IU alumnus's film score has its European premiere at silent film festival

The international festival featured a live performance of Ari Fisher's film score, which he developed while a student at IU

A screening of "The Return of Draw Egan"View print quality image
A screening of "The Return of Draw Egan" at the Tartini Conservatory at Teatro Verdi, a theater in Pordenone, Italy. Photo by Valerio Greco

In the world of silent film, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto is the most prominent international silent film festival. For Indiana University Jacobs School of Music alumnus Ari Fisher, having his film score featured as part of the festival was nothing less than awe-inspiring.

Fisher's score for "The Return of Draw Egan" was performed live at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto as part of a series of films by director William S. Hart shown Oct. 11 at the Tartini Conservatory at Teatro Verdi, a theater in Pordenone, Italy.

"The theater was grand and beautiful, with such incredible acoustics that allowed the orchestra to fill the entire room," Fisher said. "The festival filled me with a feeling of awe. I was inspired to an incredible degree."

Fisher's score was developed as a five-minute submission for a film scoring competition at IU, which earned him the Jon Vickers Film Scoring Award in 2015.

Ari FisherView print quality image
Ari Fisher at the 2016 U.S. premiere of his film score for "The Return of Draw Egan" at IU Cinema. Photo by Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University

"Ari Fisher has a keen sense of being able to read films and being able to read characters in films," said Vickers, the founding director of IU Cinema. "He creates music that fits the moods of the film as well as the moods of the characters."

Fisher's compositional career has continued since his graduation from IU in 2016. He now resides in Los Angeles and works with the web of connections IU helped him create.

"Indiana University has paved the way for me and continues to do so," Fisher said. "I am extremely grateful for what IU has provided me."

The Jacobs School of Music gives students like Fisher an environment that drives their passion and talent toward success and opportunity.

"Ari has, like anybody in the Jacobs School, great teachers," Vickers said. "The composition department in the Jacobs School did not have a film-scoring program until recently. But Ari was able to find composition faculty who understood his desire to work with film, and they worked with him personally."

Inspired by a program piloted in 2012, also won by Fisher, the scoring award is a competition for students in the Composition Department of the Jacobs School of Music. The students are asked to write a short piece of a score for a silent film that IU Cinema wishes to create a full orchestral score for. A jury of faculty members blindly judges the submissions and selects a winner, who then receives a commission to write the full score.

"We believe it is unparalleled in the U.S.," Vickers said. "There are many schools that have good film-scoring programs across the country, but there aren't any that are giving this kind of an award, creating a commission for students to create hundreds of pages of music to premiere here in a venue, with a live orchestra."

Jon VickersView print quality image
Jon Vickers, the founding director of IU Cinema. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Collaboration programs between IU Cinema and the Jacobs School have developed through the years into a full-degree program, Music Scoring for Visual Media, which also offers graduate and certificate programs.

Now, IU can add another collaboration to this program. For the first time ever, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto chose to establish a partnership in the U.S. to expand its brand, and the festival reached out to IU.

"They sought Indiana University because of our strengths not only in cinema but also in the film collections and reputation in the archival world," Vickers said.

IU Libraries Moving Image Archive director Rachael Stoeltje has brought international prominence to IU's film collections with her leadership roles in the International Federation of Film Archives and Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations.

The director of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Jay Weissberg, reached out to IU to develop the first satellite program for the festival. The program was curated by Weissberg, Vickers, Stoeltje, Carleton University associate professor Laura Horak and University of Minnesota assistant professor Maggie Hennefeld.

IU's satellite festival will allow attendees to experience the same excitement as Le Giornate del Cinema Muto viewers. It will premiere several new restorations of silent films with live music.

"We get a chance to show these films, to be the very first in the country to show these films, which we're really excited about," Vickers said.

The Days of Silent Cinema: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto at Indiana University will run from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 at IU Cinema and the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive.

"I believe that there's still magic in these films that is brought to life with live music," Vickers said. "And I believe they can engage an audience member from 4 years old to 84 years old. These films have relevance; they have life. These films have a lot to tell, and if people are not accustomed to going to a silent film, they should try."

Description of the following video:

[Video: A silent film title card appears on camera. It is black and white, with white text in the middle of the title card. A musical score plays in the background. The entire video is in black and white, to look like an old silent film]

[Video: The camera pans over a movie projector to a closeup of the movie display it is projecting.]

[Words appear: What is Le Giornate del Cinema Muto?]

Jon Vickers, founding director of IU Cinema, speaks in voiceover: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto is the most renowned silent film festival in the world. So, it's been going on for over 40 years ...

[Video: Vickers appears on camera.]

[Words appear: Jon Vickers; Founding Director, Indiana University Cinema]

Vickers speaks: ... and it just has a reputation of being this mecca for anyone that's interested in silent films.

[Words appear: What is the festival's connection to Indiana University?]

[Video: An exterior shot of IU Cinema.]

[Video: A close-up of a working movie reel.]

[Video: A hand unclips a velvet rope inside IU Cinema, then the focus switches to the cinema seats.]

[Video: A large audience is seated in the cinema. One woman walks down the row until she finds her seat.]

Vickers speaks in voiceover: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto has sought to have a U.S. partner, and they wanted to expand their brand into the United States, and they sought out Indiana University. We think it's going to be really great for us, and we hope that it also draws some national attention to our program.

[Words appear: When will the satellite festival premiere?]

[Video: Vickers appears on camera.]

Vickers speaks: We developed a program where we are going to have the first satellite program for the festival.

[Video: The camera pans from the projector aiming out from the back down to full cinema seats; audience members' faces are illuminated by the film they are watching.]

[Video: A close-up of one individual shows the reflection of the movie on his glasses.]

[Video: The words "Indiana University Cinema" are projected onto a curtain at the theater.]

Vickers speaks in voiceover: "Days of Silent Cinema, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Indiana" runs from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, here in the IU Cinema, as well as the IU Library's Moving Image Archive.

[Words appear: Credits: Video footage courtesy of Joe Toth; Music courtesy of Ari Fisher]

[Screen goes to black]

[IU trident appears on a gray tab]

[Words appear below trident: Indiana University]

[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

Video by Samantha Thompson, Indiana University