Waaay back in September, I returned to the Castro Theatre with my pal for another screening of silent shorts. We made a quick weekend trip to the Bay Area in order to see our favorite fella: Buster Keaton. I was also really excited to see an early Felix the Cat film onscreen, particularly because my nine-year-old self collected anything and everything Felix. In total, we would be treated to four short films in one afternoon, plus live musical accompaniment by the Club Foot Orchestra.
Saturday, June 16th was declared “Buster Keaton Day” in Los Angeles, and included an entire weekend of festivities. The event I attended on that particular day—a plaque dedication—is one I’ll hold very dear to my heart. Somewhere in Hollywood, on the southwest corner of Lillian Way and Eleanor Avenue, stands a plain-looking movie prop warehouse. Nearly 100 years prior, it was the site where Buster Keaton’s independent studio once graced.
It was a very warm and slightly breezy Sunday afternoon, the kind that’s easygoing and ideal for seeing a matinee. I returned to the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, where I met up with a co-worker of mine. She’d heard of Buster Keaton before, but had never seen one of his films, so like the Keaton-fan-recruiter (?) I am, I mentioned this screening to her and we decided to go.
This post is long overdue, but I wanted to share some highlights from my six-month stint as a moving image archive intern. It’s been nearly a year since I first started archiving, and I still can’t believe my luck in finding (much less landing) such a convenient position. I was fortunate enough to work in a library that boasts an impressive collection of Paramount and Pathé newsreels from the first half of the 20th century, with topics ranging from everything under the sun. As an undergraduate at the time, working hands-on with nitrate and acetate film is something I wouldn’t have expected to be doing unless I enrolled in a graduate program. Another bonus: I didn’t even have to commute that far.
One of my undergraduate film professors curates an on-campus educational retrospective each semester, which mainly focuses on a particular director’s oeuvre. I remember approaching him sometime in 2016 to ask if he’d be interested in doing something for BK100, and he seemed thrilled by the prospect. Once 2017 came around, I was delighted to hear that he would be organizing a retrospective for Buster during the Fall semester, and asked if I wanted to co-curate it! Naturally, I said yes.
Three Buster Keaton screenings in one month: I’m not sure if my town is being overly generous or trying to distract me from finishing up the semester strong. Either way, like a moth to a flame, merrily will I go see Buster’s lovely face projected onto a screen.
It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for gravitating towards Buster Keaton screenings, regardless of whether I’d already seen his films on the big screen before. Last month was certainly no exception as I got to attend another screening of The General (1926), only this time I had the pleasure of seeing it at the Valley Performing Arts Center—right on my very own collegiate turf.
These past few months have been long and tiresome, and it feels like it’s been forever since I sat down to watch a Keaton film. However, I did have a screening to look forward to over spring break, and it turned out to be a much-needed relief from all the stress I’ve been juggling around lately.
Last summer, I’d vaguely hinted that I was working on a big project relating to Buster Keaton. It took me about a year to compile my research and visual notes, but after that, life got in the way. For a while, I felt pretty lost over where and how to actually begin the bulk of this project, and felt an additional sense of intimidation as this is my first crack at drawing in a format I’m not used to. However, when Lea announced her annual Buster Keaton blogathon, I thought it posed as the perfect opportunity to just get started on the thing, and now I can officially say I’m working on my own version of a Buster Keaton graphic novel.