Recognising projects from all over the world that have used historical footage to great effect.
This year’s Focal International Awards attracted a record number of non-UK submissions – 98 of the total 239, from 19 countries – highlighting its “growing international awareness”, according to the event’s organiser, Julie Lewis.
Entrants to the awards, held in association with AP Archive, are moving away from “using the same old archive as wallpaper while the narrator describes the footage”, suggests juror Wayne Lovell. “The reality is that viewers are more than capable of seeing and understanding the message the archive is conveying.”
The criteria that each category is judged against include whether the programme’s narration is factually accurate, and how novel the material is. “An execrable programme that showed authentic filmed images of the Wright brothers’ first flight could be forgiven a lot,” notes juror Jerry Kuehl.
Ahead of the ceremony on 30 April, Broadcast previews the shortlisted projects in selected categories.
BEST USE OF FOOTAGE IN A HISTORY PRODUCTION
On 11 September 2001, half the members of Ten House fire unit, the closest fire station to the Twin Towers, were killed. Testimony Films’ 9/11 Firehouse traces events through the survivors’ testimony, using footage and audio meticulously researched from video, SIM card and mobile phone.
“Any one of the videographers and photographers who rushed out to record the events that day might have captured a shot of our firefighters,” says producer/ researcher Andy Attenburrow. “I wanted the film to capture what it felt like to be one of the firefighters. That meant matching the archive as closely as possible to the detail relayed in interviews.”
Juror Wayne Lovell found the piece “sympathetically cut, without over-exploiting the more dramatic and disturbing images that emerged that day, which has happened in previous productions.”
Before The Revolution
Through the eyes of Israelis living and working in Tehran just prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, Heymann Brothers’ Before The Revolution reveals a hidden side to this now-vilified state. “Until I encountered the variety of 8mm films [from families and diplomats supplemented with AP and ITN Reuters archive], I had a good story, but with no means of telling it as a documentary,” explains director Dan Shadur. “Not only were the films astonishingly beautiful, they were describing a point of view that does not exist anymore.”
Greek documentary Silent Balkans narrates the story of the Balkan wars (1912-1914) as the nation states in the region broke free from the Ottoman Empire.
“It’s well-paced and edits together clips of various quality with insight,” observes Lovell. “The region’s archives are, at best, only partially online, but communication with archivists in the Balkans is now quite straightforward and we often received material quickly through FTP,” says Anemon production head Leonidas Liambeys.
“The Greek archive, though, is stuck in legal limbo following the closure of public broadcaster ERT last June.”
BEST USE OF FOOTAGE IN A FACTUAL PRODUCTION
The United States Of Amnesia
The late political and cultural polymath and critic Gore Vidal is the subject of producer director Nicolas Wrathall’s The United States Of Amnesia. Commentary by those who knew Vidal blends with footage from BBC/T3 Media, NBC and ITN Source. “It is well presented and the use of archive makes sense in the narrative, rather than being plonked there as padding,” remarks juror Matt Flasque.
New Life Of Family Album
When the father of a Slovak family left home following divorce, his son decided to document the aftermath.
New Life Of Family Album is a personal exploration combining old Super-8 footage and stills with intimate shots capturing the current state of affairs. “It didn’t quite work for me, but each of the three jurors had their own favourites so we arrived at the shortlist by consensus,” says Flasque.
Arctic Defenders tells the story of how a radical Inuit movement led to the largest land claim in Western civilisation, incorporating material from CBC TV, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and various Canadian government sources.
“Using personal archives and doggedly searching for rare material from Canada’s public and private archives allowed us to tell the historical back story in a way that had not been told before,” says director John Walker. “This film had striking production values and used archive rarely seen on this side of the Atlantic,” notes Flasque.
BEST USE OF FOOTAGE IN A NATURAL HISTORY
All three finalists tell stories of camera operators who pioneered wildlife photography.
Edwardian Insects On Film
A radio broadcast about amateur photographer Percy Smith piqued exec producer Emma Morgan’s interest and led to Mentorn Media’s Edwardian Insects On Film.
While several of Smith’s short films are available on YouTube, including one depicting a housefly holding dumbbells, the production sourced material from the BFI, BBC NHU and Bradford’s National Media Museum. Morgan also tasked cameraman Charlie Hamilton James with reconstructing some of Smith’s timelapse inventions using an original Edwardian camera.
“This archive is fundamental to the birth of natural history filmmaking and includes sequences that inspired Sir David Attenborough,” Morgan says.
Wild Cameramen At Work
BBC Scotland series Wild Cameramen At Work fuses the BBC’s natural history archive with interviews to reveal the risks faced by five expert camera operators. “We were overwhelmed by how much our audience enjoyed seeing key parts of the wildlife archive again, carefully woven with new stories and insights from the men who shot the material themselves,” says producer Sandy Raffan.
Edward VIII: The Lion King
An investigation to unearth the 1928-1930 movies shot by the then Prince of Wales on African safari sprung from development producer Sarah Peat’s reading of his memoirs.
“We traced cans with 7,000ft of black-and-white 16mm to the BFI,” says producer/director George Pagliero of Tigress Productions’ Edward VIII: The Lion King. “The Palace initially denied the film’s existence, wary that we’d be sensationalising Edward’s life. It took a year to persuade them we were telling a positive story. “Aside from being a previously hidden first-person record of the future king, we wanted to show that far from being a playboy prince – as many historians would have him – Edward was deeply concerned with animal welfare.”
Pagliero also tracked related safari footage to the National Cash Register in Ohio. “There are great untapped archives out there,” he says.
BEST USE OF FOOTAGE ON A DIGITAL/NON-TV PLATFORM
Inform Educate Entertain
Music act Public Service Broadcasting sampled public information and propaganda films from the 1930s and 1940s for their EP The War Room and debut album Inform Educate Entertain. Their live shows, including an upcoming concert at London’s RAF Museum, incorporate video footage from classic government films Dig For Victory and Night Mail. “It reimagines how archive footage can be used and creates an immersive experience through the live shows,” notes juror Caroline Ward.
Peter Fydler, BFI head of B2B sales, adds: “When people use our archive, the results are, on the whole, fairly predictable, but what these guys have done is unique and engages a whole new audience with archive.”
The website accompanying PBS and AOL TV series Makers charts the women who made American history by asserting their human rights. Video views have passed 42 million since launch in February 2013 and producer Kunhardt McGee was invited to the White House to screen excerpts.
“A powerful social commentary, including Hilary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, is set alongside archive footage illustrating key moments in the civil rights movement, which makes essential and inspiring viewing,” says Ward.
Timeline WW2 is an iPad app from Ballista Media in which Dan Snow presents a history of World War II with user-selectable audio commentary.
Featuring more than 100 clips, images, interactive maps and text from the British Pathé and US Government and Armed Forces Archive, the project was shortlisted “for its immediacy and engaging format, which gives the audience an intimate experience,” says Ward.
BEST USE OF FOOTAGE IN CURRENT AFFAIRS
Das Auto: The Germans, Their Cars And US
Shown as part of BBC2’s Germany season, Das Auto: The Germans, Their Cars And Us documents Germany’s post-WWII economic power and the automobile industry at the heart of it. “We knew that archive was as important as interviews and commentary, so we gave researcher Barry Purkis a wide remit to find cultural material like adverts and sitcoms, not just newsreels of VWs rolling off factory production lines, which gave a flavour of the period in each country with humour and nostalgia,” says producer Fatima Salaria.
Archive footage underpins the harrowing narrative of The Disappeared, which relates the hidden story of at least 15 people murdered and buried in secret graves by the IRA during Northern Ireland’s troubles.
Erica Starling Productions used archive from BBC NI, UTV Archive, ITV Wales, Fremantle Media Archive and AP “to capture a specific time and place so that viewers could place themselves at the heart of this conflict”, says producer Alison Millar.
We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks
Universal Pictures’ We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks details the creation of Julian Assange’s controversial website, which facilitated the largest security breach in US history. Producer/director Alex Gibney licenced content from Flickr photographers in the Nether lands and France, Vimeo videographers in Brazil, YouTube users in Iceland and Malaysia, and archive houses in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden and Egypt, amassing 85 sources and negotiating for archive in six languages.
BEST USE OF FOOTAGE IN AN ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION
ITV Entertainment and Shiver mined ITV’s own archive to produce a celebration of the studios that dominated Manchester’s TV landscape for 57 years.
Goodbye Granadaland includes 1960s staff-training programmes, early behind-the-scenes footage of Coronation Street and home-movie footage from Granada staff. “The production excels in narrowing down a vast amount of material to create a comprehensive retrospective,” notes juror Janet McBride.
Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story
Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story is a biographical documentary showcasing the life and work of the stand-up comedian, featuring footage from the early years of Chicago comedy club Second City, and recent HBO programming.
“We had so much footage that the biggest challenge was ensuring we only used that which best showcased David’s tone and unique perspective,” says Nolan MacDonald, development manager at Canadian producer Nightingale.
“We worked closely with David to decide which clips to use, which was invaluable to us, but came with its own set of challenges when it came to locking down a final cut.”
The Coronation Year In Colour
ITN Productions’ The Coronation Year In Colour draws on rare colour home-movies of Britons on holiday, showing off new cars and houses in 1953, following post-war gloom. “Since ITN
Source held film of the Coronation itself, we felt we could create an evocative documentary told through eye witness narrative and personal archive to convey a sense of time and place,” explains executive producer Emma Read.
Footage was discovered in private collections, commercial libraries, educational institutions and local cine clubs.
Best Use of Sports Footage
Trials Of Muhammad Ali
Few lives are as well-documented as Muhammad Ali’s, but The Trials Of Muhammad Ali, from US producers Kartemquin Films and Kat White, delves into the boxer’s spiritual and political struggles with material from ABC News VideoSource and ESPN Productions.
“You get sucked into a rabbit hole searching for footage, where one tip leads you to another source, and that source sends you on to another,” says producer Rachel Pikelny. “It was a study in perseverance, not ceasing until we found that gem and thinking of unusual ways to find what we needed to tell the story.”
The Battle Of The Sexes
The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is the centrepiece of New Black Films’ theatrically released The Battle Of The Sexes, which contends that the event, watched live by 100 million people, was pivotal in the struggle for gender equality. “Nobody had told the wider story of the birth of women’s professional sport and how this extraordinary match came about,” says producer/director James Erskine.
From ABC’s original telecast, Erskine spotted spectators with film cameras and began tracking them down to find angles of the match that hadn’t been seen before. More detective work led him to locate original footage of the ‘Mother’s Day Massacre’, an earlier match between Riggs and Margaret Court. This trail led to LA’s probate courts and the daughter of a man who had acquired the footage at auction.
Hunt Vs Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals
The duel for the 1976 F1 championship between Niki Lauda and James Hunt is the subject of Lion TV doc Hunt Vs Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals. Austrian broadcaster ORF helped entice Lauda to relive the bitter battle in a unique interview.
“F1 archive is notoriously hard to clear but we were able to source all the key moments and find unseen footage that captured the spirit of 1976,” says producer/ director Matthew Whiteman.