How News Archives Are Reaching Out

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Earlier this year, I wrote an article about how the National Archives is a treasure trove of stock footage for films and documentaries. Just the other day, I was reading a documentary magazine and happened to come across an article that serves as a perfect companion piece. The article, titled “The Past Is Never Dead: News Archives Keep History Alive” and written by Ron Deutsch, explores how different news archives are helping to ensure that the past never really dies and is always preserved for future generations. While we at Word Wizards love seeing this old footage preserved for use in documentaries, we also realize just how much of a tool it can be to explore the past in all sorts of ways.

Network Archives

In the past, filmmakers and videographers often had difficulty obtaining historical news footage from television news divisions because these companies were unwilling to license said footage, or in some cases didn’t even have an archive that was properly maintained. Come 2013, things have changed dramatically as this same footage is easily accessible via a couple of clicks or a phone call. A prime example would be the HBO Archives, which houses over 40 years of programming in addition to four decades worth of footage from The March of Time documentary newsreels. As Max Segal points out “Because I used to be a feature producer on the sports side, I understand the struggle of not having the right footage or right images. We see ourselves as partners with documentary producers or any producer.”

Making It Easier For Producers

Another well known archive of footage is the ABC News collection, which dates back as far as the 1960’s. This archive, which falls under ABC News VideoSource, is accompanied by the British Movietone library, a collection beginning in 1896 and going through to the end of the 1960’s. It also houses The AP News Archive, a sports collection that has footage from programs such as Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football. The current goal amongst these large archives is to build relationships with filmmakers and to make their footage easily accessible. Independent Archival Researcher Rosemary Rotondi says this is key and that it is great when the archives actually gets excited about a filmmakers project, as this leads to better collaboration. She also points out how important it is to remember that these archival researchers work quite hard in an often thankless job.

Accessing The Goods

Physically, both the ABC News and HBO Archives are based in New York City and actively encourage film and documentary producers to come into their offices to screen requested footage that isn’t on their websites. One more well known archive collection is T3 Media, which manages licensing for many international news archives including BBC News, National News Archives of Australia and the Japanese Broadcasting Company. Rounding out their offerings is a collection of sports and nature programming footage from NCAA Sports and National Geographic. While T3 Media does not have in-house viewing, they are more than happy to have documentary makers come and sort through their 10 million hours of offline content in addition to the one million clips they do have available online.

Discovering Incredible Images

Florentine McMahon, who is researching a new documentary on ground breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson, tells of an incredibly moving discovery he made recently. He had just ordered a slew of stories from the CBS News Archive and one of them was footage of outtakes from the 1963 March on Washington. He then remembered that Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, had told him about the entire Robinson family going to participate in the march. So McMahon went back to sort through the footage and sure enough, about three-quarters of the way through, there was Jackie Robinson with his arm around his son. It’s stories like this that make these archives so important and such a valuable tool to filmmakers the world over. To read more about these archives and the rest of the much larger article, check out the site here.

 




Unacceptable Levels

The Power of Documentary Film

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We here at Word Wizards inc, love documentary film because it makes up so much of the work we do. However, we also love it because it has the power to really change people’s perspectives on important issues. It brings these important issues, that many people would know nothing about otherwise, to larger audiences and makes them tough to ignore. These filmmakers—or documentarians—shine light on topics that are often overlooked or kept under wraps because some people want them hidden from the public. I recently ran across a documentary, Unacceptable Levels, that does just that and shines a light on an important topic. The film’s main focus is examining how the thousands of chemicals that are used in the creation of everyday objects like food, furniture and cookware, are affecting our bodies and our health.

It All Began With Some Bad Water

Aspiring filmmaker Ed Brown was working as a waiter in Pennsylvania when he had a glass of water one day and noticed how it smelled and tasted like a swimming pool. He then did some online digging and saw to his surprise that there some acceptable levels of chlorine and other containments in water. He didn’t think that much about it until pregnancy issues with his wife brought his mind back to the subject. He started thinking about how that same chlorine he had read about might be affecting people like his wife and what affects so many other everyday chemicals are having on us. This in turn inspired him to start working on the documentary as a way to learn more about this issue.

 A Cinematic Journey

In the film Brown has the viewer go on the journey with him to the extant that they learn some startling facts at the same time he does on camera. Brown interviews a lengthy list of respected experts who are well versed in environmental and chemical studies. Some of these people include activist Ralph Nader and President of the Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook. Along the way a few shocking stories are unearthed, with one of the biggest having to do with sewer sludge. In the 1970s thousands of elements that were removed in sewage treatment and deemed too toxic for the ocean or landfills were simply renamed “biosolids” by the Environmental Protection Agency and given away to farmers who spread them on their farmlands all over America.

 What Viewers Get From The Film

Brown hopes that people see the film and get a sense of empowerment from it and start asking some important questions of their own. Personally, he’s gained a lifetime of knowledge from gathering all that documentary footage and feels it’s benefited his family greatly. While the vast amount of information may seem overwhelming, he hopes that other families will begin to make some life changes and be more careful about what they have around them. Unacceptable Levels will actually be playing in the DC area on June 20th at E Street Cinema. Again, movies like this are important because they make you think about major issues and make you question the world around you to hopefully become more informed.

 




Annapolis Film Festival Wrap Up

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This past weekend the Annapolis Film Festival kicked off to some pretty critical acclaim. The festival, which ran from the 21 – 24, seeks to establish the city of Annapolis as a prime breeding ground for different filmmakers to come and show different perspectives through their work to hungry audiences. A previous incarnation actually existed from 2003 to 2006 and was produced by Ken Arnold, Maria Triandos and Demetrea Triantafillides. The founders of the present version hope that in the long term it will bring both cultural and economic growth to Annapolis and the surrounding area. The festival showcased all types of films from gripping fictional tales to thought provoking documentaries. Word Wizards especially loves documentaries because transcription, captioning and logging are among our core business capabilities.  During the weekend, more than 90 films which covered various topics were shown in addition to educational panels and various film showcases.

After the festival, the winners as voted by audience members were:

Best Feature Narrative: Exquisite Corpse Project

The Exquisite Corpse Project, directed by Ben Popik and directed by Joanna Popik, is the result of a challenge given to five members of a former comedy troupe, all good friends. Their task is to each write fifteen pages of a movie script having only read the previous writer’s last five pages. This one-of-a-kind narrative-doc crossover is hilarious and touching.

Best Feature Documentary: Charles Bradley: Soul of America

Charles Bradley: Soul of America, directed by Poull Brien, chronicles the story of 62 year old aspiring soul singer and James Brown impersonator who becomes a star. After a life of abandonment, homelessness and tragedy, his debut album rockets on to Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of 2011. Mr. Bradley will giving a concert at Ram’s Head OnStage, West Street, Annapolis on April 12th.

Best Narrative Short: The Silk

The Silk, directed by Nathalie Boltt and Clare Burgess, is from New Zealand. Fifty years before, Herb had brought home from the war a length of beautiful silk. As he approaches death, his wife, Amy, takes out the scissors and undertakes a project which transforms their sorrow.

Best Documentary Short: Good Karma $1

Good Karma $1, directed by Jason Berger and Amy Laslett, tells how Ad guru, Alex Bogusky collects signs from homeless people asking for money, wondering if he can help them get their message across better. It turns into a lesson in generosity and humility.

Some of the highlights of the festival included an environmental showcase where a panel of leaders and filmmakers discussed various environmental issues. The festival also celebrated the young filmmakers of tomorrow with their Student Showcase which shows short films from young filmmakers from all around the world. It’s these young people that will be the face of the video production and media industry and bring us films, documentaries, powerful stories and put the spotlight on important issues. Other noteworthy topics at the festival included a panel on the African-American Experience and Segregation in the American School System as well as a shorts program thematically looking at women’s issues.

With the festival having attracted over 2,000 people, that’s great news for independent cinema as a whole. It shows that there’s a desire for it in Annapolis and a generally strong one in the region itself. More importantly it’s yet another exampe of how our production community comes together to celebrate our hard work and support each other. With such a rich pool of talent in the DC/MD/VA area and the sheer number of productions and documentaries that we produce, it’s vital that festivals such as Annapolis thrive. They are not just a showcase for great work but are serve as an important venue for those not from te area to see the type of outstanding video work our professional  community does.

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For more info on the festival, check out the link here: http://www.annapolisfilmfestival.net/

 




The Art of Reviewing Film Festivals

 

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We’re all used to seeing movie and film reviews but reviews for film festivals are not quite as

frequent. What if your a die hard movie junkie who needs their fix of fresh indie cinema but

don’t know just where to turn? Well film festival maven Christina Kotlar has got you covered.

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Her blog Film Festival reViews, http://www.filmfestivalreviews.com/, fills this niche by examining

all that is indie in films, filmmakers and film festival’s the world over. Mrs. Kotlar, a jersey native who

received her masters in Producing Film and Video from American University in Washington D.C. founded

the site in 2006.  One of her main goals was to give some insight in to the film industry as a viable means of

economic development in the film festival circuit.

 

One of her passions is the work of early women film makers, more specifically Alice Guy Blache, the first woman

film director.

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While most would shrug their shoulders and say “Alice who?”, Blache was an important

figure in the then burgeoning industry as she was making fiction films before women could even vote in this country.

Even more impressive, she built, owned and operated Solax Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey which did work such

as special effets, super imposition, sound synchronization and colorization. Mrs. Kotlar has actually written a story  and screenplay

about Alice Guy Blache titled Madame Director who’s website can be found herehttp://madamedirector.com/   

 

Some other unique features on the Film Festival reViews blog include  the Backstage Pass which looks at unique and rare events

happening at different film festivals. Examples include an in depth look at the eagles in honor of their documentary History of the Eagles

Part 1 which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. There are of course the reviews of films and film festivals such as the recent Athena

Film Festival which are told from a woman’s point of view. Lastly, there is also the Media Madness Workshop which strives to develop leader

ship capacity in the media community.

 

For all this and so much more  check out her website at

http://www.filmfestivalreviews.com/