Blackside Inc.’s landmark 1987 series, Eyes on the Prize, will be seen again on public TV. The 14-hour civil rights epic has not screened legally since 1993 due to lapsed copyrights. A reported US$915,000 was required for research, rights clearance, and post costs to return the series to PBS’ ‘American Experience’ strand this October.
The origin of the problems lay with the initial production – and some Faustian budget decision-making. Blackside founder Henry Hampton and his team felt the pinch of limited funds when rights were initially being negotiated. ‘With the first series, we cleared pbs broadcast and non-theatrical educational audiovisual rights,’ says Cindy Kuhn, the post-production supervisor on the series. ‘We subsequently cleared foreign broadcast for standard television, not cable.’ While some rights were acquired in perpetuity, most were for limited periods of time. In total, 82 footage sources, 93 stills sources and 100 songs had to be cleared.