Slice of Life

The Syracuse One-Take Super 8 event gives videographers a single shot to produce a film

Illustration By Devyn Passaretti

A soft clicking sound: the sound of pressure. The sound of time ticking down before the film cartridge is full.

The goal is to film something in three minutes and 20 seconds. No other directions or requirements. It sounds simple but there are no edits, no rewinds and no deletes, just one take with a Super 8 camera. Participants don’t see their films until they’re screened in front of an audience at the viewing party known as the One-Take Super 8 event.

Today, the idea of a camera without memory or playback abilities seems nearly foreign. Registration closed on Oct. 31 last year, and participants have been working since then to prepare for the event, which will be held March 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Westcott Community Center.

The Syracuse One-Take Super 8 event brings together amateur and professional filmmakers. The event provides vintage Super 8 cameras for everyone to create a three minute and 20 second film of their choosing.

The Super 8 camera was introduced in the late ‘60s, but its popularity died out by the early ‘80s, so using them today can be difficult. Jason Kohlbrenner, a co-organizer for the One-Take Super 8 event in Syracuse, explained that cameras can be fine one day and break the next.

My favorite thing about the Super 8 festival is trying to get back to the practicality of filmmaking: getting scene by scene by scene and making sure that the soundtrack would have to line up with each individual feel of the scene, and what kind of motif I’m going for.
Lucas Renswick

“Everything about them is vintage,” Kohlbrenner said. “It’s difficult because you have no guarantees.”

But this doesn’t deter filmmakers. This year, there are 29 submissions for the ninth annual Syracuse event. A lot of the submitters are repeat filmmakers from previous years, Kohlbrenner said.

“You see the growth,” he said. “You see that person who is just looking at things abstractly or something like that, and then the next year it has more of a story to it. And then you see them developing some sort of style to their work.”

Lucas Renswick, a Syracuse resident who saw a flyer for the One-Take Super 8 event five years ago, has participated in every festival since.

In his first year, Renswick teamed up with friends to film a zombie movie. He said they took the name of the event to heart and filmed the entire story in one shot. Since then, he learned to stop the camera and change the scene or anything physical.

A few years later, they added a prequel to the initial zombie film, and this year, the group is adding a zombie element to its story again. Despite the inability to rewind or edit, he said as long as the event still exists, the chance to continue the story is there.

“My favorite thing about the Super 8 festival is trying to get back to the practicality of filmmaking: getting scene by scene by scene and making sure that the soundtrack would have to line up with each individual feel of the scene, and what kind of motif I’m going for,” Renswick said

For Super 8 first-timers film graduate student Ioana Turcan and photographer Sean Henry-Smith, the process was different than what they were used to. Turcan had used 35mm cameras before, but nothing like the Super 8. Henry-Smith had never even worked with motion film before.

“It was a challenge thinking about the moving image versus a still, but it’s a fun process in terms of using the Super 8 camera,” Henry-Smith said.

Their film features Turcan warming up to box. The team spent a couple of hours prepping the scene with lighting and getting all the motions, but once the film started, Turcan could feel the pressure of the three minute and 20 second spotlight.

But it wasn’t the focus that stressed her. It was the sound of the Super 8 running.

Henry-Smith said he loved the clicking sound, but Turcan said it reminded her of how quickly the time ticks by.

“You have to rehearse so much for that, and it’s just that,” Turcan said.

This year, the organizers were able to put the OTS8 event on thanks to their successful Indiegogo campaign. With initial donations, organizers were able to secure a venue, replace cameras that broke or failed during filming and cover the $50 cost for film and processing.

The best part about it is, it doesn’t matter how versed you are at making a film.
Jason Kohlbrenner

Soundtracks are played from a separate device while the films are rolling. Some filmmakers opt for live performances or poetry readings while their films play.

Kohlbrenner said sometimes films are underexposed or overexposed, so the only visual is light fragments here and there, or nothing at all. In that time, the audience will cheer, whistle, clap and roll with the unpredictable nature of the event.

“Sometimes we’ll do a quick scan (to check exposure), but we don’t really want to prep ourselves,” he said. “These are all virgin films and they come out how they come out.”

No matter the film’s content, nothing matches the feeling the audience gets from watching the pieces together in one screening. Kohlbrenner said the event itself is better as a whole than watching just one film by itself.

“The best part about it is, it doesn’t matter how versed you are at making a film,” Kohlbrenner said. “You have no idea what this old camera and this film that you can’t rewind is going to produce. And so that’s what’s exciting.”

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