David Shepard - A Slow Fade to Black
|David Shepard 1940-2017|
The world of film collectors, film buffs, preservationists, silent film aficionados lost a champion on January 31, 2017. A giant in our world, truly, David Shepard.
He taught film, not only as a professor, but every single day of his life, whether or not it was when he worked with Blackhawk Films (my first films were purchased on Super 8mm), his own Film Preservation Associates and through the auspices of Image Entertainment, Criterion, Milestone Films, KINO Lorber, Lobster Films, and Flicker Alley (I've got more DVDs than I can count that have his invisible fingerprints on them). Shepard was an approachable man, this is evidenced by my seeing him at various film festivals, he was ever surrounded by collectors, friends and fans. We chatted briefly several times, but, it was hard to stay in the inner circle as so many were clamoring to talk to him.
By all accounts he was known to be generous in sharing both his knowledge as well as film prints. His importance cannot be underestimated in our knowledge of silent film.
My friend Brooksie said it best,
"His contributions to restoration can't be doubted, but arguably even more important is his advocacy. To love and deeply understand the medium is one thing. To encourage others to share your reverence is quite another. Whenever I introduce anyone to silent film, I provide them with the following excerpt from David's programme notes for Australia's Silent Film Festival, with particular emphasis on the final sentence."
Silent films are not just sound films without the talking. They reach us through the poetry of motion, of metaphor, of meaning expressed through visual subtlety and magnification of detail. Although there were successful silent-era film experiments in 3-D, wide screen, color and sound, early film artists learned to convey ideas and emotions through inference and suggestion with tremendous emotional impact and in ways which sound would render unnecessary at best; obvious or clumsy at worst.
As you will see, the innovators and masters of this art raised visual storytelling to a level that remains valid, moving, and even awe-inspiring in the 21st century. One would not pity Scarlatti who composed without benefit of the modern piano, or Mozart who never had the resources of the modern symphony orchestra; similarly, the brains and sensibilities behind these silent films understood the potency they could achieve with what they had - moving pictures.
Treat their work with kindness and respect and it will reward you by casting its own magic spell.
David treated them and us with kindness, he will forever be remembered and lauded for his life work. Thank you David, Godspeed.
|Kevin Brownlow, David Shepard and Patrick Stanbury at the |
event presenting Brownlow with his Academy Award, November 2010.
This is a partial list (via Wikipedia) of films preserved by Mr. Shepard. Impressive, no? I would say this is but a fraction.
Finally, here's an interview with David well worth reading.