Miramonte Parents' Club
Miramonte Parents' Club
The film Reflections ’67 is a very special treasure for our Miramonte community, and its importance only grows as time marches on. This film, state-of-the-art for a student film at the time, was originally shot on 16mm film and was made over the course of the 1966-67 school year. It was produced by Dwight Sigworth (Class of 1967), and camera work and editing were done by Fred Sigworth (Class of 1969) and Chris Ammen (Class of 1970).
The film was meant to depict a day at school, but it encompassed events from the entire school year. The 37-minute film opens with an early morning drive starting from Miner Road in north Orinda and heads south to the school. It goes on to show so many things our current students will recognize from today’s campus life, such as assemblies, sports, plays, concerts, Cage the Cougars pep rally, senior lawn, and homecoming. It also depicts many things that have changed, like a homecoming parade of animated floats, dirt track, marching band, letter sweaters, and typing class! The film ends in an all-too-familiar sight for anyone who finds themselves on campus when the end-of-day bell rings – the chaos of the student exodus from campus, except there were no traffic lights at Moraga Way back then!
Thank you, Fred, Dwight, and Chris, for this extraordinary time capsule and wonderful community memory.
We recently talked with Fred and Dwight about their experience with making this film. We were delighted to learn that the 1966-67 Miramonte Parents' Club provided $450 to help underwrite this project! Read on to learn more about Fred and Dwight's thoughts on this film.
At Miramonte, I was a photography nerd. How many other students would bring their SLR camera with them every day to classes? And have classmates put up with photos and movies taken of them at random times? I did a lot of photos for the Mirada yearbooks, and in 1969 I was an editor too. But back in ’67, Chris Ammen (’70) was my best buddy with a really nice darkroom at home, very patient parents, and a similar fascination with photo and sound technology.
Dwight was really the producer who got the project rolling and made many key suggestions. The opening sequence was his idea. It showed our common experience of the change in climate as one drove south from Sleepy Hollow (in the warm sunlight), along Moraga Way, to the place near Oak Drive, where the road plunges down the hill into the fog. You’ll notice that the recording we made of KFRC for the soundtrack was made on Memorial Day, naturally, when Chris and I were hurrying to finish it for showing before the end of the year. And, of course, we borrowed KSFO’s foghorn sound. We got a good turnout, the chairs in the gym were mostly full at the premiere, and we showed it a few times in the following years, but of course, it had none of the historical value it has now.
When a documentary is made these days, it gets edited down so that maybe 98% of the original footage is deleted. Not us! We didn’t throw much away at all. We did the standard splicing using a splicing block and glue. I’m a bit fuzzy on how we paid for the expensive 16 mm film and processing. I think Dwight got some sponsorship from alumni, but I am ever so thankful to the folks at the Orinda Camera Shop (located in the old Orinda Theatre building), who were extremely generous and patient with us.
Why the mix of color and black-and-white footage? Color was expensive, but also there was the big technical reason that we could shoot black and white in much dimmer light, like in classrooms and assemblies.
Why no lip-synced sound? That was way beyond our capabilities. We’d have the soundtrack on reel-to-reel tape and the film projected silent in the projector. We would always use the same Sony tape deck to play the sound. At certain spots, we’d pause the tape and wait a few seconds for the projected film to catch up. We were real proud to get the level of sync we did.
Chris and I did another movie the next year, Impressions ’68, but in trying to be more artistic, we made something that wasn't as good.
Chris went on to be a real video professional, but I went to Caltech and became a science nerd. I’m now nearing retirement as a professor at Yale in physiology and other science departments. My wife Vicky and I are also busy with the International Church at Yale. I do still take pictures, but (of course, excepting iPhone photos of grandchildren) they are of the “nano machines” that make living cells living, and they’re taken with multi-million dollar electron microscopes and processed with supercomputers.
My little brother Fred and Chris were the people who got this done. I was a senior in the 1966-67 school year and was really excited to get it done, but they made it happen.
I have brought the movie to all five of my class reunions -- Class of 1967. For the first three (10-year, 20-year, and 30-year), I had to bring the 16mm film and the soundtrack on tape. It was a bit cumbersome to show, especially finding a 16 mm film projector! Finally, for my 40th reunion, I got it digitized on a DVD, and it got a whole lot easier! I also brought the DVD to our 50th in 2017 and the All-Orinda Reunion in the summer of 2022.
A couple of observations and comments on Fred's thoughts:
Miramonte was a very, very special school in the late 60s, and I understand it still is today. Over 90% of my class went on to college, and the vast majority graduated
A large amount of funding for the film was from the Miramonte Parents’ Club. They donated $300 to us (a lot of money in those days) and later about $150 more. Good for them to help us out.
Later in the film was footage of a field trip to Big Sur on the California coast. It was part of MUDS -- Miramonte Unified Discipline Seminar. It was a field trip to a special location for several days where select creative students could practice their discipline and be creative. What a great opportunity. Those who went were very privileged to go. Obviously, Fred and Chris came to record the weekend and included it in the film.
Much of the opening scene was shot from the tailgate of my 1956 Plymouth station wagon. I know, I know, not safe... Also, I have shown it to more recent graduates at the All Orinda Reunion, and they have remarked at how unsafe the car scenes were with no one using seat belts, etc. Somehow we made it, though. It was the way it was then.
I'm sure some of your parents and faculty recognized Tom Blackwood in the film. He was a very young basketball coach that year and continued coaching basketball at Miramonte into the 2000s. He came to our 50th reunion in 2017, and when he saw the movie, he cried, not realizing we had him on film for his undefeated season. I gave him a copy of the DVD for his personal use.
Fred did everything to save money on the filming. In those days, you not only had to pay for film but also for processing. To save money, he shot the film at a "silent" speed, taking pictures at 16 frames per second instead of 24 frames per second for sound. That allowed us to get a third more film run time for the money.
Chris Ammen's father had a state-of-the-art camera (for it's day) and graciously loaned it the whole year for the film. It was worth a great deal of money, and thankfully, it came out of the year unscathed.
You'll see at the end of the film there is a sequence showing students leaving Miramonte at the end of the day. These days you have a signal at Ivy Drive and Moraga Way, but then there was none. It took a very long time to empty the parking lot at 3:05. Smart people waited until 3:30 or 4:00 to head home.
Thank you again for sharing this film with current students, faculty, and parents. It was the idea of the film to capture what things were like in the "old days," and we are pleased it is still appreciated.
Watch Reflections '67 below. We enjoyed seeing how much has changed and how much has stayed the same! And, we couldn't help but notice that the filmmakers thanked Miramonte's outstanding teachers at the end of the film.
Reflections '67 was produced by Dwight Sigworth (Class of 1967), and camera work and editing were done by Fred Sigworth (Class of 1969) and Chris Ammen (Class of 1970). Used with permission. All rights reserved.
The Miramonte Parents’ Club is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization, Tax ID# 68-0229376.
Our address is: Miramonte Parents' Club, P.O. Box 171, Orinda CA, 94563.
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