Tag Archives: film preservation

A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer [director’s cut]

31 Oct

Director, Cinematographer, Editor: Richard Beymer
Producers: Richard Beymer and Council of Federated Organization Film (COFO). Copyright © 1964 Richard Beymer. All rights reserved.

A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer

Washington University Film & Media Archive is excited to make Richard Beymer’s A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer [director’s cut] available in full to the public. As part of a National Film Preservation Foundation Grant (NFPF) awarded this year to the Film & Media Archive, the original version is currently undergoing preservation.  Once the preservation work is complete the original version will be available for scholars and fans.   Thanks to the generosity of the filmmaker, the director’s cut is currently available to view.

Filmed in 1964 during the Mississippi Summer Project, a campaign to register black voters, provide educational opportunities, and build the movement for integration, Beymer’s film is unique as he was one of the few filmmakers working side-by-side with the activists and volunteers who made up the massive movement that was Freedom Summer.  In 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella group of civil rights organizations that included SNCC working in Mississippi, issued a call for volunteers, and nearly 1,000 responded. After receiving training, the volunteers, mostly white, northern college students and recent graduates, joined the existing group of predominantly black activists. But it wasn’t just students who heeded to call to come to Mississippi that summer.

After gaining notice in films such as The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Richard Beymer became a major star after appearing in West Side Story in 1961. He continued to work in Hollywood but was riveted by the news reports coming out of the South and Mississippi during the turbulent years of the early sixties. After being challenged to do something about his convictions by his agent during a cross-country trip to New York, Beymer decided to go to Mississippi during Freedom Summer.

At that time the I.F. Stone Weekly was an independent publication that covered the activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Since SNCC was one of the main organizers of the Mississippi Summer Project Beymer contacted I.F. Stone, the journalist and publisher responsible for the newsletter, and asked on advice on how to get to Mississippi. Stone’s advice, “You get in your car and drive to Mississippi,” while practical did not provide much detail on how to make contacts or find activists. When Beymer arrived in Mississippi, he asked people in town where the closest SNCC office near Jackson, Mississippi was. When he found the office, he explained his presence by saying, “I want to be part of this.” A SNCC volunteer handed him a broom and said, “Fine. There’s a broom, you can start with that.”

After a few days, Beymer attended an out-of-state orientation and it was during this time that the idea of making a film came to him. He had done a lot of still photography and had wanted to make a film before and proposed the idea to the organizers of a piece that could be shown to volunteers so they would have some idea of what they were getting into. They agreed and Beymer returned to Mississippi armed with a 16mm Bolex camera and a supply of black and white 16mm film.

Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964

Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964, © Richard Beymer Collection.

During the summer, Beymer worked doing voter registration, canvassed neighborhoods, and in between doing this work filmed the daily lives and activities of the volunteers and the local people and children. He explained that he had his camera with him at all times and,”When I saw something that struck me, I had it there ready to go. I was making a film of my experience, wherever it took me.”

“I had no idea what I was getting into. Until you walk into it, you don’t know all of that.” — Richard Beymer

Speaking of the dangers of doing the work SNCC was engaged, Beymer said, “We were out in the boonies. It was kind of scary and where are you going to go–to the police? Anyone could have been killed at any time.”

Beymer describes the time as both positive and negative. Within the world of the volunteers and the African-American Mississippians, “We ate together, we went to these crummy little bars, we were all together there, it was great.” But he was shocked by the conditions that existed for black Mississippians at that time and that brutal poverty is captured in the film.

In addition to the poverty, the threat of racist violence haunted Freedom Summer from the beginning. On June 21, one week after the first volunteers arrived for training, three activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared. The FBI conducted a massive search and found their corpses on August 4. All of the work the volunteers engaged in was done with the threat of something similar happening to them hanging over their heads.

Beymer didn’t develop the film until he returned to Los Angeles at the end of the summer, and then spent the next year editing. The footage Beymer captured has a naturalistic, spontaneous quality that evokes cinema vérité techniques at times. The impact of this footage showing the work of Mississippi volunteers and the local people who had not been given an opportunity to share their stories has carried through till the present day. As a result, other documentary filmmakers frequently seek his footage. Most recently, filmmaker Stanley Nelson relied heavily on A Regular Bouquet when completing his film, Freedom Summer, which premiered in June 2014 on PBS and footage from Beymer’s film appeared in Henry Hampton’s seminal documentary series, Eyes on the Prize (1987), episode five, Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964).

Participants at an organizational meeting during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © Richard Beymer Collection.

Participants at an organizational meeting during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © Richard Beymer Collection.

A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer is part of the Richard Beymer Collection at the Film & Media Archive. In addition to the film elements of A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer, and a collection of black and white photographs that were shot during filming, the collection contains other titles by Beymer including The Innerview, Point of Departure and Perfect Movies. It also includes a taping of part of show 3 of Midnight Snacks by Andy Kaufman on which Richard Beymer appeared.

* Note: Quotes for this article are from a telephone interview with Richard Beymer, from August 18, 2014.

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Screening of “A Regular Bouquet” and Q&A with Actor and Filmmaker Richard Beymer

26 Sep

Washington University Film & Media Archive hosted a screening of A Regular Bouquet, followed by a Q&A with actor and filmmaker, Richard Beymer on September 23. Best known for his roles as “Tony” in the film adaption of West Side Story (1961) and “Ben Horne” in David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), actor Richard Beymer’s documentary film, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer (1964) offers a rare portrait of segregated Mississippi during this historically significant time in American History. Beymer was one of the few filmmakers to spend significant time working with Freedom Summer volunteers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Footage from Beymer’s film was used in filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Summer (2014) and in episode five of Henry Hampton’s landmark series Eyes on the Prize, Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964). 

A Regular Bouquet is a unique film and primary document of Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Beymer worked alongside Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists, organizing and registering people to vote in rural Mississippi. The footage he captured shows the daily life of African-American Mississippians and the extreme poverty and deprivation of their surroundings along with the excitement of the young people attending the Freedom Schools and organizational meetings. Many thanks to Mr. Beymer for sharing his film and memories with the audience.

Washington University Film & Media Archive received a National Film Preservation Foundation Grant (NFPF) to preserve A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi SummerOnce the preservation state is complete, Washington University Film & Media Archive will create a digital copy which will be available to stream online.  A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer is an invaluable film for filmmakers, researchers, teachers, and historians, and we look forward to making it available to the public.

Actor and filmmaker Richard Beymer and audience during the Q&A following the screening of

Actor and filmmaker Richard Beymer and audience during the Q&A following the screening of “A Regular Bouquet.”

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer

28 Aug
Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer

An exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer is now on view in Olin Library, Gingko Room.

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer highlights primary source materials from the Washington University Libraries Film & Media Archive’s newly acquired Richard Beymer Collection and inaugural Henry Hampton Collection.The exhibit also celebrates the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) grant awarded to the Film & Media Archive in 2014 to preserve Beymer’s documentary A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer.

Best known for his roles as “Tony” in the film adaption of West Side Story (1961) and “Ben Horne” in David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), actor Richard Beymer’s documentary film, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer (1964) offers a rare portrait of segregated Mississippi during this historically significant time in American History. Beymer was one of the few filmmakers to spend significant time working with Freedom Summer volunteers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As a result, other documentary filmmakers frequently seek his footage. Most recently, filmmaker Stanley Nelson relied heavily on A Regular Bouquet when completing his film, Freedom Summer, which premiered in June 2014 on PBS. Beymer’s footage was also included in Henry Hampton’s seminal documentary series, Eyes on the Prize (1987). Featured in episode five, Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) Hampton combined stock footage and first-hand accounts to retell the events of Freedom Summer.

Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © The Richard Beymer Collection.

 

In 1964, civil rights activists launched Freedom Summer, a project in Mississippi to register black voters, provide educational opportunities, and build the movement for integration. The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella group of civil rights organizations that included SNCC working in Mississippi, issued a call for volunteers, and nearly 1,000 responded. After receiving training, the volunteers, mostly white, northern college students and recent graduates, joined the existing group of predominantly black activists.

Richard Beymer set out to film these activities in order to create a training tool for COFO’s future volunteers.  Comprised of testimonials from volunteers and Black Mississippi residents, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer consists of rare and historically significant primary source depictions of segregated Mississippi against the backdrop of violent opposition. The film also includes footage of Freedom Schools, which provided instruction to over 3,000 black students. The schools directly challenged Mississippi’s segregated education system by offering instruction on black history and constitutional rights. Portraying the intimate relationship between teacher and student, the film includes interviews, class instruction, sing-alongs, and a discussion of the student-written Pleasant Green Magazine

Students at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Students at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

The threat of racist violence haunted Freedom Summer from the beginning. On June 21, one week after the first volunteers arrived for training, three activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared. The FBI conducted a massive search and found their corpses on August 4. Despite the threat of violence, Freedom Summer volunteers engaged in door-to-door voter-registration efforts. Beymer filmed the registration drive and interviewed participants. One resident discussed the economic tactics used by segregationists: “When you put ‘By whom are you employed’ [on the application form], you’re fired by the time you get back home.” Mississippi officials rejected the vast majority of voter-registration applications submitted by African-American residents that summer. But the events of Freedom Summer increased public support for new civil rights legislation, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When Henry Hampton made Eyes on the Prize one of his main goals was to include the voices of people who had not been recorded or widely recognized before. Many local activists in remote areas of Mississippi who had organized early on to gain voting rights, often at great risk, were featured in the episode Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964). Hampton interviewed Robert Moses and Amize Moore, two of the main architects and planners of Freedom Summer, Unita Blackwell, local activist who became one of the delegates in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Casey and Tom Hayen, Freedom Summer volunteers, and Myrlie Evers, civil rights activist and widow of slain Mississippi leader Medgar Evers. Hampton also interviewed segregations, including William Simmons, a member of the Citizens’ Council—a pro-segregation organization that operated in Mississippi—to show what the prevailing political climate was like in Mississippi in 1964 and what the Freedom Summer volunteers had to combat. By interviewing people from both sides of the issue, Hampton brought a multifaceted portrait of Mississippi to viewers.

Together A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer and Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) create a complex portrait of life in Mississippi during Freedom Summer and an understanding of the social and political pressures that existed during this volatile period in our nation’s history.

 

 

Inside the Film Archive

14 Feb
Film & Media Archive stacks

Washington University Film & Media Archive stacks

The climate controlled vault at the Film & Media Archive was designed to address the challenges of storing film and other media to ensure the material lasts for the maximum amount of time and remains in the best condition.

Film preservation efforts varied over time, but unfortunately 90 percent of all American silent films made before 1929 and 50 percent of American sound films made before 1950 are lost. ( Dave Kehr (14 October 2010). “Film Riches, Cleaned Up for Posterity”New York Times.

To properly store film the temperature and humidity must be controlled and provide a stable environment for the materials. Filmmakers and historians recognized the need for this and the Museum of Modern Art in New York was one of the first institutions to collect and preserve film. Followed by the founding of the  George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in 1947, the American Film Institute founded in 1967, and The Film Foundation, created by Martin Scorsese in 1990. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but over the years film preservationists have  continued to make advances in how film is stored and treated.

The Washington University Film & Media Archive currently contains 6,500,000 feet (based on can size),  1,300 linear feet (manuscript boxes), 19,900 video tapes, 10, 150 audio tapes, 4,650 books, 160 CDs, 800 DVDs, and 25,000 photographs.

 Photos by Alison Carrick. 

Grace Kelly’s Home Movies

18 Oct

Home Movie Day in St. Louis, hosted by Washington University Film & Media Archive and the St. Louis Central Public Library, will take place on October 26, 2013 at the St. Louis Central Public Library from 1 pm to 3 pm.

In anticipation of the event, here is a short clip of Grace Kelly’s home movies featuring her co-star and friend, Cary Grant.

Join us and bring your home movies on 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm, VHS, or DVD to screen. In addition to screening home movies, the event provides an opportunity to learn how to care for home movies.

Home Movie Day in St. Louis is free and will be held at the St. Louis Central Public Library in the Creative Experience room from 1 pm to 3 pm.

Contact the Film & Media Archive (wufilmarchives@wumail.wustl.edu or 314-935-8679) for information about including your home movies in the program.

Film Preservation Techniques

6 Sep
Film reel, Film & Media Archive, Washington University. Photo by Alison Carrick.

Film reel, Film & Media Archive, Washington University. Photo by Alison Carrick.

The British Film Institute National Archive has a series of videos on its website that give a great overview of film preservation and restoration techniques. Take a virtual tour of the BFI’s labs and view the techniques and standard practices used by film archivists in the links below.

BFI National Archive’s Dry Lab

The clip investigates the essential processes that take place in the BFI National Archive’s Dry Lab, in which technical archivists examine, repair, and prepare films for exhibition and storage in the BFI Vaults.

BFI National Archive’s Wet Lab

This clip investigates the essential processes that take place in the BFI National Archive’s Wet Lab, which ensures that films are in an optimal state to be shown and enjoyed, creating crucial new copies of restored or preserved films.

Nitrate Film at the BFI

The BFI holds the largest collection of nitrate film stock in the world, extending the life of this now retired medium. Highly combustible and unstable, the BFI has developed a range of measures to ensure these rare nitrate assets are safe from potential degradation.

Long Live Film: Nitrate Season

 Here Head Curator Robin Baker at BFI discusses one of the pivotal projects associated with the anniversary, the very rare and exclusive projection of nitrate film, and outlines in detail the historical importance of the format and the difficulties involved in its maintenance.

The National Film Preservation Foundation

26 Apr
The Two Orphans (1911), Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

The Two Orphans (1911), Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) is a great resource for information about film preservation and news on the latest developments in the field. The National Film Preservation Foundation was created by the U.S. Congress in 1997 as an nonprofit organization to help save films which would by unlikely to survive without public support. They have developed grant programs to enable film archives across the county to preserve films that might otherwise be lost.

The Film & Media Archive was a recepient of a grant from the NFPF last year and preserved the only known footage of noted writer and critic Ford Madox Ford. The film, George T. Keating Home Movie featuring Ford Madox Ford, is now preserved and access copies can be viewed at the archive.

The NFPF’s website is a great place to learn more about film preservation and find resources, guides, and examples of perserved films:

All in all, it’s a great place to start learning about film preservation and exploring lost, unknown, and recovered films.

Image from George T. Keating Home Movie featuring Ford Madox Ford

Image from George T. Keating Home Movie featuring Ford Madox Ford