Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For the Love of Film: Story Conference (Your Vote Counts)


Together with her dauntless blogathon partner, Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films, the Siren has been discussing plans for the next film-preservation fundraiser, For the Love of Film III: Breaking Dawn.

No? For the Love of Film III: Dream Warriors?

How about Abbott and Costello Meet For the Love of Film?

Geez, tough crowd. All right, why don't YOU come up with something?

No, really, why don't you? You see, Marilyn and the Siren decided to throw the key question at our patient readers, as we determine who should be the recipient of our 2012 largess. We've narrowed the possibilities down to two.

Bright Idea No. 1 would be our old friend the National Film Preservation Foundation, through whom we were able to save two silent films and see those two films become part of a great DVD set, Treasures 5: The West.

Bright Idea No. 2 is something different. One problem faced by film preservationists is the difficulty of finding sufficient numbers of trained people to do this sort of highly skilled, time-consuming and very demanding work. Accordingly, our second option is to have the blogathon funding for 2012 go to fund a scholarship for some Bright Young Thing who wants to study moving-image archiving.

So, all opinions are welcome. As you consider where to put your film-preservation support in the coming year, which Bright Idea is more likely to catch your fancy, and your dollars?

The Siren and Marilyn await your opinions.

70 comments:

rudyfan1926 said...

Well, the Lewis J Selznick School at Eastman House might be a good bet? http://selznickschool.eastmanhouse.org/
I have a great fondness for EYE in the Netherlands, they also do such tremendous work. http://www.eyefilm.nl/
But I would have NO problem with our good friends at the NFPF, at all.

rudyfan1926 said...

Son of For the Love of Film Blogathon and the theme being horror genre from silent to now?

Tony Dayoub said...

Either is a worthy cause, of course. But let's try for something different. I vote for Bright Idea No. 2!

Karen said...

I actually, physically flinched when I got to the words "Breaking Dawn."

Sigh.

I kinda like the idea of the scholarship, because I assume that the sort of people who want to learn film preservation aren't the ones with fat trust funds (and also because it's about EDUCATION).

But geez! More films made available? How is that not the ultimate desideratum? I guess the question is short-term satisfaction vs long-term planning, though. I've always sucked at long-term planning. Give me instant gratification and give it to me NOW!!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Abbott and Costello Go To Mars is a Masterpiece!

It's a great favorte of Marty Scorsese"s so that gives one a huge leg up when it comes to its preservation.

The Siren said...

David, I'm glad you love A & C - I totally do - but I value your vote on our Bright Ideas too!

Trish said...

Definitely a horror theme...

Rachel said...

Both ideas seem worthy to me. I think the second is more unusual, which gives it an edge in my book, but I'd like to know some specifics down the road of how such a scholarship would be put in place.

At any rate, good fortune and happy blogging!

The Siren said...

Ahem. (**taps fork on glass**) We are not doing a horror-movie theme. Scholarship or straight-up preservation? This is the query.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Second option, the scholarship. And the theme should be Monsters Who...huh? Oh, sorry. Forget that. No horror.

Bryce Wilson said...

As much as I do like the scholarship idea, I'd put my vote behind straight up preservation.

I mean don't get me wrong, the scholarship is a creative and great idea, but the nice thing about the preservation option is it gives us film fans a chance to put our money where our mouth is in a way we so rarely get. I'd hate to lose that.

That's my two cents anyway.

Tom Block said...

>Ahem. (**taps fork on glass**) We are not doing a horror-movie theme.

Sometimes you just slay me, Farran.

I vote for film...

DavidEhrenstein said...

I beleive I've mentioned Shirley Clarke before. Preserving such great films as The Cool World and Ornette: Made in America is overwhelmingly important.

The opening of The Cool World is one of the simplest and most brilliant in all of cinema. The kids are on a bus going on a school trip, and the camera is ofucussed right out the window. As they leave Harlem and head downtown you can see the people on the street switch from black to white right before your eyes. Clarke isn't "making a point" with this. She's simply showing you life as it actually is.

She's a shamefully neglected independet filmmaker of overwhelming importance.

Trish said...

Siren - I kind of thought maybe you were sending a subliminal message through the photo of Lugosi and Costello. ;)

I'll go with the first option, then.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Then again, horror movies and film preservation have a home here. And imagine the inspired postings!

rudyfan1926 said...

Option 2, please.

Horror genre would be such fun, feh.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Howsabout Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation? They can't be making any money for those films they let Mubi stream for free.

Plus, a world cinema blogathon would be fun.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Of the two ideas put forth, I favor Bright Idea #1, by the way.

Marilyn said...

We will take themes under advisement.

The Film Foundation has scorned our overtures so far. They have a lot of deep pockets on their side already.

Here are the issues.

NFPF is a great organization that has demonstrated their worth time and again. We would both wholeheartedly support them.

The big problem with preservation, however, is lab time. Films are literally rotting on the vine because there aren't enough labs or technicians to work on them. Hence, the idea of grow some more technicians and archivists.

The question really is long-term/short-term, as one of the commenters pointed out, and we would have no guarantee that the student(s) we fund would continue in the profession. But those are the choices Farran and I have been wrestling with.

Operator_99 said...

Anything we can get off nitrate or some other crumbling medium gets my vote. Nice if we could help someone learn to do it, but pretty sure the serious restorers are always getting apprentices knocking at the door and willing to work for very little. Hey that has been a tradition in the arts and crafts since forever. :-)

Now if we could find and restore London after Midnight, that would sate those with a horror appetite.

Shamus said...

If it's only a question is whether the scholarship is diverted to people who pursue actually "preservation", then why not Not-so-bright idea 3: grants and endowments to labs specifically so they can hire technicians and assistants for the job of which preserving and restoring films. That way you know if your funds are being properly used.

Marilyn said...

Shamus - It's a good idea, but we want to keep the donations tax-deductible. That is a very important consideration, particularly for some of the deeper pockets we'd like to attract.

Ms.Zebra said...

Hmmm, as a "bright young thing" who would be mighty interested in such a scholarship, I vote for bright idea #2. Is that selfish? Oh, well. Either way I'll certainly be contributing a post.

Karen said...

Hmmm. So, if films are "literally rotting on the vine" (sob!) for lack of sufficient technicians, does Bright Idea #1 pay for increasing staff or does the money just sit there for lack of staff?

I was the one who mentioned short-term vs long-term, above, and it seems to me that if there is a critical short-term need ("literally rotting on the vine"!!) then it needs to be addressed first. But if the money for the short-term need won't actually satisfy that need...then is it really a Bright Idea?

I'm not criticizing idea #1, mind you; I'm trying to figure out which is more practical for immediate (or as immediate as possible) reclamation.

Vanwall said...

I'm for training the mechanic that keeps the car going, the stoker that feeds the firebox that keeps the boiler going, (NO Titanic references, please! Be positive.) the lab tech with the white gloves that splices nitrate together.

That said, the fires now burning require rapid action from the volunteer stations. Urgency vs. longevity - it's a hard as hell choice, and if we go BI #1, it's a sure sign of specific impact, but BI #2 might actually be more significant - it's lifespan would be the gift that keeps on giving. Hopefully enough money could be raised to help more than one deserving soul.

Ben Alpers said...

Either Bright Idea would be great.

To take them in reverse order: Bright Idea #2 has the advantage of being something different and (perhaps) having more longterm impact.

But I lean toward #1, both because films are rotting on the vine and because really funding a scholarship at anything more than nominal levels (so that someone who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford to study film preservation could do so) would be a very expensive proposition.

Also: I think a horror blogathon would be great! Marilyn, you may have to convince the Siren ;-)

But as long as we're straying off topic, I'd also be delighted by a blogathon on...

The Musical
Melodrama / "Women's Pictures"
History on the Screen
Documentaries

...oh heck, I'd be happy to blog about almost anything film-history oriented!

Lou Lumenick said...

I vote for the Selznick school.

Trish said...

One must be mindful of the amount raised last year. If there are indeed films rotting on the vine, will the funding of a scholarship to a bright young thing be enough? Deep-pocket donors required.

I still like Bright Idea #1.

Gareth said...

On the facebook page, I went with the first option, but if people are more supportive of option #2 would there be some way of combining the two, e.g. using NFPF to identify an individual or a program that could use the help? They would certainly have the kind of expertise, and that way the funds would function as a kind of "earmarked" gift.

It's nice - thanks to Marilyn and the Siren - to have choices like this to make.

bigscreenclassics said...

I don't think the problem is that there aren't enough people who have studied preservation. In my circle, I know at least 3 who would be qualified in that field but have no work due to limited projects being funded. Any time there is a job posting on AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists), there are dozens of qualified applicants scrambling to get it. Hell, even Robert A. Harris can't get funding to restore The Alamo or It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

I think you're best off trying to use your fund raising towards a specific critical project. Since you probably can't get a studio to accept money, you should look for an orphaned film or two.

Another thing to consider is supporting theatrical exhibition of preserved films. Since 2013 sees the end of 35mm as we know it, it might be the last chance to show films as they are intended to be seen. DVD and Blu-ray (and digital cinema) are nice, but they don't look like 35mm. (Yes, this is my field, but we're self-supporting and don't use donations). Maybe you could sponsor a "Night of Film Preservation" at AMMI?

Laura said...

I don't think I'll ever rest until Olivier's Beggar's Opera can be restored to DVD. What that has to do with anything, I don't know. I just want to be on the records as having said it.

As for which option I want to vote for...gaaaahhhh...I dunno! Number one? No, the second. No? Uh...uh....stop looking at me...oh, I'll be a sympathetic former student and pick 2.

Laura said...

Oh, wait. Maybe Beggar's Opera is indeed out on DVD, I guess? Huh. Why didn't the people in my life make a bigger deal out of that?

The Siren said...

Laura, for the same reason the people in my life failed to give Constant Nymph parties when it was resurrected by TCM...

X. Trapnel said...

The Constant Nymph DVD is due out next month (I certainly intend giving a party).

Since I'm utterly ignorant regarding film preservation I can only offer an ill-informed suggestion about targetting certain films for rescue. Some years back I had read that Constant Nymph existed in only in one or two ragged prints (wrong apparently). Would it be possible to compose a list (within reason) of endangered films?

Recently some fragments of Sibelius' lost Eighth Symphony have turned up, so we must not lose hope for a complete Ambersons.

KC said...

I love the scholarship idea.

Timothy Cahill said...

Let the party planning begin: The Constant Nymph, TCM, 30Jan2012, 10PM.

PS: Option #2

Karen said...

I love X's idea of creating a list of endangered films, unless...does one already exist? Surely the NFPF has a desiderata list? Do we know whether such a list is out there, or shall I start using my research skills to find out?

Shamus said...

Who are those creatures who are insinuating themselves on that new banner?- specifically, the lovely lady on the left - I think it's Zasu Pitts on the right - my mind is saying "not Harlow" but those legs beg to differ.

And Karen, Wikipedia has a list of lost films; and also, very hearteningly, the list of films which were presumed to be lost but later found. So 4 Devils is going to turn up any day now ('specially if others are as keen on cleaning their attic as the Siren).

Shamus said...

Or is it Carole Lombard? in which case that is a still from The Gay Bride. One look at her hair might settle it. But her head titled, head stubbornly covered: it's driving me nuts.

The Siren said...

Shamus, you got the great Zasu and congrats. I am not trying to be a tease, but I want to wait and see whether someone can come up with the other three, without Googling. (The non-Googling part will be on the honor system, of course.) As usual the banner choice is linked to nothing more than a joke with myself.

Never had Zasu on there before, and man she was one of the greats, for my money.

Anyway. Where to put our preservation money. Carry on!

Jeff Gee said...

Well, if the one on the right is Zasu, stands to reason the other sideis Thelma Todd, although I'm not seeing it. The two guys look like members of The Gas House Gang, last seen beaten up by Popeye in the 1936 cartoon "Brotherly Love," but they probably aren't...

The Siren said...

Jeff, right you are; it's the Ice Cream Blonde herself, and she looks more like you expect if you tilt your head so she's looking at you dead on.

Vanwall said...

Is that Guinn, "Big Boy" Williams with Zasu?

The Siren said...

And Vanwall nails the big fella on the right. 3 down, 1 to go...

Shamus said...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, Thelma Todd: if I'd been more desperate and wronger I'd've said Genevieve Tobin next (whom I love equally). And this even though I'm an ardent Marxist. So everyone says I love you.

And I only recognized Zasu because I love her in Ruggles; that and, well, I saw her last night in The Man I Killed (a.k.a., Broken Lullaby). Anyway, love the banner.

Vanwall said...

Nobody had jawline like Big Boy Williams. If he was swimming, it would cut the North Sea like a dreadnought. One of the few guys in the movies that looked like was honest to god tough, not just made up for the part. I always liked his sleepy wagon driver that dumps Louise Brooks on her tush in "Beggars of Life" - his sly look sells the funny.

I'd say this is "Catch as Catch Can", so the other guy must be Reed Howes. My list of veiwings said I saw this, but damnded if I can remember anything about it other than Toddy, Zasu and Big Boy, and I didn't recognize Thelma in this shot at all.

rudyfan1926 said...

Marshall Neilan, Thelma Todd, Guinn Big Boy Williams and Zasu Pitts

Operator_99 said...

Just for the record, Thelma and Zasu were in eighteen films together - quite a fun team-up.

Ms.Zebra said...

I don't know if the film itself is in dire need of rescuing, but, honestly, how long does one have to wait before "Letter From an Unknown Woman" comes out on region 1? I'd have no problem putting all our efforts into making this happen. (Incidentally, I just found out "The Reckless Moment" is available on DVD and am in a very, very good mood.)

Trish said...

Can someone please tell me where I've seen Big Boy Williams before? That face is so familiar!

Jeff Gee said...

Maybe THIS needs to be preserved (or remastered or something)? On the basis of the stills, clips, and description here-- James Whale's follow-up to "Bride of Frankenstein," featuring Robert Young, Constance Collier, and a cast of drunks in blackface masks-- it's a must see. Anybody seen it?

Vanwall said...

Big Boy Williams was in a lot of westerns, some with Errol Flynn.

The Siren said...

And Donna gets handsome, doomed Mickey Neilan.

Karen said...

I'm bummed I came in to this party late today! Thelma Todd was a given, what with Zasu there, and as Vanwall notes, Guinn Williams is pretty damn recognizable, even at this young age. (Trish: Big Boy is one of the 1930s' H!ITGs...)

But I didn't know the fourth one, and now that I know his name, I still don't. I feel so ashamed.

The Siren said...

Marshall Neilan, Gloria Swanson's great love, a handsome devil of a director and a good screenwriter too, who had what my grandmother used to call an elbow problem...he bent it far too much. Directed several Mary Pickfords I have seen and loved, including Amarilly of Clothesline Alley and the lovely Stella Maris.

I am absolutely superdupercallifragilistically impressed than our own Vanwall actually recognized the short by name. *Sam Spade voice* "You're good, angel, you're good."

Vanwall said...

I hate to blow your superdupercallifragilisticallity all to heck, but I must cop to only recognizing that it was about Zasu and a wrestler - Big Boy, after confirmation - and looked it up - I wish I was that all-knowing. I still think the other bloke has Reed Howe's eyes, tho.

X. Trapnel said...

Ms. Zebra,

There is an all-region LFAUW still floating around on Amazon, a decent make-do until the Criterion folk awake from their spell.

Yojimboen said...

Coming in late – surfacing, really – my curse is I recognized Marshall Neilan first (one of my screen-savers), then the others.

Not off-topic, just back one: Sad to announce, the lady I linked to last week in the previous stream – Judy Lewis, Loretta Young’s secret daughter with dear Mr. Gable – has just died at age 76.

I’ll be more careful in future.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's the NYT obit.

DavidEhrenstein said...

The Late Films Blogation: The Boy Who Turned Yellow

Shamus said...

Since LFAUW is already floating around in excellent editions (and Criterion C having already done up Le Plaisir and La Ronde), I wonder maybe if they will instead release something Universal does not deem worthy: Mitchell Leisen's Kitty for instance? Man's Castle? Anatahan by Sternberg? And Siodmak's The File on Thelma Jordon (only on PD) is a hell of a lot better than The Killers (out on CC).

I probably shouldn't be doing this (I don't know what this blog's policy to Intellectual Property is) but I recently found a very rare Lubitsch talkie courtesy of this link here: not a great print but decent enough. The movie itself is a masterpiece of course, only there are no pristine copies available. Since Criterion has already released Design for Living, I hope they bring out The Man I Killed sometime soon.

Forget about lost films: most existing films are lost anyway, sitting as they are in the f*%&@#g vaults, turning into water.

X. Trapnel said...

Shamus,

I wasn't thinking of lost films but precisely those mouldering in the vaults that didn't even make it to VHS. At present I am fretting over the fate of Carol Reed's early A Girl Must Live (for scholarly reasons, of course; stop your snickering, Y).

DavidEhrenstein said...

I saw a clip of Scorsese the other day where he said The Adventures of Haji Baba starring my beloved Elaine Stewart has been restored. This is great news not only for her fans and those of Jon Derek, but Mac-Mahonists (who regard Don Weis as a God) and Hoynegne-Hune afficionados as well.

Yojimboen said...

Keep your hands off Elaine Stewart, Ehrenstein!
She's mine!

(The climax of Hajji Baba when she shrugs the peignoir off her shoulders was my first schwing! moment at the cinema.)

Yojimboen said...

Who’s snickering, X?
I’m just as much a sucker for this as you are.

X. Trapnel said...

"The climax of Hajji Baba when she shrugs the peignoir off her shoulders was my first schwing! moment at the cinema"

Then you no doubt appreciated Lilli P's work-shy shoulder strap.

From an auteurist point of view the editing rhythms surely anticipate Odd Man Out.

noir said...

Have given this a lot of thought since I first saw the post, approaching this not as a fan or someone who writes about film and older forms of media, but as a film/video professional who was once a starving student - and as someone who worked in education to pay the bills, and has set up internships before.

Please consider merging them together into a paid summer internship at the NFPF or a similar organization, and do not limit it just to current students, but allow those who graduated within the last two years to apply as well. Turn it into a paid spring break opportunity for multiple students.

Consider this: when you get a scholarship, it's lovely, but it usually just lowers the amount of the grants you receive from the college you attend. (I'm not talking about Pell Grants or other federal or state aid, but the institutional aid you get from the college itself). So, if you get $500, the amount you might have to borrow won't go down $500; the amount the school gives you will.

Secondly, in many schools there's a gap between the teaching of production skills and criticism/history. Many of the best schools primarily offer one with only a smattering of the other; others have these tracks hosted in different schools or colleges.

I attended a program that emphasized a lot of theory and experimental work, while also teaching some production skills. My three partners all trained in traditional A/V programs focused on producing crew members, light on theory. We all learn a lot from one another. I can honestly say, future crew personnel would gain quite a lot from getting that historical and preservation-bound perspective - it would certainly help those of us who immediately want to run to the new, hot formats and software, without thinking long term. (Even I don't have a way of converting my old Hi8 tapes today.) On the other hand, if it's hands-on, not just fundraising or other clerical/arts management stuff - those who have impeccable history and critical training would get a better understanding of what it's like to actually edit, to actually put this work together.

Most of all, I remember when my school offered internships with alumni in LA and NYC - and you still had to pay for your vehicle, room and board and personal expenses. That really winnows the circle down to kids whose parents have wealth. Mine didn't, but one year we scraped enough for me to take a bus on Thursday to NYC, where I interned for a producer, slept overnight in a hotel for women (yep, still had them in the '90s), and took the bus back Friday night, arriving around 3 AM. Great experience, but tough on my grades.

Now, just a few years later, living in LA, I was shocked to learn how many people had been fleeced, interning for no money for literally years, with the promise of a job dangled out to them. It is now very, very hard to get an internship unless you are a student, and unless you receive course credit. As a result, the competition is very fierce.

If you offer these students a paid internship, they can devote their full time to this work. With the way things are headed economically, the exponential popularity of film/video studies, and the natural bullheadedness of youth (i.e. "the only place I can make it is NYC or LA"), it may be one of the few opportunities a student or recent grad will have to be paid for their creative work.

Financial need should be a consideration - wealthy students can often make their own magic and may already be more "hooked in" - one of my classmates, for instance, was the son of a network executive.

Hope you will consider. Feel free to email me if I can provide some more info.

Happy Miser said...

WOW!! I've gone back and forth about 6 times, already. I was definitely going for the education option, at first. Teach a person to preserve/restore and preserve/restore for a lifetime was my thinking; but... now, after much thought by all y'all; I vote for option 1!!

Happy Miser said...

WOW!! I've gone back and forth about 6 times, already. I was definitely going for the education option, at first. Teach a person to preserve/restore and preserve/restore for a lifetime was my thinking; but... now, after much thought by all y'all; I vote for option 1!!

Catmommie said...

I vote for preservation...are you married to NFPF? Not that they are not completely worthy of the blogathon largesse, but those marvelous folks at UCLA also have an uber-important project for which they are soliciting donations, a major preservation effort to restore all of its surviving negatives of Laurel & Hardy.
http://www.cinema.ucla.edu/support/laurel-and-hardy

So many deserving projects, hard to choose.