IU Cinema to host Neil Brand at U.S. premiere of Hitchcock’s ‘Blackmail’ with his new score

Post courtesy of newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre:

The Indiana University Cinema will screen Alfred Hitchcock’s silent film “Blackmail” on Nov. 7 with live orchestral accompaniment. In a collaboration between IU Cinema and the Jacobs School of Music, performer and composer Neil Brand will be present for the performance of his original score.

Neil Brand

Composer and performer Neil Brand will speak at IU Cinema Nov. 6 and attend the screening of “Blackmail” Nov. 7. Photo by Tom Catchesides

“The somewhat rare opportunity to experience a silent film event with a live orchestra can create lasting memories for the audience and important, if not transformative, experiences for the students involved,” said Jon Vickers, founding director of the IU Cinema. “Having the opportunity to present a U.S. or world premiere helps position IU Cinema and its program as one that offers exciting and unique experiences.”

The 1929 Hitchcock film “Blackmail” was released on the cusp of a new era in cinema. It was produced in England as a silent film, but was released in two versions, including one that incorporated sound.

In the film, Anny Ondra played a London woman whose date goes terribly wrong with a fight, a flirtation, an attempted rape and a murder that leads to her being blackmailed.

The performance at IU Cinema marks the U.S. premiere of Brand’s “Blackmail” score. Previously, it was performed at the British Museum for the London 2012 Festival and again at the Odessa Steps before a crowd of 25,000 as part of the Odessa International Film Festival in Russia in 2014. It is expected to be performed five times in four countries this year.

Originally trained as an actor, Brand has since been celebrated internationally as a writer, performer and composer. His scores have accompanied silent films for more than 30 years with premieres in more than a dozen countries. Brand’s partnership with the BBC Symphony Orchestra led to regular performances in London.

Anny Ondra in Alfred Hitchcock’s BLACKMAIL (1929). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/BFI

Anny Ondra starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Blackmail” in 1929. Photo provided by Rialto Pictures/BFI

“We have hosted several accompanists and composers since opening and Neil is one of the finest,” Vickers said.

IU Cinema first collaborated with the Jacobs School of Music in 2011. This blossoming partnership now offers student composers professional experience and compensation through the Jon Vickers Film Scoring Award, which launched in 2015.

Old National Bank also has been involved in the partnership for the last two years, helping fund the cost of the orchestra and providing hundreds of tickets to students free of charge.

For the “Blackmail” premiere, the cinema hired student musicians, maestros and house managers as well as recording arts students to provide amplification, mixing and recording. Brand will oversee the student maestro, Joseph Stepec, and the orchestra. While on campus, the visiting composer also will lead a film history class.

Brand will present a Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture, including a career-spanning interview and a question-and-answer session with the audience, at 3 p.m. Nov. 6 at IU Cinema. The talk is free and open to the public.

“Blackmail” will be screened with its new score at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 in the IU Cinema. Advanced tickets are free to the first 100 IU Bloomington students with a student ID. All other tickets are $6.

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