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"Accidentally Preserved" - rare & lost silent films on DVD's video poster

I have several rare or lost silent films that I want to transfer, score and release on DVD and on YouTube. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on December 5, 2012.

I have several rare or lost silent films that I want to transfer, score and release on DVD and on YouTube.

About this project

The "ACCIDENTALLY PRESERVED" rare/lost silent movie project

I own more than a dozen short silent movies that are either lost films or just really really rare.  The copies I have are vintage 16mm film editions made in the 1930s and 1940s, and are still projectable and usable.  I want to produce a DVD, for classic film collectors, that will have these films on them in HD transfers and with new musical scores that I will create; I will also release the films on YouTube for all the world to enjoy.

I hope you'll make a pledge, and help me get these films out of cans and onto peoples' screens so they can been enjoyed and studied.  With your help, these films that have been unavailable to enjoy and own for decades will been seen again.


A bit about me

I've been accompanying silent movies on piano and organ for 30 years; I play for silents at MoMA, at the Silent Clowns Film Series (which I also produce) in NYC, at the Library of Congress, and at festivals, historic theatres and at schools and universities throughout the US and abroad. I've scored dozens of silent films for DVD release for companies like Kino and Milestone and for air on TCM. My website is

Why call it "accidentally preserved"?

In the 1920s, 30s and 40s, silent movies were printed on 16mm safety film stock for home movie rentals – it was like Netflix for the art deco era. Decades have passed, and many of the original 35mm prints of these silent films no longer exist, but these vintage 16mm copies survive. (That's what I have in my collection.)  It's as if those silent films were…accidentally preserved.

The "Accidentally Preserved" DVDs

Production and design:

Each DVD will  have 8 or 9 rare or lost silent films on them, all in new professional HD video transfers by colleagues of mine.  Each film will have a  brand new custom musical score on piano or organ that I will create.  The DVDs will be professionally authored and they will be produced and made available for sale on via Amazon's CreateSpace service.  The box art and a brand new logo for "Accidentally Preserved" will be created by professional graphic designer and silent era afficionado Marlene Weisman.

The films in the project:

While what I plan to release may not be a super-famous rarity (like "London After Midnight" or a pie fight cut from "Napoleon"), what I do have are silent movies that are entertaining and deserve to be made available for cultural, historic and entertainment purposes.  The film are all shorts, 10-20 mins each, and are all in the public domain.  Most are comedies, but there are one or two animated films and industrial/educational titles as well.

Release date (expected):

Based on my typical performance schedule for Dec-Feb and the time it takes to do the transferring, scoring and authoring, I expect to be able to have the DVD finished and available in March 2013.

Not just one DVD, but 2 or 3 or…

The money goal for this Kickstarter project is only enough for me to produce one DVD with 8 or 9 films on it.  I have 15 rare/lost silent films to release, plus a handful of collectors have offered me access to rare/lost silent films from their 16mm collections.  That's a lot more film to make available than this Kickstarter budget covers.

The more money that's raised, the more films and DVDs we can release!

DVDs and YouTube:

The main thrust of the “Accidentally Preserved” project will be the DVD edition of the films, as classic film fans and scholars prefer owning DVDs even when content is available for online streaming.  The DVDs will have additional value-added content for some titles, such as alternate scores, commentary tracks, or image stabilization.

I plan to release the films transferred and scored for the "Accidentally Preserved" DVDs on YouTube on a bi-weekly basis, as a web-series.  I believe it is important to make these films available for streaming this way as many people worldwide can discover these films as well as the DVD series this way

A successful test this summer on YouTube

This summer I took a half dozen of the rare/lost silent movies I have and posted them on YouTube; I got a couple friends to transfer the 16mm's as favors and I composed and recorded scores for the films in cracks of free time I had. 

There was an immediate and enthusiastic response by fans and scholars to the rarities I posted. Leonard Maltin praised my YouTube channel on his weekly "Movie Crazy" blog at The silent films I posted went from sitting on a shelf to being seen by anywhere from 400 to 1,000 people in a couple months. I knew that my idea of making more of these films available on DVD and online was worthwhile.

Make a pledge

We've all heard of lost or rare films turning up and thought, "wouldn't it be great if that got a DVD release". "Accidentally Preserved" is a chance for you to help make something like that happen.  Take a look at the amounts and rewards and participate in a unique silent film enterprise.

Sample films

Some of the lost silent films I've scored and uploaded this summer are:

  • COOK, PAPA, COOK (1928) - starring Henry Murdock- until I won this on eBay last summer, this film had been lost since its release in 1928
  • THE STORY OF THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER (1921) - this film's production year and stars were identified and confirmed through user comments after I posted the film online in July!
  • NOT WANTED (1924) - starring Billy West - originally a Chaplin impersonator, West made a successful series after dropping the Chaplin costume.  This film's 2nd reel is all that survives of this entry from that series.

To watch these and the other rare/lost silents fromt he series that I posted on YouTube, click here to sample a playlist I've created.  Or just watch this comedy short which, until I won this print on eBay last year, had been lost since its release in 1928!

Risks and challenges

I've already successfully produced and released a half dozen of these rare and lost silent films on YouTube, and am well aware of the amount of time and effort required to do so, and have already done this around my usual film accompaniment performing schedule. I've authored three DVDs produced by the Silent Clowns Film Series to be thank-you gifts for contributors, am friends with a number of people at home video distributions companies, both mainstream DVD/Blu outfits and smaller DVD-R labels, and have gotten advice about the sort of project that is "Accidentally Preserved".

I'll keep you updated weekly with my progress, and if there are any unforeseen delays you'll find out as soon as I know.

I have been the producer of The Silent Clowns Film Series since its inception in 1997 and have seen it through 15 successful years of year-round shows of classic silent films in NYC as well as a number of partnerships with different venues, and its becoming a not-for-profit.

I have carefully worked out the budget for the project and done what I can to keep costs down, and will also only be releasing films that are in the public domain.

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    autographed "Accidentally Preserved" postcard

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    above, plus onscreen "special thanks" listing

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    above, plus "Accidentally Preserved" DVD

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    same as above, except "Accidentally Preserved" DVD will be autographed to you

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    above, plus additional DVD of a silent film with a score by Ben Model recorded live in performance.

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    above, plus Ben Model will turn your phone number into a melody that he will record and send you as an mp3

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    above, plus Ben will interpolate your phone melody into one of the film scores

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    above, plus Ben will also use your phone melody as music heard on the DVD menu

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Funding period

- (30 days)