A few years ago, Travis Hiibner and his friends set out to make a movie. They wanted to use film — not video — but real, actual film, and so they loaded a camera with expensive 16mm celluloid and painstakingly adjusted the apertures and lighting for each shot.
When they’d filmed all their scenes, Hiibner and his friends descended into a basement, turned off all the lights and set about smashing the film cartridge with a hammer in the pitch black. From there, the 100 feet of snake-like film was blindly stuffed into a bucket of processing chemicals.
Then came the moment of truth — along with some nervousness. After all, the first time Hiibner tried to shoot on film the movie burned up on the projector before he even got to see it in motion. This time, they took the film out into the backyard and hung it up in the daylight. Thankfully, the images had developed and they would be able to make a movie.
Such is the process of making a film, as in a real film. It’s not easy, but that’s why people like Hiibner, one of the organizers of the Flicker Spokane Film Festival, keep doing it this way. On Sunday, the festival celebrates its 10th year with a special anniversary showing at the Garland Theater and Hiibner hasn’t given up on the old-school method of making movies, even though the digital approach is much more affordable, less time consuming and hardly as maddening.
“Part of it is the excitement that you don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Hiibner, who counts film as a hobby and works in manufacturing during the day. “You spend a week meticulously shooting your film and then you wonder if it’s going to even turn out.”
Flicker only has two rules: films must be shot on some form of film (8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm or Super 16mm), and they can’t be more than 15 minutes long. Over the years, Flicker has received films from all over the country and the world, including some decidedly weird shit. One year, the festival received an entry from Germany that consisted exclusively of bloody thumbprints on a blank background accompanied by what Hiibner says was some of the most annoying music he’d ever heard.
“It’s about six minutes, but it feels like it’s 15 or 20 minutes. We always put something in there where people will be like, ‘Why are you doing this?’” says Hiibner. “You’re always going to get something really weird. That’s just the nature of short films.”
There are, of course, more conventional films and you’ll see many of the best to come through Flicker on Sunday. It’s a greatest hits collection from the festival’s decade of quirkiness and dedication to preserving a dying art form.
“These days it’s so easy to shoot and reshoot on digital, but all the flaws that come with film are part of what’s intriguing,” says Hiibner, who knows that someday, maybe even in his lifetime, there will no longer be any movies made on actual film. He hopes, though, that it can hang on for people like him.
“It’s scary because film is dying out,” he says. “It’s going to be totally dead eventually because it’s difficult and expensive to work with. For now, it’s going to be a niche thing you can do as a specialized piece of art.”
In the meantime though, the Flicker gang will continue to do things the hard way.
Flicker Film Fest • Sun, Oct. 21 at noon, 3 pm and 6 pm • $5 Garland Theater • 924 W. Garland Ave. • flickerspokane.com