Efforts to create a national preservation board took a step forward last week with the approval of financial support from Congress for the National Film Preservation Foundation. The NFPF has been guaranteed $250,000 annually beginning in fiscal 1999.
The nonprofit NFPF — created last year by a Congressional act — was mandated to raise money and distribute grants to the country’s leading preservation outlets. Earlier in the week, the Librarian of Congress announced a nine-member board composed of Celeste Bartos, John Cooke, Laurence Fishburne, Ann Dribble Jordan, Roger Mayer, David Packard, John Ptak, Martin Scorsese and Sen. Alan Simpson (R.-Wyo.), that will steer its activities. Eric Schwartz, a D.C.-based copyright attorney active in preservation issues, will serve as the interim executive director.
Must get moving
“Considering the current priorities of Congress, we’re elated to receive any federal money,” Schwartz said. “Really the onus is on us to get things going because we won’t be seeing any of the government funding for two years. We’ve been told that if we can demonstrate strong private-sector support, there’s the possibility of re-opening discussion on both the size and distribution of the initial grant.”
The first meeting of the new board is set for June 9. A chair will be elected and fundraising and program priorities will be set.
“We’ve already discussed a commitment to finding ways of saving the so-called ‘orphan’ films,” Schwartz said. “There’s an enormous amount of documentary footage that’s vital to our heritage, but it’s difficult to find sponsors who are willing to underwrite material that has no obvious commercial value. It’s going to take tremendous work and ingenuity to effect that goal.”