How to Make Home Movies Matter?

Interview with Dan Blocker:

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Curator's Note

The vast majority of films we digitize at TAMI are home movies that come in by way of the Texas Film Round-Up. One of our most daunting tasks is figuring out what to do with all this stuff once it is digitized. What do we do if we, like the promoters of Home Movie Day, wish to offer people “a chance to discover why to care about these films”? Getting people to care is the first step to wider preservation efforts, and educating people about preservation is one of our organization’s goals.

On the Home Movie Day website, a quote from John Waters begins, “There’s no such thing as a bad home movie.” Waters is arguing for the entertainment value of home movies.  But Waters has a profoundly ironic way of looking at things. For the majority of people, finding such entertainment value in home movies is going to be difficult. Consider the first clip presented here. This 45 second segment is from a 32 minute portion of a home movie where the filmmaker forgot the camera was on. While I am cherry picking, this is indicative of what home movies are. Films with very little context and random, anonymous people carrying on their daily lives are generally not entertaining.

Beyond being interesting for the family, however, home movies can affect a wider audience. I offer my own experience as an example. With almost one hundred 400 foot reels, the Baylor family’s films comprise the largest home movie collection I have digitized in its entirety. In a matter of weeks I watched more than a decade’s worth of John and Diane Baylor raise three children, mostly in chronological order. The majority was vacations, holidays, and birthdays. But the small touches reeled me in, such as their various systems for noting dates on film. When I met the Baylor parents, the first thing I said was that I felt like a part of their family. And I honestly did. But is watching a weeks worth of a stranger’s family films a realistic way of getting people to care about home movies?

With the glut of home movies out there, finding ones that are relevant and engaging is going to be difficult. And getting home movie makers to see their films in the same light as home movie enthusiasts will be paramount to making home movies matter.


The above clip also exemplifies the difference in approaches to home moviemaking in the film and video eras.   With film, events are captured in small segments of 4 minutes or less, often with several days or even months to a one reel.  With video, time becomes less precious.  People were able to let the camera run for up to 6 hours.   That's 6 hours of baby versus 4 minutes.  

How has home moviemaking changed in the smart phone era?   The abilty to record short clips, edit them, and then share them via email or YouTube is at many people's fingertips.   Does it make for more interesting viewing?


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