To be a writer, you need a pen. To be a painter, a brush. To be a musician, an instrument. But to be a filmmaker, you need the collaboration of others to bring your vision to the canvas that is the movie screen.
—Martin Scorsese, Director
The Film Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, established in 1990, by Martin Scorsese and an esteemed group of fellow filmmakers — Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford, and Steven Spielberg — to protect and preserve our cinematic heritage. The Film Foundation is the leading organization dedicated to film preservation in the United States. In addition to providing substantial annual funding to the nation’s leading archives — Academy Film Archive (Los Angeles, CA), George Eastman House (Rochester, NY), Library of Congress (Washington, DC), Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), and UCLA Film and Television Archive (Los Angeles, CA) — the foundation supports the National Film Preservation Foundation, which provides support to 100 American archives, libraries, museums, and universities.
Many people are unaware that our national film heritage is deteriorating with each passing year at an alarming rate. Film is a highly unstable medium, vulnerable to deterioration and alteration. Almost half of the films made before 1950 are already lost forever and, every day, new films face the same fate if improperly handled or stored. We have no way of knowing how many shorts, documentaries, newsreels, experimental, and independent “orphan” films have been lost. Time and insufficient resources are the enemies in the fight to restore and preserve motion picture history.
Over the past 14 years, The Film Foundation has preserved and restored over 450 endangered films that might have otherwise been lost. These projects represent a broad range of filmmaking, including Hollywood features, silent films, newsreel footage, documentaries, and experimental and avant-garde works whose titles may not be widely known but whose survival is vital to our collective memories and culture. Titles include (partial listing): IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934, d. Frank Capra); HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941, d. John Ford); SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943, d. Alfred Hitchcock); THE RIVER (1951, d. Jean Renoir); THE BIGAMIST (1953, d. Ida Lupino); ON THE WATERFRONT(1954, d. Elia Kazan); THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955, d. Charles Laughton); PATHS OF GLORY (1957, d. Stanley Kubrick); SHADOWS (1959, d. John Cassavetes); LOST LOST LOST (1976, d. Jonas Mekas); ERASERHEAD (1977, d. David Lynch); a collection of early silent-era Italian films from 1910-1920; the complete films of director Satyajit Ray; early 8mm films by experimental filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar. The cultural institutions supported by The Film Foundation provide the U.S. and international communities with vital access to our collective film treasures.
Additionally, The Film Foundation created The Story of Movies project, the first-ever integrated interdisciplinary curriculum to expose new generations to classic cinema and to teach them about the cultural, artistic, and historical significance of film. This educational program is available, free of charge, to middle schools across the country, with a goal of teaching young students how to understand and interpret the language of film and visual images. Each teaching unit will include DVDs, a teacher’s guide, and a student activities booklet. The films for study are Robert Mulligan’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962), Frank Capra’s MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939), and Robert Wise’s THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951). The response to this program from students and educators has been overwhelming.
In 2002, The Film Foundation consolidated with the Artists Rights Foundation of the Directors Guild of America, creating a new subcommittee, the Artists Rights Education and Legal Defense Fund Council, to advise the board on issues related to the protection and expansion of artists’ rights. For more information, please visit www.film-foundation.org.