Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline
User avatar

mwalls

  • Posts: 521
  • Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:02 am
  • Location: Greensboro, NC

Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSat Jan 27, 2018 3:31 pm

I have put on a few public silent film screenings over the past year; all with live piano accompaniment. Lately I became interested in a title that in a roundabout way led me to contact Swank for license rights to screen. When I mentioned to the Swank Representative that I would have a pianist playing for the film, I was told that their license rights from the studios do not permit any musical accompaniment other than that on the disk. Has anyone run into this before? That does not sound right, but wanted to get some advice before going back to them to discuss.

Thank you,
Matthew
Offline
User avatar

Jim Reid

  • Posts: 1543
  • Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:16 am
  • Location: Dallas, Texas

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSat Jan 27, 2018 3:47 pm

Is it a Chaplin?
Offline
User avatar

mwalls

  • Posts: 521
  • Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:02 am
  • Location: Greensboro, NC

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSat Jan 27, 2018 3:51 pm

No, it was actually The Last Command. And the Rep's comments were of all of their films in general.

Matthew
Offline

martinola

  • Posts: 46
  • Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:28 am

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSat Jan 27, 2018 9:21 pm

Have your pianist play a pre-show concert. If your audio develops problems, then you could have the pianist keep quiet, or...
Offline

vitaphone

  • Posts: 476
  • Joined: Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:50 am
  • Location: New Jersey

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSun Jan 28, 2018 9:01 am

My advice to people who ask me about contacting the studio or video company on screenings permission is DON'T. Bigger studios will either not respond or will ask for a fortune. Frankly, folks in studio legal departments could care less about small venues but when asked, they have to respond and it usually is negative.

On the use of music other than on the soundtrack, the only problems I am aware of has been when a venue stupidly decides to use live accompaniment and turns off the restored original Vitaphone soundtrack. Besides being irresponsible, it deprives the audience of how the restored film was originally enjoyed. This happened on Colleen Moore's WHY BE GOOD? at a couple of clueless venues, and Warner Bros plans to prohibit this writing on any screenings of Vitaphone scored films they license.
Offline
User avatar

Jack Theakston

  • Posts: 1837
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:25 pm
  • Location: New York, USA

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSun Jan 28, 2018 6:49 pm

I've literally never heard of this happening before. Your first mistake was telling them anything about what you were doing.
Just run the disc without the sound and pay Swank their $50. No one is going to care.
J. Theakston
"You get more out of life when you go out to a movie!"
Offline
User avatar

boblipton

  • Posts: 5819
  • Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:01 pm
  • Location: Clement Clarke Moore's Farm

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSun Jan 28, 2018 7:03 pm

If your sound system mysteriously cuts out during the performance, or if you are absent at the beginning and forget to mention it to the people there, these things happen.

And next time, remember, if you ask, the best thing that can happen is that they say go ahead. So don't ask. Practice a stupid expression. It's done wonders for me.

Bob
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
— Joe Darion
Offline
User avatar

mwalls

  • Posts: 521
  • Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:02 am
  • Location: Greensboro, NC

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSun Jan 28, 2018 7:13 pm

Thank you for all of the good advice. I can play dumb quite well.

Matthew
Offline
User avatar

Rodney

  • Posts: 2335
  • Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:09 am
  • Location: Louisville, Colorado

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSun Jan 28, 2018 8:11 pm

We got this argument (you have to use the score on the disc) for our upcoming screening of Wings in Longmont, but we were able to talk to people at Swank and got permission to use our score. (Having played it at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival helped a lot, to be honest, which gave us apparent credibilty.) So, kudos to Swank for this one, and I hope I can arrange similar deals in the future. It benefits all of us to be able to present silent films in legitimate screenings.

And much as I love Ron Hutchinson and the excellent work he does, I can't agree with him on Why Be Good?. I can personally attest that that film works great with a live score, as do Sunrise and Spite Marriage and plenty of silent films that have available Vitaphone or Movietone scores. If you're going to watch it at home with a recorded score, by all means listen to the original recorded score (which is on the Warner Archive release, and sounds wonderful). But if you're going out to a theater, a live music presentation of a silent film is always a bigger event, and often more satisfying, than a recorded score presentation. I don't go out to the opera, a musical, or a ballet to hear a recorded orchestra, regardless of the genesis or authenticity of the recording; and the same goes for theatrical silent film presentations. Silent cinema, in its ideal form, is live music cinema. The recorded score is important, and authentic; but for theatrical presentations, not necessary.

"It is not probable that the Vitaphone will ever entirely replace the orchestra, but it does make it possible for certain films requiring the finest musical accompaniment to be shown in places where there is no orchestra available." -- Hugo Riesenfeld
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
www.mont-alto.com
"Let the Music do the Talking!"
Offline
User avatar

Donald Binks

  • Posts: 3048
  • Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:08 am
  • Location: Somewhere, over the rainbow

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSun Jan 28, 2018 8:32 pm

That is an interesting situation that has developed.

Basically, it is silly that preference would be given to canned music rather than that performed live. I agree with Rodney that the Vitaphone was only really intended to play in theatres that were not fully equipped to present an orchestra. Further that seeing a silent film with a live accompaniment is quite an experience.

However bringing in the devil's advocate, I could say that the situation may have been caused by bad musicians who wish to draw attention to themselves more than the film they are playing to and so tend to try and send it up. (Yes! I have seen it happen!)

I could also say that a lot of people of today rarely see something that is actually live - unless they go to the Opera or Ballet or something similar - where microphones or some other electrical reproducing system isn't utilised. They might as well stay at home and listen to the gramophone! :D
Regards from
Donald Binks

"So, she said: "Elly, it's no use letting Lou have the sherry glasses..."She won't appreciate them,
she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."
Offline

Nick_M

  • Posts: 364
  • Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:02 pm
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostSun Jan 28, 2018 9:11 pm

The Alloy Orchestra played to it in San Francisco a little over a year ago.
Offline

vitaphone

  • Posts: 476
  • Joined: Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:50 am
  • Location: New Jersey

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostMon Jan 29, 2018 6:32 am

I respect Rodney and the quality of his work. This discussion, however, has nothing to do with that.

My comment on how inappropriate it is to turn off the original, intended, restored Vitaphone track on a film first released that way. That's what this is about. WINGS is not such a case. It was originally released silent. No Vitaphone track. A subsequent release in 1928 had a synch track that is since lost. Not talking about that. LILAC TIME ('28) did get a Vitaphone track which is largely lost. If found, it should be screened with that.

Late silents like Colleen Moore's WHY BE GOOD? (which I used as my example) were released and advertised with a synchronized original music and effects Vitaphone track. The important point here is that this is how just about EVERYBODY originally saw and heard this film. It played in WB theaters and in pretty much every single case it was accompanied with its Vitaphone track. Having sound was a major selling point in just about every ad, and it's one of the best ever done by a studio. This is also true of Keaton's SPITE MARRIAGE. WB went through considerable expense repatriating, restoring, and re-synching (with my disks) this film. It took 11 years. To then deny the audience the original superb track is plain wrong. In this case, the jazzy soundtrack (calling it "canned music does not do it justice) includes major contemporary jazz legends like Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Phil Napoleon and Jimmy Dorsey.

I know I may not convince everyone that my position is incorrect, but fortunately the studio agrees with me.
Offline
User avatar

Ken Winokur

  • Posts: 174
  • Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2008 9:57 am
  • Location: Boston MA, US

Re: Need Help with Swank and Accompaniment

PostWed Feb 28, 2018 9:06 am

Alloy has performed frequently with The Last Command. We arranged our screenings directly with Paramount. This began in 2008 when (at the suggestion of Telluride Film Festival), I contacted Barry Allen at Paramount. After a short conversation he quickly decided that they needed a new print to let us tour with. Barry has retired, and I'm not sure who is in charge now.

I've never understood the difference between Swank's booking at the studios. Sometimes it's a question of "theatrical" vs. "non theatrical." I do think there's substantial overlap between their bookings.
Ken Winokur
alloyorchestra.com
[email protected]

Return to Talking About Silents

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests

cron