Help Save A Priceless Collection!

Would you like to see one of Charlie Chaplin’s motion picture cameras preserved? How about the cameras that filmed Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, and Planet of the Apes? They are the property of lifelong collector Martin Hill, of Midland, North Carolina, and they are in jeopardy.

Not long ago I received an e-mail from Alex Buchhorn of Emulsion Arts, a small, independent production company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, telling me about an effort to complete a documentary about Hill and his unique collection. The purpose is to draw attention to—

—this treasure trove and, in so doing, find a way to save it.

Charlie Chaplin behind the camera in the silent era. Hill has one of the units Chaplin used to film The Gold Rush.

I’ve become a skeptic when I hear about such “treasures” in private hands, having been burned before, but several knowledgeable friends of mine have confirmed that this collection is for real. Hill is a devotee who has amassed an enormous amount of material: cameras, projectors, lighting equipment, and memorabilia. It’s all stored in a Midland bowling alley that, itself, is in need of repair. Roof leakage could damage some of the precious goods inside.

If you’d like to see some of Martin’s prize possessions, click HERE. You’ll also learn how you can join Kickstarter and make a contribution to raise the nominal $6,000 it will take to complete Emulsion Arts’ documentary. I’m a newcomer to these grassroots fundraising projects, but I know they can work: if enough people chip in $5 or $10 apiece, a sum like that is not out of reach.

Yes, there are other institutions and individuals who have preserved historic movie cameras, beginning with the American Society of Cinematographers. And I’ve written about the impressive collection housed at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Niles, California. But each piece of equipment has its own history, and some of them are beautiful examples of mechanical design and functionality.

Would you like to see the brushes Leonardo Da Vinci used to paint the Mona Lisa, or the chisel Rodin employed to carve The Thinker? Think of these cameras in the same way and you’ll understand why they have artistic as well as historic value. Think some more and perhaps you’ll kick in a few bucks to help Emulsion Arts complete its documentary.

Here’s a typically impressive camera crane set-up for David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. Hill has one of the cameras used in this epic production.

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May 2024