Stanley Watkins Documentary

$8,842 of $27,100 goal

Raised by 64 people in 13 months

Stanley Watkins was an English electrical engineer who in 1911 was hired by The Western Electric Company in their New York City Physical Labs . Western Electric and the AT&T companies eventually merged to form the Bell Labs and there he worked on a variety of sound innovations.  It may surprise one to know that the scope of Bell Labs’ work went far beyond telephone communications.   

Watkins was given the task of introducing the Vitaphone (sound on disk) recording technology to film productions. This successfully  brought motion pictures out of the silent era and into the raucous era of talkies. At the time he was Chief Sound Engineer at Warner Bros. Pictures though you won’t see his name on any of the credits. Watkins helped the visionaries at  Warner Brother produce films with synchronized sound such as Don Juan (1926) and The Jazz Singer (1927). These films revolutionized the industry by making the on-screen talent audible. Watkins not only worked in Hollywood but also supported  various European countries in their  transition to the new era of talking pictures.

Stanley at work

Additionally, Watkins worked with Columbia and Victor Records on technologies that changed the world of music recording forever. He worked with the great Bessie Smith and other ground-breaking recording artists of the 1920s.  

The career of Stanley Watkins was characterized by a constant shifting of gears as he moved from project to project. In the 1930s Watkins took a cumbersome machine known as the Voder and programmed it to produce human-like speech. The Voice Operating Demonstrator, aka the Voder, was taken to the 1939 World’s Fair where it dazzled countless audiences. Today we often take talking devices such as the iPhone Siri for granted but in the 30s this seemed like something out of science fiction.

Barbara and her father, Stanley Watkins, at the Voder

The multi-talented Watkins was able to capture and produce excellent sound recordings partly because of his interest in language, music and the arts. He was one of those rare species that could solve scientific puzzles one moment and then pen a pun-laden poem the next. He was a true Renaissance man but like many from that generation not one to sing his own praises or make a fuss about his accomplishments. It is the aim of this film to  showcase the major strides made in film, music and the world of talking machines due to the work of Stanley.

Stanley Watkins

This project is based in New Mexico although our team is from all over the globe. We want to share the story of a behind-the-scenes hero with audiences around the world. If you can donate to our project you will enable us to:

*Purchase equipment (full-frame camera, audio equipment, tripod, lights, etc).

*Travel to various shoots and conduct research in places like: Los Angeles, New York,  Atlanta, Seattle and Vancouver BC.

* Buy image, music and film rights. 

Stanley Watkins in full Morris Dancing attire

Thank you for taking the time to learn "a little smackerel" (an often-used phrase by Watkins) about this project that is close to our hearts.  We hope that you can help us to get funded. Any contribution is appreciated and will be spent to propel this project forward!

We are very pleased to announce that the following experts have agreed to be in our film: The Vitaphone Project's Ron Hutchinson,  Mara Mills PhD and Doug Slocum of Synthetic Sound Labs. We have a motley crew of academics and Voder-playing wizards who have signed up to inform and delight you.  You won't be disappointed...

You ain't heard nuthin' yet, folks!

Blair and the gang

Please know that any amount you give helps this project gain steam.

Please read about the fun and surprising goodies you will get in return for donating to our film project. If we meet our goal you will receive a token of our appreciation.

Gifts include tote bags with this original Vitaphone print!

$30- For your donation of $30 or above your name will be mentioned in the credits.

$100- For your donation of $100 or above you will receive our mystery bag of film related goodies (limited to the first 15, $100+ donations)

$250- For your donation of $250 or above you will receive a mystery box of film related goodies (limited to the first 10, $250+ donations)

$500- For your donation of $500 or above you will receive a mystery box of film related goodies and producer credit (limited to the first 10, $500+ donations)

$1000- For your donation of $1000 or above you will receive a executive producer credit on the film.

Again, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts! And as Barbara (Stan's daughter) always says, "Blue Skies" to you!

Director: Blair Rinn 
Assistant Director: Andrea Rinn and Leilani Ringkvist

Executive Producer: Hugh Witemeyer
Executive Producer: Barbara Witemeyer
Executive Producer: Marcus Weldon, President of Nokia Bell Labs
Executive Producer: Doug Slocum

*Video edited by Joel Ortiz
*Narration by Barbara Witemeyer 
*Music by Edison Records, "My Sweet Sweeting" by Helen Louise & Frank Ferera, 1916.


*The title "Audible Kinematology and Other Sound Pursuits" is a working title.
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In the near future we will be interviewing our friend Vanessa Theme Ament, PhD. She is the author of "The Foley Grail" and director of the new documentary "Amplified: A Conversation with Women in American Film Sound." We cant wait to meet up with her and discuss Stanley Watkins' work with the Warner Brothers making motion pictures talk.

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Applause for our New Jersey based crew who made our recent shoots go off without a hitch! Doug Slocum(producer) and Drew Bolognini(cinematographer) were standout collaborators. We hope to work with them again on future projects.

Doug's website: steamsynth.com
Drew's website: quick4productions.com
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It was an amazing experience interviewing Ron Hutchinson, founder of the Vitaphone Project. Every student of film needs to hear Ron's account of the watershed days when movies began to talk and the Vitaphone reigned. He shared details about Stanley Watkins and his role in this story that we had not heard before. Thank you to Ron for your generous support of this project!
If you haven't already, please visit the Vitaphone Project's website and learn about this noble cause.

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Our recent shoot in New Jersey was a great success. Nokia Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon sat down with us for a bit to chat about Bell Labs scientist, Stanley Watkins. Thank you to everyone at the Labs for making us feel so welcome!
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Raised by 64 people in 13 months
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Karla & John Blakey
28 days ago
Roger Rinn
1 month ago
Jeanine Belgodere
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Mary Ann Nickles
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Cass Warner
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Dan Mortensen
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