By Barbara Wingo
Mostly Lost, sponsored by the Library of Congress at its Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia, is a meeting in which the audience actively assists in identifying unidentified and “under-identified” films and film fragments, primarily from the silent era. In addition, presentations on various aspects of early filmmaking are presented. The seventh Mostly Lost took place June 13-16, 2018.
I had the privilege of presenting “Norman Studios: History and Regeneration of a Silent Film Studios Complex” at Mostly Lost 7. The talk focused on the history of Eagle Film Studios in Jacksonville as well as Richard Norman and his films. A look at what remains of the Eagle/Norman Studios complex and what remains to be done to make the complex a museum as well as an education and film center were discussed. The presentation closed with a reminder on why Norman Studios should be preserved and why it is a National Historic Landmark:
The site possesses national significance because of the production of motion pictures by Eagle Film City during Jacksonville’s years as the World’s Winter Film Capital. Further, Richard Norman purchased the site to continue his production of ‘race films,’ an antidote and reaction to the racist portrayals of African Americans in films of the era. Silent motion pictures with African American casts in positive, non-caricatured roles challenged the racism of the era. Norman’s contribution to film history is embodied in this complex, a rare example of a silent film studio that includes all elements of silent film production on a single site.
During Mostly Lost screenings, attendees are encouraged to talk in the theater, calling out names of actors, locations, car models, production companies or anything else they recognize about each film. Of the 180 titles screened at the workshop in 2017, 52 films—29 percent—were identified during the event. Through further research conducted in collaboration with the Association of Moving Image Archivists Nitrate Committee’s Flickr page, an additional 46 titles were identified after the workshop.
We anxiously await a full report of titles identified at the 2018 event and you can be sure that we’ll excitedly pass the word onto our readers, friends and fans.
Mostly Lost 7 was a wonderful way to interact with persons interested in silent film and to enjoy identifying films, presentations on films, and silent films themselves with appropriate piano or Wurlitzer organ accompaniments!