This morning, Seattle’s Scarecrow Video announced it will be converting its video library into a non-profit collective in an effort to preserve the world’s largest “home video” collection of film and television with over 120,000 VHS, laserdiscs, VCDs, DVDs and Blu-ray titles. To accomplish this goal they have launched what they are calling “The Scarecrow Project” via a a Kickstarter campaign to aid in the creation of the non-profit, ensuring this collection’s survival.
The goal is to join the ranks of the American Film Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, The Film Foundation, American Genre Film Archive and the Film Noir Foundation in a commitment to preserving film history with a unique look at films you might not otherwise think of when it comes to the idea of preservation:
With the explosion of home video in the 1980’s came the birth of the direct-to-video industry. Countless direct-to-video films have never been released as16mm or 35mm prints. Thousands of these films never made the jump to DVD, and continue to be overlooked during the digital migration. Scarecrow keeps these nearly lost classics alive and available to viewers. Funds from this Kickstarter will allow us to continue to preserve these titles, while actively expanding our collection by actively seeking out other titles available in physical media that have been deemed to have a historical or cultural value.
“Preserving this library means an enormous wealth of film history remains available for public consumption. Accessibility of this collection strikes at the heart of the home video ethos – put the movie selection experience in the hands of the many instead of the few. It is not our job to decide what movies or television shows people should watch. We simply want to make as much available as possible so that current and future generations get to fall in love with them again and again,” said The Scarecrow Project Co-Founder Kate Barr.
Martin Scorsese‘s regular film editor Thelma Schoonmaker even weighed in saying, ” “Scarecrow Video is a treasure that we just can’t lose. I travel the world, and it’s the most comprehensive video store I’ve ever seen.”
So what’s happening here is that Scarecrow Video owners, Carl Tostevin and Mickey McDonough, are stepping aside and in conjunction with Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema creating a nonprofit organization to preserve the store’s vast catalog of films and create all new ways of interacting with the film community and launching a whole new membership structure.
Unfortunately it would be illegal for them, without the permission of each distirbutor, to convert their VHS library into a digital library, allowing for those movies to live on well beyond their physical years. When I reached out to Scarecrow’s marketing coordinator Matt Lynch asking about the future of their VHS collection and any plans to acquire duplicates and make sure what they have remains in the best condition possible he said, “In a lot of cases duplicates aren’t easy to come by, although we have consistently maintained the collection for decades pretty cleanly. Right now they’re stored about as safely as they can be. Unfortunately, a contact medium like VHS can only last so long, but we do our best to keep them as pristine as we can.”
The Kickstarter campaign is looking for $100,000 and as of the posting of this article they are currently just shy of $30,000 with 35 days to go. To get involved click here, there are several reward levels to consider. Funds raised will be used as startup money and to continue to preserve and expand the collection.