How to Protect Your Film…Forever.

If a real doomsday disaster strikes, the last thing you’ll probably think about saving is film — as in movies. If you’re a real cinephile, maybe it’s the first thing you think about, but it would probably also be the last, because you won’t have any food stockpiled and you can’t eat a copy of “Citizen Kane.” Say, for example, the plot of the NBC series “Revolution” comes true and there’s no power anywhere.
Film and movies in any format would be effectively useless with no electricity, but as human beings, we have an inherent need to hold on to the past. There is also the possibility that the world could go the way of “Wall-E,” where power and technology exist but natural resources do not. So if the worst happens — whatever it may be — how will you preserve the movies you want to save for posterity?
While we’re focusing on films and movies here, the same lessons could be applied to just about anything of creative value.

What to Save

For the best chance of successful preservation of materials, choose what you really want to save. Working files, bloopers, screen tests and so on are fine to save when the world is operating normally, but in a true catastrophe, they should be left behind to save room for the best chance of preserving quality work.
Multiple copies in multiple formats stored in multiple locations is the best opportunity for successful preservation of your projects. Just like serious doomsday preppers have multiple survival bags ready to go, so should you with what you consider your most-valuable film.

How to Save It

Digital media is the best method to store and later retrieve your work. In the event of a disaster, such as a hurricane, using the cloud to save your work on a service like VaultLogix remote backup, for example, is simple and reliable. In fact, cloud storage is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to save your work. External hard drives will likely be your bread and butter for safe storage, because they are very portable and easy to use. Keep a hard drive in a safe place, such as a fireproof lock box, and carry one on your person in a waterproof bag.
Physical media is the simplest way to preserve your work, but think ahead, though, because it’s not a surefire method. Will there be DVD players readily available and working after doomsday hits? Maybe — who knows. Will there be film projectors or digital-movie projectors? Hard to say. Film, actual film on a reel, is notoriously delicate. It deteriorates rapidly unless stored in ideal conditions.

Learn From the Past

In the early days of filmmaking, storage methods — which was film reels in metal canisters — were still under development, and studios lacked modern infrastructure. As a result, many early films were not stored properly and the original prints disintegrated, were destroyed in accidental studio fires or simply disappeared. Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation estimates that 90 percent of films made before the 1930s, and half made before the 1950s, no longer exist. If the studios couldn’t preserve their product reliably, don’t expect different results in less-than-ideal conditions.
Good luck out there, filmmakers! When we rebuild society it could be your films that tell us about the world we used to live in — if you preserve them correctly, of course!

6 thoughts on “How to Protect Your Film…Forever.

  • June 12, 2014 at 12:57 am

    This is a topic that's near to my heart…
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  • January 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I don't have film in cans, but we do have a lot of old VHS movies, printed pictures, even slides as well as digital media. I really need to take care of those things, and I keep putting it off.

  • November 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    This is a really interesting post as it is a subject that isnt covered when it comes to prepping. A lot of people just focus on food and survival gear etc. Thanks for sharing.


  • November 16, 2012 at 5:03 am

    I have an old film reel projector somewhere from the 60s and old film! It's SO heavy.


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