Home Movies Are the Champion of Them All
Home movies are the winner of them all. Home movies have filled up more frames feet reels than any other genre of film since 1895. Home videos have filled up more fields minutes cassettes of video tape than any other kind of video in the history of videotape. Home movies are king, but they are a king without much respect.
I make home movies - that is the genre that I have chosen to master. I began when I was nine with an 8mm wind-up movie camera. My brother and sisters danced on the front lawn and I set up my camera on a tripod, framed them up, pressed down the button, and asked them not to step beyond the frame line. To this day I am making movies and videos, and they are slightly more sophisticated versions of these early home movies.
Home movies are egotistical and haphazard. They show life from a certain viewpoint, and make no pretence of objectivity. They proudly privilege the viewpoint of the father or the mother, the child or the uncle whoever is holding and shaking around the camera. They rarely synthesize drama - they simply proudly completely present.
Home movies present a strong sense of place. That place may be a home, that place may be an exotic place captured during a vacation, but you can't fake the place, even if the place is a fake. It is simply unthinkable to film your home movie of your New York City trip in Toronto, Canada. I make home movies out of my great respect and interest in the power of place, in the specific power of specific places.
Friends and family do the acting in home movies. The acting isn't necessarily good or bad, it simply is. Relations of power and subservience are acted out, expected roles are reinforced, and, above all, the people in home movies do act, and act like we would in everyday life. The difference between home movies and most other movie genres is that in home movies, the actors act is if the camera is there, rather than act to deny it.
Home movies are indulgent. The creator can be proud of the images he or she presents, and others are free to be bored or underwhelmed.
Home movies privilege the drama of the undramatic. Home movies rarely show the real dramatic moments of life. Drama is no time to take out the camera and set the frame. Home movies show something else. If anything, they present the times in between the drama, where life is simply lived, when there is a simple lull where the most basic building blocks can be presented. Gertrude Stein spoke about her goal of writing about what happens when nothing at all is happening. This is what home movies do. This is my goal in my filmmaking, to find the drama in the question mark, in the dash or the comma, in the time in between, and leave the exclamation point, the full stop, or the capital "T" for others to investigate.
My movies are home movies. My home is in Minneapolis, but I spent much of my life in Montana. My first feature was made in Butte, Montana. Butte feels a little like a home away from home, and for several years I have been able to visit it for a while just about once a year. The movie we made there was a bit of a vacation video, we all stayed in a hotel and ate at restaurants and went out and shot our scenes in the kinds of places that tourists visit: museums, historic sites, and so on. Now I am making movies in my home of Minneapolis, and working with a group of friends. We made a home movie called "8500" which is the kind of home movie you might make wandering through a park at an event.
I have also been making home movies for a living. I tape neighborhood events and projects. These are the shows that people put on to celebrate their successes. I ask them questions about them and they give their lines and I edit them into short tight triumphs for a magazine show I make for work.
Home movies are the champion of them all. I make them with pride and I make them with shame.