Friday, November 30, 2007

Tom Nazziola, Buster Keaton and the BQE Project

Tonight I saw Tom Nazziola's BQE Project perform his brand new original score to Buster Keaton's Battling Butler at the Walter Reade Theater. I've known Tom for a number of years, and while he's come to a few of my shows, I've always been working when the BQE has performed. Luckily, I was unengaged this evening, and was really glad I got to hear Tom's scoring work and his excellent 8-piece ensemble. They did a great job, and Tom's score really did the work Battling Butler needs...it supported the energy, gags' rhythm and the heart of the piece. BK's BB is not one of his greatest, and is somewhat uncharacteristic, but it's a story well-told and with a great supporting cast. If you get a chance to hear Tom and the BQE -- go. The sound is traditional and is scored down to the second...meaning it's not mood music beds that fit, it's more like a real film score timed to each beat of the picture.

Okay...I got through my double-header on Weds of The General (10:30am!) at AMMI for a near-full house of seniors, and then Sunrise in Huntington. Never played for Sunrise before, and it went really well. Those expressionistic, lyrical films are such a blast to play for, and it was a great show. We had a real nice crowd, plus the opening short - my print of Big Business - absolutely killed. Thurs eve I hung out with Phil Carli, who is in town to play for magic lantern shows at MoMA on Fri and Sat. I will go tomorrow (Sat) for the ML show, and then have to take off for the Brooklyn Museum to play for It with Clara Bow. I watched this on a VHS that I got from the NYPL, at double-speed. Found out from Bruce Lawton that the Killiam edition was the first time the film really had been restored and put into circulation; Killiam managed to coordinate the rights from both Paramount and Elinor Glyn.

Sunday's Silent Clowns show is Stan Laurel shorts, our last of the season. Spent a little time this afternoon repairing the focus knob on one of our two Eiki SL-O projectors. I've customized them to run at 21.5 fps, and the we'll be using both machines for these Laurel one-reelers, which can zip by at 24 fps.

A tri-state area high school has contacted me about doing one of my orch scores...with their band. Now need to re-tool the score for concert band, but that shouldn't be too complicated. Once things are a little more cemented I'll let you know where (and when) this'll be happening.

Still haven't had time to deal with the orchestral cues from the 'teens and '20s I acquired in September; same for my idea of recording scores for purchasable download for silents. Maybe when a little dust settles later in Dec or Jan...?

Stay tuned, and see you at the silents!

Ben Model

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dec/Jan/Feb show bookings

Have just finished recording theatre organ scores for a release by Unknown Video of William S. Hart in Sand. Also on the disc is an Art Acord 2-reel oater and a surprise comedy short (you'll just have to buy it to find out!). Recorded the scores earlier in the week on the Miditzer and am dumping the recorded tracks into my computer as we speak, and will send burnt discs out Fri.

Last week was eventful as well. Got the orchestral score for the Nell Shipman The Light On Lookout finished, printed and shipped to Boise by Thurs. During the last couple of days of work on the score more show bookings came in: three shows of the Norma Talmadge comedy Kiki at MoMA (Dec 19, 20, 21), Dreyer's Love One Another for the NY Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center (Jan 13), Lloyd's Safety Last at the Riverdale YMHA (Jan 26). A couple more have popped up in the last few days: a showing at MoMA of new restorations of shorts starring Bert Williams (Feb 2), a class and show at Simon's Rock College (Jan 31), Lloyd's Speedy at the CAC (Jan 8), and a showing of Chaplin's City Lights in Greenwich CT (Feb 11). The Chaplin show will find me as guest speaker, since the CC family does not allow live accompaniment to his feature films unless you hire an orchestra.

And to top this all off, I've been offered two shows in the last day or two that I had to pass on because I was already booked. One at AMMI for Dec 9 (I will be at MoMA playing for Von Sternberg's Docks of NY), plus a date for another film at the NY Jewish Film Festival. For the latter I gave the festival contact Steve Sterner's # and understand he is now booked for that show (His People on 1/20); I am already set to accompany the silent Peter Pan at the Burns Film Center in Westchester.

Am still trying to figure out it Facebook is worth being part of. Have had a "presence" there for a few months (I took down my MySpace page some time ago...too much of a pain). So far, Facebook may be worth it. I know my postings about shows on the "Death to Talkies" group caught the eye of one person who came in from Nutley NJ for our show of Wings.

Am very excited about new developments with the Miditzer. There's a new beta being tested whose graphics much more closely resemble a real theatre organ console, plus there's a whole 'nother set of digital samples of ranks being converted to soundfonts. Right now I'm figuring out ways to acquire a touch-screen overlay for my laptop to complete the Midizter experience/package.

It's been a great year, much to be thankful for tomorrow (Thanksgiving) and the year's not over yet. Hope to post a videoblog entry next time...

See you at the silents!

Ben Model

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wings, with special guest Budd Schulberg

Our Silent Clowns show on Nov 11 featured the 1927 "Wings", and I accompanied on the Miditzer virtual theatre organ. We had a real nice 16mm print, originally owned by Walter Kerr and donated to us a few years ago by the Kerr family (along with a few other titles). The added attraction which happened at the last minute was that Budd Schulberg came to the show to introduce the film. I got an e-mail the Friday evening before the show from Schulberg's son, saying his father had heard about the show and offered to come and share his memories of "Wings" and of how his father (B.P. Schulberg) produced the film. B.P. Schulberg was associate producer on the picture as well as a few dozen other Paramount releases in the late silent era, and eventually came to run Paramount in the '30s. Budd Schulberg himself went on to do a great deal of writing and other work in Hollywood, penning the script for On the Waterfront and the novel What Makes Sammy Run among many others.

Schulberg, his wife and son got stuck in traffic and arrived just as we were about to start the film -- Bruce and I were stalling, answering questions about the Miditzer and our slide shows -- and proved to be a real pro. He entered the theater and walked to the front, while his son helped him off with his coat; I handed him a wireless mic and he leaned against the stage and spoke to our audience for about 10 mins or so about the film and his memories of that era. we were all so thrilled to have him there with us; it's such a special thing to have a living connection to the silent era right there with us at a silent film show.

Shown in the photo are, L to R: Bruce Lawton, Steve Massa, me, Budd Schulberg and Robert Arkus. (photo by David L. Snyder)

"Wings" is an amazing picture, dramatically compelling and also possessing a slight anti-war message that moved many of our audience members (I heard quite a bit of sniffling toward the end). Why doesn't this film get shown more often? There are certainly prints around, and I understand that the Academy did a restoration of the picture a couple of years ago. I am working on getting this booked at the monthly series I accompany in Huntington NY at the Cinema Arts Centre.

Am right now winding up work on the orch score for the Nell Shipman short, and I expect to have this shipped out by end of the week. I am also making new titles (main and inter) for a few of the shorts on this Sunday's Silent Clowns program, and am really having a blast doing this.

Looming on the immediate horizon:
  • Weds 11/28 at 10:30 am – The General at the Museum of the Moving Image
  • Weds 11/28 at 7:30 pm – Sunrise (plus Big Business) at the C.A.C.
  • Sat 12/1 at 6:30 pm – Brooklyn Museum silent film show
  • Sun 12/2 at 2pm – Stan Laurel solo shorts at the Silent Clowns
  • also in December: Asta Nielsen, more Reel Baseball, and Docks of NY
See you at the silents!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

recovering from Halloween, workin' on an orch score...

The week or so before Halloween was busier than usual for me. Five shows, two of which were out of town overnighters, left me a little winded but with a greater appreciation of Lon Chaney's talents. Three of the shows I played were Phantom of the Opera (Oneonta, NY), The Unknown (Huntington NY) and Hunchback of Notre Dame (NYC), and two of those were on organ.

Am now staring into the rest of the year, and mainly at an orchestral score commission from the Boise Philharmonic for a Nell Shipman film called The Light on Lookout. Their youth ensemble, the Treasure Valley Youth Symphony, will perform this as well as my score for Keaton's One Week (composed in 2004) at their annual fundraiser in Feb 2008. I will be there for the event this year, and will accompany Arbuckle's Love (1918) on the theatre organ at the Boise Egyptian Theatre.

Today, began plowing thru the 1927 Wings, which I'm accompanying on Sunday at the Silent Clowns series, making story notes and noting visual cues so I can anticipate story points. Am using a video with a score by Gaylord Carter on it. Was listening to it, but need to mute it as after the first 20-30 minutes it gets a little repetitive in theme use and noisy in the amount of sound, not as subtle as Lee Erwin's style (although a lot of people find Lee's playing a little uninteresting). It's good to listen to Carter's playing, for style and theatre organ registrations. I'll be scoring the film on Sunday with the Miditzer virtual theatre organ.

Got a couple calls about shows for 2008 here in the city (not at MoMA, but somewhere else cool), and have already booked at show of Peter Pan (1925) for January at the Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY.

Cancelled my MySpace page a month or so ago. Found the site annoyingly cluttered and spam-ridden. Have got a page on Facebook, but don't pay loads of attention to it. There's an interesting group on it called "Death To Talkies" with a few hundred members, started by a student who's trying to get Edna Purviance a star on the walk of fame. It's nice to see so many people under 25 so interested in silent film.

Still percolating my notion of a website to sell downloadable scores for silent films that synch with DVD's people already own, as alternate tracks. Just need the time to record some, and to set up the site.

Next up for recording is a score for William S. Hart's Sand, for Unknown Video. Have you bought your copy of What Happened to Rosa with Mabel Normand from them yet? It's a new release and has a theatre organ score by me on it.

Stay tuned, and see you at the silents!

Ben

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