Collecting culture for a quarter

Winnipeg Film Group event celebrates VHS

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

Over the last few years, the Winnipeg Film Group (WFG) has been hosting a 16-millimetre  film screening event called Secret Cinema. Now, continuing their adventures in exploring motion-picture formats, the WFG is starting a VHS-themed, bi-monthly event called Cream of the Crap.

WFG programming director Jaimz Asmundson and operations manager David Knipe are organizing the event. They grew up with VHS – hanging out on weekends at video stores, browsing titles, buying and renting movies when they could. Cream of the Crap will begin like they did.

“We’re going to start the night off an hour before the screening starts, and we’ve invited a few folks to come and sell some tapes,” Asmundson says. “These are people that David and I have been buying from secretly. They have good stuff, so you can expect some quality slabs.”

The title of the film will be kept under wraps until the screening itself, which will feature commentary from the hosts.

“We’re going to be watching a movie and making fun of it while it’s playing, telling jokes, possibly turning the sound off if it gets really boring at one part and doing the dialogue ourselves instead to make it more fun,” Asmundson says.

“We’re going to try to dig up some really good trivia about the movie, about how it was made and probably play some of our own stuff we’ve made from editing
VHS stuff together.”

“It’s going to be a big celebration of VHS and obscure movie culture,” Knipe says.

James Borsa, host and producer of UMFM’s Ultrasonic Film station and owner of an estimated three to four thousand tapes, says VHS was the advent of widespread private film viewing.

“VHS came in for us in Canada and most of the rest of the world in the early 1980s, and it became a way for people to watch movies at home,” he says. “The really cool thing about VHS tapes was that you ... had the ability to tape what was on TV at home.”

As the ’90s introduced digital technologies like DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually online streaming services, VHS slowly fell into decline. But Borsa says that due to copyright confusion and lack of marketability, there is a huge archive of films on VHS that have never been released on any other format. Asmundson agrees.

“A lot of the (tapes) I have aren’t available on DVD,” he says. “There’s a lot of lost crap but also a lot of lost diamonds in the rough out there.”

Knipe believes that VHS combines the fun of collecting with affordability.

“As long as you’re not looking for the extremely collectible stuff, you can get (a VHS tape) for a quarter (or) 50 cents,” he says. “It’s kind of a great leveler of culture. Everyone can engage with it.”

Cream of the Crap will take place on  Oct 20 at 7 p.m. in the Black Lodge studio (Suite 304, Artspace building). Admission is by donation.

Published in Volume 73, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 18, 2018)

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