Keith Salkowski was scanning the classifieds in a local newspaper last year when he came across the ad that would lead to his debut as a film director.
The Aberdeen Centennial Committee was searching for someone to help make a video to commemorate the town's 100th anniversary. Salkowski, a free-lance film technician who had been dabbling in film writing for about five years, responded.
The rest, you might say, is Aberdeen history.
"Aberdeen: The First 100 Years" was first screened at the town's anniversary dinner last March. And this Friday at 7:30 p.m. the 30-minute film will be aired on all six stations of Maryland Public Television (channels 22, 28, 31, 36, 62 and 67).
Salkowski, a Lutherville native who moved to Harford County as a teen-ager, wrote, directed and co-produced the film. Its co-producer was Molly Dunker, staff producer for First National Bank, which financed the effort.
"MPT takes great pride in airing locally produced programs about the area," said Elizabeth Malis of MPT. "We thought this one, which is very good, fit right into that philosophy."
Of the hundreds of independent films submitted to MPT each year, only one or two a month are selected to be broadcast, she said.
Aberdeen's first mayor and town commissioners were elected in 1892, but Salkowski takes viewers back to the mid-17th century when Philadelphia Post and Bush Neck roads were opened. The film blends scores of black-and-white stills with color footage of the present-day city.
The film captures Aberdeen in its glory days as a 19th-century cannery town, the changes wrought through two world wars as Aberdeen Proving Ground was built and expanded, and the area population boom fueled by superhighways.
Descendants of prominent Harford County families, including the Creswells, Bakers and Ripkens, reflect on the way things were in their ancestors days. Town leaders and adolescents of today talk about Aberdeen in the 1990s.
The town's change in character as the population grew from 600 in the late 19th century to 13,000 today is what most intrigued Salkowski, he says.
"In my interviews, almost without exception, whenever I asked what was the biggest change they had seen, people would say, 'It used to be you knew everybody in town. Now you can walk down the street and not recognize a soul.' "
"That idea -- that the change was in the quality of life -- is what interested me," says the 34-year-old Towson resident.
A 1975 alumnus of John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Salkowski graduated from Harvard University and then spent five years behind the scenes in Boston regional theater before moving to New York as a film production assistant.
He spent four years there getting a ground-floor education in filmmaking. He worked as a technician, electrician and grip and did some script analysis before returning to the Baltimore area to work on his screen writing.
Today, as a free-lance writer-producer, he has several instructional and training scripts for the corporate world to his credit. But until the film on Aberdeen, he had never directed anything other than student films.
"I wanted this to be an oral history, with people describing their own experiences," says Salkowski. "And as I got into the history of the town, I realized this is an interesting example of how our country as a whole has changed."