As you discuss in your text Art of Defiance: Found Footage, Legal Provenance, and the “Aesthetics of Access”, “archives can act as an impediment or catalyst to found footage filmmakers in providing them access to unique material” and “greatly expanded access to video content outside of that context has altered found footage filmmakers’ need to work through audiovisual archives”. What sources did your students use for this project?
None of the students went to a physical archive, that’s for sure. I think my students are very much of the generation “if it’s not available online, it doesn’t exist”. For me personally, it took working on the inside to know my way around archives, but from the outside, these institutes can be fortresses.
In general, I would say that to get students interested in something, which is completely outside of their purview, you have to hand it to them in small bite-size chunks, while ideally showing some passion for the topic at hand. Silent cinema, for instance. We decided to take them to a screening of a Buster Keaton film with live piano accompaniment at the BFI, which turned out to be an incredible experience - they were so amazed. I was happy that we were able to offer that film to them in this way because they might have never walked into a venue to see a silent film in the first place.
And so, it’s always fun to see one or two students come out of such an experience with a newfound passion for archives! And it echoes my own experience; I saw Peter Delpeut’s Lyrical Nitrate in film class during my undergraduate days, and it blew my mind. I then ended up working at the Nederlands Filmmuseum where the film originated. NFM, now Eye Filmmuseum, does a really good job at making its material visible and attractive in unusual ways. Especially in the new setting, in this wonderful new building where other things are happening as well, it is bound to happen that once in a while someone will wander into something that utterly surprises and fascinates them.
If I look at my students though, you can see that their world and experience of filmmaking, which is very much outside of the world of the archive, is changing so fast, that the archive as a concept is seen to be under pressure. Working with archives in general means you will have to work with limitations and negotiations, and their set of regulations, and not everyone is willing to put in that perseverance!