Category Archives: Dancing Pig

Fresh Young Audience Loves Funny Old Films

The Dancing PigOur event was something like this (with Dean Mora, not Mildred Smith, at the piano).

It was just amaz­ing!
We had nev­er had an audi­ence like that before.”

On a recent Sat­ur­day evening, Scott Lasky, founder of Famous Play­ers Orches­tra, host­ed an itin­er­ant show billed as

CLASSIC SILENT COMEDIES
Hand-Cranked 35mm Film on

Orig­i­nal Power’s 1909 Cam­er­a­graph Mod­el 6 
Motion Pic­ture Machine
with Live Musi­cal Accom­pa­ni­ment

The March 5, 2016 event was held at the Christ Luther­an Church in Bur­bank, Cal­i­for­nia. Admis­sion was $10 for a 2-hour show with inter­mis­sion (pro­gram list­ed below).

I, Joe Rin­au­do, cranked the pro­jec­tor and Dean Mora played the piano. Gary Gib­son changed the glass slides dur­ing inter­mis­sion. And the audi­ence blew us all away!

Same old show, brand new audience

I’ve done over some 200 shows and, for the first time, hav­ing adver­tised on Face­book thanks to Scott Lasky, we got a young, effer­ves­cent, 30-some­thing crowd in there. From the very begin­ning there was an elec­tric­i­ty in the air. They were laugh­ing and talk­ing and buy­ing hot dogs and pop­corn and look­ing around and talk­ing to every­body and inspect­ing the pro­jec­tor. It wasn’t the same audi­ence that we usu­al­ly get, which is most­ly elder­ly and rather qui­et. (They don’t laugh or talk very much, as they are famil­iar with this for­mat as well as the films.) This was a young, new crowd and a new expe­ri­ence for them — and they even induced the “reg­u­lars” to laugh and enjoy the show even more.

dancingpig

When we start­ed the first film, The Danc­ing Pig (fea­tur­ing the ever-pop­u­lar but always slight­ly dis­turb­ing danc­ing pig), brought forth gales of laugh­ter and howl­ing and cheer­ing — and shock — from the audi­ence. The response just kept grow­ing and grow­ing, and by the time we got to The Gro­cery Clerk, which is one of Lar­ry Semon’s mas­ter­pieces, it brought the house down. We had peo­ple laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cal­ly. They were boo­ing the vil­lain, cheer­ing the hero­ine, and shout­ing and laugh­ing.

The audience saw a “moving picture” for the first time

It struck me that this is what the reac­tion would have been like for a 1920 audi­ence see­ing this film for the first time. Many of these peo­ple not only had nev­er seen a silent film before, but they have nev­er seen a show like this with live musi­cal accom­pa­ni­ment and a hand-cranked pro­jec­tor doing the whole show for them. So it was a total over­load, I think, of their sens­es. It absolute­ly floored me because their reac­tion was so pos­i­tive and so upbeat. They were catch­ing every lit­tle nuance in the film and every lit­tle gag was get­ting laughed at. It was just amaz­ing. We had nev­er had an audi­ence like that before.

Not only was the film enter­tain­ing, many peo­ple want­ed pic­tures of the pro­jec­tor and with me and with Dean and Gary. We were pos­ing in peri­od cos­tume with the pro­jec­tor and they were film­ing it with their cam­era phones and such.


Don’t miss the next show!
SUBSCRIBE HERE
to the Silent Cin­e­ma Soci­ety News­reel.


It was a very inter­est­ing evening and every­thing went all very well. It end­ed on a big bang with Buster Keaton in Cops and we got a huge cheer and an ova­tion at the end. It was just a won­der­ful time.

Epiphany

I had a moment of clar­i­ty at that show, a life-chang­ing moment, where sud­den­ly I saw the rea­son for doing what I’m doing:

I’m bring­ing some­thing to these peo­ple that they had nev­er seen before and that tru­ly enter­tained them — as if it was an audi­ence that was see­ing “mov­ing pic­tures” for the first time. Because it actu­al­ly was! It wasn’t a mod­ern film in col­or and in dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy in 3D; it was a flat screen black and white image from a hun­dred years ago.

The audi­ence was also amazed that we were doing all the work by hand — I’m crank­ing the pro­jec­tor, Gary’s chang­ing the slides and Dean is play­ing the piano. They lis­tened atten­tive­ly as I explained the role of the itin­er­ant pro­jec­tion­ist trav­el­ing from town to town, set­ting up a show in a hall or church base­ment, and draw­ing audi­ences through advance telegraphed announce­ments.

This show renewed my faith in human­i­ty. The won­der­ful young audi­ence is hun­gry for this type of enter­tain­ment.

I real­ized in this one show that what I’m doing is right, that it does make a dif­fer­ence.

Facebook: the new telegraph

Adver­tis­ing on Face­book was a whole new dynam­ic for us. It spread the word and drew the audi­ence, a fresh and curi­ous audi­ence who real­ly didn’t know what to expect, much the same as the tele­graph and hand­bills would have spread the word 100 years ago.

Through our new “tele­graph” called social media, and your help in spread­ing the word, we’ll intro­duce this 100-year-old form of enter­tain­ment to a young, new gen­er­a­tion of audi­ences who are atten­tive, curi­ous and amazed. After all, you can’t hand-crank an iPhone.

PROGRAM
The Dancing Pig” (1907) Pathe
“The Acrobatic Fly” (1910) Comet Films
“It’s a Gift” (1923) Starring Snub Pollard
“The Rink” (1916) Starring Charlie Chaplin
“The Grocery Clerk” (1920) Starring Larry Semon
“Cops” (1922) Starring Buster Keaton


Don’t miss the next show!
SUBSCRIBE HERE
to the Silent Cin­e­ma Soci­ety News­reel.

The End