Leading Documentarians to Discuss Archival Filmmaking at WESTDOC’s “History Unearthed”

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Tom Jennings and Harrison Engle will shed light on the art of archival storytelling and share their insights on the process of locating unique stock footage sources at this informative WESTDOC panel, moderated by David Seevers, Footage.net CMO.

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While some filmmakers regard archival footage as an afterthought, for a filmmaker with vision and determination, finding a rich trove of archival footage can be the jumping off point for a remarkable documentary.

History Unearthed, one of the many exciting panels at this year’s WESTDOC conference, will delve into the archival filmmaking process, exploring the techniques filmmakers use to discover and exploit unconventional stock footage sources, as well as the larger challenges of breathing new life into well-known events. Panelists include Tom Jennings and Harrison Engle, two deeply experienced and talented filmmakers, who have both produced recent archival documentaries on the Kennedys. David Seevers, Chief Marketing Officer of Footage.net, will moderate the panel.

“I am really looking forward to this discussion,” said David Seevers. “Both Tom and Harrison have a deep understanding of historical filmmaking, and they know how to find the archival material required to tell great stories. Their films demonstrate the true potential of archival filmmaking, and do so in very different ways. I think the audience will really benefit from their insights.”

While some filmmakers regard archival footage as an afterthought, for a filmmaker with vision and determination, finding a rich trove of archival footage can be the jumping off point for a remarkable documentary.

Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings found his inspiration for The Lost JFK Tapes at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas. Back in the mid-nineties, while working on an earlier JFK-related show, Jennings discovered the museum and knew immediately that an entire film could be produced from the rich archival source material held in its archive. 14 years later, he began working closely with Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, to identify and transfer hours of rarely seen footage and audio, most of which had been gathered over the years from local television stations in Dallas. Eschewing narration and talking heads, Jennings and his team relied on a skillful assemblage of disparate archival elements to present the events leading up to and following the assassination. The final product is a film that brings a new level of immediacy, freshness and intensity to a well-known moment in history.

“I wanted it to feel like flipping through the channels on that day,” said Jennings. “That’s why we only used images that were available at the time.”

So while the famous Zapruder film was not included (it was considered too graphic to be aired at the time), the film does feature an interview with Abraham Zapruder himself. The film is full of such unexpected moments.

“Tom Jennings knows how to find historical footage with built-in drama and then he pieces it together using the intrinsic narrative of the archival material,” said Clara Fon-Sing, Vice President of NBC News Archives. “His films, without any new narration or interviews, are powerful showcases of raw television footage that often never aired before.”

Harrison Engle
Inspiring source material was essential to Harrison Engle’s documentary, The Lost Kennedy Home Movies, as well. An intimate, behind-the-scenes portrait of one of America’s most famous and intriguing families, Engle assembled the film from four decades of home movies shot primarily by members of the Kennedys’ inner circle. And while material from various sources made it into the final version, the linchpin for the film was a reel of 16-millimeter film that Joseph Kennedy handed to Art Moger in 1952 in hopes that Moger, an employee of Warner Bros. and a family friend, could use it to help promote the Senatorial campaign of Kennedy’s son, Jack. The footage made its way into the hands of Moger’s son, Stanley, who was determined to build a documentary film around it, but was frustrated by rights complications. Moger ended up donating the footage to the John F. Kennedy library, which then gave him permission to use the material in a documentary. The library provided supplemental archival material, much of which is also quite rare, and put Moger and Engle in touch with others who had their own home movies. The film shows the informal family side of the Kennedy clan, creating a great sense of intimacy for the viewer.

"We stuck to the theme of telling as much of the story as we could through home movies, which revealed a side of the Kennedys that we're less familiar with,” said Engle. “I tried to stick to the story that the home movies led us to, and supplemented them where necessary to set the context straight."

History Unearthed will take place on Tuesday, September 12, 2012 at WESTDOC 2012, the West Coast Documentary and Reality Conference. It will be held at 10am in the Pacific Theaters Culver Stadium 12 in Culver City, California. History Unearthed is open to WESTDOC 2012 attendees only.

About Footage.net
Footage.net is the world’s premier online footage search engine, providing creative professionals with the tools they need to discover and obtain the best motion content from the world’s top footage companies quickly and easily from a single site. At Footage.net, researchers can search over 40 footage collections simultaneously, view over 1.5 million clips, communicate instantly with our content partners and download over 250,000 premium stock footage clips.

About WESTDOC
WESTDOC: The West Coast Documentary and Reality Conference (Sept. 9-12, 2012) gathers producers and directors of non-fiction/documentary and reality television programming with executives who create such programs. Recognized as the premier conference of its kind on the West Coast, more than 100 industry speakers are expected to participate in the three-day WESTDOC 2012 conference consisting of panels, case studies, social events and exclusive networking sessions. More than 30 panels are planned regarding financing, conceiving and selling a documentary or reality TV one-off or series. Contemporary topics covered also will include distribution models from theatrical presentation to digital platforms

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