Ithaca Times "Behind the Scenes" Jan 12, 2007 10:45:33 GMT -5
Post by Terry Harbin on Jan 12, 2007 10:45:33 GMT -5
Behind Ithaca's Scenes
By: Natasha Li Pickowicz
By: Natasha Li Pickowicz
Since so many people are well- informed about Ithaca's history in music, art and dance, it is almost shocking that most know little about Ithaca's surprisingly rich history of film - especially the silent film era of the 1910s and 20s.
Terry Harbin, Ithaca's self-appointed "Silent Film Historian," has been a librarian at the Tompkins County Public Library for over thirty years. But he is also the brains and mastermind behind "Ithaca Made Movies," a non-profit organization that seeks to "preserve Ithaca's silent film heritage."
A short movie about his efforts also will be screened this weekend. Harbin organizes events about twice a year, always free to the public, featuring movies and other items from his extensive collection.
The theme of Saturday afternoon will be "Behind the Scenes," and Harbin will focus on this topic with short documentaries, photo stills and other moving pictures that he has collected over the past few decades. The program will feature "They Made a Movie in Ithaca, Again" (1988), "They Made a Movie," a montage of clips of Syracuse native and silent movie star Doris Kenyon in the movie "The Great White Trail" (1917), as well as other behind the scenes short films.
Harbin has indeed committed much of his life and passion to this organization, and is looking to establish a Silent Film Museum in Stewart Park (where the old Wharton studios are located), paint murals of the silent film movie stars, and other projects to spice up Ithaca and share his movie knowledge with the town.
Ithaca Times: How did Ithaca Made Movies come to be?
Terry Harbin: I've been doing this a number of years, and I was getting tired of me doing it all and not having the money to do it properly, so I formed a non-profit organization, Ithaca Made Movies, because that's what I had been calling myself even before I was a non-profit organization. Since then, not much has changed.
IT: So is it sort of a historical preservation society, in a way?
Terry: When I came [to Ithaca], it was not something that anybody seemed to be focused on, and that it was so great that it happened here. I was working at the Tompkins County Public Library, and my interest started back in the Ithaca Centennial, when they were wanting to do the history of the city and kind of present it to the citizens, and the library became involved with that and that got me involved with video production and TV things, and I found a relationship with what the old moviemakers were doing: Here, I was doing the same thing, capturing events and things that had happened here. I wasn't making movies or anything, but somehow I had realized what I was doing now mattered and that later people might even want to know what I was doing.
IT: Do you like to visit the places in Ithaca where some of these movies were shot?
Terry: (Laughs) Yeah, it's almost a fetish that I've seen scenes in the movie, and I want to see where they are now. I've actually gone around with my camera and duplicated scenes, and that's one of the things that I basically work on all the time (laughs), but I can never get anything together with it, I can't figure out how to present it ... I mean how many times in a row can you show the same scene, you know what I mean? ... So that's something that I was always interested in, and down in Stewart Park, there are these two studio buildings, and that's where the [Wharton] studios used to be.
IT: And you'd like to turn that space into a museum?
Terry: Well, I'm not really hoping - it just should be. The two structures that remain there ... they're being used for maintenance in the park, the grounds keeping and stuff, but it is actually the studio. Even up on the roof, there are tracks that lights were hung on that haven't been removed. For silent film, it was fairly rare for them to have done this in Ithaca, and that these structures remain is something that is very important.
IT: Do you consider yourself more of a historian or a filmmaker or a film buff, or some combination of those things?
Terry: (Laughs) Well, I can honestly say that I never shot any film. I still can't quite comprehend how all of this came to be ... But the History Center, they have stills and information about the moviemaking ... but there was just no one there with the knowledge that I had been learning about the moviemaking. So a lot of times people will go to them there, and they'll refer them to me.
IT: Can you tell me a little more about the program on Saturday?
Terry: Besides showing "The Great White Trail," and I'm showing another silent film, is also a behind the scenes "Making Of" with Doris Kenyon. And I'm showing a bunch of items I've been purchasing in the last four or six months on eBay ... mostly pictures and stills with actors and posters, and some will focus on Irene Castle who married a local boy - most people have heard a little about her. One of my friends has one of the very largest collections of Pearl White memorabilia in the world ... and he's going to be bringing some of those things to the event, so there's a lot of things going on - starting with here, then jumping back in time, and back in time, back in time ... it's not just current.
The event will be this Saturday, Jan. 6, from 1:30pm-4pm in the
Tompkins County Public Library's Borg Warner Community Room.
For more info, visit www.IthacaMadeMovies.com.
©Ithaca Times 2007