Friday, June 27, 2008

Through Being Cool

My second job ever was at a movie theatre (my first job was in Sea World, near Mission Beach, so I guess technically that was in show business as well). Working in a theatre was always a very chill job; you slept in, stayed out late, got the ladies into the show for free and hooked them up with popcorn.

I ripped tickets and sold tickets. I put too much butter on the popcorn when someone asked for it. I made fun of customers, and hung out all day at work until my assistant manager told me to go get a life. And I stuck at it, getting my second job at another theatre when I moved to Berkeley. And slowly I moved up, becoming an assistant manager (which was so very much different – now you had to notice and pay attention to the money and where the staff that was doing such a good time hiding was).

They say the movie theatre business is in your blood. And it is in mine. I became surrounded and quickly enamored by the ephemera and accouterments of showing movies – the posters, the booking policies, the vagaries of the grosses, the raconteurs who ran movie theatres, and the long history behind exhibition. There is so much art to the business.

I walked the lines of the “Star Wars” films, feeding on the excitement of the kids (of all ages) a day before it came out. I heard an entire crowd gasp in unison as Mel Gibson jumped from that building in the first “Lethal Weapon.” I heard the loudest gales of laughter I've ever heard come from the audience watching Bogdanovich's “Noises Off.” I was faced by a crowd of 900 (and hundreds more in line outside) when the power went out during “Mission: Impossible” during a busy summer weekend. I cleaned up vomit after customers who partied too much and threw newspaper at the midnight movies.

One night I heard the ushers and candy girls stayed last night after I left...and wondered if I should have stayed, too. I watched them take over the theatre to shoot a Will Smith movie, and then have the scene not make it into the film after all.

I saw Yoko Ono walk in with her entourage, and leave after 30 minutes. I saw George Lucas see "Backbeat” 2 days in a row. Jerry Garcia came in with a cane to see “The Crying Game,” 10 weeks into the run, long after he must have known about the surprise twist. Dana Carvey tried to disguise himself , but it was so obviously him.

(Back when we knew who Dana Carvey was.)

I've been through a lot at movie theatres. I kissed my favorite candy girl in the theatre on New Year's Eve. (She didn't kiss back.) I learned how to smoke at movies, and stood outside smoking with the other ushers. I stayed until 4:00 a.m. sitting on the stairs with them, talking about movies and girls and the manager. When I was about 12, I threw jujubes when I got bored with a Disney film, and the usher made me stand in the corner of the lobby for 20 minutes. I mixed vodka with the Orange Whip behind the candy counter, and sipped on it all night along from a courtesy cup along with the projectionist, who put me up to it.

I got punched by a customer in the chest, trying to keep him out of “Day of the Dead.” I once had to stop a film and check every ticket because 25 kids snuck in through the exit door all at once ("Fort Apache: The Bronx" indeed). I've been threatened by 13-year-olds that they'd beat my ass after the show got out. A parent called the police on me for kicking her rotten kid out. I memorized the last 20 minutes of “The Devil's Advocate.” I've gotten robbed at gunpoint. Twice. I felt my first naked breast in a movie theatre, watching a Dustin Hoffman film.

I've found a top-set of dentures, and maybe a thousand umbrellas (I've never paid for an umbrella my whole life). I've found bras, and once a pair of panties (and she came back very sheepishly the next day to ask for them back). I've found a wallet with over $2000 in it. I found a gun in the bathroom (and he came back just 2 minutes later).

I've cried watching movies. I met both my wives working at theatres (they both worked at the theatres I worked at.) I've seen porn, and musicals, and silents. I fell asleep during “Rules of The Game,” reportedly the best movie ever made. I almost never left in the middle of anything – during “Shanghai Knights" I wanted to...but for those outtakes.

I've counted $75,000 some days. I've counted a grand total of $125 other days (not at the same theatre). I've had way too many hot dogs, but I don't eat the popcorn. The UTC popcorn, 20 years ago, was still the best (and Sheila showed me how to do it).

It's been 20 years. And after 20 years, I'm leaving the movie theatre business to go back to school. Classroom school; book school. I'm studying film archiving and preservation at UCLA, which is not something to shake a stick at (if that's your idea of a good time). That's the big time.

In a way, it's still exhibition. I'm just at a different place on the food chain. The field is moving towards a discipline of trained professionals facilitating access to rare film not available through normal venues. (Digital and at-home delivery is the wave of the future.) I finally discovered that the degree will mean more in this industry than all that experience telling the teenagers to tuck in their shirts, or where's your name tag?

The theatre experience is slowly dying, as people watch films on their laptops, or at home, or forget the whole things all together. I won't be standing a theatre lobby listening to the people leave the theatre at midnight anymore either.

Theatres are sacred places, like church, in which people go to honor art, and think about things more important and meaningful than their mundane lives. They're cathedrals, sacred places to be honored.

I'll miss it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Art Doesn't Kill People, People Do

The MPAA rating system is outdated and irrelevant. But at one point, it made sense.

It was created in 1967 to allow the industry to self-govern itself and avoid government interference and censorship (which occasionally threatens, but never gets beyond the talking stage). It positioned itself as the industry-sanctioned guidance committee devoted to help concerned parents choose and monitor what films their children should see in theatres.

It never had the force of law. But it was generally in a theatre's interest to follow the ratings.

Allowing underage kids to see adult material would have the local parents up in arms. It wouldn't do to have immature kids or giggling teens into films where they'll just misbehave, throw spitballs, or jeer when Brad Pitt drops his toga.

We don’t like it when adults giggle, smoke, or talk either. But it’s harder to identify them ahead of time (there are exceptions). The age cut-off is arbitrary but a useful profiling guideline. And may not entirely be legal. But in the age before cable TV, the internet, and the glut of media information, it placed a certain power in our hands.

Unfortunately, many of the parents dropping off these kids didn’t seem to understand the ratings. Too often, when presented with the fact that the film is rated “R," for either gore, sexuality, or drug use, the parents of these underage kids, wanting to go have a night of adult entertainment for themselves, invariably say, “It’s okay, they’ve seen worse at home."

Presumably, on TV, and not at the dinner table over dessert.

The parents wave at us from the car, smiling, “It's okay!" They don't realize they should be interested in what material their kids are consuming (whether it’s “The Matrix Reloaded,” (rated “R” for overly silly fighting), “Half-Baked” (rated “R” for insistent drug use), or “The Passion of the Christ” (rated “R” for graphic images of our Savior being beaten to a pulp).).

Households are filled with images and words nowadays: double entendres on sitcoms, T&A cable movies, and porn and beheadings on the internet - the potency of all this material has been deluded by its sheer mass.

It’s impossible to impose a rigid age deciding when people are able to handle certain material. Immature people (of all ages) will not treat the sight of Anthony Hopkins eating brains in “Hannibal” the respect it deserves. It would be nice to be able to filter jerks and assholes out at the door when we sell tickets, but in the absence of actual membership cards to these large and growing clubs, restricting people by an arbitrary age is the most effective if imperfect first step to reduce problems.

The age of 17 is a guideline rather than a rule. There's an error rate of 2 or 3 years in either direction.

We once kicked a group of four 15-year-olds out of "Kill Bill Vol. 2," in spite of their best efforts to get in, including buying tickets to “Home On The Range.” Pissed and defiant, they walked down the street to the local drug store, bought a copy of "Kill Bill Vol. 1"on DVD and walked back over waving it in their hands at us, proving they did have practically infinite access to as dangerous material as they could find (and “Vol. 1” was so much bloodier, more immoral, and narratively transgressive than “Vol. 2").

So why stop them from coming in?

An old co-worker of mine once let a 14-year-old kid in to see an “R” rated film he was trying to sneak into back at the old UA, With this caveat: he had to sit down and watch it, then tell him about it at the end. No playing, no letting his friends in the exit, you wanna sneak it to see it - go do it. But sit. And watch.

Well, the kid left after 11 minutes. The prize was so much less sweet when not earned.

More than one mom took their 2-year-old in to see "Se7en" The other customers in the theatre were made insane seeing these very impressionable babies watching that deviant behavior up on the big screen. (With wide silent eyes.) They demanded we call the cops.

We’re not the parents. We only show the movies. But we try to preserve order as best we can.

These kids, they say "The MPAA sucks" and I ask them why, and they say "Because they censor stuff." They don't. "Because they put an R rating on sex but not on violence." And I ask them what film exactly they weren't able to see because of an MPAA rating? What image was withheld from them - what deleted scene on "The Girl Next Door" wasn't on the DVD they BitTorrent'd last week? Exactly what effect the MPAA really has, when they merely slap an advisory label, intended solely for parents, on a film in which the parents pay not attention?

How nice to be in the movie theatre business, and feel like you’re making a difference in these kids’ future.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hollywood Ending

Film is dead. We've been hearing that for over 10 years now.

Actually, movie theatres are the ones dying.

I've been watching it happen before my eyes. For the last 20 years now. Film is too expensive to produce nowadays – Stanley Kubrick used to say that the film was the cheapest thing on the set once you were there, so a couple dozen extra takes wasn't really wasting that much more money. His point, I guess, was it would cost so much more to go back and reshoot something, get the crew and actors back together, you might as well get as many takes as you want (and a hundred more) since we're all here anyway.

The studios, following the lead of most online concerns, are pushing for digital delivery. It's so much cheaper to stream books, films, your bank statement, anything information-based, than to mail something physical and discreet, an object that's unique (though duplicable) and can not theoretically be in 2 places at once.

It's an easy jump to producing digitally as well - no messy molecules to manage.

We're consuming digital derivatives on an every-day basis, and don't quite realize there was once a physical source. When the fourth (or is it the first?) Star Wars film, "Phantom Menace" was released in 1999, a couple potential bootleggers broke into a movie theatre with the intent of stealing the film to make copies to sell. They didn't realize that it was a 35mm film - built onto a platter, unwielding and heavy, and darn hard to dupe - unless you had access to thousands of dollars worth of equipment. They were found a mile from the theatre, with a mile of celluloid tangled into a hopeless ball in the backseat of their car.

As the cost of everything goes up - gas, babysitters, ticket prices, and at the theatre, popcorn and drinks, and dinner next door - people are going to theatres less. The theatre owners are hurting as well; real estate, labor, delivery charges added onto the popcorn – and even the popcorn itself (which is now being used for fuel alternatives, and enjoying increased demand) – are all forcing them to raise prices. Which lowers attendance further and makes the problem worse.

When the studios begin insisting on delivering their content digitally (which is more manageable, and trackable on their end - no clandestine showings at midnight of "Indiana Jones" in which the manager pockets all the receipts), how many of the theatres will be able to invest in the $100,000+ digital projection/computer system?

It's simply too easy to be entertained nowadays. People aren't falling in love with going to films the way they were in previous generations. You used to go on dates at movies, and see things bigger than life up on a screen, in the dark, with strangers (hoping to be closer friends, real soon?). But how do you fall in love when it's streamed, small, and personal?

The perceived value of something because of peers surrounding you (we all waited in line for this "Star Trek V" - and somehow enjoyed it in a different way by being surrounded by 800 other suckers) demanded you pay attention to something you might not otherwise discover. This isn't entirely a bad thing. I've spent numerous hours talking about the merits - or lack thereof - of "STV." With a commitment of over 4 hours of my life, I was not able to dismiss it out of hand so easily.

Now everything is within reach of everybody. Films, shows, clips, trivia, and music is all accessible with a click, to be casually sampled and discarded.

There's no investment of time or interest in it anymore.

Within the next 10 years, there's likely to be a serious shakeout and downsizing of the number of movie screens out there in meat-space. The way attendance is trending, as much as half of the screens out there will be gone in less than 10 years. And with this will come a corresponding shakeout on what gets produced, an how much of it, as the way it's delivered to you changes forever.

By "shakeout," read "catastrophic restructuring of the business."

And with the disappearance of the audiences for films in theatres comes the disappearance of the experience of watching films, in an auditorium with a crowd. Film showings are derivative of the theatre. They're performance-based (scripted, true; with actors) and through mechanical reproduction, able to be presented as a public event - intangible, in real time. And communal.

It's not selling widgets - individual items to consumers, like shovels, tires, CDs, or downloads.

The big films will become more and more like circus acts – special effects extravaganzas with high-concept tie-ins that can't, won't, or don't exploit the subtle power that cinema is capable of. As there are less and less screens, the marginally profitable will no longer be produced.

As the business further mutates, an elite minority will continue to value the experience of going to movies, and they'll pay a premium for the opportunity to patronize film. Probably old classics, in an appropriately respectful environment surrounded by like-minded aficionados, undistracted by megaplex gimcrackery of on-screen ads and arcades.

Film-going will become like opera. Rarified, expensive, and baroque.

Only for the initiated, like going to church. It'll be akin to a spiritual experience, that enlightens and inspires.

The masses, with infinite access, won't understand why people will still pay $30 - 60 to sit in a seat surrounded by strangers, for something they can't even download. Or even, for something that they can.

Movie theatres won't completely die. They'll just become increasingly irrelevant to Hollywood.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Postscript: When Ampex introduced a 2-inch videotape system in 1954, a
front-page banner headline in Daily Variety proclaimed, “Film is Dead!” The panic has been going on for a lot longer than I realized.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Perfect Time To Think Silver

Back in the '60s, Andy Warhol had his Factory in Greenwich Village decorated with aluminum vents, tin foil on the walls, and pieces of broken mirrors. It was all self-reflective and silver, and made one very aware of the surroundings. It was the amphetamine in and all around him, and in the people around him; and those shiny and reflective surfaces emphasized the acrylic self-awareness of a drug-fueled artspace.

If more of the prevailing members of the community had been shooting heroin (instead of just the satellite hangers-on), the Factory might have been decorated in shades of brown, with soft cushion spread on the carpet.

It all comes down to money. When t.v. came in, film attendance was threatened and studios developed Cinemascope, 3-d, and other technical marvels to call attention to the differences watching films in a theatre from watching them at home. The original 3-d required a return to the old silver screens (highly reflective material) that movie screens were made of until the extra cost proved unnecessary. Truly 3-d had 2 projectors projecting 2 images simultaneously – both images interlocked mechanically so neither imaged drifted out of register as it ran approximately 24 frames a second.

With 2 images superimposed on each other, a more reflective screen and brighter projector were needed.

Warhol would experiment by running numerous projectors with completely different reels on top of each other. His magnum opus, “Chelsea Girls” was a mashup of 2 different images going simultaneously, originally a spur-of-the-moment improvisational “event” that caught the attention of the critics and was codified and printed in one definitive version to be released nationwide. Its focus on a single location and set of characters (and presumably plot events) was its diploma from the art-school pretension of “Empire” or “Sleep” to the later Morrissey horror shows.

In the really old days, cinematic film was “nitrate stock,” with silver nitrate in the photo-sensitive stock. It was also very flammable if not handled carefully, and if the film would get stuck in the gate, and the frame in front of the light got stuck long enough and got too hot, it didn't just melt (which is something you might have seen at your local multiplex,when something goes awry up in the booth) – it burned. The flame would travel up to the reel above and practically explode. Water could not put out these fires. Many old booths still have metal plates above the port glass that were designed to slide down and trap any infernos in the booths if fire broke out (there were burnable stays that would burn and drop them in case of a conflagration). So the fire would be contained to the booth and only the projectionist would perish.

And these guys used to smoke all the time. In the booth. That scene in “Cinema Paradiso” isn't fiction.

Nitrate, because of the silver in the stock, has a darker deeper blacks, and the whites fairly “glow” due to the silver in the stock. Nitrate film, because of all the danger, started to be replaced in the early '40s, and was done by 1951. Many old nitrate films, especially silent films, were recycled for the silver in them. It was leeched out for the raw materials - as much as 90% of silent films no longer exist in complete form, and only about half the films made before 1950 exist. Much of this was due to unstable nitrate stock, but another aspect is that t.v. started to become a viable market for old films, and they started to be kept in a more meaningful manner after then.

(Readers interested in more info are invited to follow this link.

Nitrate prints are seldom projected, but if you have the opportunity to see one you must take it. Places in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and New York screen nitrate on occasion.

They have 2 projectionists and an asbestos blanket on hand at all times. It's a lot of work, and most nitrate that still exists is now being transferred to a digital format for future exploitation.

That's nice.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Night The Carousel Burnt Down

The Universal lot in Los Angeles caught fire last weekend, and a vault holding prints and video tapes burned to the ground. While no unique copies of any films were destroyed, it's become clear that apparently the entire collection of 35mm prints available for rental by theatres was destroyed.

(Story here:,0,5996006.story)

Of interest is the letter Universal sent to programmers Monday morning. "...yesterday's fire destroyed nearly 100% of the archive prints kept here on the lot. Due to this we will be unable to honor any film bookings of prints that were set to ship from here."

Over 40,000 items were destroyed (including video archives of television shows as well), and while all the negatives of the prints are safe elsewhere, for the forseeable future all showings of any films sourced from the Universal catalog (including ones they acquired over the years) are compromised, unless they were 1) out on rental at a theatre over the weekend, or 2) Universal replaces the 35mm print by going back to negative or other materials to strike a print.

And when do you think that will be? How vibrant do you think the business for rentals of 35mm films are lately, with the advent of home video, DVDs, Tivo, cable, and BitTorrent?

Striking a print costs about $5000, if the negative is in good shape, can be found easily, and is properly marked. Not to mention the time involved. If "The Mummy" with Boris Karloff only gets booked twice a year, and generates $300 each time, do you think they'll rush out to make a new 35mm print? Besides, it's available on DVD now, so anyone that wants it can get it.

The original 1933 "King Kong" was extensively remastered and scanned to DVD last year. Presumably there was a 35mm print struck for roadshow bookings, or for Peter Jackson's personal use. The King Kong attraction has been destroyed. Has that print been as well? The only print in existence of "King Kong Escapes" (no known negative) has been verified as having been lost.

These prints are the archival ones that go out to higher-end theatres that run them reel to reel (as opposed to building them up on platters, which is hard on the films and generally not done for valuable or archival copies). These are the good ones, the ones that museums and cinemateques run. Universal has no compelling financial reason to replace these 35m prints. The rental business of old archival prints has reached the point where it's a loss-leader.

We seem to be seeing the death of film faster than predicted.

Only a handful of prints, estimated to be between 40 and 60 currently out at theatres, have survived.

I hope you were able to see "Frankenstein" or "Jaws" or "Car Wash" or "The Dear Hunter" or "Charley Varrick" or "Slaughterhouse Five" or "American Graffiti" or "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (all Universal titles) in a theatre if you wanted to.

You may never see these them live again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The "Elmo In Grouchland" Story

So I was working in a movie theatre back in 1999 when “Elmo In Grouchland” played in movie theatres. Elmo, for all you uninitiated, is the red furry “five-year-old” muppet that is supposed to channel all the personality quirks of a typical kindergardener. The young set – maybe who have never seen a film before – identify with him. This was his theatrical debut.

In the film he loves his blue blanket, but it's stolen and taken to the land where the Grouches live, and he has to go retrieve it. Now, understand, this blanket is a very powerful metaphor for comfort, home, security, and motherhood – everything a 5-year-old holds dear. When Elmo, who is a pretty upbeat and guileless character who only thinks the best of all the people (and the talking and dancing animate objects) around him, loses it, it undermines the basic foundation he bases his everyday life on.

Grouchland if you can imagine is not exactly sweetness and light. It's dark, furry, shot a little askew, and full of clutter. In other words, to any typical blanket-less 5-year-old, it's hell.

My blanket is NOW IN HELL.

So about 15 minutes into the film, the kids start hitting the lobby, screaming at the top of their lungs. “He lost his blankie - he's gotta get it!” This film has the most profound effect on these impressionable kids I've ever seen – they don't understand that it's all make-believe, it's fiction – magic of Hollywood. It's fuckin' puppets for crissakes. But Elmo needs to go get his blanket back, and they can't leave until they've gotten closure. Mom is panicking – that experiment about taking the kid to his first film, some innocuous Sesame Street film with Elmo, has completely gone berzerk.

But the kid won't leave. The moms look at each other in the lobby (funny, no dads took their pre-schoolers to the thing. He'll wait until the new “Star Wars.”) The kid feels for Elmo – they gotta see that it works out - in fact, if that blanket isn't found, Elmo won't be able to sleep, he won't be able to live, WE won't be able to live, there'll be no peace - the Earth will burst into flames. Communism will prevail. Or something. They simply have to go back in and see the end.

But – Grouchland is HELL. Even Mandy Patinkin is there! It's the classic Pirandellian paradox. Do I leave the theatre now, or go in and submit myself to more torture?

The film is only 80 minutes, shortish even by kid-film standards, but the next hour is the longest these new patrons-of-the-arts will ever spend. They're getting a heroin-shot of the power of art straight into their impressionable brains. At this rate, they may never see another film again.

Which brings me to my point.

Narrative art, whether it's a horror film or an autobiographical novel or Elmo from Sesame Street, often manifests themes that we can relate to, even if the actual characters and the actions aren't specifically ones we have experienced or resemble. For example, even though we were never caught in a tall building where terrorists were trying to rob the bank through the computer that was housed there, we still identify with John McClane in “Die Hard” because we have been forced to do something hard (save his wife, get his blanket) for personal reasons (he still loves her, he loves it so much) while facing difficulty (the terrorists all have guns, Grouchland is really scary!).

All compelling stories are basically the same. They have the same elements: a character is forced to do something hard, but continues for the right reason.

It's as simple as that. I can't believe Elmo got me to get to this discussion. There are 3 key words in the above description - “forced,” “hard,” and “right.”

The lead character must be forced to act. If he merely “decides” to do something, without being forced out of his comfort zone to try something extraordinary, there are no stakes involved. No risk. (I'm using the royal “he” here.)

And what he decides to do must be hard. If it's easy to accomplish, there is no drama. (And the story, bereft of complications, is too short.)

And finally, he must do it for the right (and by that I mean appropriate) reason(s). If the lead character is doing something that's questionable or confusing, the story shifts from something we can relate to into a narrative experiment in empathy. Okay for that narrative rhetoric class, but not for the paying public.

One of my favorite podcasts – my only vice that makes my 45-minute commute a little more bearable (all my other vices make it much harder to drive, if not impossible) - is the Creative Screenwriting podcast


in which Senior Editor Jeff Goldsmith talks to writers about their experiences writing for Hollywood. Besides the the typical “they made me change it to an elephant” stories, almost every writer has fascinating insights about how they figured out the spine of their story, and fought for that, through dunderheaded executive notes, casting changes, and sometimes years of development hell.

From “Mr. Magorium" to “Sweeney Todd,” from “The Devil Wears Prada” to “Angel A,” these professional writers practically to a man (again the royal; sorry) understand these plot points, and discuss how they got their vision through. For all you aspiring filmmakers out there, it's a great education from people in the trenches. They all want to make a connection with the audience in the theatre at the very end of the process.

Those screaming 5-year-olds in the lobby of “Elmo” would have made them beam.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Cone Caper

My brother moved last month, and was going through closets of material that hadn't been looked at in over 15 years. He found old car keys, letters never sent, and my old 8mm movies from jr. high school.

My dad had an 8mm camera when we were kids, and took home movies of us playing in the park. When I hit about 12 years old I got bit by the the cinema bug (it was a combination of Charlie Chaplin and Dean Jones) and borrowed it to make films. I used my brothers and sister as actors, and took the 3-minute reels to the Fotomat booth up in the Grants parking lot to develop. I'd edit the shots together into short comedy opuses on a Fedmart hand-crank film editor.

Editing film on a computer wasn't around yet, and so I did everything by hand. Edited with cement, by eye. Each edit was a commitment. There were no second chances, unless I wanted to undo a splice and redo it one frame in. Making it shorter.

It was just a hobby – nothing serious. Only later would I fancy myself a filmmaker and write scripts, try to get an agent, and even produce an independent film for the film festival circuit. The point was to have the means of production within my hands, and figuring out how a close-up cuts together with a medium shot. Or if crossing the 180 really mattered – if people really noticed. (They really didn't.)

In “Waterworks,” the 2nd of what would be a trilogy of movies filmed with my brothers, after they had wreaked havoc with the car they had been issued to wash, the grumpy homeowner, a part played by my father, exits the house proceeded by a garbage bag.

The crowd in my high school class tittered in anticipation.

Cut to a reverse of my two brothers, standing on the car, spraying each other and throwing sponges.

And back to my dad, who does a take that can only be described as broad - as he straightens, pops his eyes out and drops the bag.

The crowd went wild.

And as he begins to runs after my brothers, who scurry off and up the sidewalk, the film rolls out. And the power of editing, image cut to image, storytelling shot by shot, has been indelibly etched into my artisan brain.

This document has been found, and the splices are intact. It was filmed in front of our Alcazar house, with the yard before it was landscaped. A unique historical document, captured on film (not to mention showing the White Ford we had back in '74).

There's my brothers, young and overly willing to follow my orders (I must have been yelling behind the camera at them, even then, like I did on the playground). My dad took us to Balboa Park in San Diego every so often when we were kids - he took the film camera, and filmed us at play, at these parks or on the beach.

These home movies are lost now. They show us playing in the grassy field surrounding General Dynamics, the aerospace company where my dad worked, where they designed and built the first satellites shot into space. The building's gone now, along with the sculpture garden with actual airplanes.

Yet there it was on the films. You can see the skyline of the mountains past Clairmont in the background, which are now covered with houses. And the open spaces surrounding 163 interchange, also completely changed. There's a film of us in the old entrance to the San Diego Zoo as well, eating lunch (that area is gone too).

Maybe the films aren't lost for good. Maybe they're only misplaced.