Somewhat belatedly, I’ve joined in Nick Rombes’ latest cinematic project, Do Not Screen. The project was conceived when Nick, searching in an abandoned barn, came across a stash of film frames cut into strips of 12 from an old 16 mm movie. Each strip, then, constitutes essentially half a second of screened time. Rather than reassemble the film himself, Nick, with the support of the University of Waterloo’s Critical Media Lab, has sent out dozens of strips to film scholars, critics, bloggers, and others with an activation code. Once that code is activated, the piece of film goes live on the Do Not Screen site, where participants can see or comment on their strip of film.
Nick also included several other artifacts in each envelope, and in my case, I received what appears to be a billing statement listing billable hours for activities such as “general repairs” or “unloading filling” or a brief notation saying “Sunday not working.” Some of these documents inclue a brief typed message, “DO NOT SCREEN,” in my case in all caps. As Nick notes, the film seems to depict some kind of ceremony or gathering, and the strip I received shows musicians–a pianist in particular–playing (unheard in this silent clip) music that is amplified by speakers on a pole. There is always something fascinating about coming across an old movie clip like this. Given the inherent fragility of film strips and the transition into digital, any found film seems like a message from a lost and (potentially forgotten) past.
I look forward to working with other film lovers in reassembling sore version of that past, however incomplete.