Monday, January 18, 2010

How I Saved $3,000 over Christmas

What are your happiest memories worth?

One of the important elements I needed for my documentary was archival footage of my family. We needed to establish my family as it put out roots in Guatemala, as we created the nuclear family I am a part of, as we grew up and loved each other. Luckily we had dozens of home VHS videos of our childhoods. Unluckily they had been kept in a closet in our home in Guatemala where the concrete walls accumulate the humidity of the air, and in turn the tapes were overgrown with mold. They were unusable. All of our childhood treasures lost!

Last time I went to Guatemala I brought all of the moldy tapes up to NYC with me anyway, figuring between Tisch and all of the rest of NYC, there had to be some resource (maybe in the 411 Guide?) about how to restore and fix tapes suffering from this malady. I did my research and found out that the only place in New York that did this, the only post house that had these hi-tech devices to fix archaic tapes, was Deluxe. And that the cost was $100 a tape.
Um... I had $30 tapes. What I did not have was $3,000.

However, then I told my dad my dilemma. Being a member of my family, he had a different interest in the tapes totally unrelated to filmmaking. He told me to ship some of the tapes down to Bradenton, FL, where my parents now live, and that he would try to clean them one by one by hand.

I loved it. It was wonderful. When I went down for Xmas I brought down all the tapes with me. And, since my dad got laid off, he now had a lot of extra time on his hands to fix the rest of the tapes. I could see his VHS-cleaning methods myself.

It was a wonderful mix of homemade contraptions run on the power of human hands and power drills. It involved paintrollers and wood, kitchen spoons and about 4 VCR's, whole and functioning or in parts. A truly unique method that nonetheless did the job.

So my dad kept his hands busy, I saved myself $100 or every tape he cleaned, we were able to enjoy Christmas watching old home videos.

As my dad said, it was a real box of chocolates with these tapes because most of these tapes were not labeled, and the ones that were were either illegible due to the mold, or provided very little context. So we never knew what we were going to get when we popped in a tape. Sometimes tapes that took a long time to clean ended up being old recordings of kids TV shows. But then there were some gems.

My brother's second birthday where he was afraid of his pinata. My christening! I was adorable. My house while it was being built (gold for my documentary!) with shots of my mom looking so different thanks to 80's fashion that my sister and I didnt recognize her. My sister's music class Nutcracker show, and a wonderful documentary we made about our pets in 1994 where we show and talk about our horses, macaws, parrots, parraqueets, peacocks, chickens, geese, cat, dogs, fish, etc etc etc.

I found a lot of material that I can use for my film, and that is great. But seeing the videos made us all nostalgic for a time when my siblings and I were having a beautiful childhood in a beautiful home.

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