Retroformat Silent Films

To educate and create enthusiasm about the art of silent film.

Los Angeles, CA   |  https://www.retroformat.org/

Mission

To promote education and enthusiasm about the art of silent film.

Ruling year info

2019

Principal Officer

Thomas Guinn Barnes

Main address

3819 Sawtelle Blvd Unit D

Los Angeles, CA 90066 USA

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EIN

82-5466095

NTEE code info

Film, Video (A31)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990-N.

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Programs and results

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Live Theatrical Screenings

Retroformat brings some of the most popular silent films to theaters in and around Los Angeles, where they can be fully experienced the way they were originally intended, for the first time in generations. As theaters reopen and Covid restrictions are lifted, we will expand our screening activities to neighborhoods and towns in and around Los Angeles and Southern California that do not typically host silent film screenings. Ultimately, we plan to take our special screenings all over the continental United States.

See below for details about our Online Library and Educational Outreach.

Population(s) Served

Retroformat's online subscription library and free webcasts on Youtube and Facebook present our own scans of rare silent films from private collections and from 16mm prints housed in the University of Southern California Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, as well as special films restored by the Library of Congress and other archives

Many of the films we scan were originally marketed as "home movie" editions, including prints manufactured by the legendary distributor Blackhawk Films. We present a wide variety of rare works by well known and little-known silent film artists available for online subscribers, with excellent musical accompaniment by our own Musical Director, Cliff Retallick.

This project also represents the only organized attempt by any organization to preserve rare essays by well known film scholars like Anthony Slide and Edward Wagennecht, who (usually anonymously) wrote historical and critical prefaces to the editions produced on 8mm and 16mm film by Blackhawk Films. These essays were presented in the form of introductory title cards, to provide context for viewers who watched these prints in their homes, libraries and schools.

Population(s) Served

We create silent film presentations for public and private schools. In January 2020, we entered a partnership with Laurel Cinematic Arts and Creative Technologies Magnet, where we provide monthly silent film screenings for 150 middle school film studies and special education students. These scholastic events began in person and have continued over Zoom since March 2020. We have also introduced special guests to the students over Zoom, including direct descendants of silent film actors Harold Lloyd and Lon Chaney; actor Paul Dooley (who discussed his lifelong love of Buster Keaton); Prof. Shelley Stamp of UC Irvine; and author Tracey Goessel. The majority of students at Laurel qualify for free or reduced lunch and may have limited access to cultural experiences outside of school. Our partnership gives these under-resourced students a unique opportunity to learn about and engage directly with an important part of film history.

As a by-product, Retroformat's Educational Initiative addresses some of the major problems facing educators today. We engage today's students' notoriously short attention spans by presenting unique silent movies filled with action, with the added excitement of presenting live keyboard music improvised in real time. Simultaneously, we help train students to focus their attention, by placing emphasis on the importance of closely watching silent films, as opposed to the way they are accustomed to passively watching films on television.

Population(s) Served
Age groups
Age groups
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Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We believe that the time is right for a renaissance in appreciation for silent films, many of which are now available in beautiful digital restorations. Only a small number of people alive today have ever experienced the original form of movie presentation - a silent film in a theater with live music. For knowledgeable silent film fans, lesser known silent films are even harder to access, especially in quality presentations. Further, in today's scholastic environment, where arts programs are notoriously underfunded and underemphasized, education regarding silent film is almost nonexistent. Retroformat Silent Films exists to address all three of these issues.



Retroformat brings some of the best silent films back into Los Angeles movie theaters, where they can be fully experienced the way they were originally intended, often for the first time in generations. The novelty of live, improvised music separates these events from ordinary classic film showings, adding a “folk art” element that gives each screening the appeal of a unique, one-time-only event.

In addition, our free webcasts on Youtube and Facebook present our own scans of rare silent films from private collections. Our sources include 16mm prints from the University of Southern California Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, and special films restored by the Library of Congress and other archives. However, these webcasts are only the beginning of our online plans. We will make available a wide variety of rare works by well known and little-known silent film artists for our online subscribers, with excellent musical accompaniment by our Musical Director, Cliff Retallick.

We also create special, free presentations for public school students of all ages. Since 2019, we have been screening silent films and presenting special guest speakers to 6th, 7th and 8th grade film students at Laurel Cinematic Arts and Technologies Magnet School in Los Angeles. As we continue to grow, we plan offer our presentations at affordable costs to private schools.

With the help of collaborating film distributors, theaters and other nonprofits, our flagship screening events feature state-of-the-art digital and classic 35mm film presentations in major theaters.

Our online library is composed mainly of digitally scanned 16mm film, Super 8 and 8mm prints from private collections and from the USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive. All scans are made on our Retroscan Universal Mark II Scanner.

Retroformat's Educational Initiative addresses today's students' notoriously short attention spans, one of the major problems facing educators. By presenting unique silent movies filled with action, with the added excitement of live keyboard music improvised in real time, the students are trained to focus their attention. Emphasis is placed on the importance of closely watching the action in silent films, as opposed to the passive way we are accustomed to watching our multimedia screens today. At first, we took 16mm and 8mm projectors directly into the classroom. Cliff Retallick accompanied the films live on an electronic keyboard. Most of the students had never seen a movie projector or celluloid film before, much less a silent movie with live music. Due to the advent of Covid-19, beginning in March 2020, these presentations have been continued via Zoom.

Retroformat began by screening "retro" home movie technology - 8mm and 16mm films - in the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theater. In January 2020, we presented our first 35mm event, a rare screening of Charlie Chaplin's original 1925 version of "The Gold Rush" at the Hollywood Legion Theater. This event included with a live, improvised piano score, with special permission from the Chaplin Estate. Although the advent of Covid-19 has interfered with our ability to continue live screenings, in November 2020 we presented the first drive-in presentation of a silent film in Hollywood history at the Hollywood Legion Theater's new drive-in. Our screening of Harold Lloyd’s “The Freshman” (1923) featured live keyboard accompaniment by Cliff Retallick. We look forward to when we can return to presenting films with live music in theaters on a regular basis.

In April 2020, Retroformat joined the digital age when “Retroformat Live!” premiered on Youtube and Facebook, with a webcast of Harold Lloyd’s “Never Weaken“ and a Q&A with Suzanne Lloyd of the Harold Lloyd Estate. We are continuing to present webcasts of rare silent films to a whole new audience.

In January 2020, we entered into a partnership with Laurel Cinematic Arts and Creative Technologies Magnet School, to provide monthly silent film screenings for dozens of 6th, 7th and 8th grade film students and special education students.

Financials

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Retroformat Silent Films

Board of directors
as of 8/30/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Thomas Barnes

Alexander Payne

Allison Anders

Andrew Schwartz

Barbara Smith

Carley Hildebrand

Cliff Retallick

David Slaughter

Dino Everett

University of Southern California

Iain Kennedy

Karie Bible

Sean Malone

Steven Hill

UCLA Film & Television Archive

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 04/30/2021

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White/Caucasian/European
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Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
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Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
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