10 Questions with Glory-June Greiff

Author-historian-performer Glory-June Greiff is just the sort of multi-hyphenated person that I need to associate with, because there isn’t a lot she can’t do, except hold still.

Glory is the author of two books, Remembrance, Faith, and Fancy: Outdoor Public Sculpture in Indiana and People, Parks, and Perceptions: A History and Appreciation of Indiana State Parks. These are both available for the best prices from the author (and you can get them signed in time for Christmas!)

Not only does Glory write books, but she does one-woman shows as authors Gene Stratton-Porter andBeatrix Potter. She does presentations on the WPA and CCC, among other topics. She’s written countless National Register nominations, done treks across the country in search of odd history fragments, and she’s always the first to climb into the rafters of an endangered building to figure out how to save it.

Glory is what Ben Model calls an artrepreneur, someone who is in the arts and does a lot of things. This is both because she’s multi-talented and because artists need to be versatile in this challenging economy.

When I wrote the pilot for Dr. Film, I created the role of Anamorphia for Glory, because I knew she could play it, that she’d have fun with it, and most importantly, that she’d show up!

Glory has her own web page, which is under construction, but her blog is here.  It is generally a little less ranty than mine, but you’ll probably enjoy it all the same.


Q1: You’re not really a film preservationist, but you do preservation of another sort.  What is it that you do?

I’m not even sure why you want to interview me, although I certainly am a rabid proponent of preserving film!  My work and my passion of the past several decades, however, has been in historic preservation–the saving, interpretation, and appreciation of historic buildings, streetscapes, landscapes, and roadscapes.  I am a public historian by trade.

Q2: You’re also a big believer in slide film over PowerPoint.  Why?

I hate PowerPoint.  I hate most PowerPoint presentations, but that’s really a different story. (You know the ones: the speaker is up there reading the words on the screen to you.  It makes me scream.)  PowerPoint has certain advantages,  such as an interactive component, which are seldom used.  I can count on one hand the PowerPoint presentations I’ve seen that could not have been done the same–or usually, better–using slides and real talk.  And then they would have looked better, too.  Nothing as stunning as Kodachrome slides!

By the way, in the old days I used to create slide/tape programs with all kinds of production elements, like variable pacing, background music, themes, mixed voices.  I used to be radio (and radio production) so I did the narration. People would come and talk to me after saying how much they liked my “movie.”  How satisfying was that!?

Q3: Weren’t you a Kodachrome die-hard?

I was. I am!  I still project my beautiful Kodachrome slides for various talks I give.  And yes, I shot several rolls of Kodachrome after Kodak ceased production (I had stocked up), and was among those who got the last Kodachrome processed at Dwayne’s in Kansas in December 2010.  Heartbreaking.  Nothing like it.

Q4: You have always been a fan of old movies.  How did you get started?

Ah, well.  It’s in the genes, I think.  My mother loved old movies–of course to her, they were the films of her youth and held memorable associations as well.  Her own mother sought escape in movies from a hard life during the Depression and World War II.  My dad liked going to the movies, too.  We’d bundle into the car with a pot full of popcorn on weeknights (cheaper!) and go to one of about eight drive-in theaters in our area–all the way from Michigan City to Mishawaka and Niles, Michigan–we were really blessed!  The one we visited most often was only about three miles from our house on the old Lincoln Highway, but it was wiped out by a tornado when I was a kid!

Of course, that was golden age of old films being shown on television, and one was usually just starting when I arrived home from school.  Mom would tell me when she first saw it and about the actors.  My father liked the westerns and war stories shown at night or on weekends, which I didn’t always enjoy as much, but the adventure movies, like the Errol Flynn swashbucklers, I very much did!  (I think I can still recite most of the dialogue of Captain Blood.)  But the films I most cherished watching with my dad were the late Saturday night Universal horror movies and 50s sci-fi.  (“They’re here!  They’re here!”)

My grandparents lived next door to us when I was growing up, and between my mother’s and grandmother’s subscriptions, I think I had access to three or four film magazines.  When I was in junior high, I got a subscription to Famous Monsters of Filmland.  Always was a pretty weird kid.

Q5: I know that Eric really got you stuck on silent films.  Do you have some favorite films or actors to recommend?

Hmm.  Tough one.  Lon Chaney is a genius, and Eric, who has huge collection of Chaney material, really turned me on to his work–far beyond Hunchback and Phantom, which everybody knows.

I like comedian Charley Chase, who I find to be right up there with his more well known contemporaries.  “Limousine Love” is a scream!  And of course, Max Davidson, largely forgotten today, is hilarious and I never miss a chance to see his films, which are best viewed, of course, with an audience.

I’ve become a huge fan of Charley Bowers, and I had never heard of him before I met Eric.  Actually, I’m quite fond of several silent animators, none of whom I had known much (if anything) about before.  I’m astonished at the content and effects of 1920s animation shorts and cartoons, and I wonder what these guys were smoking!

More prosaically, perhaps, I like Clara Bow a lot.  And the under-appreciated Marion Davies, particularly in her non-costume roles.  To ease my eyes:  early Gary Cooper, hubba hubba.  Buddy Rogers, ditto.

And I love Douglas Fairbanks–love how he moves!  (Mind you, it was his more handsome son I noticed first, but Fairbanks, Sr. just looks like he’s having so much fun in his films!)

Q6. How do you support Eric’s film preservation work and how does he support your preservation work?

We do have a cooperative arrangement that usually works pretty well–unless we each have a gig at the same time, which happens!

And sometimes I’ve sacrificed going to events or even given up getaways; there was this time when we were going to leave for northern Michigan, and suddenly an emergency film restoration project arose.  Personally, I think I should get a credit on the restored version of  Seven Chances!

As a rule, I play the part of the “lovely assistant” and help Eric set up his film showings, run interference when necessary, act as shill occasionally, and answer secondary questions.  I hope the best thing I do is keep encouraging his work, because I think it is important and it is not always recognized.

As for my work, Eric plays a similar part, assisting with my various programs and also coming along and helping with fieldwork and research.  Sometimes we are both called to the same place; this is a usually a closed or underused theater, and Eric pokes through the projection booth while I clamber all over the building!

Glory in character as Anamorphia

Q7: You’re in the Dr. Film pilot episode as Anamorphia.  What was it like to play that part?  You’ve been a fan of movie shows like this for a long time.  How did it feel to be in one?

You know, these are wonderful questions.  I had a dream since I was a teen of doing a sort of vampire woman horror-host TV show–bear in mind I had never seen Vampira or Elvira.  (I grew up in northern Indiana.)  I worked in radio for some years and never had much thought to venture into TV–unless the opportunity had arisen to do a gig like that!

So this is the closest I’ve gotten to it.  I do think my director has me go a little too over-the-top, but maybe that’s appropriate!

It’s fun; I love doing theater of any sort–and I wish someone would pick up Dr. Film so we could shoot more episodes!

Q8: You’re a big supporter of the Dr. Film show, and you want Eric to keep trying to get it out there.  You even wrote a guest blog about it.  What makes you so passionate about the show?  You seem even more gung-ho about it than Eric is.

That was a nice segue from the previous question, wasn’t it?  I don’t know, maybe it’s because I have been working in field where you simply don’t always win–in fact, often do not–but you just have to pick up and keep trying because it’s the right thing to do–and you must pursue your passion.

Dr. Film is the kind of show that SHOULD be out there–more so now than ever, I think.   I grew up just knowing about a lot of movies just because they were THERE–but they aren’t there anymore.  We are losing our cultural references.   And anyway, film history is fun!  

Q9: What are some of the craziest things you’ve done to get things preserved, either in the film world or otherwise?  I hear you’re pretty dedicated sometimes.

Crazy things?  Why, what do you mean?   Well, one of my very first preservation efforts involved a beautiful early 1900s office building in downtown Indianapolis.  I set up pickets with signs and a petition campaign.  We made the newspapers, but didn’t win; the forces against preservation were too great.  But you have to keep trying.

A year or two later I spearheaded a campaign to save a beautiful abandoned New Deal-era apartment complex.  We did guerilla renovation on one apartment and brought everyone we could out there to see it to try to change the minds of the powers-that-be.  It took four months of my life, full time, but that remains one of my proudest efforts–even though we didn’t win.   Those apartments were built to last; it took the city months to tear them down at far greater cost than they thought.  Ha!

To this day I am known to run wildly into abandoned buildings and dance along abandoned stretches of old highways.  As for film, how many times have I ridden in a car full of film that smells like a salad? (That would be indicative of vinegar syndrome.)   And about that time I gave up my trip to northern Michigan. . .

10.  What question did I not ask you that I should have asked?  And answer that question, please.

Why do you dance all the time?

Why do you breathe? (Thanks to The Red Shoes.)

Why do I take the old roads and shun interstates?  Same answer.

Islands in the Stream

I get complaints when I write a blog about the Dr. Film show.  People like the blogs about classic films better.  Someone wrote about the “existential whining” that he didn’t like.  Well, this is going to be another one of those blogs, but it affects what we’re going to do with the show, which means classic films and restorations you won’t see anywhere else.

A lot of people come up to me, especially at conventions, and ask, “When is the Dr. Film show coming on?”  Some think it’s already on.  Some think it should be on, and are surprised it isn’t.  Still only know Dr. Film from the blog.  This blog has gotten surprisingly popular.

The Dr. Film facebook page is pretty popular too, and the show isn’t.  It’s because no one has seen the show.  On the Facebook page, we talk about preservation issues, and there are plugs for new projects and odd copyright problems.  It’s a neat forum. In a very strange way, a way I never expected, I’ve created a community around a show that doesn’t really exist, and a fan base and people who come together over something that has never developed.  I’m not complaining, but it’s surprising.

You see, I put up the blog to promote the show, which I figured would get popular and then we’d have more people clamor to see the show.  And the Facebook page was put up to promote the blog and the show.  But we only have the pilot, which was shot in 2008, finished in 2009, and remastered/recut in 2011.  That’s it.

If you’ve been a loyal follower here, then you know what I mean and how we’ve struggled with this.  We’ve been completely and utterly ignored by cable and broadcast.  Few people will even give us a chance by watching the show.  I really don’t think we will ever be on an over-the-air broadcast or cable network.  I want to emphasize this.  I just don’t think we’re high-profile enough.

There’s been a continuing thing, something that I get asked all the time, “Why don’t you just put Dr. Film on YouTube?”  I don’t do that because I can’t afford to.  YouTube is dominated by teenagers, rich folks, and the chronically unemployed.  I don’t qualify for the first two, and hope to avoid being the third.  The economics of YouTube are awful.  I’ve looked into it, and with the viewership I’m likely to get, it’s impossible for me to make enough money to justify expenses.

And then people tell me, “But people will see you and you’ll be famous!”  Well, I don’t care about that.  I want to a) show old movies and b) not go broke doing it.  Those are my goals.  I really don’t care if no one knows who I am.  If I have to be a little more “known” in order to accomplish my goals, then that’s fine.

One of the things I do to accomplish my goals is to study the marketplace, and I see odd things happening, especially in social media.

I noticed my friend Archie Waugh doing something that I’d never even considered with Facebook.  I’ve never met Archie, but I’ve known him for years, even before Facebook, because he is a long-time silent film fan.  But Archie is geeky (I consider this a good thing!) in a number of areas, and one of his favorite ways is that he’s a big Godzilla fan… not just Godzilla, but all of the Japanese monster and TV shows.  Properly, they’re called Kaiju.

Archie hosts a group that gets together every Saturday night and they all pop in a DVD at the same time and then start talking about it as it runs.  They used to use Facebook’s chat function, but they grew into their own chat room that one of the members puts on his own server.  And they’re not making fun of the movie (although sometimes they might kid it a bit), but they’re talking to each other and enjoying the film and sharing an experience…

They’re not seeing each other, but are spread literally all over the world.  They’re a community, and more to the point, they’re an audience.  They love to do this!  I’ve polled them about it.  It runs counter to my way of thinking, because I go to a movie so that I don’t talk to other people, so I can immerse myself in the experience.  I don’t like to share that with others.  But it’s not all about me.

This is a new kind of audience.  It’s a different kind of audience.  I can see why some people utterly fail to accept this.  The texters hate the immersion people and the immersion people hate the texters.  And I hope there’s room for both in the world, because there are just too few people who are interested in some things to make an immersive audience pay off.  If there are 10 people in each big city, then you may get 1000 people in a virtual audience, but go broke doing a movie roadshow.

I hate that.  I love the movies, but I have to face reality.  I hope that some of the texters can become members of the immersive audience and vice versa, but neither is going away.

And that brings me back to Dr. Film.  If YouTube doesn’t work out economically, then what about some sort of internet streaming?  Netflix was not interested.  Well, I’m not sure whether they were interested or not.  I never heard back from them.

I thought, well, OK, we can stream the Dr. Film show on a private YouTube channel and do an Archie-style chat along with it.  I even spoke to Archie about it.  I almost did it, looked like everything was coming in place, but…

People yelled at me.  Some people had seen the pilot that we shot, and a few hated it.  The complaint was not that the idea was bad, but some people hated the feature I’d picked, and a few hated the video transfer I’d gotten.  The statement was that it was like one of the Star Trek pilots… they were good enough to incorporate into the run of the show, but you wouldn’t want to show one for your first episode.  The complaints were loud, and I listened.

Now remember, by this time, years have gone by.  I’m thinking we just trash the show.  It was fun, it was a good idea, but it didn’t work. That idea didn’t set well with people either!  Meanwhile, the blog readership expanded, the Facebook memberships went up, and we still had no show.

I thought, well, OK, we can try to make some more shows.  By now HD has taken over, so we need more equipment and more expensive film transfers.  That’s OK, I can work that out…  I applied for grants, and, gee, I got none of them.  People don’t really understand what I do.  It’s not “art” to them.

I kept thinking that I needed my own internet TV station, and I was looking into that.  I knew that it was possible to make a private station with a dedicated server.  I’ve seen a lot of them, and I know that many are on Roku.

And then there’s this other problem: most of the TV stations on the internet are BAD.  The classic movie stations rely almost exclusively on material that’s been cobbed from archive.org.  I’ve lived through this before: it was like when Goodtimes video came out and flooded the marked with awful-looking public domain movies.  They were cheap, but they gave headaches to those of us to tried to be a little more up-market.  I can’t always be Kino or Criterion; there simply are some things that look bad in the surviving prints, but I’d like to show them anyway.  I just don’t want to be painted with the same brush as Alpha or Goodtimes, who seem to go out of their way to get bad material.

So I thought about offering Dr. Film as a streaming service ala Netflix.  I did a survey there, too.  People told me that they wanted free, please free, we have no money.  Well, that means commercials, which I can do.  But an equal number of people said, NO, please have a monthly subscription.  It was evenly split down the middle.

Ben Model is at least somewhat successful with his Accidentally Preserved DVD sets.  I helped him work on those, so it’s possible that we could just produce Dr. Film shows and put them on DVD.  But I think that’s silly.  We don’t have the kind of following to make that work.  Ben’s DVDs sell because people know Ben and people know that they’re getting rare films on the DVDs.  I don’t think Dr. Film would sell because not enough people know what it is… at least, not yet.

And then I see that Netflix is dropping a chunk of its older movies because no one cares, and no one watches them.  It makes me ill.  I know there is an audience, maybe a small one, for classic films.  And there’s a lot more out there than what gets shown on TCM.

Part of that audience is on the Dr. Film Facebook page.  Another part of it reads this blog.

I have a number of ideas that I’m mulling over.  I need your input on these.  I’ve got technical skills but not a lot of cash.  Please let me know what you’d like to see.  If I initiated a Kickstarter program, I’d also need to know that you or your friends would donate to help cover startup costs.

MY FIRST IDEA: A 24-hour streaming TV channel, all movies made before Star Wars.  We’d have serials, cartoons, shorts, and features, but also shows that were made exclusively for the channel that are about older films.  Everything from film, nothing from archive.org!!!  Movies would be from my collection and from other collections.   Everyone who contributes films will be paid, no matter what!  (It’s important!)  Dr. Film would be a part of this network, and it would air probably once a week.

I could work something out so that we could have a subscription version and a free version of the same network.  The subscription people would see the shows uninterrupted and then have a cartoon at the end of the show, all real content, no ads.

As cool as I think this might be, it is a marketing nightmare.  The problem is that there’s already so much dreck out there that we’d have to find a way to differentiate this network from all the other cheesy networks.  Do you have ideas on how we could promote it?  Please tell me!  It would be a lot of work for me to set this up and maintain it, so we’d have to have some viewership to make it worthwhile.

ALTERNATIVELY:   We just admit that the whole idea is limited, but we have a following with the Dr. Film sites.  And then we have a site that would ONLY be Dr. Film, nothing else, but shows could be streamed on demand with or without commercials.  This one is less work for me, and I suspect less cool for you.  But I don’t know.  You tell me.

I sometimes will just have the TV on in the background and come in and out on it when something caught my interest.  People tell me that this JUST ISN’T DONE anymore.  It’s all streaming on demand, all the time.  You tell me!

In either case, I’d probably expand the Facebook presence a little bit and put in a chat function on the Dr. Film page so that people could discuss the shows as they are watching.

What do you think?  What would you like to see?  Feel free to post here, on the Dr. Film page, or email me and give me ideas.  If this really is a community, let’s let it function like one!