A cold day in the library 1.16

I spent the frigid cold AM tucked up snugly in the RI Historical Society's Library watching TV. I'd made an appointment to see some tapes from WJAR's archives- 50'rolls of on-the-spot news dating back to the 1950's. Of course I'd only chosen 4 out of the 50K plus reels in the collection, but they all (the index assured me) dealt with elephants and the circus.

It was a dislocating experience, since each film had to be hand-threaded and rolled through a viewing machine like an ancient editor, and the sound and pix were played separately. Made me (once again) appreciate digital technology!

Some of the footage would be a great addition to the doc- especially "Glocester Elephant- B roll" which followed the celebrations in Chepachet in 1976. But I have to tread cautiously here. The stuff will cost a fortune to obtain and license for my project. $15 a second for licensing is only a start. There are transfer fees. And shipping fees. Etc. fees- adding up to around $1500 a minute for an individual. Of course if I get a non-profit fiscal agent, that price could be adjusted at the non-profit rate, but they keep the rights... What, I must think, are my alternatives? I'm a real sucker for archival footage in films. But it has to be good, pertinent and otherwise ungettable stuff for me to shell out that kind of dough.

The morning wasn't a total bust, though. I ended up with three pages of titles of newspapers from the 1820s, which will require another trip to the vaults and a whole day to search them on microfilm. No guarantees that any of them will have covered the Chepachet goings on, but it's a start. And, of course, there are the state archives which I haven't begun to mine yet.

All of which leads to some cogitation. Should I be refocusing my project's lens? Should I really be working on all three stories, or limit the film to just one event (Chepachet) and wind all of the questions around it? In other words, have I once again bitten off more than I should chew?

Doc making requires much staring into space and running reels from my head to a blank wall. More as things unspool...

1 comment:

Rich Amada said...


Nice blog, and very interesting project.

Regarding the "refocusing" question...here's my two-cents worth. As a TV news reporter, I used to cover a story by gathering as much information as I possibly could. Then I'd return to the newsroom to write the story. The biggest challenge was telling it all in the approximate one-and-a-half minutes budgeted for the story in the newscast. Trust me, you can't tell everything you know about almost anything in that short a time. The experience taught me how to part with some information (including some pretty interesting stuff) because I just couldn't shoehorn it all in and still make the final product something I'd be proud of and the audience would enjoy. Lots of stuff I had learned during the researching just had to fall by the wayside.

Unless time simply doesn't permit, I encourage one to get everything you can with the research, and then decide how to focus what you've got for the best possible impact on your audience. Don't be afraid to leave out some things you've learned. You can't include everything. It may be that three stories have equal impact and each deserves an equal showcase, or you might decide only one of them is the real star of the show. You, as the researcher, will always know more than your audience.

Best of luck on the project.