With nearly 120 interviews recorded and a growing number of interviews coming to the archive from other organizations, the Academy’s oral history collections honor the contributions of all of film’s “makers” and keeps their stories and experiences alive for generations to come.
Academy Visual History Collection
Since 2012 the Academy’s Visual History Program has been recording oral histories on HD born-digital video, seeking to document diverse representatives from a wide variety of film professions. Some of the collection’s interviewees include: Emmanuelle Riva, Dennis Muren, Albert Maysles, Gena Rowlands, Jiri Menzel, Sharmila Tagore, Luis Valdez, Thelma Schoonmaker, Barbara Hammer, Masahiro Shinoda, Tony Walton, Irwin Young, Alejandro González Iñárritu, DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus and Mira Nair. To date, the program has conducted more than 120 interviews, shooting an average of 25 per year. Interviews have been recorded in: Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area, New York Tri-State Area, Japan, Mexico City, Europe and South America. Interviews generally range from 2-6 hours long. The collection includes video, photos and transcripts. Transcripts are available on request.
Academy Oral History Collection
The Oral History Program’s collection consists of more than 70 in-depth audio oral histories on subjects ranging from art direction and film editing to censorship and Academy history. Beginning in 1989, the program has sought to document the lives and careers of individuals who have worked in various areas of the motion picture industry. The collection consists of audio tapes, including master cassettes and access copies; digital masters; edited transcripts; indexes; and photo documentation. Published oral histories can be accessed at the Margaret Herrick Library.
To browse the Oral History Collection, click here
Howard Walls Interview Collection
The Academy’s earliest oral histories were recorded by Howard Walls, the Academy’s first film curator. The collection is comprised of polyester, acetate, and paper-based audio tape from interviews Walls conducted in 1948 and 1949 with several silent filmmakers, notably J. Searle Dawley, Albert E. Smith, Edgar Davenport and actress Blanche Sweet. Walls called the project “Voice Recordings of Film Pioneers,” and although short-lived, his interviews give a fascinating look into early cinema. For more information about the Howard Walls interviews and to hear audio excerpts, see our Academy Collection blog post here.
Craig Jacobson Visual History Interview Collection
This collection of interviews with lawyers, agents, producers and executives was financed, coordinated and donated by Mr. Craig Jacobson. The interviews were conducted between 2008 and 2013 and include oral histories with Sid Sheinberg, Pat Kingsley and Richard Zanuck. The collection consists of videotapes, reference DVDs and digital files.
Writers Guild Foundation ‘Writer Speaks’ Oral Histories
Founded in 1966 as a non-profit institution, the Writers Guild Foundation supports and provides educational programs devoted to the art, craft and history of writing for the screen. Their archival collections contain the personal papers of prominent writers, vintage scripts, photographs, artifacts, the historical records of the Writers Guild of America, West, one of the first labor unions in the entertainment industry, as well as oral histories. The Writers Guild Foundation’s oral history program, The Writer Speaks, includes over 60 visual history interviews with award-winning film and television writers intimately sharing stories about their lives, career and craft.
For more information about the Writer Speaks interviews, click here.
International Cinematographers Guild - Interview Collection
The International Cinematographers Guild represents directors of photography, camera operators and assistants, visual effects supervisors, still photographers, and publicists. The technicians and artisans in the guild work in film, television, live entertainment, animation, special effects, and new media. The Guild was chartered in New York in 1926 and in Los Angeles in 1928.The guild has recorded 433 oral and visual history interviews, of which nearly 300 are housed at the Academy Film Archive. The collection includes such interviewees as László Kovács, Allen Daviau, and Vilmos Zsigmond.
Film Music Foundation Collection
Founded in 2001 by Elmer Bernstein, Herschel Burke Gilbert and other music professionals, the Film Music Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes education and preservation in the art of film scoring. The Foundationʼs oral history collection consists of in-depth interviews with composers, lyricists, song writers, arrangers and orchestrators who discuss their unique experiences in writing scores for film and television. Recorded in high-definition video, the interviews are two to three hours long. Maurice Jarre, Danny Elfman, Patrick Doyle, Johnny Mandel, Lalo Schifrin and Dave Grusin are among the composers featured in the collection. The foundation produces three or four interviews per year. Thirteen of these are currently housed at the Academy Film Archive, with selected segments available online.
For more information about the Film Music Foundation interview, click here
Motion Picture Editors Guild Collection
The Motion Picture Editors Guild was founded in 1937 to set the standard for excellence in the post-production industry. They presently represent over 7,300 freelance and staff post-production professionals working as Sound and Picture Editing, Sound Engineering, Foley Artists, Laboratory workers, and Story Analysis. Part of Local 700 of the International Alliance of the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), they are partnered with 500 affiliated locals in the United States and Canada, with a total membership of over 110,000. The Motion Picture Editors Guild Legacy Archive is a collection of interviews focusing on the life and career history of its members. The project began recording in 2007 and currently has almost 100 visual history interviews, with a growing number of interviews each year. Participants are interviewed by members of the board, peers or family members who also work in the field. Some examples are Stanley Franzen, Mia Goldman, Charles Campbell, Lynzee Klingman, Donn Cambern, and Dede Allen.
The Academy is working to form a coalition of seven guilds, unions and foundations, whose combined collections number over 1,000 oral history interviews. The goal of this collaboration is to unify efforts, exchange best practices, and seek common solutions to problems.
Art Directors Guild
Motion Picture Editors Guild
Writers Guild Foundation