Re: Preservation guide for filmmakers

From: Bill Brand (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jan 12 2006 - 12:47:23 PST

Thank you to all who responded on and off list to my posting about a
film preservation guide for filmmakers. Your comments, suggestions
and stories are very helpful. I'm not thinking of an exhaustive
guide since I can and will direct readers to NFPF, Lux, IMAP and
Screensound. Instead, I was thinking about a very simple set of
steps filmmakers can take such as:

locating the films
getting them back from labs
getting them out of basements, attics and garages
removing them from acid laden boxes, closed cans and plastic bags
removing paper products from the cans (although I'm still trying to
figure out what to recommend so that the paper records don't get
forever separated from the films)
checking for vinegar and isolating deteriorating reels.

Then, I thought I'd present a basic model of what a partial and full
preservation might entail, so that even if you can't do it, you'll
know what might be done.

Finally, I suppose I need to write something about how to deposit
originals and masters with archives, but I don't have clear answers
to this question and was hoping to address them problem through a
colloquium that is being proposed at NYU.

The point is, most of us CAN'T do full preservation on our work and
so have a mental block about doing anything! I want to provide a
"harm reduction" approach and encourage all of us to take the simple

This leads me to explain why I'm doing all this.

April 2006 marks the 30th Anniversary of BB Optics, my optical
printing and film preservation company. Anthology Film Archives
(Andrew Lampert) along with the Moving Image Archiving and
Preservation program at NYU Cinema Studies (Howard Besser) is
organizing a month-long series of screenings to celebrate the
occasion. Programs will be an eclectic mix of films selected out of
the list of the hundreds of films I've worked on or preserved since
1976. The idea is to make really interesting shows that mix and
match in unlikely combinations. For instance, we're hoping to open
the series with a show combining Saul Levine's "New Left Note", a
regular 8mm rapid fire diary film on the anti-war, anti-racist, and
women's liberation movements of the early 1970s with a compilation of
the Nixon White House Staff Super8 films. (Nixon gave super8 cameras
to his top aids and the FBI confiscated them when they found them in
the office files of John Ehrlichman after he resigned his post as
Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs on April 30, 1973.)
I preserved all 14 hours of these films a few years back through a
contract with the Nixon Library at the National Archives. Brian Frye
is making the compilation.

As a catalogue for the show, Anthology is printing a short book that
will contain the program, along with some of my own writing, essays
by filmmakers, film scholars and archivists as well as a
self-preservation guide for filmmakers (if I can get it together in
the short period of time before we go to press!)

In any case, I'd love to hear more stories about what is and isn't
being done to keep our works from disappearing. I'll keep you
posted about the Anthology shows and the book.

Thanks for the response so far.


Bill Brand
BB Optics
108 Franklin Street #4W
New York, NY  10013
(212) 966-6253
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.