Missing Movies Newsletter #1

 

Welcome to the
Missing Movies community! 

Thank you for joining our merry band
of cinephiles and activists.


We hope you enjoy
our
first-ever newsletter!

It all started with
one missing movie.

In 2019 Ira Deutchman called filmmakers Nancy Savoca and Rich Guay with a request to screen their 1994 film Household Saints in a retrospective. What seemed like an easy ask instead turned into an odyssey. The 35mm prints at UCLA Film Archive proved to be unplayable and the film was out of distribution. The three spent years tracking down film prints and (even more important) original elements and then getting the rights back.

Talking to others in the entertainment industry, they realized that their dilemma was one shared by many independent filmmakers. Working with the DGA, they helped set up and participated in a Zoom conference on that subject with Mary Harron (whose I Shot Andy Warhol is still unavailable), Mira Nair (who was able to regain the rights to Mississippi Masala), entertainment lawyer Sue Bodine, Maggie Renzi (who is working on the rights to her partner John Sayles’s films), Ayoka Chenzira (whose film Alma’s Rainbow was recently restored and released), and distributor Amy Heller.

Missing Movies grew out of that panel. And while we are a new organization (and a recently minted nonprofit) we have hit the ground running!

and… action!

Toronto International Film Festival 2022

SeptemberMissing Movies founding board member Mary Harron (at right) screened a print of her 1996 independent feature film I Shot Andy Warhol at the 2022 TIFF. The film is still out of distribution and Harron was only able to show the film because she was in Toronto to premiere her new film Daliland. After the screening she spoke about the situation her film is in and took questions from the film-savvy audience.

New York Film Festival 2022

OctoberMissing Movies presented a panel at the 60th New York Film Festival with distributors Dennis Doros & Amy Heller; producer/director Ira Deutchman; entertainment lawyer Nancy Wolff; filmmakers Rich Guay & Nancy Savoca; and Black Film Archive founder, Maya Cade. You can watch the panel here!

Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference 2022

NovemberMissing Movies advisors Dave Filipi, director of the Wexner Center for the Arts; Black Film Archive founder Maya Cade; and copyright expert Elias Savada spoke about legal and other challenges to programming missing movies.

 Sojourner Truth Festival 2023

March: Among the many Missing Movies advisors at the University of Chicago for this great symposium of Black women filmmakers from the 1970s–today were filmmaker Shola Lynch; Cornell professor Samantha Sheppard, and distributors Amy Heller & Dennis Doros.

SXSW 2023

March: AMIA president Rachel Stoeltje and Missing Movies board members Nancy Savoca & Rich Guay’s workshop asked: “Will your movie be missing in 20 years?” The three offered tools to help filmmakers ensure that their work will be available in five (or 50) years.

There is so much happening now
on the Missing Movies HQ on

Today March 30, 2023: We are excited to be part of the Letterboxd universe of cinephiles and film mavens and are grateful that the team there has welcomed Missing Movies with amazing coverage! We think you will enjoy senior editor Mitchell Beaupre’s wonderful article. “Lost and Found: Missing Movies on their mission to rescue lost films for future generations.”  And please check out the short essays by Missing Movies board members and advisors on the movie they miss most — these follow Mitchell’s article.

We are sure that you will enjoy exploring the just-published list of “101 Movies that MissingMovies.org would love to see released” — these are (mostly North American) films that we hope will become more readily available this year. It is not a definitive list because films are continuously being discovered and released by companies such as Criterion, Kino Lorber, Milestone, Flicker Alley, Kanopy, and others, but we published the list to start the conversation.

Read Letterboxd’s article on Missing Movies!
Check out the 101 Movies that we would love to see!

…An early win

This year: Thanks to input from Missing Movies, an independent filmmaker was able to add language to their Director Agreement on a feature film specifying that they will be notified of the copyright ownership of the film and any future assignments of ownership and the location of all physical materials and production elements.

and a model for the future

The provisions in this one agreement can provide a template for other filmmakers! We would also like to see contracts that ensure that copies of the finished film are preserved at multiple moving image archives on film or LTO tape.

“What I wish I knew then… ”

Veteran Producer and Missing Movies Board Member
Richard Guay reflects on lessons learned

Filmmakers are really good at a variety of tasks — managing tight budgets, managing large groups of people, taking complex stories and translating them from words on paper to visual imagery that can make your heart stop. One area that filmmakers are absolutely lousy about is caring for their own legacy.

There’s a good reason: there are only so many hours in a day and the job of developing, financing and actually making a movie is a more than full-time gig. There’s just no time to consider history or where that film you are making will wind up in 20 or 30 years.

That was the case for me over four decades — always on to the next project, never considering what would become of the last one. “Someone will take care of it,” I thought. Well, for the most part, I was dead wrong.

Over the five years that it has taken to locate, re-negotiate and set up long-term preservation for one of those films — Household Saints — I’ve learned a great deal. Looking back, there are a handful of things that I wish I had known 30 years ago when we made the film. The list is short and most of the items on it were readily available to me at the time but there was no formal process in place to track any of it. The list of “what I wish I knew” is as follows:

  1. Who owned the copyright in my film? Of course, I can look at the copyright notice in the end credits but that information often changes without the filmmaker being notified (see #3 below).
  2. What are the physical elements — commonly known as Deliverables — that were created and who has possession of them?
  3. When did any of the first two items change? Was the copyright transferred? Were the materials moved or, worse, discarded?
  4. What underlying rights were needed to release the film — music, stock footage, photos, etc. etc?
  5. Finally, was there any sort of preservation copy made and deposited with an archive that would allow the film to be restored in the event the original materials were lost?

Having any one of these pieces of information at the start of my search would have saved me weeks of searching. And having the last one — a preservation copy — would have provided enormous peace of mind when I thought the film might be lost completely.

Looking back, three things are very clear to me.

  • First, obtaining the information for the copyright, the deliverables and the underlying rights should have been on my To Do List. That information is readily available when the film is distributed and I needed to ask for it and keep track of it.
  • Second, there needs to be a mechanism whereby the changes to copyright status and/ or the movement of physical materials are provided to filmmakers.
  • Third, preservation is a critical element of the filmmaking process. Every film contributes to our cultural heritage and the only way not to lose the bulk of them is to make preservation a line item in a post-production budget. This doesn’t have to be expensive and the requirements must fit the scale of the project, but it must be addressed when the film is made.
I don’t think intention is enough here. I think that each of the above items needs to be part of a filmmaker’s standard contract, enshrined with all the rest of that boilerplate that we may not fully understand but will sure come in handy one day.

coming soon!

TCM Film Festival 2023

April: This year film fans flocking to Hollywood for the always wonderful TCM Classic Film Festival will get the chance to see Play It As It Lays, a film that has long been unavailable — with an introduction by Missing Movies advisor, filmmaker Allison Anders!

We all have movies we are missing…

Soon filmmakers looking for their own lost films will be sharing their stories on video with the Missing Movies community. Plus, we will be asking you to tell us about a movie you made or love that is no longer available! So, please stay tuned!

We ask you to join us — and please support our efforts!

Join the Missing Movies movement!
Donate now to Missing Movies!

Starting a new nonprofit has a steep learning curve, but our amazing advisory board is schooling us! One thing we now know: funders look to see not only the dollar value of donations but also the number of donors! So even if you only can donate a small amount, your participation is valuable — and valued! Thank you. 

And hey, please get to know us!

We are so lucky to have a wonderfully diverse group of brilliant cinephiles on the Missing Movies advisory board — check out this amazing group of archivists, filmmakers, actors, producers, lawyers, copyright experts, journalists, academics, and programmers who have generously signed on to work with us!

And you can read about MM’s founding board members here!

 

 

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