The protection of memories—both personal and cultural—is at the heart of the film preservation efforts of noted filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, and other like-minded individuals. These film preservationists are working to rescue old films that are at risk of deteriorating to ensure that the art and history captured in them are not lost to future generations.
In a panel discussion at the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival, Spielberg shared the founding of The Film Foundation in 1990 by Martin Scorsese, aimed at preserving motion picture history. Since then, the foundation has enlisted the help of Hollywood studios and filmmakers, including Anderson and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, to collect and restore old films.
While speaking at the festival, Anderson shared his thoughts on why film preservation is essential. According to him, preserving films means saving moments and memories that are vital to individuals. Memories like the one he has of watching E.T. with friends and the people he was with during that time.
Spielberg also revealed that they prioritize rescuing the entire body of work of particular directors, as well as films that tell the unique story of a particular culture or nation. So far, their efforts have preserved more than 990 films, including experimental films, documentaries, and international productions.
When films are lost due to the deterioration of the film negatives, we lose not only the music, dialogue, and visual art of that film but also a piece of life, culture, and art that we can never retrieve. The work of film preservationists is essential in preserving the history, cultural heritage, and art that are so integral to our lives.
By rescuing old and at-risk films, Spielberg, Anderson, and their team are ensuring that the memories, art, and history captured in these films are safely preserved and available for future generations to enjoy. Their efforts have a impact that extends beyond the entertainment world, as they are guardians of our collective memory and history.
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