My Turn: Many a movie for an audience of 1

Richard Posner became entranced by home movies in

Richard Posner became entranced by home movies in his childhood, though most of those four-minute reels were jerky shots of people waving or making ridiculous faces. (Aug. 4, 2007) Photo Credit: AP

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When trying to nudge my college students to put some effort into their work, I remind them that Frederic-Augusiberty's head, even though it was the 1880s, and he assumed nobody would ever see it.

I've also invested passion and effort in creating what nobody ever sees.

In my childhood. I became entranced by home movies, though most of those four-minute reels were jerky shots of people waving or making ridiculous faces. But my parents' friend was a bit of a hobbyist, and somehow he created longer reels with effects and titles.

So when I married, I got myself an 8-millimeter camera and decided that my movies would rise above jerky waving. I took establishing shots, used the zoom for dramatic effect, tried to tell a story with each reel. Showing the movie involved setting up a cumbersome screen (which nipped a finger each time) and threading the leader around innumerable sprockets. But I didn't mind.

And I'd say, "Want to see the movies I took?"

The reply: "No, Don't bother setting up all that stuff."

Undaunted, I sought to conquer the four-minute limit. I bought a portable splicer and, like a mad scientist in his laboratory, lined up the ends of two reels (the slightest "bump" would tangle the film in the projector), made sure the splices were artistically done and compiled 20-minute movies, each reel about a specific subject -- vacations, family parties, etc.

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And I'd say, "Want to see the movies I took? It's a 20-minute reel!"

The reply: "No, don't bother setting up all that stuff."

Then, in 1985, while teaching at Sachem High School North, I discovered the video camera! I'd played with reel-to-reel videotape back at Hofstra in 1961, but that required a professional TV studio. Now, I just needed to shove a blank VHS tape into a heavy battery pack, connect the battery pack to the unwieldy camera with cables, sling it all over my shoulder and -- sound! Realistic color! Up to two hours per tape! I did professional narration and added fade-ins and titles.

Initially, I was rewarded with astonishment and fascination. Friends and family couldn't comprehend that I didn't have to send the tape out to be developed, that it had sound, that it was so long. But in time, everyone had a VCR.

And I'd say, "Want to see the vacation video? I just have to put the tape in!"

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The reply: "No, it's too late."

I'd say, "It's NOON."

The reply: "Well, the tape is too long."

And if family members or friends did agree to watch, I was encouraged to fast-forward through about 95 percent of my loving labor.

Undaunted, I kept improving my video-making art, through several cameras and several decades. And then -- iMovie. Waking up in heaven must feel the way I felt. Fortunately, my son was doing professional videography and had a JVC deck that could export VHS tapes to my iMac. Nearly drooling on my keyboard, I spent hours and hours trimming clips, moving clips around, adding artistic transitions and classy-looking titles. At last, I was able to make real movies! And when I burned a movie to a blank DVD, I could add chapters, just as in professional DVDs.

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And I said, "Want to see our Memorial Day party? I can go right to it on the DVD!"

The reply: "No, it's boring."

I said, "But it's edited."

The response: "Don't you realize that you're the only one watches this stuff?" Well, yes. By that time -- and even now, when I use an HD camcorder, and do tighter editing and use iMovie '11 software for even more professional effects -- I am the only one who watches.

Occasionally my kids or friends will say, "You know, I really would like to see those videos of [fill in the blank]," but they never actually see them.

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And I'm met with looks of pity when I re-watch older videos and I'm asked, "Why do you want to see that stuff again?" Recently, I re-imported each of the first 16 VHS tapes I'd edited and burned and re-edited them, because I wasn't satisfied with the dramatic flow.

It needed much persuasion to prevent my wife from having me institutionalized. So I alone see the fruits of my labor. But Bartholdi would understand. It's my passion.

Richard Posner, SeldenMaking 'The Catch' at Shea

I took my son, Michael, and a friend of his, and my brother-in-law Jerry to Shea Stadium on April 9, 1991. It was my son's 10th birthday.

We had seats in the first row of the loge, just past the foul pole in leftfield. I caught Hubie Brooks' home run in the 10th inning that won the game against the Phillies.

Leaving the game, we ran into Billy Jones, an old friend from Brooklyn who worked security for the Mets. He took the ball and had it signed. My son still has the ball and the ticket from the game.

We still have an old videotape from the news that night of me making "The Catch." That's what Jerry calls it.

Richard Smith, Breezy Point

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