Neversink Valley Area Museum

The Neversink Valley Area Museum is in Cuddebackville, NY, an area know to film historians as a popular location for New York film companies in the pre-Hollywood era. In particular it was a favoured location of D.W. Griffith and the Biograph company, which filmed in Cuddebackville six times over the period 1909-1911. The local museum (which takes its name from the optimistically-named Neversink river) has a section on filmmaking in the area (Thanhouser and the Victor Film Company were other visitors). But more than that, it has established competitions for silent filmmaking today and writing scores or silent films. The rules for the silent film competition are as follows:

We will accept any film up to 18 minutes in length, it may be from any country and does not have to premiere at our festival. Films currently in distribution are not eligible.
Film makers to submit entries on DVD (all region compatible, as one judge is UK-based).
Length not to exceed 18 minutes.
No synchronized sound.
Music, if used, must be original or provide proof of licensing.
Intertitles acceptable.
DVD should be marked with Title Only.
Enclose sheet with all credits in submission packet.

And here are the rules for the original film score competition:

Entrant to compose an original score for one of these three films: King Lear, The Vagabonds and The Marvelous Marathoner, all made by Thanhouser Motion Picture Company.
Thanhouser will provide a copy of the film to interested entrants.
The winning entry (i.e. film + winner’s music) will be posted on the Thanhouser web site for viewing the winner can use the film with their music royalty free.

Prizes are to be announced later. All screenings to take place 23 August. Further details and application form on the museum’s website.

Coney Island goes silent

More evidence of the rude health of the modern silent, and of contests to reward its production, comes from the Coney Island Film Festival in New York. This is a competitive film festival, and budding filmmakers are invited to submit contributions in eight categories: Feature, Short, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, Experimental, Animation, Music Video, and Silent Film. The latter is a new category (the festival is in its eighth year), and there doesn’t seem any stipulation other than what one might infer from the title (so, are you allowed to add a soundtrack?).

The Regular Deadline for submissions is April 25th, 2008 (postmarked), entry fee $25. The Late Deadline is June 25th, 2008 (postmarked), $35, and the Extended Late Deadline is July 3rd, 2008 (postmarked), $45. The festival itself takes place 26-28 September 2008. More information from the festival site.

Projection Box Essay Awards 2008-09


The Projection Box Essays Awards competition for 2008-09 has been announced. The subject for this year’s competition is Popular Optical Media (to 1900), including nineteenth century photography, Dioramas, Zoetropes, the magic lantern, shadow theatre, panoramas, Victorian cinema, and optical toys.

First prize is £250 and publication in the journal Early Popular Visual Culture. Plus book prizes.

Submissions are invited for unpublished essays of between 5,000 and 8,000 words. Entry is open to all, and the deadline for entries is 24 January 2009. Full details, including competition rules, are available on the Projection Box Awards site.

Best silent film


SZABIST Inter-university Film Festival awards

All praise to Syed Paiman Hussain for his film Martey Raho. I’ve no idea what it’s about, but at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) Inter-university Film Festival in Pakistan, his film won the award for ‘best silent film’. Other awards went to best sound, best original score, best editing, best documentary, best cinematography, best story, best actor, best director and best film. The partipants in the awards were students from various schools and universities in Pakistan that include film-making as part of their curriculum. Hussain is a student at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture. Let’s hope it’s the start of a brilliant career. There certainly can’t be too many awards for best silent film these days – we should be doing more encouraging of the art form in this way.

More information from the Pakistan Daily Times.

Charleston Symphony Orchestra Silent Film Contest

This is novel. The third annual Charleston Symphony Orchestra Silent Film Contest has just been announced. The concept for this project is to have amateur and professional filmmakers choose a piece from the set repertoire, and make a film based on his/her interpretation of the piece. The completed films are then sent to the Symphony where they will be judged by an independent panel. The selected films will be projected onto a movie screen above the orchestra as the soundtracks are performed live. The winner receives a $1,000 grand prize and may have his/her film presented at a future CSO event.

The concert will be held on Thursday, April 10 at the Charleston Music Hall, Charleston, SC, starting at 9PM. This year the selections are “The Last Spring” from Two Elegaic Melodies by Edvard Grieg, “March of the Sardar” from Caucasian Sketches: Suite by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, “The Alcotts” from Concert Sonata by Charles Ives, Symphony No. 25 Movement 1 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the Magic Flute Overture by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Barber of Seville: Overture by Gioacchino Rossini, and Messages, an original composition by local composer and professor at the College of Charleston, Trevor Weston. All are in the public domain and freely available (“i.e. iTunes”) except for the Weston piece, for which you have to request a Midi file from the organisers.

All entires must be on DVD, must not infringe copyrights, must be world premieres, and must “be intended for a family audience, be non-commercial in nature (e.g., no infomercials or commercials), fall within the equivalent of a G, PG or PG-13 rating as such ratings are determined for theatrical films by the Motion Picture Association of America, and not contain any sexually explicit, disparaging, libelous or other inappropriate content or any nudity”. What fun. Further details are available from the competition site.

Projection Box Essay Awards

The winners have been announced for the inaugural Projection Box Essay Awards 2007-2008 for research into the projected and moving image to 1915.

The judges awarded the first prize of £250 and publication in Early Popular Visual Culture, to Dr. John Plunkett for his essay ‘Selling Stereoscopy 1890-1914: penny arcades, automatic machines and American salesmen.’

“ A thorough and well sustained argument … convincing and very well written … highly original.”
“ A clear and impressive piece of work.”

Second and third prizes of Projection Box books worth £100 went to: Professor Erkki Huhtamo, for ‘Penetrating the Perestrephic: an unwritten chapter in the history of the panorama’

“A fascinating piece of re-constructive archaeology.”
“The range of sources is remarkable …”

and to Christian Hayes for ‘Phantom Carriages: reconstructing Hale’s Tours and the virtual travel experience’.

“… has a good balance between the historical facts and the theorising. A good read.”

The titles of the other entries received and judged were (in no particular order):

  • ‘Early Days of Cinematograph Projection’
  • ‘Hidden History: exploring the lost world of early cinema’
  • ‘From Dioramic Views to a Dissolving Partnership: Banks and Grieves and the “sensation of the age”‘
  • ‘The Outside-in Machine: the Kinetoscope, its films and the Kinetoscope experience in London’
  • ‘Returning to Fear: new discoveries in E.G. Robertson’s Fantasmagoria’
  • ‘Tillie’s Punctured Celluloid’
  • ‘Between Narrative and Expressive Value: notes on deep staging in early cinema’

The aims of the Award for 2008-2009 are to encourage new research and new thinking into any historical, artistic or technical aspect of popular optical media up to 1900; and to promote engaging, accessible, and imaginative work. The deadline for entries of between 5,000 and 8,000 words is 24 January 2009. All details including rules and application form can be found at

Presenting Keaton and Rogers

Buster Keaton

Here’s news of a novel competition from the Annual Buster Keaton Celebration:

The 16th Annual Buster Keaton Celebration, to be held September 26th & 27th, 2008 in Iola, Kansas, would like to announce its first annual Student Presentation Competition. The winner will receive a spot on the schedule of respected film and cultural authorities who are asked to
take part in the celebration each year and will receive a travel grant of $500 to facilitate his/her attendance. The student presenter will be expected to present a 30- to 40-minute presentation to the Celebration audience in PowerPoint format (with images either still or moving) and so
must be able to attend the conference as scheduled.

Eligibility: Full-time matriculated Undergraduate and Masters students at any point in their academic career, not affiliated with any employee or volunteer of the Buster Keaton Celebration, the Kansas Humanities Council or the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.

1. Applicants must complete an application to Frank Scheide or by sending a letter to Susan Raines, Bowlus Fine Arts Center, 205 East Madison, Iola, KS 66749-0705). Proof of current matriculation will be required as part of this application.

2. Applicants must submit their complete 30- to 40- minute presentation script for committee review, along with the above application, by the due date of May 1, 2008 along with images to be used in the final PowerPoint document. The applicant must also present evidence that images he or she wishes to use are available and in the applicant’s possession. Scripts must be typed and double-spaced (they may be in essay format, marked with indications as to what images will be utilized where in the presentation). Please do not submit the final PowerPoint demonstration.

To learn more about this year’s topic, please read the essay “Buster Keaton and Will Rogers: American Comic Heroes”, which can be found by visiting the Buster Keaton Celebration web site at Committee members will be looking for original approaches to this topic and are especially interested in papers linking the two performers in some manner.

The Celebration Student Presenter committee will choose one winner and one runner-up, who will serve as an alternate. An announcement of the winner will be made by June 1st. The winner will have until June 30th to accept or decline the award. He or she will then have until July 31st to make his/her travel arrangements (assistance with this task will be provided by a committee volunteer). The winner will receive a spot on the schedule and a stipend of $200 and travel expenses up to $300 (airfare or mileage) to facilitate his/her attendance. Lodging and a daily food allowance will be provided by the Buster Keaton Celebration from Thursday evening, September 25th, through breakfast on Sunday, September 28th.

The chosen Student Presenter will be assigned a Celebration volunteer to assist with any and all parts of the actual presentation process, during the two days of the festival, in order to make the experience a successful and rewarding one for the studentand for the Celebration attendees!

Now how about a festival of PowerPoint one day? It’s the magic lantern de nos jours.

Projection Box essay competition

Just a reminder for anyone with an unpublished essay on early cinema tucked in the desk or on the hard drive somewhere that the deadline for the Projection Box essay award is January 18th. The aims of the award are to encourage new research and new thinking into any historical, artistic or technical aspect of projected and moving images up to 1915; and to promote engaging, accessible, and imaginative work. The first prize of £250 is for an essay of between 5000 and 8000 words (including notes).See the earlier post on the award (which is being awarded for the first time) for details of how to enter, or visit the Award site.

Essay award reminder

Projection Box

A reminder that the deadline is not so far away for the Projection Box Essay Awards. The aims of this award are to encourage new research and new thinking into any historical, artistic or technical aspect of projected and moving images up to 1915; and to promote engaging, accessible, and imaginative work. The first prize of £250 is for an essay of between 5,000 and 8,000 words (including notes).

The deadline for entries is 18 January 2008. The winning essay will be published in an issue of Early Popular Visual Culture (Routledge). At the discretion of the judges, two runners-up will each receive books and CD-Roms of their choice (published by The Projection Box), to the value of £100.

For further information, visit

Cinema by Citizens

Calling all would-be silent filmmakers of today. The Toronto Urban Film Festival (TUFF) has announced a competition under the title ‘Cinema by Citizens: Celebrating the City‘. They are calling for filmmakers, video artists, animators, and ‘urbanites with cameras (or video cellphones)’ to produce silent, one-minute films or videos on one or other of these urban themes:

– My Town
– Urban Ennui
– 905 to the 416
– The Imaginary City
– Big Smoke, Big Dreams
– Forgotten Places, Uncommon Spaces

The festival takes place 8-18 September, and the deadline for submissions is 20 August. International submissions are invited. Winning films will be exhibited online.