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The mentality of the (true) film collector

Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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Although some would say I'm a film collector, the film archivist is something of a different mindset than an actual film collector. OK, I will agree I am a film collector of sorts. But a true film collector would rather watch a projected faded red and scratched up film rather than a restored Blu-ray disc of the film. For me, I would rather watch a restored digital copy than a subpar projected film copy. 

Here is a recent ad from a film collector's forum:

The Goodbye Girl (1977).
Pretty good print, theatrical. Eastman turning. A few lines, splices at reel joins. Got this a while ago, watched it, enjoyed it, but not something I'll watch over and over again. Would much rather get another print to enjoy. $275 shipped (C USA only), but would much rather trade for that value.

'Eastman turning' means the film is red and lost most of the original color. 




With filters on the projector lens or chemical treatment they can get something a little better to project...



Internet Photos: My World in 8mm - Fair Use

While film is mesmerizing to project, I'm not stuck into that 'projection only' mentality like a true film collector is. Actually, I don't do much projection at all any longer. Every time you project a film it causes wear and tear.



Click to view

Damaged section of 16mm film from The Radio Man

Photo: D.D.Teoli Jr.


As a film archivist I like to bestow as little wear and tear on a film as possible. And some of these projectors and editors are a pain to get bulbs for. You may need to buy used projector bulbs on eBay from Ukraine...with no guarantee of them even working. (But that is just one extreme example.)



Photo: eBay - Fair Use


Another difference is film collectors usually would never buy a film like this one below. Most film collectors like feature films and in somewhat pristine shape. I prefer short subject films and not feature films. But that is not the point here. The point is they would not buy a warped-up film suffering from vinegar syndrome to this extent...unless they had a dose of film archivist in them. 



Photo: D.D.Teoli Jr.


With a film archivist it is a challenge to save some part of film history, no matter what condition it is in. I mentioned above that I like restored digital copies of a film. Well, I'm no snob with films. Most of my archival work deals with scratched up, faded and warped and ripped films with various stages of vinegar syndrome and sometimes bug infestation. I'm just saying if the choice is watching a faded and scratched up projected film or a restored digital copy...I will go for the restored digital copy. 

Recently a picker acquired a huge goldmine of films from a collector and amateur filmmaker. This is just a miniscule fraction of films he acquired from the estate...for peanuts. He sold one box of slides for $5,000+. 





So, here was a case where a picker had some pristine films from a film collector that was dispersed in short order before they sat too long and started to decompose. I just wish I was rich and could have bought the entire collection...to archive.



The late Dennis R. Atkinson

But whether film collector or archivist. We all got one thing in common. We got lots of film!

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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I only own B&W prints because I don't want to get into the whole fading issue. I've been collecting Marx Brothers films on 16mm, sadly the last one I got imported from the UK was a bust, but it's watchable. 

I agree tho, many collectors I know don't care if it's a beat up print or not, they collect TO collect, not to really watch. Some of them do watch their prints and there are some guys who have spent decades getting perfect prints, IB technicolor stuff and man, those pockets are deep. 

Where I love film prints, it's hard to project 35mm at home. So yes UHD BluRay is the best option in the long run. That's what I collect now because in our lifetime, physical media will end and UHD BluRay is the best format we will have for the home ownership of movies. 

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35mm? That is for the big boys! (I'd add girls to it, but lady film collectors are pretty rare.) You need space and $$ for 35mm. And those projectors! I got started with 8mm. But soon graduated to 16mm. 



Some film collectors still go for carbon arc projectors


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I had 17 x 35mm projectors at one time;  95% were silent era. 

Had some pretty rare ones and damn near every Powers model every made; they all were a collector's collection in Ohio.  Took the largest U-Haul truck I could rent to move everything back home to Dayton.

In retrospect, that was a nightmare, but I enjoyed cleaning them up and getting them running again.

Sold the bulk of them to Carey Williams of Chicago for his Cinema Museum and then it went out of business. 

I still wonder who wound up with them...



Edited by Frank Wylie
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4 hours ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

35mm? That is for the big boys! (I'd add girls to it, but lady film collectors are pretty rare.) You need space and $$ for 35mm. And those projectors! I got started with 8mm. But soon graduated to 16mm. 

I have a portable 35mm projector, where its heavy,  it's not very big. I can roll it around the garage and show prints anywhere. The problem is that you need 2 projectors to play prints unless ya want a 5 minute gap every 20 minutes. Where on 16mm, the prints are around 45min a reel, so the break to re-thread isn't bad when using a single projector. 

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