The Wex goes gridiron after 10 years of showcasing baseball newsreels
By Jay Hansen
For 10 years, Dave Filipi has pulled back the curtain to give audiences a look at rarely seen footage from America’s national pastime. It makes sense then that his focus eventually expanded to Ohio State’s pastime.
On Friday, Filipi will unveil Rare Football Films: The Newsreels, a second program featuring college football newsreel footage from the Hearst Metrotone News Collection. Following the program, former Buckeye football stars John Hicks and Bobby Carpenter will field questions from the audience about the films and their own on- and off-field experiences.
The newsreel program is a football version of the baseball ones Filipi has done for years at the Wexner Center (wexarts.org).
“The baseball program has been very popular; we’ve taken it all over the country,” said Filipi, the Wexner Center’s director of film and video. “Through these programs, we’ve been able to share things that either are historically important or show a part of the culture that can only be revealed through sports. This project gives us a chance to show an interesting intersection between sports and culture at large.”
The newsreel program has grown out of a collaborative effort between Ohio State and UCLA, which owns the entire Hearst newsreel catalog. This is the second year that Filipi has worked with UCLA’s Film and Television Archive to create a project based on the Hearst newsreels.
Steven Hill, the collections service coordinator at the archive, said his team has worked with a wide range of universities including Harvard, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, among others. He added that Filipi’s work differs from many of UCLA’s other collaborative partners.
“Dave has taken a really unique approach to how he’s built these programs for the Wexner Center,” Hill said. “Most often universities will just use the complete editions as their program, but Dave’s taken it a step further by going through everything and creating a program out of various newsreels.”
The footage featured in the Wexner Center program is widely varied but holds true to Filipi’s goal of more deeply exploring the intersection of sports and culture.
One piece features Psycho actress Janet Leigh riding a blocking sled and goofing around at a Boston College football practice. Another shows former President Herbert Hoover walking to his seat at a Stanford football game. Yet another features Jackie Robinson, then a football star for UCLA, in footage filmed for a movie that never made it to the screen.
Uncovering these bits was a bigger challenge in some respects than Filipi faced when building the Wexner Center’s popular baseball programs.
“There is a lot of visual variety in baseball, but when it is football newsreels, for the most part they set the camera up at midfield on top of press box, so 90 percent of footage is herds of players moving across the field and back,” he said.
“The way the football films are shot, you often don’t even know what stadium you’re in. There’s not as much variety as when you see Fenway Park, or Wrigley (Field) or Ebbets (Field). But we eventually found enough stuff to have a really good and interesting variety.”
The program also will bring important archival material to the forefront, something both Filipi and Hill agree is essential and important for audiences.
“The role of archives, all archives, has really come to the forefront in the last few years as artists go into them as inspiration for new work,” Filipi said. “Projects like these become important because for the most part this material sits in archives and doesn’t get out.”
Added Hill: “This material covers important bits of history. We want people to see this material, and this (program) is a great way to make that happen.”
Rare Football Films: The Newsreels will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at Mershon Auditorium.