Incidentally, Bill and Herb were not the only staff persons who came to USC Cinema from the war, and remained to teach. Others were Dan Wiegand, Dave Johnson, Bill Mehring and Mel Sloan. The USC Cinema Department grew by leaks and bounds after the war and ex-GIís were largely responsible for its growth.
Soon after meeting Bill at USC, I learned that he was a Methodist and a "PK," meaning a preacherís kid. He was serving on TRAFCO (pronounced TRAF-CO), the Television, Radio, and Film Commission of the national Methodist Church. He also served on the Southern California Conference TRAFCO.
Billís joint involvement with USC and TRAFCO of the Methodist Church was a natural. When Bill came to USC, the Methodist Church owned the University. In fact, it had been founded by the church. About the time I came to USC, the university was in the process of becoming a private institution. It was following the path of many such institutions whose roots were with the church. These changes were then, and still are today, taking place. Sometimes the schools become financial burdens for the church. In addition, the church wants to stay away from government involvement in running its institutions.
One day Bill asked, "Glenn, would you like to have a part-time job as the executive secretary for TRAFCO? Knowing your church background and your interest in film, Iím sure you would be an asset to the commission."
I didnít have the slightest idea what was I was getting myself into, but it sounded interesting and I could certainly use the little stipend offered. My next step was to talk to my boss, Herb. I felt sure he would approve of my taking the job, and he did. However, both of us thought we should also discuss it with Dr. Lester Beck, the head of the Cinema Department.
Dr. Beck was an educator, psychologist and motion picture producer of educational film. I had learned earlier that it was easy to talk with him, and, indeed, I thought of him more as a friend than as a boss. I enjoyed discussing educational philosophy, morals, and all kinds of religious subjects with him.
When I asked him about taking the USC job, his reaction was, "Great, Glenn! Of course, you should take the job. You have a sound religious background in the Methodist Church and I know youíll make a great contribution to the commission. Iím certain we can make arrangements for you to do the job and still do your work here."
That was good news for me, and I told Bill Iíd be glad to take the job.
It wasnít long before I found that the group didnít want just a secretary. They wanted me to run the affair. I kept their records, scheduled meetings, and represented them at all sorts of functions. It was a great experience.
Over the years that I was the conference executive secretary for TRAFCO, I had the opportunity to produce a number of films. My first idea was to use our Bishop Kennedy in film talks. Since he was a very popular guest speaker, why not put him on film so all church audiences could hear him? In other words, I would capitalize on his ability to talk directly to his audience through the eye of the camera lens.
Bishop Kennedy cooperated with me in making that
concept a reality. The finished titles of the fifteen-minute sermons spoke
for themselves: "Good News," "Men, Methodists and Ministers" and "What
is good for Man?"
Luckily, I was able to use the USC film library facilities to distribute the Bishop's films throughout the conference. When judged by the many times that those little sermons were used, the project certainly was a success.
My next idea was to have Bishop Kennedy make a series of five-minute inspirational talks. I would call them "Coffee with Kennedy," and I would try to get the TV stations to air them.
Since the first film talks had done so well, I had the nerve to ask him about my new idea.
Bishop Kennedyís response was, "That sounds like a good idea, Glenn. My schedule is pretty full. When do you plan to do the shooting?"
I assured the Bishop that I would try to get the Cinema Department facilities at a time convenient for him.
We agreed on a time, and when the Bishop arrived at USC, I was ready for him. I had arranged a nice office setting, with a cup of coffee on the desk. I wanted him to appear to be chatting with the audience over his morning coffee. I had asked him to bring a change of suits so the talks would appear to have been on different mornings.
"No problem," he said. "I donít need my notes."
Believe it or not! That man made those eleven three-minute films and, even with all the confusion of changing his suits and listening to production gibberish, he never made a flub. Only once he wrote a little note to himself before starting on one of the shots. There was only one interruption during the shooting and that wasnít his fault. It was mine. I couldnít have been more elated over the results of less than four hours of shooting.
Those films were distributed throughout the church for many years. The Armed Forces Radio and TV Services purchased negatives from the university and made worldwide use of them for out troops. They called the series "Reflections."
The subjects of war and peace were hot topics in the fifties. Popular questions for debate included: "Should a Christian participate in any war?" "Is it possible to have a just war?" "Did the Jesus of the Bible, who, according to some, was a true pacifist, offer the only answer to all conflict?"
Within the Methodist church were Dr. Henry Hitt Crane, who took the pacifist position; and Bishop Bromley Oxnam, who argued that a "just" war could be possible. These two outstanding speakers were in demand all across the country as they held their debate on "Which Way to Peace."
When, with our Bishop Kennedy as moderator, Bishop Oxnam and Dr. Crane were scheduled to hold a debate in Bovard Auditorium on the USC campus, Bill Blume came up with a great idea. "Why not use the cinema department facilities to produce a thirty-minute film version of the debate?"
The TRAFCO people thought that it was a great idea. Dr. Bernard Kantor, who was then head of the Cinema Department, agreed.
"I guess it is your film project, Glenn. Can you handle it?" Dr. Kantor asked me.
Of course! I was sure I could do the job.
The plan was to shoot the film prior to the two-hour debate before the live audience. I arranged to have three cameras so we could get views from three perspectives. I thought that would add interest as opposed to a straight shot of two "talking heads." Bernie Kantor was to operate the master camera with a wide-angle lens covering the entire group. The other two cameras were to take left and right closeups of Bishop Oxnam and Dr. Crane. Fine! I was ready.
The two Bishops and Dr. Crane arrived on time, and did a good job of tailoring their usual two-hour debate to the thirty-minute format. Everything seemed to go just fine. I thanked them for their time, and they hurried off to their scheduled appearance across campus.
As I turned toward the three cameramen, I noticed they were in a huddle about something. Then they came toward me.
"Glenn, maybe youíd better sit down. I have something to tell you," Bernie said. "Iím sorry, but the master camera jammed. I didnít know it until I opened the camera at the end of the filming. Whatíll we do?"
I really felt like fainting but I kept my wits up and said, "Weíll do the entire film again. The guys are still around!"
Dick Harber, who had operated one of the other cameras said, "Wait, Glenn, I think I cut the other two angles together so you wonít miss that wide angle."
Since I knew Dick was a skillful editor, I took his advice and left the whole thing in his hands.
Although the views from the third camera would have improved the final production, Dick did a good job with what he had. The film was given the title "Which Way to Peace," and was shown all over the country. Iím quite sure none of the people who saw it had any idea of the sweat that went into its production.
"Right at Home" was another film I promoted and for which I was a consultant. It was the story of our Methodist retirement home.
Another TRAFCO film project was "Bishop Kennedyís Report on South America." Methodist Bishops were required to travel to other countries and report back on the state of the church. After Bishop Kennedy made his trip to South America, I thought his report should be put on film. I had my idea of how it should be done and he had his. That was the only time he refused to take my suggestions. Of course, we made it his way, and gave it the uninteresting title he suggested. It didnít prove to be a very successful undertaking. Even if we had done the whole thing my way, and used a more intriguing title, it still might not have been well accepted.
"One Short" was a filmstrip the Childrenís Division of the church asked me to make for them. The purpose was to recruit camp counselors. Iím not sure just how successful it was in doing the job they wanted it to do.
One fun TRAFCO project was covering the Groundbreaking Ceremony for our Methodist Seminary at Claremont. I felt rather important that day because I got an official press card. That was a new experience for this naive farm boy from Kansas. The news clip I made was aired on local television stations.
After a few years, the TRAFCO division of the Annual Conference was merged into the Public Relations Committee, and I lost my job. However, I was thankful for the opportunities that job had given me. My life-long dream, to make films, was finally coming true!
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