What We Do

Melissa and Devin founded Deserted Films in Palm Springs in 2021 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2022. In 2023, Deserted Films was federally recognized as a 501(c)(3). We are dedicated to collecting, caring for and making accessible films shot in the general Palm Springs area — as well as Southern California, surrounding desert regions, and sometimes beyond if we love it — during that golden age of nontheatrical film from the 1920s-1980s when 16mm, 8mm, Super 8 celluloid film and VHS camcorders (instead of our phones!) were the tools we used to preserve our memories. Disconnected from their makers, removed from their contexts, these films end up at estate sales, yard sales, auctions, thrift stores, and antique shops. Deserted? Perhaps. Our mission, however, is to reunite these materials with the region they depict and to amass and make available a roster of films that present a fuller image of the area’s unique development, its particular beauty, and its perpetual appeal. The Deserted Films collection consists of over 500 films in 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm films, as well as a small collection of home movies transferred to, or originally shot, on VHS.

We’re happy to supply our Tax Exempt/EIN number upon request/donation.

While we are principally interested in amateur films of the region, our sense of local history is also enhanced by the many “official” tourist and/or “booster” films made in the area, particularly during the mid-century. See “Our Region” for films shot in our general area, and then go farther afield with “A Short Drive“, “A Longer Drive,” and “A Flight Away.” For other Palm Springs-related ephemera like promotional View-Master reels and film strips, slides and yearbooks (coming soon), see “Palm Springs Ephemera.”

We are accepting donations of small gauge home movies and educational films shot in the Palm Springs area and surrounding desert regions created through about 1990. We also link out to other archives’, libraries’, and collectors’ films on our “Palm Springs Area Films in Other Collections” pages.

If you love watching strangers celebrate holidays, weddings, and other special events in their home movies, or retirement and work parties (like Melissa does), or enjoy tricks filmmakers do with their cameras, see “Holidays, Special Events, Parties, & Weird Stuff” and “Melissa’s Obsession: Work and Social Club Parties.”

Please see our “Publications & Resources” page for helpful information on preserving, digitizing, and thinking about home movies and other ephemeral films.

Who We Are

Melissa Dollman and Devin Orgeron have dedicated the better parts of their lives to film and to the preservation of our collective visual history…especially as that history plays out in “lesser known” or “ephemeral” film. Orgeron, a widely published emeritus professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University has spent the last eighteen years researching, writing about, and sharing films made to advertise goods and services, films made to educate and instruct children and adults, and films made by amateurs to commemorate important as well as everyday events. He is editor-in-chief of The Moving Image (the journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists), an academic journal that celebrates these interests. Dollman is a trained audiovisual archivist with a Ph.D. in American Studies, and a former board director for the Association of Moving Image Archivists. Her research often focuses on the role ephemeral films play in our understanding of our shared cultural heritage and as documentary evidence. As such she has focused on “nontheatrical” films…. films made to screen in alternative venues (churches, prisons, schools, fairs, lodges, conventions, etc.) and home movies. Her former position as archivist and digital projects manager for the Tribesourcing Southwest Film project, for example, taught her much about bringing historical nontheatrical films and home movies depicting Native American communities back to those communities for reinterpretation and re-narration by members of those communities.

Board of Directors and By-laws

First Events in the Area

Back in 2019, 2021 (virtual), and 2022, we collaborated with Modernism Week and the Palm Springs Public Library for Home Movie Day, a grassroots, worldwide effort to educate the public about home movies that invites the public to bring their films where we inspect, repair, and screen them. The broad appeal of Modernism Week and Palm Springs’ reputation as a community of transplants means that not all of the films we see are made in or around the area. We screen films from our own collection or invite local archivists to present films depicting Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Indio, and the greater Coachella Valley region.

See our Events and News page for forthcoming and recent happenings.

Our Personal Home Movies

MD#1. [Melissa Dollman’s home movie shot my cousin’s family, ca. late 1950s.] 8mm (transferred to VHS and then digitized at 720p.] Color. Footage features her mother when she was about eight, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandmother, and even her great-grandmother. Shot in Platte, South Dakota.

DO#2. [Devin Orgeron’s family home movie compilation, 1964.] 8mm. Color. This fragment is from a reel in Devin’s own family collection. The Orgeron family didn’t shoot home movies and this is one of a small handful of films depicting my older brother (in this case) and sometimes my older sister. All of the films are dated 1964 and were shot by family friends. This appears to be a joint birthday party, during which my brother splashes in an inflatable pool filled with urine, receives some outfits in primary colors, is briefly imprisoned for wearing a USC shirt, and then gets R&R at the beach on Balboa Island, California.

Copyright Statement

*Note: We tend to not sell footage, but we would be happy to collaborate on educational or civic-minded projects.

Copyright status is unknown for most home movies on this website. Works herein, depending on date of production, are protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Transmission or reproduction of works protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners, if discoverable. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner, if discoverable. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. Deserted Films attempted to find rights owners without success (or donors granted permission), but is eager to hear from them so that we may obtain permission, if needed. Upon request to Deserted Films, digitized works can be removed from public view if there are rights issues that need to be resolved. Should a person see themselves or family members as subjects of a home movie on our site, please be in touch. If said parties object to our display of a work or their likenesses, we have a take-down policy. We’d love to chat!

Land Acknowledgement

Deserted Films is located on the ancestral and current homelands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. They, and other bands in the surrounding areas, have been the caretakers of this land for many generations. We honor and thank them.