Saturday, February 20, 2016

Evolution of Movie Memories

By Ron Hall

I discovered public domain films in the mid-1970s and have been selling them ever since in various formats. No one owns the copyrights anymore to hundreds of features, shorts and TV shows and so one can sell them or show them anywhere. This is a great benefit to the public since many obscure copyrighted films with little commercial value simply disappear. 

I started Festival Films in 1976 to sell 16mm film prints to colleges and libraries. Home video Betamax and VHS recorders came along in the early 1980s, so in 1976 the only format for school or home viewing was 16mm film. Most sales were to colleges with film history courses. Rather than rent the same scratched and spliced prints every year they could now purchase their own new copies of films like Birth of a Nation, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Grand Illusion and so on. 

Always seeking new markets, in 1995 I got the idea for The Remember Series. These were VHS tapes that contained 60 minutes of excerpts from public domain films, tailored specifically for Seniors and their interests. I found addresses for retirement communities in Minnesota, sent out flyers and made around 20 sales. Then I got sidetracked on other projects and never sought national sales.

In 1998 my long-time friend and associate Bob DeFlores was approached by two women with an idea to sell public domain feature films to Retirement Communities along with written notes to guide Activity Directors in discussions after the films were shown. While I supplied quite a few films, nothing ever came of this project. 

In 2010 I took a fresh look at supplying films to Senior facilities. The theory is that Seniors might want to see older films that they saw as children or young adults. Well, some are and some are not interested. Of course most communities today have all the movies they can ever use, either libraries of DVDs, weekly rentals from Netflix or streaming off the Internet. What they needed more was a new ACTIVITY for interaction, for memory therapy and for reaching Alzheimer patients. 

Putting earlier ideas together, I came up with 1) Short film segments on a DVD, accompanied by 2) A printed study guide with questions so an activity director could lead discussions. I named the collection of segments Movie Memories. 

The Study Guides did NOT work that well.  A Movie Memory could be watched alone for entertainment, but encouragement to force reminiscing was needed.  Adding 4 questions at the end of each video supplied that spark. Until 2016 the instructions in the “How They Work” video said to pause after each question, then continue. Again, that slowed everything down and few followed the procedure. Much better is to run the four questions, which are thematically related to the film just viewed, and then pause for discussion about the film or any of the questions. 

By 2011 I had created 6 Volumes of Movie Memories on DVDs, with Study Guides in case an Activity Director did want to guide a group discussion. I do offer these DVDs for sale today. Each Volume contains 3 DVDs with 4 or 5 Movie Memory segments on each, to be used for 3 or more sessions. Also in 2011, I registered my idea with the Writer’s Guild of America West in Hollywood, which is where all screen plays are registered for protection.

Movie Memories on DVDs do work well, but they are not the final solution. Computers are far more accessible today than DVD players. Activity Directors can connect laptops to large screen TVs in small meeting rooms or to video projection machines in large ones. Right now they can stream Movie Memories from Facebook, website or the few on youtube. Pausing at the end of each segment is easy -- the films end anyways! Each segment will awaken memories, or at least a theme for discussion, but reminiscing out loud depends on the catalyst of the questions. Then some in the session will want to talk a lot while others little at all.

In 2014 I began selling public domain features and TV shows to a company that provides computer activities, services and programs specifically to retirement communities - It’s Never Too Late. They also provide the hardware/computer systems for running the content that is refreshed every month. Late in 2014 IN2L began leasing Movie Memories for use on their computers. As I revised each Movie Memory and created new ones, I became more convinced of their worth and value. Every interesting film clip recalls memories of some parts of our past. It is so easy to think of questions that focus on what to talk about, and it is fun for me to inject a little humor.

Movie Memory Time was launched in February, 2016 on Facebook. The term “Time” connotes a pleasurable weekly or daily event in which one watches a Movie Memory and talks about it. It is a far friendlier name than “Movie Memory Activity” or “Session” that I had been using.

Movie Memories can bridge the age gap with grandchildren
I have two dreams for the future of Movie Memories. The first is that they be freely accessible on the Internet to anyone in the world. At the moment they are free to anyone who “Likes” the Facebook page, but few know about it yet. The second dream is Movie Memories Online. Yes, I am putting them online weekly but with only a small presence to date on Facebook, youtube and the MM website. 

It is human nature to be slow to read a new author, start watching a new TV series, play a new game or adopt a new activity. But it is also the nature of the Internet that new discoveries can spread virally in a very short period. They call it social media - friends telling friends and spreading the word. Movie Memory Time on Facebook is currently in Phase 1 -- seeking its audience. If and when Facebook picks up thousands of “Likes” to prove interest, MMT will be in a better position to attract a financial partner who can do it justice on the Web. 

Movie Memories Online could be vastly improved if a company such as Facebook itself stepped in. Such a partner could produce the videos in hi-def, shoot new segments around specific themes, clear rights to offer Movie Memories “I Love Lucy” and similar. They could offer free Movie Memories as a public service. They could offer elite service to retirement communities like I proposed in my 2013 blog (revised Jan. 2016) just below. A proper website could allow activity directors to select segments on their computers, preview them, arrange them into viewing session and automatically pause at the end of each set of questions. They could save each session for future use or swap out segments that did not elicit much response. ALL FREE! Or the owner of Movie Memories Online could make money by leasing to Retirement Communities at reasonable monthly rates that included public performance rights. At the same time they could be available free to individual users, or monetized by including those pesky but short youtube ads from time to time.

I thank you for any assistance in spreading the word about Movie Memory Time on Facebook. Again, MMT is an absolutely FREE activity with new segments added every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please “Like” the page and each new segment will be sent to your FB timeline. Share posts with Seniors who use Facebook. Contact activity directors in communities. Write comments on the FB page. Email feedback to Our progress will show in the number of Likes for


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