Tuesday, November 14, 2017

See the USA in Your CHEVROLET!

Among the most popular posts at my Facebook Movie Memory Time have been videos about vintage automobiles. From the 1930s thru 60s, Chevrolet produced dozens of cartoons, travelogs, comedies and documentaries about Chevys which were shown in movie theaters and schools. 

Movie Memories has compiled the best into one 2-hour DVD that would make a great present for all Chevy fans! Watch excerpts:

The DVD See the USA in Your Chevrolet may be purchased from Festival Films. Price is $20, postage paid. Contact Ron Hall at fesfilms@aol.com, or just send $20 via Paypal to that email. Here are the contents:

Dinah Shore: A GREAT NEW STAR (1953, 12m) Dinah hosts a long promo for the new Chevy models, while singing “It’s a Most Unusual Day” and of course “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.”

Gale Storm in HOW TO GO PLACES (1954, 11m) Gale Storm with her husband Lee Bonnell and their three young boys show you how to travel America ... in your Chevrolet!

14 Chevy ROADS TO ROMANCE (1949-52) Chevy tours the country in 3 min. color travelogs to the Twin Cities, Santa Cruz, Coral Gables, San Diego, PA Turnpike, San Luis Obispo, Narragansett Bay, Columbia River Highway and more. 

Easy Does It (1940, 9m) Chevrolet salutes the strength and versatility of WOMEN, and then explains how Chevy gear shifting makes it easier for weak women to drive cars.

3 Nicky Nome Color CARTOONS (1937-39) Nicky Nome’s CHEVROLET saves the day from pirates, Indians and knights in Peg Leg Pedro, Nicky Rides Again and One Bad Knight.

Tomorrow’s Drivers (1954, 11m) Grade schoolers taught to drive in miniature cars. Narrated by Jimmy Stewart.

Chevrolet: The Inside Story (1950, 12m) Body construction of Chevrolets.

Gift this DVD to every Chevy fan in your life! Just send $20 via Paypal to fesfilms@aol.com.

That's right, send $20 via Paypal to fesfilms@aol.com, or call Ron Hall at 952-470-2172. 

For anyone interested in Public Domain Films, please visit Festival Films website. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Facebook Adventures

Just over a year ago, around 2/1/2016, I started Movie Memory Time Facebook page. The link is down below. Movie Memories are short video clips followed by questions to encourage recalling one's past and reminiscing about it with whatever friends and family watched the video with you. Some are clips from feature films, trailers, cartoons, "educational" films like they showed in schools, newsreels, TV ads -- basically anything filmed long ago can remind one of where they were in life at that time. If you never heard of Movie Memories, here is how they work:

I invited all my Facebook friends and about 100 "Liked" the new page just to see what I was doing. I had a stockpile of Movie Memory segments and began posting every other day. Not much happened for quite awhile as far as picking up viewers. Then I started using Vimeo for uploading the videos instead of youtube. I also started re-doing the segments with stills behind the questions instead of a blank screen. I added more off-the-wall humor in the questions such as "What is your favorite ocean?" Here is an original one made for Facebook that has gotten the most views:

The goal of each post is to "Reach" a lot of people on Facebook. I don't know what qualifies as a "Reach." I think it means that a post flits across one's computer screen as they are browsing Facebook. If you have 500 FB Friends, then you get a whole lot of posts on your timeline every day and might have missed most of mine. I do not repost the same video several times since that can become annoying. Anyone can intentionally come to MMT page to catch up on anything they might have missed, but I suspect few do that as we are all too busy. Only around 10% of those Reached, click on and watch the videos.

I found I could vastly increase reaches, views and new Likes by sharing my posts with other FB Groups. For instance, this Edsel one was shared with 3 groups who love vintage cars, and also to 1950s America and other nostalgia pages. I only share horror videos to horror groups, TV posts to TV groups, comedy videos to Dead Comedians Society, etc.

In October 2016 I put out lots of horror movie trailers and clips leading up to Halloween, but still only every other day. I started sharing these wider and picking up more LIKES (700 MMT page Likes as of mid February 2017). While I used to think 400 Reaches was a great success, I began wanting to reach 1K or more every time.

I started posting favorite film clips without adding questions to turn them into "Movie Memories." No one noticed or cared, and it allowed me to 1) Post more often, 2) Share videos from youtube, and 3) share copyrighted films (all Movie Memories use public domain clips). A turning point came Nov. 20, 2016 when I posted the following excerpt from an Amos 'n' Andy TV show:

There was WIDE interest in this TV show and it was re-shared by many fans all over Facebook such that the video currently has more than 13k Reaches. I followed up with several more Amos n Andy videos and my Reaches for the week soared over 20K.

In December I posted a MMT clip about Christmas every day. This routine turned to twice a day in January after I found the very supportive FB group 1950s America. In February I posted a black musician or comedian tribute every day for Black History Month, plus second posts.

Discoveries I have made about Facebook and me this past year:

  • It is like a game to maintain 10K Reaches every week.

  • I enjoy interacting with everyone who comments on a post by Liking their comment or replying to it.

  • Youtube is something of a mess. Yes, you can go there searching for Amos n Andy and watch lots of them, except many are so poor as to be unwatchable. However, if a decent quality episode (from me) shows up on your FB Timeline or in a group you check every day, you are much more likely to watch it, enjoy it and re-share it.

  • Many Groups that I share to mostly post pictures from the members. So my videos stand out and are appreciated, so far as I can tell from the comments.

  • I have learned a lot about the films by scanning them for clips to use. For instance, I did not know Mantan Moreland was so funny in King of the Zombies until two weeks ago when I made this:

What do my daily MMT posts get me? When will the money start rolling in (LOL)? A growing presence on the web? Reputation as a film enthusiast? Building "Movie Memory Time" into a brand I might someday be able to sell? Well, it has brought me new friends for sure, and perhaps greater respect from many who have known me for years at the unique film clips I post. Posting is a new hobby I enjoy more now. I do get a daily sense of winning or doing good by maintaining 10K+ Reaches each week.

To join the fun, please visit facebook.com/moviememorytime/ and LIKE the page.

Here is a final film clip posted a month ago. I found out it was Phyllis Coates' birthday, realized I had this trailer to Panther Girl of the Kongo serial she starred in, posted it quickly and it has had 2,855 reaches to date. That giant claw in the thumbnail must have intrigued viewers.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Movie Memory Time on Facebook

In February of 2016 I established a MOVIE MEMORY Facebook page. The link is at the bottom. At the suggestion of friend and partner Bob Campbell I called the page "Movie Memory Time." The term "Time" sets it apart, I think, as a special Activity that one might partake in with others. Watch with family and friends, during which brief period you each recall memories related to the film clip just watched. The questions or comments by me at the end also help guide a discussion.

Here is the introductory video I created for How Movie Memories Work:

Early Movie Memories that I put on Facebook were ones I had made in 2011 when I started the idea. These were pretty straight forward with 4 questions after the film to guide discussion. I did add a closing note to "Pause to discuss the questions" and also to "Like MMT on Facebook." Here is the very first MMT posted on Facebook. This was a new one I made up and includes the new ending:

Nine months later, here in early November of 2016,  I recently posted my 100th Movie Memory on Facebook. You can view the entire list HERE. I have several unexpected observations:

  • They have become more sophisticated. 
  • I often add fresh music over the questions rather than the pre-1923 ragtime themes. 
  • Most questions now appear over pictorial backgrounds. 
  • More humor. I try to make the first question more of a joke.
  • Often shorter in length. A movie trailer is all it takes to evoke memories.
  • They have become more fun to make up and take less time as well.
  • The recent pace is posting a new one every other day. 
  • I share each post with 10 to 12 other Facebook pages that I have joined.
  • More "Likes" (currently 330) transfers to more views per post. The most "People Reached" to date has been 1,330 for "The Big Four Monsters" which was trailers for Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, Mummy.

Although I don't get much feedback, I have become convinced that Movie Memory Time could become a popular fixture somewhere on the Internet. I would like it to become accessible to millions like the daily crossword puzzle or Sudoku, not just to watch alone but as an activity to share memories with others. I dream big like a daily MMT on the Yahoo home page in the right hand column under the weather and Yahoo News highlights. If anyone out there knows how to reach the bigwigs at Yahoo, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc... Help me sell THEM the idea, before someone else steals it, renames and launches their own.

Here is the Movie Memory posted on Nov. 5, 2016, followed by my discussion of the film that accompanied the post on Facebook:

ROY ROGERS at Children's Hospital
This opening from "Song of Texas" (1943) shows Roy Rogers, Trigger and the Sons of the Pioneers entertaining in a children's hospital. It is a favorite clip of mine since it is so real. Roy was a true american hero who often visited sick children without fanfare, and Trigger too, right inside the hospital!
Each Movie Memory segment gives me a chance to share film clips like this. They remind me of my youth, of where I first saw the films, and of experiences I had in common with the onscreen events. This one reminds me of seeing Roy Rogers on TV as a kid. It reminds me of other childhood screen heroes. It also brought back a memory of waking up in a hospital bed from an operation to remove tonsils when I was only 4.
I hope MMT works in a similar fashion you. Film clips from the past do spark memories from long ago. Watch them alone or with a small group of friends so you can reminisce. Watch them with grandchildren so they can better know you, meet your heroes, learn a bit of history and have fun at the same time. Watch, Recall and Share the Memories.

Please visit and LIKE Movie Memory Time on Facebook.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Evolution of Movie Memories

By Ron Hall

I discovered public domain films in the mid-1970s and have been selling them ever since in various formats. No one owns the copyrights anymore to hundreds of features, shorts and TV shows and so one can sell them or show them anywhere. This is a great benefit to the public since many obscure copyrighted films with little commercial value simply disappear. 

I started Festival Films in 1976 to sell 16mm film prints to colleges and libraries. Home video Betamax and VHS recorders came along in the early 1980s, so in 1976 the only format for school or home viewing was 16mm film. Most sales were to colleges with film history courses. Rather than rent the same scratched and spliced prints every year they could now purchase their own new copies of films like Birth of a Nation, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Grand Illusion and so on. 

Always seeking new markets, in 1995 I got the idea for The Remember Series. These were VHS tapes that contained 60 minutes of excerpts from public domain films, tailored specifically for Seniors and their interests. I found addresses for retirement communities in Minnesota, sent out flyers and made around 20 sales. Then I got sidetracked on other projects and never sought national sales.

In 1998 my long-time friend and associate Bob DeFlores was approached by two women with an idea to sell public domain feature films to Retirement Communities along with written notes to guide Activity Directors in discussions after the films were shown. While I supplied quite a few films, nothing ever came of this project. 

In 2010 I took a fresh look at supplying films to Senior facilities. The theory is that Seniors might want to see older films that they saw as children or young adults. Well, some are and some are not interested. Of course most communities today have all the movies they can ever use, either libraries of DVDs, weekly rentals from Netflix or streaming off the Internet. What they needed more was a new ACTIVITY for interaction, for memory therapy and for reaching Alzheimer patients. 

Putting earlier ideas together, I came up with 1) Short film segments on a DVD, accompanied by 2) A printed study guide with questions so an activity director could lead discussions. I named the collection of segments Movie Memories. 

The Study Guides did NOT work that well.  A Movie Memory could be watched alone for entertainment, but encouragement to force reminiscing was needed.  Adding 4 questions at the end of each video supplied that spark. Until 2016 the instructions in the “How They Work” video said to pause after each question, then continue. Again, that slowed everything down and few followed the procedure. Much better is to run the four questions, which are thematically related to the film just viewed, and then pause for discussion about the film or any of the questions. 

By 2011 I had created 6 Volumes of Movie Memories on DVDs, with Study Guides in case an Activity Director did want to guide a group discussion. I do offer these DVDs for sale today. Each Volume contains 3 DVDs with 4 or 5 Movie Memory segments on each, to be used for 3 or more sessions. Also in 2011, I registered my idea with the Writer’s Guild of America West in Hollywood, which is where all screen plays are registered for protection.

Movie Memories on DVDs do work well, but they are not the final solution. Computers are far more accessible today than DVD players. Activity Directors can connect laptops to large screen TVs in small meeting rooms or to video projection machines in large ones. Right now they can stream Movie Memories from Facebook, www.moviememorytime.com website or the few on youtube. Pausing at the end of each segment is easy -- the films end anyways! Each segment will awaken memories, or at least a theme for discussion, but reminiscing out loud depends on the catalyst of the questions. Then some in the session will want to talk a lot while others little at all.

In 2014 I began selling public domain features and TV shows to a company that provides computer activities, services and programs specifically to retirement communities - It’s Never Too Late. They also provide the hardware/computer systems for running the content that is refreshed every month. Late in 2014 IN2L began leasing Movie Memories for use on their computers. As I revised each Movie Memory and created new ones, I became more convinced of their worth and value. Every interesting film clip recalls memories of some parts of our past. It is so easy to think of questions that focus on what to talk about, and it is fun for me to inject a little humor.

Movie Memory Time was launched in February, 2016 on Facebook. The term “Time” connotes a pleasurable weekly or daily event in which one watches a Movie Memory and talks about it. It is a far friendlier name than “Movie Memory Activity” or “Session” that I had been using.

Movie Memories can bridge the age gap with grandchildren
I have two dreams for the future of Movie Memories. The first is that they be freely accessible on the Internet to anyone in the world. At the moment they are free to anyone who “Likes” the Facebook page, but few know about it yet. The second dream is Movie Memories Online. Yes, I am putting them online weekly but with only a small presence to date on Facebook, youtube and the MM website. 

It is human nature to be slow to read a new author, start watching a new TV series, play a new game or adopt a new activity. But it is also the nature of the Internet that new discoveries can spread virally in a very short period. They call it social media - friends telling friends and spreading the word. Movie Memory Time on Facebook is currently in Phase 1 -- seeking its audience. If and when Facebook picks up thousands of “Likes” to prove interest, MMT will be in a better position to attract a financial partner who can do it justice on the Web. 

Movie Memories Online could be vastly improved if a company such as Facebook itself stepped in. Such a partner could produce the videos in hi-def, shoot new segments around specific themes, clear rights to offer Movie Memories “I Love Lucy” and similar. They could offer free Movie Memories as a public service. They could offer elite service to retirement communities like I proposed in my 2013 blog (revised Jan. 2016) just below. A proper website could allow activity directors to select segments on their computers, preview them, arrange them into viewing session and automatically pause at the end of each set of questions. They could save each session for future use or swap out segments that did not elicit much response. ALL FREE! Or the owner of Movie Memories Online could make money by leasing to Retirement Communities at reasonable monthly rates that included public performance rights. At the same time they could be available free to individual users, or monetized by including those pesky but short youtube ads from time to time.

I thank you for any assistance in spreading the word about Movie Memory Time on Facebook. Again, MMT is an absolutely FREE activity with new segments added every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please “Like” the page and each new segment will be sent to your FB timeline. Share posts with Seniors who use Facebook. Contact activity directors in communities. Write comments on the FB page. Email feedback to fesfilms@aol.com. Our progress will show in the number of Likes for www.facebook.com/moviememorytime/


Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie Memories Online

Movie Memories is a Retirement Community Group Activity that wakens memories and promotes reminiscing and social interaction.  Movie Memories is also a terrific game or pastime to connect seniors with grandchildren.  They watch a fun video together showing what life was like when the senior was young, then discuss the onscreen questions. They can also be watched and enjoyed by single viewers, whatever their age.

Each DVD volume of Movie Memories includes a cornucopia of TV ads, newsreels, musical, comedy and action films, plus 1950s TV shows, cartoons, Sing Alongs and classic excerpts.  A group leader shows vintage film clips from a DVD player connected to a television or projection TV system.  Four onscreen questions after each short segment kick off the topics to recall and share.  The leader pauses after the four questions for discussion.  Seeing the cars and trains, homes and schools, cafés and drug stores, hairstyles and fashions, toys and sports of the 1930s to 1950s sparks memory. Inspired by the films and prodded by the questions... reminiscing runs rampant!  Movie Memories is a fresh activity for group social interaction as well as a proven tool for memory therapy.

This video explains exactly how Movie Memories work:

Movie Memories are further explained at the Festival Films website.  The Discussion Guides are posted for all 4 regular volumes and two Musical Movie Memories.  The four questions after each film segment are listed so you can determine in advance how your Senior groups might respond. Plus there are numerous video samples of the films in Movie Memories followed by the onscreen questions.

So far Movie Memories are only available on DVD.  Each volume contains 3 separate DVDs with about an hour of film on each, more than enough for three full sessions.  If a lively audience wants to talk a lot ... and please encourage that ... then a session can run way over an hour or you may quit without running all of the segments on a DVD.

Movie Memories Online!
The bigger dream is to bring Movie Memories to the whole world absolutely free: Movie Memories Online.  Here is how a FREE online version of Movie Memories might work:

Movie Memories Website would present the current segments on pages broken down into genres such as Sing-Along Cartoons, Newsreels, School Days, Family Life, TV & Movie Memories, Toys and Games, etc. Anyone could go to this website and enjoy Movie Memories for hours at a time by themselves or with family and friends. Those viewing for free would also get short ads mixed in.

Retirement communities could pay a monthly fee that includes public performance rights and the ability to stream the segments without commercials. They would also get onscreen help to prepare MM Sessions to groups in the facility, and could save sessions for future use.

First Activity Directors connect their laptop computer to a large screen TV in small meeting room or to a DVD projection system in an auditorium. They select the Movie Memory segments they want to run that day from the website and put into a "shopping basket" where they can preview the segments, rearrange them and study the Questions before the session. Push “Start” and the first segment streams to the screen and freezes on the last frame.  Then it's Talk Time!  Who wants to talk about their favorite childhood toy, favorite cowboy star or  name Big Band singers? After a lively discussion, the activity director proceeds to the next MM segment.

Retirement communities often use this kind of activity for entertainment and therapy, but the use of onscreen questions to trigger memories and discussion has not been patented or named and the activity can not be found on the Internet.

Movie Memories Online could be monetized using this business model:
1)  Insertion of ads with Movie Memory segments watched for free.
2)  Monthly subscription fee that would grant public performance rights and allow Activity Directors to stream the videos without ads. (Think 10,000 retirement homes x $50 a month. How about 50,000 homes?  How many communities are in the world market?!)
3)  Public domain or licensed feature films could be added to the site for additional ad revenue.
4) If Movie Memories go viral on youtube, then sell to Netflix, Google or similar.

The film clips on the initial Movie Memory DVDs are from public domain films, with public domain music composed before 1923, and are presented in standard definition.  With proper funding, licensing deals could be worked out to reimburse owners of music, the actors' images and the films themselves.  Imagine "Movie Memories: I Love Lucy" or "Movie Memories: Ma & Pa Kettle" or for seniors 20 years from now "Movie Memories: Friends."  All videos could be upgraded to High Definition for improved quality on large screens.

Movie Memories are currently for sale on DVD at Festival Films. Movie Memories is registered with the Writer’s Guild of America.  I am seeking an Internet partner to turn my online dream of free Movie Memories on every computer into a reality.  Don't just stream videos to Seniors, send them the key to unlock their childhood memories and discuss them with friends and family. This is a million dollar idea that could enrich the lives of everyone!

-- Ron Hall

1 comment:

  1. This is a great activity since most people in this age group love to reminisce. It is nice if they are satisfied with what they see and realize that they manage to do a lot of great things in the past. This will make them happy. Most 55 retirement communities have this activity and I hope they continue to do this.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

SILENT Confessions of a Film Collector

The inspiring black and white "silent" movie "The Actor" just took the Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year.  I also loved Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" about the great pioneer of silent movies, Georges Melies.   Both films have caused me to reflect back on turning points in my life involving the real Silent Movies made before 1929.  A fascination with them as a child and teenager truly steered my life to a hobby that turned into a vocation that continues today.

I will mix in other movie influences from my youth.  Film collectors, buffs and Cinephiles recount many of these same experiences.  I have no memory of seeing any films before I was four, which is when the family moved from Texas to Wisconsin and settled in the small town of Deerfield, population 610, that had no movie theater!  So I grew up without Saturday Matinees or any weekly trips to the theater.  Being deprived of this experience in my early years only made me want to see more movies.  The few trips to Madison to see kiddie fare like "25 Color Cartoon Festival" which were either Bugs Bunny/Roadrunners or Tom and Jerry/Droopy cartoons were very special.  Of course we were taken to Disney films like revivals of "Snow White" and "Song of the South," plus first runs of "Cinderella," "Lady and the Tramp" and "The Great Locomotive Chase."

 Free Movies in the Park.  Deerfield did host an outdoor movie series every summer to bring farmers into town for shopping.  This is a lost piece of small-town Americana I have never read about anywhere, but I was grateful to be part of it.  The shows did not start until dark around 9:00, but I hung around the traveling showman watching him set the screen, projector and speakers.  That first summer (1950) at age five I saw the first film I recall today -- Chapter #1 of the Universal serial "Junior G-Men" starring the Dead End Kids.  In the first chapter ending Billy Halop and pals are fighting in an elevator out of control.  It crashes!  I remember being terrified and covering my eyes.  I even remember the park bench and how close I sat to the screen.  Too close!  I really thought the Kids had died in my first exposure to the concept of death.

The Family 8mm Projector.  It was a Revere much like the one pictured here.  My father took home movies but in order to spice up a show starring us 3 kids he acquired a handful of Castle Films.  I recall "The Three Little Bruins Get Into Mischief," Andy Panda in "Crazy House" and the superb "Mickey's Buzz Saw" (actually 3 minutes from the 1934 "The Dognapper") with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pegleg Pete being chased by a runaway buzz saw in a lumber mill.  "Crazy House" was a sound Technicolor cartoon but the home version was not only black and white but silent with inter-titles like real silent films.  I never knew at the time, but was simply captivated by the images of a fun house that runs amuck.

Castle Films.  My father had a few.  Everyone's dad had a few in the late 1940s/early 50s.  One day I discovered them on sale in a department store bordering the state capitol building in Madison.  I haunted that display counter for years and one day actually purchased the 200 ft. (about 3 minutes) version of "The Bride of Frankenstein" for something like $3.95.  I never could afford the deluxe 10 minute version at $8.95.  A few drops of film collecting fever in the blood can go a long ways, like a lifetime.

"Famous Monster of Filmland" entered my life in late 1960 with Issue #10.  I had never seen many horror films up to then, but here was this kindly weird adult, Forrest J. Ackerman, telling all the kids that sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies were FUN and OK TO LIKE.  (My parents forbade horror on some quasi-religious pagan grounds.)  I ordered the first nine back issues I had missed from Captain Company, who often did not deliver.  After losing a pile of quarters and dimes and still not getting Issue #4, I wrote to Forry about my dilemma.  He not only sent me one but autographed it as well, as shown here.

1950s Television.  Though missing first run movies in theaters, I devoured TV, saw my first mysteries, serials and cartoons there, Howdy Doody and the Mickey Mouse Club, Crusader Rabbit and later Rocky and Bullwinkle, all the TV western series, One Step Beyond, Maverick and on and on. I also exhibited good taste at times and one love was Ernie Kovacs.

"Silents Please."  By coincidence or fate, in addition to his many TV specials which often featured "silent" routines, Ernie Kovacs also hosted the 1960-61 series called "Silents Please" that presented cut down versions of silent movies. The introduction and closing segments featured a quick shot of Lon Chaney as "The Phantom of the Opera" that particularly sparked my imagination a few years before I was able to actually see the film.  So every week I tuned in Ernie and "Silents," said "Please" and hoped my best to see more of the Phantom.  As it turns out from this Silents Please episode guide the show never ran "The Phantom" even though it was in the public domain!  Ernie sadly died in 1962, and there was only one 39-episode season of "Silents Please."  In Madison about the same time we enjoyed a similar series "The Toy That Grew Up" out of Chicago, but I can't find any info on the web about it.  I recall seeing Johnny Hines and Rod LaRoque half-hour abridgements.

In college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1964-1968) I attended a packed auditorium showing of "When Comedy Was King" in which the entire room convulsed with laughter for 75 minutes.  They also had occasional outdoor silent screenings of Laurel and Hardy shorts with live organ accompaniment.  Jay Ward's "Fractured Flickers" introduced more mesmerizing snippets of Silents like Stan Laurel as "Dr. Pickle" and the robot in Harry Houdini's "Master Mystery."

Blackhawk Films.  Somehow I heard about Blackhawk films during this period and traded in some old 8mm cartoons for my first Laurel and Hardy 8mm -- "Leave 'Em Laughing."  This started my hobby as a film collector and I had acquired "Metropolis" and "Phantom" from Griggs Moviedrome while still in college.  Then one day the Blackhawk Bulletin mentioned a tiny publication called "The 8mm Collector."  Sam Rubin started the paper in 1962 to find silent movies to watch and also other collectors. I must have gotten my first issue in 1967 since I ordered a dozen or more of the early issues.  The early history is recounted at the Cinecon Website:

The Society for Cinephiles, Ltd, was established in 1965 by Tom Seller, an avid reader of The 8mm Collector magazine, and Cinecon 1 was sponsored by Samuel K. Rubin, publisher of The 8mm Collector, in Indiana, Pennsylvania. It was a small affair with only a handful of die hard film fans. They gathered in a small room at the local Holiday Inn and showed each other 8mm silent films from their personal collections. This was 1965 before videos and DVDs, a time when, if you wanted to see your favorite old film, you had to wait until it turned up on TV or else you had to buy a projector and start your own film collection in 8mm or 16mm.

The following year (1966) another cinephile, Clark Wilkinson, hosted the show in Baraboo WI and Cinecon officially became an annual event. For the next several years the Cinecon moved from city to city as a sort of moveable cinematic feast. Today, the fanzine 8mm Collector is known as the respected Classic Images magazine, and since 1990 Cinecon has made its home in the Los Angeles area.

Ironically, in 1966 I was a 20-year-old sophomore in Madison, Wisconsin, and Baraboo was less than an hour drive away.  I could easily have attended Cinecon 2.  I saw a newspaper article after it was over but did not know about the event in advance.  In fact 17-year-old high school student Leonard Maltin flew in for the event.  I could also have attended Cinecon 3 in Chicago the following year with guest Colleen Moore but was again unaware.  I did make it to Cinecon 4 in Hollywood over Labor Day in 1968 where I roomed with Leonard on his very first trip to Hollywood and also with an adult -- Bud LeMaster -- who wrote for "The 8mm Collector" and who I had met in St. Louis that summer.

Wanting to see as many silent films as possible, then to own them and finally to share them with others led to attending Cinecons from 1968 on, running the Xanadu Film Festival in Minneapolis 1971-1974, meeting my future wife Chris, making friends with film dealers, fans and collectors, and eventually starting Festival Films in 1976.  Meeting Chris, who came to the film society to make audio tapes of Marx Brothers films, stands above all else.  Chris also loved Ernie Kovacs, whose "Silents Please" helped lure me into the hobby of collecting old movies that brought us together ten years later.

Here is the inspirational opening to "Silents Please" that some may recall:

Visit my website at Festival Films.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reminisce With Movie Memories


I am Ron Hall.  I created Movie Memories as a group activity for Retirement Communities.  Short, vintage films followed by questions and the encouragement to "Share Your Memories" has proven to be a bigger hit than anyone imagined!  Seniors love to reminisce.  The entertaining films light the spark, the questions fan the blaze until reminiscing roars like a forest fire.  Besides being a lot of fun, we found out in tests that they also help with Alzheimers and Memory Therapy.

Movie Memories did not spring out of nowhere.  I have been selling movies since 1975 to schools, libraries, DVD companies, the Internet and the home market. Most of them are public domain films whose copyrights have long expired.  You can see the range of public domain films at my Festival Films website.

On Jan. 8 at my Café Roxy Blog I wrote about "Ideas to Launch a Scheme On." On Jan. 22 I mentioned in "The Birth of Festival Films" how I stumbled into selling 16mm classics to colleges that needed prints to own rather than to rent. I sum up in both that the key to a successful business is 1) Don't copy others. 2) Find a new audience. 3) Create a new product for that audience. They probably teach that the first day in Business 101, except I never took a basic business course in high school or college.

Around the first of December, 2011, I put on my thinking cap to find that new product for a new audience. I found it in the shorts I have been collecting for Café Roxy Matinees and Cartoon Brunches. I found it in an old project from 1998 that I failed to pursue properly: "The Remembering Series." My sell sheet is below. Click to enlarge if interested. I sent out a few of these to retirement communities in Minnesota, made a few sales and then decided it was too hard to reach this audience.

I spell out the basic idea well: "This unique video series is designed for the entertainment and enjoyment in retirement and nursing home facilities. Your residents will revisit moments from their past that made them laugh, cry, tap their toes and sing their hearts out. These professionally produced, quality presentations are absolutely guaranteed to delight or your money back! We can make this guarantee because the contents were selected in consultation with leaders in the Senior Activities field. The videos have been tested on audiences with overwhelming acclaim!"

One problem was that the short films were on VHS and could not be accessed easily. Another problem was they were just a collection of films to watch. Retirement homes all have Activity Directors, whose job is to supply activities. I found a way to turn old movies into activities: Watch them one at a time with a group of friends. Pause the show. Ask questions related to the film just seen. The questions stir memory and spark discussions that can go in any direction. Music can even reach seniors with Alzheimers.  

Movie Memories are nostalgic films from the 1930s through the 1960s. They may be watched for historical interest, as time capsules into eras long vanished or for pure enjoyment of the music, stars and family-friendly stories.

Movie Memories are designed to be shown to seniors who grew up in those years. Watching the films they enjoyed in their youth -- as well as the television shows and newsreels, the cars and trains, homes and schools, filling stations and drug stores, hairstyles and fashions, toys and sports -- will serve as a catalyst to reminisce about their pasts.

Movie Memories work well with small groups of friends who enjoy talking together. A moderator or group leader shows films one at a time from a DVD player connected to a television or projection TV system. After each segment is screened, they read trivia about the film and ask questions from the study guide. The discussion should be encouraged to go in any direction it wants and take as long as the participants desire. For instance, “The Fifth Freedom” could spark a discussion of favorite Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movies or how they enjoyed Arthur Godfrey and Perry Como on TV. It could also lead into small towns they grew up in, or happy memories of family life, or how everyone smoked during the 1950s. One short could thus fill an hour with lively talk.

Not every film will have a direct connection to normal lives, since few have been astronauts, cowboys or big game hunters, but every vintage film will stir memories of a way of life through the images frozen in time. Every good story will touch on the universal themes of good and evil, conflict, goals, success, love and friendship. Discussion can always return to the movie-going experience: “The popcorn was so good and only cost a dime.” “Roy Rogers was my hero.” “We took a streetcar to the Roxy every Saturday afternoon.” “I got my first kiss watching Tarzan.”

The purpose of Movie Memories is to encourage discussion of any topic. We all have memories of growing up and raising a family. What better way to recall our pasts than to revisit those days on film and reminisce in the company of friends?

Movie Memories has been launched on my website! You can see the contents of the first four volumes plus Music of the 1930s and Music of the 1940s, along with the Discussion Guides that a moderator reads from to spark discussions.  You can even watch 8 segments of Movie Memories from the website.  Here is an example that has been abridged by a few minutes to get to the questions sooner.

Can you picture 20 or 30 seniors fighting to talk about their favorite childhood toy, doll or board game?  Who was your favorite cowboy hero?  Who can name the most Big Bands?  Who can sing loudest during the Cartoon Sing-Along?

Films + Questions = Memories to Share!  Now I just need to reach the thousands of activity directors who work with seniors! 

Visit my website at Festival Films