In an earlier post I introduced you to Bunty Brennan, she was the creator of a collection of 16 mm films and photographs. The Eileen ‘Bunty’ Brennan (nee Noble) collection is a orphaned collection currently being ‘fostered’ at the CBC Media Archives in Vancouver.
What is an orphaned film? According to Howard Besser (Director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation masters degree program), an orphaned film is “a film without a parent…. [usually film is] taken care of by people who own the rights, claim ownership or parentage…there are a lot of films where no one takes ownership”. Basically, an orphaned film is abandoned (intentionally or unintentionally) by its owner or creator.
The term can also refer to all types of non-commercial, neglected or little-known films like public domain materials, documentaries, silent-era films, newsreels, home movies, avant-garde works, industrials, independent films, small-gauge films, educational films, outtakes, etc. These films or “ephemeral cinematic artifacts” are most at risk due to the fact that few nonprofit and public institutions/archives have the support (financial and infrastructural) and know-how to care for the films (in a variety of formats). Orphan films generally fall out of the collection mandates or collection policies of most traditional institutions/archives, therefore making them even more at risk to be neglected.