The tale of 20 rolls

Posted by on December 12, 2009 at 11:43 am.

Who would have thought getting 60 rolls of 12 exposure film could be this hard?

The absolute basic requirement for pulling the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon off was to get enough identical 12 exposure film in time. Easy, right? You’d think so wouldn’t you. But try going to a photo supply store and ask them for any volume larger and 5 and you’ll see it’s quite a challenge.

When we started sourcing the film for the event we quickly realized unless we wanted to hit up every single photo store in Vancouver we needed a supplier with direct connections. And since the only 12 exposure 400 ISO film available is Kodak UltraMax the natural solution was to go directly to Kodak. Unfortunately Kodak does not sell directly to customers so that was a bit of a dead end. I say “bit of” because although they wouldn’t sell the film to me they did direct me to a distributor that could.

The search continued.

After some back and forth we were excited to learn that the distributor had 140 rolls of the film in question, 40 in Vancouver, the rest in Calgary. And not only that: They were willing to sell it to us at cost (plus shipping). This was Friday December 4, 8 days before the event and we were guaranteed delivery of all the film “well before” the event itself. Problem solved, right?


The 40 rolls from Vancouver arrived as promised on Wednesday, but the 20 remaining rolls from Calgary never made an appearance. When we finally got a hold of the distributor on Friday it turned out that something had gone terribly wrong in the order processing and the order was never filed let alone shipped. In short our 20 rolls of film were still sitting on a shelf in Calgary.

This was Friday December 11 at 11am – a veritable disaster.

Knowing that stores rarely carry more than one or two rolls of the film we were facing the daunting task of driving around to between 10 and 15 locations to piece it all together. Calls were made: “They have two at Kerrisdale!” etc. The nightmare mounted. I was booked for an interview with On The Coast on CBC Radio One at 4:30pm. Angela was set to meet with London Drugs to pick up bags and lanyards at 5. The logistics just didn’t fit.

Or did they? London Drugs does have a huge photo lab presence after all. We rushed to the Granville and Georgia location (number 2 store) to see if they had any stock. They only had two rolls but one of their staffers, Leanne, was not willing to let us leave the store without  at least part of a solution. So she started calling every store in the whole GVRD getting the stock for each of the stores. “They have 8 in Surrey and another 8 in Langley”. That made 16. We could probably get the rest by randomly hitting up stores.

Two hours later Angela and I found ourselves in cars running in oposite directions: Angela on her way to Surrey for 8 rolls, me to the Kerrisdale store where Kimiko from the London Drugs promotions department had secured 10 more rolls. On our way to get the cars we had managed to dig up two more films so with these potential 18 we would be set. And we were. At 5 pm all 60 rolls were in hand.

What can I say … with friends like London Drugs nothing is impossible.


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