By Ann Deborah Levy
The Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) is excited to be collaborating with the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) to present two newly preserved programs from the pioneering PBS TV series Visions, produced by Barbara Schultz. The programs will screen in MOMI’s on-going Changing the Picture series
Date: Saturday, September 24th, 2016
Times: 2 PM (The Tapestry and Circles) & 4:30 PM (The Gold Watch)
Location: Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI), Celeste and Armand Bartos Screening Room, 36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria, NY
The Visions series, airing from 1976 to 1980, presented 40 programs that brought together playwrights and directors addressing controversial topics in American culture rarely explored on television at that time that gave voice to conflicting opinions and diverse groups within our society.
The Tapestry and Circles, two short dramas both directed by Maya Angelou and scripted by Alexis De Veaux, are set in the 1970’s and focus on young African-American women attempting to forge their own independent paths, despite the constraints and prejudices of their families and the society in which they have grown up. SCREENING at 2:00 PM
The Gold Watch, written by Momoko Iko, tells the story of Japanese immigrants in a West Coast farming community as they cope with racism and internment in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Depicting a chapter of the American past that has been sadly neglected, the movie has special resonance today in light of our continuing national conversation on immigration and racism. SCREENING at 4:30 PM
These screenings are especially meaningful to me because they are the culmination of several years of research on television movies. Most of the films that the WFPF preserves are chosen from grant applicants by our Selection Committee. However, the Visions films were preserved from funds from Nancy Malone, actress, producer, and director, specifically for made-for-television movies, a genre rarely submitted.
The Gold Watch
I began by looking into broadcast narrative features and documentaries with woman in significant creative positions behind the camera. It made sense to seek out films already in archives that needed preservation since we require each preserved film to be housed in one, stored under optimum conditions and available for study and viewing. I consulted curators and archivists and searched catalogs of institutions that had television collections, but wasn’t finding many titles shot on film, our preferred preservation format. I tracked down directors and producers of promising films who appeared to have retained the copyright and film elements. Many filmmakers don’t have extra funds for preservation or time to find an archive; our efforts would be a huge service. Even so, more than once, I located the producer of a film to find it had just been sold to a distributor who couldn’t make the elements available for preservation.
My progress reports to our Steering Committee on one film began to sound like a serial suspense novel. Each time I located the person I thought was key to finding the elusive negative, I was sent to someone else. One executive producer was unable to help me find the negative. The upshot of a lengthy correspondence with the other turned up only a VHS copy—in his barn.
We concluded that our choices for TV movies were limited if we insisted on working from film. Since television films were broadcast from tape and not intended for the big screen, we decided to preserve from broadcast tape. The producer and preservationist Sandra Schulberg had just joined our committee and mentioned the PBS Visions series. I was intrigued by the wealth of issues in America that the series addressed, as wide ranging as the backgrounds of the creative women involved. The executive producer was Barbara Schultz. That name rang a bell.
Early on in my pursuit, Mark Quigley at UCLA Film & Television Archive had mentioned 2” broadcast tapes of programs Schultz had produced that needed preservation. Sure enough, thirteen from the Visions series were at UCLA, on deposit from KCET, the PBS station that produced them. I was especially eager to preserve The Gold Watch, because of its rarely discussed subject. Since our budget permitted us to preserve additional programs, we added those with women directors and/or screenwriters including the Maya Angelou / Alexis De Veaux program The Tapestry and Circles.
The 2” was unwatchable on any current equipment but preservation would change that. After completion, the results were on their way back to the UCLA Film & Television Archive. I gave television archivist Dan Einstein the good news. “I can’t wait to finally watch them!” he replied.
That’s why we preserve.
Please join us for the screenings. I will be introducing the films along with Barbara Schultz, Executive Producer, and Sandra Schulberg, Story Editor.
Tickets are on sale here on the Museum of the Moving Image website.
Prices: $12.00 regular admission, $9.00 seniors (65 +) and students (18 +) with valid i.d.
For more information on the WFPF, please visit us on the NYWIFT site.
Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheWFPF.
Ann Deborah Levy is Co-Chair of the Women’s Film Preservation Fund Steering Committee and makes experimental films. For more information on her films and videos, please visit: www.resonantimages.com