Heritage series lets Brit industryites leave a legacy

The British Academy of Film & Television Arts/Los Angeles is making sure that history is properly recorded.

The org’s heritage archives series is a chance for Brit directors, actors, producers and cinematographers and others to talk about their careers and craft, and to share anecdotes in videotaped interviews that are immortalized on video or DVD.

The archive features more than 20 interviews, ranging from 40 minutes to two hours, with, among others, Ian McKellen, Guy Green, John Schlesinger, Michael Caine, Alan Parker and, most recently, Jean Simmons. The interviews can be checked out by BAFTA/LA’s 1,000-plus members or can be viewed by others at the organization’s West Hollywood office.

The org would like to add one interview per month and allow people to access the archive through a Web site that would sell copies of the interviews and offer downloads of interview segments and transcripts. Donald Haber, executive director of BAFTA/LA, says the response has been so successful that BAFTA in London is beginning to compile its own archive.

The archive started five years ago with a donation of equipment from Hilary Mackendrick in memory of her late husband, Alexander, director of “Whiskey Galore,” “The Ladykillers” and “The Sweet Smell of Success.”

Several board members followed with individual contributions. The project received a major boost when Barbara Broccoli made a matching grant contribution through the Broccoli Foundation. Her father, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, producer of more than 15 James Bond films, was the first recipient of a Britannia award, in 1989.

“We decided to make the archive a major priority and to get the membership behind it,” says David Campling, chairman of the archive committee. “We were able to not only match the Broccoli grant but also raise additional money to enhance and further develop the archive.”

Each year a portion of the funds raised at the Britannia Awards goes to support the archive. The operation is run by a small staff and relies on film historians and professionals including Leonard Maltin, Anthony Slide, Gavin Lambert, Mel Goldberg and members such as Ronald Neame — director, writer, producer and cinematographer for several David Lean films — to conduct the interviews.

“People have asked us why BAFTA has an office in Los Angeles,” Haber says. “There are arguably many reasons we have a presence in the capital of cinema, but certainly one of them is the heritage archive. It’s a living history of the past, a guidepost to where the industry has been and where it will go and a way to ensure that the careers and the contributions of the legends in our business go on forever.”

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