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 our shared cultural heritage and as documentary evidences. 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 work on the Tribesourcing Southwest Film project, for example, has sought to bring historical nontheatrical films depicting Native American communities back to those communities for reinterpretation and re-narration by members of those communities.

What we do:

Melissa and Devin founded Deserted Films in Palm Springs in 2021 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2022 (tax-exempt paperwork underway). Deserted Films is 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 400 films in 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm films, as well as a small collection of home movies transferred to, or originally shot, on VHS. *Note: We do not sell footage, but we would be happy to collaborate on educational or civic-minded projects.

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.”

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, & Weird Stuff” and “Melissa’s Obsession: Work Parties.”

Other things we do:

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

Every year we collaborate 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 often 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.

We also participated in our first international screening as Deserted Films in an event called “Christmas Home Movie Day” in 2021 which was organized by Italian archive, Superottimisti. Superottimisti screened our home movies among others on Christmas Day at the Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino and near the Venaria Reale Palace in Torino, Italy, as well as online.

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.