THE NEON STRUGGLE, 38min, USA, Documentary
Directed by Bert Simonis
A family fights to keep their neon sign business alive as the light of the industry fades away. The process of creating these delicate signs is beautifully photographed to capture the intricacy of this populist American art form. Interviews with neon historians and experts are interspersed with vintage neon signs from across the United States.
When we saw a Jumbotron screen in Las Vegas projecting the image of a neon sign, something clicked. It was as though the image was adding insult to injury. As we dug into the history of making neon for commercial use, we discovered that there are a series of "Mom and Pop" shops around the country that make neon signs for the local businesses. Many of these shops are now going the way of the family farm, as large industries are providing LED and Jumbotron signs that can be instantly customized to display anything.
When we found Rio Score III, working quietly in a small shop in the Inland Empire, we struck gold. Rio was taught the trade by his grandfather who started out in Los Angeles, and whose shop working on many studio films. As business slowed, Rio moved his family out of L.A. to fill a void in Riverside County. Now, as business is slowing again, he is examining the future of his trade, his family and the legacy of generations of "tube benders".
We hope you will enjoy meeting Rio, learning about his craft and will take a different look at the next neon sign that you see.
John C. Brown and Bert Simonis