In our digital age, the preservation of older documentary footage is far from guaranteed. To highlight the importance of the issue, The International Documentary Association (IDA) and DOC NYC hosted the first-ever two-day Documentary Preservation Summit, which began March 31 and ended on April 1 at IFC Center. Filmmakers and preservation experts attended the event to speak about the issue of important documentaries being lost, and discussed strategies for preserving and archiving these wonderful films.
If you missed the summit, you can view several of the panels below in their entirety:
Keynote: A call to action for documentary preservation speakers During this panel, Michael Donaldson (fair use attorney), Barbara Kopple (filmmaker), D.A. Pennebaker (filmmaker), Sandra Schulberg (IndieCollect) and moderator Thom Powers (DOC NYC) talked about the importance of preserving historical and cultural moments that have been captured by documentary filmmakers. Panelists explained why classic docs are often unavailable (due to their lack of preservation). New details about the IndieCollect film documentation and preservation campaign were revealed; the campaign is looking to make a positive impact on independent film preservation.
Earning new revenue from old films
In this panel, Jeremy Boxer (Vimeo), Adam Klaff (VHX), Linda Pan (Doc Club) and George Schmalz (Kickstarter) discussed whether you can make money from old documentaries. The panel consisted of experts in specific digital streaming platforms, who came together to speak about opportunities for selling back catalog films, including case studies of the Drew Associates library and “Hands on a Hard Body.”
Confronting clearance and legal issues
This panel featured Margaret Bodde (The Film Foundation), Dennis Doros (Milestone Films), Rena Kosersky (Music Supervisor, “Eyes on the Prize”) and Morgan Neville (filmmaker), put an emphasis on the legal impediments often faced by older documentaries when they are re-released. These impediments include unclear contracts with producers and distributors and sketchy clearance agreements for footage and music. The panel of legal experts discussed a recent success story, Marcel Ophuls’ “The Memory of Justice” (1976), a film that was restored recently with help from The Film Foundation, Martin Scorsese’s non-profit preservation organization. Executive director Margaret Bodde also shared what she’s learned from other case studies.
How does your film become preserved and discoverable?
This panel included Israel Ehrisman (IndieCollect), Elena Rossi-Snook (New York Public Library), Katie Trainor (MoMA) and guest speaker Warren Huddington, who chatted about why filmmakers need to understand what film archives do, and figure out how to collaborate with them. Preserving your film for future generations is only the first step. IndieCollect and some of its archive collaborators revealed how they go about preserving work and making it accessible to film programmers, online distributors and the general public so filmmakers can actually profit from it.
Best practices: Don’t lose your footage in the digital age.
In this last panel, Allison Berg (director, “The Dog”), Rufus de Rham (Activist Archivists), Clara Fon-Sing (NBC Universal Archives) and David Leitner (filmmaker) talked about the challenges of the digital age. A modern day filmmaker’s work typically ends up on hard drives for digital storage; and dealing with digital formats is a relatively new process, surprisingly requiring even more effort than was necessary for older formats like celluloid and tape. The filmmakers on this panel gave some cautionary advice about how to prevent the loss of precious footage.