In recent years, audiences have been captivated by new exciting documentary films about the lives and music of famous musicians and performers from The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and Nina Simone to Amy Winehouse and Nirvana. Jessica Berman Bogdan is a veteran archive producer and the CEO of Global Image Works, where she works together with Cathy Carapella, as music rights and clearances professional. As a team, they have worked on some amazing archival music documentaries, finding and clearing the images and music that made the films possible.
In this episode of our series, Jessica and Cathy discuss the ins and outs of sourcing and clearing material related to the music industry for documentary film and television productions. From budgeting to understanding the multiple kinds of rights associated with music and live performance footage, they shared some key advice for producers and archive researchers looking to create lasting works about the music, it’s creators and the performers that bring it to life.
More episodes from the masterclass series to come soon! If you want to be the first to know when the next one will become available, simply sign up on the platform and get exclusive early access to all our weekly updates, interviews and videos dedicated to the world of archive research.
Here at Archive Valley, we feel privileged to have among our users some of today’s most exciting and important documentary filmmakers. It is always special when finally the moment comes and a premiere of a production on Archive Valley has been announced. We are happy to share that this year’s Toronto Film Festival will screen the world premiere of “This changes everything” as part of their official selection. Directed by Tom Donahue and produced by Creative Chaos the feature-length documentary explores a monumentally important issue in the entertainment industry – the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women. The documentary not only provides historical context and empirical evidence about the paradigms sustaining the gender discrimination but also gives the audience hope that change is possible. Here’s the director’s powerful statement about the driving forces behind the production and how he succeeded to show that strong calls to action can be triggered both in the industry and in the society as a whole:
“As a male director, I was keenly aware of the responsibility I had in making this film and that there were too few men speaking up on the issue at all. It affirmed my belief that true change cannot happen if men don’t step up on the issue. As Meryl Streep says in the film, “Change can only happen when men take a stand.” Gender inequality is a problem that our entire society must confront, not just those on the receiving end of the injustice. I intended this film not only as an investigation into workplace discrimination in Hollywood but also as a call to men to be part of the solution. Real and lasting change can only come when grassroots activism works in concert with the powers at the top, whatever the personal or institutional cost. As Melissa Goodman at the ACLU says in the film, “If you are a person with hiring power and you’re not actively working to hire women, then you are part of the problem.
In the first year of making the film, we were introduced to the work of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Through Geena and her team, I came to understand the outsized impact the disparity within the small town of Hollywood has on the larger world. When half of a society’s population does not have a voice, the entire culture is degraded. Leaving it awash in a toxic masculinity that rests power in people who are not working in the interest of everyone.
We were fortunate to have many female and male power players in Hollywood sit before our cameras. We had the added fortune of witnessing a new wave feminist movement explode onto the scene while we were shooting. The movement has galvanized the women of Hollywood to take concrete steps toward change. There is growing consensus that the time for talk is over but this is not necessarily new. The film’s title comes out of my second interview with Geena when she speaks of hugely successful female-driven films that exceeded expectations and that many believed would finally cause things to change… and then nothing did. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING is not meant as just a showcase of the problem but as a call to action to further the cause of the radical change necessary for us to move forward as a culture and as a country.”
The documentary includes interviews with Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Rashida Jones, Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Chastain, Tiffany Haddish, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Judd Apatow. Although archival footage was included only in the long version of the film, it proved to be an essential tool for building the narrative. In the director’s words: “Providing historical context is a big part of what we do here at CreativeChaos and Archive Valley proved immensely helpful. It was incredibly beneficial to be able to deep dive into footage from the silent film era, suffragette Movement, second wave feminism…This archive footage helped us immensely with the film’s structure, in bolstering our argument.”
For those of you who are attending TIFF, “This changes everything premieres” on Saturday, Sept 8, 2018 in Roy Thompson Hall, with a specially organized Q&A session after the screening. Not to be missed!
More than 2000 TV/Film professionals use Archive Valley for their archival footage needs
Let’s forget about OTT and TV screens for a minute, because history is not anymore intended to be told only through flat and linear contents. New ways of archival storytelling at the crossroad of the documentary and digital scenes are popping up all over the internet, driven by a desire to embark the youngest audience on more engaging experiences of the past. This craze became “the occasion” for this year’s Sunny Side of the Doc breakfast discussion « Archives & new storytelling, a history of love ». The panel was moderated by the producer Laurent Duret (Bachibouzouk) and as one of the invited panelists, Archive Valley is happy to share with you some insights into this new exciting trend.
We see today a growing number of content creators investing the infinite channels and media offered by the digital world with new types of archive-driven narratives, largely stimulated by the rise of the short-doc form. And when it comes to short form, the influence of Twitter cannot be neglected.
Already in 2011 while being busy blending archive and innovation at studio ArtchiviumLab, we’ve happily discovered the new-born twitter account @HistoryInPics, managed by two teenagers with one clear ambition: creating the buzz out of entertaining and powerful historical photographs picked on the internet and supercharged with a dramatic storytelling. While one can argue that historical truth and data accuracy were not really their point of concern when it all started, the duo’s first tweets went quickly viral, and as a result, we saw an invasion of archival content in the social media. Eventually, none of the myriads of similar twitter accounts created on the same model could compete with the team’ s great sense of spectacle, neither reproduce their huge success: the still-active account @HistoryInPics boasts today more than 4 million followers.
Similarly, the blog project “Retronaut” (See the past like you wouldn’t believe) started in 2010 with WolgangWild’s idea to share his fascination for the nostalgia by showcasing and curating his own collection of odd and eccentric old photographs in so-called ‘capsules’ of time. Three weeks after the launch, the site got 30,000 hits in one day thanks to a post celebrating wonderful Kodachrome color photographs of 1949’s London. In 2014, the blog’ success led to an exclusive partnership with Mashable and Retronaut’s content became the most shared and viewed piece on the whole website. By now more than 40,000 Retronautic photographs were published, each one carefully chosen for its power « to disrupt the viewers’ sense of the past » and to generate a viral hit, based on what Wild established as the S.P.E.E.D. formula: a unique approach for predicting any archival photograph’s potential for drawing an enormous audience.
Most importantly, a great appetite for archival storytelling (when done right) emerged, and thanks to all the disruption in the way content is being distributed, the rise of social media and cross-media made it work even better. Filmmakers and content creators, as well as newspapers and even archival sources, quickly grabbed that unique opportunity to reach a global audience. Let’s shade a light on some of those standout projects that bring archives and history even closer to the contemporary audience.
As a former journalist seeking for new territories apart from the traditional press and the linear documentary, Bruno Masi is one of the pioneers of the web documentary form with his interactive project “La Zone”(2011), revealing the Chernobyl aftermath. A couple of years later on the occasion of the centenary of the WWI, he creates the project ‘1914 Dernières Nouvelles’(co-produced by Arte and Bachibouzouk), an online newspaper that will set a daily appointment with the contemporary audience. In an attempt to immerse the audience into the daily life and escalating dangers of this crucial year, through the use of a pseudo-live temporality, the project displays one archival photograph per day during eight months, together with press articles and additional textual information that help to bring context in some sort of « popcorn narration ». As a partnership between TV channel Arte and newspaper Liberation, the project has been displayed in different channels and platforms simultaneously in order to multiply the impact of the project.
The author’s latest experimental project “Barricade“(co-produced by INA, Bachibouzouk, and Liberation.fr) is based on a similar process, with a web-series of 20 episodes, 20 minutes each, telling hour by hour May 1968’s most violent day. Based on archival footage from INA’s collections, the series aims to respect the historical chronology of the events while the unusual use of voices inputs a fictional and cinematographic storytelling approach to the narration. Should we refer to it as docu-fiction? Not really. Instead, chief editor at digital productions INA Amandine Collinet is more likely to speak about « documented fiction », a new sophisticated form of storytelling where archives are treated as a pure material of fiction.
“La Grande Explication” is another project recently initiated by the French archive INA together with RTS in resonance with anniversary dates which appear to be the most rewarding strategy to drive audience. Dedicated for a youth target audience mainly active on Facebook, this 10 episodes web-series aims at deciphering ten major historical events, from Hiroshima bombing to Nelson Mandela election, while overlaying the archive clips with modern graphics such as text message bubbles inspired by the smartphone aesthetic in order to «dynamize and desacralize the archives ».
Yet, speaking about repackaging the archives using the technologies of today, a special mention needs to go out to 1968.DIGITAL, the first-ever mobile documentary series. Specially tailored for smartphone screens, this ongoing project takes up the challenge of revisiting the story of one heroic character per week through the lens of their iPhone and the various apps they could have owned in 1968; viewers witness the Beatles exchanging via a WhatsApp chat, Andy Warhol sharing photos on Instagram, Gabriel Garcia Marquez writing in Notes, and Martin Luther King’s funeral is announced via a Facebook’s event reminder.
Created and produced by Russian independent journalists and cofounders of Future History studio, Mikhail Zygar and Karen Shainyan, this project is the result of a prior effort to bring primary sources to the forefront with “Project1917“, a web-project relying on Facebook daily posting style to immerse the audience into the making of the Russian Revolution. In addition to providing a fresh experience of the past, Future History’s projects rely on a very specific mission statement: showing how major events shaped the culture and the society of nowadays while revealing patterns of similarities and clear influences between people across the world, both in the present and the past.
A social media phenomenon, “1968.DIGITAL“(The Year that created the world as we know it) has so far reached millions of views thanks to a smart distribution strategy based on partnerships with different news media, maximizing the chance to disseminate the content across a wide variety of channels and platforms… and to multiply the views. The project was initially designed as a three-episode series untitled “Future History: 1968,” which was premiered by BuzzFeed News, the millennial-focused site, and it was released exclusively on Apple News before going to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Soon additional news publishers have joined the project such as “Liberation.fr” for producing a French version of the series.
All this is actually very representative of what’s going on today with news businesses: they are in a frenzy for original, fresh and higher-quality video content to license or produce, and especially for short docs aiming to recap historical moments while providing context to nowadays world Another great example is The New York Times ‘partnership with the news organization Retro Report, which has produced more than 125 short docs, combining investigative journalism and narrative storytelling to tell the audience the history behind the news.
A mix of digital creatives and journalists, all those highly-engaged creators are not only working on adding a modern twist to archival storytelling but they are also giving a fresh and unprecedented access to history and archives to the youngest generations via unique video experiences delivered directly to their doors: in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Mashable, BuzzFeed etc. What an exciting and optimistic time for archival storytelling.
More than 2000 TV/Film professionals use Archive Valley for their archival footage needs
Why and when did you start being interested by archives, History and Heritage in general?
I was interested in the history from my very early ages. Growing up in Warsaw you are surrounded by the recent tragic events, but also you are becoming more and more interested in the layers of the city. The more you learn, the more you discover. Thanks to my parents, my grandparents, history was always present in my home.
You are an active member of the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw, Poland. Could you tell us a bit more about the history, the building of the collection and your work with this institution?
I can talk about Jewish Historical Institute for hours. It’s my second home. It’s a very, very unique place in Warsaw’s history, in the Polish-Jewish history, and I think it’s also has a very important place in a Jewish history in general. 85% of the left side of the Vistula river was destroyed during the war, we don’t have many original buildings, but the building of the JHI survived and serves the Jewish community till today. Before the war, the building was the headquarters of the Main Judaic Library and of the Institute for Judaic Studies. The latter opened on February 9th, 1928, became the first Jewish research and educational center in Europe which, alongside theological studies, also took into account secular studies. The building of the Main Judaic Library was built adjacent to the Great Synagogue at T?omackie Street.It was opened in 1936. During the war, our building was one of the centers of Jewish social life in the Warsaw ghetto. From November 16th, 1940 until March 1942, the Library building was within the ghetto borders. Here the literary evenings, theater performances, meetings for children and symphony concerts took place. Also, there took place conspiratorial meetings of the Oneg Shabbat (Hebrew: Joy of Sabbath) which, under the direction of the historian Emanuel Ringelblum was gathering comprehensive documentation of the life and the extermination of the Jews in occupied by the Nazi German Poland during World War II. On May 16th, 1943, as a sign of the suppression of any resistance in the Warsaw ghetto, the SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei Jürgen Stroop ordered the dynamiting of the Great Synagogue and torching of the Library building. By doing this, he symbolically achieved “the final solution of the Warsaw Jewry.”Traces of the fire are visible on the floor of the main hall of the Institute until this day, but building survived. During the war 90% of Polish Jewry was killed, the one who managed to survived established Center Committee of Polish Jews, with a headquarter on T?omackie Street. In 1947 Jewish Historical Institute was opened, as a first Holocaust research center and for me, this place is a symbol of the continuity of Jewish life in Poland
Are Polish people becoming more interested and open to learn about the Jewish heritage of their country?
It’s a very interesting phenomenon, but I think people feel the gap. 75 years ago Poland was multiethnic country, now 90% of the country are “ethnic” Poles (whatever that means). And I think this is amazing, that so many non-Jews are helping with the old cemeteries, old synagogues, Jewish heritage in general. People are interested in a Jewish culture, books, music, religion, but also many of them realized that there is no Polish culture without Jews, and there is no Ashkenazi culture without Poles. When I see a huge crowd during festivals devoted to the Jewish culture my heart is happy, and I am talking about not only big festivals, like Kraków, Wroc?aw or Warsaw but also in smaller cities. There are so many local historians, crazy people ( in a good way) who wants to know more about the Jewish past of their cities, towns, villages. There is a lot of good initiatives and amazing people, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us. People have to remember or acknowledge more than 3 million Poles, non-Jews victims of the German occupation, but some Poles need to acknowledge the hard truth about the war and time of Shoah, not every Pole helped his/her Jewish neighbor in need… Unfortunately. But only honest dialogue will help us.
The polish documentary film « The Prince of the Dybbuk » received the Venice Classics Award for the Best Documentary won. Are Polish people becoming more interested and open to learn about the Jewishheritage of their country?
As I said above, there is no Polish culture without Jews and Jewish culture. Many of the Polish directors, books, music were influenced by the Jewish tradition, made by Jewish Poles, so I think Poles are generally aware that their favorite poet has Jewish roots, and the Jewish subject is very present on every level in Poland. In the culture, heritage, politics, all the time. Though every generation has different tools to talk about the heritage, past, shared experience, memory and I think this generation wants to have a deeper conversation about it. Not only the “romantic” image of the Jew as a Fiddler on the Roof but the conversation about Polish Jews. About the identity, thoughts, religion, what does it mean to be a Polish Jew? What does it mean to me?
Do you think there has been a recent surge in archival driven documentary? What is your general view on the current state of the Polish doc industry.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any statistics in this field but seeing what is going on around me I think there is a huge interest in the documentary work, but when you think about it, there always was. Even during the communist era, when people didn’t have access to the outside iron curtain world, people were curious and very creative, and the work of the documentalists from that period is really impressive.
What resources do you mostly use for your research?
Archives, newspapers, business directories, immigration/emigration documents, testimonies, it depends.
Could you tell us a bit more about the profession of Archive Researcher in Poland?
The world of researchers are divided into the one who is doing it professionally in the archives, libraries, public institutions and they are not very well paid. And then there is a second group – private researchers who make a lot of money for doing research and among this group you have another subgroup very devoted and passionate about their work, and the second one who is mainly focused on the financial aspect. Today overall it’s much better, but sometimes you can still see the remnants of the “homo sovieticus”/communist in the behavior in the archives but it’s getting better 🙂
What is the archive discovery you are the most proud of?
I know maybe it’s stupid, but I am collecting pictures of T?omackie Street and Great Synagogue in Warsaw, and recently I found an extremely rare picture of T?omackie street. But every day at my work as a genealogist I see small miracles. Sometimes are bigger like founding two sisters separated 70 years ago, but sometimes the location of the house of the family, or occupation or university file with handwriting is something really special for me.
Can you give us a sneak peek into a project you are currently working on?
There is a chanukia (candelabra for Chanuka) in a Diaspora Museum in TLV and they claimed is from the Great Synagogue in Warsaw. In my humble opinion, it’s not from our synagogue and I am trying to prove it. Though it will be a long process we will what will happen. I have few very interesting genealogical cases but can’t talk about it without the permission of our guests. So more to come, stay tuned!
More than 2000 TV/Film professionals use Archive Valley for their archival footage needs
‘Bobby Kennedy for President’ is shaping up to be one of Netflix’s biggest documentary releases of 2018. The four-part series is not only a fascinating study of American politics during that period but also an intimate portrait of the complex Robert Kennedy. We had the chance to catch up with the series’ Archival Producer, Rich Remsberg, who is also a member of our international community of professional archive researchers. We spoke about the monumental archive research and production that made this series a true achievement in historical documentary.
How did you get involved in the project? There are plenty of films dedicated to the Kennedy’s, what made this one unique for you?
From the initial phone call with the producers, it was clear that this project would go deeper than the usual treatment of Robert Kennedy. For starters, the four-hour format allowed for the archival to breathe in a way that is not possible in shorter docs. The intelligence that the director and producers conveyed in talking about the story suggested that they understood RFK’s complexities and contradictions and that this story would be told with a good deal of dimension.
Considering the enormous volume of archives coming from multiple sources, how did you manage to organize the workflow?
Largely by relying on colleagues! During the research phase of the project, I was focused on finding material; our archival co-producer, Brian Becker, sorted and tracked it all. We used color coding and a couple of pretty straightforward spreadsheets on Google Docs, and Brian had a lot in his head. Our assistant editors ran a very tight ship, and our story producer, Elizabeth Wolff, had total recall for every aspect of RFK’s history.
For managing costs and licensing, I had a more complicated set of linked Excel spreadsheets to accommodate the four individual episodes and project totals. I came to see spreadsheets as something like crossword puzzles, where the game is to fill in every square.
What was the most challenging part of the process?
Without question, the most difficult part of the project was the effort to get footage from archives that would not grant access or made it difficult. There were several, with varying reasons and importance to the project, and they resolved in different ways. For political and politeness sake, I won’t go into details, but it was extremely stressful and we lost a lot of sleep over it. My hair was actually falling out in clumps.
Negotiating terms to meet our budget and ironing our contract language for so many different sources was also a challenge. Because we started ordering for the first hour before we knew what we were using in the fourth, it was especially awkward. I’m grateful to the archives who were willing to work with us on this.
What was your ‘eureka’ moment?
Hard to say, the production schedule didn’t leave much time for savoring in such things. Certainly, finding the footage of Marian Wright Edleman testifying before the Senate committee was an important moment. She speaks so unbelievably beautifully, and she laid out most of what we needed for the exposition of RFK’s southern poverty tours. It also alerted the team to her as a contemporary interview, and she added a lot to the film in that respect.
Another important moment was finding Howard K. Smith’s critical commentary on the Kennedys. There wasn’t much in the way of television news commentary in those early years – Smith and one other commentator were about it. I went through a lot of old TV listings to find references to the original aired programs, but the films were not in the ABC archives. There was a moment of panic, but then I managed to find surviving reels of enough of the programs at the University of Wisconsin. We were able to access from UW and clear with ABC.
Is there a specific piece of footage that you are the most proud of?
There are probably bigger moments to point to, but I liked a lot of the small details, mostly from local news archives, that helped paint a very human picture of Bobby – both the ways people connected with him and their deep dislike of him: Paul Newman’s terse comments from WTMJ, the woman with the excellent bouffant hairdo from Southern Methodist, a dozen different pieces from University of Georgia.
Did you use any international sources to bring fresh new perspectives to the story?
Only a British Pathé newsreel and a British interview that is now in an American archive. This was mostly a US-focused story. For the beats on RFK’s travel to Europe and South Africa, we mostly relied on coverage from the National Archives and the networks.
Could you tell us a bit more about your relationship with the director? How did the script evolve over time with the footage you found?
I worked with Dawn Porter, the director, and Laura Michalchyshyn, the Executive Producer, mostly on big-picture aspects of the project: tone, overall story, the nature of Bobby’s character, key elements, and so forth. Also on budget and legal concerns. For the more specific development, I worked closely with Elizabeth and Brian, considering how to fill story beats, figuring how best to use different pieces of archival, how the archival could build the story structure. As Elizabeth developed the script, there was a lot of her hitting me with requests and my finding the footage quickly to get it into the edit.
Everyone on the project favored using the best footage we could and figuring out how to clear and pay for it later. That made for some long days toward the end, but I think it paid off on the screen.
Netflix is putting a strong focus on heavy archive-driven projects, proving that there is a real demand for the genre. What was the key to creating an immersive experience for a broad audience? How do you think the film appeals to a younger generation?
I think we’ve recently entered a golden age for archival documentaries. One of the best things about that is the platform allows for greater integrity of archival material. Rather than dropping bits of illustrative archival into one- to six-second slots during interviews, there is time for the archival to breathe, to create a more cohesive immersive environment, to convey subtlety, to suggest mood, to express more complex thoughts, to live with contradiction, to get a visceral feel for the atmosphere of the time. OJ was great about this, so was Wild Wild Country. We’re seeing it more and more. I’ve been saying that four hours is the new hour.
Another is that by virtue of being archival-driven it can be less mediated. Interviews can still offer some perspective and keep the story on track, but allowing the archival to carry the historical information leaves more space for the viewer to bring his or her own understanding to the story. I think the best films leave the audience with a complex understanding of the subject and room for different viewers to have different understanding.
I don’t know how many meetings I’ve been in where an executive producer says that young people just aren’t interested in history. I’ve never believed that to be true, and what I’ve found from talking to actual young people is that they expect the visuals to look good, and they don’t want the film to tell them what to think.
How do you think the movie resonates with the audience considering the current political and social developments in USA?
Hoo boy, this really merits a much longer rant, but in the interest of space, I’ll say that 1968 was a node in history where we might have taken a better path. It can be dangerous to play with counterfactual what-ifs, but it’s hard not to entertain at least a thought of that road not taken. I don’t harbor a simple belief that Bobby would have taken us into a beautiful sunlight-bathed world of compassion and justice, but he was an extremely powerful voice – arguably the best voice – for growing in a more mature way as a country, in understanding what it means to be an American citizen.
But here we are, a half century later, with the path taken, a selfish decline to the end of empire. At the same time, there are also other forces at work, and it’s right to ask where in that Bobby’s spirit dwells. It can certainly be found in much of the political resistence, of course, and I think it can be found in our individual sense of decency – not only in committed activists or people who even identify as especially political, just regular people whose conscience says, No that’s not okay; I recognize a different responsibility, and I feel something kinder.
We were never able to fit it into the film, but we tried working with the Dion song, “Abraham, Martin, and John.” It’s a romantic piece that misconceives the killing of Lincoln, JFK, King, and RFK. The part that still gives me chills, though, is the bridge where he asks the simple questions, “Didn’t you love the things they stood for? Didn’t they try to find some good in you and me?”
Rich Remsberg is part of Archive Valley’s community which boasts 500+ talented archive researchers in over 60 countries. If your production needs an archival researcher/producer, you can sign up and find the right person for the job in just a couple of easy steps.
More than 2000 TV/Film professionals use Archive Valley for their archival footage needs