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Victoria Video Club

No Oscars, just fun

Times Colonist, Saturday April 14, 1990
By Michael D. Reid
Times-Colonist staff
   MOVIE-MAKER Maurice Aldersmith has cranked out 168 films over the years, but you won't see him graciously accepting a Life Achievement Award at the Oscar ceremonies or being gushed over by the New York and Los Angeles film critics.
   Aldersmith's films are a far cry from Hollywood's multi-million dollar blockbusters or the highly regarded works of a Woody Allen or Spice Lee, but he's every bit as prolific and committed to cinema as these giants.


   The retired customs officer has been shooting, splicing, and dubbing a number of modest and highly personal Super 8 and 16mm films for over 22 years with members of hte Victoria Amateur Movie Club.
   Founded in 1944 by the owners of a local camera store, the club's purpose was, and is, to introduce beginners to the fundamentals of amateur film-making and to help them acquire the skills necessary to make short films. It also functions as a social club.
   Today, VAMC has approximately 30 members and, although Super 8 and 16mm film-making is a dying art, Aldersmith and company are enthusiastically committed to keeping it alive while also acknowledging the emergence of video technology.
   Surrounded by film awards, trophies, canisters, sound effects reels, audio equipment and cinema memorabilia in a cluttered makeshift studio in his Vickery Street home, Aldersmith admitted that times have been tougher since the advent of video.
   "Most of our new members are shooting on video now," said the tall, bespectacled film buff. "We have to recognize it because we have to keep these clubs going. In Salt Lake City, which is a pretty big place, they only had 20-odd entries at their last competition. It's a tough battle."
   Along with similiar clubs in Vancouver, Portland and Seattle, the Victoria club is part of the Northwest American Movie Council. The local club also keeps in touch wiht its counterparts scatttered throughout the world, and submits local films for competitions throughout Canada and the United States.
   Members make short films for club competitions held throughout the year. They write their own scripts, record their the audio tracks and do their own cinematography.
   Aldersmith said newcomers are invited to the film- and video-making clinics he regularly conducts. He teaches them the basics of film and electronic editing, titling, audio dubbing, lighting and story development.

   "We try and help the beginners out. We tell them, for example, that just because you have a two-hour cassette is no reason to make a two-hour movie. You'll drive your friends out of the house."
   The club holds four competitions each year. In the spring, the Sealed Roll competition is open only to film-makers whose productions have been chosen by the membership. Last year's topics was Chinatown, and this year the film-makers are focussing on Victoria.
   In November, the One Reel Edited competition takes place. This is open to both film- and video-makers and any subject is acceptable.
   At the club's annual awards banquet, a number of trophies are awarded, including one for the best film and video of the year.
   Aldersmith says he shoots a lot of his films using a basic Bolex.
   "It's a simple box camera. I have to use a hand meter," he laughs.
   Aldersmith's film subjects have included Pre-Columbian art, Acapulco, and Forbidden Plateau. Several years ago, he made short tourist-oriented films about Victoria attractions, like the mass-produced Butchart Gardens short that retailed for $12.98 in souvenir shops.
   Aldersmith said he favours documentaries: "They're the easiest to make."
   He said most of the club's members have their own equipment and are encouraged to make four-minute films for competitions.
   A 50-foot rool of Super 8 film runs for three minutes and 20 seconds.
   What are the most common mistakes made by amateur film-makers?
   "Making movies that are too long is one. Another is that people too often don't use a tripod, which gives you jiggle pictures. Other pan and zoom too much. The zoom is basically there to set up your shot."
   It's the storyline, however, that is often the biggest problem.
   "Coming up with an idea for a film, that's the toughest. Sometimes two months will go by before we can all agree on an idea."
   Then there are those whose ambitions exceeds the potential of their primitive movie-making equipment.
   "People sometimes have the idea of doing something really elaborate. But there's no way a person with a basic film or video camera should try and do a Hollywood production. You can not do that calibre of film."
   What they can do are produce some surprisingly fine little films, like a nifty animated short Aldersmith collaboratd on that features a spaceship carrying letters that spell INTERMISSION.
   The second showing of the club's 26th Spring Film Festival will take place Wed., April 18, 8 p.m., at Saanich Silver Threads Centre, 286 Hampton Rd. Admission is by donation.

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