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This was part of BAINS ARGENTIQUES ~ Nantes's International Film Labs Meeting - 4 » 9 july, 2016

Lab Structure & Sustainability Q&A

Meeting Notes

4 July 2016

Moderator, Pip Chodorov (Re:voir, France / SpaceCell, South Korea)

Pip Chodorov proposed that questions should come from the new or developing labs and answers should be provided by established labs. Pip proposed a list of topics for discussion, including:

Discuss lab membership, including whether it is closed or open.

Describe funding, funding sources, and budget.

List equipment, film stock, chemicals.

Describe lab space.

Discuss technical expertise and knowledge.

Pip discussed the benefits of membership on the list-serve for sharing information. To establish a lab on the site, contact the web master, Fred Piet from L’abominable.

Lab Space, Funding & Sustainability

Stefan Grabowski (AgX Film Collective, USA) suggested location played a role in a lab’s access to funding. For example, public funding is more difficult in the USA than in Europe and Asia.

Elena Pardo (Laboratorio Experimental de Cine, Mexico) said they are currently renting their space. She asked the group to discuss basic lab necessities. Tiago Ganhão (Laboratório ANIM - Cinemateca Portuguese, Portugal) responded: water, ventilation, factory space, good electrical. Karel Doing (Film in Process, UK) suggested very basic requirements are a sink and blacked-out windows, such as in a kitchen.

Stefan requested information on lab date established, size of space, etc. Pip said labs often start small and grow. L’abominable group found space outside the city, had it for several years, lost it abruptly. They then asked around at institutions about possible space and eventually got a very good one. Other labs squat. Kim Knowles (BEEF, UK) said their lab started ad hoc. They first found pre-fab office space, maintained a darkroom without any water, with a sink at the other end of their building, and were able to run about 10 workshops there. Louisa Fairclough (BEEF) added that they had a screening space. Kim stated that BEEF started with 5 members, and grew to a group of 29 people working in various art forms, renting 6 office units plus a free conference area used for screenings. They now have a very small space. BEEF received an arts council grant of 7,000 pounds to run a workshop and screening program and received another grant of 3,000 pounds.

Xavier Quérel (Atelier MTK, France) said their lab began in a bathroom, later moved into a small room separated into dry daylight and wet darkroom spaces. Two members organized screenings and first attracted interest in super 8. Within 1 to 2 years their lab was attracting people from Paris, Brussels, Berlin. Their space became too small and the asked the city for a bigger space, while at the same time searching independently. When they found a suitable space owned by the city, they asked if they could have it. When the city didn’t respond, they moved in anyway. Later the city told them they could stay. They shared the space with 2 other organizations, built 3 darkrooms and set up a Steenbeck editing table and other equipment. Xavier suggested that new labs decide how to approach finding space: writing proposals or squatting or both. Find your own way. Filmwerkplaats was described as part of a bigger complex that throws parties and events. Another option is to team up with other organizations in searching for space. Els Van Riel (Labo BXL, Belgium) suggested a residency could provide a temporary solution.

Leva Ballode (Latvia) reported on her efforts to establish a lab. She began to introduce experimental film by curating screenings with her own funding. She got publicity followed by government interest, and then requested funding. Squatting is not an option in Latvia. Her approach was to organize events, present ideas, ask for space. Interested in institutions or organizations that take abandoned buildings.

Nicolas Rey (L’abominable, France) raised the subject of sustainability, mentioning that several labs have been forced to move a number of times. Elena asked if any lab owned its space. The suggestion was that only individuals might own spaces, not likely labs. However Steve Cossman (Mono No Aware, USA) stated that LIFT owns its space in Toronto, Canada. Anja Dornieden (LaborBerlin, Germany) stated that their lab started as a squat, but is now part of a collective and is much more secure than any time in the past. Adriana Vila (Crater-Lab, Spain) said her lab was finally offered a space, but at 500 euros per month, it is difficult for their small membership.

Membership & Structure

Pip asked to shift the conversation to Membership. He described a possible dilemma in which a small group of people start a lab, start helping and teaching others, and eventually have to decide whether to limit membership. Stefan also expressed interest in how other labs handle membership. AgX is extremely open. Dues are on a sliding scale. Some members contribute more so that others can be members. Sandy Ding (China) wanted to know how to invite people to join a new lab. Douglas Urbank (AgX Film Collective) said that once AgX formed and started posting information online, interested people found them.

Josh Lewis (Negativlab, USA) said quite a few people want to learn everything right away from existing members, but then are never seen again. They now focus on building relationships on a case by case basis. People interested in becoming members must go through an orientation on how to use the lab. Anja also reported that they had initially started new members with doing workshops, but when those people left, they shifted to requiring mentorships. New members must shadow those who run workshops. Pip reported that his lab started with 10 members who paid their rent. Many more became interested, and each then looked for equipment. He stressed the importance of tracking use of materials. They keep a notebook next to each machine and members must report on usage and results. Lichen Tseng (Filmwerkplaats, Netherlands) said their new members get training, for example on use of a Lomo tank. Members share knowledge. His lab developed organically as opposed to having an established structure.

Elena asked if there was a difference between a collective and a membership organization. They are basically the same. Karel stressed the relationship between a lab and the economy of its location, and whether a lab’s members consider it a business.

Adriana said some places are open to collectives, others are not. It’s important to understand the local situation. The human part is very important. Initially her lab had open membership, but that didn’t work out. People would disappear.

Equipment & Materials

Aditya Hasanudin Martodiharjo (Lab Laba Laba, Indonesia) reported that they inherited lots of second-hand equipment, for example twelve 16 mm projectors. Elena suggested that for those who are traveling and want to learn, could include an lab index of expertise on different equipment and processes. Shireen Seno (Los Otros, Philippines) agreed that that would be very useful. She said it would also be helpful to know when people are traveling and could possibly bring needed supplies. Kim also agreed that this would be helpful. Elena added that if travelers might not need to bring equipment if they knew a lab had it. Aurélie Percevault (MIRE, France) announced that there is a RE Mi wiki on R&D ( which is separate from Nicolas mentioned that a discussion of the website was scheduled. He suggested that travelers are already posting travel plans on various forums. They’ll discuss how to expand this capability.

Alexandra Moralesová (LaboDoble, Czech Republic) expressed interest in strategies for getting equipment and support from institutions. They have found that institutions will dispose of equipment, but will not give it away. She said private property is a very serious issue in the Czech Republic. Nicolas described a lab that wrote letters to numerous institutions asking if they had unwanted equipment. Recommends being proactive. Steve reported that Mono No Aware has received $3 million in equipment donations in the last year. Steve suggested that rather than asking for donations from everyone, to first build a relationship with that business or organization. Mono No Aware established a relationship with Oxberry 3 years ago that led to a large donation of equipment when they closed a facility in NJ.

Pip suggests offering services, providing festivals and school workshops to generate income. Steve said they get donated supplies or services for their workshops, and then offer affordable workshops which still generate income. They also offer their services to institutions that have phased out film programs.


Nicolas turned the discussion to chemistry. Regarding disposal, he reported that there are companies that provide it, and suggested asking photo labs who they use. LaborBerlin organizes regular trips to recyclers, and dispose of their chemicals at no cost. Shireen asked how to charge members for processing. Pip replied that one approach would be to calculate how much film could be processed with a single quantity of chemicals and establish a cost per meter that included chemicals, water, and disposal.

Out of time.

End of Q&A

Notes by Douglas Urbank, AgX

expanding-film-communities/bains-argentiques/labs-structure.txt · Last modified: 2017/10/02 10:43 by pierre