The first of two hearings of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress took place Friday in Los Angeles to take testimony on the state of American film preservation and restoration. Friday’s meeting — and one to be held in Washington, D.C. — was done under terms of the National Film Preservation Act of 1992.
Representing the NFPB were chair Fay Kanin, member John Belton, alternate member Milt Shefter, producer David Chasman the Library of Congress’ James Billington and David Francis. The panel moderator was Winston Tabb of the Library of Congress.
Opening session of the hearings involved statements and a Q&A period between panel members and Academy archive director Michael Friend; Japanese American National Museum curator Karen Ishizuka; AFI interim director John Ptak and deputy director Gregory Lukow; Stephen Gong of the Pacific Film Archive; and UCLA Film & TV Archive director Robert Rosen. Many raised objections to the suggestion of a centralized film archive run by a government agency.
“As we’ve seen before, a large bureaucracy never seems to really help,” one participant said.
Chace Prods.’ Robert Heiber, who spoke during the session on film labs that specialize in film preservation work, stressed that the major studios should get credit and recognition for the preservation work, but that something must be done for the smaller companies that don’t have the same resources.
Two of the three afternoon sessions consisted of testimony by representatives of the major studios detailing their efforts in the area of film preservation.
There was also discussion involving films that have fallen into public domain that are not being preserved. Republic Pictures film archivist Ernest Kirkpatrick pointed to several Republic films that are now public domain and asked the panel to consider recommending re-copyright of the films.
Another factor to be considered in the area of film preservation is the environment, said Universal’s director of preservation, Bob O’Neil.
“The environmental laws are going to make it difficult to use chemicals for film preservation,” he said. “This is an issue that really needs to be addressed quickly.”
Asked about new technologies and the possibility of film being replaced, most agreed it wouldn’t be happening soon. “Film is a known commodity,” said O’Neil. “Right now, there is nothing out there that will replace it.”
The afternoon’s third panel featured a statement by the Committee for Film Preservation & Public Access’ Gregory Luce voicing his org’s concern that the public doesn’t have access to the films that are being restored at taxpayers’ expense.
Kanin disputed this, pointing out that a lot of film preservation is done with privately raised funds.