Home movie enthusiast Daniele Carrer owns an amazing collection of amateur films spanning the globe. His unique footage adds a new historical dimension as it enables viewers to see the world through the eyes of ordinary people. We interviewed him to gain insight on how this taxing and sometimes tedious work of unearthing home movies allows us to see history differently.
You started as a video maker in 1996 and your experimental work has been acclaimed in many film festivals. Where does your passion for cinema and moving images come from?
When I was 12 years old I dreamed of being a Basketball player, like Michael Jordan. A few years later, I realized that my dream could not come true, so I started finding another way to be rich and famous, as all teenagers in the world want to be, even in those years. Many of my school friends played in a rock band, but my voice was not good and I didn’t want to spend my time learning how to play guitar. That’s why I went to work during summertime 1995 and in September of that year I had the money to buy my first VHS-c camera to become a film director.
What made you switch from the world of cinema to the world of archives? How did you transform the activity of collecting archive material into a business?
I’ve always loved contemporary history and one of my first jobs in the video production industry back in 1999 was for a little studio not too far from where I live in Northeastern Italy, where I transferred 8mm films using homemade systems.
In that period I started trying to be a professional filmmaker. I spent 10 years on that dream, but in 2007 I turned 30 and I realized that I had to grow up. That’s why I had to find the most profitable way to work with moving images, so I became a stock footage producer. In 2013 competition on the micro stock industry was already too big to make money easily, so I had to find a niche. Historical films was that niche. So, actually my film archive started as a business.
You’ve built an amazing collection of amateur footage from all over the world. (Some of your awesome footage appears in our landing page! Thanks!) How do you conceive of this collection in the long run?
In 2013 I was trying to find a way to sell my contemporary stock footage in a different place than micro stock agencies. I went on Ebay and I simply wrote “stock footage” in the search box. There were a lot of low cost collections on DVDs. So, I started thinking that Ebay was not the right place to make money. But there was also an 8mm collection of dozens of historical films. If the owner didn’t mention the word “stock footage” on that auction my life would probably be very different today. It was like a light that appeared in front of me. Soon I bought an HD scanner, I learned how to restore films, and I started selling them as part of my stock footage collection in micro stock agencies. Then, I published my website and started selling home movies directly. Today, I’ve got 700 reels. I’ve got many online projects, but I hope someday home movies will be my only business.
Your collection is made of a great variety of formats. From restoring to digitizing, what artisanal processes are involved in your work?
The quality of my collection starts before buying. On Ebay you can’t watch the footage. You can see some frames and sometimes you can see nothing, but there are techniques to understanding if you’re buying treasure or if you’re buying trash. So, it’s difficult for a newbie to be as good as I am today. I digitize my films frame by frame with a Moviestuff scanner at 1280 x 720, which is the best resolution you can have with 8mm films. Then, I restore them with AVIsynth, which is an open source software that works with scripts. It’s very difficult to use, but in my opinion it’s the software that gives the best results. Then I store the image sequences and the exported final video on my Cloud, to save them forever, save them from aging and to link them to buyers when they pay.
The use of found footage seems to be in vogue today. Who are some of your clients? Can you tell us about a TV or film project that you have particularly enjoyed collaborating on?
Sometimes I get an email saying a production needs some of my footage. I give them a quote, they send me money, and I send the video. It’s like buying on Amazon. But sometimes there are many emails between the producer, the director, and myself. One of the first productions I worked with was an independent documentary about the crazy story of a man who won a sailing race around the world in 1974, called The Weekend Sailor. We talked for months, and I even searched for footage that I didn’t have, finding great stuff about South Africa, Acapulco and Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s. I felt like I was involved in the production and when the documentary won prizes at festivals around the world, I felt like a very small part of them was mine.
Festivals like Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna have become increasingly visible in recent years. To conclude, could you say something about the flourishing archive scene in Italy?
In Italy, there are a few projects financed by public funds. The problem is that they don’t publish these films online. Films have to live, and they don’t live when they are just stored in a dark room. There’s something I can’t understand about Italian 8mm films. Do you know where I find the best home movies created in my country? In Austria and Germany. I really don’t know where old 8mm films shot by Italian filmmakers go, but I’m quite sure a lot of them go in the garbage. I really feel as I’m a saving an important part of our history. Home movies are real life, they are like YouTube videos decades before YouTube was invented. Before 1975, in Italy we had just two television channels, and they were strictly controlled by the Government, even though we are a democracy. All television archives are made of footage that come from years when censorship was very strict. The only real life you can watch from that period is home movies, and I’ve already saved 700 of them. I’m hoping to save 100 times that number in the future.