CFA seeks donated equipment for massive work ahead and home movies as archives addition

At the conclusion of the successful fund-raiser for Chicago Film Archives, guest speaker Haskell Wexler turned to founder Nancy Watrous and said, “This is just the start…”

Watrous, buoyed by the enthusiasm of the more than 200 guests who attended the May 13 event at the Cultural Center, happily agreed.

The fund-raiser, for which guests paid $100 a ticket, will cover general overhead expenses for CFA’s office at 329 W. 18th St. and to continue the cataloging process.

Watrous in 2003 took over the Chicago Public Library’s vast storehouse of 5,000 16mm films reflective of 50-plus years of recorded Chicago history, such as Wexler’s “Medium Cool” and Mike Gray’s “American Revolution II” of the 1960s.

Working with donated equipment, a volunteer staff is cataloguing the films with an eye towards ultimate digitization. “We’ll then know exactly what we have and how it can be utilized,” Watrous commented. The films will be made available for research and as a resource.

A part of CFA’s mission is to collect home movies made by amateur filmmakers and restore them. Helping that process is a restoration grant CFA received from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Home movie buffs will have a chance to have their films inspected, shown how to keep them in good condition?or donate them to CFA?and screen them later at the 3rd annual International Home Movie Day Aug. 13 at the Cultural Center.

CFA volunteers on hand that day will be experts Carolyn Faber, an archivist formerly with WPA; Andy Urich, Siskel Film Center projectionist; University of Chicago PhD candidate in cinema studies Charles Pepperman, formerly with National Archives of Canada; and staff inspector Michelle Puetz.

Since the CFA is starting out with bare bones, Watrous has been seeking equipment donations. So far the CFA has received a rewind bench, a Steenbeck flatbed editing machine from Chicago Filmmakers and a Showchron from performer/filmmaker Bridget Murphy.

Watrous would welcome any equipment you have that’s gathering dust in your storeroom. She’d be especially pleased if you have an 8mm-16mm telecine, a Sony PD170 camera and a G5 Mac computer system, some of the items on her wish list.

Watrous can be reached at 773/478-3799. See

SEE REPRESENTATIVE CFA FILMS during free “Out of the Vault” screenings, May 24-26 at the Cultural Center, 7 and 8:45 p.m.

“Out of the Vault” is curated by Amy Beste, a Northwestern PhD candidate in cinema studies. The exhibit is a reprise of the Library screenings prior to Watrous’ acquisition.