Silver Screen Studios is a unique project, created to make short videos-each featuring someone in their 60s or older from across the U.S.-still actively contributing to their fields and communities.
Since 2017, Silver Screen has been creating videos-each eight to ten minutes long-that spotlight seniors with powerful stories to share, inspiring audiences to learn about the past directly from people who lived it.
Initially funded and incubated, in part, by the Jewish cultural foundation Reboot, the studio is now a stand-alone entity, funded by new business projects.
"I have an affinity for older people," said Silver Screen's director, Tiffany Woolf. Her parents passed away in their early 60s, she said. "I wanted to live a great last act of my life, but I had no role models." She decided to find them in the larger world.
In its first series- aptly titled "Last Act"- Silver Screen featured interviews with familiar faces like Norman Lear, Larry King, and Sen. Carl Levin.
"It's amazing, having these larger-than-life people in your living room," Woolf said.
Silver Screen's current series is "Sign of the Times," in this case funded and co-produced by Reboot. The focus is on those post-60 Jewish activist who are still, well, active in their causes. The series chronicles two Chicagoans-Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer and Dr. Sharon Silverman.
Goldhamer, 76, champions Jews who are deaf and hard-of-hearing through his congregation and seminary. "[The series] is a wonderful idea-to search out elderly people and discover how they have contributed to American life and learning," he said.
Being interviewed made Silverman, 77, think about her own life's path. She has spent her career searching for ways to help students with learning disabilities, and now chairs Spertus' board of trustees. "Stories are what grab people," she said. "This series aims to share, intergenerationally, the stories and wisdom of experienced elders."
"People are living longer now, but also better," Woolf said. She did note that the pandemic has left her subjects "more compromised and impacted." To address this reality, Silver Screen issued a series called "Dispatches from Quarantine."
'Dispatches' includes Carl Reiner's last interview; in it, Reiner, 98 at the time, quoted Shakespeare from memory. The documentary Reiner spearheaded about people in their 90s-If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast-was one of Woolf's inspirations for her Silver Screen project.
Another inspiration for Woolf came from volunteering at a nursing home, where she has called BINGO games. At the nursing home, she met a man who visited his Alzheimer's-stricken wife every day.
"My favorite interviews are with those who have not yet told their stories. But everyone has a story to tell-it's just that no one is asking."
Woolf has three children; her sons are 11 and 12, and her daughter is 19. As to what his mother does, her youngest says, "She talks to old people."
Woolf is already planning the third Silver Screen series, "Coming of Age." Her subjects this time include those who have survived the Holocaust, marched with Dr. King, and reached the age of 103.
What impact does she hope the videos have? "I want to make you call your grandmother," she said, "and ask her questions."
Visit Silver Screen Studios and see their videos at silverscreenstudios.org.