Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The Activist Filmmaker in the Archive

Scott, Alistair; Munro, Emily


Emily Munro


This paper examines how a non-professional, environmental campaign film On Site, Torness (29 mins 1979) gained a new life as part of the feature documentary Living Proof: a climate story (90 mins 2021). We will explore how activist films provide an alternative documentary record and why they are important showing the experience of grassroots action and capturing initiatives for change in society. However, there can be difficulty in collection because these films were often produced by ad-hoc groups of non-professional filmmakers with distribution through informal networks.

Scott’s presentation will outline experience as an activist filmmaker directing On Site, Torness, which documented a mass demonstration by campaigners trying to stop the building of a nuclear power station. Using borrowed Super 8 equipment, the small team produced a film featuring interviews, debates about non-violent direct-action tactics, and documenting the mass occupation of the site. The film was completed in the autumn of 1979 then distributed by local environmental groups. Thirty years later, believing that the film provided a unique record of an early example of environmental activism, Scott made contact with the Moving Image Archive, aware that this record might be lost if it was not preserved. The presentation concludes introducing the new ways the film has been accessed and used since deposit with the archive.

Emily Munro’s presentation will follow on by describing her role as an activist curator. She will describe how she uses archival material to create new films focused on issues relevant to audiences today. She will talk about the selection of clips for her feature documentary Living Proof gathering material to tell Scotland’s climate story and the evolving debate about energy and fossil fuels. She will explain the reasons she selected a 9 minutes’ extract from On Site. She will talk about the impact of this documentary launched in September 2021.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name FIAT/IFTA International Federation of Television Archives
Start Date Oct 4, 2022
End Date Oct 7, 2022
Deposit Date Apr 17, 2023
Publisher URL