The Spotlight is an occasional feature that will profile a Libraries staff member.
Tyler Bequette was a film and media studies major at Washington University when he started as a student worker in the Film & Media Archive in 2012. After graduation, he went on to earn his Certificate in Film Preservation from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, with the encouragement of Nadia Ghasedi, an alumna of the program. He was hired as a film preservationist for the Libraries in 2015. He lives in his hometown, Columbia, Ill.
Describe your job: At the Film & Media Archive we’re dealing with film all the time. That can be doing condition assessments of the films by inspecting them or testing them for vinegar system—when film starts to decay it gives off a vinegar smell. I also determine what would be a good candidate to preserve. It may be because a film has vinegar syndrome, or it may be because of historical significance, like the “Eyes on the Prize” project.
We organize the event Rawstock where I select a bunch of educational films and project them. We just received 200 more, so we’re closing in on 13,000 educational films.
I also do inventory work with Special Collections films, which we have at West Campus, and community outreach, so people in the community can bring in their films.
Do people from the community bring in films to check their quality? Some are people who have found the films and they may have been their grandparents’, and they don’t know what’s on them. In that case, if it’s projectable, they can come in, I’ll inspect the film first, and then let them know if we can project it. If not, then I’ll take pictures throughout so they can get a feel for what’s on the film.
What are projects are you working on? I’m in the process of inspecting the original negatives in the Jack Willis collection. He was making a civil rights documentary at the same time they were making “Eyes on the Prize,” but “Eyes on the Prize” got the funding. Willis did not, so his documentary was never completed, but we have the interviews from it.
What do you do in your free time? I see a lot of movies, swim at the gym, read, and hike. I took at trip to Utah this past March where we camped and hiked in Zion National Park.
What are you currently reading? Hell Bay, the eighth book in a series by Will Thomas. It’s a mystery series set in Victorian England. I’m also reading Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made-For-TV Band. I just saw The Monkees in concert, and it was fantastic. Thankfully Barry (Kelley, also at the Film & Media Archive) has indulged me while I’ve been reading it and telling him everything about it. It lines up because he watched them as a kid.