A few months ago, I described the efforts to preserve the 1972 film “The Man” as a “Peoples Preservation Campaign“. The work of preservation is born of knowledge, technical skills, and a passionate appreciation for essential truths, events and innovations in our material culture. Preservationists are more than just history detectives. But what makes a “Peoples Preservation Campaign” different from what some associate with traditional preservation?
This weekend (June 17 at 1 PM), LakeArts Foundation in Chautauqua, New York will feature “The Man” as part their film festival series “Politics Goes to the Movies.” “Milk,” “All the King’s Men,” and “The Chautauqua Choice” (a local favorite), round out the thematic schedule. The festival, now in its 3rd year, is the creation of Bonnie Nelson Schwartz and Margaret Johnson. Clayton LeBouef, who is partnering with eclectique916.com to present “The Man” and other events will be one of the featured speakers after the film. The Rod Serling Memorial Foundation is also participating in the event.
As this blog has mentioned before, there are only a few 16 mm copies of the film known to be in existence. The original 35 mm version has yet to emerge. The LakeArts Foundation’s description of “The Man” screening event mentions the film is in the “process of being restored.” For people who see film preservation in its traditional role, that description may be overreaching or wishful thinking based on efforts made to date. For a Peoples Preservation Campaign, it’s accurate. As I wrote in my notes for the panel:
“The Man” has been restored in terms of public programming. Restored in the sense of presenting [the film] in public venues where people can see it. Otherwise, it would still be lost. As this story builds, we are changing a way of thinking about “preservation.” We are not restricted to “the vault,” the lab or even the institution. At least that’s my definition of a “peoples preservation campaign.” Even word-of-mouth — if people are talking about Serling and “The Man” – that’s preservation.
This is not being badass with institutions, the film industry, or preservation. We have licensed “The Man” for public viewing from the copyright holder, Disney. “The Man” was a production of ABC and Lorimar with ABC as the official copyright holder. ABC merged with Cap Cities and was acquired by the Walt Disney Company in 1995. We’ve taken “The Man” to Busboys and Poets, a multi-purpose gathering space for food, drink, arts, and thought. Institutions like National Geographic, LakeArts Foundation, and recently an inquiry from UCLA for an upcoming event on the work of Rod Serling (screenwriter for “The Man”) signals that the time has come to take a new look at the film. The Library of Congress holds a 16 mm copy of “The Man” and the original copyright card file for ABC. We’ve passed this information to Disney realizing it takes time and staffing to sort through company libraries and files from an acquisition. We all want to set the records straight.
Martin Scorsese‘s “Hugo” (2011) is also showing at the LakeArts Festival. Silent film director and innovator George Méliès is the basis of the “Hugo” story. “Hugo” is also one of the best 3-D experiences thanks to a director who used the technology as an artist tool and not gimmick. If there was any champion of film preservation for our time, Scorsese is its shining star advocate. He has his own institution, The Film Foundation, to support film preservation starting with the films that touched his creative soul. We are proud to have “The Man” follow “Hugo” which champions the preservation theme. But even Scorsese’s efforts must have a peoples “This is important” stamp of support for films to be preserved, screened and appreciated by the generations. The industry, large and small, has the resources to distribute content to a wider public. The institutions have the tools and resources to keep these treasures safe even if that means we can only visit every once in a while. As they told us in film class, it’s a “collaborative effort.”
Clayton LeBouef is creating a list of “lost films.” This “Peoples Preservation Campaign” selects a work on the basis of its talent, story merit, and how the stories connect with hearts and minds, and reflect our on-going struggles and triumphs in our human relations. In other words the film’s ability to “make the people conscious.” But that’s the next step. More on the MTPC Project later.