Professor’s ‘handmade’ movies screened for student consumption

“Handmade 35mm: A Screening of Short Films” was held on Wednesday, April 25 in the New Library auditorium. The night featured five short films by Terry Byrne, professor of commuication studies, and his friend Roy Cross.

Before displaying the films, Byrne explained that Cross shoots his films with a 35mm camera and then processes them himself in his office. “I think you will find it astonishing how good his stuff looks,” he said.

The first film shown, “Wait.!,” was by Byrne and was a result of a motion picture class during the summer session three or four years ago. The film was shot at a location known to most students, Mama Flora’s. It featured a table in a restaurant where the customers kept changing. The audience was shown bits and pieces of the conversations and would really only see the waitress’ hands as she would clear the table. The audience finally saw the waitress’ face in the end.

Byrne said the bits of conversation heard in the film were parts of actual conversations he and others involved in the film had heard in real life. By showing the waitress’ face, the short film really became about her in the end. This had not been the initial plan for the film. “I liked what we did better than what we originally set out to do,” Byrne said.

“The Dinky” was the next of Byrne’s films to be shown. “The Dinky” was named after the train shuttle that passes between Princeton and Princeton Junction and showed shots of the train riding the rails both during the day and at night. The sounds of the train moving along the tracks are heard throughout the film, and although the inside of the train is never shown, the audience can also hear the rumblings of conversation. The film also reveals several famous people who have ridden on the Dinky over the years: Albert Einstein, Woodrow Wilson, John Nash and Brooke Shields.

The first of Roy Cross’ films to be shown was “A Portrait in a Letter.” Set in England in 1944, the narration tells the story about a man named Johnny. The black-and-white film focuses on letters signed by Johnny that have been sent to a woman named Lucy. Johnny is telling Lucy about his stays in the hospital and how a Dr. Tilly has been able to give him a new face. Archival footage from the Film Board of Canada was also featured in the film.

The final two films by Cross were described by Byrne as “possibly having an R-rating.” The first, “I Like to Kiss,” is a black-and-white film showing a couple in a passionate sexual encounter. The only words exchanged between the two are, “I like to kiss when I fuck,” which is repeated by the couple several times.

The last film shown, “Breeze,” is a series of flashbacks between a woman and the men in her life. In present time, the woman is seen sitting by herself and staring out a window. She flashes back to happier times, dancing around the room with a young boy, probably her son. She also reminisces about a romantic relationship with a man, showing the two of them together in bed.

Byrne said when making the films, the result was sometimes different from what they expected – “What was fun for me was that the films develop lives of their own.”