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Historical Presentations and Lectures

In addition to my work as a silent film accompanist, I’m also a film historian and lecturer. In most cases, I introduce the silent film programs I play for, giving the audience insightful background history and context on the movies and their stars and directors and will also hold a Q&A after the screening. In 2015 I was tapped to create and teach a course on silent film history for Wesleyan University’s Film Studies Department by its chairs, Jeanine Basinger and Scott Higgins. The course I developed, Silent Storytelling, is offered every Spring semester to students at Wesleyan.

Here are the lecture/screening programs I offer:

Undercranking: The Magic Behind the Slapstick

My study of the way silent film actors and directors knew and utilized the fact that the films they were shooting were being projected faster in cinemas has opened a whole new understanding of silent film. This lecture has been presented at the Library of Congress, MoMA, the Toronto Silent Film Festival, and was turned into a video extra by Criterion for its Blu-Ray release of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid.

The History and Practices of Scoring Silent Movies

“Was that the original score?” is one of the most-often asked questions I get after a show. (A close runner-up is “Don’t your hands get tired?”.) This talk & play program covers the origins of silent film scoring – both the music and instruments – as well as my own process and background in film accompaniment.

Accidentally Preserved: How 16mm Film Saved the Silents

This talk and screening combo shows how the birth of home movies with the introduction of 16mm film in 1923 and 9.5mm in 1922 inadvertently saved hundreds of silent movies. Many silent films were released for rental in the 1920s and 1930s and only survive in these “accidentally preserved” 16mm copies. The program includes the screening of 4 rare films from my own collection, films that led to a successful 4-volume DVD series.

School Groups, Universities, and Senior Living

Kids of all ages actually enjoy silent films. Honest! I have been presenting programs at schools to kids from Kindergarten through high school for the past 2 decades and has found that young people are both entertained and educated by these 100-year-old comedies. They’re also ideal for bringing the silent film experience to college students and to senior living communities.

Kids love silent movies! See for yourself! 

Watch this segment from the Stan Laurel comedy Oranges and Lemons (1923) and hear youngsters laughing their heads off during a school assembly of kindergarteners and 4th graders.