by Raúl daSilva
It was the time of King George and an equestrian society. Those blessed to aristocracy wore powdered wigs and basked in candlelight while they sipped continental wine in the fading twilight of the day. It was just a little over two hundred years ago, in 1798, that two young men, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, both poets, strolled through England's Lake Country. They discussed a new epic poem Samuel had begun writing. It was a tale laced with spirituality and metaphysics similar to much of today's most popular fiction for young people.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, then twenty five, wanted to communicate his idea of the sanctity of all life on earth in his epic poem. After it was published sailors who thought it was a maritime songbook often purchased Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Soon it caught on with the popular interests of the day. It has since never been out of print.
Thus, it came as a surprise to me when the students of an adjunct course I was teaching expressed apprehension upon being assigned this classic epic poem. Since I made my living principally as the Executive Producer with an ad agency primarily on the Eastman Kodak account it seemed obvious to me that I should attempt to visualize the epic and breathe life into it with illustrations, photography, music and sound effects. This, I thought, would augment the comprehension of the literature and beyond that make it enjoyable to students unfamiliar with the work.
One of England's most praised actors, Michael Redgrave, was hired to narrate the literature. As a young schoolmaster he once taught the work. The result was an extraordinary inspiration and a resounding success. After its production, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, part of a larger program entitled The Strangest Voyage was broadcast on a local ABC affiliate station on Prime Time against CBS' 60 Minutes. The overall program also contained a brief biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and how he came to write the popular poem.
Immediately after its broadcast, scores of viewers called the television station to express gratitude. Even more wrote letters to the sponsor, a regional bank. Some letters said that in gratitude the writers would open new accounts with the bank.
The General Manager of the station, Frank DiProsa, said that this reaction by TV viewers was unprecedented in his long time career as a television executive. The ovation did not end there. The program received universal media critical reviews and six international film festival prizes, five of which were first place awards in their category.
In 1986, the program found distribution by Kultur International Films as a Home Video. In that format it then received yet another two rave reviews, by Library Journal, who called it a "must for schools and libraries" and by PBS' Sneak Previews where it received two "Yes" votes from Michael Medved and Jeffrey Lyons.
The program, like the original epic poem, has never ceased to draw interest from its marketplace. An entirely new generation of children and young adults were introduced to literature that had gathered laurels along with dust through two hundred years of existence. This new generation to a great extent had moved away from books and to a television screen and now a computer screen. Yet, with the entire piece of literature still intact, word for word, on film, they not only enjoyed the inspiration of the original literature but also were roused and motivated to read the original for themselves, from a book.
With this success behind me, I began to gather a list of poets I call The Immortal Poets, in order to attempt to create an entire series that would take deathless literature into both the screen and the computer with interactive DVD technology. With the advent of English as the language of globalization, it seemed that much more important to take the grace of classic works of literature into the new media.
Raúl daSilva is the author of seven books, six that are on film and video. One, The World of Animation, highly recommended by The Walt Disney Company for many years and used as a textbook at the Hanna Barbera Studio animation school, is a first place national book festival prizewinner. Two new books are in progress. A recipient of a respectable number of awards for creativity in international film festivals he has lectured at NYU and half a dozen other colleges and universities in the Northeast on the craft and business of film directing and screenwriting. He has also served as an instructor on media writing at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. His residence is just north of New Haven in Hamden, CT at 4 Skiff Street, B 504, 06514-1850. His phone number is (203) 407-8793 and email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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