Playing with film scratches! An expanding multiverse explores the collision of horse-powered farming and inter-dimensionality in a prairie calliope on hand-processed 16mm film. In the throes of my artist’s love affair with Saskatchewan’s sensuous, surreal landscape, I am also curious about other dimensions.
Jim Saville of Ravenscrag Saskatchewan still feeds his cows using a team of horses. His father Bill, a lifelong heavy horse teamster and saddle-maker died shortly after this film was shot, at the age of 88, just after completing his 600th saddle.
Shot on 16mm neg film with a hand-wind Bolex, I hand-processed the raw footage in buckets full of chemicals in the dark, then later captured the projected footage on HD video at 24FPS. Bringing the footage into After Effects I began playing with the images, finding myself captivated with the scratches created by the hand-processing, and torn between leaving the film in negative or inverting it into positive. Both were lovely, and so I put the positive and negative images side by side to compare, and to help me decide what to do. What happened next became the film.
Music is Creative Commons archival recordings from 78RPM and older audio recording formats from the early 1900s. Sound effects from freesound.org.
The team belongs to Jim Saville, who uses them to feed his cattle in winter when the tractor can’t make it up the hill. In this film, his father Bill, a lifelong teamster and harness maker, is expertly driving the team. The week he died (in early 2012) , Bill Saville finished his 600th saddle, and drove this team to feed Jim’s cows. I am grateful that I had this chance to personally watch a true old master teamster at work.
Shot and processed at Film Retreat Rapture, Spring 2011.
Film and screening info
- 3:30 min., 2012
- Screened at Philip Hoffman Screening, Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, November 2012
- Shot, processed and edited by Chrystene Ells
- Thanks to the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative and Berny Hi for Film Retreat Rapture!