Good news in the Land of Wind-up Dreams! Over the past couple of weeks my studio has been undergoing some renovations in an effort to add a little extra space and added efficiency to my workspace. Wallpaper has been stripped, carpeting has been pulled up, and hardwood floors have been refinished and repaired.
The original 85 year old floor beneath the dingy, water stained carpet was in especially dire need of care. Gouges, discoloration and damage galore! In places, the wood had rotted clear through, and several floorboards needed to be pried up and replaced with fresh strips of oak. Nowhere was this more true than at the far wall where the floor butts up to a cold stucco wall that doubles as a retaining wall for the small orchard at the southernmost tip of my property. There, right beneath the cabinet that holds all my most cherished figures and characters, the condition of the floor was at its worst, and it’s really a surprise that the floor hadn’t buckled under the weight of of the heavy shelves. Termites had long feasted on this wood, rendering the once majestic hardwood to resemble stale biscotti.
No sooner had the cabinet been moved, two boards suddenly crumbled to dust, leaving a frightening hole as the base of the wall.
And there, I made a thrilling discovery!
Hidden in the dark and shrouded by a grey veil of webs was a small cardboard box. I snatched the box from its tomb and swiped away eight decades of dust and grime. Peeking back from the cardboard lid was the impish smile of a kewpie doll beneath a logo identifying the box as the “Property of DREAMSCOPE FILMS.” Inside was the unexpected: a round metal canister, containing a single reel of 16mm film.
Whoa! Weird!!! How long had it been there?!?!
Mystifying though the “why’s” may have been, I was far more interested to see what was on the film than to unravel the circumstances of it being misered away beneath the floorboards of the guest house.
The film had unfortunately not fared well in the decades it had been locked away in its hidey-hole. It had deteriorated badly with most of the tightly wound reel stuck together from one layer of film to the next beneath a bubbling brown ooze. The cells were almost impossibly fragile: cracked, warped, and cloaked by a hazy curtain of faded time. Still, with a pair of white gloves and the patient coaxing of a pair of medical grade tweezers, I was able to free the first few precious frames and spy ghostly images through the light passing through these prehistoric frames of celluloid.
There was definitely something there!
The canister was immediately sealed tight and placed in a climate controlled locking metal briefcase we keep on hand for these very situations. From there, the briefcase was whisked away to the Wind-up Dreams labs (didn’t know we had labs, did you? We do! We do!) where a team of preservationists—led by yours truly—were put to work restoring this precious reel of film to its original state. The effort was eye straining and shoulder burning, as the film was carefully unwound inch by inch, and snipped into individual frames which were placed one after the other in a sequence of labeled acid free envelopes. Some frames were entirely beyond repair, and the best offered no more than a hint about the image contained within. A sample of one of the better frames appears below. Note the deterioration at the edges, spots of decay, and the complete loss of color and detail.
I really didn’t have much hope that we’d be able to repair damage of this extent. Remember… this is one of the good frames! Still, the team persevered, as each frame was washed in preservatives, dried, then—under view of a microscope—lovingly restored. Missing frames were reconstructed from their nearest neighbors. Rips and tears were sealed and blended, and colors—yes, colors!—were brought back to life by delicately hand tinting each and every frame. The results were absolutely astounding! Take a look at the above frame after the team at Wind-up Dreams Labs had completed the restoration:
The final step was to scan and digitize each frame so that the entire 4 minute film could be resequenced on a computer and set to an appropriate score. Oh! And did I mention that the cardboard box had contained detailed notes from the original filmmaker? It did! The notes were penned longhand on stationary bearing the same DREAMSCOPE FILM logo that had been found on the box. While not at all helpful in identifying who had made the film or how it had come to be, the notes were explicit in laying out how the film was to be scored for viewing in a live setting, with a full orchestra and vocal accompaniment. These notes were absolutely crucial in providing audio accompaniment to the restoration!
And now, without further adieu and for the first time in 85 years… Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares is proud to bring you this lost footage!! Enjoy, and feel free to share with your friends!