Berklee Silent Film Orchestra Performs on Martha's Vineyard

By
Allen Bush
June 11, 2014
The classic 1923 romantic comedy Safety Last! features star Harold Lloyd famously hanging from a real clock over moving traffic as the camera rolled.

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society presents Harold Lloyd’s 1923 silent film gem Safety Last! with an original score performed live by the 11-member Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, and conducted by four student composers. The special event takes place Thursday, June 26, at 7:30 p.m at the Martha's Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven. General admission tickets are $30, $25 for members, and are available at mvfilmsociety.com

The Nantucket Film Festival will host Safety Last! and the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra two nights earlier, June 24, at the Nantucket Dreamland Film & Performing Arts Center.

Safety Last! is one of the most enduring silent film classics of all time. The film features the acclaimed comedic genius Harold Lloyd and boasts an iconic image of cinematic history—that of Lloyd dangling from a giant clock on the side of a building over a bustling Los Angeles street. Lloyd, who is among the ranks of silent screen comic greats Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and actually led the pack as the biggest box office star, navigated his own hilarious and daring stunt work. The quintessential motion picture treasure is in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Meticulously preserved for decades by the Harold Lloyd estate, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society will present a gorgeous new digital restoration from Janus Films, sourced from an original nitrate print.

A short documentary, Punches and Streamers: The Making of a Film Score, will precede the feature and show Berklee film scoring students and professor Sheldon Mirowitz during the semester they created the original score for Safety Last! Five-time Emmy Award winner and Emerson associate professor Marc Fields (Give Me the Banjo, Broadway: The American Musical), wrote and produced the film with assistance from students from Emerson’s MFA in Media Art program.

The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra (BSFO) is dedicated to composing new, original scores for silent feature classics, and performing them live-to-picture. Based at Berklee, in the world’s only undergraduate degree program in film scoring, the student orchestra composes its new works, and performs as an ensemble, under the leadership of Mirowitz (Outside Providence, Missing in America). To date, the BSFO has scored seven iconic silent features, all commissioned by the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts, as part of the theater’s Sounds of Silents program, which champions silent film music performance. The recipient of a special commendation from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the BSFO has also performed in Boston’s Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theater and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The Martha's Vineyard Film Society is a member-funded nonprofit arts organization dedicated to screening the best in independent films, movie classics, documentaries, and world cinema for diverse audiences of all ages throughout the calendar year.  The Film Society runs the Martha's Vineyard Film Center at the Tisbury Marketplace (Vineyard Haven), consisting of the Marilyn Meyerhoff Theatre, a 180 stadium-seat configured DCI cinema and stage, educational offices to carry out its mission. It also produces the annual Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival and the Filmusic Festival. In 2013, the film society presented more than 100 feature films and hundreds of shorts to more than 25,500 patrons at its film center.

The Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Sounds of Silents was launched in 2007 with a mission to present classic silent cinema on the big screen accompanied by a live original score and performed by outstanding musicians. Since 2010, the Coolidge’s Sounds of Silents initiative has commissioned seven original compositions from Berklee with premiere presentations including F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise and Faust, Clarence Badger’s It, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitality, and E.A. Dupont’s Piccadilly. The unique collaboration between the Coolidge and Berklee expands on the Sounds of Silents initiative, providing funds to commission the compositions and an opportunity to engage students in the process of creating a silent film score.