The Archive of American Television houses some 475 taped interviews with actors, writers, producers, designers, casting agents and technicians, all available online and viewable on Google Video.
Interviews you’d never imagine in a million years you’d ever see again are now right there, just a few clickety clicks away. The blog for the archive’s site, tvinterviewsarchive.blogspot.com/ announces what’s been most recently added to the library. Today’s entry: “Casting Executive Ethel Winant’s interview is now online. Ms. Winant discusses her early years casting for live anthologies, her role as one of the first female network executives and her experiences as a network casting executive for CBS and NBC.”
The archive spans decades and contains within it the secrets, strategies and lessons learned of those who created, worked in and made television what it is today. There are interviews with Alan Alda, Dick Van Dyke, Ossie Davis, Mary Tyler Moore, Rita Moreno, and Michael J. Fox. There are also interviews with writer/producers Norman Lear, Carl Reiner, Steven Bochco and Dick Wolf. Newsmen are represented by Walter Cronkite, Ed Bradley, David Brinkley and Dan Rather. Every aspect of television is covered. Anyone who is interested in its history or would just like to see some great content ought to make a long stop at emmys.org/foundation/archive.
After hitting the site’s main page, the right hand column has a link for “the interviews.” Click on that and it will take you to a nicely organized section of alphabetized interview subjects. As my eye drifted down the page it caught Julia Child. It had a “G” by her name, which means that it’s available on streaming Google video. They are adding more interviews on a daily basis so it’s worth bookmarking the site.
The archive has conducted many of the interviews themselves and thus, they are more in depth than you’re used to seeing; there are no annoying cuts for time and offer an unusually candid look at a subject. While Ms. Child is almost always candid, seeing her here, not in the kitchen, is a rare treat.
Google video isn’t the only way to view their interviews. The website will direct you on how you can access some of the videos that aren’t yet online. Some of them aren’t on Google yet but are still available for viewing as a Quicktime movie.
So you might be asking, why would I want to spend my time watching people I barely remember talk about stuff I’ve long since forgotten about? I suppose if you have to ask that question the archive is not for you. It’s for people who believe that there is, essentially, nothing new under the sun and that much can be learned from those who’ve gone before. Their experiences, their stories, their history – it’s our history.
There is an interview with Elma Farnsworth, the widow of Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of the electronic television. This is a woman who worked alongside Farnsworth as he developed what would become the way images were broadcast on television sets. To have this interview with Ms. Farnsworth available for viewing free of charge is astonishing. Maybe it’s not astonishing to young people who have grown up in the YouTube era, but take it from me, it’s astonishing to have access to this kind of information from one’s living room.
I was also curious to take a look at the interview with Jim Lehrer. First of all, it’s a thrill to see Mr. Lehrer speaking candidly. I can’t really explain it to you. You’ll have to watch it for yourself. But the strange thing about the interview is that it was held in May of 2001. Everything changed for journalists in September of that year. It was such a significant turning point that this interview serves as a time capsule, in a way, of a more innocent time.
You can discover all of these interviews and much more by visiting the archive, emmys.org/foundation/archive/interviews.php