Why the News of the Academy Museum of the Motion Picture Troubles Me

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The history of cinema, as told by the Academy.

This morning the New York Times ran an article about the forthcoming Academy Museum of the Motion Picture, to open in Los Angeles next year. People across social media reacted very positively, with several friends of mine discussing the necessity of a California vacation in 2019. However, the piece featured quotes from the museum’s director, Kerry Brougher, which—in my mind at least—are reason for serious concern amongst fans of silent films. Continue reading

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Silent Film Quarterly: A Re-Launch

The first issue of Silent Film Quarterly was published over three years ago. At the time I was a recent college graduate without a full-time job, and it was easy to dedicate several hours a day to the publication. I could afford to spend an entire weekend stuffing and stamping envelopes. I was putting enough hours into the production and distribution of SFQ that it felt like a regular, 9-to-5 job at times.

Over the past few years, however, some major changes have taken place in my life. In the spring of 2016 I accepted a position at an auction house specializing in postage stamps. The job has been one of the most wonderful things to ever happen to me. However, there are times of the year when I am working 80-plus hour weeks, sleeping on a sofa in the office to ensure that everything that needs to get done is taken care of. The auction business is unforgiving and deadlines cannot be moved.

There are many weeks and even months when I simply do not have the time or energy to dedicate to SFQ, and what little enthusiasm I can muster I’d rather spend creating content than coordinating printing and shipping. Seasons come and go without a new issue being created, which I attribute entirely to fatigue from my career. The auction house pays the bills that SFQ never could. The magazine must remain, for the time being at least, a hobby that can keep me busy during late nights and weekends.

Beginning with the next issue, SFQ will exist more-or-less entirely online as a digital publication. (I say “more-or-less” because I will continue exploring cost- and time-effective ways to print hard copies, and I will continue to print a very limited number of hard copies for contributors and archival institutions.) I have decided to host the magazine on the platform Issuu, which is aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly. I have already uploaded the first 10 issues of the magazine for purchase, as well as several of the limited editions that have been released at various times.

Currently all issues of Silent Film Quarterly are available for purchase on Issuu for $5 each. When the next issue is released in February of 2019, there will be an option to subscribe, whereby the next three issues will be automatically sent to you. Issuu allows you to read the magazine on their website, their mobile app, or as a PDF download. All of these options are, in my opinion, very pleasing to the eye and easy to use. They are no substitute for a printed magazine, certainly, but given the circumstances I believe they are a fair compromise.

After having fallen behind in the middle of 2018, SFQ will resume a normal production schedule in 2019. The next issues will be published on February 1 (Winter 2018/19), May 1 (Spring 2019), August 1 (Summer 2019), and November 1 (Fall 2019). Adopting an online-focused format will make adherence to this strict schedule much easier.

Additionally, I have begun putting more emphasis on this website, silentfilmquarterly.com. Given the long span between issues, I believe semi-regular blog posts (perhaps twice a month) will provide great supplementary information for readers. Expanded interviews, previews of forthcoming content, and other odds and ends that might not have a place in SFQ itself will all continue to appear here. Already I have featured wonderful pieces by the likes of Olivia Gilmer and Lewis Walker; if you are interested in contributing content to the blog or the magazine, please do not hesitate to reach out.

I suppose that just about sums up the current state of Silent Film Quarterly. I still get untold joy out of putting together the magazine; I have just had to realize that I do not have the same luxury of free time that I once did. SFQ will continue to evolve. In the future it might not be in the format you’ve come to expect, but I can guarantee that my desire to present interesting and diverse content about the silent era will never waver. And I have nothing to thank for that but the enduring support of this publication’s readers and contributors. For that I am forever indebted.

With that, I’m off to get some sleep, as I’ve an early flight tomorrow to attend the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s Day of Silents. Expect a full recap soon.

-Charles Epting, 11/30/18

What Is The Greatest WWI Silent Film?

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Today, November 11, 2018, marks the centenary of the end of World War I. Many of the most impactful and enduring silent films used this brutal conflict as a backdrop for uniquely emotional and human stories. And so we ask you, readers, what the greatest silent film set during World War I is? Select up to FIVE options from the list below. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Silent Film: A World So Close, Yet So Far

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by Silent Film Quarterly contributor Olivia Gilmer

I had my first experience with silent film at the age of 14—but what captivated a 14-year-old girl in Ireland, where there is no such thing as a “silent film weekend” or a “silent film community,” into an impassioned spiral that eventually led her to watch every silent film she could possibly get her hands on, from obscurities such as Young Mr. Jazz to classics such as Safety Last?

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Interview: Roger Miller of Alloy Orchestra, Mission of Burma

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“You turned around, screamed at the scene,
Grabbed my hand and leapt out of the screen.”

When Roger Miller sang—or rather, barked—these words on the song “Outlaw,” from Mission of Burma’s seminal 1981 Signals, Calls, and Marches EP, I’m sure nothing was further from his mind than silent films. At the time Mission of Burma was on the cutting edge of the American post-punk scene, vying with bands like the Talking Heads and Devo for critical acclaim (if not market share). Miller was lauded by many as a leading poet of the genre, with lyrics exhibiting a cerebral nature that the previous generation of punk had largely lacked. Jaded art school kids and volatile punks alike gathered for the band’s notoriously loud and raucous shows.

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When Pictures First Moved! (1932)

The following article is reprinted from the December 3, 1932 issue of Pictorial Weekly, a British publication focused primarily on popular culture and sports. The cover caught the eye of Olivia Gilmer while antique shopping in Brighton over the summer; the now-famous image of spooked filmgoers fleeing as a cinematic train pulls into the station was apparently already a trope at this early date. I have always been fascinated by retrospective articles written not long after the birth of the moving picture, and this cover story fit the bill exactly. Focusing on Mr. Ernest BlakePictorial Weekly presents a fascinating account of the earliest days of cinema in the British Isles.

The article is presented here in its entirety, with original images, and only minor stylistic changes made. This is the first time it has been made available to a wide audience in 86 years.

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No More Tears Over Lost Films

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Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation claims that 90% of films made before 1929 are lost. The Library of Congress found that 75% of silent films made my major studios are lost. These numbers, on the surface, are harrowing to say the least. If all we have is 10% of the silent films ever made, what brilliant, ground-breaking, revolutionary pieces of art are we missing out on?

My answer: probably not that many.

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