I want to call to your attention a film my friend Michael Cahill is looking for Kickstarter funds for, a documentary on classic movies shot on nitrate film. Nitrate was the film stock used prior to 1950, and was known for being dangerously flammable (nitrate produces its own oxygen, so if you lit it on fire and dropped it in a tank of water, it would still burn.) It was so powerful that once it ignited it was know for burning down movie theaters all over the country, whenever the projectors overheated and the film caught fire. If you’ve seen the film “Inglorious Bastards”, where they burn down the movie theater from a huge pile of film, that’s nitrate film, and the kind of power it has when it destroys the theater in the movie is dead on accurate. Nitrate was replaced with non flammable acetate film after 1950, but unfortunately because of the newer chemicals, acetate film was prone to decay, which releases a kind of acid, and the film develops what’s called “vinegar syndrome”. Mike Cahill documents in his film not only the importance of film preservation, but to call attention to the fact that these classic films are perishable in their original negative form, and there’s a danger of many great films of classic cinema that could be lost forever. So if you can, please help support Mike’s cause to keep cinema history alive. Nitrate film is especially valuable and important as it indeed represents the birthplace of all cinema. Don’t allow these great films of history to disappear! Go here to fund Mike’s Kickstarter campaign: Baptism By Fire Kickstarter Campaign
I just want to add my own personal story about handling nitrate film. I worked briefly doing deliveries for a company called Protek, a large Film storage facility in Burbank. Just about every great movie you can imagine is stored there, and I have seen original negatives there for The Godfather, Star Wars, and most of Disney’s shorts and features. As a delivery man, one of my jobs was delivering nitrate from a sealed vault in Van Nuys, to be delivered to Protek for inspection, and then brought back to Van Nuys at the end of the day. The nitrate storage facility was pretty much a bomb shelter in its design, complete with a rickity old elevator. But the stuff I handled was incredible. I actually held and delivered all the original negatives to Dumbo. DUMBO. Walt himself probably touched these negatives. And there were several other negatives on the shelves right beside it. One of them being Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was damned amazing. I felt I was in the bowels with the holy grails of cinema. And I got to go to this place every day for several months.
Film is a part of our history, not just cinema history, but an actual document of a time and place that no longer exists. If film existed far before the 19th century, you can imagine how precious it would be to have living documents of recorded history and why its so important that we must preserve it and keep it alive.
I sincerely hope you consider helping to find my friend Mike Cahill’s project. He is a passionate guy and completely devoted to the preservation of film history. If you love the movies, this is fascinating look at the birthplace of all of film. Lets help make this movie happen!