There is still time to save our precious film heritage, but time is catching up with these important documents of history, like a tsunami rushing toward the beach. We need to act now. We need to act decisively.
Tens of millions of feet of film, important documents of our culture and history, are at risk of being lost to us forever. Once they are gone, they can never be retrieved, and this evidence of who we were will be gone.
The country’s film archives, the keepers of this history, and all those interested in film preservation do not have the financial resources to save this material. So, our foundation has created an initiative which we call Preservation Project Partnerships.
Our idea is a simple one
Find specific subject matter to be preserved and made available for screening and use, and then focus on the population with an abiding interest in the subject matter to fund and support the project, whether it be individuals, corporations, government agencies or sponsors. In short, to be the Preservation Project Partners. We intend to bring this message to the people, and the make the public a part of this project in a big way. Only with the general public involved is there any chance of saving all the material that’s in danger of being lost.
A few of the films we have located and will preserve are color films of the Eisenhower inauguration and the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House Lawn featuring President Eisenhower and the children rollicking together; a rare home movie of Spencer Tracy on a publicity tour for one of his films in 1931; some amazing color films of Havana, Cuba in 1950; the “walk off” by Jack Paar from The Tonight Show; and Robert Kennedy in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the mid-60s. All of this material, and much more, has languished in private collections, attics and garages, just waiting for re-discovery. These are just a few of the hundreds of films that are now in our collection waiting for the resources to make them live again.
On December 8th, Ron Merk presented Rory Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, a copy of all the material, which includes some wonderful material of her father campaigning for JFK’s presidency, and marching in the New York St.Patrick’s Day. Connecting home movies to families is just one more important part of this initiative by our foundation.
A major focus will be on home movies. They are rare and unique records of a people, places and specific times in our history. They are also an accessible idea to the public. Everyone makes home movies even today, although cell phones and digital cameras have replaced 8mm and 16mm movies cameras.
Using best practices established for us by Eastman House-trained archivist, Antonella Bonfanti, we will create both film preservation masters and digital versions for easy access study and use. Duplicates of the completed projects will be housed in established film archives on both the East and West Coasts of the United States to further assure their care, safety and continued existence.
To further demonstrate how important this material can be, access will be given to selected filmmakers to create “new works” from the material, such as documentaries, experimental, poetry films or music videos. The sales or proceeds from these films will add to the cash flow of the overall project, and allow us to preserve even more films. It also points out that these films are more than just home movies or stock footage, but the building blocks of new derivative works.
Our preservation project is being managed by seasoned professionals, and the completed restored films will be housed in the Special Collections Department of The Academy Film Archives (part of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences).