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Lost Leaders #18 ‘Handwritten Universal (PH22.55-1966)’

This is the first in a planned series of three or four (very) short ‘handwritten’ films created as part of the Lost Leaders project. Since handwriting is often in evidence on leaders, which are themselves hidden and bracketed off from ‘the film’ itself, I decided to try turning this convention on its head (or, more accurately, inside out).

Written annotations, most often the title of the film, are routinely added to leaders to help with identification as prints are prepared for distribution. These are often quite expressive, and even artful. (In isolated instances, they’re rather more interesting than the title as it appears in the opening credit sequence.) Here are four examples from the nitrate archives at the Library of Congress. Note that some of it appears to have been written by the same person, and the BEG (for ‘beginning’) has been duplicated each time.

Handwriting comparison (Library of Congress)
Handwriting comparison (Library of Congress)

Top Hat (1935)Occasionally, the handwriting is quite playful, as in this sketch found on a recent (ie safety film) leader for Top Hat (1935). Lost Leaders #18 ‘Handwritten Universal (PH22.55-1966)’ is entirely hand-drawn, from the Universal leader at the head (and tail), to the forty feet of text constituting the ‘content’. This fancifully rendered pen-and-ink is a complete transcript of the Universal leader standard specifications, variously known as ASA PH22.55-­1966, SMPTE-­55, or UL35-­1966, and is a nod towards the technicians, projectionists, and archivists whose personal touches haunt most leaders. It’s more-or-less illegible when projected (QED). Sound design by Jackie Gallant.

Lost Leaders 18 compLost Leaders #18 ‘Handwritten Universal (PH22.55-1966)’ screened at Poetics & Politics 2 (UCSC, Santa Cruz, May 2015) and New Experimental Works (ATA/OtherCinema, San Francisco, May 2015).