A message from Martin Scorsese, President

The Orphan Film Symposium has become an important gathering place for people engaged in the preservation, study and use of motion pictures. The recognition that the world's archives need to protect "orphan films" has become one of the most challenging aspects of film preservation. How can orphan films be saved, screened, studied and creatively used? The beauty of the orphan metaphor is that it embraces a wide array of neglected genres: newsreels, outtakes, home movies, kinescopes, trailers, silent film, stock footage, industrials, the avant garde, independent documentary and many other types of ephemeral film. All of these are part of our social and cinematic history.

These unique symposia bring together an eclectic mix of professionals and enthusiasts who share a common concern but who have no other regular meeting ground. "Orphans" assembles an international group of archivists, scholars, curators, collectors, programmers, and filmmakers who work with orphaned material. Rare moving images from the past are screened alongside new films by artists and documentarians. Participants discuss their latest research and discoveries. As cinema enters a new digital era, the millions of feet of film that represent our record of the 20th century stand in need of rescue and rediscovery. The majority of this footage consists of a diverse group of orphan films. Only the collaboration of an equally diverse set of critical minds working in film and video will allow us to realize the value of these amazing images and sounds.

As president of The Film Foundation, I urge everyone with an interest in this project to support and to participate in the Orphan Film Symposium. This academic-archival-artistic collaboration will help ensure the survival of our collective film heritage and generate greater awareness of the need to preserve motion picture history.

Martin Scorsese
The Film Foundation
445 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022

comments from past symposia...

Orphans II was a powerful and rewarding event, which I have frequently thought about. The balance between papers and screenings, between archivists and filmmakers, between working professionals and scholars was unique. Many of us gained this special sense that your conference has spawned a movement. Certainly your conference (or as a fellow “orphanista” let me say our conference) has resulted in some intellectual breakthroughs for me.

Indeed, orphanistas should see Columbia, SC as only the starting point for the process of bringing a film to public attention. Adopting an orphaned film involves something different than just teaching it, or writing about it. Orphaned films are also more quirky, apparently marginal. One needs to love them, give them the benefit of the doubt in order to discover their potential worth. One can't simply trust the archives. One has to make an intervention on several different levels. In different ways this is what the participants at Orphans II did. It turned many of us into activists.

Orphans I and II have been very special events and there has been a progression. I look forward to Orphans III.
Charles Musser, co-chair, Film Studies Dept.
Yale University


Under the rubric "Orphan Films," you have brought together an extremely wide spectrum of interested people: collectors, scholars, movie buffs, exhibitors, archivists, restorers, curators, and academics. You have created the setting in which these participants can share their interests, and define a new field. I have a sense that this field will shortly be as dynamic and influential as the field of early cinema study has been over the last 15 years, reaching across to other disciplines, far afield.

The concerns of the Orphans group will help to stave off further loss of films. Their evident enthusiasm for cinema which has "fallen between the cracks" helps to bring this cinema to our attention, and to safeguard its future. The first masters students will arrive at NYU in Fall 2002 to study Moving Image Archiving and Preservation. The efforts of these students in learning to look after the moving image heritage falls directly into the orbit of the interests of the "Orphan Films" conference. They will benefit enormously from the knowledge, know-how, and contacts this new field is generating, and come to rely on them.
Antonia Lant, Assoc. Professor of Cinema Studies
New York University


I found a brilliant and lively group of film professionals to consort with. In such fine company I was able to exchange ideas and get terrific and generous feedback. Orphans gave me the opportunity to have the first public screening of a feature I had been working on for three years. This was a marvelous help to me in the films completion, something I will always be grateful for. The date for the next Orphans sounds great to me, for as you can see, I'm eager to come back.
Alfred Leslie, filmmaker/painter
New York, NY


Still unpacking, but had to stop to tell you what a wonderful time I had at Orphans II. Finally, a symposium that's fun and educational. Now how many academic weekends can you say that about? I've only been to one other that allowed for an exchange of ideas, and that was Chon Noriega's Latin American film symposium. But that was a one-shot. Yours is an annual!
Charles Ramírez Berg, Distinguished Teaching Professor
University of Texas at Austin


I missed the chance to congratulate you on the conference. It was remarkably successful on all counts. The screenings were terrific (especially the restored Killer of Sheep), the papers almost all interesting and connected to the larger focus of the gathering, the social events (and live music) entirely enjoyable. Most of all I appreciate the opportunity that you gave me to spend some time with and be both entertained and re-educated by an international group of archivists, collectors, filmmakers, and other film historians.
There seems to be no question but that an Orphans III is called for!
Gregory A. Waller, Chair, Dept. of English,
University of Kentucky


I learned a lot and met some wonderful people.
Charles Burnett, filmmaker, Academy Foundation Visiting Artist
Los Angeles, CA


Thanks to you and your orphanistas for a fantastic/inspiring/super-organized/sense-of-humor symposium. I felt right at home in the hyper-interdisciplinary forum. Looking forward to the next one!
Kimberly O'Quinn, New York University & Museum of Television and Radio


It was absolutely a wonderful event, and I was really happy to be included. And I liked talking to the students! They were great.
Karen Shopsowitz, filmmaker (Peabody Award winner, My Father’s Camera)
National Film Board of Canada


I had a great time and learned a lot, too. I am so impressed with your ability to create a symposium like this -- it had such a wonderful vibe and that seems to have everything to do with the tone you set. Thanks again for such an exciting and interesting few days.
Barbara Selznick, Asst. Professor of Media Arts
University of Arizona


I can't tell you what a wealth of material your recent Orphans of the Storm film conference has provided me. My story in the L.A. Weekly should attest to my enthusiasm for your project, both on political principle and as a film lover in general. But just the wealth of material presented there, I personally found overwhelming.

In addition to surveys of the conference itself, which along with the L.A. Weekly, I came close to placing in both the International Cinematographers Guild Magazine and on-line at Salon.com, I am currently developing a feature article on California's Amateur Film Clubs for the L.A. Times Magazine, a shorter piece on KTLA's post-war, pre-network programming (currently archived by one of your participants) for Los Angeles Magazine, and potential articles in the future on Alfred Leslie's found-film collage The Cedar Bar and Gregoria Rocha's discovery of 26 reels of Pancho Villa films. And this doesn't even take into account that I was able to spend time with Jonathan Rosenbaum, Alfred Leslie, Charles Burnett and Rick Prelinger, all of whom are important figures in the culture at large as well as my private intellectual and artistic pantheon.

Orphans is an important and unique civic undertaking, highlighting both a cause and a body of knowledge that are tragically underrepresented in the modern media. You'll forgive me if, at the same time that I wish you all possible success in your endeavor, I hope that it remains a valued secret among we chosen few for just a little while longer. Please count me in for Orphans III.
Paul Cullum, L.A. Weekly Magazine


Just had tell you what a fantastic job you did for "Orphans II." I can't imagine any gathering of academics and archivists that could be as interesting, or as fun, as this was.
Memorable moments:

• Talking with Jonathan Rosenbaum, discussing "guilty pleasure" films, then being blown away by The House is Black.
• Reveling in David Pierce's superb copyright presentation.
• Marveling at a symposium that can embrace the likes of The House is Black and Charles Musser's tear-inducing footage of Paul Robeson -- as well as "How to Give an Enema."
• Hearing Delphine Seyrig anecdotes (she was in Pull My Daisy) from the irrepressible Alfred Leslie.
• Remembering with Charles Burnett the awkward moment when he was pinned down on-camera on TCM, squirming with discomfort as he was expected to give a constructive perspective on the Brownlow/Gill restoration of The Birth of a Nation.
• Gregorio Rocha's saga of "the lost reels of Pancho Villa."

Everything was organized to a thematic "t", and the speakers were first-rate. What's important is that love of the material come through in gatherings like this, and it did here -- in spades. To ORPHANS III!
Lee Tsiantis, Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc.


A wonderful conference. We felt like we came back from Pordenone -- we were that tired and enthusiastic! Your conference is surely a model to follow!
Mary Desjardins, Professor of Film Studies,
Dartmouth College


I want to thank you again for a perfectly organized symposium -- as well as the way you handle the inter-symposium lull. I certainly want to come back for numero tres.
Nico de Klerk, Curator
Nederlands Filmmuseum


Thanks for showing us a good time in beautiful Columbia. Rochester pales in comparison. Orphans was great. I'm definitely there next year.
Elizabeth Coffey
L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, George Eastman House


What a great conference. I'm so impressed by what you've been able to accomplish so quickly at South Carolina. What an extraordinary, innovative, truly happening endeavor. It also meant a lot to me personally to be involved. Your event inspired and reminded me how important it is to keep my feet planted in my research. It was so rewarding to spend time with folks who aren't disinterested in media history, especially aspects of that history not already understood to be a canon.
(And the BBQ was fabulous!)
Mark J. Williams, chair, Film Studies Department,
Dartmouth College


Thank you for a fabulous symposium. I came home to what felt like a continuation of it - what with Nico de Klerk doing more screenings here. In fact, I will see him again tomorrow for a short tour of Chicago before he leaves. I would never have met him had I not become an Orphanista.
Carolyn Faber, archivist/acquisitions
WPA Film Library


Thanks again for a great conference. To me, coming to Orphans, has always been a priority. I really liked Orphans 2 a lot, and I definitely do plan to be there again.
William O'Farrell, Chief of Moving Image and Audio Conservation
National Archives of Canada


A little post-symposium cheer to you. Congratulations. It was a success.
Melinda Stone, Media Artist in Residence
University of San Francisco


Thank you for an exceptional conference. Dana White and I were EXTREMELY impressed with the quality, variety and integrity of the event, the individual papers, the screenings, you name it. You arranged it all perfectly, and you were an incredibly generous (and relaxed!!) host. We already have our paper for next year planned out. If you'll have us back.
Matthew Bernstein, Professor of Film Studies
Emory University


I did enjoy Orphans II. My director has asked me if it is going to be an annual or regularly scheduled event.
Carol Radovich, archivist
Rockefeller Archive Center


I wish to thank you for a wonderful conference. I am so glad I came and
everything was very well organized. Keep me posted about future programs to which I might contribute. My warmest congratulations.
Angela Dalle Vacche, professor of Film Studies
Georgia Tech University


Congratulations on what the grapevine is saying was a fabulous conference.
Jan-Christopher Horak, Editor, The Moving Image,
Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists


Word is that small-gauge enthusiasts turned out en masse for Orphans II in South Carolina and that it was an inspiring conference. Congratulations to Dan Streible and his team.
Karan Sheldon, Chair, Small Gauge Film Preservation Task Force
Northeast Historic Film


Congratulations on what I hear was another wonderful conference! This is has become an extremely valuable forum for the field. Thank you.
Pam Wintle, Human Studies Film Archive
Smithsonian Institution (and National Film Preservation Board member)


The event sounds like a big success. I'm particularly glad to hear that it went well for Charles Burnett; he really deserves it! I've also heard great things about the rest of the conference from others, so it sounds like you did a great job with it.
Ross Lipman, Film Preservationist
UCLA Film and Television Archive


Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Orphans II. It was incredibly informative, inspirational and fun! Just what I needed at the end of my first year on the job. Congratulations on another wonderful conference, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Jacqueline Stewart, Asst. Professor of English/Cinema Studies
University of Chicago


Major kudos for an absolutely fantastic conference. TRULY. It was a great mix of archivists, academics, techies, historians and all of the above. You are clearly held in high regard by all facets of this field –- and deservedly so.
Caroline Frick, University of Texas at Austin (and American Movie Classics)


Orphans was amazing and eye-opening. It was a great honor to attend. I learned so much. Most importantly, the heartiest congratulations to you for creating a sense of exploration and collegiality. You’re a fabulous organizer.
Patricia Zimmermann, Professor of Cinema, Ithaca College


I just wanted to congratulate you on the fantastic program you have organized for the Orphans of the Storm symposium this year. It looks like it is going to be a really stimulating gathering. I really wish I could attend -- so many of the papers and screenings speak directly to the issues I'm trying to nut out with the Albert Kahn Archive. Hope I might be able to contribute to or attend
the next one!
Paula Amad, Professor of Film Studies, Indiana University


The Orphans symposium sounds wonderful this year. I've just read the lineup. Wish I could clone myself and be in two places at once.
Jon Gartenberg, President, Gartenberg Media Enterprises


I feel like an orphan without Orphans II. No mere rhetoric to say Orphans is my first choice. Your line-up looks fantastic.
Mark McElhatten, Cappa Productions, New York


My best wishes for a very successful Orphans II. I am delighted that AMIA was able to help out in our modest way, and I am very sorry that circumstances do not allow me to join the orphaneers.
Sam Kula, President, Association of Moving Image Archivists


Congratulations on a successful wonderful event. I'd love to become part of the orphan system. I immensely enjoyed the symposium
Ramona Lagos, Professor of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
University of South Carolina


Marty Marks of M.I.T. reported that he had an awesome time at the conference. He was so impressed with the whole thing, with the range of topics, with the informal and informative discussion -- everything down to the organization of the technology, meals and door prizes! He told me that he had a great time and would love to be a part of any future orphan symposiums. When's Orphans 3?!

It was an impressive range of topics discussed by an impressively intelligent and funny group of people. And the orphanistas did a terrific job! The highlight for me of course was narrating a 1950s filmstrip about troublemakers, playing nurse to Rick Prelinger's doctor, with Marty as our patient. The visual pot-luck Saturday night was a total blast, a stroke of genius.
Julie Hubbert, Asst. Professor of Music, University of South Carolina


I strongly regret not being able to attend this year's orphan film seminar, and hope that it was a huge success. The program was, to say the least, fascinating and eclectic.
Mark Cantor, curator/collector, Celluloid Improvisations, Los Angeles, CA


Thank you for offering us this very interesting symposium.
Florence Paulin
L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, George Eastman House


Many thanks for your hospitality during Orphans 2 -- it was a really excellent conference.
Charles Tepperman, National Archives of Canada


Thanks again for such a good time, and see you for III!
Henry Tolino, President
Digital Encoding Factory


I am hoping to bring a gifted undergrad student to Orphans III. See you in September!
Tricia Welsch, Professor of Film Studies
Bowdoin College


Last week I visited the "orphanistas" at USC in Columbia, South Carolina, all busily preparing for Orphans III, "Listening to Orphan Films," the third iteration of their wonderful conference that combines scholarly and non-academic presentations, screenings, parties and creative weirdness, not to be missed.
Rick Prelinger, prelinger.com
Internet Moving Images Archive


Glad to hear you're already planning Orphans III. I enjoyed II. Many belated thanks for all your efforts, and those of all the others at USC!
Bob Summers
Film/Video Services