FIFTEEN YEARS? (part 1: introduction)

Today, June 25, 2018, marks my 15th anniversary working as a film preservationist at the Academy Film Archive.

I had absolutely no idea that more than fifteen years ago, when accepting this job, I could possibly have stayed in it so long. I had at that point (2003) been working at Canyon Cinema for three years, where I’d gotten a major crash course in the aesthetic, anecdotal, and technical history of the avant-garde (not to mention where I met hundreds of amazing filmmakers, curators, academics, and others, many of whom have remained friends/collaborators over the years) when the job at the Academy came open. In part because the Academy Film Archive (specifically director Mike Pogorzelski and preservation officer Josef Lindner) had wanted to expand the work the archive was doing on experimental films, I found myself moving to Los Angeles.

Over the years, the amount of support, encouragement, and freedom I’ve had from my colleagues and supervisors at the Academy to focus largely on independent artists’ films has been really remarkable, and it has made the idea of working somewhere else seem kind of a ludicrous option. Plus I still really love L.A. So I’m still here, happily, a decade and a half later.

Although I don’t have an exact number, over fifteen years I’ve been able to restore/preserve around 425 films (and work in various capacities on hundreds of others), the vast majority of them what we’d call experimental films, with an additional mix of documentary, independent features, independent animation, home movies, the early shorts of Ray Harryhausen, and even three films by Satyajit Ray in there as well. I’m amazed to realize that not one film I’ve worked on preserving is what we’d consider a Hollywood studio film, which I think again speaks to the breadth and depth of support from the Academy to take care of independent and marginalized cinema, not to mention the amazing trust they’ve put in me to do the work I do.

Anyway, as usual I’ve been neglectful to this website, so to celebrate my anniversary in this work, for the next few weeks or so I’m going to write about a different project for each one of the fifteen years I’ve worked here. Hopefully I can remember the details. The selected projects will in some cases be favorite ones of mine, or may just be memorable or defining projects for me from that particular year. Some of the earlier ones may be limited in terms of how many images or notes I have, but hopefully I can still write something of interest about them.

I’ve also asked some artists I know and/or have worked with on their films to come up with an image inspired by the idea of “film restoration” or, more specifically, “experimental film restoration”. So I’ll be sharing whatever results from that here as well over the next few weeks, starting with Lewis Klahr, who supplied the image above.

Hope you enjoy it!

-Mark

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