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We fielded this one to Ken Fountain at the Echo Park Film Center: "There are very few projectors that I have not run film through, but it is very hard to recommend a selected few...Elmo projectors would be at the top of the food chain, but they also fetch top dollar. There are a small handful of projectors that will harm film, but for the most part, a well maintained projector with a knowledgeable projectionist is usually what is needed to keep films from being damaged. I would advise anyone looking for a projector to look at what type of bulb the projector uses (some are extinct or very expensive), and how well cared for the projector was." That good care should continue with you. Once you've found your viewers and projectors, you'll want to give them some extra attention before putting them to use. Toni Treadway offers expert advice on restoring film hardware at: http://www.littlefilm.org/RehabLeaves/TechTips.html  Back to top

Sure they do, otherwise Home Movie Day wouldn’t be happening. Lots of people are interested in home movies—of completely normal people, doing completely normal things—for lots of really good reasons. Home movies from just a few years ago show a world that looks pretty different from the one we live in now: kids rode their bikes without helmets on; men wore hats and spats, and women wore gloves and girdles; public beaches and facilities in the South were segregated—these are just a few examples! Seeing this world in home movies is useful for historians, writers, documentary filmmakers, costume designers, and even the ordinary people who live in those same (but somehow different) places today. If your home movies depict the everyday life of people of color, the differently abled, or others who continue to be under-represented in commercial films and on TV, we think it is especially important that they be shown.

Also, you may be surprised to find that your “dumb old home movies” aren’t like you remember them at all—they might have pictures of family members, friends, or places you haven’t seen or thought about in a long time. We think they’re definitely worth a look! Back to top

The more an archive knows about your materials, the more interest they may have in providing a new home for them. If the archives you contact initially do not collect amateur film, ask them for help in finding a repository that does take the sort of material you have. And keep trying! Many archives have only begun to collect amateur film in recent years, and new ones are collecting in this area every year.  Back to top

It’s easy to confuse historic value with cash value when it comes to home movies. It’s true that some reels of amateur footage have been sold for surprisingly high sums—usually to collectors who want specific kinds of material, like World’s Fair footage or shots of famous people. Sadly, these films are sometimes chunks of larger reels that are cut down into segments because the seller thinks they’ll be able to make more money selling four 100-foot reels of, say, 1960s protest footage than one 400-foot reel—even though that means butchering material that’s much more meaningful as a continuous piece.

There’s no easy way to tell if your home movies are worth a bundle of money. Holding onto them in the hopes that they’ll be worth more later is not a good idea—just like good wine, film becomes more complex and nuanced with age, but if it’s not stored properly it can literally turn into vinegar! At Home Movie Day (and in the archive world in general), we feel that some amateur film materials may fetch more on Ebay, but that all amateur films are priceless from a cultural and historical standpoint. Selling films in the collector’s market often means that no one (at least, no one who isn’t paying a licensing fee) ever sees the footage again. And archives almost never have the funding available to buy even the most important films that come up in online auctions. Materials donated to an archive, on the other hand, may be tax-deductible gifts. They also stand a better chance of being preserved for future audiences; of being publicly accessible; of being used in future productions like documentary films; and of becoming part of a larger, richer picture of our past. If your home movies have been important enough for you to keep all this time, aren’t they important enough to preserve and share with future generations?  Back to top

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