I‘ve toyed on and off (mostly off) with the idea of working with film preservation – actually physically restoring aging films frame by frame before time and the elements destroy them. Theoretically film is timeless – it captures a moment in time and preserves it forever, allowing us to see actors, public figures, and our families and friends forever ageless. But physically, film is very delicate indeed; the nitrate stock used in non-digital film is highly flammable and prone to disintegration if not stored carefully. It’s estimated that over half of all films made before 1950 have been lost forever, and as many as 80-90% of silent-era films will never be seen again. With my love of classic film, those numbers horrify me. And while I haven’t actually gone into film preservation myself, Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren are setting up the opportunity to raise awareness and interest in it with an upcoming blogathon dedicated to the film preservation efforts of the National Film Preservation Foundation.
Here are a couple of paragraphs (copied from Ferdy on Film, copied from the NFPF’s site) about the NFPF:
The NFPF raises money, awards grants, and organizes cooperative projects that enable archives, libraries, museums, historical societies, and universities to work together to save American films. Since opening our doors, we have helped preserve more than 1,560 films and assisted organizations in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In 2009, we partnered with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia to preserve and make available on the Internet several American silent films that no longer survived in the United States; another such project will be announced later in 2010.
A two-year study prepared by the Library’s National Film Preservation Board documented that American films are disintegrating faster than archives can save them. The types of motion pictures most at-risk are documentaries, silent-era films, avant-garde works, ethnic films, newsreels, home movies, and independent works. These are not Hollywood sound features belonging to the film studios, but ‘orphans’ that fall outside the scope of commercial preservation programs and exist as one-of-a-kind copies in archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.
Because it is where the need is highest, the NFPF focuses on films that aren’t well-known, that don’t belong to a major studio, and that you’ve probably never heard of. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important – these are the films that belong to the counterculture, to the individual, and to the world. These are films that will show the future that film doesn’t only belong to the big corporations, but to anyone who wants to make a film. And these are the films that preserve our history and our culture – but that won’t if they aren’t preserved themselves.
The blogathon starts officially in about a month, on February 14th. Keep an eye on Ferdy on Films and the Self-Styled Siren for more, as well as the site specifically set up for the blogathon, For the Love of Film. Thanks go to Greg of CinemaStyles for putting that together and creating the promotional banners. I’m not sure yet what the Third Row will end up contributing, but I for one at least am excited to see what everyone else comes up with.