Important US indie films are in peril because they haven’t made the leap into the digital age. Help IndieCollect scan vital works.
About this project
WHY I STARTED INDIECOLLECT
It’s now been nearly 40 years since I founded the IFP as a self-help mechanism for indie filmmakers all across the country. I had been inspired by the pioneering collectives and cooperatives Cine Manifest, Focal Point, New Day Films, AIVF, New American Cinema Group, Canyon Cinema, Alternate Media Center, DCTV, TVTV, Videofreex et al. The Sundance Institute didn’t exist yet, but it was in the planning stages.
We were in solidarity & single-minded about one goal: to transform or outwit the mainstream entertainment industry so that more indie voices could be heard in the theaters and on the new “public access” channels.
Since then the IFP and Film Independent (formerly IFP/West) have done tremendous work, and Sundance has become a powerhouse supporter of indie filmmakers.
BUT THERE WAS ONE THING THAT NEVER GOT DONE… We filmmakers never came up with a plan for archiving our work.
That’s why I started the IndieCollect campaign.
IndieCollect advocates for conservation of, and access to, the entire field of independent cinema — fiction, non-fiction, hybrid and experimental works. As reported in the New York Times, we took custody of thousands of film negatives, most abandoned and presumed lost by the filmmakers. Since then, we’ve also gone into filmmakers’ homes, garages and storage units to help them inventory and archive their work.
OUR STRATEGIC PARTNERS
Our greatest ally has been the Academy Film Archive. Thanks to its support, IndieCollect has placed the film & sound elements for 1,500 titles at the Archive, in optimal cold storage conditions at no cost to the filmmakers. That’s three large truckloads!
Twenty years ago, Sundance had the foresight to encourage filmmakers to deposit a copy of their Sundance Festival films at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The Sundance Collection grew to 2,000 titles. In the past two years, IndieCollect has located the master film elements for numerous titles that we’ve added to the Collection, and we’ve recently located negatives for another 40 films that premiered at Sundance.
We estimate there are thousands more indie films at risk around the country, and our motto isan archive berth for every film that needs it.
BUT SAVED DOES NOT MEAN SEEN!
IF THESE FILMS ARE NOT SCANNED, THEY MAY NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN.
Important American independent films are stuck on the shelf because they haven’t made the leap into the digital age. That’s the reason we are launching this Kickstarter campaign.
With your support, we will use our brand new Kinetta film scanner to make long-lost indie treasures available in a 4k digital format for the first time.
First up on our scanning slate is a collection of daring, inventive & witty films, produced early in their careers by Christine Vachon & Todd Haynes, the makers of the extraordinary, award-winning movies CAROL, FAR FROM HEAVEN, I’M NOT THERE, BOYS DON’T CRY, SUPERSTAR, and many others.
Christine & Todd were astounded and delighted when we told them we found the master picture & sound elements for 8 of the shorts they produced in the 80s & 90s with Barry Ellsworth under their Apparatus banner. Apparatus was a non-profit production company they used to produce & direct their own films, and to support innovative work by their colleagues.
Used by permission. See Robin Holland/robinholland.com
With your support we will digitize and make this unique collection available to our Kickstarter backers in a beautiful Blu-ray edition. Also available — 4K digital copies to be streamed at your convenience.
HOW KICKSTARTER FUNDS WILL BE USED
- To offset the labor costs of cleaning & scanning the film and sound elements for each title;
- For color correction;
- To output to new digital formats — the digital master, mezzanine copy, access copies;
- To make LTO (Linear-Tape Open) backups for the Library of Congress;
- To amortize cost of acquiring and maintaining the necessary equipment (e.g., image/sound capture, workstations, LTO decks, digital storage, etc.).
These steps allow us to properly capture and preserve the original film materials and provide the filmmaker with high-resolution files.
IndieCollect is not acquiring the rights to the films we scan. We are doing this as a non-profit service to our fellow filmmakers and to take active steps to preserve the legacy of American independent cinema. We hope that new 4K digital versions will encourage commercial and non-profit distributors to put the films back on the market, or give filmmakers the tools to do that for themselves.
After each film has been scanned, the original film & sound elements will be placed at one of our collaborating archives for safekeeping.
GEMS UNSEEN: Early Films from Christine Vachon & Todd Haynes
Here’s a quick glimpse of the films in the collection.
ANEMONE ME (1990) The story of a blind man who falls in love with a merman, directed by Pulitzer Prize-winner & MacArthur “Genius” Suzan-Lori Parks and Bruce Hainley.
LA DIVINA (1989) Brooke Dammkoehler’s meditation on the rise to stardom of a glamorous movie idol (modeled after Greta Garbo), draped in gorgeous black & white photography and a tone of delirious grandeur.
OREOS WITH ATTITUDE (1991) A wickedly witty satire by Larry Carty that turns racial stereotyping inside out.
HE WAS ONCE (1989) One of the most original films ever made, this “pseudo-animation” by Mary Hestand features a cameo appearance by Todd Haynes. (This is the only film in the collection available on DVD, but it has never been scanned in high-resolution.)
CAUSE AND EFFECT (1988) Susan Delson’s offbeat exploration of the obvious and the unexpected links in people’s lives.
DAYS ARE NUMBERED (1986, 18 min), Christine Vachon’s story of a man haunted by the grotesque memory of having stepped on a dead animal’s carcass.
NATURAL HISTORY (1986), Barry Ellsworth’s story of an adult infant named “Child” whose parents — in a desperate quest to expel him from home — resort to a magic spell they’ve seen in a TV doc about Malaysian baptismal rites.
THE WAY OF THE WICKED (1989, 15 min), Christine Vachon’s fantastic parody of the Catholic Church, an odyssey about two women trying to stop a young girl from biting the Host at her First Communion.
TWO LOST FILMS
In the process of researching this collection, we’ve been able to document two more Apparatus productions, but we haven’t found the elements. We need your help to determine their whereabouts.
- A MAN IN YOUR ROOM (1984, 6 min), Christine Vachon’s story of a priest haunted by his desire for an impish young man.
- ASSASSINS: A FILM CONCERNING RIMBAUD (1985, 43 min), Todd Haynes’ first film, in which he depicts the poet as homosexual outlaw.
If you know anything about these films, email us at [email protected], or tweet us @indie_collect with the hashtag #lostandfound. If we can track them down, we’ll scan them too!
WE’VE GOT THE SCANNER! HELP US ACTIVATE IT!
As cinephiles, creators, and connoisseurs, we hope you recognize these films need to be SAVED and SEEN AGAIN. Your support will kick start our film scanning & access program, starting with the direct costs associated with scanning the Apparatus collection.
EVERY BACKER COUNTS! PLEASE JOIN FORCES WITH US NOW.
We only have until July 27 to meet our goal, so the pressure is enormous.
Please back us now. Every backer counts.
Please also spread the news about this project. We’ll provide updates that you can share on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
With so many thrilling films that need to be scanned and archived, we really need your support.
THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Sandra Schulberg and the IndieCollect Team
Israel Ehrisman, Steve Blakely, Kirsten Larvick, Ina Archer, Omchand Gee, David Leitner, Colin Stanfield
WHAT ARE STRETCH GOALS?
If we raise more funds than needed to scan the Apparatus collection, we will reach into our vault to offer you many more films.
Peep inside our vault and discover some of the other treasures we hope to scan and revive next.
- Scott B & Beth B’s “punk” film masterpieces
- Smorgasbord of “Sundance Shorts” made by filmmakers at the start of their illustrious careers, including Gus Van Sant’s “Thanksgiving Prayer;”
- Best of Barbara Hammer, the iconoclast who gave us “Nitrate Kisses;”
- Works by African-American artists Zeinabu irene Davis & Yvonne Welbon;
- Social issue docs by Mirra Bank, Joyce Chopra, DeeDee Halleck, Judith Helfand, Barbara Margolis, Julia Reichert, and others;
- Masters of the Avant-Garde from the Film-Makers’ Cooperative archive;
- Cult favorite “Liquid Sky” by Slava Tsukerman;
- Nancy Kelly’s “Thousand Pieces of Gold,” and many more.
THE BIG PICTURE: What the Future Holds
No one knows what films will be deemed worthy — artistically, culturally, historically — 100 years from now. All we do know is that independent filmmakers do not, as a rule, have the resources to properly protect their own films.
So we’ve got to save as many as we can, as best we can, as soon as we can. Or else indie films will suffer the same fate as silent films: 85% of them lost before anyone realizes what a gigantic mistake it was to let that happen.
IF YOU LOVE FILM, ESPECIALLY INDIE FILM, DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN. NEGLECT IS OUR ENEMY. ASSUMING THAT SOMEONE ELSE IS SOLVING THE PROBLEM IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER.
JOIN THE CAMPAIGN. Join us at IndieCollect.org
Risks and challenges
Scanning archival film elements (whether 8mm, 16mm, or 35mm) can be challenging, especially if there has been damage to the celluloid. The physical condition of the works that we are planning to scan has been assessed, and we are optimistic about our success. Moreover, our new Kinetta archival film scanner was designed specifically to gently handle older film material. It does not use sprockets to advance each frame of the film, so it can accommodate torn sprocket holes and other weaknesses. Steve Blakely, our head of Collection Assessment, has more than 30 years experience in the film laboratory business. Once the film scanning is done, a separate team takes on the “finishing” of the work (sound synchronization, color correction, etc.) This part of the process involves artistic decisions — ideally made in collaboration with the original filmmakers — so that the new digital version of the film looks as good as, or even better than, the original. Fortunately, most of the films on our scanning slate were made by filmmakers who are alive and well and very excited about the opportunity to consult on the finishing process.