Monday, July 09, 2012

Lost in the bottom drawer: resuscitating old interview tapes and finding gold

I don't know about you, but cluttering up my desk drawer are several defunct tape machines and the probably-not-defunct tapes that were used in them. Since I wasn't very careful labelling them, I'm not sure which are meaningful recordings of long-ago interviews (doubtful) and which merely blank or unintelligible.
However, I was very interested in a recent post by the Nieman Journalism Lab about a non-profit media organization that aims to resuscitate old tapes. David Gerlach, a former TV producer runs a company called DG Multimedia Inc.and he founded Blank on Blank, a Brooklyn-based project to resuscitate never-before-heard tape from journalists’ reporting archives.
Gerlach says his years in television left him with a nagging sense of loss over the material that never aired.
“It always amazed me I had this great stuff on tape that I never did anything with and no one ever got to hear it,” he told me. “It just stuck in the back of my head: All this amazing content that was going nowhere, dying on the vine.”
Journalists submit old tape, and his production team polishes it up. In some cases, even animating it. For instance, there's an example of the “lost tape” from Anthony Bozza’s Rolling Stone interview with U2 frontman Bono in October 2001.
Other examples include a conversation with Martin Scorsese about the use of soundtracks in his movies; Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on his reputation; Alan Ginsberg’s recording of a hospital visit to actor/director/poet/activist Julian Beck; and puppeteer Caroll Spinney on voicing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Journalists don't get paid for loaning their tapes, but Gerlach says he hopes to create a viable business model that eventually will compensate contributors. The organization is in the midst of a 30-day Kickstarter campaign.
“There’s a huge historical impact we could have, just getting journalists to dig into their archives,” Gerlach said.


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