The future is Archive

The future is Archive

Archive Day, EFM 2020 / Lia Darjes

To some extent the dust has yet to settle on EFM’s first Archive Day, given that the organisers are still awaiting the return of all the evaluation sheets. 


But if numbers of attendees are to go by, or the encouraging levels of audience response gauged on the day, then plans for its continuation and development over years to come are almost certain to be realised.


The format was reasonably simple, a trade market, panel discussions and a screening/case study of a documentary made with 100% archive (Berlin 1945 by Volker Heise). What made it especially unique was that EFM 2020 marked the first time international archives gathered within a German market setting to pitch and present their libraries to prospective clients. These archives included the likes of British Pathé, Eye Filmmuseum (Netherlands), Getty Images, Associated Press and the Berlin-based Bundesarchiv.


The event was co-organised by DocSalon’s Nadja Tennstedt and German archive researcher and producer Monika Preischl.


“It was a very successful day, just to see how many people attended,” commented Preischl after the event. “We announced it quite late, and at Berlin there is always competition with many events taking place at the same time, but many, many people turned up. We were curious also, as it was the first time in Germany when we have ever had this kind of event where you can speak personally with the archive people, to meet them and talk about things like prices. Already I got a lot of emails from the archives and they were very happy that they had a place to show up…and to come together.”


Tennstedt adds that they are thinking about how to “spread Archive Day across the other parts of the market.  It’s very easy to think of archive in terms of ‘documentary’ only and we want to raise its visibility across the other segments as well.” 


Did Preischl have the impression that the archive sector is as entrepreneurial as their counterparts across other parts of EFM?


“The archives now know they are a segment of a market and are not standing alone outside. We connected, and there was a good energy,” she responded. “The Bundesarchiv are not a commercial archive like Getty, but they told me it was for them important [saying how], ‘we have to show, and we have to get in touch with clients and communicate with them’. I thought it was a good development that archives think more about how to approach the producers.”


Dr Angela Abmeier of the Bundesarchiv concurred. “It’s not just the first archive day for EFM, it’s also first ever one for us as well. It was the idea to take the chance and to have a look how [the Archive Day] is working, and it is really working very well… It helps of course to know what are the questions that people who are coming to our archive want [answered]. We can explain as well how we are working, what we are doing and what they can search for in our archive.”


“We have films from the beginning of film until today,” she adds.


Simon Witter of British Pathé picked up the theme, and articulated his enthusiasm for the Archive initiative. “I’m sure it will pick up a head of steam. I have been busy all day – from my personal perspective, slightly too many were people I already know, so I’d like to have seen more strangers who don’t know anything about British Pathé who I could inculcate, but it’s been very successful.”


“One Russian guy was looking for British perspectives on German stuff and then he found out that we had a mass of stuff filmed in Germany and Russia [throughout the 20th Century] as well, and was completely blown away.”


“There is no real national delineation of any of this [archive material],” he added. “Some archives will be much more focussed on the country they are based in. Ours just has a perspective from [the UK) but shot everywhere else.”


In coming years both Preischl and Tennstedt would like to extend the event to include hands-on, practical workshops and presentations that get down to the nitty gritty of working with archive. 


“I know that people want to hear concrete things. They want to hear prices, about how long it takes, what are the risks. Specific things, not general. A Toolbox programme for producers with very clear and exact case studies or explanations of processes or rights management etc,” commented Preischl.


Tennstedt also underlined the green benefits of archive use and the associated elimination of wasted time, effort and resources. “I am very excited to do more on recycling material, rather than shooting new material. That could be an interesting development for archive, not just from a historical perspective but from a creative perspective.”


Adds Preischl: “We have to think about what can we do to be more sustainable, and how we can do it. The film industry must also be forced to think about how and where it can reduce its CO2 emissions.”