Friday, February 13, 2009

Will new FilmLinc staff cuts affect "Golden Silents"?

I saw an article online this morning announcing the layoffs of eight staff members at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Sayre Maxfield, who programs the "Golden Silents" series at FilmLinc, is one of the staffers being let go, as is Will McCord who runs the "Young Friends of Film" program there.

Click here to read the article on indiewire.com that I found – "Under New Leadership and Facing Economic Realities, Film Society Cuts Staff" – and which was posted there late last night. While the article states that FilmLinc says the "Golden Silents" and "Young Friends of Film" programs will continue, an article from July 2008 in the New York Times announcing FilmLinc's new Exec Dir Mara Manus – which you can read by clicking this link – states "While renowned for the annual New York Film Festival and financially sound, the organization rarely draws much public attention."

Hopefully the expansion of FilmLinc to include an additional two theaters – 150-seat and 90-seat – plus an amphitheater for talks and events will mean that specialized progamming like silent films will get more play than just 3 or 4 "G.S." events a year, and that the initiative to bring a greater audience in will mean the one or two silent films series that are programmed each year will lean more toward silent films that will develop a greater audience for the genre.

Still, if $ is the key interest, it could go either way. It depends on the agenda of the people at the top. One arts cinema I play at feels the fewer silent film shows booked each year, the more that silent show will seem like a special event and therefore sell more tickets. Another, the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, feels the inclusion of silent film as part of their cinema landscape is important and offers a monthly series; we program the shows based on what we want to present and have built up an audience for silents there.

With the recent retirement of Joe Yransky (Donnell Media Center), Steven Higgins (MoMA) and now with Sayre's being let go – along with the Museum of the Moving Image's being closed for renovations – it will be interesting to see what effect on silent film in NYC this will have. Meantime, I'm doing what I can to keep silent film on screens – the Silent Clowns Film Series is still going (although we are looking for a new theater to move to for the fall), and the public screening series version of the "Cruel and Unusual Comedy" class I taught at MoMA with Steve Massa and Ron Magliozzi is on the MoMA calendar for five dates in May. Will the Film Forum program any silents this year...? Stay tuned...and support your local silent film shows!

See you at the silents!

Ben

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