When we last checked in on Alice Guy-Blache, the pioneering female director was the subject of a Kickstarter campaign aimed at funding a film about her life.
The campaign was successful, and the work continues – with some twists, says director and producer Pamela Green.
Turns out there’s more of Guy-Blache’s work than Green and co-producer Gala Minasova thought.
Like that of many silent directors, Guy-Blache’s films have been inconsistently catalogued or lost over the decades. The new effort has helped turn up more Guy-Blache films, as well as attracted the interest of film collectors.
"When Alice passed away (in 1968) she thought she only had three films that survived," Green says. But while Green and her colleagues were doing research, they determined that the famed Charlie Tarbox collection – which included 15,000 early films – had come into the possession of a collector named Jeff Aikman in the mid-‘80s. Aikman also owns 25,000 other works, including newsreels and rare shorts.
"We sent him the list, and he said, 'I think I have these,' " Green says. Some of the films weren’t even listed in the major database, FIAF, of film preservation and archival material.
For his part, the Massachusetts-based Aikman – who’s been collecting since he was 13 – says that Green found him "like Sherlock Holmes."
Aikman admits he hasn’t shared his collection with many places – "it's greedy of me," he chuckles, adding that his policy is changing – but he gets great pleasure out of discovering "lost" material.
"When I find out something is lost – or people don’t know where it is – I like looking for those elusive films that nobody knows about," he says.
Green and her co-producers are currently going through Aikman's collection. He recently shipped them five Guy-Blache films. The footage was of Fort Lee, New Jersey – where Guy-Blache's studio was based – and New York's Herald Square circa 1912.
"Alice is right up there with D.W. Griffith and all the other historic silent directors," Aikman says. "I think this is going to be a really important project."
Incidentally, for people in the New York City area, the Fort Lee Film Commission is going to have a free screening of two Guy-Blache films on Thursday night at the Fort Lee Historic Park Visitor Center..
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