A little over two years ago in March of 2015, Lunchmeat ran an article exploring the Canadian-based endeavor called PROJECT GET REEL: an initiative that aimed to collect, dismantle and recycle some 2.26 billion unwanted and abandoned VHS tapes overflowing in The Great White North, with intentions to keep them out of the landfill and protect the environment from the plastics and poisonous chemicals that coat those reels of magnetic magic. It’s an honorable endeavor indeed, but the project aroused an important question among VHS collectors and media preservationists alike: what about the copious amounts of assorted cultural material still very much alive on those videocassettes?
That question was aflame with ire, anxiety and expectancy, with multiple Tapeheads (myself included) unapologetically expressing their concerns of potential cultural loss with little rewind reservation. You can view the original article HERE, and read through the comments to get an idea of the collective Videovore notion on recycling seven figures of video tapes without considering their content. Fast forward to today, and Red Propeller, Inc. (parent company to the PROJECT GET REEL initiative) has taken some impressive steps to help get a portion of their massive flow of VHS tapes back into collector circulation, while also carefully considering the VHSituation concerning all of that one-of-a-kind home recorded material that could be unique to a number of these (potentially) ill-fated slabs.
It's the rewind reason, man! 5EVA and EVA.
Recently, LUNCHMEAT was able to talk with Dave Neilson, a representative at Red Propeller, Inc., and one of the main brains behind their new platform to help save some of these VHS tapes from utter oblivion: THE LAST REWIND. Inspired by the ardent reaction to their initiative from the VHS collector culture, Red Propeller has launched THE LAST REWIND as a last stop for these VHS before they hit the recycle line. The titles up for sale on this newly formed site range from obscure horror and sci-fi to 80s cartoons to cinema classics, all available as we VHSpeak via their website. THE LAST REWIND also offers a groovy little selection of special interest tapes, while also offering a few BETA titles.
All of the VHS titles you see here are currently available at THELASTREWIND.CA! Who couldn't use another pizza-driven tape, eh, Tapeheads?!
But it isn’t just VHS that’s recycled through Red Propeller. When asked about what kind of materials Red Propeller receives, Neilson explains, “We recycle all media; magnetic, digital and vinyl. We originally started with the idea to only recycle video tapes however we are constantly asked to look at other items. As a result we know accept all of the following: Video tape (all formats and sizes), audio tapes, floppy disks (3,5, and 9 inch formats), CDs and DVDs and even vinyl records. We also get video games and cartridges.” Neilson also recognized the potential for combo packs, combing multiple formats for a specific interest such as, “Pulp Fiction on VHS, DVD and a soundtrack audio tape…. VHS version of Davy Crockett paired with a copy of The Ballad of Davy Crockett on 10” vinyl in VG condition in its original sleeve.” So, I’m sure some of you are wondering: when you buy these tapes, where does the money go?
Neilson explains: “Red Propeller is a for-profit company, but our mandate is twofold: to minimize environmental issues by recycling where possible, and, provide employment for people with barriers. THE LAST REWIND is a good example of that; every tape has to be photographed so that provides employment to one person. This employee comes in (at this time) one day per week and photographs the tapes and then edits the photographs for the website. If the site takes off then we can increase the hours of work because that employee should be able to package up the items sold.” Neilson continued, “PROJECT GET REEL also provides employment to those with barriers. There are 3 involved in that part including one who is blind; we have adjusted the dismantling process to allow them to do this part. That employee is going to be featured in a video by Ryerson University in Toronto that is designed to encourage other employers to consider people with barriers.” “The decision to be a for-profit company was to ensure that each project we tackled has to be able to stand on its own two feet without taking funding away from other not-for-profit projects that really did require funding through government support. So are able to fully support the employment of people with barriers who are paid an hourly wage to recycle where possible. This allows us to do this with no funding; all the projects are supported by people who believe in the process.”
Never, ever stop watching, dudes. That's the whole point.
Well, Dave, I think that’s certainly something we can get behind. All of this essentially means that every tape you purchase from THE LAST REWIND directly supports the growth of this initiative, including the rescue of more tapes, and jobs for people with barriers. And that’s pretty groovy, man. But it’s obvious that THE LAST REWIND is in a nascent stage… and they want to hear from YOU, my fellow Tapeheads, about how to move forward. This can mean anything from which types of titles they should list on the site, to pricing, to really any kind of feedback that would make this initiative make more sense for the modern Tapehead. There is another important note from Dave: “We can’t hold onto these tapes forever as we just don’t have the space. I will probably leave each batch up for 60-90 days .” You can contact Dave and THE LAST REWIND crew via their site RIGHT HERE. Be VHSure to tell ‘em Lunchmeat sent ya, dudes!
A few more of the VHS titles currently available on THELASTREWIND.CA
But back to that burning topic from the original post from 2015. What about all that home-recorded material? What can PROJECT GET REEL really do about that? Neilson gave us the rundown on their research, and what they’ve found out to move forward. Neilson said, “The personally recorded material is an interesting issue. There are a few types of material on these tapes: 1) Personal recordings of family and family events 2) Recording of television programming, and 3) Copied materials such as movies.” “Number two and number three are easy to deal with. Any recording of a TV broadcast or copy of a movie is subject to copyright laws and we would need permission to do anything with it on a commercial basis.” “Number 1 would need a release form signed by the owner of the tape and by anyone who appeared on it.”
Neilson continued, “Very early on, I did consult with the Archivists of Ontario with regards to some of the materials that we could receive. It confirmed what I already suspected with respect to copyright; we could be the recipients of nasty letters from large law firms! In addition, it was also pointed out that any historical material such as a 1968 Santa Clause parade would need to be taken to an archivist in the area that the parade occurred to see if there was any interest in it.” “It was further pointed out that people have a habit of putting multiple items on a tape and not necessarily identifying all the contents on the label, so we may be in the position of having to watch a tape to ensure that there is no unidentified material or people on a tape.” “This was the response from the Archivists Association of Ontario (AAO): ‘I discussed with my AAO colleagues on the Board your inquiry. They generally felt pretty much same as I already discussed with you. Depending on source and content of any particular VHS there could be either privacy or copyright issues or both. You would have to get the donor of the videos to assign you copyright, assuming they themselves own it, and you would have to determine if any protection of privacy was required. There is also the matter of having to determine whether the videos do have enduring archival value. These are all issues an archivist deals with daily and an archivist has the documentation in place and the knowledge to know how to handle the donation issues on a case by case basis. But we rather think getting into this for a company such as yours would be biting off more than you can, or want, to handle.’
In closing, Neilson posited, “Hopefully this gives you and your readership an idea of the potential pitfalls we could face by releasing personal tapes, and as a last point people are giving us the tapes as an alternative to landfilling them.” It certainly does, Dave. And while all of us Tapeheads here in Lunchmeat Land would love to see all of this material saved and preserved, I think we can all take it with a grain of VHSalt, and appreciate all of the effort and research you’ve put into this project, and the consideration of our Videovore voices.
So what do you think of it all, Tapeheads? VHShout it out in the comments below, and / or contact PROJECT GET REEL directly. Even in the smallest doses, it’s radical to see entities like Red Propeller, Inc. doing good things for the planet, and the people that want to watch VHS forever.
Groove and Groove and Still Try to VHSave the World.