Artist-run film labs are changing the face of experimental film. Popping up all over the world in everything from portable ice chests to the locker room of an abandoned swimming pool, these labs collect discarded industrial film equipment so that every step of the filmmaking process remains in the hands of artists. These innovative collectives will be the subject of a five-day International Experimental Cinema Exposition (aka TIE) festival that includes screenings of over 170 films (all on actual film), panels featuring guests from around the globe, late-night waffle parties and workshops on subjects like how to create your own film lab.
Alternative Measures: an investigation of artist-run film labs will take over the Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center at Colorado College in Colorado Springs on tomorrow, November 20, with events running through November 24. In advance of the festival, we caught up with TIE's Christopher May to talk about the importance of artist-run film labs, festival events he's looking forward to, and why the drummer from My Bloody Valentine is DJing the closing-night soiree.
Westword: Why did you choose to focus on artist-run film labs for Alternative Measures?
Christopher May: These artist-run film labs in Europe and South America have access to a lot of discarded, industrious equipment and they have been making really interesting experimental work and have been able to develop their own film and oftentimes develop their own emulsion. They take the technology into their own hands rather than the hands of a professional laboratory, which makes for some really interesting work. We wanted to focus on and bring what's going on with these artist-run film-lab collectives to the public and show the amazing work that's being made in those places.
Why are these labs so important?
Just because the technology and the equipment is more at hand and the technology of processing and creating your own film stock is more in your own hands. New forms of the presentation are possible when the technology is in the artist's hands.
What films are you especially excited about in the festival?
There are 170, so it's hard to choose. There's one from Denver, actually, called Cowboys, by a filmmaker named Curt Reiner. It's a triple-projection piece. It utilizes three projections at the same time, side by side, and simultaneously re-photographs and loops footage of an old Western film and builds an interesting environment. It has an old Western feel that reminds me of going on those old rides in an amusement park where you sit in a cart and it takes you through a haunted Western mining shaft where the cart makes turns at the corners real quick. Just the visual of it reminds me of the smell and the essence of those old rides.Can you talk a bit about the workshop portion of Alternative Measures?
One of the most interesting workshops is a photogram workshop, which is a really primitive workshop on photograms, but with motion-picture film. Julie Murray, who is one of the most outstanding living experimental filmmakers today, she has this amazing workshop where people get to make their own photogram films. Another one is how to start your own film lab. We have a collective from Berlin coming and people get a two-day tutorial on how to start their own film lab from start to finish. It's taught by these renegade, younger filmmakers in Berlin. Their collective is in a locker room of an old abandoned public swimming pool.
Colm Ó Cíosóig, the drummer from My Bloody Valentine, is DJing on the closing night soirée. How did he get involved with the festival? He just called up TIE and he was talking about how his father gave him a 16mm Bolex camera and wanted to start taking some more workshops and be more inspired. When he was in Croatia, people in Croatia were talking about this festival and recommending he come to it. So he heard about it from people in Croatia.
What do you hope that people get out of coming to Alternative Measures?
We hope that they start their own film labs here in Colorado. We don't have one here in Colorado yet. We also hope that they see some amazing films, witness some amazing panels and lectures by world-renowned artists, and make connections to creative minds from around the world. We have participants from 25 different countries and we have not just filmmakers, but curators, artists, philosophers, academics and creative minds in many different fields. We hope to make long-lasting connections and relationships.
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Register for TIE's Alternative Measures: an investigation of artist-run film labs online before midnight for discounted ticket prices, which go up on Wednesday, November 20. Find the full schedule for the festival, as well as lodging information and more, on the Alternative Measures website.