Raised in Harrison NY, Elias Savada joined The American Film Institute immediately after his graduation from Cornell University in 1972, working on their ongoing project to catalog feature length motion pictures produced and released in the United States. In 1977 he began a five year stint as senior researcher at the Law Firm of E. Fulton Brylawski and J. Michael Cleary, a renowned copyright law firm. He returned to the AFI from 1983 to 1991, where he compiled a massive database of silent films released in the United States prior to 1911. The information he compiled was published in 1995 as the two-volume, 1,800-page, work-in-progress The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Film Beginnings, 1893-1910, listing over 17,000 films.
Meanwhile, in 1977 Elias founded the Motion Picture Information Service (MPIS), which originally assisted the United States Information Agency with repertory film programming for overseas cultural festivals, particularly the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Cinemateca Portuguesa in Lisbon.
In the ensuing years, he has arranged for the transportation of more than nearly 2,000 films to the Cinemateca, the Filmoteca Española in Madrid, the San Sebastian (Spain) Film Festival, the Pordenone (Italy) Silent Film Festival, and other archives and events around the world.
In the mid-1980s he began to perform copyright research under his MPIS banner and now writes over 500 reports each year covering thousands of movies, television programs, songs, recordings, books, plays, etc., having serviced over 850 clients, including law firms, motion picture and television production companies, home video firms, and individuals. Using a vast knowledge of cinema history and keen intuitive skills, he has been able to expand on a basic copyright report to include information not available in the Copyright Office files. Since 1991 he has been working out of his residence in Bethesda, Maryland.
In 1975 he and co-author David J. Skal had their biography Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood's Master of the Macabre published by Doubleday. It has been optioned by a Hollywood production company for feature development. His interest in the director of Freaks (1932) and Dracula (1931), dates from his teen years watching horror movies on "Million Dollar Movie" on WOR-TV and then screenings in a "flicks for kicks" course in college. It was nearly a quarter-century later that interviews he recorded in 1972 with associates and friends of Browning would be incorporated into the biography.
In 1997 he began to review films for the now dormant NitrateOnline.com, and his reviews now appear on FilmThreat.com. He was a judge on the New Directors Jury at the 50th annual San Sebastian Film Festival.
Elias's interest in film mirrored his late father's professional infatuation with 78 rpm records. Morton Savada, owner of Records Records in New York, was an expert in his field of this long-discontinued vinyl record format. His 200,000 collection was recently donated to the Belfer Sound Archive at Syracuse University.
An avid genealogist, Elias appeared on the local cable access television show Tracing Your Family Roots on August 9, 2007, talking about New York City Municipal Records. You can watch the show HERE.