Susi Busam and Film Preservation

by

Jeffrey Harris

If you are looking for more of a program that strictly focuses on film repair, one might suggest for you to attend a graduate program at a film preservation school. A recent graduate of Bowling Green State University did just that. After finishing her undergraduate work, Susi Busam attended the year long program at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation in Rochester, New York.

Founded in 1996, Ms. Busam explains that, “L. Jeffrey Selznick was the son of David O. Selznick and the grandson of Louis B. Mayer of the MGM fame. Witnessing the horrible degradation and deterioration of his family’s work, he chose to fight for the cause of film preservation and getting that knowledge to a new generation who was going to have to face these problems head on.”

Ms. Busam knew from high school that she always wanted to work in film preservation and much like myself she did not know where to turn to achieve this goal. “I called and talked to Jeff Stoiber, who is in charge of running the Selznick school and he told me to major in film history, or even art history or library studies. So, I found BG. I liked the variety of film courses.” She followed her dreams and made it into the competitive graduate program. I say competitive because as Ms. Busam explains, “the classes are very small since only about twelve people are accepted to the school each year. The small size however makes it much easier to get the one on one attention you need.”

The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation is a very rare school due to the fact that it works extremely close with the prestigious George Eastman House. The Eastman House is a museum located in Rochester, New York, which archives and preserves items that pertain to the film community since its very beginnings. Ms. Busam praises this prospect: “You attend school each day at the Eastman House and work very closely with Eastman staff and the Eastman House collections (both film and paper materials), which is really nice to see in the inner workings of a real archive.”

So what is the average day in the life of a student studying at the school like? According to Ms. Busam, it all depends on what part of the program you are in. “The school is set up like a regular work week - five days a week from 9 to 5. The year is set up in four quarters. The first two quarters are comprised of lectures and rotations … The remaining two quarters are devoted to lectures, a grant writing project, and a personal project. This is time to spread your wings. Also, in these last two quarters, there are several field trips including the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art.”

Despite having many lectures, Ms. Busam says that they cover a wide range of topics. “Their subjects include cataloging, laboratory practices, audio preservation/restoration, regional archives, video preservation, digital restoration, archival organizations such as Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) and the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) and many other subjects relating to the field.” Ms. Busam tells me that the lectures are either given by staff members of the George Eastman House or from outside source who serve as guest lecturers.

The opposite of these lectures is the more hands on duties that make up the rotation schedule. These were Ms. Busam’s favorite part of the program, “things like film repair, restoration, and quality control were what fascinated me most. I like getting lost in the little nitty-gritty bits of film repair (fixing sprocket holes, replacing broken splices, and attaching leader to the head and tail of each reel.)” Of course, her least favorite part of her training was also a very important one. “One of my least favorite projects was the grant writing project. It was tough but well worth it. The ability to write a grant is so very important. No money, no archive.”

Susi Busam finished her year at the program and is now working in film preservation, a dream that she has had since high school.

For more information pertaining to the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, you can check out their website at www.eastman.org/16_preserv/16_index.html or call the George Eastman House at 585-271-3361.

 

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