By Marilyn Ferdinand
Anyone who knows me knows what a sucker I am for a good cause. I’ve tried to help save the environment, the Uptown Theatre, the mountain gorillas, the medfly (ok, not that one. . . I think). But now it’s my turn to hold my hand out and ask you all to help save something that means something to all us: film.
According to estimates, at least 50 percent of all films made for public exhibition before 1951 have been lost. Move into the silent era, and the estimate shoots up to 85-90 percent. The nitrate film on which nondigital movies are recorded is flammable and highly susceptible to deterioration. All or parts of thousands of films have burned up, broken down, or ended up in a dumpster.
We can’t do anything to recover those films, but we can all help ensure that not another frame is lost by supporting the work of film preservationists, restorers, and archivists. To that end, Farran Nehme (The Self-Styled Siren) and I dreamed up a fun way to do it. We’re holding a blogathon to shine a light on film preservation and raise funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation. Here is a little information from the NFPF:
The National Film Preservation Foundation is the independent, nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. Growing from a national planning effort led by the Library of Congress, the NFPF began operations in 1997. We work directly with archives to rescue endangered films that will not survive without public support.
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.
Here’s a brief description of the films NFPF works to save:
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.
There have been fundraising blogathons before, but as far as I know, there has never been one held among film bloggers. The NFPF gets its operating funds entirely through donations and grants, so whatever funds we raise through the blogathon will make a real difference.
We’ll be offering helpful advice and taking suggestions from the film community on our very own Facebook Fan Page, which we’ll be adding to regularly. Become a fan, and take a look around in the coming weeks for suggestions of topics, discussions about the blogathon, information about film preservation, and a lot more. And go to the For the Love of Film blog, where Cinema Styles’ Greg Ferrara has posted banners and commercials you can use on your own blog and Facebook page to promote participation and awareness.
For the love of film . . . please support The Film Preservation Blogathon.