We’re Thankful for A/V Geeks: Here are 5 Reasons Why

I saw my first A/V Geeks show in the rec room of a Durham church in 1992 or so. Skip Elsheimer had two projectors and was overlaying the two images on one screen as I recall. It was an interesting experiment and Skip was even more interesting to talk to. It turned out that the 16mm projectors and films he was using were being discarded by school systems as obsolete now that VCRs had come to stay.

He kept at this for years, decades even, and by now Skip has rescued many, many of those films, not only from school systems but from other state agencies, basements, private collectors – pretty much anyplace where they could be found. Had it not been for Skip, a lot of these films, which were generally produced in tiny runs, would have been lost forever, consigned to dumpsters throughout the country.

Nowadays that collection is enormous, over 24,000 films strong. But this isn’t just a hoard of films, it’s a resource. Skip is also a terrific programmer and his packages of short films, which he introduces in his own sly, funny way, are tremendously educational and entertaining. His film packages play to libraries full of school kids as well as rock nightclubs full of tattooed degenerate scum. He also manages to maintain a profitable line in stock footage – and good for him. Here’s a short doc about Skip’s operation.

Many of Skip’s films have been scanned by him and are available on his YouTube channel. I have chosen 5 short films to demonstrate the breadth and wonder of this collection. There are many more where these come from and you can buy DVDs of some of Skip’s collections on the A/V Geeks site here.

1. BLUES MAKER – a short educational film that shows the beyond-legendary guitarist/singer Mississippi Fred McDowell in his element. McDowell plays, sings, talks about his music and there are shots of the Mississippi cotton country near his home.

2. BAD DOG – A short comic film from the POV of a disobedient dog as his owner takes him for a walk through the park. I’m on the dog’s side all the way. The music is crazy ’70s breakbeat synthi-jazz and the actor is the familiar Paul Benedict.

3. THE STORY – This short features young Matt Groening and his younger sisters Lisa and little Maggie. It was made by their father Homer, who does not seem like a dolt at all. Matt tells the story of some zoo animals. It’s very sweet.

4. A CAR IS BORN – Very ’70s “assembly-line porn” showing the construction of a car in an auto-production plant. Some of the music cues and the NFL Films style narration clue you in that this is very, very serious stuff.

5. CALCIUM – As it turns out, calcium is important for your health. Who knew? Here’s a little film that extols the virtues of calcium in the most ’80s way imaginable. I do want that pizza-slice costume if anybody finds it.

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