Welcome to the Handmade Film Institute!

We exist to promote and convey the knowledge necessary to individual artists to use film as a creative medium. We offer workshops that explore particular techniques, all-inclusive immersive retreats in beautiful places to provide artists an opportunity to really dive in to the medium with a group of like-minded people, film screenings, and an extensive website to make available what a handmade filmmaker needs to know and to facilitate research into new ways to use the film medium.

The focus of our 2021 Season is Landscape Immersion. This will consist a series of both filmmaking and film screening events that take place in specific locations outdorrs. Please visit this site soon for more information!

Coronavirus Update

We are pleased to announce that the Wilderness Film Expedition will be offered as scheduled! Please let us know if you might be interested in participating!

Regretably, our regularly scheduled summer events that involve being indoors – the Pacific Northwest Handmade Filmmaking Camp and the Rocky Mountain Handmade Filmmaking Camp – have been cancelled for the 2021 season due to the novel Corona Virus pandemic.



2021 Orocyanogram Expeditions, dates tba — Join us as we take a day hike into the mountains to make a cameraless film on site using this historical process in a new way!

Research Weekends

2021 Research Weekends are yet to be announced.  They will take place outdoors at our location outside Boulder, Colorado, and possibly elsewhere.



Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our only retreat offering in 2021 is the Wilderness Filmmaking Expedition.  We are requiring all participants to be fully vaccinated, given the likelihood of our having to occasionally be in close proximity to each other, even though we are outdoors.

In non-pandemic years, we offer three main events: two one-week retreats along with a 10-day immersive adventure, the Wilderness Film Expedition. Each is concerned with handmade filmmaking in a different way. We also offer individual residencies tailored to your goals and schedule – please inquire.  In 2021, due to the ongoing pandemic, we will not be offering either of our Filmmaking Camps, as they involve time indoors.

Pacific Northwest Film Camp Not offered in 2021.  Spend a week at the beach exploring celluloid film in and out of the water and and forests of Orcas Island in Washington State’s beautiful San Juan Islands.

The Handmade Filmmaking Camp Not offered in 2021.  The Handmade Film Institute’s foundational workshop. A week-long retreat at 8200 feet in the Rocky Mountains engaged in a comprehensive investigation of film as a physical medium.

The Wilderness Film Expedition  July 1 – 11, 2021.  A backcountry expedition where we shoot, process, edit and premiere in the wilderness, carrying all our gear with us into a high and wild mountain landscape.

Writings, Documentation, and Press


Thoughts on Handmade Emulsion vs. Commercial Film by Robert Schaller

I was recently asked whether homemade silver gelatin emulsion is as “good” as, say, Tri-X, and could it conceivably replace it. I realized that I couldn’t answer this question as asked, and the reason is revealing of a fundamental in what this is as opposed to the commercial product. For me, at least, the goals are completely different… (read more)

Introductory Notes on Film as Music by Robert Schaller, address to the Brakhage Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, February 9, 2015


An Emulsion in the Wilderness: in lightning Agnes The 2014 Wilderness Film Expedition makes a film and its emulsion in the field!

Wilderness Film Expedition:The Movie! Watch the trailer from the documentary!


Hand Made Film Camp Read the article by Megan Hessenthaler that appeared in Super 8 Today (pdf)



The Handmade Film Institute was started in 2003 in recognition of the the value of motion picture film as an artistic medium whose existence, given the changing landscape of moving image technology, can no longer be taken for granted. The Institute’s mission is to preserve the knowledge and technical ability necessary for working with the medium of film, and to promote both the aesthetics of film and experimentation that further expands the techniques used with and within the medium. To this end, the Institute is pursuing several courses of action:

1) to collect any and all information about film chemistry and make this information available to artists who would work with film;

2) to offer regular workshops, retreats, and classes that convey this information and how to use it safely, as well as to provide time and place for groups of like-minded filmmakers to share and create;

3) to collect the physical resources necessary to the production of film, as these resources may soon be commercially unavailable;

4) to be a focal point in the community of artists who choose to work with film in times to come.

The Handmade Film Institute makes only the assertion that film is a beautiful medium in its own right, and as such warrants preserving as a viable artistic medium. It represents an enormous technical and aesthetic achievement, and is in many ways a crowning glory of industrialism and science up to the late twentieth century. Like oil painting in the age of photography, it offers the artist a creative possibilities which cannot be fully duplicated by any other means, particularly in its unique combination of the tactile and the ephemeral. We make no claims as to the relative merits of this or any other imaging technology; all media have their place, and precisely that insight underlies our formation.

Who we are

Robert Schaller, Director

Cynthia Sliker, Executive Director