Courtesy of Home Movie Day

With the help of two Yale faculty and staff members, New Haven will take part in a worldwide celebration of home movies at the New Haven Museum on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Home Movie Day is an annual global event usually held on the third Saturday of October. The event is sponsored by the Center for Home Movies, a public benefit corporation that seeks to preserve home movies as cultural heritage. The events are run by local volunteers who screen home movies brought in by attendees, offer film preservation advice and organize film-related events. This year, Home Movie Day events will be held in cities across 18 countries.

According to Brian Meacham, the Yale Film Study Center’s archive and special collections manager, the goal of Home Movie Day is to reunite people with the film in their collections that they are unable to project due to lack of equipment.

“Often people will have these items in their family, in their closets or in a shoe box under their beds, and they won’t have any way to screen it because the technology has sort of moved on,” Meacham said.

At the Home Movie Day event in New Haven, Meacham, along with Andrea McCarty, the audio-visual project manager in Yale University Library’s preservation department, will inspect home movies in 8mm, Super8 and 16mm film formats. From noon to 2 p.m., they will inspect the films to make sure they can go through a projector without being damaged. The home movies will then be screened with film projectors from 2–4 p.m. McCarty said that the event provides the opportunity to see films screened on a projector, which is no longer a common experience.

“It’s about increasing awareness for home movies and harnessing people’s love for home movies into action to save and preserve them,” Meacham said.

According to the Center for Home Movies website, “Original films can long outlast any version on VHS tape, DVDs or other digital media. Not only that, but contrary to the stereotype of the faded, scratched and shaky home movie image, the original films are often carefully shot in beautiful, vibrant color — which may not be captured in a lower-resolution video transfer.”

Event organizers will provide resources on how to repair damaged films and transfer films to a digital format. Meacham said that they hope to make film education more accessible to people who own and have interest in home movies, so that they can “remain connected to this media.”

According to Meacham, seeing the audience react to the screenings is “utterly fascinating,” whether the owners know the film well or are seeing it for the first time. Viewers are often excited to point out images of themselves, family members and landmarks from faraway time periods.

This year, home movies from the Yale Film Study Center’s archive will be screened while the experts are inspecting film. The goal is to have film running throughout the event,
McCarty said.

Although Home Movie Day is not a Yale event, Meacham said that it is important for the Yale film community to interact with film owners who may not consider their home films significant.

“We really want to stress to them that they are [important], even beyond their own family,” Meacham said.

According to Meacham, many home movies were made in a time when filming was still a novelty and often provide valuable historical insights. One example is a collection of home movies donated to the Yale Film Study Center archive that documents family vacations and special occasions from 1930s to the 1960s. Meacham noted that this collection provides an “epic catalogue of American life” in the middle of the 20th century.

He added that the New Haven Museum is a good place to hold the event because of its deep connection with local history.

“It’s a labor of love,” McCarty said. “We really want to celebrate home movies because they can be overlooked. There’s a huge breadth of people out there with cameras shooting, and it’s amazing what can turn up.”

The first Home Movie Day took place on Aug. 16, 2003.

Carrie Zhou | carrie.zhou@yale.edu