Following in the steps of Rick Utley, who is retiring from PRO-TEK and his distinguished career in film preservation, Tom Regal understands that he has a metaphorical big footprint to fill. Regal and Utley have known each other well, having served together on the board of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA).
Yet it’s the path carved by Rick and his team that attracted Tom to the position of Vice-President at LAC Group, responsibility for PRO-TEK operations.
This group of professionals represents the high end – the gold standard of film preservation and curation. They have built something special and unique, based on a wealth of knowledge that is unmatched in the industry.
Film has been all but overtaken by digital imaging. Many independent labs and studio-owned labs have closed, leaving fewer people with the experience and ¬know-how to handle film. PRO-TEK’s commitment and expertise are of great value to the industry. According to Tom,
The owners and producers of content created on film can go to PRO-TEK, knowing that the people here understand its value and have the tools and skills to preserve and protect it. As a result, PRO-TEK works with virtually every major motion picture studio in California.
PRO-TEK is People Who Love Film
PRO-TEK never was in the business of commodity storage, nor was it founded to be merely the high-end, specialized vault that it is. PRO-TEK was a venture created by Eastman Kodak, with the deliberate selection of Rick Utley to launch the business, as a comprehensive solution for repairing, curating and preserving film – both moving and still images – primarily for the motion picture industry. That pedigree is what attracted us at LAC Group to acquire the business in 2013.
As impressive as Tom’s credentials are (more on those later), he holds the PRO-TEK team in the highest regard.
People at PRO-TEK do not view their work as a job. They have a love of motion pictures and a reverence for vintage film. These are individuals who have written books about the history of film and have knowledge that is simply not available anywhere in the world. They are collectors and enthusiasts who know the value of the archives they are protecting.
The Value of Film Curation and Preservation
Although film is in rapid decline, an immense archive of original camera negatives remains, holding valuable content – not only entertainment and news, but content developed by government and business for training, marketing and other purposes.
The key reasons for preserving these assets are history and monetization. The historical significance is important for capturing all those ‘slices of life’ and keeping the record intact. And there is growing interest in monetization in our content-hungry, digital world. Studios make money from the products they create. When actors or directors make it big, for example, greater interest develops in their earlier work. So if there’s a way to re-mix and re-purpose this content, having it well-preserved and archived is crucial.
While the majority of movies and other programming is now produced and delivered using digital technology, film continues to be the choice of some artists and for some projects because of the aesthetics and other attributes. Director Christopher Nolan is well-known for his love of film. At the time of this writing, his movie Interstellar is at the top of the box office. (Learn more about the technical format on the official website for the movie or go to the Eastman Kodak site for more information on the film Nolan used.)
In addition, Tom recognizes that companies which have been around for a while – blue chip companies like Coca Cola, DuPont or IBM – possess film archives that may be sitting in somebody’s office or in a warehouse somewhere. These archives hold content worth curating, not only for historical purposes but for marketing and other business needs – especially when anything vintage or retro has a coolness factor of its own. These other markets, which have been untapped by PRO-TEK because of their small size in relation to media and entertainment, are where parent company LAC has experience and recognized leadership that Tom intends to leverage.
Regal Vision for PRO-TEK and LAC Group
LAC Group’s library, research and curation skills are what Tom wants to tap into for PRO-TEK’s future. He recognizes the value that PRO-TEK can bring to LAC Group traditional markets, and vice versa. He sees great opportunity working with all media – film, video, audio and digital.
Between the experts within PRO-TEK and LAC Group, we can identify anything, we can discern what’s worthy of curation and we can prepare and protect assets for later use. The whole process, not only technology and techniques, but the caring and know-how of all our people, is the great value we bring.
Because the capabilities of our people are the biggest part of the equation, Tom also recognizes the need to educate the next generation, making sure young people who are proficient in digital media also understand the opportunity to work with film, video and other technologies that have played a long, important role. He hopes to revive a fellowship program that was run by Utley and funded by Eastman Kodak until it was retired with the company’s reorganization.
Tom started in the music business as a recording engineer, moved to Los Angeles and switched to post-production work. He has contributed to audio standards, having spent ten years at Universal Studios doing audio restoration and DVD mastering and re-release. With experience and interest in preservation, restoration and digital asset management, Tom is familiar with all film, audio and digital formats.
One notable project that Tom is proud of was the work he did on the Stanley Kubrick movie collection. Under the guidance of Warner Brothers and the Kubrick estate, he enjoyed a couple of happy years remixing the audio from mono to stereo for five of the critically acclaimed director’s most iconic films, such as The Shining and Clockwork Orange.
Tom is a respected member and active leader in the preservation and asset management community. He is a Member of the National Film Preservation Board and Director of the Board of the Association of Moving Image Archivists.
Interestingly, for somebody who works in preservation, he says: “I don’t spend a lot of time looking backward. I am a very forward-looking person. The work I did at Universal was exciting and I look forward to doing the same at PRO-TEK, leveraging all the assets and resources of LAC Group.”
Tom comes to LAC Group from Iron Mountain, where he was General Manager for the Western U.S and Digital Studios. And he can claim another kind of ‘iron’ in his background – he is an Ironman athlete, competing in triathlons that combine long-distance swimming, running and biking in one grueling event, or as IRONMAN Founder John Collins describes it: ”Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles and brag for the rest of your life.”
Rather than bragging, Tom says he relies on Ironman competition to get the endorphins flowing and reduce stress. I think anyone who views something that most would consider a stress-inducing event as one that alleviates stress is somebody who can lead PRO-TEK to greater success and bring new value to LAC Group clients.
To that end, I and the rest of the management team look forward to working with Tom. In addition, we are happy that Rick Utley will continue to be a part of the LAC Group family by joining the Board of Directors. Learn more about Rick’s distinguished career.