The Script presents a collage of revealing moments pulled from material in the Prelinger Archives, an online collection of over 11,000 "ephemeral" (advertising, educational, industrial and amateur) films made between the 1910s – 1980s. While the archive is a valuable resource for filmmakers and media artists hoping to find historical gems in the public domain, relatively few films include black, Indigenous and people of color, especially in speaking roles, and even fewer appear to be made by BIPOC writer/directors. As such, the Prelinger Archives blatantly expose how ephemeral media has been misused to perpetuate a cultural imbalance of power.
Leveraging material from eighteen films, The Script weaves an awkward, decaying colonial narrative, starting with the glorification of European immigrants, “founding fathers” and statues of pilgrims. The analogue sound and image occasionally shifts, jolts and cuts out, hearkening to a played out worldview. A film crew interrupts the sequence to remind viewers we’re watching a scripted narrative made by “experts and technicians”, and then takes us to a new location, a Maclean’s toothpaste commercial, in which a white woman’s teeth stand in as propaganda for the project of whiteness.
Woven throughout the film are images invoking an abolitionist discourse on racist policies and values impacted by “the script”, including the role of police in protecting upper class white people. An excerpt from an interview with Civil Rights activist and field secretary Bruce Gordon punctuates the narrative with insight into the dramatic ethical awakening required by white people to serve authentic racial equity and justice. The film ends with a shift in tone – a poem representing the conscience of America, recited by a young black man, who prays for his heart to help show him “the one out there who cares.”
Conor Provenzano is a filmmaker and photographer based in the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations, also known as Vancouver. Over the last ten years Conor has worked as a freelance videographer and editor on a variety of collaborative multimedia projects including museum exhibitions, live theater performances and arts-based education programs encouraging play as integral to life-long learning. In 2015 he taught media literacy through the Children’s Media Workshop and currently teaches photography at Luminous Elephant. Central to his personal artistic vision and work ethic is a commitment to contemplative practices, social justice and arts based community engagement. Recently Conor joined the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty media team and is finishing his first feature-length documentary about the spiritual implications of attention, called Focused Life.
The spirit of what motivated this work is a bit too complicated and messy to encapsulate in one statement. It involves a lot of feelings, more than ideas – frustration and rage, grief over the execution of black citizens by racist police officers and vigilantes, endless reasons to be hopeless, and an urgent call to contribute to the conversation on ending white-supremacy. But also, I feel motivated by a profound love and hope in humanity to heal collective wounds.