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Ben Model

New York, NY, United States

Believe it or not, my full-time job is being a silent film accompanist – I create and perform live musical scores on piano for theater organ for movies made before 1930. I’ve been a huge silent film fan since I was a toddler, and this was fostered back in the pre–home-video era, my channel 13. In the 1970s they were programs like Herb Graff’s “The Silent Comedy Film Festival” and most importantly PBS’s presentations of “The Silent Years”. Back then, unless you knew a film collector who lived near you, this was the only way for a suburban kid like me to see silent films, especially in good prints with good scores. As it turned out, my “habit” was fostered by someone who lived in my town who had a huge 16mm collection, New York Times drama critic Walter Kerr, who also wrote the book “The Silent Clowns” (Knopf, 1975). I now accompany silent movies at the Museum of modern Art, the Library of Congress, and a series that I produce here in NYC called The Silent Clowns film series; I also travel to many venues outside New York for shows, and also do programs at schools to pass on my passion for the genre to kids today. Without Thirteen’s inclusion of silent film in its programming in the 1970s and before, both I and many people who are classics film fans or who discovered silents and are now film curators and historians would not have had the exposure to silent movies. Thank you, Thirteen, and do please consider re-instating this kind of programming (TCM only shows silents at midnight on Sundays, which is only good if you’re a vampire or a werewolf).
Ben Model