.” He says he enjoys working with celluloid over digital and wants others to experience it firsthand as well, as the technology is quickly disappearing.

     "The further we're getting away from ... celluloid film .... I am falling (more) in love with it by the day," said Walsh.


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