Film preservationist Michele Kribs receives a commendation from Thomas Vaughan, former head of the Oregon Historical Society.
Michele Kribs has kept an eye on the Oregon Historical Society’s moving image archive since 1979. Although the collection is catalogued, she remains the best source of information about what the archive holds and how to find it.
Michele explained to me that Oregon had an early start in the film industry because of three things: the Rose Festival, the Columbia Gorge, and the Pendleton Round Up. These three endlessly fascinating subjects were documented, year after year, for national audiences by silent newsreel photographers. The steadiness of the demand for these three Oregon subjects created enough economic stability for a local film scene.
The coming of sound in 1927 dampened the progress of the local industry. Only Hollywood had the budgets to keep up with the expanded costs brought in by sound. But since the roots of Portland’s film industry were deep, there was never a complete hiatus. Local ad agencies, including one run by Homer Groening, kept skills ( and processing labs) alive. Then in 1975, after Will Vinton came home with an Oscar, independent filmmakers in Portland had renewed determination and inspiration.
Michele was not the first preservationist/archivist to work for OHS. That honor goes to the man who trained her: Lewis Clark Cook, a filmmaker-turned-archivist who inspired both Will Vinton and Jim Blashfield ( who in turn inspired, employed and mentored a young, film curious, Gus Van Sant.) For that reason, Lew Cook could reasonably be called the granddaddy of Portland filmmaking today.
Congratulations, Michele Kribs, and thank you for keeping everything in order, including our sense of Portland film history.