In the coronary heart of Astoria, Queens — an in any other case residential New York Metropolis neighborhood full of tree-lined streets, charming row homes and Greek tavernas — sits the historic Kaufman Astoria Studios. This beautifully-maintained studio complicated, formally added to the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations in 1978, additionally occurs to be the house of one of my favourite NYC museums: the Museum of the Moving Picture.
Regardless of being a lifelong Queens resident, I had by no means visited MoMI rising up, as an alternative choosing the standard suspects – the Met, the Museum of Pure Historical past, the Guggenheim, and so forth. A couple of months in the past, nevertheless, I had examine a online game exhibit on view at the museum and determined to test it out. Artwork and video video games? Signal me up.
I arrived at the MoMI on a Friday afternoon to a combined crowd of locals, vacationers and some faculty teams. The doorway to the museum, a easy doorway off a busy sidewalk, appeared inconspicuous, however the doorways opened as much as a big, modern corridor that was white from flooring to ceiling and minimalist in its decor. The museum employees greeted me with a smile, gave me a map of the place and I used to be off.
Over the subsequent two hours, I discovered about the invention of the video digital camera and tv set, obtained to recreate a phase of “The Muppet Show,” noticed what it takes to supply a baseball recreation in real-time and found unbiased recreation builders who’re blurring the strains between video video games, cinematography and artwork. The museum as an entire was informative, fascinating, interactive and architecturally beautiful.
I needed to know extra about MoMI. How do they curate reveals? What’s of their everlasting assortment? Ought to videographers and filmmakers go to the museum? And in that case, what would they study? What’s a “moving image” anyway? My thoughts was abuzz with questions.
Fortunately, MoMI’s Executive Director, Carl Goodman, was there to assist.
What’s MoMI all about?
Carl joined MoMI in 1992 as the museum’s Curator of Digital Media. His job was to trace up-and-coming types of digital know-how and work out how this new know-how was altering the method creatives communicated with the public. Over the years, Carl was promoted to Director of Digital Media, then Senior Deputy Director for the whole museum. Immediately, Carl is MoMI’s Executive Director, overseeing the whole lot from public relations to new reveals and every part in between. The expansion of his profession is intertwined with the progress and historical past of the MoMI itself.
Earlier than diving into MoMI’s historical past and significance, it’s useful to first briefly talk about the Kaufman Astoria Studios complicated. Initially referred to as the Astoria Studio, it was inbuilt 1920 by American movement image and distribution firm Well-known Gamers-Lasky Company, which later turned referred to as Paramount Footage. The studio was the website of many well-known silent and early sound movies, together with the first two Marx Brothers movies ever launched, “The Cocoanuts” and “Animal Crackers.”
In 1942, throughout the Second World Conflict, the U.S. Military took over the studio and used it to supply soldier coaching movies and conflict propaganda. That’s proper — conflict propaganda, in Queens!
The Military renamed it the Sign Corps Photographic Middle and continued to make movement footage till 1970, after which it was deserted and fell into disrepair. Talks of flattening the studio began to bubble up, so a gaggle of authorities, movie and different business leaders got here collectively to reserve it. They established the Astoria Movement Image and Tv Middle Basis to revive the studio, reopening it in 1977. The primary movement image that was filmed there after it was reopened was “The Wiz,” starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.
In 1982, actual property developer George Kaufman took over the property to renovate, increase and revive it as a nationwide landmark. It was then renamed Kaufman Astoria Studios.
Round the similar time, the Astoria Movement Image and Tv Middle Basis dedicated to establishing a museum devoted to movie and tv. The Basis was reincorporated and renamed itself the Museum of the Moving Picture, opening to the public in 1988.
I used to be completely fascinated by this historical past. However I used to be nonetheless questioning: What did “moving image” imply?
This was the very first thing I requested Carl once we sat down to talk. “When the museum was established, film and television were considered entirely distinct industries. Film was seen as an offshoot of photography, while television an offshoot of radio. The two had different business structures, separate distribution channels and were consumed differently by the public,” Carl defined. “Indeed, the public, especially people in the film world, looked down on the TV industry.”
Carl continued, “but when MoMI’s founders looked closer, they realized that there were all these commonalities between film and television that weren’t being discussed. Film professionals were starting to work in television, the creative processes in film and television were overlapping more and more, and new digital technologies were blurring the line between the two altogether.”
On prime of all that, Carl defined, video video games have been starting to emerge as nicely, but they weren’t even thought-about half of the similar class. So MoMI got down to study and rejoice something that was placed on the display. In different phrases, the shifting picture. “There’s an elasticity to that name that allows MoMI to feature cutting-edge media and remain prepared for media that doesn’t even exist yet.”
Carl continued with an inquisitive undertone, “Now you’re probably asking yourself, why not publish a magazine instead?”
I contemplated silently for a couple of moments earlier than Carl provided his rationalization. “There’s more power in an experiential approach to learning. And MoMI wanted the public to learn about moving image in its entirety — not just the final product but also the objects and processes involved. No one else was doing this. We’re next door to a film studio, so people expected to just see ‘where the magic happens.’ But MoMI wanted to be a place to for people to also learn how the magic happens.”
However wouldn’t demystifying the magic individuals see on display probably flip them away from watching movies and tv? I imply, everyone knows Godzilla isn’t actual, however isn’t that why we escape into movie and tv — to droop actuality?
As if studying my thoughts, Carl addressed this very thought. “People assumed that by teaching the public about the process they would grow to dislike the end result, be it television, film, or otherwise. But our philosophy was that demystifying the process would lead to a greater appreciation of it. MoMI’s only been growing since it opened, so I’m confident in saying that we were right.”
What’s on at the MoMI?
The MoMI’s core exhibition, aptly named “Behind the Screen,” is the manifestation of this philosophy. Taking over roughly 15,000 sq. ft throughout two flooring, Behind the Display is residence to historic movie and tv cameras, projectors, tv units, costumes, set designs, make-up kits, posters and far, rather more. I noticed a mould of Jim Carrey from “The Mask,” a Praxinoscope from 1880, a Bell & Howell 35mm digital camera from 1919 and a thousand different issues, some of which I even acknowledged from movies and exhibits I’ve watched.
Behind the Display additionally has interactive experiences. You possibly can report your actions after which print out a collection of nonetheless pictures to show right into a flipbook. You’ll be able to document your voice over a film scene to study voice-overs. My favourite exercise concerned selecting totally different musical scores to accompany well-known film scenes; I hadn’t actually appreciated simply how music can direct temper and tone. Enjoying classical music over a well-known scene in “Twister” and swapping that with heavy metallic proper afterwards over that very same scene made a playfully indelible impression on me.
And of course, there are hours of video clips starting from some of the earliest kinetoscope movies to, my absolute favourite, a behind-the-scenes take a look at legendary baseball director Invoice Webb mixing and producing a stay recreation between the New York Mets and San Diego Padres. In truth, should you solely have time to see one factor at the MoMI, it must be this. And I’m not even a sports activities fan.
“Behind the Screen has been absolutely resilient,” Carl noticed of the exhibit. “It’s all about the different people and practices that go into creating a moving image. It’s been the anchor of our museum.”
The MoMI’s different principal exhibition is “The Jim Henson Exhibition,” which celebrates the movie and tv work of Jim Henson, the creator of “The Muppet Show,” “Sesame Street” and “Labyrinth,” amongst different issues. There are well-known puppets and costumes on show together with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Elmo and a full-size Huge Chook. I even obtained to attempt my hand at recording my very own Muppets phase, which was tougher than I had anticipated. I forgot that I needed to open my hand, not shut it, once I needed the puppet to seem prefer it was speaking. I acquired it will definitely, and I used to be fairly completely satisfied with my work. It’s the little issues in life that typically deliver the most pleasure.
Then there are the short-term installations. MoMI’s long-anticipated short-term set up, “A Whole Different Ball Game: Playing Through 60 Years of Sports Video Games,” which opened this previous September, seems to be at the development of sports activities video video games over the previous six many years and examines, amongst different issues, how broadcast sports activities and video video games have come to mirror and encourage each other. You’ll be able to play most of the video games featured on this exhibit, too. That’s proper, you’ll be able to come right here and simply play video video games for hours. It is going to be on view till March 10, 2019.
There’s additionally “Cinema Play House,” an attractive photograph set up depicting dilapidated and defunct single-screen theaters in India, principally as black-and-white photographs. This set up is operating till January 27, 2019.
So how does MoMI curate such all kinds of exhibitions? “We’re constantly evolving,” Carl defined. “It’s a staff effort. We have now a gaggle of curators with experience in several fields who’re all the time on the lookout for artistic and fascinating alternatives. Typically we take a look at reveals elsewhere that encourage us to create our personal exhibit. That’s how the Jim Henson exhibition was born.
“Other times we curate around a famous film or television show to educate the public about it. One of my favorite examples was our “Mad Men” exhibition again in 2015. As the present was coming to an finish, we labored with collection creator Matthew Weiner to deliver units, wardrobe, objects and even the precise writers room to the museum. It was the largest Mad Males exhibition ever created. It was an actual hit.
“Ultimately,” Carl continued, “balance is key because people don’t want to see the same thing over and over. Sometimes people come in for nostalgia, other times for something cutting edge. During one of our edgier installations, we were playing mature content that wasn’t appropriate for our younger visitors. We had to polarize the monitors and give out glasses to the of-age visitors so they could enjoy. It was a powerful installation, so we found a creative solution to balance competing interests.”
What can videographers and filmmakers
study from MoMI?
“MoMI wants visitors to start at the beginning of video history, walk through the advancements and progressions, and leave with an appreciation of the present and excitement for the future. Online platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Snapchat, Facebook and others have democratized the production and distribution of video content, and your iPhone is more powerful today than professional cameras of just 20 years ago. In other words, we tend to forget how good we have it.”
I seemed down at my telephone, realizing that I seize and share movies with family and friends occasionally. I undoubtedly take it without any consideration.
“Part of what the museum does is it pushes videographers, and all visitors frankly, to think outside the box,” Carl philosophized aloud. “I would find myself wondering why my 15-year-old was watching videos of other people taking iPhones out of boxes, but there’s an art to that and it’s an entire industry now. It’s another direction videographers can go with their careers.”
And that’s the variety of stuff MoMI likes to discover. Proper now there’s an ongoing set up referred to as the “GIF Elevator” which options newly commissioned GIFs by six artists, animators and illustrators that might be introduced as two-month installations on the partitions and ceiling of the Museum’s elevator. “So what we’re saying to our visitors, particularly the video enthusiasts, is, ‘hey, we aren’t sure if this is art, but it’s important and significant, so let’s explore it together.’”
As I used to be strolling round the sports activities online game exhibition, I used to be beginning to see issues in a different way. In a single specific space, they confirmed the development of baseball video video games over the previous few many years with side-by-side clips of broadcast baseball video games from that very same yr. The sooner video video games have been closely pixelated and clearly two-dimensional, virtually a mockery of the sport. However as the years progressed, the video video games began wanting increasingly like the actual factor, which themselves have been getting higher in high quality. When it acquired to 2017, it was onerous to inform the distinction at first look, each in phrases of visible graphics but in addition in phrases of the manufacturing — digital camera angles, cuts and transitions, lighting and so forth. The video video games, Carl informed me, have been beginning to inform how reside video games have been broadcast.
“We work with film and video technique, game design, animation and more. When you come here, you begin to appreciate the overlaps, you connect the dots between what you may have previously considered separate forms of expression. That’s where ideas start flowing. Maybe it’s a new movie idea, or maybe it’s a completely novel collaboration. Either way, that’s what we reinforce at the MoMI.”
The museum additionally performs previous movies at high-level specs that merely aren’t utilized in the common cinema. For instance, Carl recalled, MoMI as soon as screened a totally restored model of the 1962 historic drama “Laurence of Arabia,” and apparently, it was epic.
MoMI additionally holds over 500 movie packages a yr, together with screenings, panels, talks and extra. Only recently, they screened “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 70mm and lead actor Keir Dullea got here in to speak about the movie’s artistic course of. “This is the kind of event videographers can draw information and definitely inspiration from. Oh and by the way, 7mm is the only way that movie should be watched — if you watch it on TV, you should be arrested!” Carl quipped.
MoMI isn’t simply educating and galvanizing at the moment’s videographers and filmmakers, both. “We host over 50,000 school kids a year,” he defined. “You’ve got to see it; they come in huffing and puffing because they’re at a museum and they’re expecting to hate it. But once they get settled and start interacting with the exhibits, all that cynicism melts away.”
I requested Carl how the museum acquired began with their scholar programming. “At first it was rather unwittingly — students just came here for class trips. Now we have educational programs, we teach kids how to make video content and talk to them about the hundreds of jobs that exist in the industry. We’ve had students visit us at the age of twelve and then go on to pursue careers in film and television, crediting MoMI as their source of inspiration. That’s an incredible feeling.”
Certainly, MoMI has a whole tab on their web site dedicated to schooling. There are summer time camps, teen packages and household packages in addition to info and assets for academics.
What’s subsequent for MoMI?
Since MoMI’s redesign and enlargement in 2011, the museum has been geared towards progress. “Get on an airplane and come to New York City!” exclaimed Carl jovially. “So many people come out to New York to experience the world’s greatest cultural attractions, and the MoMI, now more than ever, brings that to the table.” Queens can also be gaining reputation as a vacationer vacation spot, so the Museum of the Moving Picture is making its method onto worldwide itineraries.
“And cameras are encouraged! We want our visitors to come here, make videos of their experience, and share with others. Everyone has a powerful recording device in their pockets, and we want you to feel inspired to use it.”
For those who can’t make it out to New York, although, you’ll be able to nonetheless get a style of the MoMI via the museum’s touring Jim Henson exhibition. “The Jim Henson exhibition has been one of the most creative and accessible exhibitions we’ve had in years here at MoMI, so we decided to make a traveling version,” Carl famous. “So far it’s been in Seattle and Los Angeles and is currently running in the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience in Meridian, Mississippi as well as the Center for Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio.” MoMI can be saying extra cities quickly, so the museum web site is the greatest place to go for up-to-date info.
“The exhibition itself reinforces the values that underlie Jim’s work, like tolerance and acceptance of differences. We’re particularly excited about bringing this around the country to remind everyone that there’s a lot of good out there.” I didn’t need to get political, however I couldn’t agree extra.