September 1, 2002

Member News, September 2002

Daniel Alpert received a $270,000 grant from The Irving H. Harris Foundation for production of A Doula’s Story. The film follows remarkable doulas—birth coaches, mentors, educators and advocates—as they nurture pregnant teens through childbirth and parenthood,fostering hope and empowerment for them and their new babies.

Co-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato are currently working on their first feature, Party Monster, with a cast that includes Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Dylan McDermott and Wilmer Valderrama. The film is about legendary club kid Michael Alig, and is adapted from James St. James book, Disco Bloodbath. The directors had done a nonfiction version of the story, hich debuted at Sundance in 1998. Party Monster has been in development for quite some time; Brad Simpson developed it at Killer Films,and the project was jumpstarted about two years ago when colleague Jon Marcus sold the filmmakers on making the movie on video. Sofia Sondervan brought the movie to Ed Pressman,and Content Film joined on last year to put up financing for the movie, along with Fortissimo Film Sales.

Adrian Belic is currently in production and seeking finishing funds for Knightsbridge. This feature documentary harkens back to the legends of knighthood and chivalry, the raw energy for which the Wild West was immortalized and the spirit that makes America great, not just powerful. The camera follows Ed Artis and Jim Laws, two Vietnam War era paratroopers whose idea of adventure is taking desperately needed food and medicine into the world’ most dangerous places. Both men are members of a self styled order of The Knights of Malta, and in 1995, they formed Knightsbridge International, a unique humanitarian aid organization whose motto is “High Adventure and Service to Humanity.” Their specialty is going where death from landmines, bullets, or bombs is as frequent as death from hunger, disease, or exposure. Belic (Genghis Blues) has followed the Knightsbridge team on humanitarian missions for two years and has returned with a seat of your pants, no holds barred adventure into some of the most forbidding places in the world. Knightsbridge is being made in the cinema vérité style of his previous Academy Award nominated film, Genghis Blues.

Broadcast News Networks has unveiled a new corporate indentity—CameraPlanet—and a new corporate structure that recognizes the recent growth and development of the company from a news production entity into a vertically integrated media company. Historically a leader in media innovation, the company has produced hundreds of hours of programming for clients that include A&E, CNN, CBS, NBC, etc. Current film projects include Facing Arthur, about a remarkable Holocaust survivor and how he deals with a new generation of Germans, and 7 Days in September, a theatrical feature about 9/11 and the aftermath.

Seattle producer/director Ann Coppel’s documentary Virginia Harvey – A Legacy in Fiber Arts premiered at the Seattle Asian Art Museum this past June. Sponsored by Northwest Designer Craftsmen, this documentary is part of the Living Treasures video portrait series, which documents the work, philosophy and achievements of the Northwest’s most influential senior craftsmen. Among many contributions, Ms. Harvey is credited with sparking the Macramé craze that swept the country in the 1960s.

Family Fundamentals, a new film by three-time Sundance Award-winning filmmaker, Arthur Dong (Licensed to Kill, Coming Out Under Fire), will begin a six-city East Coast tour in June. The film will be showing in New York City; Boston; Provincetown; Los Angeles (October 18, Laemmle’s Music Hall Theater); Philadelphia; Portland, Maine; and at a benefit for Lambda Legal in Edgewater, New Jersey (hometown to one of the people in the film). Dong will attend many of the screenings. The film explores fundamentalist attitudes towards homosexuality and its effects on family, faith, and the nation's political landscape.

Producer/director Lorian T. Elbert just completed Dignity II, a one-hour doc on the closing of the only all-women's home for the mentally ill in Seattle. Chip Taylor Communications is distributing the documentary. Dignity II will be screening at 911 Media Arts in Seattle on October 23, at 7:30 p.m. www.schizophrenia.healthyplace2.com.

Paul Espinosa was inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Hall of Fame for its 20th Annual National Convention this week. Espinosa is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker whose documentary and dramatic work has focused on US and Mexican issues along the border. Prior to forming his own company, Espinosa Productions, in 1997, Espinosa served as executive producer for public affairs and ethnic issues for KPBS-TV in San Diego and as senior producer and director of the KPBS Office of Latino Affairs. Espinosa’s work has been screened at festivals around the world, and has won many awards, including eight Emmys, five CINE Golden Eagle awards and two Ohio State Awards, among others.

Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire, a new PBS documentary series now in production, is staffed by the following IDA members: Lyn Goldfarb and Deborah DeSnoo, producers/directors/writers; Joan Owens Meyerson, writer; Izumi Tanaka, associate producer; and Britton Rizzio, production coordinator. Scheduled as the tenth release in the critically acclaimed EMPIRES strand, this three-part series is co-produced by IDA trustees Devillier Donegan Enterprises and PBS. Through first-person accounts of both Japanese and Westerners, Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire reveals the little-known stories of samurai, shoguns and geishas during one of Japan’s most fascinating periods of history—the Togukawa shogunate between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Doug Hawes-Davis reports that The Naturalist, a half-hour film about Ozark woodsman Kent Bonar, was broadcast nationally on Free Speech TV last June. The film premiered at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in 2001, and screened at the 2001 Savannah Film & Video Festival in Georgia. Montana filmmakers Doug Hawes-Davis and Dru Carr worked over a period of four years to complete the film. E-mail: dhd@highplainsfilms.org

Two films for which The Hemmerling Foundation provided underwriting have been making the rounds on the festival circuit. West 47th St, a stark portrayal of mental illness on the streets of New York, has been to Cinéma du Réel in Paris, the Vancouver Film Festival, DocLands in Dublin, CINEQUEST in San Jose, and festivals in South Korea, Cleveland and Washington, DC. Life is an Attitude, the story of Ron Heagy, founder of the first totally accessible summer camp for disabled children, screened at The New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. The Hemmerling Foundation also reports that it has entered into a ten-year donative agreement with Lichtenstein Creative Media; Nine@Night Films, under the direction of Rob Nilsson; and Piazza del Popolo Productions, under the direction of Robert Viharo and Paige Olson-Viharo.

Aviva Kempner, whose previous film was the award-winning documentary The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, has begun principal photography in Los Angeles on her script Today I Vote for My Joey, a short about the 2000 US presidential election in Palm Beach County. Starring Lillian Adams, Eve Brenner, Rowena King, Eve Sigall and Larry Gelman, with a cameo by comedian Paul Provenza, the comic tragedy depicts a group of older Jews and a Haitian nurse kvelling before they vote for Joseph Lieberman, the first Jewish vice-presidential candidate, and their shock afterwards when they realize that they had mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan and had been denied proper access to the polls. Produced by the Ciesla Foundation, the film is being made under the auspices of the AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women (DWW). David Waldman is the director of photography.

Vinnie Kralyevich executive produced Bravo Profiles: Geena Davis, which aired in July in conjunction with the release of Stuart Little 2, in which Davis plays “Mrs. Little.”

Director Mickey Lemle’s Ram Dass Fierce Grace opened at the Nuart in Los Angeles this past June. The feature documentary captures the spirit and wisdom of spiritual leader Ram Dass, author of the best seller Be Here Now. Formerly known as Richard Alpert, who, with Timothy Leary, was one of the first to research and explore effects of LSD, Ram Dass suffered a stroke in 1997 that left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. The film poignantly reveals how he has used his current predicament to become his greatest teaching. www.zeitgeistfilms.com.

Joan Owens Meyerson has been nominated by the Writers Guild of America, West Nominating Committee to be a candidate for its Board of Directors elections to be held this month. Owens Meyerson, a former member of both the IDA and WGA boards, is currently a member of the WGA Organizing Committee, and is the only nonfiction writer on this year's nominating slate.

MPH Entertainment’s two-part special, Founding Brothers, premiered on The History Channel this past May. The film is executive produced by Jim Milio, Melissa Jo Peltier and Mark Hufnail.

Producer/director Nigel Noble has two documentaries airing in September. Portraits of Grief premieres on The Discovery Channel on September 9. Produced and directed with Sonia Slutsky for New York Times Television, Portraits of Grief is based on the award-winning column of the same name that appeared in The New York Times since the terrorist tragedy of September 11, 2001. The one-hour special will celebrate the lives of 18 people who died that day. The program will include home videos, impressionistic original footage, still photographs and interviews with family members and friends. Gangs - In or Out of the Life?, a documentary about leaving gang life in Los Angeles, premieres on Showtime on September 29. The film uses a variety of cinematic styles, including music video, drama and cinema vérité to tell the story of four young people turning their backs on their respective gang lives, and gives voice to the ex-bangers who will recount the stories of their lives in gangs and surprise us with their honesty, intelligence and creativity.

Mark Ostrick completed production on the documentary Open Hearted.

Steve Rosen, co-director/editor/camera of the film Accidental Hero: Room 408, tells us that the documentary will have its broadcast premiere on PBS on September 19. The film, co-directed with Terri DeBono, tells the story of Tommie Lindsey, an extraordinary man who is changing the lives of his San Francisco public school students by introducing them to a little known academic sport called “forensics.” Accidental Hero has important messages about the tremendous potential that young people from diverse backgrounds can realize when they are given the support of good teachers and ample educational tools.

Rich Samuels and Sven Berkemeier report that their film Kafkaesque played at its fifth film festival, The Long Island International Film Expo, this past July.

Jerry Shevick, Executive VP of Documentary and Reality Programming for Actuality Productions/Hearst Entertainment, reports August broadcast premieres on The History Channel for several of the company’s projects: Modern Marvels: Towing; Modern Marvels: Nordhausen; and Modern Marvels: Magnets.

Director Jay Spain reports that his film Live and Let Go – An American Death, written and produced by Jay Niver, had its world premiere at DancesWithFilms this past July. This groundbreaking documentary about Sam Niver's dying plea for doctor-assisted suicide has previewed to film and advocacy groups in New York, Boston, Indianapolis, LA and elsewhere.

Jonathan Stack reports that the film he co-directed with Jon Osman had its world premiere at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival this past June. In the film, the directors investigate the 1995 killing of two Hispanic teens by NYPD detectives during a stakeout in the Bronx. One detective was Mayor Giuiliani’s former bodyguard. Carefully researching the events and questioning witnesses and investigators, the film builds a steady, powerful argument for cover-up at the highest levels.

Erika Street of LogIn Productions reports on that the documentary Fenceline: A Company Town Divided, which depicts the struggle of an African-American community in Norco, Louisiana, to be relocated from under the shadow of an oil refinery owned by Shell. The film (www.logtv.com/fenceline) aired this past July on PBS as part of the 2002 P.O.V. series. It won the John Michaels Memorial Award at the Big Muddy Film Festival, the Platinum Award in News and Documentary at the Houston International Film Festival - Worldfest, and a Certificate of Merit in Environment at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Fenceline was selected for screening at the Cinefeuille Film Festival, the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival, the Athens International Film and Video Festival, and the Malibu Film Festival.

Carlos TavaresThe Confederate Flag Still Flies in the South aired last March on KCSM TV and in July on WEBB-19 TV. The documentary now is available at Amazon.com.

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