Arts & Entertainment

This Filipino Director is Making a Film Using Photocopied and Highlighted Stills

He photocopied 43,000 frames and colored them with highlighters.
IMAGE Glenn Barit
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Writer and director Glenn Barit is one of the most promising young Filipino directors pushing the boundaries of filmmaking. His debut feature, Cleaners, is about a group of high school students during the schoolyear 2007 to 2008 assigned as the classroom cleaners for the day. The film is set to compete at the QCinema International Film Festival in October under the Asian Next Wave Competition.

Barit says that interesting features from that period make the film a nostalgia piece. It was the period of OPM’s resurgence in MYX and a time when the world was on the cusp of being taken over by social media and smartphones. 

Why Barit is Photocopying the Entire Film’s 43,000 Frames

Photo by Glenn Barit.
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Today’s technology makes filmmaking easier, resulting in movies that are crisper, sharper, and glossy. Barit wanted to do something different: Shoot a film, print its entire sequence frame by frame, photocopy each frame, color it with highlighters, and then scan each printed frame so they can digitally sequence it as a totally new visual masterpiece. “Since this film follows a thematic arc of what it means to be clean, I wanted to play with the film’s form in a way that coincides with this theme, as well. Shooting digital, in its very high-resolution, feels too glossy to me and wouldn’t exactly match what the film would want to convey,” said Barit.

Photo by Glenn Barit.
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How Photocopied Stills Will Be Transformed Into a Feature Film

You can imagine the painstaking effort it takes to print an entire film’s frames. Cleaners has eight frames per second and runs more than 60 minutes. The film has more than 43,000 frames. This means that Barit and his team have to print and photocopy 43,000 frames, then color these by hand using highlighters.

In fact, as of this writing, Barit’s team is busy highlighting the frames one by one, then carefully filing them in boxes per sequence so the team doesn’t get confused during the digitizing process.

Photo by Glenn Barit.
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Photo by Glenn Barit.

Barit says Cleaners will undergo many different stages before it finally sees its final version. “We shot it digitally in June, edited the materials, and then printed the entire film’s frames using a photocopier. Now, we’re in the process of highlighting each frame. After highlighting, we will scan them back digitally so it can play in digital theaters,” he said.

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Since they printed all the frames, Cleaners is technically a stop-motion picture. This is not the first time a similar film production was made.

Photo by Glenn Barit.

“Films in early cinema like A Trip to the Moon (1902) hand-painted celluloid film to bring out color. I’ve also watched this wonderful short film recently titled Copy Shop (2001), which also uses photocopied papers for each frame.”

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Although the film’s form is not new, Cleaners would be the first feature film to employ both techniques of hand painting and the use of photocopied frames to produce a movie.

'We preferred an old, clanky photocopier.'

For this film’s printed frames, Barit wanted to achieve the kind of grittiness and coarseness you get from an old photocopier.

The post-production team even sought the ugliest copier it could find. “Since this is also a period film, we preferred an old, clanky photocopier because it will be more faithful to the actual texture of photocopied materials that time,” Barit said.

“I actually went to different photocopier shops just to test the textures. I remember asking one of them to input the pinaka-panget setting just to achieve the texture I had in mind.”

The team lives a few steps away from the University of the Philippines, so naturally, there were plenty of photocopying shops in the area. It partnered with a photocopying shop because of its expertise and the low cost of its services.

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Before and After: An Original Still Prior to Photocopying, and a Post-Production Still

Photo by Glenn Barit.
Photo by Glenn Barit.
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Cleaners Has Yet to Complete its Funding

For the film to successfully compete at the QCinema International Film Festival in October, it needs more funding. “Post-production costs does not only include the process of photocopying and highlighting, it also includes sound design, pre-grading, post-grading, and musical scoring, among others,” explained Barit.

The Team Behind Cleaners

Photo by Glenn Barit.
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“QCinema and other sponsors have been very generous to us in covering much of our costs,” he continued. “But we still need a bit more to complete the film and ensure proper working conditions. We wanted to raise 200,000 more, and so far, we have raised 32 percent of that.”

People who want to donate to the film will be featured in the closing credits of the film. You can donate to Cleaners by selecting one of the amounts in this link. Donation options range from P500 up to P20,000. Bigger donations come with bigger privileges.

Watch behind the scenes of Cleaners below: 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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