Bonus onus on DVD detectives

Extra footage, goodies a hot commodity

Browsing through an eBay auction, Warner Home Video’s George Feltenstein found 48-year-old “East of Eden” red-carpet premiere footage for $20. Featuring Jack Warner, Marilyn Monroe and John Steinbeck, this was material that Warners no longer had in its archives.

“This was a fluke,” says Feltenstein, senior veep of classic catalog, who’s been collecting such extras since the days of Laserdisc, when he was with MGM. “We’re lucky that one of these film footage people didn’t find it first because then they would have charged us thousands of dollars to license it.”

Directors now collect, and in some cases produce, extra footage specifically for DVD. But for older movies, such execs as Feltenstein play detective, digging through studio archives and moviemakers’ personal collections, interviewing all those involved in a film, and turning to the network of archive collectors to find never-before-seen gems.

Studio archives are often the first stop in an investigation. Fox exec director of film preservation and library services Schawn Belston found a mock interview with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for “All About Eve” that no one even knew existed in long-stowed promo materials.

“The hardest thing is you don’t know what exists and what doesn’t,” says Miguel Casillas, senior director of DVD production for Artisan Home Entertainment. For that reason, those who worked on a movie can prove invaluable, provided they can be found.

For Artisan’s upcoming releae of “The King of New York,” for example, Casillas had to track down notoriously withdrawn director Abel Ferrara through friends of friends. Finally, he got to someone who said, “Give me your phone number, and I’ll see what I can do.”

Ferrara called and reluctantly ended up doing a commentary (which he proposed taping while cruising Manhattan in a car). He also put the DVD producers in touch with the early rap-scene denizens featured in the movie.

Sometimes directors themselves get involved in the search, as Peter H. Hunt did for Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment’s “1776.” A studio lab technician spent a year working with the DVD production team searching through every negative initially edited out of the 1972 movie, before Hunt put it all back for an extra half-hour.

The amount of material for any given film in studio archives varies dramatically. Paramount Home Entertainment recently appealed to “Friday the 13th” fans for any memorabilia that could be included on upcoming DVDs.

On the other hand, for the compilation package of the 1970s ABC space series “Battlestar Galactica,” Universal Studios Home Video VP of DVD production Colleen Benn had to sift through 1,000 boxes of material. “I had to hire someone to basically help work on the project,” she says. “I put them in a room here in the studio to go through and see what they could find.”

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