Future film histories are being shaped right now because of what's being done and - just as significantly - what isn't being done. An estimated 90% of the films made in the silent era are no longer around for our appraisal, due in part to the neglect and indifference to which these films were treated by previous generations. It's hard to blame them - film was very expensive to maintain and distribute, and most folks didn't have the luxury of a wide ranging community that they could draw support from.
We no longer have these excuses. Of the hundreds of silent films that have (thus far) managed to survive, many remain properly preserved in archives like the Library of Congress, yet in many cases, additional funding remains the barrier between these organizations and your eyes. Finding resources for the preservation of these films is a constant struggle, and gaining access to them when they are preserved has historically proven even more difficult for businesses.
/r/TrueFilm, an online community dedicated to the art of filmmaking with over 90,000 subscribers, has decided it is their duty as cinephiles to try to save some of these endangered films for the film scholars of future generations.
This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of campaigns to choose one endangered film of aesthetic importance and draw upon our community resources to transfer, touch up, score and release it for the world to see.
We have built a core team, volunteering their time talents, dedicated to seeing this project through. All of the design, research, writing, and digital clean-up work is being done by members of our community - professionals in these fields, donating their abilities as a labor of love to the medium of film. The things this core group has the ability to accomplish is astounding. But we want and need the rest of /r/TrueFilm and the broader online film community to be a part of this effort. No matter how much of our time we donate, there are costs associated with making this film available that can't be avoided, and while it might be difficult for any one entity to take on this obstacle, together we can do it.
Our First Rescue Project Is...
Frank Borzage's 1922 film The Pride of Palomar
Experienced cinephiles everywhere know that Frank Borzage is a director who doesn't get anywhere near the credit he deserves. Simply put, he was a master of the silent cinema (and a darn good sound director, too!). Films like Lazybones (1925), 7th Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928) and Lucky Star (1929) have long been recognized - by critics like Andrew Sarris, Dave Kehr, and Kent Jones - as some of the great triumphs of the American silent screen, yet Borzage has always existed somewhere outside of mainstream consciousness. His films are monuments for cinephiles, treasures yet to be discovered for the general public.
/r/TrueFilm has been presented with the opportunity to touch up and release The Pride of Palomar, Borzage's 26th feature film, a film that is commercially unavailable and has been very, very rarely seen since its general release in 1922.
Most of what we know about this film comes from trade journals and surviving documents from its shooting. It's an adaptation of a popular novel by Peter Kyne. It stars Forrest Stanley, Marjorie Daw and Warner Oland. It was photographed by Chester Lyons, a frequent collaborator with Borzage (including work on Lucky Star) as well as directors like John Ford (Mother Machree) , William Wellman (Robin Hood of El Dorado) and even Karl Freund (Lyons photographed the Peter Lorre horror vehicle Mad Love). It's a western melodrama that received generally favorable reviews at the time of it's release, and surviving production stills suggest that Borzage's immaculate sense of composition and romantic lighting were fully in place at this point in his career.
What We Plan To Do:
/r/TrueFilm wants to draw upon our community talents to transfer, digitally clean, score and release Frank Borzage's The Pride of Palomar. As mentioned before, we have a dedicated core team volunteering their talents on behalf of film preservation (none of us are making so much as a penny's profit off of this), but we need the help of the broader community to see it through. Once we're done, this film will be off of the shelves and available for purchase and online viewing, a gap in our knowledge about one of the American cinema's great directors will have been filled. We will release a DVD edition of the film, limited to 1,000 copies, and the very first ones to ship will be those going to the contributors of this project. Furthermore, any money we make over the amount necessary release our film will be put toward making our next film rescue project even bigger and better. This is about film preservation and availability, not profit. We're in a unique position to make a difference for film history, let's pitch in and do our part.
How You Can Help:
- Financial Support: Please support us in any way you can. We have great perks for all budgets, for donations from $5 up to $100, and we are committed to making the film available to every single contributor. We've all seen other film-related fundraising projects that reserve copies of the film for the middle to bigger dollar contributors. We think that's crazy. Everyone who helps us reuse a film will be able to see the film they helped save.
- Spread The Word: Let people know what we're doing here and try to get them involved. Tweet about it, post it on Facebook, do whatever you can
- Contribute your Talents: If you think you might be able to lend your talents to a future project, head to our community and let one of the moderators know. Our strength is in the bonds of our network and we're always looking for new members of our team.
- Assistant Director ($5, Unlimited): For an appreciated $5 contribution to the project, you will receive: - a Digital Dossier about The Pride of Palomar and its director Frank Borzage, featuring contributions from film critics around the world. - an online stream of the film (unlimited access)
- Director ($25): For a contribution of $25, we'll send you: - a pressed DVD of the film with an 8-page booklet - the Digital Dossier, and - the online stream
- Far Side of Paradise ($50, limited to 50): For a contribution of $50 dollars, you'll get: - a snazzy /r/TrueFilm T-Shirt (only available through this Kickstarter) - the DVD - the Digital Dossier - the online stream
- Pantheon ($100, limited to 25): For a contribution of $100, you will receive: - a beautiful original 11x14 linocut print of Frank Borzage by artist John Heath, hand signed and numbered (edition of 25) - the snazzy TrueFilm T-shirt - the DVD - the Digital Dossier - the online stream
and one more thing…
Every contributor to this project will also have their reddit user name (or if you're old fashioned, real life user name) placed in the DVD credits of our release. A sign of our eternal thanks and a nod to everyone who helped save the film.
Edit from Update 3
It should be noted to backers to check all the updates. Along the way, we've discovered that the film is an anti-Japanese propaganda piece, which is of incredible interest for those who love film history. Borzage being the big romantic director making what essentially amounts to a racist film ought to peak everyone's interest. This will certainly add a comparatively tremendous amount of discourse to the topic of Borzage's career, considering the content may end up being the exact inverse of what he was known for. We can't wait to get our hands on the film!
Risks and challenges
The only risk involved in this project is hitting the financial goal here; as long as we have the funds to give to the Library of Congress, the transfer is ours to do with what we please. It's in the public domain.
The chain of events is fairly quick after that: once we have the funds, we have the video. Once we have the video, we clean it up (elongating titlecards, removing junk from the corners of frames, standardizing frame-per-second rates, attaching the new credits, i.e. your name, to it...). We send it to the composer who scores it, and to the artist who can create the cover art. Once they complete their work, we send the files to a DVD printer, and use the funds to get the copies and ship them. Same with the T-Shirts.
We get the copies in about a week, and ship them upon order.
But none of this can happen without meeting our target. That's the single risk.
- (30 days)