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Sunday, 24 May 2015

NFSA Update - A Report on the Current Proposals for the Archive's Screen Lending Collection and related matters

Film Society stalwart Leth Maitland has sent in this report on discussions held at the recent Annual General meeting of the Australian Council of Film Societies about the future activities of the NFSA as they affect film societies and other borrowers who use the NFSA’s Screen Lending Collection.
Leth writes: A senior officer of the National Film & Sound Archive reported to the meeting, held in Melbourne on 16 May, about the current status of the NFSA’s Screen Lending Collection. That officer advised that the NFSA has a continuing commitment to maintaining access to the service it provides particularly for regional and rural users. Access would be based on the principle of partial cost recovery.

In future the SLC would be “a smaller, more curated collection”. It would consist of Australian films, in the “public domain” films and selected international films licensed from producers. The Goethe-Institut also licenses films which it places on deposit, currently in DVD format, for use by borrowers from the Screen Lending Collection. There will be a cull of the current collection. There is a possibility of obtaining DVDs from international film archives which are produced to make treasures in their collections more widely known, and there would be other DVD and Blu-ray acquisitions.

16mm collection
The following information about the activity recorded by the Screen Lending Collection was provided to the meeting. The SLC has 1600 feature film prints. Of these, 1300 have life-of-the-print rights. Last year there were 900 16mm borrowings, less than the number of titles with life-of-the-print rights. 16mm prints are rare and are in need of care. They will be available for users with a record of responsible use which have capable 16mm projectionists and well maintained projectors. There will be an audit of 16mm prints. It was recognised that some films, especially avant-garde and experimental films, may be unique copies that need to be treated as preservation material.

Fees will be reviewed each year. For the time being, the fee for use of DVDs and Blu-rays
will be unchanged [$27.50 per item including GST plus return postage paid by user]. Fees for 16mm films will now be $60 per item plus freight each way paid by the user – this is stated to be about half the rate which would be payable for the commercial hire of a 16mm print for a public non-commercial (aka non-theatrical) screening. In 2014–2015, 16mm borrowings account for one-third of borrowings and one-half of revenue.

DVD and Blu-ray
The DVD and Blu-ray collection will grow. There will be a cull of titles available through
commercial distributors. It was pointed out that some of the Umbrella Entertainment titles which societies have borrowed from the NFSA are now being sold on the Umbrella Entertainment website for $5 each, meaning that they may soon be out of print. It may
in theory be possible to license a screening of such a title from Umbrella, but that would not be very helpful if the DVD itself has become unobtainable.

Cost of DCP and the future of 35mm film
The cost of producing one of the Kodak/Atlab project feature film prints as a DCP (digital
cinema package) was stated to be $50,000. Meanwhile, in regard to preserving film as film, the NFSA’s own laboratory can produce black-and-white prints. Now that Deluxe (which acquired Atlab) has closed its Australian film processing facilities and switched to exclusively digital post-production, there is no longer any commercial processing of film prints in Australia, the NFSA would have to rely on an overseas partner to produce a colour film prints (although this partner would no longer be in Thailand, where motion picture film processing has also now ceased).

NFSA resources

The NFSA budget was about $26 to $27 million per annum to cover all activities. About 80 per cent of this sum is spent on salaries and infrastructure. New members of the NFSA Board  are now keen to pursue more active fundraising. Part of the legacy of being in a heritage setting is that about $200,000 must be spent each year to maintain the health of the trees outside the archive building.

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