Today, while foraging the internet for newsworthy stories about documentary films, I ran across a story on the Kartemquin website that I just had to share with you – and luckily the authors of the piece, Kartemquin’s Tim Horsburgh and Emily Hart, were happy for me to do so. It is about an exciting new resource that could transform the way we make docs, here’s more…
A resource has launched that could transform documentary filmmaking: an expansive collection of broadcast TV news, hosted by the Internet Archive.
One of the early beta testers of the new service was Kartemquin Producer Emily Hart (she was responsible for archival research on At the Death House Door and The Interrupters, among other projects). Below, Emily offers her thoughts on why this could be an invaluable tool for documentary filmmakers and other journalists, researchers, scholars and anyone with an interest in media, and how producers can best take advantage of its features.
“The Internet Archive has been quietly recording television news programs around the clock. In May 2012, I attended a meeting with other experimental collaborators at the Internet Archive in San Francisco to offer ways documentary filmmakers could use the TV news archive and suggest improvements to make the service more user friendly. Last evening, the archive opened the collection to the public. All news broadcast on all channels in Washington D.C. and San Francisco since 2009 is now available on their website. The collection is searchable by closed captioning transcripts, so users can type in key words and all stories containing the key words are provided, with 30-second clips of the matches immediately viewable. The clips can be expanded, and if users want to view the entire news program, they can borrow a DVD of the program from the archive.
“This is a transformative tool, providing immediate and free access to a wealth of programming that may otherwise be expensive and time-consuming to obtain, if available at all. The archive is not intended to replace traditional sources that license news footage, but it is a way to view what has aired and how subjects are covered. Everything is viewable, without censorship, as it was broadcast. Seeing footage is often very different than reading transcripts, and the archive allows everything that aired to be accessed in one venue. It’s unprecedented.”
We’re grateful to the foresight of Internet Archive founder, Brewster Kahle, in building this amazing collection. Looking forward, we hope that filmmakers will be able to grab clips for fair use, as we feel this is a legitimate use of the tool.
You might wonder why a UK-based blog is so excited about a TV library in the U.S. but don’t forget we’re living in a global world where many filmmakers travel and explore. We make documentaries about global issues, about American issues, right here in the UK. Now the waiting is for the UK to deliver an equally extensive archive with our television history to our friends across the pond (and yes, to us too of course). The BBC have been working on preserving their history and of course it is possible to get extracts from almost everything you have ever seen on TV, the problem is though that you would need money and time to do so. And on top of that, buying footage is not what you are after while researching your film. Hence we applaud this initiative – hopefully you do too.