Group Forms to Address Problem of ‘Lost’ Films

Filmmakers Mary Harron, Shola Lynch, Nancy Savoca, Ira Deutchman and Richard Guay; entertainment lawyer Susan Bodine; and archivist/distributors and co-founders of Milestone Film and Video Dennis Doros and Amy Heller have joined forces to create the new organization Missing Movies to address the problem of “lost” films, movies that are completely unavailable due to rights and ownership problems, difficulties in locating original materials, and the lack of a business model to support the creation of restorations suitable for the current marketplace.

The idea for Missing Movies began when Savoca and Guay discovered that their 1993 film Household Saints could not screen in a retrospective at Columbia University because of problems with all three of the issues above.

“We began an extensive research project, and with the help of our lawyer Sue Bodine and the original distributor of the film, Ira Deutchman, we were finally able to create a scenario where the film could be made available again,” Savoca said in a statement. “In talking to other filmmakers about our journey, we realized that many other films — particularly independent films made in the 1980s and 1990s — were in similar straits.”

Last November, Savoca and Guay organized a panel discussion with the Directors Guild of America to share their concerns with other filmmakers. It was this panel that brought together the group that has created Missing Movies and written a manifesto.

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Many filmmakers are unprepared — financially or logistically — to embark on the research and financial commitment to recover their own “lost” films, according to the group. The group has discovered that many award-winning movies — including some that premiered at prestigious film festivals — are completely unavailable for audiences to see on any platform or format. Some examples are Victor Nuñez’s Gal Young ‘Un; Marcel Ophuls’ Memory of Justice; Mirra Bank, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer’s Enormous Changes at the Last Minute; Glen Pitre’s Belizaire the Cajun; Sherman Alexie’s The Business of Fancy Dancing; and Bill Couturié’s Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.

“Among the Missing Movies are independent productions representing a diverse cross section of American society, including films by and about women, African Americans, and members of the LGBTQ community,” Heller said in a statement. “The loss of these films impoverishes cinema culture and distorts our history. By working to educate the industry and the public about this issue we hope to find practical and timely solutions.”

The Working Group includes Mary Harron, Shola Lynch, Nancy Savoca, Ira Deutchman, Richard Guay, Amy Heller, Dennis Doros and Sue Bodine.

The Advisory Group includes Mira Nair, Maggie Renzi, Allison Anders, Maggie Greenwald, Dolly Hall Allyson, Nadia Fields and Ruby Lerner.