Short Takes, January 2005

NEWS BRIEFS

 

New Report from Social Media Center Looks at Copyright Law

The Center for Social Media, based at the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC, released a new report in November. The report, Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers, finds that restrictive interpretations of copyright law are changing the kinds of films documentary filmmakers choose to make, and distorting the films they do make.

The report, written by American University professors Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi, was produced in conjunction with the Program on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, Washington College of Law at American University. The report results from dozens of in-depth interviews about the problem of rights clearance with professional documentary filmmakers working in today's theatrical and TV environment.

Documentary suffers gravely from the current copyright regime as it is generally understood. Most documentary filmmakers need to quote other material-perhaps music, perhaps still images, news footage or even images from commercial films-in order to tell their stories. Most of that material is copyrighted, and most filmmakers believe that it has to be licensed to be used. In search of licenses, they run up against high prices, frustrating efforts to locate rights holders, and even slammed doors. The consequences are a loss to the society at large, say the report's authors.

Aufderheide and Jaszi provide practical, achievable ways to address the problems, stressing ways to expand awareness and practice of "fair use"-legal quoting of copyrighted material. The report, as well as supporting research and a short film introducing the topic, is available at http://centerforsocialmedia.org/rock/index.htm.

 

Postworks, New York Unveils East-Coast Theater

Company president Billy Baldwin and COO Rob DeMartin announced that PostWorks, New York, the East Coast's most advanced and comprehensive post-production resource, has completed the first theater on the East Coast designed specifically for Digital Intermediate (DI) mastering. 

Said Baldwin in a statement, "With the artistic and economic benefits of Digital Intermediate technology making it the standard for mastering broadcast and film projects, we have built our clients a comprehensive, full-service DI Theater from the ground up."

Designed by veteran film industry consultant Jim Moore, PostWorks' plush new 34-seat DI Theater houses Digital Projection IS8-2K digital and Kinoton FP 30E 35mm film projectors. The theater also offers full access to PostWorks' vast array of advanced post tools.

Baldwin said one of the advantages of the facility will be the ability to see a project on a theater-size screen in full resolution while continuing to tweak the final project. PostWorks' recent DI clients include the 2004 Academy Award-nominated films Asylum, Capturing The Friedmans, My Architect and The Fog of War, as well as IFC Films' A Decade Under the Influence.

 

Germany Gets Nat Geo Channel; UK Home & Leisure Gets New Name

As reported by C21 Media.com, National Geographic has launched a new 24-hour German language channel, featuring science, technology, wildlife, history and adventure travel programming.

Said David Haslingden, CEO of National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) in the article, "National Geographic Channel will redefine documentary television in Germany. We present documentary television as it is meant to be: exciting and entertaining."

Available initially on Kabel Deutschland and its Kabel Digital Home service, the channel is expected to roll out to other cable network providers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Also reported by C21 Media, the UK's Discovery Home & Leisure Channel will be getting a name change towards the end of 2005. Rebranded Discovery Real Time, the channel will shift its focus towards becoming more male-centric, with practical programming for men, including motors, workshop activities, gadgets, fitness and grooming.

 

DOCS WATCH

International Docs

As reported in Worldscreen, New York Times Television and the Discovery Times Channel are teaming with CBC Television's documentary unit and ZDF for a four-part high-definition doc series on modern China

Worldscreen also reported that Fuji Television Network  has made its first venture into documentary feature production. Haruko is the story of an elderly Korean woman's turbulent life in Japan. Originally an award-winning made-for-television doc that aired on the Fuji television, the film has been expanded to a feature format.

Said Chihiro Kameyama, head of Fuji Television's motion picture department, "There are so many interesting, real-life stories to be told, and we intend to utilize our news coverage abilities, together with our vast television news footage archive and expand into the field of documentary features."

 

Discovery and Lions Gate Team for Grizzly Doc

Discovery Channel's theatrical unit, Discovery Docs, is teaming with Lions Gate Entertainment for a documentary film Grizzly Man, to be directed by Werner Herzog. The film will tell the story of grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell, who was killed, along with his girlfriend, by a grizzly bear in October 2003 in Alaska. Treadwell was an IDA member.

The film is the first project from Lion's Gate's new feature-length doc unit, overseen by Erik Nelson as VP of documentary production. The division was formed following the success of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which Lions Gate released with IFC Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group.

Grizzly Man should be in theaters this spring, and will air on Discovery Channel in Autumn 2005. 

 

COMING TO A SMALL SCREEN NEAR YOU...

Raymonds' Doc Offers Portrait of a Modern Church

The Congregation, a new film by Academy Award winners Alan and Susan Raymond, features a progressive Methodist congregation in Philadelphia and looks at a number of timely issues of political, spiritual and social nature.

In addition to conflicts between old and new clergy and congregants, one of the most dramatic aspects of the film is the revelation of associate minister Beth Stroud that she is a lesbian in a committed relationship. She reveals her sexuality to the congregation in a very moving sermon and is captured before, during and after as she grapples with the process of coming out in her church. As a result, maintaining her ministry is now in jeopardy, as openly lesbian and gay ministers are not allowed to practice in the Methodist Church.

The Raymonds are best known for capturing the Loud family in several films, beginning with An American Family in 1973, as well as for Police Tapes, which were the inspiration behind Hill Street Blues. The Congregation debuts on PBS on December 29, 2004.  

 

Docurama Releases P.O.V. Titles

P.O.V., public television's premier, long-running series for social docs is collaborating with Docurama to release several recent titles for the home entertainment market. Titles to be distributed include Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini's Farmingville, Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk's Lost Boys of Sudan and Jesse Moss' Speedo.

 

AWARDS ROUND-UP

The WIN Awards, presented by the Women's Image Network, honor films and television that either feature female protagonists or have been directed or created by a woman. The 2004 nominees include Until the Violence Stops (Lifetime Television; Prods.: Abby Epstein, Paulo Netto); Tupac: Resurrection (MTV Films, Amaru Entertainment; Prods.: Lauren Lazin, Preston Holmes, Karolyn Ali); Women and the Badge: Caught in the Crossfire (Oxygen; Prods.: Kathleen Minton Catapano, Kit Laybourne, Allison Howard, Amy Emerich); A Boy's Life (HBO; Prods.: Rory Kennedy, Liz Garbus); Beah: A Black Woman Speaks (HBO; Prods.: Neda Armian, Jonathan Demme, LisaGay Hamilton, Joe Viola); The Day I Will Never Forget (Cinemax Reel Life; Prods: Kim Longinotto); and Jesus, Mary and DaVinci (ABC News; Prods: Jeanmarie Condon, Yael Lavie, Jenna Millman, Rudy Bednar; Correspondent: Elizabeth Vargas).

Gretchen Berland, 40, assistant professor of internal medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT has received the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award. She is a physician who uses her experience in journalism and documentary filmmaking to draw attention to critical health-care issues. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded nearly $1 million for 17 television and radio projects in the humanities. Documentary projects that receive funding include How the Enlightenment Made Our World (Frank Gibney, Claremont, CA: Pomona College); In the Name of God and King: The Spanish Empire (Carl Byker, Los Angeles, CA: KCET-TV); From Slavery to the Chain Gang: Convict Leasing in the American South (Christiane Badgely, San Francisco, CA: California Newsreel); Sinews of War: Money, Battle and the Building of America (Eugene Shirley, Washington, New River Education Fund); Photographer William Gedney's Legacy: Truth and Illusion (Elizabeth Barret, Whitesburg, KY, Appalshop, Inc.); The Great Lakes (David Mrazek, East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University); Thomas Paine: Liberty's Messenger (Joyce Greene, New York, NY: International Center for Global Communications); and Blue: A Case Study of the History and Meaning of a Color (Elizabeth Sheldon, Portland, OR: Oregon Public Broadcasting). and Thoroughly Modern Peggy: The Vanguard Guggenheim (Margaret Koval, Portland, OR: Oregon Public Broadcasting).

Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, prod./dir.) took home the nonfiction and the special jury award at MIPCOM's DVD Awards.

 The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced nominees for the International Emmy Awards. In documentary, the nominations were Canal 13's Testigo, the BBC's Seven Wonders of the Industrial World: Hoover Dam, Channel 4's The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off and Galafilm's The Origins of AIDS. For arts programming, France 5 and Fundación Gala's Cinema Dali is up against Canal Once's Korda, Fotografo en Revolucion, Amerimage's Amelia and the BBC's George Orwell: A Life In Pictures.

 

FESTIVAL WRAP

The Hollywood Film Festival 2004 awarded the Best Documentary to Canadian filmmakers Francois Prevost and Hugo Latulippe's What Remains of Us. The nonfiction film documents a young Tibetan woman's journey back to her ancestral homeland to bring a message of hope from the Dalai Lama to his people.

Jason Gileno's The Chiefs won a Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Documentary at the Atlantic Film Festival. In the Atlantic Canadian awards, Gerry Rogers' Pleasant Street won the Rex Tasker award for Best Documentary and the prize for best direction, including a total of $4,000 in cash prizes. The audience award winner in the feature documentary category was Nina Davenport's Parallel Lines.

Amanda Micheli's Double Dare won the Maverick Award for Best Feature Documentary at the Woodstock Film Festival.

Oxford Scientific Films (OSF) took home the prestigious Golden Panda award and the best soundtrack award at the Wildscreen Festival for its film The Elephant, the Emperor and the Butterfly Tree. The film, a production for the BBC's Natural History Unit, explored the delicate relationship between the elephant, the Emperor Moth and the Mopane Tree. It also picked up the best soundtrack award for David Mitcham and Charles Davies. Other awardees at the festival included: BBC Natural History Unit/BBC Worldwide production Cats Under Serengeti Stars (Granada award for Animal Behaviour); BBC NHU's Really Wild Show- China Bear Special (Children's Choice category); BBC NHU's My Halcyon River (Kodak Cinematography Prize to Charlie Hamilton-James and Jamie McPherson); Missing- Presumed Eaten (Editing, to David Dickie); BBC and Discovery Channel's Giant Claw (Parthenoon Entertainment Award for Innovation).

 

CHANGES AT THE HELM

O'Neill Named Sr. VP at Discovery Health

As reported by c21 Media.com, Discovery Health Channel has named Eileen O'Neill senior vice president and general manager of Discovery Health Channel, after serving as acting general manager for the network since February 2004.

In her new position, O'Neill will serve as chief editorial executive, responsible for strategic development and execution of programming and production strategies. She will also manage the overall direction of the network, ad sales, marketing and affiliate sales to further develop the brand.

Previously, O'Neill was the network's vice president of programming, responsible for shows like Body Challenge and Birthday Live, and before that director of scheduling for the Travel Channel for two years.

 

López Appointed Vice President, P.O.V.

Cara Mertes, executive director of the PBS series P.O.V., announced that Cynthia López has been promoted to vice president. The program is the longest-running showcase for independent, nonfiction filmmaking on television.

López has more than 16 years of experience in television, communications and media, working in the production, programming and promotion of independent films and videos. Her responsibilities for P.O.V. include marketing, branding and strategic planning, while contributing to the overall business development of the organization. In addition to her role as vice president, López will maintain oversight of P.O.V.'s communications and marketing department.

Said López, "P.O.V. is committed to enhancing its core capabilities and services to meet the needs of our audiences. The combination of national visibility for P.O.V.'s independent filmmakers and local community engagement is a winning formula for us, and I look forward to continue my work with P.O.V. in this expanded role." 

 

PASSINGS

Former IDA Trustee and Board Member, Bram Roos, Dies at 55

Former  IDA Trustee and Board member Bram Roos passed away on October 3, 2004, of undetermined causes at the age of 55.

He was perhaps best known for the long-running documentary series produced by his company, FilmRoos. These included several series for A&E, such as 28 episodes of Biography, 30 hours of Ancient Mysteries and five seasons of Mysteries of the Bible (with Multimedia Entertainment); The History Channel's In Search of History; and Discovery Channel's Top Secret.

In addition to his involvement with the IDA, Roos served on the board of People in Progress, a homeless advocacy organization; and as a sponsor of Concern Foundation for Cancer Research.

He is survived by four brothers and one sister.

 

Music Lover Scheuer Dies, Age 82

As reported by the Associated Press, Walter Scheuer, a wealthy investor whose love of classical music led him to produce musical documentaries including the Oscar-winning From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China and support several New York cultural institutions, died on September 20, 2004, at the age of 82.

Scheuer was active in the arts in many capacities, producing several docs on music and opera, including High Fidelity: The Guarneri String Quartet and The Turandot Project, which documented a production of Puccini's opera in Beijing. He was also a trustee of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, financing its first tour of China in 1996.

 

Richard Ellison, 80, Producer of Landmark Vietnam Series, Dies

Emmy-winning documentary producer Richard Ellison passed away in October at the age of 80 at his home in Kingston, Massachusetts. According to an obituary in The New York Times, Ellison died from diffuse Lewy body syndrome, a neurological disease.

Ellison was best known for Vietnam: A Television  History, a 13-part history of the Vietnam War that inspired both critical praise and an impassioned televised rebuttal after it was broadcast on public television in 1983. The doc series won six National Emmy Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Broadcast Journalism Award, among others.

Reviewing the documentary in The New York Times, John Corry called it "a landmark in television journalism." He added: "The series is determinedly even-handed. Vietnam produced a war for polemicists of all persuasions, but the series, delicately balanced, tries hard not to reach conclusions."

Ellison was also well known for his doc Choosing Suicide, which profiled a cancer patient who chose to take her own life. Quite a few PBS stations refused to broadcast the film because of its subject matter.

Ellison's career as a film and television producer spanned 30 years and included CBS Reports, Bandwagon and Look Up and Live. He was also director of current affairs programming for PBS.

 

Rock Cinematographer Myers Dies, Age 90

David Myers, the cinematographer best known for his camera work on such pioneering concert documentaries as Woodstock and Elvis on Tour, passed away in September. He was 90. 

"I was Dave Myers' focus puller on his first fiction feature film: THX 1138. It was 1969. We were both documentary cinematographers at heart and although Dave and I both went on to shoot many fiction projects, we both shot many more documentaries than features. I have probably been a better fiction cinematographer than a documentary one, but Dave moved back and forth with great ease. Dave and I did film side by side during concerts for Joe Cocker and his Mad Dogs and Englishmen and other bands, with heavy, awkward 16mm Eclair NPRs. It stunned me that he could move from one hand-held, perfectly framed shot to another without any zooming or apparent fiddling with focus. Just a seamless continuous move from one beautiful shot to another. Without any help. And he could carry that NPR forever, never resting. I think he even shot the stage scenes on The Last Waltz carrying a 35mm Panavision Panaflex that was as heavy as a stone. Always making beautiful images, completely in sync with those in front of his lens. Dave was an amazing cinematographer and a beautiful, gentle person."

-Stephen Lighthill, ASC

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