Freewater Films is a student-run programming committee within the Duke University Union (DUU) responsible for screening and producing films. It is overseen by the DUU Programming Council.
The committee's origins can be traced to 1969, when the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation gave funds for students from the Duke University Union Visual Arts Committee to make a 16mm film. In November 1970, several students produced an original film entitled "Dying", using a 16mm Bolex camera borrowed from the DUU. The following year, "Dying" went on to win first prize at the Association of College Unions' 1971 International Film Festival.
Freewater soon established its mission in two categories: film exhibition and film production. By Spring of 1972, the film exhibition program was comprised of two weekly film series. One of these took place on Thursday evenings, and featured independent, educational, or niche films. The other series took place on Friday evenings, and featured more recent and popular films. The Friday series provided much of the revenue needed for both the Thursday series, and the film production activities of Freewater members. In addition to these two series, Freewater also sponsored a ten-week summer film series as well as several film festivals devoted to particular genres, actors, or directors. Additionally, it arranged visits by film directors and actors on campus, as well as community outreach initiatives, such as a children's film series, and discounted tickets for underprivileged youth.
As a film production resource, Freewater provided grants of film stock, equipment, processing, lab work, and technical instruction to members of the Duke community. It also funded several independent studies and one Duke course on filmmaking. During the 1970s-1990s, Freewater's Production Coordinator organized a weekly film workshop geared toward beginning and intermediate filmmakers at Duke, focusing on techniques such as animation and graphics. Initially, the organization only had the equipment to produce and process 16mm black and white film, and did most of the processing tasks in-house, in the basement of the Old Chemistry Building on Duke's West Campus. Prints of student-made films were often shown during film series held at Duke and at national screenings; additionally, monitors in the Flowers Lounge often showed some of the films.
Freewater also provided use of their equipment for projects by the Duke Hospital (for producing a commercial) and the Anthropology Department (for producing a documentary on primate research). In some Duke courses, students were allowed to produce films for academic credit; for example the 1982 course "Politics and the Media" allowed students to incorporate original film-making projects. Other Freewater projects included documentaries on Duke professors, North Carolina environmental issues, and political rallies in Washington, D.C. Many of the films present fictional narratives featuring scenes from Duke campus, including Perkins Library, the Duke Gardens, the Chapel, and the Duke Hospital.
In the Spring of 1974, Freewater absorbed the videotape committee of the Union to coordinate expertise between tape and film experts; they continued to champion experiments with videotape as a new medium. Currently, it is divided into two separate committees: Freewater Productions and Freewater Presentations.
Processed by Jessica Wood, March 2012; Updated by Matthew Schaefer, September 2013
Encoded by Jessica Wood, April 2012; Updated by Matthew Schaefer, September 2013
Accession 2007-0028 is described in this finding aid.
Accession UA2014-0038 added by Tracy M. Jackson, September 2016.