When FPP Film Came to Europe: the Film Photography Project Interview!
By Paul McKay
We are REALLY excited about this launch! The FPP are a true analogue establishment - with decades of film photography experience wrapped into a friendly and charming bundle of podcast conversation. The films that Mike Raso hand-rolls has been on our store wishlist for months. Today we are delighted to be able to offer a core selection of those films to our customers, and to support the launch Mike kindly agreed to an interview.
Hey Mike! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk film with us. So for those of our customers who haven’t heard of FPP before - what’s the story?! What’s it all about and how did it start?
FPP stands for the Film Photography Project, an online resource for film shooters world-wide. Our mission is to spread the joys of film photography by providing tips, resources, reviews, feedback and products through our fortnightly podcast and YouTube channel as well as the myriad blogs and news pieces on our website FilmPhotographyProject.com. We sell film, cameras and gear from a variety of well-known brands (like Kodak and Ilford), some great new films and products from independent outlets and entrepreneurs, and of course our own in-house branded films. We host Walking Workshops and sponsor a School Camera Donation Program that puts film cameras into the hands of students at no cost. Nearly all of this was an organic outgrowth of the Film Photography Podcast, which I started 10 years ago. The FPP “Gang” (the team of talented photographers with shared core values who have come on board to support this mission) consists of co-host Leslie Lazenby, co-host Mat Marrash, and our other regular contributors.
What about your personal journey with film - when did you start shooting analogue and why have you persisted through the digital revolution?
I was an avid film photographer and movie maker in High School and in college, where I majored in Motion Picture Film Production. I initially worked as a cinematographer and producer of a television productions before starting my own business in home entertainment (VHS / DVD). Although I never left film photography completely behind, my career as a business owner left little time for it. About 10 years ago, I realized how much I missed the creative outlet it had afforded me – and the hands-on grass roots aspect of running an independent business. That’s when I returned to photography, and shortly after the Film Photography Podcast was born.
So your podcast is approaching its 10-year birthday? Then I think it’s fair to say that you were podcasting before podcasting was cool. What made you start it at that time, and how has it evolved over the full decade of existence?
It’s fair to say that podcasting was in its infancy, but awareness of the medium had penetrated the mainstream even though most people weren’t listening to podcasts yet. I began to listen to several on film and realized that although they might be technically of value, they were really dry. I took my production and post production experiences and aspired to create a fluid, drive-time radio type of show. I reached out to some long-time friends and the Film Photography Podcast was born.
You regularly reference the School Camera Donation Program in your podcast, and you've mentioned it above - can you give us a quick rundown of what this is, what you’re hoping to achieve, and what help you need?
I’m glad you asked about the School Camera Donation Program, because it’s the most rewarding part of what we do. The purpose of the program is to put refurbished and tested used film cameras into the hands of students and aspiring photographers at no cost. Most of the cameras come from listener donations [Ed: here is the link to donate] and I personally oversee (or do) the refurbishing and testing along with the podcast gang. It’s incredibly gratifying to hear back from teachers and not-for-profit coordinators who credit the cameras for enabling their program to class to exist.
You’ve very kindly agreed to work with us as your European retailer for your hand-rolled films. Tell us a little about this - when did you start hand-rolling films under the FPP brand, and what does this offer photographers that they can’t get from the standard offerings from Kodak, Ilford etc?
We cut and hand-roll large batches of film – some expired, mostly not – down to 24 or 36 exposure rolls that fit into most film cameras. This provides film shooters with affordable film with which to experiment, and with their permission and a credit we post digital scans of their photos as samples of the results you can achieve with the various options. Like the School Camera Donation Program, it supports our mission of providing cost effective film and gear to experienced and aspiring film shooters.
By working with Analogue Wonderland, many of our products will be available to UK and European film shooters at a fraction of the shipping cost. As you know I’ve been familiar with your business for some time, and we share many of the same core values - we are delighted to partner with you in this!
What is your favourite FPP film to shoot and why?
Currently my favorite FPP film is our RetroChrome. It’s expired, high speed Kodak Ektrachrome that produces beautiful, warm images. There’s nothing else like it!
You sell some of the European small film brands in the US - are there any that have particularly caught the fancy of the US market and why do you think that is?
I’m amazed by the passion so many entrepreneurs have for film photography, and how it has translated into so many exciting new brands in the market! We carry only the products that we feel are reliable and consistent, and our customers have been really responsive. It’s hard for me to choose between them, but our Svema films, Yodica Special Effects Film and the newest Street Candy are super popular!
What is your favourite film camera - your go-to when you want to just relax into a day of analogue photography - and why?
My favorite film cameras are the Canon T60, Olympus Stylus Epic (35mm) and the Mamiya m645 (120) cameras. Lately, I’ve been shooting lots of motion picture film in both Super 8 and 16mm
That was definitely more than one camera but we'll let you off. You’re a huge advocate for the US film photography community - the small manufacturers, shooters and labs that make up this wonderful little world of ours. Are there any other projects, businesses or organizations that you’d like to give a shout-out?
Absolutely – although we do not (and will not) have sponsors or sponsored content, we do have strong relationships with several smaller and independent film processing, camera or gear companies. The California-based company TheDarkroom is one - they provide wonderful services for FPP customers that need development and printing servives. Mat Marrash, Mark Dalzell and I were guests at their Film Paideia event, held in San Clemente March 2&3 2019. Over 150 film shooters were in attendance!
Big mention of our FPP spin-off – FilmMedia.org. With my renewed interest in motion picture film, we invested in a 4k movie scanner that will scan 8mm up to 35mm motion picture film (including LomoKino 2-perf film!) Since October 2018, through the FPP on-line store, we’ve been offering great prices on scanning of movie film. Making movies is my first passion and my favorite film medium and I’m thrilled to assist podcast listeners and movie shooters with proper scans/color correction of their personal movies.
Is there anything else film-related you'd like to mention? Any trips to the UK recently?!
I had the great pleasure of meeting many UK photographers and FPP Podcast listeners when we traveled to England for an informal Walking Workshop back in 2011 and again in 2012. Since then, FPP hosted walking workshops have expanded into structured events with demonstrations by Mat Marrash on large format photography, pin-hole camera photography (and how to make your own using an easy kit!), contributor Joseph “Joby” Brunges has demonstrated the amazing effects he achieves with wet plate work, and Leslie Lazenby and Mark O’Brien have demonstrated how easy it is to process your film at home using the FPP Home Development Kit – a scaled-down kit perfect for smaller spaces and individual use, containing everything you need to develop your own film at home.
Our most recent events have been held at the stunning Jones Mansion in Ohio (the space made available courtesy of FPP co-host Leslie Lazenby) and while these have been very fun and successful, we are looking into holding events in other locations in the U.S. and abroad in the near future, in order to reach individuals who might find it difficult to travel to Ohio for the weekend.
That’s all I can think of right now – thanks very much for this opportunity to talk about the FPP mission and our new relationship with Analogue Wonderland!
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