TRIBUTE by JOE RINAUDO:
I was greatly saddened by the news of the death of my friend David Shepard. It is a loss for his family, friends, film preservation and to all people, young and old alike, who love the art of film. His loss to the film community will be felt for generations yet to come.
David was not only a good friend but my mentor, adviser, and fellow film collector whose passion can only be described as a “calling.” It is unimaginable to think of a world without a person such as David. I first met David when I bought a 16mm Blackhawk print from him at a film convention in the early 1970’s. A few years later David had heard that I had a Photoplayer and asked if he might use it for musical accompaniment for one of his video releases. I jumped at the chance to work with David and to be involved in film preservation—it was a dream come true!
David Shepard is the unsung hero who always would lend a print or do a show for free if it meant entertaining and educating the audience at the same time. He would drive great distances and bring his 16mm projectors to do these shows, not asking for anything in return other than the great joy these shows would give his audiences. It was this kindness and the want to share the film experience with younger audiences that gave me the inspiration to do, what I call, 16mm “kiddie” shows at local primary schools. To hear the young children laugh at the films, of long forgotten and unknown comedians to them, is a unique experience I shall never soon forget.
In 2000 I went to a friend’s house that had a 35mm hand crank projector. I was so fascinated by the mechanics and the beauty of the 35mm image that I asked if I might crank a reel or two. At 2:00 a.m. , after I had cranked 20,000 feet of film, they had to pull me away from the projector! I was hooked! I purchased a projector which I had to do a complete restoration on and found some old 35mm sound film and began doing 35mm hand crank demonstrations in my driveway.
In October of 2002 David asked me if I could do him a favor. Would I hand crank two shows at the Silent Movie Theater with Bob Mitchell playing the music for the film. This would be for the 100th anniversary of George Melies’ Trip To The Moon! So there I was with my assistant Gary Gibson dressed in full costume as itinerant projectionists cranking out two silent film shows for David as he read the copy aloud for “Moon.” After the last show David said: “Keep the print of Trip To The Moon as a gift for the help you gave me.” Hell, I would have paid him for the opportunity! It was these two shows that gave me the inspiration to recreate itinerant projection motion picture shows. David and his business partner Serge Bromberg (of Lobster Films) have always let me borrow and helped me find and/or purchase 35mm silent films to be used in my shows for the education of new audiences.
We have done some two hundred 35mm hand crank shows since that first one at the Silent Movie Theater. We have appeared at museums, colleges, schools, churches and regularly at the Nethercutt Museum spreading the art of the silent film, all thanks to David Shepard.
Serge Bromberg has the spark and passion to carry on David’s work. Serge is a true lover of film. Serge and David have saved so much film and then have made it accessible to the public through their videos that it is a great honor to have been able to work with them when they have asked me.
How do you sum up a man’s life and work in a few paragraphs? I don’t think that it is possible with David Shepard’s life. What I do think is possible is to carry on his passion for the art of film and to share it as much as possible as he did so well, so it may never be forgotten.
David, I will never forget you. I will know that when I hear young audiences laugh, cheer or scream with joy at a film that is being shown because of you, my heart will swell with pride for knowing you. May GOD forever bless you.
Below, film archivists and historians Serge Bromberg, Leonard Maltin and Kevin Brownlow on DAVID SHEPARD: AMERICAN FILM PRESERVATIONIST, a film tribute to Shepard on Monday, November 7, 2016 at at Loew Auditorium, Dartmouth College:
This tribute appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.