University of Rochester

EVENT: Film Lost and Found: The Experience of Pre-and Silent Cinema

March 9, 2010

The Humanities Project Presents Early Cinema from Rochester's Unique Film Archives

In the years before the development of synchronized sound on film, motion picture screenings of "silent films" were hardly silent, often including live music, commentary or even a traveling showman, according to Joanne Bernardi, professor of film and media studies at the University of Rochester. And now thanks to Bernardi and her colleagues it will be possible to relive such experiences through Film Lost and Found: The Experience of Pre-and Silent Cinema, a series of events taking place in Rochester, N.Y., March 18 to 21. The project is a collaboration between the University of Rochester, its Eastman School of Music, and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.

"Going to the theater used to be about more than 'seeing a film.' It was really a community experience," said Bernardi. She hopes that those attending the conference will get a glimpse of early 20th-century entertainment and visual culture as well as a better understanding of the history of motion pictures, and developments in film technology and preservation. According to Jeffrey Stoiber, assistant curator at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and one of the project's organizers, "As technology continues to improve and produce products like Netflix and Video on Demand, movie audiences become smaller as people prefer to watch films at home." Through collaborations like Film Lost and Found, the goal of both Bernardi and Stoiber is to remind people what it is they love about going to the movies.

"By creating the event in Rochester, the very place where motion picture film was developed, we are able to draw from the collections of the George Eastman House as well as the expertise of film preservationists, scholars, and composers from internationally recognized programs of study," said Stoiber. Home of the third-largest film archive in the United States and to the personal collections of directors Spike Lee, Ken Burns, and Martin Scorsese, the Eastman House serves as both an academic resource and recreational resource for photography and motion picture enthusiasts. "Preservation without access is pointless, so we want to show people all the resources that the Eastman House has to offer," said Stoiber, who will be coordinating tours of the facility's Motion Picture Department and Technology Collection, home to the world's largest collection of Technicolor films, including both The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind.

The historic Dryden Theatre is the venue for the program's silent feature film, The Poor Little Rich Girl, accompanied by The Flower City Society Orchestra and conducted by Dr. Philip C. Carli, renowned film expert and musicologist. The evening begins—as was the custom at the time—with a pre-program of shorts (commercials, newsreels, animations) featuring new scores by composition students from the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music. The student composers are in a yearlong Film Scoring class taught by Michaela Eremiášova and Jairo Duarte-López, candidates for a Ph.D. in composition at Eastman. "To have an orchestra of any size perform at a silent film is both a rarity and a treat because it gives you a real sense of the viewing experience from that period of time," said Stoiber.

The program's four days of public events include a recreation of the original Nickelodeon experience; two film programs at the Dryden Theatre, the first with silent films and live musical accompaniment and the second featuring Warner Bros. Vitaphone (early synchronized sound) process; a demonstration of nitrate film material and other artifacts from the Eastman House collection; and a magic lantern event, which, according to Bernardi, is seldom seen and an unforgettable experience. Invented in the 1650s, the magic lantern shows combined projected images, live drama, and music, in essence paving the way for early cinema. "Through the lantern, you can see how popular genres of film were created," said Bernardi, who saw her first magic lantern show at the Dryden several years ago.

Sponsored by the University of Rochester's Humanities Project, Film Lost and Found will take place on the University's River Campus, its Eastman School of Music, and at the Eastman House. All events are open to the public. For details, visit

Schedule of Events:
THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 7-9 p.m.

The Living Nickelodeon
Eastman School of Music
Room 120, 26 Gibbs St.
Admission: Free
Film historian and musicologist Rick Altman presents his own reconstruction of the original Nickelodeon experience.

FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 4 p.m.
The History of Film Accompaniment
Eastman School of Music
Ciminelli Lounge, 100 Gibbs St.
Admission: Free

Rick Altman and Donald Hunsberger, professor emeritus of conducting and ensembles at the Eastman School of Music, speak about the music that accompanied silent films.

FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 8 p.m.
The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
Dryden Theater, George Eastman House
900 East Ave.
(Admission for the general public: $15, $10 members and students. No Take-10 tickets or passes.) Starring Mary Pickford, and accompanied by the Flower City Society Orchestra playing a new score composed and conducted by Dr. Philip Carli. The feature film is preceded by a series of contemporary shorts scored by Eastman School of Music students.

SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 4 p.m.
"Around the World in 90 Minutes; Being a Tour of Diverse Parts of the Globe, conducted by 'Professor' Marsh (M.A. Oxon), with Mr. Francis (late Royal Polytechnic) at the Magnificent Tri-Unnial Lantern"
Hubbell Auditorium
University of Rochester River Campus
Admission: Free

A magic lantern slide show presented by film scholars David Francis and Joss Marsh from Indiana University at Bloomington.

SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 1 p.m.
George Eastman House Panel Discussion, Demonstrations and Tours
Curtis Theater, George Eastman House
900 East Ave.

George Eastman House Motion Picture Collections experts present a panel discussion featuring the film and paper holdings of the museum's collections with Motion Picture Department staff Nancy Kauffman, stills archivist; Deborah Stoiber, nitrate vault manager; and Edward Stratmann, associate curator. Followed by a tour of the Motion Picture Department and pre-cinema demonstration with Todd Gustavson, curator of the Technology Collection.

Please Note: Registration for tours of the Motion Picture Department and/or the Technology Collection is closed. The tours are full.

SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 3 p.m.
The Vitaphone Program #3
Dryden Theater, George Eastman House
900 East Ave.
(Admission for the general public: $7/$5 members and students. Free to UR students and faculty with I.D.)

A screening of the recent Eastman House restoration of the 1927 Vitaphone feature When a Man Loves, preceded by three Vitaphone shorts: Quartet from Rigoletto (1927), Charles Hackett (1927) and Van and Schenck: The Pennant-winning Battery of Songland (1927).