Jacques Bolsey’s films, cameras, and inventions, artifacts of a seminal life and legacy, lay buried in the anonymity of a group of dusty and water-stained boxes. Their resting place: a cramped basement in the suburban community of White Plains, NY. Forgotten, these boxes would remain sealed for 42 years following the inventor’s death.
Last week we had an exciting meeting with a team of talented young filmmakers working on a documentary about Jacques Bogopolsky, who invented the Bolex camera in 1927. Their film is a US-Swiss co-production that will delve deep into the origins of the Bolex and how it became a worldwide phenomenon. What’s especially cool about this project is that the director, Alyssa Bolesy, is Jacques’ great-granddaughter.
Alyssa and her producing partners Caryn and Tristan contacted us a while ago to discuss their project and we were finally able to sit down last week and talk in person. With the help of her great-grandfather’s recently discovered journals and films, Alyssa has been able to recreate the origins of the Bolex back to its earliest inception, and she shared some of what she’s learned with us.
Jacques trained at medical school, and from a small camera he originally designed for medical purposes, he created one of the world’s most popular and affordable consumer cameras. His vision was to bring filmmaking to the masses, and he was interested in pushing filmic technology to its highest potential, even if his camera were only a stepping stone. His vision was progressive and unique, and his goal was democratization.
When we heard this, Elle and I were very excited. Democratization was the exact term we were using in our own mission statement: Digital Bolex seeks to foster an ecosystem in which independent cinema can thrive, through the democratization of film tools and film markets.
Alyssa was amazed and happy to find that our goals aligned so closely with the goals of her great grandfather (it was also a pretty crazy coincidence that his camera was originally designed for medical imaging, as our Kodak sensor was originally created for medical and scientific purposes). We want to help carry Jacques’ dream into the digital age.
Let’s go back to our mission statement for a minute. We all know that studio movies are so prohibitively expensive to make that very few people get to make them. And with ticket prices constantly rising, people see them less often.
But does a good movie really need to be that expensive to make? What is that money paying for? Is there a business model in which an independent filmmaker could raise money, make a film, distribute it, and profit without a studio? Would ticket prices have to be so high? Would people attend more screenings if the offerings were more diverse, and if the screenings themselves took place in a more diverse setting?
I remember a time when some of my favorite movies — Holy Mountain, Baraka, City of Lost Children — were tremendously difficult to find on home video. This was because the studios who control theatrical distribution also control home video distribution, and it just wasn’t on their radar to release smaller or foreign films that might not appeal to a wide market. But the internet is changing that; Netflix and Hulu are changing distribution, as well as an army of dedicated, smaller distribution labels like Kino, Alamo Drafthouse, or Blue Underground, and it’s allowing more people to see more types of films than ever before.
And that’s encouraging people to create more types of films than ever before.
All these companies and services are amazing, but they also have a catch. How do we bring the “a la carte” viewing mentality away from home computers and iPhones and into theaters, cafés, or any local venue with a projector? How can we help independent filmmakers create amazing work that will bring out an audience, and create a community experience, instead of simply generating impressions in the void of the Internet? These are some of the problems we would like to help solve via democratizing film, and creating the tools necessary to do so.
Our camera is a first, and very important step towards realizing these goals. And while some people aren’t entirely sure about the various accessories we’ve talked about like lenses, apps, or projectors, it’s all part of a “Big Picture” plan to put the tools of making great films, and earning a living off of those films, into the hands of all filmmakers.
So that’s our mission at Digital Bolex. We want to help filmmakers like Alyssa Bolsey earn a living off the work she’s created so she can keep making the films that she wants to make. And we want the same thing for every person who invests in our camera and our company.
Joe, Elle, and Team Bolex
You can learn more about the documentary here: http://jacquesbolseyproject.com/