Women’s Film Preservation Fund: Protecting the Legacy for Over 20 Years

By Ann Deborah Levy

The Women’s Film Preservation Fund is one of NYWIFT’s best kept secrets…we’d like to change that!

Get to know the WFPF.

Founded 1995 by NYWIFT in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art and spearheaded by the determination of NYWIFT member Barbara Moss, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) has preserved over 100 films by women. In fact, we are the only organization dedicated to preserving exclusively films made by women. In celebration of the fund’s 20th anniversary, MoMA honored WFPF with a two-week Carte-Blanche series, curated by our committee, entitled Women Writing the Language of Cinema. Most of the 30 films screened were works preserved by the fund.

 phIncollaborationWindy.jpgFaith Hubley’s Windy Day

What we’ve saved.

WFPF has saved films by American women of all colors and many ethnicities, made both in the U.S. and abroad. The films include both features and shorts and span all genres, covering a range of subjects, not necessarily related to women’s issues, though many are.

Though some of the films are the work of early filmmaking pioneers, like Alice Guy Blaché’s Mixed Pets (1911) and Lois Weber’s How Men Propose (1913), many later films even from the 1970’s and 1980’s need preservation because of unstable film stocks or poor storage conditions. The most recently created films we have preserved are Hurricane Katrina-damaged “home movies” by the late animator/filmmaker Helen Hills from 2000-2005.

Additional examples that highlight the range of what we have preserved are Barbara Koppel’s documentary Harlan County USA (1976), and Cinda Firestone’s documentary Attica (1974); Maya Deren’s experimental film Meditation on Violence (1948); experimental/animations by Mary Ellen Bute from the 1940’s and 1950’s; Faith Hubley’s animated film Windy Day (1967); Julie Dash’s short narrative Illusions (1983); and Trinh T. Minh-ha’s experimental documentary Reassemblage (1982). The list goes on and on.

reassemblage.jpg Trinh T. Minh-ha’s experimental documentary Reassemblage

Why we preserve films.

In saving women’s films we are preserving women filmmakers’ legacy in the history of what was and still is largely the male dominated filmmaking world. As we follow this history of women making films, not only do we see how much they have achieved in filmmaking, but also how their depiction and visibility on the screen has changed. It is important that this rich body of work is not lost and can be screened more widely for years to come.

How we do what we do.

We award grants of up to $10,000 yearly through an application process. As part of each preservation grant, we require that an archive for storage of the film’s preserved elements has been secured if the elements were not already housed in one. After each film is preserved, we screen it publicly.

The kinds of media we preserve.

We preserve works completed on film because that is the most proven and stable preservation medium at this point in time. Since films are saved so they can be seen, we also try to budget for digital copies, whenever possible, to accommodate the increasing number of venues that no longer screen film. Video technology, because it changes constantly, presents greater challenges than film. As we explore how best to enter the world of video preservation, we are preserving only the occasional video work.

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Preservation is a collaborative process.

We work with the filmmakers, if they are still alive, and with the best labs in the nation to ensure best practices and that the results are as faithful to the original films as possible. We partner with other film preservation organizations to fund the work and we screen preserved films in our partners’ screening venues. In-kind laboratory services are provided by Cineric, Inc., but we work with a number of other prestigious preservation labs as well. Additional in-kind support and funding is provided by The Film Foundation, Kodak, The New York State Council on the Arts, The New York City Council, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and through individual contributions.

Please stay tuned!

This is our initial post in what will be a series of continuing blog posts about our work and film preservation itself. We will post announcements about:

  • screenings of films we have preserved and other events of interest
  • highlights on individual films and genres in our body of work
  • an introduction to the technical aspects of the film preservation process
  • information on preservation resources
  • tips for film and video makers on how to take proactive steps to store and preserve their works.

and in the meantime do visit our pages on the NYWIFT website:

More information about the WFPF

Information on our grantthis year’s deadline is June 1st 


Ann Deborah Levy is a member of the Women’s Film Preservation Fund Steering Committee and makes experimental films. For more information on her films and videos, please visit:  www.resonantimages.com


womens film preservation fund

womens film preservation fund The Women's Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) is the only program in the world dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of women in the industry through preserving American-made films by women. Founded in 1995 by New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), WFPF has preserved nearly 150 American films in which women have played key creative roles.

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