A space to come

To bring Navire Argo to life, we are searching for a permanent home between now and summer 2022 by means of a long-term lease or the purchase of a building at a symbolic price.

Specifications

Surface area
Approximately 1000 m2  

Duration
Permanent 

Public access
One public screening room with approximately one hundred seats

Location
Ile-de-France region, preferably the Plaine Commune area/Seine-Saint-Denis department, if possible near an RER or metro station

Ideal typology

An industrial building in an urban area (former factory, technical space, workshop, laboratory) or a disused public building (pool, bathhouse, kitchen, school, dispensary, movie theater, etc.)

Layout

• Dedicated entrance

• A ground floor space or a freight elevator will be required to allow for the loading of heavy machines

• The lab’s activities will necessitate a number of water supply points, air exhausts, and ventilation

• It would be preferable for the space to not be located in a residential building

Anticipated Economic Model

• Being granted a space with a long-term lease or through a rental at a rate that is adapted to the organization’s budget by a municipality, an association of municipalities, or an institutional landlord

• Purchasing an existing building at a symbolic cost, which would allow the organization to raise the necessary funds for a thorough renovation and to create a space that can be partially open to the public 

The organization L’Abominable is supported by the French National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC), the Ile-de-France region, the Seine-Saint-Denis department and the town of La Courneuve.


The spaces

Navire Argo’s layout

Hover over and click on the layout to display the legend.

Plan Navire Argo laboratoire argentique cinéma salle de projection atelier développement film 16mm 35mm
Projection booth Screening room Public space Processor development Preparation and storage of chemistry Darkroom Main space Contact printing Oxberry and JK optical printers Rostrum camera/animation stand Sound camera Storage Spare parts and machines Electronics workshop Mechanical workshop General workshop: Office space Common area Subtitling station Film collection Archives Scanning & digital video Editing suites Sound/video storage Guest room

Projection booth

16mm and 35mm two-projector changeover system allowing the projection of the majority of prints in circulation and the training of projectionists

Screening room

Roughly one hundred seats; spacious enough for performances

Public space

For the public to congregate and discuss films over a drink; can also be used for pedagogical activities and as an exhibition space

Processor development

16mm/35mm processors for negative (camera originals) and positive (projection prints) in color and black and white, machine for washing prints after subtitling, film cleaning machine 

Preparation and storage of chemistry

For preparing development baths

Darkroom

Hand processing, flat printing, photographic enlargers

Main space

Inspection and handling of film elements on light tables and editing tables, rewinds, negative cutting, synchronizers, refrigerators for unexposed film

Contact printing

To strike 16mm and 35mm sound prints

Oxberry and JK optical printers

Optical printing (effects, speed modifications, superimpositions, format changes involving Super 8, 16mm, 35mm)

Rostrum camera/animation stand

16mm/35mm overhead camera, kinescope (video to film)

Sound camera

For creating 16mm and 35mm optical soundtracks

Storage

Film elements and portable projectors

Spare parts and machines

Parts for machine maintenance and storage of extra machines

Electronics workshop

For working with electronic boards and the maintenance of cameras and portable projectors

Mechanical workshop

Repair and production of mechanical parts via turning, milling, 3D printing, etc.

General workshop:

For everyday maintenance of the space, storage of tools and raw materials

Office space

Workspace, technical documentation

Common area

Conference room, kitchen for the team and filmmakers working at the lab

Subtitling station

Laser subtitling of 16mm and 35mm projection prints

Film collection

Navire Argo’s collection of 16mm and 35mm films (from the Cinémathèque Française and private collections)

Archives

Archives of the organization L’Abominable going back to 1996

Scanning & digital video

Film to digital transfers, workstations for digital editing and color grading

Editing suites

For editing 16mm and 35mm film

Sound/video storage

Camera and post-production equipment

Guest room

To host filmmakers who have travelled long distances to work at the lab

The spaces from A to Z (↓)

Archives: Archives of the organization L’Abominable going back to 1996

Common area: Conference room, kitchen for the team and filmmakers working at the lab.

Contact printing: To strike 16mm and 35mm sound prints

Darkroom: Hand processing, flat printing, photographic enlargers

Editing suites : For editing 16mm and 35mm film

Electronics workshop: For working with electronic boards and the maintenance of cameras and portable projectors

Film collection: Navire Argo’s collection of 16mm and 35mm films (from the Cinémathèque Française and private collections)

General workshop: For everyday maintenance of the space, storage of tools and raw materials

Guest room: To host filmmakers who have travelled long distances to work at the lab

Main space: Inspection and handling of film elements on light tables and editing tables, rewinds, negative cutting, synchronizers, refrigerators for unexposed film

Mechanical workshop: Repair and production of mechanical parts via turning, milling, 3D printing, etc.

Office space: Workspace, technical documentation

Oxberry and JK optical printers: Optical printing (effects, speed modifications, superimpositions, format changes involving Super 8, 16mm, 35mm)

Preparation and storage of chemistry: For preparing development baths

Processor development: 16mm/35mm processors for negative (camera originals) and positive (projection prints) in color and black and white, machine for washing prints after subtitling, film cleaning machine

Projection booth: 16mm and 35mm two-projector changeover system allowing the projection of the majority of prints in circulation and the training of projectionists

Public space: For the public to congregate and discuss films over a drink; can also be used for pedagogical activities and as an exhibition space

Rostrum camera/animation stand: 16mm/35mm overhead camera, kinescope (video to film)

Scanning & digital video: Film to digital transfers, workstations for digital editing and color grading

Screening room: Roughly one hundred seats; spacious enough for performances

Sound/video storage:  Camera and post-production equipment

Sound camera: For creating 16mm and 35mm optical soundtracks

Spare parts and machines: Parts for machine maintenance and storage of extra machines

Storage: Film elements and portable projectors

Subtitling station: Laser subtitling of 16mm and 35mm projection prints

From A to Z

Archives: Archives of the organization L’Abominable going back to 1996

Common area: Conference room, kitchen for the team and filmmakers working at the lab

Contact printing: To strike 16mm and 35mm sound prints

Darkroom: Hand processing, flat printing, photographic enlargers

Editing suites: Forediting 16mm and 35mm film

Electronics workshop: For working with electronic boards and the maintenance of cameras and portable projectors

Film collection:   Navire Argo’s collection of 16mm and 35mm films (from the Cinémathèque Française and private collections)

General workshop: For everyday maintenance of the space, storage of tools and raw materials

Guest room: To host filmmakers who have travelled long distances to work at the lab

Main space: Inspection and handling of film elements on light tables and editing tables, rewinds, negative cutting, synchronizers, refrigerators for unexposed film

Mechanical workshop: Repair and production of mechanical parts via turning, milling, 3D printing, etc.

Office space: Workspace, technical documentation

Oxberry and JK optical printers: Optical printing (effects, speed modifications, superimpositions, format changes involving Super 8, 16mm, 35mm)

Preparation and storage of chemistry: For preparing development baths

Processor development: 16mm/35mm processors for negative (camera originals) and positive (projection prints) in color and black and white, machine for washing prints after subtitling, film cleaning machine 

Projection booth: 16mm and 35mm two-projector changeover system allowing the projection of the majority of prints in circulation and the training of projectionists

Public space: For the public to congregate and discuss films over a drink; can also be used for pedagogical activities and as an exhibition space

Rostrum camera/animation stand: 16mm/35mm overhead camera, kinescope (video to film)

Scanning & digital video: Film to digital transfers, workstations for digital editing and color grading

Screening room: Roughly one hundred seats; spacious enough for performances

Sound/video storage: Camera and post-production equipment

Sound camera:  For creating 16mm and 35mm optical soundtracks

Spare parts and machines: Parts for machine maintenance and storage of extra machines

Storage: Film elements and portable projectors

Subtitling station: Laser subtitling of 16mm and 35mm projection prints

All of the equipment required for Navire Argo has been collected and maintained by the organization L’Abominable over the last twenty-five years.

Calendar

Calendar

Silver crystals versus square meters

Our lab grew out of the stubborn willpower of a handful of filmmakers with the desire to make films outside of the dominant film industry and its streamlined approach to production. When we began to acquire — for next to nothing — the industrial machines that once cost a fortune, all that was left was to restore and learn how to use them in order to have total control over our films.

This straightforward, hands-on approach, simple but not without a certain folly — unaware as we were of the difficulties before us — was the spark that gave us life. Our survival and the simultaneous birth of a network of artist-run film labs were unexpected; we were “in a category of our own,” to use the expression of our first interlocutor at the French National Center for Cinema (CNC). We have never had the outright legitimacy of an institution and we probably never will, at least not in the self-evident sense of a conservatory of music, a theater, or a public swimming pool.

If we have been able to stay afloat, to bring together machines and technical know-how, and to make films on our own terms, it is because we have been able, from the very beginning, to slip through the cracks of the real-estate market. From our virtually rent-free beginnings in the basement of a 1920s factory — thanks to a landlord with little desire to make a profit — to the former central kitchen of La Courneuve put at our disposal by the city, we have been able to save, maintain, and share the equipment that we acquired, especially following the downfall of commercial film labs and the subsequent influx of machines.  

Quite naturally, our activities do constitute a source of revenue, much of which comes from the filmmakers themselves, who contribute to the costs of operation. Most of them pay out of their own pocket, after having already invested in costly film stock, to use machines that would be more cost-efficient in an industrial-scale workflow rather than our approach of teaching filmmakers to use these tools on their own. Our revenue is incompatible with the price per square meter in the Paris region, and if we were to multiply our rates exponentially in order to cover these costs, the filmmakers would have to make up the difference. The result would be simple: no more films would be made at the lab. The amount of space that we require, especially with the comprehensive array of machines that we have been able to acquire since 2012, is out of sync with our financial means. To put it in other terms: the realities of the real-estate market are out of sync with the films we create. We thus need external support to be able to survive.  

One might imagine that such support could take the form of a sizeable grant — something that has so far remained beyond our grasp — that would make it possible to rent a space big enough for our needs. Beyond the fact that such an eventuality remains unlikely, do we really want to seek to triple the annual grants we have fought over twenty-five years to obtain, only to hand over the lion’s share to a private landlord? We are not convinced by this economic model, especially when one considers that we already need additional financial aid in order to bring about this new step in our adventure. 

We think, instead, that the most realistic approach, in continuity with what we have achieved up until now, would be for a city or local authority to put a permanent space at our disposal. If this would involve a larger budget than we currently have, it nonetheless remains within our means.

Local authorities putting spaces at the disposal of non-profit organizations is a powerful means for supporting long-term, experimental projects that cannot survive solely on periodic grants. This strategy is too often reserved for temporary spaces that are destined to be demolished or put to other use. A long-term lease, on the other hand, allows for spaces to be refurbished by organizations that will take on the responsibility for their upkeep. 

Giving a second life to industrial architecture through cultural projects has played a key role in urban development policies. The property owned by cities is often connected to their history, especially their downtown industrial heritage, which offers crucial opportunities for rehabilitation. Such a policy would resonate with the overall project of Navire Argo, which endeavors to keep alive the memory of the photochemical film industry. Giving a new lease on life to a historical building would also allow us to minimize our costs through our ability to carry out a large portion of the refurbishment work ourselves. 

Another option would be to purchase — through a combination of public and private grants — a building to house our project. This could be a possibility if the property was sold for a symbolic price. We could then commit to the building’s being used exclusively for cultural projects and to not be resold for a profit.

No matter the means, we are convinced that such an approach would be central to the creation of a one-of-a-kind cultural space destined to live on through the specificity of our project.

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