- Collecting Georgia’s Hometown MoviesAcquisition, Ownership, Preservation, and Access
In addition to home movies, there are professionally made movies of various kinds that might have been made in your community in the past. During the mid-1920s, for instance, a number of enterprising young cinematographers went from town to town to create local dramas on film. The scripts were written by local persons, usually someone on the newspaper staff, and were so structured as to include the largest possible number of local persons as actors . . . the philosophy being that whoever was in the film would surely pay to attend the movie showing once the production was completed. . . . There were other, similar, movie-producing groups during those years that went from one town to another to spend a movie-making week in each. Although those movies were presumably dramatic in intent, certainly not historical, they can provide an intriguing look at the town as it was.—Dorothy Weyer Creigh, “Old Movies: A Source of Local History Programs,” History News 32 (October 1977)
Acquiring Hometown Movies
In March 2009, the University of Georgia Libraries’ Media Archives acquired in one week two of what I call hometown movies made by itinerant filmmakers. Though this is not a record archival acquisition, in the world of itinerant filmmakers’ films, it certainly pushes the limits of mere chance, given how astonishing it is that the films survive at all.
I first heard about itinerant filmmakers and the different types of films they made from Caroline Frick and Dwight Swanson, who had been researching Melton Barker’s films (see their respective contributions in this issue). Wondering if there were any of these films [End Page 89] made in Georgia, in 2005, I obtained from Swanson a list of those itinerant filmmakers, film titles, and town locations that he and Frick had compiled by that time and thought about how I might locate any surviving hometown movies made in Georgia for our archives. Acquisition of such films would fit our mission to preserve the variety of moving images of Georgia, including home movies, educational films made in Georgia and on our campus, documentaries, Southeast Emmy entries from regional broadcasters, videotaped field recordings, and interviews. All these materials have expanded the Media Archives in the last decade, but the itinerants’ films were something new to explore. As time went by and the Media Archives workload grew, it seemed unlikely that I would ever have time to do the research and legwork involved in locating these films. As it turned out, they came to us.
Swainsboro, Georgia: Our Home Town (1947), Filmmakers Sol Landsman and Arthur Loevin
In November 2005, I got a call from a gentleman historian (Party A) with a friend (Party B) who had a 35mm film depicting 1947 Swainsboro, Georgia. As it was described, this sounded like an itinerant filmmaker’s reel, and I wanted to acquire it for the Media Archives. Party A wanted a copy made of the film so he could identify everyone in the film; Party B wanted to sell DVDs of the film online. The only way for us to copy the 35mm film was to have it donated to us and then sent to a lab when our film preservation budget permitted. A newspaper article from 1947 reads,
Swainsboro’s a movie star: This week two ace cameramen from New York are in Swainsboro taking films of the way we live, become educated, go to church and have fun. . . . The picture, at present titled Our Home Town is a cooperative venture sponsored by the businessmen of Swainsboro. It will be two full reels when finished and will run for 20 minutes on the screen. Sol Landsman who has made similar reels for many other Georgia communities, is in charge of the camera work, his Associate is Arthur Loevin. . . . Films like Our Home Town have been made at Savannah, Augusta, Waycross, Dublin, Americus, Fitzgerald, Thomasville and other Georgia communities.1
That brief article contained some valuable information, chiefly the names of other Georgia towns that had been subjects of itinerants’ lenses. The newspaper later announced that the film would be shown at the Dixie Theatre on...