When media went digital in the early 2000’s, the trickle down effect would forever change the way we live, the way that we eat and even the way we watch movies.
The age of analog was starting to pass, so would begin the age of streaming.
Before Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Go, HBO Now, HBO Max, HB20, Peacock TV, freaking even Quibi… there was nothing like owning your own hardcopies of movies. Even in the past 20 years we flew from DVD to Blu-ray to 4k-Ultra and to the inevitable 8k Ultimate Cinescope. Sometimes it was almost simpler to dust off a VHS and just press play.
No top menu, no cleaning a scratched disc, just a simple insert and play.
VHS may have been the precursor to digital and streaming but 35 mm film has been around as early as 1890, (thank you Thomas Edison). 35mm film for cinema has been around since the 1920’s and is still used for movies and cinema today.
Even more niche than going to arthouse theaters or an Alamo Drafthouse to catch a movie projected on film is owning your own projectors and having your own private movie collection of 16mm and 35mm films.
“It was my age, I guess. I grew up with VHS and film so it has been something I’ve been drawn to.”
-Falcon Craft-Rubio, amateur film collector
That was Falcon’s answer when I asked him how he got into film prints. Known as @thehollywoodjefe, not just online but in his own personal circles, he is the movie guy. Over the past year or so he’s taken his love of all things cinema and made it his discipline. He started off casually with a 16mm projector from the 1980’s and a began building his library, starting with eclectic 16mm documentaries and old reels of old NASA footage.
Have you seen that trend online recently where people start with a paperclip and trade their way up to a iPad Pro or a Tesla? Real or not, thats essentially how to get a foothold in the film community. Those old documentaries and service commercials might not mean much, but to others it is invaluable. You trade what you can, buy what you can, collect what you can, all in hopes of finding your personal holy grail.
Falcon’s personal collection of 16mm films include, Psycho, One Who Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Peter Pan, Feivel Goes West,to modern cult hits like Fight Club, Mighty Ducks, E.T., Big Daddyand Batman(’89).
Every so often he’ll serve as host and projectionist and treat his friends to viewings of these films. From a makeshift workshop theater setup, to the lobby of Hotel Havana, he enjoys sharing his passion with others.
“I got into because of the look cannot be matched digitally, it's a rare experience especially now,” he tells me as we both were working on splicing together his newest 35mm films.
Unwind. Inspect. Cut. Clean. Tape. Wind up. Rewind. End reel.
Wait, theres a 16mm and a 35mm?
Yes, actually there’s 4 different sizes of film, called gauges, each coming with its own set of unique properties. The measure of the gauge determines the width of a film strip. The wider a film strip is, the sharper the definition and more detail it will project. 16mm is cost effective which is why it is used mostly for lower budget films and television, but 16mm copies of films are more rare than 35mm making 16mm films more valuable.
Falcon will try to convince you that getting into 35mm film was never on agenda but it was admittedly inevitable.
“It is as simple as owning the film and having a way to view them.”
Cue the Victoria 5, his newly acquired 35mm projector. This 150lb. behemoth has taken over Falcon’s heart. It’s a steel, Italian stallion from the 1980’s that runs on oil and electricity and spits out an image so clean you would think it was 6k (because it technically is).
“It’s not necessarily about the art of it for me though, it’s specific to the movie. Collecting a movie is a reward of enjoying the movie originally. If I like the movie, I buy the movie and I have it so I can enjoy it at anytime. Take Toy Story for example, I want the movies I like, not ones that are necessarily the most valuable. Knowing the mechanics of 35mm film projecting makes it more of a magical viewing experience.”
At this point in his 35mm collection Falcon has added some of his childhood and teenage year classics.
“It’s the hunt!”, he says.
“Similar to hunting. You hunt and then you eat. You hunt and then you watch. The reward of obtaining the elusive unicorns make it worth it.”
That “unicorn” he mentioned being Toy Story.Since childhood, it has been one of his all time favorite films and as soon as he got into 35mm film, it was the film he knew he wanted the most.
Believe it or not, there is a heavy online community for 35mm. It’s not “heavy” like other collecting communities, but heavy with knowledge, people selling, people looking to buy, general Q&A, and camaraderie. There’s been plenty of connections made in this community and it was through these that Falcon was able to finally find his most prized film.
“It’s tangible magic. And I’ve always liked magic. All the individual frames running through the gate, the light shining through. It somehow captures and creates a moving picture.”
Collecting film doesn’t mean there isn’t an acceptance for the digital. Falcon admits he has over 5 different subscription services, “who doesn’t love to relax and rewatch Stranger Things and The Simpsons?”
As a craftsman himself, Falcon knows the difficulties of cultivating an art form and appreciates the film as its one unique piece of history. No two films will ever be the same, the enjoyment and experience is incomparable and as long as the reels keep turning, Falcon will keep watching.