NAME: Eric Grayson
TITLE: Film Historian FOR: I’m independent!
SINCE? 2000, full time since 2004
ORIGINALLY FROM? Lawrence IN
YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE? Whatever needs to be done. Historic film research, projecting, presenting, lecturing, you name it.
YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY? It varies. As little is 2-3 and as many as 100 during the Heartland Film Festival.
PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? Restoring Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances, working with Edie Adams to find rare Ernie Kovacs films, and my current restoration of King of the Kongo, the first sound movie serial.
OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? I do a lot of films at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, a monthly show at Garfield Park that’s gone on for years, and I’m always touting my unsold TV show, Dr. Film. I should add that my rant-filled blog on the Dr. Film site is fairly popular, too.
WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? Sharing with people that old films are fun, interesting and not boring, fossilized old relics. When I see someone’s face light up with a WOW, that’s the best payment I can get.
WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? MARKETING! People don’t recognize what I do as art OR history and I need to convince many of them. I frequently have to show people that what I do is better than just popping in a DVD.
HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? Being able to work on only the jobs I want to do, not having to scrap for everything I can get!
ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? Do something else unless you really love films, and then think hard about why you’re still crazy enough to want to do this.
IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR JOB/CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Well, a MacArthur Genius Grant would be a lot of help, but, failing that, I’d want people to respect film as an art form, not just something disposable…and that means from movie moguls to the general public.
WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? Glory-June Greiff, who unfailingly encourages me to push on in the face of insurmountable odds.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? Sharing films with others, receptive audiences, and that Indiana Jones thrill of finding a film no one has seen in 80 years.
WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? William K. Everson was the most influential. I read his film books and loved what did… showing films I’d never seen. My grandmother was also extremely encouraging. She helped get me hooked on Sammy Terry!
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? Most of it was sparked by staying up until 3am watching Sammy Terry when I was a kid. And then it was people like Bill Everson and Denis Gifford with their great books.
MOST INTERESTING BIT OF INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED? I recently found a film made in 1950 celebrating the centennial of the state. It has footage of Monument Circle in 1916, as well as scenes of James Whitcomb Riley… cool stuff.
YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? William T. Swain. He was apparently head of the musicians’ union in the 1920s, and he saved reams of music from early silent films. I’d like to know a lot more about where he got some of it and why he saved it. I’d also like to hear his stories about running the union.
YOUR CAREER IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE? I’ve already had one. I’ve been an electrical engineer. I have a degree in it. Since Naval Avionics closed, there’s a glut of engineers in Indianapolis, but only one film historian lives here. I still fix computers for people as my “alternate life.” It keeps my hand in the engineering world.
ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? No, sorry.
FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? I am particularly fond of the upstairs of the Indiana War Memorial, which I think is quite beautiful.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN INDIANAPOLIS? Oh, unfair! I can’t name just one. Napoli Villa, Santorini’s, Café Heidelberg… those are just a few great ones.
FAVORITE CITY BESIDES INDIANAPOLIS? San Francisco is incredibly beautiful.
FAVORITE HISTORY RELATED BOOK OR MOVIE? Too many to list.
ULTIMATE BEVERAGE? Water!
COLLECT ANYTHING? Film! Lots of film! 16mm, 35mm, you name it.
FAVORITE QUOTE? “It is good to call television a medium, since it is neither rare nor well-done.” -Ernie Kovacs (also sometimes attributed to Fred Allen.)
IF YOUR LIFE HAD A THEME SONG, IT’D BE? Piano Man, Billy Joel.