Your "new" movie As
the Earth Turns - in a few words, what is it about?
Earth Turns is a 1938, unreleased silent sci-fi film. After
80 years, the film was finished in 2018. I produced and scored
music for it.
in 1937/38, As the
Earth Turns has been lost for decades - so how did it finally
resurface, and how did you get your hands on it and got to be producer on
the restauration? And what about the movie appealed to you in the first
How I got the project is as wild as the film itself. In 2013, some
discussion appeared on the Classic Horror Film Board
There was an earlier DVD released called Monsters Crash the
Pajama Party by Something Weird Video. Film historians
and industry people began to research a few mysterious, uncredited
scenes in the video. They discovered the director to be Richard H.
Lyford (1917-1985). A few years later, they contacted the
great niece of the director, Kim Lyford Bishop. She worked with the son of Richard Lyford, and began to digitize the films. I am also
a music teacher. Kim began to take lessons from me. I
played some music I put against an old Buster Keaton scene to promote
She asked if I would possibly score one of the films she
digitized. It was As the
Earth Turns. It took about a
month to score. It was mixed professionally, and came out well.
We started to promote the film, hoping to get into a few film
festivals, and I was drafted to be a co-producer. Over the
next year and a half, the film was in 120 festivals and received 134
awards/nominations! We actually entered it into the Oscars in 2019
(to get more eyes on it), and started to attract interest in
distribution. In 2020, I took over the LLC and film-estate. The
film is now being prepared for distribution, and will be on TCM in the
fall of 2020.
What blew me away about the film, was learning that it was a 20-year-old
in Seattle that made it, with no money. His mastery of directing,
acting, editing, special effects, make-up, set-design and all around
ability to manage a film production with dozens of cast-members is
mind-blowing, done outside of Hollywood, in the 1930s, all in his
youth. All along, I have been doing a ton of research about
Lyford’s life and films. I’ve interviewed his son, Chris,
extensively. I have created a mini-documentary, and am working on
a narrative biopic about Lyford, himself.
Do you know whether As
the Earth Turns has ever been screened publicly back in the day,
and given the film's quality, have you got any explanation why it has
remained "lost" for that long?
The only “screenings” for the film were done for family and friends.
Because Lyford went to Hollywood to work for
Disney, this film
marked the end of his “amateur” film career. He was even in
the Amateur Cinema League, and wrote articles in American
Cinematographer as an amateur. For him, this was his thesis,
although there were no film schools at the time! The 16mm film
that we restored was the original cut, with actual edits in the film.
It was from Lyford himself. The film was likely longer
(based on articles). We started with 35 minutes, and then I found
another 10 minutes that I edited back in myself. Lyford did
make at least one other dub (discovered from a family of one of the actors
at a film festival!), which helped us establish that my cut was nearly
identical to the official “director's cut”. That was a big
relief! The film really had just been stored in film cans
over the years. Three different companies in Seattle helped scan,
edit and master the film, along with others we are still working on.
Do you know
what led to the production of As
the Earth Turns back when? And what can you tell us about the
film's director Richard Lyford's filmwork prior to As
the Earth Turns?
Earth Turns was the ninth film by Lyford in his youth.
There was war brewing in Europe, and he thought it was a great
backdrop for a science-fiction film. He wanted to do something
epic. A friend bet Lyford that it couldn’t be done, or the friend
would “eat his hat”. What is truly remarkable is that this
film foresaw WWII, only a few years later.
Through research we have a list of all Lyford’s earlier works. I
only have two other films, and some fragments. In fact, finding
those films was equally odd. The original two short films in the Monsters Crash the
Pajama Party-Halloween video were from Something Weird Video. I knew about that
company, seeing odd films on cable. They were still in business,
and after a number of months contacting them (incredibly only a few
miles from my house in the Pacific Northwest!) I did meet with the
owner, and she found the original film, and gave it back to us.
Those films are Ritual of the Dead - a mummy film, and
Scalpel - a Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type story. They are
amazing,as well, and feature really good special effects and make-up.
They are only fragments, so I don’t know the complete plots.
I have scored music for them.
Richard Lyford did experiment with sound and picture. I didn’t
know this when I scored As the
Earth Turns. He devised a way
to synchronize dual record-players to a 16mm projector with a cable.
No one had ever done that. When Disney found out about it,
he hired Lyford. Based on Lyford’s probable musical tastes,
along with interviews with the family, I believe my scoring choices are
aligned with the director’s wishes.
Lyford wrote 58 stage and screenplays before he was 20 years
was a tremendous storyteller, which is why I am so interested in telling
his personal story.
Richard Lyford has had a pretty
decent film career after making As
the Earth Turns - so could you talk about his later life and work
for a bit?
The big question for everyone who has been involved from the online
groups on is “Why do we not know who Richard Lyford is?” He
worked for Disney
on Dumbo, Pinocchio and Fantasia. He was as a
director, editor, and made reference models for the animators. He
was handed his draft papers from Disney himself. He worked for the
Army Air Forces in WWII and made both classified and propaganda films
(like many other Hollywood directors). Lyford loved planes and did
a lot of traveling around the world. When he got back to the
states, he was an independent filmmaker and got married. He
teamed up with two famous documentary producers, Robert Snyder and
Robert J. Flaherty (Nanook of the North - the FIRST documentary!)
and created The Titan about Michelangelo. It won an Academy
Award in 1950. Lyford directed and edited that film. He did
go back to work for Disney
to work on The Wonderful World of
Color, and make some films in the Mideast that were incredibly
important about water conservation and disease, that saved 1000s of
lives. He did a lot of documentary-style films, but never really
returned to pure narrative films, like in his youth. It is
tremendously satisfying for me that his early narrative work has been
somewhat made available. As much as he thought his early films
were “amateur”, I do know he loved them. I understand. I made
Super 8 films as a kid, and still have come back to them to see the
innocence and pure creativity that everyone has growing up. For
Lyford, his skills were so good that you can see the early sparks of a
great filmmaker, before he was caught up in Hollywood and beyond.
Let's get back to As
the Earth Turns - since you've scored the movie, do talk about the
music in the film for a bit, and since you scored everything without any
input from the director, how did you go about picking the right musical
style(s)? And what is it like to score a film without any input in the
I have been watching older films all of my life. I prefer to write
music that is period-appropriate for these kind of films. I do
create experimental and electronic music, but usually prefer lyrical and
orchestral sounds. Not having input from a director is both
freeing and challenging. A silent film isn’t really silent.
Music is end to end, and doesn’t disappear under the dialogue.
It has to support the emotions, the atmosphere, the ambient
sounds, and propel the story forward. When I work with a director,
I may have to score a scene a dozen times until it is right. My
co-producer gave me full reign on my choices. It was a "labor
of love" at the time for the family. The music is a
combination of classical and jazz. Both are styles I love to play
and write. I also didn’t want a chamber orchestra sounding
score, typical of modern scoring of silent films. This is an epic
story, that requires epic music. My goal was to create that kind
of score, as it might have been written in the 1930s. I just
re-watched “Metropoiis” from 1927, and that is exactly what I was
working to create. In the 30s, Flash Gordon serials were popular,
and I was addicted to them on television in the 1960s. The music
was classical orchestral pieces. All of these types of scores have
led to the classic Star Wars style. I love John Williams’
lyrical and character-based scoring. My score does have character-driven themes that reoccur. That creates nice form in the music
itself. I just released the soundtrack digitally, and I only moved
a few pieces around for format. The music seems to hold together
like a multi-movement symphony.
Now for all those unfamiliar with the art
of film scoring, do take us through the recording sessions for As
the Earth Turns?
(If you have not seen the film, please don’t read this spoiler.)
I hate to say, the except for the percussion, I performed all of
the orchestral parts electronically. We really didn’t have a
budget for a live orchestra. Most composers doing independent
films don’t have budgets for live orchestral music. The state of
digital recording has only really come into its own, with a composer
being able to truly create a realistic sounding orchestra. I
consider what I do is similar to “impressionism” in visual art.
It’s not about sounding exactly like an instrument, but creating
a soundscape that evokes orchestral sounds, colors, and textures. I
would like to record the score with a live orchestra in the future, and
it will be interesting to hear the differences.
Using Logic (MAC) and plug-in orchestra sample sounds (EastWest), I was
able to create a full symphonic orchestra. I am also a
percussionist, so those are real instruments in the mix.
The score then went to Clatter&Din in Seattle, an excellent
post-production studio. With a a talented staff, state-of-the-art
equipment, my score was elevated to a true Hollywood level of
production. That is something that doesn’t always happen on
independent films, either. I was very lucky to have the support to
really finish my score professionally.
The $64-question of course,
where can As the Earth
Turns be seen?
The film will be released in 2020 digitally in a number of outlets
(TBA). It will be on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) starting in the
fall of 2020. I am working on limited theatrical presentations
(seeing on a big screen is so much better, especially with a BIG score).
I am looking for silent film organizations, film schools and
specialty theaters, any private locations that might be interested in a
live presentation of selected Richard Lyford films along with Q&A.
There are a few upcoming film festivals, although they have been,
or are likely going to be delayed due to the pandemic.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of As
the Earth Turns?
It has been a wonderful experience for me to score, produce and present
the film. The Oscar run in LA, put the film in front of many
industry people. I am hopeful this will create a new appreciation
for the film and the director. I do believe if Lyford had not have
been drafted, we would have been talking about him similarly to
directors such as Orson Welles, who had nearly an identical lifespan and
trajectory. Getting reviews for the film is very rewarding, and
everyone has jumped on this film as an unusual and unique film
experience. All ages have enjoyed the film as well. I
believe the film and story of Lyford will become an inspiration for
anyone in filmmaking along with all of the creative arts it requires.
From what I know, you're
planning to do a movie about the life of As
the Earth Turns's director Richard Lyford - so what can you tell
us about that project yet, and any other future projects you'd like to
As I mentioned, I am working on a biopic. I have created a
thorough outline of Lyford’s early life. I may expand it through
his complete career, but I feel the first 20 years are the best way to
start. I am currently seeking out co-producers and a screenplay.
There is interest in it both in Hollywood and the Pacific
Northwest. What the percentage of that mix will eventually be is
unknown. Considering Lyford’s own story, I want to make it as
much locally created as possible. I feel that would be truest to
the story. Because of all of the film festivals, I have been
collaborating on other projects. A very big feature coming up
will be a scoring a holiday film, A Carolina Christmas. I
continue to score many short films, year round. As I add producer
to my career, I am getting interested more and more in creating
narrative films myself. I just created a very short film for the Roger Corman Quarantine Film Festival. I also create a lot
of music videos to feature my music. Ironically, I am busier
right now making films and music during the pandemic than any other
Let's talk about you for a bit - what got you
into making music in the first place, and film scoring at that, and did
you receive any formal training on the subject?
I have been a musician all of my life, and a movie-nut to boot. When
anyone ever asks me what my favorite films are, there are inevitably
ones with great music. I was trained as a percussionist at Indiana
University, but always loved to compose. For my junior and senior recitals, I played some of my own compositions, although it was against
the policy of the school at the time! When I moved out to
Seattle, I continued to compose music and create performance events for
composers. I did go back into performing and teaching for years,
only to return to composing as I got involved in music licensing, and
getting my tracks into films and television. Those skills led to
being able to sync-to-picture my music, especially as the software
matured. I became involved with the Seattle Composers Alliance
and began organizing composer and filmmaker events. Those contacts
eventually came full circle with As
the Earth Turns, when the film
premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2019 at the
Egyptian Theatre (built in 1915!).
Basically, I’ve never taken any composition or film scoring classes,
but I have spent a lifetime learning about film, scoring and music.
I was also involved in electronic music in high school (very
unique program), and learned about acoustics, mixing, recording, and
synthesis. My teacher also exposed me to very avant-garde music
and performance. I did continue in college using the first Moog
synthesizer, and very early digital recording equipment using business
computers of the era.
you tell us about your filmwork prior to As
the Earth Turns?
My only filmwork prior to this film was doing music videos featuring my
music. I did learn how to cut image to music. Scoring films
taught me how to cut music to image. My early Super 8 work as a kid did teach me about cinematography, editing, and even experiments
with syncronizing music with classical records and my Super 8 projector,
just like Lyford! There is a terrific irony there. It was
always my goal to syncronize music to film, and As
the Earth Turns was the true test.
What are some of your musical
influences and preferred musical styles, both in regards to film scores
For film: John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, Bernard Herrmann, Henry
Mancini. Composer-wise: Beethoven, Berlioz, Bach
especially, but I listen to everyone. Zappa is my true hero
Your favourite movies?
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Casino
Royale (1960s), Metropolis, Citizen Kane, The Great
Race, Ben Hur, and many more modern films, including everything
Superman (first one), and Star Wars.
Small movies are great, but epics are where film is king.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Such a tough question. I’ve never met a movie I hated. I
have seen more boring and forgettable films, but frankly, I forgot what
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
the Earth Turns:
the Earth Turns soundtrack:
Ed Hartman website: edhartmanmusic.com
Hartman on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3047539/
Hartman on Twitter: twitter.com/edhartman
Hartman on Facebook: facebook.com/ed.hartman1
Hartman on YouTube: youtube.com/user/edhartman1
Hartman on Instagram: instagram.com/edhartmanmusic
Hartman on Stage32: stage32.com/profile/92125
Hartman on LinkedIn:
8th Sense Productions on Twitter:
8th Sense Productions on Instagam:
8th Sense Productions on Facebook:
As the Earth Turns distribution:
Turner Classic Movies: http://www.tcm.com/
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I am always looking for filmmakers and musicians to connect with.
I am happy to share my experiences with music licensing/scoring (I
have a free monthly newsletter), and have many resources on my website.
I am also happy to share what I know about film production,
promotion, film festivals (FilmFreeway), and now film distribution.
I can offer one final piece of advice: Your success will be
based on what you do for your community. Information is always in
need. You will eventually become a mentor of what you know. Don’t
wait for that to happen. As soon as you learn something, teach
it to someone else. You will get it back exponentially. Richard
Lyford was always a teacher, and he knew how to create community. That
is how great things happen. Nothing happens alone. (Food for
thought as we are all in “self-isolation”!)
for the interview!