The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA): Working withIndustry to Create Audiovisual History
||On the 1st of July this year, the National Film and Sound Archive became an independent statutory authority with its own governing Board and management, and the aim of increasing public access to this great resource. Here, the NFSA gives an example of how their treasure-trove of Australian film and sound history can be used to contribute to contemporary screen culture.
On the 21st of August this year, Mark Hartley's new film Not Quite Hollywood had a glittering Canberra premiere at the National Film and Sound Archive's Arc Cinema.
For a number of reasons the NFSA was delighted to host the premiere: it was the launch of an exciting new Australian film; it was presented in partnership with the Australian Film Institute as the opening night of the L'Oréal Paris 2008 Awards Screenings; and it was the culmination of two years of extensive cooperation between the NFSA and director Mark Hartley.
According to Hartley, "the National Film and Sound Archive was home to about 80 per cent of the archival feature film footage we used in the production – over 60 titles. Not Quite Hollywood certainly wouldn't have been possible without [the NFSA's] decades of work in collecting and preserving these films."
The story of that cooperation demonstrates to a large degree the way the NFSA works: its role as an Australian collecting and cultural institution; the ways in which it can provide assistance to film-makers and researchers; and in turn, how film-makers and researchers can contribute back into that resource.
Out of the Vaults: Sourcing Footage for Not Quite Hollywood
It began in Melbourne almost three years ago when Mark Hartley approached the NFSA with his plans. Hartley is a leading producer of many DVD re-releases of Australian classic feature films, packaged with extensive 'Special Features' and 'Making Of' documentaries. His DVDs have often incorporated master material sourced from the NFSA.
Hartley explained that he was planning a new film, an energetic celebration of Australian cinema's 'Ozploitation' filmmaking tradition – the genre films that Australians made in the 1970s and early '80s: action/adventure films, sex comedies and horror movies.
Hartley planned to interview many of the creators and participants from the era, and to show numerous clips which would illustrate in a visually exciting way key aspects of the 'Ozploitation' genre.
This meant of course gaining access to the films of the times. The NFSA holds the most complete range of Australia's film history including what is arguably the world's first narrative feature length film – The Story of the Kelly Gang(1906). Work on the restoration of the classic Australian film Wake in Fright (1971) continues with a likely re-release in 2009.
In the NFSA's vaults were many of the titles which Hartley wanted to reference. Films such as Stone, Alvin Purple and The Man from Hong Kong were not only in the collection, but had been restored as part of the NFSA's ongoing collaboration with Atlab Australia and Kodak Australasia. This groundbreaking collaboration, which has been running for many years, has seen more than 50 of Australia's feature films from the 1950s onwards restored and made available for screenings.
Complex Logistics: Transporting, Duping and Copyright Clearances
Hartley began his research and negotiations with the NFSA's staff in the Melbourne office. The NFSA's project officer was Zsuzsi Szucs from Collection Access. It was Zsuzsi who managed the complex logistics of liaising with the films' depositors, negotiating with the NFSA technical areas, organising the transport and workflows, and keeping to tight timelines. The provision of the footage was made possible by the efforts of the Safety Film Services and Nitrate Film Services teams in NFSA headquarters in Canberra. Many hours were spent locating relevant scenes and compiling the necessary
shot-lists for production. The duping copies of the films were then packed and dispatched to Hartley in Melbourne where he was able to make copies.
Copyright clearance was arranged by Hartley. While the NFSA preserves and houses Australia's film and sound recordings, copyright for the works is still frequently held by the original creators. After permission from the copyright holders is gained, the NFSA is able to provide access.
All in all, it was a major undertaking – one of the largest footage supply projects the NFSA has ever been involved in. As previously mentioned, Not Quite Hollywood contains a staggering 60 clips, which were selected from the 90 Australian films that were made available.
Giving back to the NFSA: Ongoing Collaborations
While Not Quite Hollywood has gone on to thrill and surprise audiences, both at home and abroad, the NFSA has also benefited greatly from the collaboration. Hartley is providing the NFSA with all the uncut video and audio interviews he undertook for the film. These are very important additions to the national collection and this initiative highlights the importance of film-makers lodging their work with the archive.
The NFSA is keen to collaborate with a range of creative people who can bring innovative perspectives to Australia's national audiovisual collection. It is this philosophy which led to the creation of the Scholars and Artists in Residence program (www.nfsa.gov.au/about_us/sar)[hjm1] which sees the NFSA provide Research Fellowships to performers, artists, academics and audiovisual professionals so they can bring fresh approaches to the collection and create new works. (Applications for 2009 close on 14 Nov, 2008).
The NFSA was delighted to be involved in the creation of Not Quite Hollywood, a film that passionately celebrates Australian film-making and Australian film history. The National Film and Sound Archive itself exists to celebrate and provide curatorial context for Australia's moving image and recorded sound output, as well as to ensure its long-term survival.
Story supplied by the
- The National Film and Sound Archive is the national audiovisual archive, collecting, storing, preserving and making available screen and sound material relevant to Australia's culture.
- The NFSA headquarters is located in Acton, Canberra. There are also offices in Melbourne and Sydney, and Access Centres in the State Libraries of Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.
- The Archive collects a diverse range of material from the 1890s to the present day: from The Story of the Kelly Gang to Dame Edna footage and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
- In addition to films, discs and videos, the Archive's collection includes supporting documents and artefacts, such as photographic stills, transparencies, posters, scripts, costumes and props.
- As of July 1, 2008 the NFSA became a newly independent Statutory Authority with its own governing board. The integration of four key national programs (Big Screen, Black Screen, School Screen and australianscreen online) into the NFSA also symbolises the new direction for the NFSA as an autonomous institution.
- As part of the celebration of its autonomy, the NFSA recently hosted the world premiere of the cinematic production of 12 Canoes, a new multi-platform media work created by Rolf de Heer and Molly Reynolds together with the Ramininging Community of Arnhem Land. The NFSA is hosting partner to the 12 Canoes website, which can be accessed by visiting the
- The Arc Cinema is the new state-of-the-art cinema attached to the Canberra NFSA headquarters. To check out the Arc Cinema's program and special events,