Something was lost when videos went from magnetic tape and plastic, to plastic discs, and now to digital streams. Browsing aisles is no more, as the once-great video shops slowly board up their windows across the country.
Future generations may know little of the days when buying a movie meant you owned it even if the Internet went down. Back when getting a movie meant you had to scour rows of boxes in search of one whose cover art called back a story that echoed your interests.
Already the story is fading of how home video changed entertainment forever, but a handful of filmmakers hope to change this.
“Home video redefined our relationship to movies. It provided control over how we consume entertainment and increased the access of media for all future generations,” said Josh Johnson, one of the filmmakers behind upcoming documentary “Rewind This!” via email.
Johnson, and the rest of the team at IPF Productions, Carolee Mitchell, Christopher Palmer, hope to tell the story of how and why home video came about, and how it changed our culture.
Home video did a lot more than just keep the classics alive. It also opened a rental market that gave B movies and films that didn’t make the silver screen their own chance to shine.
“Essentially, the rental market expanded, because of voracious consumer demand, into non-blockbuster, off-Hollywood video content which would never have had a theatrical life otherwise,” said Palmer.
“The rental industry supported a movie hungry audience with a massive amount of video content the home consumer could indulge in their own private space,” he said.
But the story goes beyond this. There are many, many films being left behind with the shift from VHS to DVD and Blu-Ray. Between 30 and 40 percent of films released on VHS may never be seen again on any other format.
And while researching this story, the trio of filmmakers found something interesting: there is a resurgence taking place of people going back to VHS.
According to Johnson, the fact that such a massive number of films are “trapped on VHS,” is one of the key reasons behind the format’s quiet return; but there are other reasons behind it.
Palmer said, “Most of the true VHS fanatics are children of the 1980s. Whether they are motivated by a sense of nostalgia or prefer the format for the grainy aesthetic qualities of magnetic tape or some other reason entirely unknown, each tapehead is unique like a snowflake. It would be impossible to say what motivation modern VHS fans hold in common.”
The move to digital also came at a cost, and some of the key elements that made home videos what they once were are being lost—elements that some hope to keep.
We’re losing the social connection to our home video watching habits,” Palmer said.
“We are also subjected to smaller and smaller artwork, making the rental experience more dependent on suggestion algorithms than the more traditional eye-catching graphic design,” he said. Certainly the titillating illustrated cover art has become more rare and unfashionable, since artwork moved to smaller formats, digital remaining the least visual.”
The team is currently raising funds for the film through Kickstarter, and have already well surpassed their goal. Mitchell said the campaign “has shown us that this subject matter is important to a wider variety of individuals than we initially suspected. It has been really reaffirming to hear so much positive feedback about the focus of the film and the approach we’re taking to it.”
“Home video changed the media landscape in a permanent, lasting way,” she said. “We are committed to covering that story with the sort of depth and passion it deserves. We can’t wait to share the finished film with audiences.”
[box_light]Main Photo: Pictured clockwise from the top left are Christopher Palmer, Josh Johnson, and Carolee Mitchell. Image courtesy of Eduardo A. Garcia.[/box_light]