Academy initiatives keep Hollywood's legacy alive

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While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might be best known for handing out eight-pound Oscars once a year, its contributions to motion pictures extend far beyond that august duty. Day to day, the organization fosters the art and science of moviemaking through numerous programs and initiatives.

Two of the Academy's most concrete facilities are the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills and the Academy Film Archive in Hollywood.

"The library is responsible for anything that's not moving, and anything that moves comes to the archive -- motion picture film, audio tape, any kind of magnetic tape, any kind of optical discs and now digital," says archive director Mike Pogorzelski, who oversees both the collection and the preservation of prints. The archive routinely lends its holdings to festivals, cinematheques, universities and museums without loan or access fees, and the general public can also make appointments to view films, free of charge, at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Vine Street, where the archive is located.

The library, which dates back to the earliest days of the Academy and moved into the historic Waterworks building on La Cienega and Olympic boulevards in late 1990, holds a world-class

collection of books, periodicals, photographs, posters, scripts, sheet music, costume and production sketches, and more. "We like to think that we're one of the preeminent facilities for the study of film in all its aspects," says library director Linda Mehr. "We like to be considered the memory of the industry."

In addition to this preservation of the past, the Academy also looks to the future, developing emerging talent through educational programs like the Student Academy Awards, the Media Literary Program (in which high school students visit the Academy and view films relevant to their curriculum), lectures, multiweek filmmaking seminars, public events about the technology of motion pictures, exhibitions in the Academy's Grand Lobby and the Fourth Floor galleries, and screenings. In addition, the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting program selects five winning screenplays each year by new writers. The fellowship carries a $30,000 prize, which allows the winners time to write and to take meetings with agents, managers, producers and studio executives.

"What it does for the winners and for a fair number of other folks who place well in the competition is that it opens doors so that it makes it far easier for people to get their scripts read around town," says program coordinator Greg Beal. Of the 101 total scripts that have won since the competition started in 1986, 14 have been produced, including 2006's "Akeelah and the Bee," 2000's "Finding Forrester" and 1999's "Arlington Road."

While these important Academy activities seldom get as much air time as the Oscar ceremony, this will likely change when they break ground on a museum of the moving image, adjacent to the archive, in early 2009. Says Pogorzelski: "I think that as the

museum project moves forward that people will start to become more and more aware of the fact that the Academy does a lot more than just hand out the awards."   

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