(G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, SMU)
by Paula Bosse
The Dallas VideoFest is in full swing this weekend, and one of the events on the schedule is “How the News Got Made: A Rare Look at SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm and a Conversation with the People who Created It.” This screening and panel discussion will include WFAA news clips and B-roll footage on 16mm film from the 1960s and ’70s, selected from the large WFAA Newsfilm Collection (part of the moving image holdings of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University).
A few months ago I saw a screening at SMU of some of these clips — which had been selected by the collection’s curator, Jeremy Spracklen, who has also, I believe, compiled the clips for the VideoFest presentation — and I really enjoyed it. Being able to watch 45- or 50-year-old news clips — of subjects both newsworthy and not-so-newsworthy — is an interesting way to study moments in the history of Dallas. It’s certainly more immediate and “flavorful” than reading old black and white newspaper clippings. I mean … you can listen to people actually talking. (With actual ACCENTS!) And see them move! SMU is in the process of identifying people and places seen in these clips and may soon request crowdsourced assistance from the public. It’s a large undertaking, further complicated by the fact that much of the footage was received by SMU randomly spliced together, some of it raw footage without sound. The hope is to identify subjects and subject matter in order to assist researchers, historians, and documentarians.
At present, almost two decades’ worth of these film reels are slowly being digitized; when the transfers are complete, they are uploaded to SMU’s Central University Libraries site and are free to be viewed by the public. Check what’s up now, here, and watch a few yourself.
There is a great Dallas Observer article by Jamie Laughlin on this collection. You must make sure to scroll down and watch the clip of fresh-faced Channel 8 newsboy Bill O’Reilly (yes, that Bill O’Reilly) interview the only slightly younger-looking future superstar ventriloquist (…two words I’ve never typed one right after the other before…) Jeff Dunham, who, at 14, seems really excited to be talking about his craft on TV.
And, if only a sliver of what I saw of the hilariously bizarre and wonderfully entertaining footage from about 1969 of mini-skirt-and-sideburn-hating Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Sadler — who was reported to have grabbed and choked a political critic in a dispute over Spanish galleon treasure recovered off the Texas coast (…yes, that’s what I said…) — is shown at the VideoFest, it will be WELL worth your time!
Sources & Notes
The top image is a collection of thumbnail images of WFAA digital files which have been uploaded to the Central University Libraries’ site, here.
Read about this WFAA Newsfilm Collection in the Hamon Arts Library digital collection here.
For more information on the collection, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dallas VideoFest program, “How the News Got Made: A Rare Look at SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm and a Conversation with the People who Created It,” takes place this weekend, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, 5:15-6:45 PM at the Angelika Film Center. More information on the event and the panel participants is here.
Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.