Academy / Society / Universal: 3 Handwritten Leader Standards (2016)

This direct animation, a major outcome of my Lost Leaders project, foregrounds the most ephemeral handwritten traces of film developers, printers, distributors, projectionists, and archivists, such as film titles and reel/print numbers. It is based on historical research into the first three film leader standards in the US (Academy (1930/1947); Society (1951); Universal (1965/1966)), together with discoveries in two major film archives: the nitrate film collection at the Packard campus of the Library of Congress in Culpeper, Virginia; and, Library and Archives Canada in Gatineau, Quebec.

Each section begins and ends with all the distinctive graphical elements of the identification and synchronization sections specified in each successive leader standard (Academy, Society, Universal). These have been drawn by hand, frame by frame, while the ‘actual content’ of each section is the text for that standard, handwritten, word-for-word. Put another way, the ‘paratextual’ metadata of film, ie the parts the audience rarely sees, has been turned into the visible content.

Inevitably, then, each of the three sections is longer than the last, as the particulars of each successive standard become more and more verbose. As might be expected, the handwriting is barely legible when projected, but no less evocative, as this cameraless animation celebrates each standard by foregrounding the hidden labour of film developing, printing, distributing, projecting, and archiving.

Since leaders are of course mostly silent, the work is augmented with specially commissioned audio, composed and performed by Montreal-based sound artist Jackie Gallant.

Academy / Society / Universal: 3 Handwritten Leader Standards (2016) premiered at the Orphan Film Symposium, Culpeper VA, April 2016.