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Guide: Shipping film safely

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Why it's important to use enough tape.
Why shipping film on cores without proper packing isn't a great idea.

Preparing and packing film for shipment is a crucial part of proper film handling. Incorrect preparation of shipments — by both exhibitors and lenders — is a common cause of film damage and loss.

Quick guide

Preparing the film itself

  • All reels should have a tight, smooth, even wind with no exposed edges that could be crushed in shipment.
  • Film reels should be of good quality and not bent or rusted.
  • Films shipped on cores in cans should be secured on the side with bubble wrap or other non-acidic packing material.
  • Ends of reels should be taped down with a good length (at least 6 inches) of fresh, acid-free tape (NOT masking tape).
  • Film leaders and cans should be clearly labeled with film title and other relevant info.
  • Be courteous and don’t tape over identifying or important labels on leader or film cans.


  • Cardboard box securely taped at top, bottom, and sides, Goldberg can zip tied shut, or fibre case reinforced with tape.
  • Packing slip with phone number, email address, and other relevant info inside box.
  • If you're shipping a print in Goldberg cans, seal your shipping label inside a Fedex pouch and stick it to the side or front of the can, or attach it to a FedEx tie on tag and attach that to the handle of the can.
  • Tracking number, address, phone number, and email written on box or case or on a piece of tape attached to the can (separate from the shipping label). This way, if the label falls off or is destroyed, the tracking number can be used by the courier to determine the package's destination.
  • Take a picture of the box or case before handing it off to the courier. This will come in handy if the package gets lost.
  • Label securely attached to the package.
  • Under no circumstances should a shipment made up of two cans or boxes be shipped using only one shipping label.

The shipment

  • Ship films with sufficient lead time to arrive at the venue, and ship films back immediately after the screening unless instructed otherwise.
  • Allow extra time (as much as 2-4 weeks) for international shipping and customs clearance.
  • Confirm correct shipping instructions with the lender before sending.
  • Avoid shipping to residential addresses.
  • Avoid sending important films through the post office. Use UPS, FedEx, or DHL.
  • Sign up for email tracking notifications, and call customer service at the first sign of trouble.
  • Forward the tracking information to the recipient of the print, and confirm package delivery with them once tracking says they have received it.

Extra measures

  • Apple Airtag can provide additional tracking for your film prints.
  • If the print came with reel bands, keep them with the print.

Other things to know

International shipping

To come

Shipping in the United States

FedEx Express Vs. FedEx Ground - The most commonly used courier for motion picture film in the US is FedEx Express. Nearly every US archive ships this way and insists on FedEx 3-day at minimum. Insurance is almost always required, either through FedEx or through your own insurance company (which is usually astronomically cheaper!). Many archives and distributors will not allow prints to be shipped via FedEx Ground. If you're not sure what the shipping requirements for the print you're sending are, it is always best to ask the owner of the print.


To come

Common problems and how to deal with them

To come

Packing materials & containers

To come

  • Zip ties
  • Shipping reels
  • Shipping on cores (pros and cons)