The Mystic

This is a film called, obviously, 'The Mystic'. It was my final project for my Image Making class last semester. I made it over one weekend on one 100' roll of 500T color negative film stock, completely in camera. Following is the long complicated explanation of my methods for those of you geeks actually interested:

The first run of the film through the camera was the most difficult one, since it included bi-packing in the bolex this srip of sequined film every six feet or so. The strip ended up (after splicing only the sequins together, cutting out the empty sewn parts) ten seconds long, and I had worked out that my film would be about two and a half minutes (giving me ample room on either side, since the entire roll is almost three minutes long), meaning I had to pack the sequins into the camera and run it for ten seconds exactly fifteen times. Because this process of loading and unloading the camera had to be done in the dark, I physically marked my film by punching three holes with a hole punch at the very start, and one small thumbtack prick between each run of sequins. I would set my two daylight spools up on the rewinds, in the dark, and then actually tape the sequined strip to the most recent punched hole in the film, roll it up on the spools, and then re-thread the camera being careful to place the taped frame in the gate. When ten seconds had been shot, I carefully wound the camera to the exact frame count, turned off the lights, opened the camera, used a thumbtack to punch through whichever frame was in the gate, unthreaded the camera, set up the spools on the rewind arms, untaped the sequined strip, and started again from the pin prick that I could feel for in the dark.
When I was shooting this bi-packed part I had a lens on the camera (10mm to be exact) and was shooting a blank white wall I had illuminated. I had a matte box attached to the front of the Bolex and on it, a circle matte I had made. The black letters in this film (the dialog, as it's supposed to be understood) were accomplished by cutting out letters from black paper and taping them over the front of my circle matte for specific frame counts.
After all of this I rewound the film again, removing the sequined strip, and synced up my hole punches, then wound the film to the specific frame counts (there was a lot of math and charts and frame counts drawn out before this process started) in which I wanted the glowing white letters. Here, I placed over my circle matte more mattes I had cut out, this time with the negative space being the letters. Then I shot all of the letters I wanted in white as well as the flashing sequences towards the end.
The next step involved rewinding again, recruiting my friend AJ (thanks AJ!), and setting up a simple little set in the shooting space. We put a cloth on the ground and made this crazy light-box thing with brown paper and some chairs and plywood we found lying around, so that there would be a circular light in roughly the same spot as the sequins would have been flashing, so that in the finished film it would look like a crystal ball or something that was illuminating AJ. I made another matte for the camera, this one being the opposite of the first circular matte, a solid circle suspended in front of the lens. You can see the tape holding it up in some of these shots. I also matted off the right half of the frame. Then I had AJ sit and look serious, wearing very little clothing, and wave his arms around. I shot the required number of frames (all counted out beforehand!) with some single framing to make it look choppy and weird.
Then I rewound the film again, removing the matte over the right half of the frame, to the places in the roll where I wanted the close ups. Here I had AJ sit with his forehead against the matte box and squint while I ran the camera at regular speeds and single framing.
Another rewind of the camera, and AJ and I deconstructed our light box and set it up again facing the opposite direction. I matted off the left half of the frame this time and shot AJ again looking serious, but without the arm waving. We cleaned up the space and AJ put his clothes on. Then I dropped the film off at the lab.

OK! If you read all that, thanks. I was in a state of suspended mild anxiety the whole time since a lot of this stuff I was trying for the first time - mostly, I hadn't done all of those things all at once before - and there were so many ways I could of fucked it up. The room in which I did all my bi-packing was not entirely light proof, which shows in the fogging of parts of the film, but I don't really mind that. There is only one place in which I seriously didn't get what I wanted, but you have to ask me or guess if you want to know what it is.

I conceived of and executed this film in about four days, and because of that I feel that it's not that conceptually interesting. Visually, I think, it's a resounding success and I am very excited about the future possibilities opened to me by this experiment. I'd like to use these techniques and more considered ideas to make similar films that actually mean something. I'll keep you posted.


  1. All that detailed, meticulous work, and it still took you way less time to make than Avatar did. Way to go!

    yr fan


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