Quiet on the Set

Quiet on the Set Historians love details. Some they work really hard to track down — searching library archives or dusty file cabinets — while others might be in plain sight but not easily recognized or deciphered. Historians know that facts can lead to significant discoveries. Take David Kiehn, the historian at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont. Kiehn carefully deconstructed the famous short film, A Trip Down Market Street, and what he found got him featured on 60 Minutes in October 2010. For years, historians had believed that the short piece — produced by the Miles Brothers film company — had been shot in September 1905, well before the April 1906 earthquake. According to the museum’s website, this belief was based on the angle of the sun, the time on the Ferry Building clock, and the condition of buildings in the film. Then Kiehn looked closer. In A Trip Down Market Street he found a car’s license plate registered in February 1906, as well as rain falling at the Ferry Building that indicated spring rather than late summer weather. What’s more, he found an advertisement for the film in a New York City newspaper dated several days after the earthquake. The ad specifies that the film had been shot only four days before the disaster, which was probably a big selling point at the time. Because of Kiehn’s work, A Trip Down Market Street is now considered the last known film of San Francisco before the big quake. Tonight at “Unraveling the Story Behind A Trip Down Market Street” Kiehn talks about what led him to investigate the making of the film and shows slides that illustrate how he did it. He screens A Trip Down Market Street (accompanied by Bruce Loeb on piano) and other works by the Miles Brothers.
Wed., Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m., 2011

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