Describing Local Films: New Thoughts on Itinerant-produced Works

Submitted by Karan

Friday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Association of Moving Image Archivists/ International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives conference in Philadelphia we will present on "See yourself" films from the 1930s. See the finding aids for ten of these works in the collections of Northeast Historic Film here.

State archives, historical societies, universities and colleges, and regional history collections often have local films made by itinerant filmmakers in their collections. When we identify, classify and make accessible these films we make decisions that affect how the public understands them. As this advertisement from a 1938 Rotary magazine indicates, service clubs were targeted as sponsors for many of these productions.

Martin Johnson, a doctoral candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University, and Katrina Dixon, Northeast Historic Film media cataloger, will show itinerant film examples and discuss acc
ess strategies. Tomorrow in Bucksport, Maine, Martin Johnson, Katrina Dixon, and Karan Sheldon, the session chair, will polish up our presentation--and share new discoveries.

The Hidden Collections of Work Life project includes PBCore item level records on Movie Queen films, and the home movies of Lauren K. Woods, whose business, the Amateur Theatre Guild in Boston, sent itinerant directors into farflung communities. To select these records click here. Where it says Search this collection enter "movie queen" then press Submit.

Over two weeks each young woman who acted as field producer wrangled committees, put on a live show and made a short film cataloging local businesses with a comedy "kidnapping drama." Woods's printed instructions stipulated "Put film on 400 foot reels for organization, end each one with next reel follows, watch closely, be sure there is enough agfa to mark each reel, number the boxes in there [sic] order, and give to general chairman." Surviving 16mm films remained in their communities since the 1930s. They represent a detailed record of the towns' livelihoods, significant both to each town and in comparison to one another, and as a record of the unsung experiences of the women on the road.