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Fast Foreword:The Editor's Column, August-September 2003

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

When you go to the theater, you experience something larger than life. To see a documentary in the theater, whether at a festival, a museum, an art house or an IMAX theater, you make a commitment to discover new places and meet new people. For two hours, you don't move much, yet you're transported. You're provoked. You're animated. And when it's over, you and the people with whom you have shared space are a community. You're talking, or you're speechless. You're inspired. You're stunned. You're enraged.

That's what the theatrical experience can do.

We devote this issue to the many permutations of exhibition, and the many issues and challenges involved. Elizabeth Blozan looks at the art house scene, talking to various commercial exhibitors about life in a post-Columbine world. Stephanie Mardesish gives us a cook's tour of alternative, nonprofit spaces and centers around the US, affording us a sense of opportunities for screening short and feature-length documentaries. Laura Almo investigates the challenges of finding homes for shorts, while Ray Zone checks out the world of large format exhibition . Looking into the future, Robert Harrison talks to filmmakers, exhibitors and technical savants about the possibilities of digital cinema as a cost-effective vehicle for filmmakers and exhibitors alike. As a bonus, there's even a film about theatrical exhibition—Cinerama Adventure—and Bob Fisher profiles its maker, Dave Strohmaier.

Also included in this issue are three case studies, of sorts, of filmmakers who took their works to the theaters themselves, discussing how they got there and what they found. Bridget Boyle talks to Mark Moskowitz, who's been touring his award-winning film, Stone Reader, around the country for much of this year. Michael Galinsky shares his experiences of distributing his and partner Suki Hawley's film Horns and Halos. And Martin Doblemeier discusses the unique approach to getting the word out regarding his film Bonhoeffer, about a German clergyman who resisted the Nazis and paid the ultimate price for it; he screened it in churches, synagogues and temples.

The past two years have been good for documentaries: MacGillivray-Freeman's large format film Everest set a record for the highest grossing documentary of all time, while Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine became the highest grossing regular format documentary ever.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's a lot of work to be done. And while we are grateful for all the venues that have always championed documentaries of all lengths, we should be barnstorming the multiplexes—and the studios. Well, barnstorming...but also trying to figure that whole nexus out. The studios do have their specialty divisions that take on nonfiction works and, yes, the multiplexes do occasionally screen them. But let's be creative about keeping the doors open.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White