Live Film Shows

Live Film Shows

chapel 4

As detailed more fully in the ‘Super8 to Final Cut Pro’ article, I made a living (of sorts) by showing a 4 Screen Film of my travels, incorporating the same footage that is now seen in RetroRoadTrips. My circuit was mainly at colleges, and the venues (which were often lecture theatres) were often just right for this sort of show. But there were also other locales where I’d arrive on a bright summers day and find that I was expected to set up my projectors in a cafeteria with two walls of large windows where most of the blinds were missing, and with the first three shows scheduled for mid-afternoon. At such times it was natural enough to indulge in daydreams of how I would like to present the film, influenced no doubt by feature films I’d seen which were set in countries in which a travelling film show comes to a village where there is no other form of entertainment. Below is the movie script setting for my Fantasy Film Theatre.

4 screens ws

‘Road image neon sculptures glow softly on a dark green, canvas tent wall, enclosing a temporary film compound. Beyond the wall, reaching up into that blueblack, star starting night are the silhouettes of three buttes. Sudden recognition here and Yes, the gut reaction was right – they do have movie meaning because we’re in Monument Valley. Which is no surprise to the Navajo sheep herding family who are waiting patiently for the performance to begin, as are (though not quite so patiently) the UniLever Wash Mon V2executive with his wife and two children from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, whose 37ft Pace Arrow Ponderosa Motor Home is temporarily out of action with a malfunctioning microwave oven. Up front, in somewhat solitary eagerness, is the Activities Director for the YMCA in Shensii City, Japan. He’s cycling, rather intensely one might be inclined to judge, to Mason City, Iowa to hand deliver a Sister Cities proclamation. All of them are waiting for the show to begin. Then, with only scant warning as the generator kicks in, up there on the screens colour and shapes are swirling and puslating as rapidly as a spring melt river. Ten years of a life condensed into 26 minutes. It’s all just a moment really, and look how full it is!’

Needless to say this scene didn’t take place, though there were plenty of times which were just as effective, even if they weren’t in quite such an exotic locale. Different audiences have different interests, of course. At a show I did on the Blackfoot Reservation at Devils Lake, North Dakota, the interest was mainly in the horses shown. When I tried (unsuccessfully) to interest Detroit in subsidising me one time, my preview audience of auto industry executives were quite taken aback with how many old cars there still were on the road in America. In similar vein, at the headquarters of Coca-Cola in Atlanta (Yes – there really are ‘water’ fountains that dispense Coke), there was a ghastly moment when a Pepsi sign appeared on the screen. I even had a woman at a show in Phoenix who recognised her old house in a suburb of Boston.


All of the above seems to demonstrate that melodic scenes from the everyday, when recorded without a message or political point of view in mind, do have a range of contact points for a wide set of audiences. For myself, as part of getting older, there is by now a more pressing knowledge of that abiding wistfulness in all beauty.

5 Responses to “Live Film Shows”

  1. Mike Greenwood says:

    I remember Road Dreams when it was first broadcast on Channel 4 – it was an unforgettable series. It was elegiac and bore comparison with Laurie Lee’s “As I walked out..” Elliot’s eye for detail makes the ordinary appear extraordinary, every shot deserving of a story on its own and accompanied by a stunning soundtrack. I look forward to the DVDs!

  2. Jonathan says:

    Interesting Elliott, in that Road Dreams Ch.4 and RetroRoadTrips are the second and third incarnations, and that they are increasingly remote compared to the original film show which the Americans would be seeing and that represented their own continent in their own time. I wonder if the impact on the audiences is so different?

  3. Mary says:

    First saw this years ago on Ch 4 and fell over in a faint. My country, through the eyes of a ‘seeing’ man. Fantastic. Homesickness in big dollops. Couldn’t get enough of it. Spread the news, had others in tears. Thanks Elliott. Magical way of discovering you in Estonia too!! Look forward to the DVD.

  4. Matthew says:

    Hi Elliot, I am a disciple of your beautiful films which I watch on repeat very often, and i swear it’s a different uplifting entrancing and more enlightening journey EVERY time. And that’s before the glass of wine. I look forward to the DVD’s. Thinking about it maybe I should set up multiple screens like your college show, each with an episode on looped playback? Heaven. Elliot you have done it, won our hearts and minds.

  5. Rob Bridgewater says:

    Hi Elliott – it’s been a long time! We spent a summer travelling around the UK back in the late 1980s putting up Pagodas! Hope all is well. Glad to hear and see that film making is still part of your make-up. Looking forward to reminding myself of Road Dreams (and Rick’s music) Best wishes Rob

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