I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that makes me jump up, cheer, and cry all at the same time for many years. Julia Marchese’s film Out of Print made me do just that.
There have been a lot of films lamenting the loss of 35mm film projection, which is a loss I feel pretty deeply. I am not a huge fan of the digital projectors that have replaced 35mm, and I’ll be tackling just why that is in an upcoming blog, by popular request.
But there’s no question that digital is here to stay. It’s easier and cheaper, so it’s going to stick around. It does have certain advantages, but it has a lot of disadvantages too. Alas, the 35mm projectors in most theaters have been unceremoniously ripped out like a rotten molar, to sit languishing in theater lobbies or (sometimes) street corners.
And what’s sad about that is that there are zillions of films (and I don’t have a precise number, so zillions will suffice) that will never be available for digital projectors. It’s a miracle that some of them are available on 35mm, but they still are.
Marchese’s film makes the elegant point that this is a real tragedy, because it’s going to mean that many less-known films that still exist are going to be unseen, because it will be too expensive to remaster them digitally. If you don’t have 35mm, then you can’t play them. Yet the studios in many cases have insisted that the 35mm projectors be removed as a condition of financing the change-over to digital.
This is partly why I champion saving old formats. I believe in this quite passionately. A lot of readers here dislike 16mm (they call it the “children’s format”) but there are a ton of things I can get in 16mm that were never in 35mm. There are films on VHS that were never on DVD, films on DVD that will never be on Blu-Ray, etc. And you can argue that the good stuff will make the grade of the marketplace and be on all the new formats. It’s an argument I’ve heard before.
But there’s so much stuff that hasn’t been seen for so long… how do we know that the marketplace has gotten to choose all of the good stuff?
And Marchese expertly weaves this conundrum in with her film, which I love. The problem is that film is an art form that’s intended to be seen with an audience. Film requires a community and those communities are dying out. It’s becoming harder and harder to see a film on a big screen in a theater.
More and more, we’re seeing films on NetFlix, with our stinky feet on our coffee table, which isn’t the way these films were designed to be seen. Marchese uses examples of the New Beverly theater in LA to show how this community functioned, and some of the audience members there.
(As a side note, I remember running Young Frankenstein this past October for a local theater. It was a brutal pain, and I had to lug heavy 35mm projectors in to do it. BUT… when the film got going, we had a wonderful audience. And as I watched it, I realized that the film is carefully timed to match audience laughter and reactions. It’s cut to the jokes. And if you’re just one guy sitting there, the movie can seem a little slow, because you’re not laughing at everything. With an audience, it’s perfect… that’s what I’m talking about here!)
Marchese talks to audience members and New Beverly staff members about the culture of film and what it means to them. It’s just an absolutely wonderful, electrifying experience. It’s all of the things I always want to say but can’t… because people have me shut up after a few minutes.
The movie has an odd coda that deserves to be mentioned. After the film was completed, Quentin Tarantino took over the New Beverly and tore out the digital projector. Tarantino is a staunch 35mm advocate. Marchese lost her job there (not due to Tarantino). The New Beverly is still there, and yet it’s not. Tarantino is doing all of the programming, using mostly films from his own collection.
You can read about it in her blog here.
I asked Julia Marchese for a brief bio, which I normally would try to weave into my rambling narrative, but in this case I’m just going to reproduce it:
Julia Marchese is a filmmaker living in Hollywood. She is originally from Las Vegas, and has lived in California for over 15 years. She is an actress, writer and director, and Out of Print is her first feature film. It is currently touring internationally on 35mm, including the Film Archival Museums in Frankfurt and Vienna.
I really can’t recommend this film highly enough. It’s a must-see. If it comes to your area, please come see it. I’m going to try to get her bookings where I can.
Trailer for Out of Print
Q1) Can you give me some background on who you are and your history with film?
I’m just a film geek who made a flick about something I’m passionate about.
Q2) I saw your film and I noticed that you are like me in that you’re not trying to trash digital projection, but rather trying to say we need to live with film and digital together. I love this idea. So many people are firmly in one camp or the other, and I think they both have advantages and disadvantages. Tell us a little more about your take on this.
My dream is that digital and 35mm can live together harmoniously forevermore. There is absolutely no reason why that can’t happen, except that the studios want digital only to be the future. There are so many little theaters around the world who want to show 35mm prints and either are denied access or hampered by the studios’ rising rental costs.
Q3) Your film has a lot of great bumpers and ads from the 1950s and later. Where did you find all that stuff?
Thank you! Everything came from the Internet Archive, an amazing website with a gigantic selection of public domain clips! It’s an amazing resource for filmmakers.
Q4) The idea of film and theaters as a community and a shared experience is something I’m afraid may be dying. Your film celebrates this like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s just right along my own views on this. Why is this so important to you?
Because the most important thing in the world is human connection and our society is running away from it as fast as possible. Watching a film in a sold out theater, on the big screen with an enthusiastic audience vs. watching at home by myself on my computer? There’s no contest.
Q5) We all know Mike Schlesinger here and we love to make fun of him. I note that he is one of your interview subjects. Is there something silly that you can share so we can make more fun of him?
I got nothing, except to say that he is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate. Sorry!
Q6) You’re actually making film prints available! Bravo! How much does a print cost you? Lab prints are fierce these days. I ought to know.
Deluxe/Fotokem were so incredibly helpful and generous in helping me make a film print of Out of Print. I won’t tell you how much they charged me for the print, but I will say that you should get in contact with them if you’re interested in making a print of your film. The worst they can say is no, and possibly they’ll say yes!
Q7) If we see your movie, then we miss out on the fact that you were axed from the New Beverly after it was finished. How has that affected you and what are you doing now?
Yeah, that kind of adds a melancholy air to the movie that was never intended. Honestly, losing my favorite place in the world broke my heart. I’ve spent the last few months in a dark place, but I’m trying to look to the future and find another job that I will love as passionately.
Q8) If someone wants to see and book your movie, how do they do it, and are you available to make personal appearances with it?
They can contact me at email@example.com – I am available for Q&A’s!
Q9) After your film was completed, I know that Quentin Tarantino took over the New Beverly, ripped out the digital projector and is programming everything himself. Some have applauded this, and some say it’s killing the community at the New Beverly. Do you have any comment?
I think Quentin Tarantino is an incredible person who saved the New Bev with his own money and is dedicated to keeping 35mm alive – he will forever have my respect for that.
Q10) I get interviewed all the time and people never quite seem to understand my work. If there’s something that I didn’t ask you that I should have, please let me know, and answer that question here!
Why is the music in Out of Print so crazy awesome?
Because it was composed by my brother, Peter Marchese – the lead singer of Tokyoidaho!