And the end and the
beginning were always there
ITHACA JOURNAL, JUNE 2, 2000
On Friday night as the early June dusk wanes into darkness, "The Twilight Zone" Outdoor Film Festival will be projected on the exterior wall of a downtown theater.
The festival is being put together by local producer and film buff Ellitot J. Novak, who became close friends with Rod Serling when Serling was teaching at Ithaca College in the early 1970s and Novak was a student there.
"The Twilight Zone" Outdoor Film Festival is being held this year in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Serling's death.
The festival will he held at 10 p.m. Friday; projected on a portable silver screen, measuring 20 by 12 feet, hung on the outer wall of the Firehouse Theater on West State Street.
"We're putting together a little film salute to him," Novak said. “Since I've been hole. there hasn't t been anything done, any permanent display, of Rod Serling's [work]." While there are Serling archives at Ithaca College, they're not even available to the public, he noted.
The presentation is titled "Twilight Time: Rod Serling Remembered."
“Not only was he my screenwriting teacher for four years,” Novak said. "but I hosted a local TV program with him, collaborated with him on the ‘They Made Movies in Ithaca’ [documentary]; we became very close friends.
While Novak spent a lot of time with Serling both in and out of the classroom, he obviously didn't expect the legendary "Twilight Zone" personality to die at age 50 in 1975, and wishes he had asked him more about his life and work.
“When you get to know somebody, especially somebody famous with a body of work, when you're 18, 19 years old ... most of our time together sans spent sitting in the sun, drinking at the bar,” Novak said. "Our relationship wasn't like that—I didn't ask him ‘the important stuff’.”
Novak will be showing some rare footage of Serling—a “Night Gallery" promotional short, hosted by Serling on the “Night Gallery" set; a couple of commercials Serling did in the late '60s and early '70s that were never aired, and outtakes from the Ithaca-produced "The Sunday Show" that Novak hosted with Serling.
Novak will also be showing two "Twilight Zone" episodes.
'Very rarely, if ever, does anybody see 'Twilight Zones' projected in a motion picture format," Novak said. “These are the original film prints. George T Clemens, the director of photography for 'The Twilight Zone,’ was an old-time Hollywood cinematographer. The beauty of the photography is incredible. It's pretty much lost on television. But when it's projected on a screen, it’s a thing of beauty."
The episodes Novak will be screening are "The Four of Us are Dying" and "Back There." Serling "liked ‘The Four of Us are Dying' very much and he used to show it in class" Novak recalled. "It was shot in a dark film noir type of look. And a separate music score was written for the episode, which was rare—a jazz, bebop type of soundtrack."
“'Back There’ ties into the theme of the Ithaca Festival," Novak said. "It's the story of a guy who navels back in time to April 14,1865 in an attempt to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln."
Novak is also planning a salute to Serling for the weekend of Aug. 18-20 with the Thaw Downtown Partnership that will also tie into the 25th anniversary of The Ithaca Commons.