April 30, 2004

Short Takes, April 2004

Microcinema Announces New DVD Label

Microcinema International has announced the launch of The Blackchair Label, its own independent DVD label and distribution catalog featuring compilations of international short film, video and moving image arts, along with underground feature films. The Blackchair Label will draw heavily from the over 1,000 international short films and videos that Microcinema International has presented since 1996 through its flagship screening series Independent Exposure.

The label will feature two kinds of custom-produced compilations. The Blackchair Sessions will be limited edition collections of works created by some of the most preeminent film and video artists from around the world. Each will be curated and designed by the artist(s). Independent Exposure DVD Compilations and DVD singles will be reasonably priced compilations of Microcinema's nine-year old series, as well as individual films and videos.

"The production and distribution of DVD titles are the next logical steps for us," said Patrick Kwiatkowski, founder and business director for Microcinema International. "After years of screening Independent Exposure around the globe, we can now provide an effective and economic distribution avenue for artists to connect directly to audiences and vice versa."

Granada and ITN in Archive Deal

Granada International and ITN have agreed, in principle, to a deal for ITN to manage and market the Granada footage archive. The partnership will bring together over 120,000 hours of Granada programming with the more than 500,000 hours of footage already managed by ITN Archive, making it possibly the biggest archive representation deal of all time in the UK.

ITN represents Reuters, British Pathe and Channel 4 archives as well as all ITN output, with material dating from 1986. The Granada footage archive contains some of the most well-known and iconic television ever produced, spanning over 40 years of the company's history. The archive includes exclusive footage of Martin Luther King in the UK, the Beatles playing in the Cavern, and shows like Coronation Street, I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! and World in Action.

Mark Wood, chief executive of ITN, said in a statement, "This now positions ITN Archive as one of the world's largest TV-based collections...By bringing together such a wonderful range of material with our existing collections, we can provide producers and filmmakers with an unparalleled choice of visual content."

IFP Producers Lab Includes Documentarians for First Time

For the first time, documentarians participated in the last two Independent Feature Project/LA's Producers' Labs. The Lab is an intensive seven-week program designed to help producers working in independent film improve their craft. A maximum of ten projects are be accepted into each Lab.

Academy Award-nominated writer/producer/director Jessica Sanders participated in the lab with After Innocence, a feature doc about the exonerated-people who have been wrongfully convicted and freed by DNA evidence. According to Sanders, the film is important to the public's awareness and understanding about wrongful conviction and the human toll it exacts.

IDA member Elaine Holliman was at the lab with her doc Homeschooling. Director/writer Holliman's first film was a short called Chicks in White Satin, about lesbian weddings.

 "I loved having them in - it brought something fresh into the lab," says Josh Welsh, Filmmaker Labs Administrator. "They were both in the midst of production, whereas the narrative features were at the script stage, so they really raised the level of discussion when it came to post-production. So many issues for indie producers are the same-low budgets, negotiating dealing with directors, going through post-production."

According to Welsh, they tailored the lab specifically to the documentarians' needs by pairing them with the appropriate advisors. Sanders was matched with Penelope Spheeris (We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n Roll, The Decline Of Western Civilization) and editor/producer Dody Dorn (Memento, Matchstick Men, Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan (editor); Chain Camera (producer)). Holliman was matched with former IDA President David Haugland (Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker).


Distribution Pacts Announced for Docs

Docs continue to make the journey to the big screen. Miramax has acquired North American rights to the family-friendly Deep Blue (Andy Byatt, Alastair Fothergill, dirs.) a British/German doc that explores life above and below the ocean's surface. North American distribution rights to Paul Devlin's documentary, Power Trip have been acquired by New York-based film company Artistic License. The film screened during a two-week engagement at New York's Film Forum and received a best documentary nomination for the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards. DIG! (Ondi Tominer, prod./dir.) which follows two bands, the Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre, during a seven-year period has announced a distribution deal for the film with Palm Pictures for theatrical rights and Sundance Channel for television. The two companies will work together in marketing the release.

MacGillivray-Freeman Partners with Microsoft for DVDs

MacGillivray-Freeman Films (MFF) has joined forces with Microsoft Corp. to release ten MFF giant screen film titles in a pioneering series of high-definition companion DVDs created using Microsoft's Windows Media High Definition Video (WMV HD). Consumers can watch the films using their Windows XP-based PC or in home theaters using Windows XP Media Center Edition. The first title to be released will be Coral Reef Adventure, MFF's successful IMAX film. 

WMV HD titles offer video resolution of up to 1080p, approximately six times the resolution of standard DVD video. The films will be available at retail in two-disc DVD sets that contain them both in standard definition as well as a companion DVD disc with a version of the film in high-definition video and 5.1 channel surround sound using WMD HD. MFF's DVD and WMV HD titles are being produced by Big Picture Digital Productions and distributed by Image Entertainment.


The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) presented a special award of recognition to Kevin Brownlow during the 18th Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards on February 8, in recognition of his unique and successful efforts to preserve irreplaceable silent movies and document the history of that seminal era in film history. Brownlow is a filmmaker and self-taught historian, who in addition to overseeing the restoration of films, has authored a series of books including The Parade's Gone By. Several of his books provided the foundation for Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Short Film, a 13-part documentary series that Brownlow scripted, directed and produced in collaboration with his long-term partner David Gill.

Peter D. Parks, one of the industry's foremost microphotographers, has been voted the Gordon E. Sawyer Award by the Board of Governors at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Sawyer Award is "presented to an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry." Parks is perhaps best known for his ability to photograph small life forms and has been called upon by numerous directors to provide unusual images of the microcosm. He recently worked on the IMAX film Bugs!

The Corporation was named by the Toronto International Film Festival Group as one of the recipients of Canada's Top Ten 2003.

Gina Kwon was selected as the recipient of the 2004 Mark Silverman Fellowship for New Producers by the Sundance Institute. The award supports visionary independent producers who have committed to a film project and still face the challenge of moving forward into production. The Los Angeles-based Kwon has a long-standing relationship with Flan de Coco Films, the company formed by director Miguel Arteta and producer Matthew Greenfield. She has also produced documentaries for television, including co-producing R.J. Cutler's series The Residents and associate producing American High, which won the 2001 Emmy Award for Best Non-Fiction Series.

The Horizons/Frameline Film & Video Completion Fund awards grants of  $2,000-$3,000 for projects in the final stages of production. The Fund was established eleven years ago to assist lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender filmmakers in the final stages of production. To date, more than 60 productions have been completed with assistance from the Fund, including Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir's The Brandon Teena Story, Wayne Salazar's Destroying Angel and Yvonne Welbon's Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis @100. Winners for 2003 include: Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria by directors Victor Silverman and Susan Stryker; You Don't Know Jack by director Mary Jordan; Zero Degrees of Separation by director Ellen Flanders; and John and Michael (fall down and giggle at the stars) by director Shira Avni.


The inaugural Global Peace Film Festival, held in Orlando, Florida, this past December decided to acknowledge not just the filmmakers, but also the real heroes of their films about global peace and justice. The jury awarded $8,000 to be split between Peter Hegedus and the subject of his doc, Balazs Meszaros, of Inheritance: A Fisherman's Story. An award of $1,000 and Final Cut Pro software was given to director Rebecca Cerese for February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four. The festival also awarded $1,000 and AVID Express software to director Barbara Hammer for Resisting Paradise.

Documentary winners at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival included: Ondi Timoner's  DIG! (Grand Jury Prize); Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski's Born Into Brothels (Audience Award); Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott's The Corporation (Audience Award—World Cinema section); Morgan Spurlock for Super Size Me (Documentary Directing Award); Ferne Pearlstein for Imelda (Documentary Cinematography Prize); Kim Dong-won's Repatriation (Freedom of Expression Award); Catherine Tambiani and Carlos Sandoval's Farmingville (Special Doc Jury Award).

Elsewhere in Park City, the 10th Annual Slamdance Film Festival awarded prizes to the following: Brett Ingram's Monster Road (Jury Prize for Best Documentary) and Elena Elmoznino's Freestyle (Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Documentary). Additionally, the doc jury issued a statement of disappointment with a court injunction that prevented the public screening of Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal.


Cowan Takes the Reigns In Toronto

Piers Handling, director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, and Michèle Maheux, managing director, announced the appointment of Noah Cowan to the position of Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival . 

 Cowan is jointly responsible for the overall programming and administration of the festival, in close collaboration with Handling during a three-year transition period.

 "We're delighted to announce this appointment," said Handling in a statement.  "Noah's extensive programming background as well as his recent experience in film distribution and other industry initiatives will serve us well as we plan the future of our festival. He has the vision and the energy to help us reach our long-term goals."     

Cowan previously worked with TIFF in 1989, when he co-founded the Midnight Madness program; he became an international programmer in 1995 and associate director of programming in 1997. He left the festival in 2001 to devote more time to Cowboy Pictures, a New York-based art house distributor, which he co-founded in 1999. Most recently, Cowan was the co-creator and executive director of Global Film Initiative, a nonprofit foundation devoted to the worldwide promotion of cinema from the developing world.

Filmmakers Join NFB's Aboriginal Filmmaking Program

Acclaimed Aboriginal filmmakers Gil Cardinal, Zacharias Kunuk and Jennifer Podemski have joined the programming committee for the National Film Board of Canada's Aboriginal Filmmaking Program (AFP).
Initiated in 1996, the AFP is a designated funding envelope of $1 million per year for the development and production of documentaries and other works by Canadian Aboriginal directors.

Cardinal's career in film and television began in 1973. His documentary work covers a broad range of topics, including the Gemini Award-winning Foster Child, and David With F.A.S., an examination of fetal alcohol syndrome. Cardinal's latest NFB documentary Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole was chosen as Best Documentary at the ImagineNative Media Arts Festival, and premiered in February on CBC Newsworld.

Kunuk is director and co-producer of the world's first Inuit feature film, the groundbreaking Igloolik Isuma/NFB coproduction Atanarjuat—The Fast Runner, winner of six Genie Awards and the Camera d'or at the Cannes Film Festival. President and co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc., Canada's first Inuit-owned independent production company, Kunuk also made the documentaries Arvik and Nipi.

An award-winning actress, Podemski is also a filmmaker whose documentary Pamieci (Remember) premiered on CBC in November 2003. With her partner Laura J. Milliken, she co-created, produced and exec produced Mocassin Flats, the first dramatic series to be created, written, produced and performed by an Aboriginal production team.  


Charlotte Zwerin, Collaborator with Maysles Brothers, Dies at 72

Editor's Note: Charlotte Zwerin passed away as we were going to press. We will have a more extensive tribute to her in the next issue.

Charlotte Zwerin, whose career in documentary filmmaking spanned over 40 years, died in January of lung cancer at her home in Manhattan. She was 72.

Zwerin is best known for her work with David and Albert Maysles, editing and co-directing the epochal films Salesman (1969) and Gimme Shelter (1970), as well two films about the artist Christo: Running Fence (1978) and Islands (1987).

Her solo work outside of Maysles Films included portraits of artists such as Willem de Kooning—De Kooning on de Kooning (1981)—and Isamu Noguchi—Sculpture of Spaces: Noguchi (1995). Her lifelong devotion to music—she had been married to jazz critic Michael Zwerin—is evident is such works as Horowitz Plays Mozart (1987), Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1989), Music for the Movies: Toru Takemitsu (1994), and Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For (1999).

Born in Detroit in 1931, Zwerin attended Wayne State University, where she started up a film society. She later moved to New York City, where she worked as a librarian, then as an assistant editor, for the CBS documentary series The 20th Century. She subsequently worked for Drew Associates, the pioneering collective of cinéma vérité filmmakers, then branched out with the Maysles brothers.

Zwerin is survived by a brother and a sister.

Susan Zeller, RealScreen Editor, Dies from Pulmonary Embolism

Susan Zeller (née Rayman), editor of RealScreen, passed away in December 2003. She has given birth to a healthy baby boy, but died from complications a week later.

Said her colleague Diane Rankin, "Apart from being one of the nicest people to know and work with, Susan's passion and professionalism have been key to helping build RealScreen into the magazine it is today. She cared deeply about her team, the magazine and the documentary community overall, and the respect and admiration is mutual."

Zeller joined the magazine's editorial team in January 1999 and became the magazine's editor in 2002. She is survived by her husband, James Zeller, new-born son Evan, her brother Sean, sister Alison, niece Julie and nephews Damian and Cameron.

In memoriam, a fund account has been created in baby Evan Zeller's name. Contributions can be made by contacting Evan Zeller Account, Scotiabank, 110 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON, Canada M5V 2K4.