Nitrate Picture Show Schedule

Festival Schedule

May 2-3: Coloring Silent Film Workshop - SOLD OUT!

May 3, 7:30 p.m.: Special pre-festival nitrate screening of Hamlet (1948). Purchase your tickets here.

The 4th Nitrate Picture Show

Friday, May 4

8:30 a.m. - Doors Open

9 a.m. - Film titles announced

10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. - Tours and Workshops - SOLD OUT!

1:30 p.m. - Speaker: Mikko Kuutti, National Audiovisual Institute of Finland 

Learn More +

In 2001, Mikko Kuutti was poached from the emerging digital post-production industry in Helsinki to head the collections of the Finnish Film Archive as deputy director. There was an ongoing project to copy nitrate films to new carriers, and nitrate prints were regularly projected at the archive cinema. There was nothing but analog in sight but digital was recognized to be the future—and the new guy to be the one to take the lead.

Seventeen years later, Kuutti holds the same position in an institution with a new name (Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen instituutti / National Audiovisual Institute, or KAVI), where the use of film has changed radically. Very little film is deposited at the archive, and commercial film projection in Finland stopped five years ago. All nitrate film has been duplicated. There is no film lab in the country. Everything is digital. Somewhere along the way, Kuutti stopped thinking of himself as a film archiving neophyte.

The Digital Services Unit he established at KAVI in 2011 is a leader in the field, producing a steady stream of archive feature film DCP releases, all in 4K. As many of the original materials of these films are on nitrate, the use of nitrate film in the archive has continued even in the era of digitization.

Although preservation work now is by necessity digital, the majority of cinematheque screenings are still film projections. With increased recognition of the risks involved, nitrate projections were stopped in 2007 but as digitization goes on steadily, more and more Finnish nitrate titles can again be seen on the big screen, as digital facsimiles, and at home as Blu-ray editions. Even if the archive embraces digital for access, all film collections are kept in cold-storage vaults, a large number of which were converted to subzero temperatures in 2012.

Kuutti is an architect by education, specialized in building conservation and restoration. He researched film cold storage in his master’s thesis and finds the chemistry and technology of celluloid fascinating. He is currently secretary general of ACE, the association of European film archives and was previously deputy head of the Technical Commission of FIAF, the International Federation of Film Archives.

3 p.m. - Speaker: Paul Spehr, Library of Congress (retired)

Learn More +

Paul C. Spehr is retired from the Library of Congress, where he was assistant chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Since retiring, he has continued to contribute to the revived interest in the early years of film history through his articles, participation in symposia, and efforts in saving our film heritage.

Spehr is the compiler/author of American Film Personnel and Company Credits, 1908–1920 (McFarland & Company, 1996) which indexes the 35,000-plus films listed in Lauritzen & Lundquist’s American Film Index, 1909–1915 and 1916–1920. He is the author of The Movies Begin (Newark Museum, 1977) and The Man Who Made Movies: W. K. L. Dickson (John Libbey, 2009). Dickson was Thomas Edison’s assistant in the invention of the Kinetoscope and Kinetograph, the first commercially successful motion picture devices, a founding partner of the American Mutoscope Company, and an important pioneer filmmaker who directed more than five hundred films between 1890 and 1903.

Spehr is on the board of Thanhouser Company Film Preservation Inc. and the Albanian Cinema Project, as well as the editorial board for the journal Film History. He is a member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists and of Domitor, the international society for the study of early cinema.

He is currently working on a book on the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in the years prior to 1908.

Since 2000, the George Eastman Museum has honored the legacy of its first film curator and founder of the moving image collection, James Card (1915–2000), with an annual lecture by a visiting scholar, filmmaker, festival director, or film preservation specialist. The two most recent lectures were delivered by Alexander Horwath and David Bordwell.

4:30 p.m. - Program #1

7:30 p.m. - Programs #2 and #3

Saturday, May 5

9:30 a.m. - Program #4

1:30 p.m. - Programs #5 and #6

7 p.m. - Program #7

9:30 p.m. - Reception in the museum

Sunday, May 6

10 a.m. - Program #8

1:30 p.m. - Program #9

3:30 p.m. - Blind Date with Nitrate

We expect the films to run until at least 5 p.m. on Sunday. Times are subject to change.

Monday, May 7

9 a.m.-noon - Guided tours of the nitrate projection booth (open to all passholders; no pre-registration required)

May 7-10: Making 35mm Motion Picture Film Workshop-Limited spaces still available! Reserve your spot here.