Panel Discussion: Film Restoration and Access in the Digital Age

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Film Restoration and Access in the Digital Age

Digital technology provides tools for preservationists and restorers that only a short time ago would have been thought miraculous. Dust spots, scratches and grain can be eliminated, hiss can be removed from optical soundtracks, Technicolor can be restored to its former glory. And the results can be viewed on DVD or Blu-Ray anytime and anywhere, or projected from a hard drive in a theater. But if much has been gained, what, if anything, has been lost? Why do some restorers prefer to keep to chemical processes? Is something intrinsic in the nature of film lost when a digital print is projected or a digital file is displayed on a computer or television screen? What best serves the original vision of the artist – restoring with only the tools they had at the time of creation, or bringing state-of-the-art technology to bear? And, while some think the world of instant access to every film is heaven on earth, others argue that the viewing experience loses something when any film can be seen at any size, at any time, paused, run backwards – and watched alone.

The Panel

Kenn Rabin (Moderator) produces, writes, consults, and performs audiovisual archival research and third party clearances for both documentaries and feature films, and in this work has faced numerous restoration challenges. His credits include PBS’ Eyes on the Prize and the landmark WGBH series, Vietnam: A Television History, as well as episodes of the series The American Experience, American Masters, and Frontline; independent films such as Marlon Riggs’ Color Adjustment, and the forthcoming The Storm that Swept Mexico (a history of the Mexican Revolution on which he served as co-producer, co-writer, and archivist) and Gus Van Sant’s Milk, for Focus Features. His work with George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh has been seen in Good Night, and Good Luck, and The Good German. Rabin has been nominated for two Emmy awards, has consulted on over 125 independently-produced documentaries and features. He is also an award-winning playwright and fiction writer. Rabin is the co-author of the Focal Press/Elsevier book, Archival Storytelling: A Filmmaker’s Guide to Finding, Using, and Licensing Third-Party Visuals and Music, which is currently used in over forty undergraduate and graduate film and law schools around the country.

Dennis Doros, co-owner of Milestone Film & Video (, started his career at Kino International where he was responsible for restoring two classic silent films starring Gloria Swanson: Raoul Walsh's Sadie Thompson and Erich von Stroheim's Queen Kelly. He left Kino in 1990 to start Milestone with his wife and partner, Amy Heller. For twenty years, Milestone has been devoted to discovering and distributing films of enduring artistry. With Milestone, Doros has restored many films including Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's Chang, Orson Welles' The Trial, Rolando Klein's Chac: The Rain God, Gillo Pontecorvo's La Grande Strada Azzura and Margot Benacerraf’s Araya. Milestone’s roster of discoveries include Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba, Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-Bi, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Maborosi, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles, Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery and many others. Doros has supervised and produced over a hundred video releases as well as over fifty silent film scores ranging from solo pianist to full orchestra. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Association of Moving Image Archivists ( and is the founder of the AMIA Press Office. He is also a consultant to Turner Classic Movies since 2005.

Haden Guest is a film historian, curator and archivist, Haden Guest is director of the Harvard Film Archive, overseeing the HFA´s cinematheque, preservation program, research initiatives and its renowned collections. A Lecturer in Film Studies in Harvard’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Guest’s research focuses principally upon studio-era Hollywood cinema, postwar American experimental film, and contemporary Argentine, Latin American and French cinema.

Wendy Shay is the audiovisual archivist and deputy chair for the Archives Center at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. A founding member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), Wendy currently is the Association’s president.

Karan Sheldon is co-founder of Northeast Historic Film,, a regional moving image archives established in 1986. Background and contact information at

Andrew Lampert is Archivist and a Co-Programmer at Anthology Film Archives. He is in charge of preservation and to date has preserved well over 150 short and feature length works related to the history of independent and experimental cinema by artists including Stan Brakhage, Bruce Conner, Maya Deren, Ken Jacobs, Marie Menken, Jonas Mekas, Harry Smith, Paul Sharits, Bette Gordon/James Benning, Sidney Peterson and many others. Besides contributing a regular array of screenings and events to Anthology's screening calendar, Lampert curates regular series such as Unessential Cinema, Audio Verite and a new program dedicated to slide-projection work called Single Frame. As an artist, Lampert's film/video and performance works have been included in the Whitney Biennial and screened at museums, festivals, cinemas and venues throughout the US, Europe and elsewhere.

Katie Trainor is the Film Collections Manager in the Department of Film at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She is a graduate of the L.Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at the George Eastman House. She has worked for the Museum of Modern Art in the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center and before that she worked as the Director of Operations for the Jacob Burns Film Center in Westchester, NY. Her introduction to the archival world was her employment as Archive Manager of the Harvard Film Archive from 1993-2000. She is a member of the Small Gauge and Amateur Film Interest Group. She is co-founder of Home Movie Day and the Center For Home Movies.

Matthew White is the Executive Director of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting’s American Archive, which is public broadcasting’s comprehensive archive of radio and television programming, ensuring its collection, management and preservation. White has been active in the moving image archival community for nearly twenty five years: he founded the WPA Film Library in the 1980s, was one of the original founders and first President of the Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors (ACSIL), managed National Geographic’s Film Library and ultimately served as the Executive Vice President for Digital Markets at National Geographic Ventures. White has been very active in the development of archive-based programming for traditional and digital media, and is a committee member on The Inter Organizational Group on Archives at Risk.

George Willeman is the Nitrate Film Vault Manager at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Preservation in Culpeper, VA. He has had the pleasure of working exclusively with the Library's collection of over 130,000 reels of nitrocellulose film for twenty-seven years this month. George counts as one of his most memorable moments the discovery of the Original Camera Negative of "The Great Train Robbery" made by the Edison Studio in 1903 and often credited as the film that got the US film business off and running. George is delighted and honored to be part of the Coolidge Award events!

Schawn Belston is Senior Vice President of Library and Technical Services at Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  Schawn began his career in feature post production. In 1997, he helped start the Film Preservation program at Twentieth Century Fox. This program has expanded in commitment and scope over the years, and currently includes the management of all film and television assets, photographs, posters, and props produced by Fox. During his tenure, the studio has restored many notable films, including All That Jazz, The Grapes of Wrath, The Sand Pebbles, Leave Her To Heaven, and The Sound of Music.

Images provided courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox and Pathé.