Turning Collective Wisdom Into Strength - An Interview with Andrea Kalas of the Association of Moving Image Archivists

Turning Collective Wisdom Into Strength – An Interview with Andrea Kalas of the Association of Moving Image Archivists

Fourth in a series of in-depth interviews with innovators and leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.


Andrea KalasAndrea Kalas is a recent President of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Prior to her current role at Paramount Pictures as SVP of Archives, she led the preservation program at the British Film Institute. I had the opportunity to sit down with her in June to discuss bit loss, digital asset management, artificial intelligence and the benefits that millennials are bringing to the profession.

Andrea, you’ve spoken and taught at length about the challenges of bit loss and how it affects the race to preserve not just America’s rich film history, but that of other countries and cultures.

How does a global team like yours even begin to prioritize its preservation goals as you race against the clock?

Digital preservation has the basic goal of avoiding bit loss, technically. However, the work that really requires technologists and archivists to effectively collaborate involves the treatment of files as valuable records, art or artifacts. This goes against so much of how basic information technology systems work. For example the word “archive” has been used as a term to mean data written off-line and put on removable media on a shelf, never to be touched again. This is a sure path to bit loss. For an archivist this definition is completely counter-productive. It as much about communication and clear technical requirements from archivists as it is building technical solutions.

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Mary Small - The Little Girl with the Big Voice

The Little Girl with the Big Voice – On PBS!

Honored to learn that PBS recently screened our film on the Golden Age of Radio. Thanks again Stanford University, George T. Marshall, the RIFF and Abby J. Moscatel for the opportunity to share this story leveraging the Doctrine of Fair Use!

Ray Moscatel - 1952 Seattle Chieftains

The Most Important Records In The World Are Our Fondest Memories

My father turns 86 years old today. Like many of his generation, he has great pride in the achievements and potential of the human race, its awesome computing power and the marvelous scientific inventions it has recently given birth to. His memories are rich and full of detail, but the records that are most important to him are those that tell the story of his family, that remind him of the ones he loves. It’s wonderful that we now have so many new ways of creating and sharing those records, but for me it has always been the content that defines a good record, not the container it comes in.

Dad’s life has been subtle and yet epic. He was part of the first college basketball game where opposing teams scored over 100 points. In 1952, the same squad from Seattle University overcame Goose Tatum’s Harlem Globetrotters in a historical buzz beater. In his later years, he developed incredible friendships with great talents, helped elect a Governor and built a fine career as a doctor. While I may never experience all that my Father has, making sure I preserve his records helps the whole family appreciate not just Dad, but what Dad and Mom represent, the importance of hard work, self-reliance, treating everybody with dignity and the spirit of living life to its fullest.

It’s that poise and perspective that has always served Raymond Moscatel well in life and why I believe that at the end of the day, the only information and data that matters are the records that remind us of the people we love and how lucky we are to live another day together. Everything else on the periphery, is more or less a minor detail that will ultimately be lost to our collective history.

Keeping good family records, whether they be old movies, the family tree, scrap books or diaries is as critical to maintaining a family’s legacy as vital records are to corporations. By collecting and preserving these records we help pass on, not just the amazing stories and experiences of our ancestors, but their values, their compassion, and contextual reminders of what really matters in life.

Happy Birthday, Dad. To me you will always be the most interesting man in the world.

-Rafael Moscatel

A Record Of The Film

I was recently asked exactly how my background in archives and information technology assisted me with my documentary, The Little Girl with the Big Voice.  I hadn’t really thought about it until that point because it was a passion project and I was so wrapped up in telling the story it didn’t seem to matter. In retrospect, my years in Records & Information Management really were instrumental in helping me collect, organize and clear all of the materials for this film.


Documentary filmmaking involves a lot of document management, project management and asset management and always has.  Understanding how to organize large collections of materials, authenticate and reference them contextually proved very useful in creating the historical sequences seen in the film.

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The Little Girl with the Big Voice examines the struggles of women and children in the early 1930’s and 40’s through the eyes of Mary Small, a child prodigy, restless wife and dedicated mother whose resilience in the face of constant challenges made her a defining symbol of her generation.

When it came time to putting together a clip log, the metadata and information I collected and associated with each piece of media made it easy for me to clear each image which is essential to secure a good insurance policy. In doing so, a lot of the principles I’ve learned as an Information Governance Professional came into play in terms of ensuring authenticity. As a result of properly documenting my sources from the get-go I ended up with a treasure chest of digital resources that I can now use over and over.  My experiences with digital imaging also helped with rendering the scans and pictures I used and in resolving pixelation issues.  The organization of documents and images into (hopefully) logical historical sequences based on various data points, is very much a business discipline.

Stills Part 3

I also wanted this film to be an example of how filmmakers can use the Fair Use Doctrine to uncover and tell some of the richest, most compelling stories of this era, which were until the advent of the internet, almost trapped in library catalogs and press break scrapbooks.

So I teamed up with Stanford University’s Documentary Film Program and learned how to present these images in context so that they passed muster.  Doing so probably reduced the cost of the film’s licensing fees by as much as 90% or more and the research alone gave us a cache of items that we can hopefully use to tell another great story.

Click here to visit Kickstarter campaign.  Please check it out and consider supporting us!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marysmall/the-little-girl-with-the-big-voice-documentary/widget/video.html