Part of the fun of research is getting to talk to interesting people.
An old college friend put me in contact with Mr. Brooks Wachtel of Hollywood, a writer/producer/director who has written or produced many documentaries for the History Channel and over 85 episodes of dramatic television, shows such as Fox’s live-action Young Hercules, the animated PBS hit “Liberty’s Kids,” and lots of Saturday morning action shows: Heavy Gear, Static, Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Robo-Cop, Silver Surfer, The Avengers, Mortal Kombat, The Mask, Beast Machines: Transformers, Godzilla, Gargoyles, Wing Commander Academy. For younger viewers, he has penned many episodes of the pre-school hit, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
The reason I wanted to talk with him was to take advantage of his vast knowledge of film history. He gave me lots of information, some of which I’ll be incorporating into book #3 of the Roaring Twenties series, Renting Silence. Things like the sort of film used in the Twenties as orthochromatic was being replaced by the better, more expensive panchromatic, which gave a truer gray range. With orthochromatic film, props and things that were actually red would film very dar while blues would go lighter, so much so that blue-eyed people seemed to have white eyes. Not a good feature. This influenced the choice of costumes, props, and even actors, of course.
And while I already knew that silent movies were very noisy to make, with grinding cameras, shouts from the director, ongoing conversations, music from the studio musicians who were “playing the mood,” and hammering from the adjacent stage, I did not know that some studios set up bleachers and charged admission, and those audiences could be quite noisy too. All in all, an interesting conversation with Mr. Wachtel.