Ilford ULF Production Run
I ordered 100 sheets of 12x20 HP5 through the View Camera Store. I paid the credit card bill last week. I was blissfully unaware of this whole issue until today. While I am pleased Ilford has chosen to make good on its plan to make another run of ULF film, I will tell you that had I learned of the situation before paying the credit card bill and before you made this post that Ilford would indeed follow through, I would have contacted the credit card company and cancelled the order through them. (That's why I use American Express and pay the annual fee - they protect me as the customer.) At that point your orders would have been reduced and the whole situation of not having enough orders would have headed toward a self-fulfilling prophecy. The message here is that when you ask a person on a budget to commit $1200 or whatever amount on a non-refundable order and then come back and say...."Well, we don't have enough orders", it leaves a very disconcerting feeling about placing future "special" orders. I didn't really need the HP5 with 100 sheets of Bergger and 100 sheets of TMAX400 in the freezer, but with the Forte element's potential effect on Bergger availability and JandC still not back in business due to John's illness, I thought it a prudent thing to do. Shortly after I placed the order, John at JandC contacted me about how much 12x20 TMAX400 I might be interested in purchasing in the next year. They still had a small amount of TMAX400 in stock so I ordered and received 50 sheets of 12x20 left over from the first cutting. I'm planning to shoot some of that film next weekend if the weather gods cooperate. I have no Ilford HP5 film at the moment.
I understand the business realities of inventory. I managed an $8.5 million business of over 100 hardware products in my day job for 7 years. But my suggestion to you is that you schedule film runs such that people can order from stock at the dealer of their choice rather than having to gamble and invest large amounts of money not knowing if the product will be manufactured or delivered. There are other film alternatives at the moment if you spend a little time looking around the country. Other people have confirmed this elsewhere in this thread. I have no religious commitment to any one film manufacturer and so have learned to work with whatever is available - Bergger, Ilford, or Kodak. Each film has its own pluses and minuses. Without saying any more on the subject, there are discussions under way with Kodak to do just I suggested above. I don't know if they will pan out. But if they do, I won't be placing any more "special orders".
I'm happy you will be following through on this production run because I think it is good for the ULF community and Ilford's reputation. Had Ilford decided not to do the run, I believe it would have irreparably damaged your ability to do so again in the future so I believe you made the right business decision.
As an aside, the idea of packaging film in larger boxes is a really, really bad idea. That is exactly what Kodak did on their TMAX400 run and it really ticked off me and a lot of other people. I have an insulated film case for carrying boxes of both exposed and unexposed film in the field. I work a lot in the desert and my film is stored in the vehicle at all times because I'm camping or moving location every day. the case is sized for 12x20 boxes - not 16x20. I fed my opinion back to Kodak through private channels and they appear to be responding to my and other's feedback. I find it ironic that I had to re-package all of the TMAX400 film I bought into empty Ilford boxes for a 2 week photo expedition in the canyon country of Utah last fall. I now have 20 16x20 film boxes from the TMAX for which I have no use and which are taking up valuable space. I will probably put them up for sale on ebay at a very low price just to get rid of them. I'm sure there is someone out there who shoots 16x20 that would love to have some extra film boxes. Another piece of feedback for you in your packaging is you should be lining all three box components with black paper. All of Kodak's film boxes are made this way. I doubled bagged the TMAX400 that I re-packaged into Ilford boxes for this reason - paranoia about light leaks especially when I am shooting and changing film outside in the desert in a Harrison tent. The black plastic bag you use for the film begins to develop pinholes after only a few times of in and out of the box when changing film.