Thursday, January 22, 2009

NFB makes hundreds of films available free on line.

This is from the Calgary Herald.

What a wonderful idea. Instead of leaving these films in the vaults this cultural heritage will be made available to the world free of charge. This is a fitting way to celebrate the celebrated NFB's seventieth birthday!

National Film Board opens vault
Hundreds of films available online for free

Eric Volmers
Calgary Herald
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The National Film Board announced a bold new front in the "digital revolution" on Wednesday, launching a $1.3-million "Screening Room" that will allow Internet users to watch 700 of the board's films for free on the Internet.
The revamped site,, was launched in a suitably high-tech fashion Wednesday, with board chairman Tom Perlmutter holding a "virtual" news conference online for the media. Clips of filmmakers such as Sarah Polley, John Walker and Shelley Saywell were shown lauding the project before Perlmutter introduced the easy-access concept as a "gift for Canadians" to celebrate the NFB's 70th anniversary this year.
"What I'm hoping is that in spending time looking at these films, people will get a sense of wonder about who we are and get a deeper appreciation of ourselves," says Perlmutter.
"For me, particularly in a time of profound social change with the economic crisis and all sorts of uncertainties, it really anchors us in our sense of identity even as our identity changes. It shows a commonality of values and a shared vision of what it means to be Canadian."
The instant access to such a large volume of NFB titles in streaming online format should counter impressions that Canada's public film producer has not always been aggressive enough in pushing their works into public view. Perlmutter says the project is not that far removed from the NFB's early days, where film projectionists would be dispatched to small towns throughout Canada with NFB titles under their arms.
"We have been proactive (in the past)," he said. "But the Film Board has been stymied for years because we've been denied, for example, the ability to get its own (TV network). One film can get lost in the noise of everything else.
"What we are doing now, online, makes it available to Canadians. The Film Board belongs to Canadians, it really does. They own it. They are the ones who come out and interact and sat in common screening rooms and contributed to dialogue about how these films enriched our lives."
The NFB has been producing films of all shapes and sizes since 1939. With a bulging library of 13,000 works, there will be plenty of room to expand the online possibilities.
The current 700 titles, chosen by a committee of film experts, dip into every time period, region and genre and include both English and Frenchlanguage titles.
Browsers that go on the site today can sample a wide array of styles from NFB's 70-year catalogue.
Everything from Don Owen's edgy, 1964 coming-of-age Nobody Waved Good-bye, to the 2004 animated Os-car-winning Ryan, to the 1962 cinema-verite documentary The Lonely Boy, to Arthur Lipsett's 1961 kinetic, seven-minute curiosity Very Nice, Very Nice will be on display.
"This isn't an archive, these are living films," Perlmutter says. "It's a treasure. This is what the Film Board is all about. What strikes you is how perennial or how relevant and fresh these films are. A film like Lonely Boy could have been done yesterday."
The NFB plans to add 100 films to NFB.cain the next six months and average 10 new films per month following that. The site will have a feedback mechanism that will allow viewers to request certain titles be added to the database. Which brings up the prickly question about how this venture might affect the NFB's revenues, particularly those generated by DVD sales.
But Perlmutter says he thinks the site will go a long way in raising the awareness of what the NFB has to offer and hopefully boost sales in the process.
"No one has a perfect model for all these things," he said. "First of all, what we're offering is by streaming, which means you are not possessing or own it. The simple fact is we will be more visible and present and will create an appetite to make the connection immediately. People will still want to buy the film on DVD, sit around with their friends, watch it on the big screen."
© The Calgary Herald 2009

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