UCLA to preserve indies

An initiative to preserve independent film production was unveiled Monday at a press conference held at the U. of California, Los Angeles.

“The Sundance Collection at UCLA” is a joint venture between the Sundance Institute and UCLA’s Film and Television Archive that will initially restore eight American films of historic and contemporary importance produced outside the studio system. The initial phase is being underwritten by a grant from the Ahmanson Foundation.

“It’s a very generous amount of money,” said archive director Robert Rosen. “We’ve been asked not to reveal the donation at this time but it is unusually large in relationship to what we’ve become accustomed to receive in this area.”

The press conference brought together Sundance founder Robert Redford, Institute exec director Ken Brecher and UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale. Carnesale noted that the Archive has the second-largest collection of film and television programs in the U.S. and the project fits snugly into the campus mandate of teaching, research and public service.

Redford said that the preservation project was organic to Sundance’s 18-year history. Sundance, which began with a script lab, now embraces a festival, cable channel and a nascent theater chain. “This is very much a part of Sundance’s support of the art and artists. It’s a first step in keeping the voice of the independent artist heard.”

John Cooper, associate director of the Sundance film fest, will co-ordinate the startup phase. An advisory committee will be established to set priorities for the initial selection and subsequent plans, which include the acquisition and preservation of as many as several hundred titles over the next five years, touring programs and educational resources.

Sundance fest director Geoff Gilmore said that while there’s been a conscious effort not to cite specific titles that are in desperate need of restoration and preservation, the preferred plan of attack is to address current production and work backwards. Redford added that overtures have been made to several distribs about housing their catalogues for educational purposes.

Efforts to establish an indie archive have been ongoing for decades. Redford initially became involved in this area via the Film Foundation roughly eight years ago. The project is a daunting challenge on a number of levels that include identifying rights owners and tracking down the best existing material for the restorations. Anecdotes revealed that no near pristine quality prints existed even on such recent films as “Mi Vida Loca” and “Ruby in Paradise,” the latter a Sundance fest prize winner in 1993.

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