When I first heard about a film titled Super 8 was coming to theaters this summer, my eyes and ears perked up. Like thousands of kids across the U.S. in the 1970s and 80s, Super 8 filmmaking was an integral part of my youth and adolescence. I finally got the chance to see the film this past week and it seriously hit home. I felt as if Writer/Director J.J. Abrams, who is around my age, got a peek into my life when I started making home movies in Ohio in 1979.
Abrams pretty much got the entire look right in Super 8 even down to the Kodak Ektachrome film cartridges that my friends and I used in our cameras. I confess that the first camera that the characters in Super 8 used was a brand that I dreamed of owning. Our first cameras were Bell and Howell. A few years later when the Super 8 format was being pushed out of department stores in favor of the newly-crowned VHS video cameras, I begged my dad to purchase a nice Sankyo camera that was able to record sound as well as switch to frame-by-frame filming to produce claymation films.
For those of you who are too young or never owned moving visual recording equipment prior to the video camera, Super 8 mm film was a popular format in the 1970s. In addition to purchasing a camera and film projector, consumers had to buy Kodak cartridges that contained 50 feet of film that translated into 3 minutes and 21 seconds of usage. Starting out in 1979, the cartridges ran from about $6-$9 depending on where we were shopping. Young filmmakers like my friends and I had to conserve on what we had to shoot given the amount of time that was allotted. Most of our shorts were limited to one or two cartridges. As we got older, we delved into longer films – some of which were submitted to contests.
I’m jealous of the equipment that kids have today. Editing, creating special effects, achieving good sound and distribution is far superior to what we had to work with from 1979 through 1987. To get ideas, my friends and I read Super 8 Filmmaker magazine just like the characters in Super 8. One such effect was actually scratching the film to create “laser beam effects” in the sci-fi films.
Just like Abrams, my friends and I were inspired by the director’s producer on Super 8, Steven Spielberg. Anyone who watches our Super 8 films today can see the Spielberg-Lucas inspirations. As we were creating our sci-fi adventures, animated featurettes, action-thrillers and comedy films, we received media attention in newspapers and on TV’s PM Magazine. Sure, we dreamed as kids, but also kept things in perspective. We knew that there were plenty of other kids out there producing Super 8 films perhaps even better than what we produced.
No, my friends and I never ended up like Mr. Abrams, although some of our vocations these days come close, but we all remain proud of our accomplishments at such a young age.
Super 8 reminds me of a mixture of E.T., Close Encounters and Jurassic Park. It’s a great summer family film filled with loads of action, special effects and plenty of surprises.
To view our Super 8 films and much more, go to my YouTube channel and Vimeo channel.