February 14 to 21, For the Love of Film, the film-preservation blogathon to benefit the National Film Preservation Foundation, raised $13,500 for film-preservation efforts. In June, organizers announced that the money had been used to restore two rare films just repatriated from New Zealand, The Sergeant, from 1910, one of the earliest surviving narratives filmed in Yosemite Valley, and another Western, The Better Man (1912), about a Mexican-American outlaw.
Organized by popular film bloggers Marilyn Ferdinand (Ferdy on Films) and Farran Nehmes (The Self-Styled Siren), and aided by the NFPF, the event drew contributions from 80 bloggers and critics from locations as far away as India, Scotland, and Dubai. They wrote blog entries on issues relating to film preservation, and asked readers to donate money to the cause of rescuing films in need of repairs and in danger of dying ignominious deaths.
The 80 bloggers wrote about widely varied topics. Says Nehme: “Without either one of us steering writers in any way other than saying ‘write about film preservation,’ we managed to get a huge range of perspectives. There was everything from projectionists who had worked with nitrate, to academics, to the avant-garde, to home movies, to newsreels, to someone writing about preserving items from the golden age of porn.” Says Ferdinand: “We also attracted a lot of support through the blogathon’s Facebook fan page, which received many valuable contributions from the NFPF, and well-known members of the film community, including The Auteurs site, now Mubi, and Roger Ebert, who tweeted out information several times. The New York Post‘s Lou Lumenick was also a great publicizer and contributor, as was Greg Ferrara of Cinema Styles, who created the video ad and banners. Despite what we might think, film preservation isn’t an easy sell because many people have prejudices about black and white, and silent films are perceived to be primitive and herky jerky. We really wanted the blogathon to educate people about the wide world of cinema and understand that once a film is lost, it’s lost forever.”
The National Film Preservation Foundation is the independent, nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress in 1997 to help save America’s film heritage by working with archives to rescue endangered films. The organization began with support from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Film Foundation. With backing from the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board and private film labs and post-production houses, the NFPF has mounted grant programs to help libraries, museums, and archives. Its support for cooperation among film archives has helped maintain the acclaimed Treasures DVD series, which include sets on social issues in American films of 1900-1934 and American Avant-Garde films of 1947-1986, The Film Preservation Guide, The Field Guide to Sponsored Films, and an international database for locating silent films. And it has also preserved more than 1,500 films around the country.
This year’s blogathon was the first. Nehme says: “I think that both Marilyn and I would like to do it next year, as long as the stars align. It was far and away the most rewarding thing I have done as a blogger, and I believe Marilyn, who deserves the greater credit by far, also feels the same way.” Ferdinand does; she says: “It was very rewarding as far as a contribution to film, history, and scholarship goes, though I also highlight a lot of documentaries that have humanitarian purposes, and I find that very rewarding as well. The blogathoners all seem to want to do it again, so we’ll see what happens.”