Many years ago I worked part time at a place called the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC). One day, in walked Michael Snow. Snow, renowned for his public paintings and sculptures (including works on display at The Rogers Centre and The Eaton's Centre) had several experimental films at the CFMDC. We chatted and I told him about my 16mm film collection, which included many golden age cartoons, Laurel & Hardy shorts and Marx Bros. features. Snow was much more interested in the home movies my dad, Ross Brioux, shot on 16mm. My dad’s earliest reel was shot on black-and-white film around 1934 and his short movies extended into the ‘70s. Besides family members, the films captured many Toronto and area landmarks. When he heard this, Snow said, “You’ve got to preserve those films."
This summer, the real work of preserving those films begins. This August 31 would have been my dad’s 100th birthday (he died two-and-a-half years ago at 97). Many of the films he shot on 16mm—almost all of them with his hand-cranked, Toronto-purchased (at “Screen and Sound Services, Ltd”), Victor Cine Camera, Model 3—are still in projectable condition. Some of the films, however, are lost or, at least, scattered.
Dad was always happy to shoot weddings, and several friends and cousins got the movie treatment. He took movies of his nephew Norm “Zoom Zoom” Brioux racing at the CNE grounds in the ‘50s that I’ve never seen.
He made little movies about lodges up north and passed them on to friends as a sales tool. He and my mom’s own wedding film, shot in West End Toronto and Fenlon Falls, remains a beautiful little time capsule of post-war Canada.
My dad even took movies while serving in the Provost Corps during World War II. His army films show an inspection at Camp Borden and servicemen playing baseball, as well as riding the trains between Winnipeg and Barrie, Ont. Overseas, where soldiers were not allowed to bring movie cameras, my dad borrowed one at a camera store in France and shot street scenes around “Canada House” in Paris. The store owner was only too happy to loan a camera to a Canadian soldier.
In Toronto, dad’s movies of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s featured sites and venues that no longer stand. The old Sunnyside amusement park is featured in full colour, along with an outdoor mass celebrated in the old ballpark on the shore of Toronto behind Tip Top Tailors.
In the west end, where he lived, local landmarks such as the Kingsway are shown as brand new housing developments. Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, celebrating 75 years this summer, is shown on the day of its first mass and picnic. There is at least a thousand feet of film shot up in Oliphant, on the shores of Lake Huron, and a thousand more of various kids’ birthday parties over the years, most featuring yours truly. These were my Wonder Years, all in Kodachrome.
Film is a remarkably stable medium, and for the most part these 100-ft rolls were well stored. Still, colour fades and films can shrink and grow brittle. Getting these films professionally transferred to digital is a priority, before they all turn to dust. A professional, wet gate transfer is expensive, but a good transfer is worth it. Several films houses that perform this task still exist in Toronto. The films are cleaned and mended before being transferred. A proper transfer avoids the “hot spot” or blurry effects of doing it on the cheap. A resulting high definition, professional transfer would restore these films and make them available to friends, family and history buffs for generations to come.
Pledge $5 or more
Friends and family who donate $5 or more will receive unwavering and eternal gratitude! Give yourself a pat on the back from us while you think about how you are helping to preserve a small part of Canadian history, one 5$ bill at a time.
Pledge $10 or more
Friends and family who donate $10 or more will receive an invitation to the theatre screening of highlights from the Ross Brioux film transfers, to be held in Toronto in September. This pledge guarantees your spot, as seating will be limited.
Pledge $25 or more
Friends and family who donate $25 or more will receive a DVD "Ross Brioux Movie Reel" screener featuring movies from the '30s through '70s. You will also be invited to the theatre screening of highlights from the Ross Brioux film transfers, to be held in Toronto in September. Not only does this pledge guarantee your spot, but you also get to keep the movie! Well isn't that swell!
Pledge $50 or more
Possibly the coolest, and definitely the most retro of the rewards is the limited edition BRIOUX pennant! In crimson and gold, this pennant is of utmost quality, made by real pennant-pros. Friends and family who donate $50 or more will receive this brand new, genuine felt pennant, suitable for hanging. Hurry, these are very limited! Grab 'em while they're hot! Pennants are made by Oxford Pennants, in Buffalo, NY
Pledge $75 or more
Friends and family who donate $75 or more will receive the highest honours. That means that you will get: eternal gratitude, a DVD screener of the movies, front-row seats to the theatre screening, and (last but not least!) your names in the very special THANK-YOU credits of the final film. "This film could not have happened without the help from... YOUR NAME" -- doesn't that sound nice?
Risks and challenges
Launching The "TV on Film Project" a few years ago required me to source film transfer houses to transfer 16mm films of U.S. network Fall Preview reels from the '60s and '70s. Since then, I have built a strong relationship with one transfer house in particular that I'm confident will do justice to my dad's movies.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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