Fascinating Film Collection Receives Expert Care and a Preservation Grant

[This blog post was written by Melissa Dollman, a volunteer with the Audio Visual Materials Unit. Melissa has a M.A. in Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a B.A. in American Studies from the University of  California, Berkeley.]

Century Film Productions (AKA Century Studios; Century Films) was a Raleigh-based film studio owned and operated by O.B. (Ollie) and Lynne Garris, who donated the collection to the State Archives in July of 1985. While we are still researching the connective tissue between the Garrises and the North Carolina political and business community, much can be gleaned about their reputation from the content of the films themselves. Film credits, and scant external information found to date, do tell us that O.B. was the cinematographer, and his partner, Lynne, played a variety of roles from set designer to director, editing and sound to production assistant. A real filmmaking duo, and a family business.

The Century Film Productions catalog spans from the late 1950s through the early 1980s, and including completed films, production elements, and outtakes–all but two in 16mm format–numbers over 175 items. A few highlights include sponsored films for Carolina Power & Light, Occoneechee Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the North Carolina Department of Transportation with R.J. Reynolds, the U.S. Navy, and the North Carolina Police Information Network; a North Carolina State University football game; commercials for Mt. Olive Pickles and Record Bar; short films and television spots for the political ad campaigns of future state governors Dan K. Moore and Robert W. Scott (from whose estate the State Archives recently received additional related documents), U.S. Representative Jim Gardner, and others. The films capture other events in North Carolina history such as unedited footage of a Ku Klux Klan march from circa 1965, the Pullen Hall fire at North Carolina State University in 1965, the inauguration of James E. Holshouser, Jr., and more. A finding aid for the collection is forthcoming.

My role as a volunteer was to inspect by hand, process, and research the Century Film Productions motion picture collection (MPF.122). Because I have professional training to do so, and I had a few free hours a week to dedicate to the project, it piqued my curiosity. I am so glad I did, as the films have in turn schooled me on late 20th Century North Carolina political and industrial history, campaign rhetoric, and mid-century marketing techniques.  Overall the collection is in good shape, as films will tend to be if kept in a cold and dry environment, with the exception of a couple of key films that we identified as potential candidates for a preservation grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF). Because the Audio Visual Materials Unit at the State Archives has been successful at winning funds to preserve films in the past, I combined technical data from previous grant proposals with detailed information about the significance of the Century collection both locally and in the context of media scholarship generally.  Another success! We are happy to announce that the NFPF will be funding the preservation of and digital reformatting of the following two films this year:

  •  “North Carolina State Fair’”(ca. 1974), a daylong glimpse of the Raleigh-based event, including an appearance by Bob Hope
  • “Scott for Lieutenant Governor” (ca. 1964), campaign ad for Robert W. Scott

For more information on NFPF and all the projects funded for 2014, please see http://www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/2014-federal-grant-winners.