CARIBOU, Maine — Brenda Jepson, instructor for Viking Video Productions — the media studies program at the Caribou Technology Center — acknowledges there is nothing she can do about the program being eliminated.
But she said she can do something about all of the raw footage her students have filmed as part of the class and is hoping the Regional School Unit 39 school board will agree with her plan for the material.
Officials at RSU 39 decided to eliminate the program earlier this year because of declining enrollment.
“These are tough times financially, and we had to make a hard decision,” RSU 39 Superintendent Frank McElwain said late last week. “Student enrollment has been low before and the program has been threatened, but we have always decided to keep it going. This coming school year, however, there are no students scheduled to take part in the program, so we had no choice but to eliminate it.”
Students with Viking Video Productions have produced a wealth of material over the program’s 15-year history, including a documentary about German prisoners of war who were detained at a former Houlton internment camp during World War II and footage from the first biathlon ever held in Maine. Much of that footage was transformed into documentaries, but a wealth of raw footage is still in the program’s archives, according to Jepson.
“This raw footage, only 10 percent of which was used in the documentaries, was shot to produce award winning films such as ‘Stan’s — A Jewel In The Crown of Maine,’ ‘The Coming Of The Swedes,’ ‘Don’t Fence Me In,’ ‘Biathlon Comes To The County’ and ‘A Bowdoin Expedition,’” Jepson said.
“Don’t Fence Me In,” a documentary about the Houlton internment camp, has been shown on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network and was accepted into the permanent World War II collection at the Library of Congress.
Both Jepson and McElwain acknowledged that the RSU 39 school board has been offered the chance to preserve the material through Northeast Historic Film, a regional film archives located in Bucksport. Jepson said that the nonprofit organization has a state-of-the-art conservation facility with 25 years of experience preserving and making moving images accessible to the public.
Jepson said that Northeast Historic Film has offered to provide RSU 39 with royalties on the sale of the stock footage and films in the Viking Video Collection. The school system would always have access to the materials or could sell the videos itself, according to Jepson.
“We have rich footage that I believe is irreplaceable,” said Jepson. “I don’t want to see it just get tossed away or languish on a shelf somewhere to get covered with dust and ruined.”
Jepson said she has contacted school officials about the matter and has not heard back. She said that she is fearful that the board will not support her proposal.
McElwain said Tuesday that the RSU’s vocational director is researching the offer by the Northeast Historic Film and school officials will move forward with a final decision in the near future.