On THE CHELSEA GIRLS

Still from “The Chelsea Girls” (Andy Warhol, 1966)

[Indiana University Media School PhD student Anthony Silvestri was kind enough to write up a blog post about The Chelsea Girls (Andy Warhol, 1996) which will be playing at the IU Libraries Screening Room at Tuesday, January 22 at 7:00 PM. Click here to reserve your seat: https://libraries.indiana.edu/chelsea-girls-underground-cinema-16mm-film-screening-extravaganza. Thanks, Anthony, for writing this up and for programming the film!]

“On The Chelsea Girls”
Anthony Silvestri

In 1966, Andy Warhol released his silver clouds, an art installation consisting of floating silver balloons inflated with air and helium, in New York.

Still from “Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein” (Lane Slate, 1966)

Intended as gesture to bid farewell to his career as a painter, the pop artist would later recount that “it turned out they didn’t float away and we were stuck with them, so I guessed I wasn’t really finished with art.” As with most facets of Warhol’s self-presentation, there’s a certain contradiction to his anecdotal reminiscence. In interviews of the era, such as the educational short Warhol and Lichtenstein (conveniently preserved as part of the Moving Image Archive’s collection), Warhol clearly states he is finished with painting, espousing an interest in his projects on celluloid and newfound relationship with the Velvet Underground. Yet, devotees will attest to the fact that the artist still had a lively oeuvre of non-cinematic visual art after 1966, including such influential works as his screen prints of Mao Zedong and his Flowers series, as well as an imagining of Sigmund Freud.

At the time of the silver clouds’ release, Warhol was notable for pioneering a unique style of filmmaking that preserved the “leftovers” of filmic content through the presentation of entire reels without editing. The resultant early films include such masterworks as Kiss (1963), Eat (1963) Sleep (1963) and, perhaps his most (in)famous silent effort, Empire (1964), which features continuous footage of the Empire State Building shot over a period of eight hours. If the daunting prospects of viewing such works in their entirety dissuaded the mainstream public from engaging with Warhol as a filmmaker on the same level as they would with his work as an artist, the popular accounts accompanying them only further cultivated a mythology in which these were works that could be talked about without viewing. The story goes: when tied to a chair at the filmmaker’s co-op in New York during a screening of one of his films, Warhol found a way to escape the ropes that bound him to his seat, unwilling to submit himself to the viewing experience his films required. In the wake of such anecdotes, it is no surprise that his moving image work is still very rarely screened, and the opportunities to view any of Warhol’s early works in their proper format are increasingly scant outside of large cities or urban spaces with ties to the artist. After all, who needs to watch five hours of John Giorno sleeping to get it?

Yet, the further one delves into his oeuvre, the more astounding the breadth of his experiments become. I, myself, am interested in the artist’s Time Capsules: brown boxes in which Warhol stored ephemera, clothing, gifts, refuse and more, an autobiographical archival collection that was intended as just another branded commodity that could potentially be sold. The durational quality of his work on film, as well as the multitude of screen tests he produced, resonates with these items. The presentation of uncut time in his early films and the improvisational quality of Warhol’s early work could be suggested as a multi-authored archive of the 1960s Underground, preserving the rotating collection of cast members and performers within the Factory, especially as they often abandon traditional narrative structure. As others have noted, the longer the cameras rolled, the more authentic their behavior often became. In fact, there is now a revitalized field of study on Warhol’s moving image work that has been advanced in the last decade: both Douglas Crimp and J.J. Murphy have published monographs re-viewing his important contributions to film history. Just a few years ago, the Warhol Museum and the Museum of Modern Art began a collaborative project to digitize all of Warhol’s films that they be more accessible and widely viewed by a public that has lacked the opportunity to encounter this side of the famed artist’s oeuvre. On January 22nd, we’re excited to present The Chelsea Girls in the Screening Room at the Moving Image Archive on 16mm, preserving the film’s ties to the medium on which it was filmed and giving the community the opportunity to revisit Warhol’s importance as a filmmaker.

 

Still from “Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein” (Lane Slate, 1966)

The Chelsea Girls was originally released in New York in 1966—the same year that the silver clouds would refuse to float away. The Chelsea Girls would coincide perfectly with this installation as it became an outlier in Warhol’s early filmography: the only commercial success he produced prior to being shot by Valerie Solanas. It builds upon many of the tropes of his work and compiles an amalgam of familiar faces and crew members stretching the expanse of his career, including Paul Morrissey, the director who would eventually lead Warhol out of the avant-garde and into commercial filmmaking for good. The Chelsea Girls picks upon a common trope of Warhol’s early film in which we are asked to consider the space of filmmaking. The physical location of Warhol’s early work is often prominent—locales such as the Factory, the Chelsea Hotel, or the Empire State Building are often made apparent. This emphasis would come at the behest of scenarists like Ronald Tavel when Warhol, weary of a film’s narrative, would point the camera away from the action just as it reached its climactic moment and focus on the space in which the film was shot rather in lieu of a traditional emphasis like story, seemingly referencing the impact of location on film. However, off screen space is equally essential in considering the work of Warhol, often shown in nontraditional settings. One need look no further than the inclusions of work such as Vinyl in Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable installations. In this setting, the films would run—multiple at the same time—while the Velvet Underground played and lights pulsed through the space, creating an overloaded, multimedia sensory experience in which our traditional notions of the space of cinematic viewing and the purpose of film are questioned.

In The Chelsea Girls, we are promised (or were promised, according to its traditional billing) eight hours of a new Warhol film. However, this time becomes condensed through its spatialization—the actual show runs about half that time. Those that are aware of the film will know that this is because it involves projecting two reels, each an “episode” presenting the life of Warhol’s superstars inside the Chelsea Hotel, simultaneously in what is just one of the filmmaker’s double projection efforts (both The John [1966] and Outer and Inner Space [1966] utilize this technique as well). This fundamentally changes the space of the screen in a way that, as many others have noted, results in a sort of perceptual dissonance for the spectator. You must choose if you are to focus on one reel, the other, or to be overwhelmed attempting to watch both at once. However, with this innovative use of space, Warhol also draws our attention to the off screen or hidden space of our cinematic experience by accentuating the authorship of film through projection-as-performance.

We are not generally attuned to the control that projectionists have over our experience of film, yet since its release Warhol’s The Chelsea Girls has demanded that we think of these skilled technicians as equally important authors. In early screenings, this was accomplished by a laissez-faire approach to the structure of the film. When The Chelsea Girls premiered, projectionists would pick and choose which reels to show when, and screenings would be entirely different from performance to performance as what material was included, what auditory track was heard, and what order the events were shown in continually evolved depending on the technicians’ choices. If we usually think of the content of film as stable and unchanging, The Chelsea Girls has, historically, rebuked this notion through its continual change. As much as Warhol would be responsible for replacing reels, so too would projectionists be responsible for the final product—what audiences saw and heard—in the early days of its run.

Even as the film as become more codified, the unique aspect of split-screen ensures that each screening will be different due to the contingency of projection. Instructions are now given as to what order—but with only an approximate timing for the change of visuals and audio levels. For example, while Reel #7: Mario Sings Two Songs, is being threaded we are allowed to hear the sound of Reel #6: Hanoi Hannah and Guests. Depending how long the projectionist takes to complete this act, one might hear more (or less) than they have in previous screenings. Likewise, approximately twenty minutes into Reel #11, Pope Ondine, the sound switches to the beautiful, final reel of the film, Nico Crying. Whether you hear more, or less, of the Velvet Underground’s soundtrack will be wholly dependent on the timing dictated by our projectionists for the evening.

Still from “The Chelsea Girls” (Andy Warhol, 1966)

This means that, even if you have seen The Chelsea Girls in the past, you have never seen it in like it will be shown in the Moving Image Archive, and, counter to our notions of film as a mechanically reproducible experience, you will never have the opportunity to see this version of the film again. For returning viewers, you will have a different experience and see a different The Chelsea Girls than you have in the past. For new audience members, this is your first exposure to The Chelsea Girls, and no others will match it should you be lucky enough to see it more. This quality of The Chelsea Girls makes seizing the rare opportunities to view the film in cinematic spaces, projected on 16mm, and engaging in repeat viewings all the more important. While you can expect the same events and people to reappear, there will always be one essential difference; for this screening, The Chelsea Girls will be equally constructed in the offscreen space by the projectionists that are controlling our experience of the film off screen: Jamie Thomas and Justin Dennis. They will be the “authors” of our experience of The Chelsea Girls in a way that traditional films rarely recognize.

Especially as we experience movies more and more through DCP and less on celluloid—including, quite possibly, the prospects of a newly digitized version of The Chelsea Girls—issues such as these become an essential region of mediation on what forms our experience of cinema, who is responsible for it, and how the possibility of this unique spatial experience is becoming lost.

For making this complicated screening possible and providing funding, thanks go out to: Joan Hawkins, Greg Waller, and the Cinema and Media Studies program at the Media School as well as Andy Uhrich, Jamie Thomas and the Moving Image Archive for excitedly accepting our request, planning it with us, and making it happen.

Still from “Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein” (Lane Slate, 1966)

Discoveries within Encyclopaedia Britannica Films

Howdy!  I’m Tim Wagner, Assistant Film Archivist at Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA).  Working on the Media Digitization & Preservation Initiative (MDPI), my role involves comparing multiple copies of film prints to select one (Best Copy) for digitization.  For the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with 16mm educational films produced or distributed by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films Inc.  While certainly not the only producer of educational films, Encyclopaedia Britannica Films was the top producer and distributor of educational 16 mm films (and later, video) for schools and libraries from the 1940’s through the 1990’s.  The film prints in the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA), one of the world’s largest educational film and video collections, have been collected from sources all across the nation:

  • Lane Education Service District, Eugene, OR
  • Oregon Division of Continuing Education, Portland, OR
  • Mid-Hudson Library System, Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Indiana University Audio-Visual Center, Bloomington, IN
  • University of Illinois Film Center, Champaign, IL
  • Dept. of Public Welfare, Harrisburg, PA
  • Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA
  • Riverside City Unified School, Riverside, CA
  • Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, NE
  • University of Arizona Libraries, Tucson, AZ

My work with this collection has revealed a variety of interesting historical and technical aspects.  On occasion, I’ll come across one print of a film distributed by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films Inc., and another print distributed by its predecessor, ERPI Classroom Films Inc., with the same copyright date credited to both companies. 

It’s interesting to note that the later, Encyclopaedia Britannica Films release includes the text, “AN INSTRUCTIONAL FILM” beneath the title, whereas the original ERPI Classroom Films release includes the text, “AN INSTRUCTIONAL SOUND FILM”, to differentiate it from silent teaching films being distributed at the time.  In most every case, both films are identical, save for the title cards.

ERPI Classroom Films grew out of the organization responsible for the marketing and installation of sound film equipment in commercial movie theaters, Electrical Research Products Incorporated (ERPI).  A division of the Western Electric Company, ERPI first conceived of an educational department in 1928 to explore the use of sound motion pictures in schools.

When comparing multiple prints, I weigh a variety of factors to determine Best Copy.  Due to the large number of duplicate prints and the time constraints of the project, I restrict my review to the first one-hundred feet or so of each reel.  Running the 16mm prints through a multi-gang film synchronizer, I document the:

  • base material of the film
  • approximate length of the reel
  • color or black & white status
  • positive or negative status
  • silent or sound print status
  • type of optical soundtrack (variable density or variable area)
  • edge code information
  • title on print
  • copyright year and holder
  • degree of color fade
  • missing titles
  • number of splices
  • number of film stocks
  • film damage

When choosing a Best Copy, I factor in the completeness of a print (within the range of footage which I have reviewed), color fade, the number of film stocks and splices, the consistency of density and contrast, or color fade, across multiple film stocks, film damage, and the appearance of scratches.  Since the Encyclopaedia Britannica films were quite popular, and not always projected by skilled hands, the film prints present much evidence of wear and tear to consider.

Some of the Encyclopaedia Britannica films were released in both black and white, and color versions.  When comparing four 16mm prints of “MEXICO, The Land and The People (Second Edition, People of Mexico)”, copyright 1961, I found different color appearances on each print.  A print on GEVAERT film stock was black and white.

A print on FUJI film stock had lavender appearance color fade.

A print on EASTMAN film stock exhibited magenta appearance color fade.

Another print on EASTMAN film stock exhibited no color fade.

Pick your favorite color!

Some of the titles distributed by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films were produced through other companies, as is the case with “Ocean Liners”, a silent teaching film, copyright 1930.  I reviewed three prints of this silent film, printed on double perf film stock.  Two black and white prints were distributed by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, with a generic 1930 copyright text.  One yellow tinted print was distributed by Eastman Classroom Films, with a 1930 copyright by Eastman Teaching Films, Inc.  This film is a great example of films which document work processes that few folks have access to.  How many people get to see how an ocean liner is manufactured?  As I reviewed the prints, I enjoyed seeing the various skilled and labor-intensive tasks involved in the construction of an ocean liner.  The massive scale of this endeavor is a real treat to witness!

Highlights On Amateur Filmmaking Heritage

“Amateur cinema: Amateur filmmaking and the alternative film culture that emerged around it. Amateur films were polished short works aimed at an audience of fellow amateurs and members of the public. Distinct from rough home movies, but produced outside the commercial system, they include dramas, portrayals of everyday life, travel and nature films, comedies, and many other subjects and genres. Amateur films often experiment with film form.” –Amateurcinema.org

It might be hard to imagine a time when amateur filmmaking was considered a subculture, what with the abundance of accessible filmmaking today through digital platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. However, when the Amateur Cinema League was founded in 1926, that’s exactly what it was: subculture. Because of this, amateur films from this era are a unique and rare find with limited visibility online. The University of Calgary and the Amateur Movie Database are making great efforts to expose amateur filmmaking, but large gaps still remain. O’ Canada, made by amateur filmmaker Markley L. Pepper, is one such rarity.

The provenance of this film is unknown and it might have gone unnoticed had it not been scanned as part of the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative project, greatly enhancing discoverability and access. As part of phase two of MDPI, the Moving Image Archive selected significant collections of film to be digitized, cataloged, hosted, and shared through the Avalon Media System for IU. O’ Canada is a part of the Hal & Kathryn Stewart Collection. The Stewarts owned and operated the Denver branch of Ideal Pictures Corporation, a distributor of non-theatrical films, operating until 1980. My work in the Moving Image Archive involves cataloging films that have gone through the digitization process and are in need of descriptive metadata in order to facilitate access. The vast majority of films I had cataloged from the Stewart collection had been either Castle or Official films; i.e., large home movie producers and distributors with licensing rights for commercial theatrical films, in addition to sports reels, cartoons, and newsreels. Therefore, when I came across the bright red Amateur Cinema League banner set against a backdrop of a spinning globe my interests were peaked by sheer variation. The film itself has very limited information, apart from the title, creator, and locations. My preliminary research on ACL clued me in on the significance of the print; but upon deeper research, scouring issues of Movie Makers for any mention of the film, I started to recognize the potential for highlighting this seemingly forgotten film. A travelogue of various tourist destinations in Canada, Pepper has attractively captured scenic vistas, everyday tourist activities, and friendly wildlife in this vivid time capsule. However, more than being a beautiful travelogue, O’ Canada is a modern artifact of amateur filmmaking heritage. It represents an era of filmmaking before filmmaking became widely accessible. It is important not only to preserve, but to share and promote, what could have been, a lost artifact.

Pepper’s special attention to detail and style, exhibited through his title card artistry, frame set-up, and editing style, elevate the film beyond the typical home movie. My personal favorite scenes being the candid shots of the family of bears casually meandering through the forest. O’ Canada has no date; however, the color ACL leader used on the film came out in 1949 and the edge codes on the film indicate 1951 and 1952. Evidence of the time period is on fine display throughout the film. Pepper blends grand landscapes with personal moments, like the screenshots below; delivering a sense of intimacy to the audience and further distinguishing the film.

Pepper, also working out of Denver, was a member of the Amateur Cinema League, Denver Cinema League, and the Amateur Motion Picture Society of Denver (Movie Makers). He also taught two cinema courses at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School in Denver and published an article in Movie Makers, “Welcome to Denver,” in 1948. Other titles by the filmmaker, documented, include: The Big Three and Colorado Landscape (whereabouts unknown).

History and Context for WSJV

The history of a television news station can be told from many perspectives. Some histories may frame a discussion around the context of national news media, others may focus on a station’s affiliation and ownership, and others still may hone in on a broadcast technology perspective. WSJV’s story should be told through all these lenses. This post will address WSJV’s chain of ownership, network affiliations, and changing production technologies. We can explore these topics through WSJV’s countdowns. These are different from the countdown you might see on film leader. These video countdowns appear as 5-10 second clips between news production segments on WSJV library tapes. They generally provide a WSJV logo, affiliate logo, date, and countdown on top of a background image. The bulk of videotapes in the WSJV News Collection have these countdowns between each news production component. An interesting question is: how can we track the developments of WSJV through these media artifacts? What information do they tell us–or not?

The WSJV News Collection contains videotapes dated as far back as 1981, but the WSJV station began in the 1950s. In March 1954, WSJV started broadcasting as an ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliate station in Elkhart, Indiana. When the South Bend-based WNDU signed on in 1955, it took the NBC affiliation and WSJV transitioned into a primary ABC affiliate. An “affiliate station” is a local station that signs a special agreement with a major broadcasting network. The local station receives a quota of major network programming (for example, a popular sitcom) in exchange for certain agreements such as revenue sharing. These affiliation agreements were hugely important in the 1950’s as American broadcast media transitioned unevenly from radio to television. Local stations could gain viewers through popular programming (ABC, for instance, brought with it American Bandstand and Disney programs like The Mickey Mouse Club). In response, higher viewership brought increased revenue to the station and the major network. This network/station affiliate relationship remained central to WSJV’s operation until its closing.

An example of a monitor image provided to WSJV by ABC. This image would have appeared on production studio monitors when they weren’t playing other broadcast components (live reporting, sound bytes to be cued up, etc.). Image shows ABC logo on black screen.
Screen grab showing an example of a monitor image provided to WSJV by ABC. This image would have appeared on production studio monitors when they weren’t playing other broadcast components (live reporting, sound bytes to be cued up, etc.). July 6-16, 1982.

WSJV likely used a range of media in broadcast production before the dates of the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA) collection. Before videotape, stations could only record broadcasts using film kinescopes. Kinescope technology allowed stations to record broadcasts for reference or re-airing, similar to a later videotape library. The WSJV News Collection does include some taped kinescope recordings. These are from the station’s coverage of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes, that killed 50 people in Elkhart County alone. WSJV taped this footage for later re-use, including a station retrospective in the early 2000’s.

Screen grabs of a DVC tape copy of WSJV’s 1965 broadcast after the Palm Sunday Tornados.

The Palm Sunday coverage came less than a year before WSJV transitioned to color broadcasts. In 1966 the station started airing ABC packages in color, and by 1968 WSJV aired all of its local programming in color too. Throughout the 1960s WSJV probably transitioned fully from using film to videotape during broadcast production. We are not sure what video formats–2 inch helical scans, ½ inch open reel, etc.–WSJV used during this time. By the early 1970’s, however, most television news was produced using videotape rather than film.

The 1970s was a decade of growth for WSJV–in part due to ratings growth for ABC as well. In 1970 WSJV built a new 1,050 foot tower and transmitter, increasing the station’s signal strength 19 times over and making it one of the most powerful UHF stations in the country. In 1972, the station moved to its most current location on Oakland Avenue in Elkhart. The building still stands today. In 1974, WSJV got a new owner: Quincy Media. This was due to changing FCC regulations (WSJV’s original owner, Truth Publishing, had to divest because it also owned the local newspaper The Elkhart Truth), and Quincy’s huge television expansion in the 1970’s. All these details go to show:

  • The consequential role large corporations have in local television stations
  • The rapid business and technology changes involved in local television news production

These themes are evident in the countdown footage from the WSJV News Collection. The countdowns appear across different videotape formats. WSJV didn’t use one specific tape format at a time, so there is chronological overlap between the Umatics, VHS, and DVC tapes.

Here is the first example, from a March 1982 Umatic tape:

This example is pretty basic. It includes a credit line for WSJV and its channel number (28), a location line for Elkhart/South Bend, and an animated numerical counter. The Umatic tapes in the collection from the 1980s do not ubiquitously contain countdowns between production segments, but the countdowns represented are of this simple iteration.

Sometimes these countdowns can even tell us how the station operated. Here is an interesting example that shows how WSJV used their tape library:

This countdown is from a September-November 1990 Umatic tape. The countdown features a nighttime shot of the WSJV station building, a compound WSJV 28/ABC logo, a location line for Elkhart/South Bend, and an animated numerical counter.

On the same Umatic tape, there is a different countdown for September 19, 1990:

The countdown here is similar but not identical. The WSJV channel 28 logo appears before the ABC logo, and this countdown includes a specific date. Why would two different countdowns appear on the same tape? Although we are not yet certain exactly how WSJV employees assembled these library tapes, some clues indicate the answer. Take another look at the ABC Closed Circuit monitor image above. This image didn’t appear to viewers during WSJV news broadcasts, it was just a test image producers could use on studio monitors. It appears on a tape from the WSJV library because employees could record library tapes straight from these broadcast monitors. The same likely goes for these 1990 countdowns. They would have appeared on broadcast monitors in the studio between segments. The countdown allows the producer to cue up a segment exactly. These two countdowns probably played on different monitors in the production studio around the same time. It could be that certain monitors played certain countdowns, or it could be as simple as a producer incidentally created a second countdown for his or her immediate use.

The important thing here is to see how these countdowns can be understood as “internal documents” for WSJV. They give us an understanding of the studio’s self-image throughout time.

In 1995, WSJV entered an agreement that ended their ABC affiliation and established a new network affiliation with Fox. In the early 1990s, Fox received rights to broadcast NFL games and sought out new affiliations across the country. It is probable that the strong Chicago Bears fanbase in Michiana incentivized WSJV to make a Fox affiliation agreement. In October 1995, the station started broadcasts as a Fox affiliate station. Another Michiana television station, WBND, took the ABC affiliation. Let’s take a look at a countdown from WSJV’s early Fox days:

This example is from a VHS tape dated October 1995-January 1996. A few changes are immediately apparent. First, the production aesthetics have changed quite a bit from the early 1990’s examples above. The background image shows a busy production studio rather than the exterior of the building. The text and animation components take up a larger portion of the screen. The countdown animation appears twice: one that looks like a digital clock timer (bottom left) and a rotating number (top right). The overall effect is much “busier;” this countdown was definitely designed to evoke the rapid-paced image of 24-hour news networks.

Another key difference: WSJV has a reduced presence on this countdown. Rather than the large “28 WSJV” logo in the September 1990 example, here the main credit is given to “Fox 28.” WSJV receives a smaller credit line below and a location credit of South Bend (rather than Elkhart/South Bend). Even though the station was located in Elkhart, WSJV was strongly associated with simply the South Bend region during its Fox affiliation. South Bend is a more widely recognized city (home of Notre Dame) and is identified with a Chicago sports fan base. It’s worth considering here: what shifts are happening here? Can we trace a trajectory away from the “local-ness” of the station? How can we characterize the change in WSJV’s internal  image?

As we move into the 2000’s, we see fewer and fewer of these countdowns in the WSJV tape library. Fox logo usage gets more and more ubiquitous across the station’s imagery. Here is a logo that viewers saw during broadcasts from the local channel in 2009:

Any trace of location or local station name is gone here. Instead, we get the glossy intro animation we associate with major network news: quickly shifting bars of color and line behind a big network logo. Programming, too, has become closely tied with the network–most people now associate the informal “morning show” format with networks like Fox.

Although I hate to tell a story of decline, WSJV’s history ends with a loss. In 2016 Quincy Media transferred WSJV’s Fox affiliation to WSBT-TV in exchange for ABC and CW affiliations at a Peoria, Illinois station. The sixty-two year old local news station aired its last news broadcast July 29, 2016. WSJV staff all either transferred to other stations or were laid off.

Although the reasons for the station’s closure are complex, I hope that these historical details give you some context for the event. Local media is an important form of self-expression. I encourage you all to ask what happens to that expression when larger entities–such as major networks and owning companies–are so closely involved.

The following video is a supercut of these logos and countdowns. The countdowns are bracketed by the surrounding footage on each tape. The countdowns from the 1980’s and the first September 1990 countdown appear at the beginning of tapes, so other segment footage only follows the countdowns. The September 19, 1990 and October 31, 1995 countdowns are bracketed on both sides by other footage on the tapes. This gives you a sense of how the countdowns separate segments on the WSJV News Collection videotapes.

Samples of the WSJV News Collection

Several years ago, as a graduate researcher at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, I kept having these vivid flashes of straight-up authenticity while examining news photographs. I was looking at Anthony Spina’s original prints of the 1967 “Twelfth Street riots” (largest urban uprising in U.S. history) for the Detroit Free Press. Something about handling these pre-published documentary photographs, that I had seen for years reproduced in hundreds of places, felt exceptionally raw and real. I grew up familiar with Detroit–it’s where my paternal roots are, and my dad and I visited family many times a year. This archival experience, though, provided me the most powerful connection I’ve ever felt with that city. Since then, I have understood how significant uncompromising self-representation and documentation is for communities.

A couple hundred miles south and a few years later, I was seeking out an internship with the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive as an MLS candidate in the Department of Information and Library Science. I developed a keen interest in videotape and television preservation in IULMIA archivist Andy Uhrich’s Moving Image Preservation seminar. Andy proposed that I work with a new accession of thousands of videotapes from a defunct broadcast television news station in Elkhart, Indiana. Very little was known about the collection, except that the contents were a seeming mish-mash of pre-broadcast news components. I jumped at the opportunity and have found that the WSJV News Collection presents some of the most exciting opportunities and deepest challenges for archives to fill a significant gap in the documentation of regional communities in an era of media globalization.

A screen grab of a WSJV segment on student demonstrations in South Bend, Indiana. July 26, 1995.
A screen grab of a WSJV segment on student demonstrations in South Bend, Indiana. July 26, 1995.

WSJV was a broadcast television news station with major network affiliations from 1954-2016. The station used a range of technological advancements in broadcast news production across the 20th century. This includes broadcast production transitioning from film (kinescope), to magnetic videotape, to born digital recordings. Like most other television stations, WSJV utilized different videotape formats for most of its history. Long running stations like WSJV found that keeping a tape library was quite useful for ongoing news production. The tapes could help producers find, for example, b-roll and sound bytes without having to go out and shoot in the field. This collection appears to contain WSJV’s entire videotape library from 1981-2011.

A screen grab of the opening animation for The Garden Club, a regular WSJV program featuring gardening advice with Mike Maloney. September 19, 1990.
A screen grab of the opening animation for The Garden Club, a regular WSJV program featuring gardening advice with Mike Maloney. September 19, 1990.

It’s somewhat rare for an archive to have and provide access to a broadcast news station videotape library. Archives and special collections across the United States do provide access to exceptional broadcast news collections. Some examples of these are endeavors initiated by the Association of Moving Image Archivists Local Television Project, including the Minnesota Historical Society/KSTP-TV Archive, Arkansas Educational Television Network Video Vault, and Boston TV News Digital Library. I’ll be talking about institutions and projects such as these in a later blog post. These collections largely provide access to documented whole broadcasts. Fewer institutions offer minimally curated (by the creating station) collections of news videotape libraries. The enormous richness of these objects is due both to their quantity and to their pre-broadcast, in-situ production use. The components on each tape (roughly 40 each) vary from “raw” in-the-field footage with no edits, to partially edited voiceover/sound byte segments, to more fully edited news story packages. Each tape has a chronological sequence of these components over a one- to six-month range. The effect while watching these is of a slice-of-life, informational sense of history. The raw connection you feel watching these tapes is akin to the experience I had several years ago at the Reuther. Rather than one city, though, WSJV documents an entire midwestern region.

Screen grab of a WSJV segment about the Bayer Corporation plant in Elkhart, Indiana. July 1983.
Screen grab of a WSJV segment about the Bayer Corporation plant in Elkhart, Indiana. July 1983. The plant closed in 2006.

WSJV was major broadcast television affiliate for the “Michiana” region (northwest Indiana and the southwest tip of Michigan) 1954-2016. Michiana was a unique television market because it was a “UHF island” bounded by metropolitan areas to the north (Grand Rapids, MI and Milwaukee, WI), east (Detroit), south (Indianapolis), and west (Chicago). In other words, WSJV provided broadcast television news coverage for consumers without access to major metropolitan stations. The history of the region in the 20th century combines themes relevant to the rust belt cities that surround Michiana and the Great Lakes, including massive deindustrialization, changing racial and ethnic populations and resulting civil rights struggles, and public health concerns. The stories represented in the WSJV collection are extenuations of this regional history.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be opening up this collection in a series of blog posts. I’ll explain the history of WSJV, show how the collection can be used to research a significant topic (the AIDS epidemic in Indiana and Ryan White’s story), and provoke some questions that this collection asks of the archival profession. Overall, I want to give you a general sense of how we can process a collection like this and what it offers. The following video is an attempt to give you a glimpse of the range of content the WSJV News Collection offers (in just a few short minutes!). This is a compilation of segments from the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. The segments feature a range of broadcast news production formats, including voiceovers, sound bytes, raw b-roll footage, a full package, and a recorded broadcast.

Processing the Alan Lewis Camera and Projector Collection

Recently, the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive acquired the collection of Alan Lewis, which includes 174 movie cameras and 46 film projectors.  As the person tasked with taking the initial inventory of the collection, I’ve slowly been building a more complete understanding of the shape and scope of what’s in it. So far, I’ve been doing a basic cleanup for each camera and projector, in addition to some internet research to try and find any manuals or information that may exist out in the world. Over the course of cleaning and inspecting the equipment, I’ve gotten a chance to have first hand experience with some amazing pieces of filmmaking history!

For the projectors, I checked the working condition and cleaned around the film path especially. The projectors are split almost evenly in terms of being able to project 16mm or 8mm (or Dual 8, which indicates ability to project both regular and Super). I found several projectors in working order, and one 8mm projector was even used for Home Movie Day.

A Bell & Howell Filmo 8mm “Master” Projector

For the cameras, I’ve mostly been limiting my cleaning to wiping the bodies down to get the dust off and cleaning the lenses. I’ve found that several of the older models (from the 40s-50s) are actually in great working order, due to being based on analogue winding mechanisms. Many of the later models that relied on batteries seem to have electrical components that have failed, or have corrosion in the battery cases that require more extensive cleaning before they can be tested.

Corroded batteries – a conservation risk with old cameras.

Some cameras still have film in them, and those need to be opened in a “black bag” and the film put into lightproof cans. The archive is planning on sending the films away to be developed, which hopefully reveals some cool footage!

I’ve also been doing a bit of background research for each of the different types of models. Lewis’s collection covers an astonishing range of manufacturers, from Bolex to Kodak to Keystone to Yashica. There are bits of information about years of manufacture and technical specs scattered all over the internet, mostly from other private collectors documenting their own collections, such as this website, or dedicated to one brand, for example The Bolex Collector site. Additionally, Alan Kattelle’s excellent book Home Movies has been an invaluable resource for dating cameras and projectors made by Kodak, Bell & Howell, and Revere. Doing the work of tracking down all the separate pieces of information has been an interesting and fun challenge.

My favorites have been the Bell & Howell Filmo 8mm projectors and cameras, which I think are just so cute and well made! The craftsmanship and design of these little Filmos appeal to me aesthetically, in addition to being sturdy and practical. The models were produced starting from the mid-30’s, and the ones I’ve found have held up to this day.

Cute Filmo 8mm cameras!

Not only do the models I’ve found from this series so far work, but they’re also excellent examples of the type of consumer goods available to the amature filmmaker back in the day. Due to these camera’s affordability and ease of use, they were marketed specifically for making home movies.

It fits in your hand!

I would love to see some of these cameras back in action, and the archive hopes make parts of the collection available for students at the The Media School and the School of Art, Architecture + Design to use to get experience shooting on film, possibly for the first time for many. Other plans for the collection include setting up a multi-projection installation around campus.

– by Lydia Creech

“Stacked with Facts” in the Wells’ Stacks with Gene Shalit

My own memories of Gene Shalit’s movie reviews can be traced back to early mornings before I’d leave for school. The TV would be on in the background and the Today show would transition to the “Critic’s Corner,” where Shalit’s trademark mustache and smirking wit would review the latest blockbuster that week. Every time he used to finish a review my parents would also turn from the TV, look at me quizzically, and exclaim, “I never can tell whether he even likes the movie or not!”

Apparently that sly ambivalent humor carries over into much of Shalit’s oeuvre, since the Moving Image Archive recently discovered Shalit in some of the film and video materials we’d received from the Agency for Instructional Television (AIT). In a previous series of blog posts about the AIT collection, I explained some of the history of these materials  and the many moving image formats that have been processed  as part of a digitization initiative. Recently, a graduate student at Simmons College read these blog posts and alerted us to a collection of AIT 16mm films which were part of a television station’s collection in Vermont which were sent to us to join to the rest of the AIT materials held here. During the processing and inspection of these materials one day, I happened to notice a familiar face in one of the 16mm frames.

But that wasn’t the only detail that looked familiar! Most of AIT’s film collection was transferred to various video formats, which were what the Moving Image Archive received three years ago and were then digitized at Memnon’s digitization facilities over the last two years as part of the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative. Therefore, we were able to watch an already digitized version of “About Trade-Offs,” in which Shalit praises the curriculum design of AIT’s educational programming on economics.

Upon reviewing the clip above, the rest of the Moving Image Archive team believed that those library stacks sure did look an awful lot like the ones at the Wells Library here at Indiana University, which is where our archival work space is located. On the surface it made sense that such a scene could have been shot here, since AIT was based in Bloomington and worked in cooperation with the University audio-visual services. So, we went to investigate.

But even after these initial comparisons no one was able to confirm for sure whether the great movie critic had in fact visited IU. Fortunately, IU’s Bicentennial Archivist Kristin Leaman came to the rescue. Kristin directed our search to a University Archives reference file on Indiana University visitors. The Moving Image Archive staff were able to narrow down the year based on the film’s production and information on the edge of the film print to 1977 and, sure enough, the very first item in the folder for that year was an article in the Daily Herald-Telephone, (what is now the Herald-Times), covering Shalit’s visit to IU and his time spent on an AIT shoot in the Wells library!

The article not only discusses Shalit’s visit and the use of the IU Library to shoot the scene from the film, but also has Shalit pictured with then dean of the libraries Carl Jackson and Frederick Jauch, director of publications for AIT.

The mystery was solved, though new questions arise. What were the circumstances of Shalit’s visit? Did he have any prior relationship with Indiana University? And what of the actual content of his segment of the program? “But now, unfortunately,” Shalit says at point, “many of these books are collecting dust.” Is this to imply that presence of books in libraries was believed to be obsolete?—as early as 1977? It’s clear from the article above that Shalit was a proponent of libraries, but what sort of library of the future was being imagined by AIT and its proponents?

Our initial curiosity with Shalit and the transplantation of his “Critic’s Corner” into the Wells Library raises these and perhaps many more questions about the history of educational moving image materials, libraries, and their evolution over the past half century. What questions does our little scavenger hunt raise for you? We hope that researchers find similar threads to begin their search for answers about these peculiar pasts as they reemerge in the collections at the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive.

– by Saul Kutnicki

 

There will be a Test – Just Joking! Join us for Social Guidance Sunday’s “Send in the Class Clowns”!

April Fools’ Day is no joke and so in honor of the funniest, wackiest time of year, we bring you the last Social Guidance Sunday of the semester, “Send in the Class Clowns.” We are back at our usual haunt, The Bishop at 8pm on Sunday, April 2nd. Come ready to laugh, to cringe and the absurdity, and – as always – to learn something! (It’s free and 21 and over.)

This coy look can only mean one thing – we have got a lot in store for you this Sunday! (from “You, Irresistible You,” 1975)

This program is special because we have one of IULMIA’s own guest programmers, Courtney Holschuh who not only helped curate the program but also moonlights as a stand-up comedian! Here’s what Courtney has to say about herself: Courtney Holschuh, pronounced “holeshoe”, is a first-year graduate student in the Department of Information and Library Science. An interest in film and archiving brought her to Indiana University to work in the Moving Image Archive. Courtney received her bachelor’s in History from Marshall University in her hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. After an extended break upon completing her undergrad, Courtney’s love for archiving, film, organization, and a “oh my god I’m 30 and not doing anything with my life” brought her to graduate school. Before attending IU, Courtney worked in a public library, made short films, played trombone in a rock band (not a ska band), and did stand-up comedy for attention.

Now compelling your attention, Courtney and local comedian Logan Scott Hendry will be performing some jokes as part of this special program! So make sure to join us for some live comedy as well as classic educational film hilarity.

As this is our final program of the academic year, we have found some comedic gems that may remind you of the good laughs we have shared over the course of this year. For instance, the first two films may have you recalling our Halloween show, full of horror and safety films. We begin with a Public Service Announcement (Ashes of Doom) which may make you think twice about smoking! The second film, from 1948 is a comedic look at preventative care for workplace injuries. Safe Clothing (1948) is a Canadian film, but you wouldn’t know it from the narrator’s accent. It is reassuring to know that the Department of National Health and Welfare and the Department of Labour of the Government of Canada have our best interests at heart.

But maybe you’ll prefer to slip into something more comfortable. In that case, we present The Baggs, a silent film story about a man that catch quite catch a break from some unlikely burlap sacks. But if burlap isn’t your style, how about some creams or moisturizers for those baggy eyes? Maybe you’d be interested in learning about all of the different deodorizers, bronzers, and perfumes for your “strategic zones”? Marshall Efron introduces us to the creams, salves, balms, and sprays that will help him transform into the perfect, irresistible man. You, Irresistible You features few short skits hosted by Marshall Efron, a Danny Devito/Zach Galifinakis-type who puts the pathetic in pathos – making you reconsider that bronzer, that waterbed, maybe even that mindset that you need to be perfect. Welcome to the so-sad-it’s-funny portion of the programming!

You know those days when you find yourself underneath a mattress, getting jumped on by a burlap sack? Yeah, we call them Mondays. (from “The Baggs” 1973)

We have reached our self-help section of the program which means you’re going to need some help with oral communication. Learn from Carol who needs to expand her paper route but won’t be able to do that until she can properly convince her neighbors to subscribe to the paper. Luckily, she’s got local politics working for her, a trusty duck to pop up at the right moment, and the best frenemy a young entrepreneur could ask for! See how she overcomes her obstacles and improves her oral communication skills in What Did You Say? (1983).

While Safe Clothing uncovered the importance of sensible work clothes in a factory, Xerox also takes a vested interest in workplace safety, bringing you slapstick humor with a word of warning in You and Office Safety (1970). According to Xerox, “Accidents don’t happen, they’re caused.”

Poor Susan got a door swung into her while she was carrying a tray of drinks. Her pain is our pleasure when we watch the hilarious high jinx abound in “You and Office Safety” (1970).

To close out this program, we will spend some time with Harlem Globe-Trotter, Meadowlark Lemon (1979). With the help of some funny costumes, a pet gorilla, and a bunch of balls, Lemon teaches us about directions, latitude and longitude lines, and what to call the different parts of the world.

Program:

Ashes of Doom (1970, 2 min.)

Safe Clothing (1948, 8 min.)

The Baggs (1973, 12 min.)

You, Irresistible You (1975, 11 min.)

What Did You Say? (1983, 14 min.)

You and Office Safety (1970, 9 min.)

Meadowlark Lemon Presents the World (1979, 17 min.)

~Creatively compiled by Katie Lind

Celebrate a Sweet 16…. Millimeter Film Program!

Ah, those lazy, crazy, halcyon days of teen hood. You may recall the parties, the zits, the glamor, and the gossip. Well, the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive has a sweet treat for you! This month we bring you short films to make you long for your younger days – and films to make you happy you’re no longer a teenager! [Unless you still are a teenager as this is an all ages show!] In this month’s set of Social Guidance Sunday films, teenagers receive some tough love concerning proper posture, dating advice, and self-defense. But don’t worry, you’ll enjoy the sassy comebacks from these teens!

Anne wants nothing to do with Ernie’s mutton chops, but maybe Jennifer will give him a chance? (From “Dating Scene” [1972]).
We will celebrate “Sweet 16…. Millimeter” at a different location this month. Instead of our usual haunt, The Bishop, we will screen these films at The Void (1607 S. Rogers St.) on February 19th at 8pm. This is an all-ages venue so feel free to bring your own pre-teens and teenagers!

This month’s program offers a comedic yet compelling look at self-confidence, especially for young women. Whether it’s about taking care of your body, your image, or your safety, these films offer important life lessons for everyone, and not just teenagers. Featuring films from each decade spanning the 1940s through the 1970s, this month’s program is co-presented by an expert in teen media, a second-year PhD student at the Media School, Megan Connor. Her research examines teen girl culture, specifically media franchises and considers the ways these franchises are produced by media industries and consumed by audiences. Megan has completed seven rigorous years of fieldwork living as a teen girl and her favorite teen drama of all time is One Tree Hill.

You will sit a little straighter in your chair after you watch Sitting Right (1946), a film among a slew of instructional films intent on making sure that young ladies were sitting, standing, walking, and generally conducting themselves with grace a poise. We here at SGS are concerned about your posture but we are also interested in the pithy jabs the narrator makes at the girls in the film, for instance, “Don’t bother to drape yourself around a chair, Doris, try sitting in one for a change!”

Girls become better than ever with callouses and calcium! (From “Girls are Better than Ever” [1967]).
Grab a glass of milk and enjoy the second film in our program, Girls are Better than Ever (1967). Considering that this film is brought to you by the American Dairy Association and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition, you might think you’re in for a real doozey – as if we need more people telling us what to do! But fear not, Girls Are Better Than Ever will have you laughing at the quaint advice and gratuitous images of dairy products. What’s more, this film will address your burning question: Why should girls care about physical fitness in the mechanical age?

After learning about the value of exercise and healthy eating, you’ll be ready for a day at the beach! Maybe you’ve got a special significant other to tag along with you like Cliff and Dory or perhaps you’ll find yourself surrounded by exes like Anne does. Dating Scene (1972) features different couples at various stages of relationships, navigating the treacherous waves of romance. Does Dory really want to go to the auto show? Why doesn’t Anne warn Jennifer about Ernie? Dating Scene offers a comedic look at teens navigating first love and friendship.

“Gossip” (1953) demonstrates that it’s better to see no evil, hear no evil, and hear no evil.

Speaking of friends, it helps to know who yours are! When we tune into Gossip (1953) we find that Jean is initially pleasantly surprised by the abundance of friends and suitors when she starts a new school. But when one young man tries to get fresh with Jean, she resists his advances only to become the school pariah! There’s concern that she’ll have to go to a new school! Are these rumors too vicious to recover from? Will Jean become a drop out?! You’ll have to attend to find out!

As our second film demonstrates, girls are better than ever, and tougher, too! Teenage girls may get a lot of flak but they are strong-willed too! In our final film for the program, we see three teenage girls tackle emergency situations and self-protection. Self-Defense for Girls (1969) presents a humorous but incredibly informational look at ways to defend yourself from an attacker. All in all, “Sweet 16… millimeter” will have you sitting and self-defending right!

Girls can really sock it to ‘em! (From “Self-Defense for Girls” [1969]).
Join us at at 8pm The Void (1607 S. Rogers St. – between Patterson Dr. and Rockport Rd.) this Sunday, February 19th for a fun-filled free show!

February’s Films:

Sitting Right (1946, 10 min.)

Girls are Better than Ever (1967, 14 min.)

Dating Scene (1972, 16 min.)

Gossip (1953, 11 min.)

Self-Defense for Girls (1969, 16 min.)

– by Katie Lind

Just in Time for the Holidays – “Holiday Shopwise”!

As the semester winds to an end and the holiday season gears up, join us for one final Social Guidance Sunday this weekend at 8pm! Become a more informed consumer and fulfill your shopping needs with consumer tips, lessons about the five-finger discount, and a grocery bag full of market priced goods (mostly sweets). That’s right, for the low, low price of $0, we bring you a “shop” class full of fun, educational films about shopping!

We guarantee that you won’t have buyer’s remorse when you join us at the Bishop this Sunday, December 4th. We provide four fantastic films that are marketed to your interests: from the entertaining, Why Do You Need to Buy? (1971), a humorous look at the emotional influences in buying things, to the serious topic of stealing from businesses (Shoplifting, 1973), you will gain so much that you’ll feel like you’ve hit the biggest sale of the year!

Help Jeffrey shop for his girlfriend’s birthday party with Product Costs: What’s In Them? (1979). Jeffrey enlists the unlikely but informative local grocer to help him learn about comparison shopping, wholesale distribution, and retail markups from a grocer. Just wait ‘til you see where Jeffrey ends up throwing the party!

The jury’s still out on whether Jeffrey’s girlfriend appreciates the dump truck on her birthday cake, but she should be proud of her boyfriend for getting the best deals and learning how to shop wisely! (from: "Product Costs: What’s In Them?" [1979]).
The jury’s still out on whether Jeffrey’s girlfriend appreciates the dump truck on her birthday cake, but she should be proud of her boyfriend for getting the best deals and learning how to shop wisely! (from: “Product Costs: What’s In Them?” [1979]).
You’ll learn so much information, you’ll feel giddy like a kid on Christmas Eve! Speaking of Christmas Eve, we have a special treat: The final film will be A Filmmaking Experience (The Night Before Christmas) a 1974 film based on the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by clement Moore. The film features an eighth-grade art class creating the set design, planning the animation, and constructing a charming holiday film.

Ah Santa, he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. And he’s going to decide on whether you make the Naughty or Nice List if you don’t tip your bartender! (from "A Filmmaking Experience (The Night Before Christmas)" [1974]).
Ah Santa, he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. And he’s going to decide on whether you make the Naughty or Nice List if you don’t tip your bartender! (from “A Filmmaking Experience (The Night Before Christmas)” [1974]).
We are joined this month by guest co-programmer Jesse Balzer, a PhD student and instructor at the Media School. His work focuses primarily on the labor of film and media marketing, and he currently teaches a section of Advertising and Consumer Culture at IU. In addition to accidentally stealing a hot dog once from a gas station, he has also made many unwise purchases in his life. Like you, he is excited to become a better, more responsible consumer through the magic of educational film.

 

Program

Product Costs: What’s in Them? (1979, 13 min.)

Why Do You Need To Buy? (1971, 10 min.)

Shoplifting (1973, 21 min.)

A Filmmaking Experience (The Night Before Christmas) (1974, 10 min.)

~Brought to you by Katie Lind