Neon Hacienda Horse and RiderA candy-coloured journey through the American dream, NEON explores how the simple product known as neon shone bright as a beacon for the hopes of a country.

A visually stunning and informative celebration of the beauty, colour and vibrant history of the neon sign from an international perspective in a world where it will soon be lost and superseded by LED signage, NEON is the latest film from internationally award-winning Director Lawrence Johnston (Eternity, Fallout), produced in collaboration with Veronica Fury from WildBear Entertainment (Electric Boogaloo).

NEON has come out of a love I have had for neon for many years,” says Director Lawrence Johnston. “Like many of the people interviewed in the film, I love everything about it I had included neon signs in my first documentary Eternity.”

“While neon signs have spread worldwide, it was the debut of neon in the US that I chose to tell and by making this film, like some of the people saving signs, we too are documenting and saving these signs which are fast disappearing and the medium of cinema is a perfect way to document and transport the beauty of these images and stories to a wide audience.”

From the beginning of time man has always been guided by signs to help us find our way, in the light of day, but particularly at night, and neon has always done this with great beauty and dynamism for the last 100 years. As society progressed along with commerce, neon signs became bigger, more vibrant, colourful, elaborate and competitive in attracting the general public to go, buy, see, want! 

The first illuminated signs in the world were incandescent following the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison, but neon was the future, bigger, brighter, more beautiful, and most importantly lasted longer. Like a number of inventions of the 20th Century, neon was the dynamic result of a number of experiments by a variety of nationalities all fighting for the limelight at the same time, the German Heinrich Geissler, the British Henry Moore and Croatian Nikola Tesla.

Finally it was the entrepreneurial Georges Claude from France who won, when he first bought neon to the world at the Paris Motor Show in 1910. A neon rainbow spread like wildfire ‘neonizing’ the world following its debut in Jazz Age America. The evolution of neon has mirrored the evolution of global commerce and society throughout the twentieth century into this new millennium.

Apart from the content of history, invention, design and heritage, NEON is an amazing and sumptuous visual travelogue celebrating the invention and popularization of neon from Las Vegas to New York, from Hong Kong to Havana. Johnstone explores why neon has had its periods where it has fallen out of popularity and then risen up again.

Johnstone also meets those people who have designed and produced neon, with it’s myriad of colour and meaning, from commercial signage to the work of world famous neon artists Tracey Emin and Bruce Nauman, then move on to 3 Heritage Activists who now recognize the cultural value of neon, by ‘saving signs’ at places like the Neon Museum in Las Vegas.

With the advent of unecological LED signs, neon is now on the brink of disappearing. Neon is 100 years old and the beauty, craft and construction has changed very little, making neon one the greenest forms of light ever produced and an enduring force of amazing colour and light in the visual landscapes of our lives. Neon still has the ‘buzz’!

NEON is a movie not only for those of us who hold a glowing love for Americana, mid-20th Century design and saving the world around us, but also enjoy surprising emotional and unexpected historic jaunts along the way. It is a delightful spectacle of colour and light, music and history, design and cultural heritage.

NEON screens at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova from 2 June 2016, and the Ritz Randwick on Monday 6 June. NEON will be available on DVD from August 2016.

Image: Hacienda Horse & Rider – courtesy of © WildBear Entertainment