November 1, 2000

Preservation & Scholarship Award: The Film Foundation

<em>Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment</em> (1963), <em>Always For Pleasure</em> (1978), <em>The Fighting Lady</em> (1944),  <em>Louisianna Story</em> (1948).

Since its formation in 1990, The Film Foundation has been committed to fostering greater awareness of the urgent need to preserve motion picture history. Through such national efforts as the annual Film Preservation Festival on American Movie Classics, the foundation raises funds and distributes them directly to its member archives—Academy Film Archive, George Eastman House, Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art, UCLA Film and Television Archive—and to its affiliated organizations—the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the AFI and the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Thanks to funding from The Film Foundation, its member archives have been able to preserve significant contributions to the documentary art form, including the works of Robert Drew and Les Blank; Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera; Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story; and countless newsreels and actuality films among the collections of historical societies and museum, university and state archives across the country.

The foundation also encourages cooperative preservation projects between the archives and the industry and seeks to ensure that reliable preservation practices are in place for future productions. The Film Foundation was founded by Martin Scorsese and seven other eminent directors: Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg. They were joined shortly thereafter by directors Robert Altman and Clint Eastwood.

As The Film Foundation enters its second decade, it faces significant challenges:

  • Film preservation needs to be developed and promoted as a field and a discipline in light of a shortage of skilled preservationists and labs capable of executing this highly specialized work.
  • Though new forms of distribution have drawn interest to the motion pictures of the past, the original film elements have been neglected and left in need of preservation.
  • The struggle to save “orphan films”—films without owners able to pay for their preservation—continues. These films include newsreels, documentaries, silent films, experimental works, films out of copyright protection, home movies and independent films.
  • Access to high-quality film prints is becoming increasingly difficult as the commercial focus shifts towards digital representations for DVD and television and away from preserving movies the way they were meant to be seen.

With the promising precedent that the Foundation has set in only its first decade, it is more than capable of meeting these challenges. The IDA Preservation and Scholarship Award has been a cornerstone of IDA’s commitment to celebrating the past, present and future of this art form. Many past recipients—The George Eastman House, Roger Mayer of the National Film Preservation Foundation, Robert Rosen of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art among them—have benefited from the support of The Film Foundation. The IDA salutes The Film Foundation for its continued dedication to preserving the treasures of nonfiction media and for helping to make film preservation an issue of national importance.

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