On June 9, Dr. Billington hosted the founding meeting of the board of directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation in the Librarian's Ceremonial Office in the Jefferson Building. The foundation (not to be confused with the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board) was established by Congress under Public Law 104-285, which was signed into law by President Clinton on Oct. 11, 1996.
The purpose of the new independent, nonprofit foundation is to raise private funds and distribute grants to support the preservation of motion pictures produced in America during the past century, particularly those films not controlled by Hollywood studios or other corporate interests, such as documentaries, films of regional interest, silent and public domain films, and independent films produced by or documenting minority groups. Archives and libraries engaged in film preservation across the nation, including the Library of Congress, will be eligible for grants from the foundation.
Dr. Billington welcomed the new board members and announced that Roger Mayer had agreed to serve as the board's first chairman. Mr. Mayer is president and chief operating officer of the Turner Entertainment Co.
In accordance with the enabling legislation, the board of directors was chosen by the Librarian, who also holds an ex-officio position on the board. The new board members were selected based on their interest in film preservation and willingness to work actively on behalf of the foundation's fund-raising efforts. The nine members are: Celeste Bartos, Museum of Modern Art Trustee Committee on Film and Video; John Cooke, executive vice president, Corporate Affairs, the Walt Disney Co.; actor-producer Laurence Fishburne; Ann Dibble Jordan, member/director of various corporate boards; Roger Mayer (chair); David W. Packard of the Stanford Theatre and David & Lucile Packard foundations; John Ptak, Creative Artists Agency; Martin Scorsese, filmmaker and president of the Film Foundation "Filmmakers for Film Preservation"; and Alan K. Simpson, former U.S. senator from Wyoming.
Establishment of the new private sector foundation is widely considered the most promising development in film preservation in many years. Its success, however, will depend on fund-raising in the private sector and cooperation from all sectors of the film community. Beginning in 1999, the foundation will become eligible to receive limited congressional appropriations to match funds raised from private sources, which could then be distributed via grants to nonprofit institutions. Under the legislation, all administrative/operating expenses for the foundation must come from privately raised funds and not federal dollars. In keeping with congressional wishes, the foundation will also be a lean, mission-driven organization with minimal administrative expenses.
The foundation is in the initial stages of devising an operational plan, which will set fund-raising strategies and other priorities. Up-to-date information on foundation activities can be found at its Web site: www.filmpreservation.org/ or by contacting Eric Schwartz, acting executive director for the foundation, at (202) 833-4198.
The Library of Congress is the nation's leading publicly funded film preservation institution. Congress recognized the Library's leadership in 1989 when it created the National Film Preservation Board to promote public awareness of the need to preserve movies of the past. More than 50 percent of the original production elements (negatives, soundtracks, etc.) for all American movies produced before 1951 have been lost due to deterioration and neglect. And, for films of the silent era produced before 1920, the loss rate exceeds 80 percent.