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Victoria Video Club

Victoria Amateur Movie Club Gives Free Film Showings

The Daily Colonist: Sunday, September 23, 1979
Photos by Ian McKain
     For about 35 years the Victoria Movie Club has been producing fine home-made movies patterned after the professional created offerings of Holllywood.
     The well-made films demonstrate a skillful use of technique and showmanship proving that home-made does not necessarily mean poorly made. But that they can be good and entertaining is clearly seen when the club puts on one of its public showings.


    To discover the secrets of the art of good movie making I attended a session in a member's home and later attended a public showing of some of the club's best productions made during the previous year.
    Morris the club's director and historian. He invited me into his home on Vickery Road to explain something about the club, its members and the films they made. Aldersmith is a customs officer and listening to him relate the club's history and past successes disclosed a careful thoroughness so characteristic of men of his profession.
    He said: "We are one of the oldest movie clubs in Canada, except for some back east. The club was started back in 1944 by Hirst and Flintoff, who many will recall as the owners of a camera store in downtown Victoria.
   "SINCE THEN THE CLUB has enjoyed an unbroken existence and over the years many good films have been made by the members. There was one that won an award, called Mungo Makes a Mask, that was made by the late Dr. Clifford Carl, in 1955. Another good film (of filum, as Aldersmith pronounces it in the Irish way) was Georgian Coffee Pot, which the club produced earlier in 1949. The film followed through on all parts of making the pot. And since then we've made many, many more.
    "The individual members have their own little set-ups where they make their own films, but at workshops the members get together to produce joint efforts for their annual public spring shows. Most of the members' films are made on eight mm film and a few use 16 mm. If 16 mm wasn't so expensive more would use it. Our members write their own scripts, record the sound tracks and blend them in with the sound track, including all kinds of special effects."
    I asked Aldersmith how many movie clubs there were like this one, and he replied:
    "There's one in Vancouver and two in Seattle. They are the nearest ... lots more in the States. And Victoria does as well as any, in fact, movie clubs in the States look up to Victoria."
    I asked him why that was.
    "Well," he answered, "15 years ago we started a new idea of letting the public see our films at specially prepared two-hour shows. We found sponsors, which were mostly church groups, to assist us and provide the halls for showing our films. It all started on a small scale with just a couple of projectors. As one projector finished the other would start. We call this kind of show "all in the black', meaning a continuous showing of four or five small films without a break, similar to a theatre.


    "EACH YEAR it got more elaborate. We put a curtain up front with the club's name on it and ran all the projectors through mixers, with sound put on two tape recorders. Then we added a box with coloured lights for in-between productions, with a little tune. We tried to be as professional as possible.
    "Early films were made by individual members, but as time went on it became obvious that joint club productions would be good to have, so workshops were organized and the club was divided into sections, each being responsible for a film of its own making. During the last four years, though, we have recombined the groups and now we have one group producing all three movies we make each year. It takes about six months at two nights a week for four hours a night: giving us three separate films of eight minutes each, all with full sound."
    The club pays for film out of its general revenue. Film is expensive. A 50-foot roll runs for three mintues, 20 seconds and costs six dollars.
   Turning the conversation to contests, I asked Aldersmith how many they had a year.
    "We have three competitions a year. The first one is called the Sealed Roll Competition, that's in June, and they are full productions completely edited in camera.  We get a good response — maybe seven or eight films each year. The next one is One Reel Edited, held in October. The member carefully fixes up his film and puts on the sound. Then there's the Annual Contest of three selections in Novice, Intermediate and Open. We award trophies and certificates to the winners. Our film entries are often sent to other clubs for judging, either in Canada or the States.
    "On the last night in February we hold our annual banquet, usually in the University Gold Room and show films. Most of our 50 member families turn out for it." 
    HOW MUCH DOES IT COST to join the club, I asked.
    "A family membership costs $5.50 a year, and they pay 35 cents each meeting night for coffee and refreshments. We meet at the First United Church, Room 119, 932 Balmoral, at 7:45 p.m. on the last Thursday in each month.


    "At that time we have short demonstrations on motion picture work and members bring films for showing. Sometimes we invite professional guests and have a question period followed by refreshments."
    On my second visit to Aldersmith's home I watched a group at work on their latest film. In his small studio there was hardly room to move, as eight of us each tried to do our own job — seven trying to edit and me getting in the way asking questions.
    Surrounded by projectors, tape recorders, mixers, editing machines, boxes of film an other appurtenances of film making, they were putting the finishing touches to a section of film that they had been working on for some months. All the filming had been done and the movie was coming together, piece by piece.
    Finally, all was ready. The lights were turned out, the projector lit up and the credits and title flashed on the screen: The Planet Solaris, made by the Victoria Amateur Movie Club. This was the club's first attempt at animation and they all strained forward to catch flaws, however slight.
    FILMED IN FULL SOUND and colour it is a gem of animated photography and special effects, with miniture sets made out of wood, wire and plastic. A realistic space travel scene has a Startrek spaceship, made from a plastic model, setting out on an expeditionary voyage to explore a newly discovered planet in our solar system.
    For added measure, the club showed me a film of how the film was made. Very professional. And after a break for coffee they went back to work until it was time to go home.


    "At that time we have short demonstrations on motion picture work and members bring films for showing. Sometimes we invite professional guests and have a question period followed by refreshments."
    On my second visit to Aldersmith's home I watched a group at work on their latest film. In his small studio there was hardly room to move, as eight of us each tried to do our own job — seven trying to edit and me getting in the way asking questions.
    The next Saturday afternoon I called at the home of Adrien Born to see him at work on his splendid puppet animation called Once Upon a Christmas.
    I asked Born what was involved in preparing for a project of such complexity.
    "First of all, you need an idea. Then you must prepare your script and record the sound track, and after that the sound track must be analyzed by counting each perforation on the film. Next you must prepare a shooting script or dope sheet, followed by the actual shooting of the film."
    It sounded complicated enough, but when I saw firsthand the intricate and meticulously detailed work that goes into producing each single frame it became obvious that patience and determination headed into Born's list of virtues.
    He very kindly set up his apparatus and gave me a showing of the first part of his film.In it, two bears, called Mugsy and Ted, are following an adventurous track through the snow following their finding of a kidnap note. In episode seven, called The Tavern, we find the two heroes peering though the tavern window at the scene taking place inside.
    BORN DEMONSTRATED the technique he uses to make the toy bears appear to move. First, he altered the position of their arms a fraction of an inch, and then their heads, and when he was satisfied that the positions were correct according to the shooting script he moved to his camera and snapped the scene. Then he carefully recorded the shot in his log book. The bears' voices were prerecorded by Mrs. Born using a disguised voice for each one.
    Adrien Born has been a member of the club for 15 years, but he has been making films for more than 20 years. His thoroughness and competent approach to film making has resulted in many fine films.
    My next visit was to the home of Arnold Larsen. We looked over his equipment and discussed the magic of various kinds of sound recorders before he told me a little of his interesting past.
    Larsen said: "I came from Denmark 30 years ago and I've been in Victoria since 1953. For me film making has been a lifelong hobby. I started with a hand-wind 16 mm silent movie camera and experimented around with it. Later I made a professional advertising film to be shown in cinemas. That all ended when the Germans occupied Denmark and put a freeze on imported film, but after six months the Germans relaxed their restrictions and film again became available.
    "I was in business at the time and had permission to travel around Denmark as a wholesale lingerie representative, but unknown to them I carried secret papers with me on my travels. Then, after the war ended, I decided to give up my business and come to Canada.
    "With my wife's help we have made a number of films and enjoy working with the club on its projects."
    The Victoria Amateur Movie Club has brought pleasure to many people who have attended its free showings in the spring, but it must be admitted that the greater satisfaction has been had by the members themselves as they see the fruits of their labours being enjoyed by others.