Film Distribution

Conversations with the students

On Monday June 20, Sol Worth discussed his response to the students’ question: what would happen to the films after the summer?

I told them that I will take it back and have the negative matched and that the negative will belong to them under the same conditions as the Annenberg School films belong to the students. That is: that any money made from the film is shared between Annenberg and the students. I wanted to assure them, and told them that they have some control over the commercial showing of the film. Although I cannot give them complete rights over the showing of the film, I wanted in some way to reassure them about the fact that they will be shown with some feeling for theirs (1).

Chalfen described that conversation slightly differently,

Sol Worth then brings up a question that has been asked a few times: What’s going to happen to the movies later, after they’re done? Sol Worth begins: There are now six weeks left – at the end will you get prints? Each of you will own the original negative to do with what you want. Sol Worth continues by mentioning matching the original negative with the w/p and that this is what the edge numbers are used for. Each student will own the negative and all the rights to selling it belong to the student. If there is a possibility of distribution we will write to the filmmaker to ask for permission (2)

Worth also described his reaction to Adair’s suggestion that they leave the original films in Pine Springs, where he would continue to work for a short time:

My gut feeling is no. How could I leave my babies…If I leave the film, we must have edge number records of everything. I worry that repeated showings will rip the work print apart. (3).

There is no record of the filmmakers being consulted about the use or distribution of their films. There are no records which show that the Navajo filmmakers receiving any money made from the films. It also appears that the filmmakers were not informed about the international audience that their films had recieved.

Columbia & MoMA

From Worth’s correspondence with public librarian Clifford P. Wolfsehr, we know that in 1969 Columbia University owned the distribution rights for the films (4).

On November 6, 1974, Margareta Akermark, acting director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York City sent Worth a letter “to confirm the agreement between you and the Museum of Modern Art for the distribution of your films” (5) She also listed the prices of the films:

A NAVAJO WEAVER – Rental $20. Lease $132.
SECOND WEAVER – Rental $10. Lease $54.
THE SPIRIT OF THE NAVAJO – Rental $15. Lease $126.
OLD ANTELOPE LAKE – Rental $10. Lease $66.
THE NAVAJO SILVERSMITH – Rental $15. Lease $84.
THE SHALLOW WELL PROJECT – Rental $15. Lease $84.
INTREPID SHADOWS – Rental $15. Lease $108.
 10% discount given on lease of all seven films.

 

MoMA’s contract expired in 1973.

Penn Museum Archives

In 2007, Mrs. Tobia Worth signed a deed of gift for the films to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (Penn Museum). The films had as mentioned previously been in the Museum’s collections since 1991, when the Annenberg archives closed.

From the first time that Penn Museum Film Archivist and Cataloger Kate Pourshariati first went to the University of Pennsylvania Archives to research the contracts between Worth and the filmmakers, it became an intention of the Museum to redress the issue of compensation or royalties for the filmmakers.

Having organized restoration of the films with the Library of Congress, the Museum is now prepared to release the DVDs as a published set in collaboration with Native American Public Teleccomunications’ VisionMaker.