Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AMIA 2011

I got really lucky this year. The Association of Moving Image Archivists' Conference was held in Austin this November, so I could go! Between carpooling down, speaking on a panel and volunteering to blog for the conference, I managed to get almost all of my expenses covered (which were covered by NYU the past two years, and for many people are covered by the institutions they work for). This was part dumb luck and part generosity of others, and I am super grateful. Next year I will give back by actually paying my AMIA membership fee! 

My friend Siobahn, who was in the MIAP class just before mine, came down to visit friends in Dallas, so we spent Monday and Tuesday visiting archives around here before driving down to Austin together. We visited the Sixth Floor Museum and learned about their research library and what it's like to be THE source for JFK-assassination-related materials (just think of how often you see that stuff in popular culture). We also visited the Dallas Museum of Art's archives and got tickets to the uh-mazing Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit. I'm not the most into fashion but I do like beautiful things and that certainly includes clothes and people. The theatricality of some of his work is absolutely breathtaking, other times it's just fun.

Once in Austin we checked in, ate breakfast tacos and went to the AMIA opening cocktail reception. I had a minor case of social anxiety, the kind I only get when unemployed and forced to socialize with people in my field. I needed a reality check, so I headed off to my second home at Gregg and Macario's apartment. They took me out to Barbarella and I danced all night like I haven't in years and all was right with the world.
The conference itself was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I had a wonderful time with my MIAP friends that could make it (only June and Sam L. from my class, Siobahn and John from earlier years). There were several exciting panels and I got to see Kodacolor projected. The film looks black and white unless it's used with this lenticular system that requires a special projector, lens and screen. Dino Everett from the Hugh Hefner Archive (yep) at USC brought the whole setup and gave us a demonstration. Very cool.
Archival Screening Night (where people bring clips of awesome things found/preserved in their archive that year) wasn't as good as it usually is content-wise, but there were still some fun moments. My favorite was when a bat started flying around the Paramount Theatre during some very old 16mm footage.
Hands down the coolest screening at AMIA this year was when we all went under a bridge at Lady Bird Lake and watched 16mm film projected onto fog. I can't believe it worked... and yet, I can! So amazing. Check this out:
My panel went well, though it was rather intense. We talked about navigating the changing landscape of archival film print lending. Studios are totally over film, and only focusing on digital projection, so archives are getting all of the requests for studio prints now. Archives don't typically have a ton of money and resources to keep up with the demand, and even when they do they find that theaters often mess up their super expensive, rare prints. It's a tricky situation because many (though certainly not all, as I learned at the conference) archivists want to keep showing films on film rather than show these old films on a digital format (for lots of reasons), but something about the current system has to change. I was on the panel with people from the Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) Film Archive, MoMA and the Alamo Drafthouse, so I felt more than a little out of place, but I talked about my thesis and how I think it's important for us to educate art house theaters on archival projection so we can lend our prints to them blah blah... Have I lost you? Well, anyway, I thought it went well enough and the discussions I had with people afterward were encouraging. Then I had my super early morning Projection and Presentation Committee meeting where we hashed out all of the issues again, and that did not go as well. It's depressing to hear important people so close to the issue brush off the idea that archival films should be viewed on film as romantic and nostalgic and sing the praises of DCP. (I should add a reminder that I'm talking about archival films that were shot and released before the digital revolution, not new films shot digitally.) I shed some frustration tears that morning, but then took a break and spent my last day lunching and antiquing with a some wonderful friends (including the MoMA panelist) and was reminded that lots of people do agree with me and someone has to be passionate about this stuff! 

On a more personal note, I'm pretty proud of my networking prowess. I met a bunch of people I wanted to meet and tried to sell myself as someone they should hire. No luck on that front yet, but I tried my hardest. I'm more proud than anything of how many awesome friends I've made in my field. Not networking, ladder climbing, use-them-to-get-a-job "friends" (what is that anyway?), but real friends that are awesome and that I connect with because we are all old souls and have weird things in common. I love that. 

I did still try to sell myself when it was appropriate, of course. I am financially challenged at the moment, but I know what a good outfit can do for one's confidence, especially at these events where professional life awkwardly meets social life. Rather than spending money I don't have, I opted for an un-Brittan-like approach. I went treasure hunting in the dark corners of my closet. For example, I paired the old Gap dress I impulse bought and have never worn with the cardigan I've been wearing as often as possible since June, the $150 JCrew necklace I got for $18, the trusty gray tights from my first New York winter and my old boots that I haven't worn in at least two years. I somehow hated all of these things less when I put them together than I normally do, and samesies for the outfits I wore every other day but did not photograph because I don't really like taking/seeing pictures of myself. This photo conveniently crops out the top knot I was rocking for the 7am committee meeting I was on my way to, but I did wear my signature flowy curls (nurtured with that bottle of Jason, bottom left) the rest of the time. I am job searching, must use all my best assets!
 Speaking of hair, I also did this to Gregg with my awesome curling rod and told everyone he was going to audition for a Prince video. A highlight of my week for sure. 
So, that was my AMIA. Lots of talk of film and begging for jobs, but way more Tex Mex dinners with my New York friends, dance parties and cuddle sessions with my Austin friends, vegan brunches with new friends, and geeking out over old movies with just about everyone. If anyone would like to hire me or point me in the direction of someone who will hire, you know where to find me. 

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