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JoAnn Elam Collection Update

September 6, 2013
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Still from GRAINS by JoAnn Elam

We’re hard at work digitizing our Ruth Page Collection, but that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned our other collections! The JoAnn Elam Collection, for instance, is near and dear to our hearts. The collection contains the films and production elements of Chicago experimental filmmaker JoAnn Elam (1949-2009). Since we first acquired the collection back in 2011, we have inventoried the entire collection (shout out to Michele Puetz!) and hand inspected all of the 8mm and Super 8mm films in the collection (shout out to Lauren Alberque!). JoAnn and her films have also been the topic of recent film productions and academic panels. As you might remember, JoAnn delicately organized the majority of her 8mm films in well labeled & colorful cracker boxes. It is a processors dream to have a collection arrive this organized (hint hint current filmmakers). We unfortunately had to remove these 8mm films from their eccentric homes in order to place them in more stable, archival containers….but don’t worry! We kept all the original cracker boxes and currently store them alongside JoAnn’s films and ephemera.

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Processed 8mm films  from the JoAnn Elam Collection

The JoAnn Elam collection is complicated (the good, challenging kind of complicated). It is a production-centric collection that consists of a wide array of formats (16mm., 8mm, Super 8mm, VHS, 1/4″ audio, etc), print generations & elements (camera originals, reversal prints, answer prints, outtakes, etc) and affiliated ephemera (cameras, papers, splicing equipment, etc). Did I mention there are also 8mm and 16mm film loops in the collection?! On top of that, we are still finalizing a filmography of JoAnn’s work. Thanks to Michelle Puetz (MCA, CFA Advisory Board) and Chuck Kleinhans (Northwestern University, Jump Cut and close friend of JoAnn Elam), though, we have a great working filmography that will evolve with the collection as it becomes more processed. So what’s new with the collection? We’re now working off of Michelle & Chuck’s filmography to get JoAnn’s finished 8mm films digitized and streaming. So far we have about twelve of Joann’s 8mm productions streaming on our site:

Grains (my new, personal favorite!)

There’s also a handful of JoAnn’s 16mm and mixed media productions now streaming, including her more well-known films Lie Back and Enjoy It and Rape as well as a rough cut of Everyday People (Rough Cut)– JoAnn’s unfinished film based on her experiences as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in Chicago. Also in the mix is Rescue Breathing, an instructional film that teaches viewers about CPR or mouth to mouth resuscitation and how to perform it. “Huh?!” you might be thinking. Well, JoAnn’s father, James O. Elam, acted as one of three medical advisers on the film, while a young JoAnn acted in a short dramatized scene alongside her siblings.

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Unprocessed 16mm prints & elements from the JoAnn Elam Collection

While we work to get more 8mm films digitized and streaming, CFA intern Travis Werlen is also hard at work hand inspecting all of JoAnn’s 16mm prints and elements. Included in this batch are composite prints, camera originals, production elements, film loops, hand painted films as well as a handful of medical films related to Mr. Elam. Stay tuned as we continue to process the collection and make these films accessible online for the first time E-V-E-R. And last but not least, endless thanks to JoAnn’s sister, Susan Elam, who continues to be a generous supporter of the collection. Thank to her and fellow Elam Collection preservation sponsors, Kenneth Belcher and Sandy Ihm, these films will reach audiences more quickly.
and now for some BONUS IMAGES! :
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A young JoAnn performing CPR in RESCUE BREATHING

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Inspection bench detail of the direct animation film, FILMABUSE, by JoAnn Elam (uncut 8mm film!)

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Inspection bench detail of the 8mm film, GRAINS, by JoAnn Elam


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