July 2, 2003

Short Takes, July 2003


Wildlife Conservation Society And National Geographic Announce Landmark Conservation Agreement

The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Washington, DC-based National Geographic Society announced in April a landmark agreement enabling both organizations to tackle some of the world's most pressing conservation issues.

Under the agreement, National Geographic will bring to bear its multitude of media outlets, including the National Geographic Channel, the National Geographic EXPLORER series that airs on MSNBC, National Geographic Specials on PBS, a radio series, five magazines, books, maps and websites, to tell the story of the work of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, WCS is one of the world's oldest and most respected conservation groups, operating more than 350 conservation projects in 53 countries, along with its four zoos and an aquarium in New York City. WCS, which was established in 1895, is recognized as a leader in efforts to protect a wide range of wildlife, including tigers in Asia, gorillas in Africa and jaguars in Latin America.

The five-year agreement is unique among conservation organizations and media groups. By working together from the beginning on developing content and programming, both organizations are confident that the urgent message of vanishing wildlife and habitats will be communicated in the most effective and compelling manner possible.

"It's been said that ‘in the end, we will conserve only what we love.' No one has more power than National Geographic to inspire millions to love and care about the natural world,' said Julia Mair, WCS vice president for television and media, in a statement. "Building on the strengths of both organizations will help turn inspiration into conservation action."

FX Passes the Buck on Cutler's Candidate

As reported by TelevisionWeek, FX has opted out of the political reality show American Candidate due to escalating costs.

Creator R.J. Cutler and his Actual Reality Pictures will continue pre-production on the show as they attempt to find a new home for it. The series follows the search for a grassroots candidate to run for president of the United States in 2004. Cutler hopes the show will be revealing about the American political process, the media's role in it and what kind of leader Americans are looking for. Cutler (The War Room), no stranger to the documentation of politics, is executive producing along with Tom Lassally and Jay Roach.

Because of the nature of the project, one of the major issues in FX's exit from the project was the large investment of time and money before seeing any return in viewership. This kind of risk can be difficult for a basic cable station still in the process of establishing its original programming. Another issue was the fact that even if the project is successful, it's a one-off concept, making renewal impossible.

FX had committed to 13 episodes, which were to have begun airing in 2004. A companion website (www.americancandidate.com) was to have been launched earlier this year; that has now been delayed until September.

Academy Foundation Names 43 Recipients For 2003-2004

The Academy Foundation, the educational and cultural arm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has distributed $405,000 in financial grants to 43 college and community film programs across the United States. The Academy Foundation's Grants committee, chaired by actors' branch member Janet MacLachlan, selected programs that focus on bringing students together with professional filmmakers.  Grants were made for a variety of types of programs, including internships, education, mentorship, discounted ticketing, visiting scholars and youth workshops.

For internship programs, $10,000 each was allocated to the following: California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California; Columbia College Hollywood, Tarzana, California; Columbia University School of the Arts, New York City; Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, Los Angeles; New York University, New York City; University of California at Los Angeles School of Theater, Film and Television; UCLA Film and Television Archive; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television; and USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Professional Writing Program. Additional grants of $5,000 each were allocated to the Austin Film Society, Austin, Texas; and the Museum of Modern Art Department of Film and Media, New York City.

The American Film Institute (Los Angeles), Directing Workshop for Women received $25,000. The Film Arts Foundation (San Francisco) received $20,000 for the expansion and marketing of its Education Program classes and events. Workforce LA (Los Angeles) also received $20,000 for an Internet version of Acme Animation Program.

Awards for $15,000 were granted to Film Aid International (New York City) for screening programs in refugee camps in Kenya and Tanzania; and to Streetlights (Hollywood, California), for motion picture job development and transitional support services.

A variety of programs received grants for programs that helped traditionally under-represented populations. These include Cleveland High School (Los Angeles), Teen International Media Exchange, a collaboration with Korean students; Independent Feature Project/Chicago, Project Involve Chicago, a mentorship program directed at minority youth; and Independent Films (Aspen, Colorado) Latino Youth Documentary Project, a production workshop for 15- to 18-year-old Latinos, among others.


Artisan Entertainment Rides the Wave of Sports Action Docs

Artisan Entertainment has acquired the North American distribution rights to the electrifying surfing-themed feature Step Into Liquid from Top Secret Productions, LLC.

Step Into Liquid, which generated high acclaim at the recent Tribeca Film Festival, is an authentic, high-performance, yet emotionally moving nonfiction film that covers the broad spectrum of surfing's cultural wavelength. Told through the voices of legends, pros and everyday surfers alike, it is not just a film for surfers but for anyone with an appreciation for sport. Artisan is planning an August 2003 theatrical release.

The film is the directorial and feature film screenwriting debut of Dana Brown (Endless Summer II), whose father, Bruce Brown, directed the 1966 classic surfing documentary The Endless Summer and serves as a co-executive producer on this project. John-Paul Beeghly served as producer and director of photography. Additionally, the film was co-produced by Scott Waugh, and co-executive produced by Bruce Brown and Ray Willenberg Jr. C. Rich Wilson served as associate producer and managing partner for Top Secret Productions, LLC.  

Step Into Liquid marks the latest in a series of action sports-related acquisitions by Artisan. Earlier this year, the company obtained the home entertainment rights to Tamra Davis' high-octane Keep Your Eyes Open, which combines the top action sports athletes on their quest for the ultimate adrenaline rush with the hottest, cutting-edge alternative music. The title is set to debut on VHS and DVD in September. Additionally, the studio is currently finalizing a deal for another action sports-related project.   

HIQI Media & Image Entertainment Pin Down The Backyard

New York-HIQI Media & Image Entertainment have acquired the wrestling documentary The Backyard hot on the heels of its audience award at the Brooklyn Film Festival. In this real-life Fight Club, director Paul Hough traveled the backyards of America to find kids with dreams of wrestling stardom and names like The Lizard, Scar, and Big Mac with a Spork. These amateur wrestlers put on shows for parents and friends using staple guns, razor blades and barbed wire-covered bats in their bloody bouts. 

HIQI Media will open the film theatrically in New York and Los Angeles July 25 with additional dates leading up to Image Entertainment's DVD release.

The film has garnered awards at festivals including The Silver Lake Film Festival, Edinburgh, SXSW, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Coachella Independent Film Festival.

HIQI Media is a distributor of music-based and lifestyle documentaries and recently released Synergy: Visions Of Vibe, Word, and Driver 23 on DVD in conjunction with Image Entertainment.

Love & Diane Hopes to Find National Audience

After rave reviews and enthusiastic audiences at New York's Film Forum and a move over to The Screening Room, Jennifer Dworkin's critically acclaimed documentary Love Diane will began its national theatrical release May 16, starting in Boston's Coolidge Corner Theatre and Facets Cinematheque in Chicago.

The film portrays the remarkable story of a family reunited after being torn apart for six years. At its heart lies the highly charged relationship between a mother and daughter desperate for love and forgiveness, as they struggle against the bureaucracies of the foster care and child welfare systems. Ultimately uplifting, Love & Diane is a real life triumph of the spirit and a profound moving portrait of a family surviving in spite of insurmountable odds.

 "Love & Diane is a truly extraordinary film," said Debra Zimmerman, executive director of Women Make Movies, "We are absolutely thrilled at the success it had in New York in bringing together diverse audiences. It demonstrates the interest in provocative cinema that sheds light on issues that demand our attention but are rarely explored with such poignancy and respect."

Women Make Movies hopes to follow up on the success of Love & Diane this summer with another stint at Film Forum-Yulie Gerstel Cohen's My Terrorist, which opened June 25.


Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Hugo Berkeley's A Normal Life won the top documentary award at the 2nd annual Tribeca Film Festival. Moslem Mansouri's Trial (Mohakeme) won the jury award in the Documentary > 2 competition, for a film by an estabilished doc filmmaker. Kevin Spacey presented the Budweiser/TriggerStreet.com Audience Award in the documentary category to David Berger, Holly Maxson and Kate Hirson's Keeping Time: The Life, Music and Photographs of Milt Hilton. Honorable mentions in the documentary competition went to Laura Gabbert's Sunset Story and Francesco Comencino's Carlo Giuliani, A Boy. In the Documentary > 2 section, an honorable mention was awarded to Nick Broomfield's Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer. Mohamed Zran won the emerging documentary filmmaker award for Song of the Millenium (Le Chant du Millenarie). The award was sponsored by American Express, and includes a cash prize of $25,000 and the services of a PMK/HBH publicist for six months. In the short film categories, Harvey Wang's Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones won the best doc prize. A special citation went to Richard Linklater for Live From Shiva's Dance Floor.

The 10th annual Hot Docs festival honored John Kastner's Rage Against the Darkness with the best Canadian documentary award. The film, which premiered at the festival, follows two elderly sisters who are torn apart when the younger one suffers a stroke. Joseph Blasioli's The Last Round, about working class Torontonian George Chuvalo's boxing match with Muhammad Ali in 1966, received a special jury prize in the best Canadian feature-length category. Eve Lamont's politically charged Squat!, about the battles between squatters and Montreal's city government during a housing crisis in 2001, was recognized with both the best direction award and the humanitarian award. In the international categories, Paul Devlin picked up the best international feature award for Power Trip, about an American power company that provides electricity to the former Soviet republic of Georgia. A special jury prize was awarded to Elaine Epstein's State of Denial, which looks at AIDS in South Africa and the government's inadequate and confusing response. The best first doc award went to Johan Kramer for The Other Final, about a soccer match between low-ranking teams. In the National Spotlight program, focused on UK docs, Kim Longinotto's The Day I Will Never Forget, about female genital mutilation, won the top award, with Qinze Wang's Ou Dede and His Daughters getting an honorable mention. British documentarian Nick Broomfield (Biggie and Tupac) received the annual outstanding achievement award. Audiences picked Canadian director Raymonde Provencher's War Babies, about women raped during war who later give birth, as their favorite film.

The jury at Prague's One World Festival awarded Jennifer Dworkin's Love & Diane the best film prize, and called it "testimony to the transcendent power of struggle and hope, and a testimony to engaged filmmaking."

­The 46th San Francisco International Film Festival presented the VIRGINMEGA Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature went to Charlotte Lagarde and Lisa Denker's Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka'Ehukai. Runner up for Best Documentary went to Franny Armstrong's Drowned Out. Sam Green and Bill Siegel's The Weather Underground received the Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary Feature, Jon Shenk and Megan Mylan's Lost Boys of Sudan won Best Bay Area Documentary Feature, Painting With Light In a Dark World won Best Documentary Short and The Children of Ibdaa: To Create Something Out of Nothing was named the Best Bay Area Documentary Short.

At the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the jury picked Even Becksted's All About My Father as best documentary.

At the Nashville Film Festival, Robb Moss won the best doc award for his The Same River Twice. The audience's choice for best documentary was Mark Moorman's Tom Dowd and the Language of Music.

Walter Stokman's Ash, Worldwide Suicide won the best documentary award at the Brooklyn International Film Festival.

The Philadelphia Film Festival handed out awards in April to the following: Stevie (Best Documentary, Steve James: Dir.); My Architect, A Son's Journey (Documentary Audience Award, Nathanial Kahn: Dir.); and Picture Me An Enemy (FestIndie Best Documentary, Nathalie Applewhite: Dir.).


As part of the 24th BANFF Television Festival's Tribute to U.S. Television, a special presentation will be made to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in honor of its outstanding contributions to the American television industry. The presentation of a special Banff Rockie Award will take place on Tuesday, June 10 during the evening's Tribute! celebrations.

Eleven film students from nine US universities have been selected as winners in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 30th Annual Student Academy Awards competition. The winners participated in a week of industry-related activities and social events that culminated June 8 with the awards presentation ceremony at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The 2003 winners in the documentary category include: Indiana Aria by Elizabeth Pollock, University of California, Berkeley; Left Behind by Christof Putzel, Connecticut College; and Those Who Trespass by Renee Fischer, Stanford University. These students first competed in one of three regional competitions. Each region was permitted to send the Academy as many as three films in each of the four categories. The finalist films were then screened and voted on by Academy members to select the winners. The Student Academy Awards were established by the Academy in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level.


Dentler Takes Charge at SXSW

Following the success of its 10th annual film conference and festival, South by Southwest (SXSW) has announced that Matt Dentler will immediately begin the festival's new role of Film Conference and Festival Producer. Dentler will oversee the daily operations of the SXSW Film Festival as well as the SXSW Film Conference and Panels for its events in March. He will be responsible for the programming of films for screenings as well as programming content and panelists for the event's panels, workshops, mini-meetings and hands-on opportunities.

Dentler will work with Festival Directors Louis Black and Nick Barbaro and
SXSW Managing Director Roland Swenson, as well as the rest of the festival staff on coordinating, planning and running SXSW Film 2004. A graduate of the film program at the University of Texas in Austin, Dentler has been a staff member at SXSW since 2000, working as a programmer and publication editor.

"Matt has proven to be an all around star player," said Festival Director Black in a prepared statement, "helping to program films, coordinate the conference, working with Wendy Cummings on the Trade Show and planning parties as well as handling whatever odd problems come up."

Rick Feldman Named President and Chief Executive Officer of NATPE

Rick Feldman was named president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) at the end of April. He will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and strategic planning of the organization's worldwide activities.  Reporting directly to the NATPE Board of Directors' Executive Committee, he will be based in the association's global headquarters in Los Angeles. Feldman replaces Bruce Johansen, who served in the position for ten years.

Most recently, Feldman was executive vice president and chief operating officer of USA Broadcasting in Los Angeles. While there, he was responsible for overseeing a group of four stations throughout the United States, including WAMI-TV/Miami. During his tenure there, Mr. Feldman launched independent stations in such major markets as Dallas, Atlanta and Boston on behalf of USA. 

Regarding the announcement, Peggy Kelly, chairperson of NATPE and senior vice president, global client services, Universal McCann, noted, "Rick's breadth of experience in television is well suited to lead NATPE and he will be charged with developing new initiatives to satisfy the needs of our domestic and international constituencies. Working with the Board, his mandate will be to position NATPE for the future. I am delighted to have him join NATPE as its new leader so that together we can realize our goals for the organization and our industry."


Michaela Denis, 88, Passes on to Greener Pastures

Pioneering wildlife documentarian Michaela Denis died on May 4 of undisclosed causes at the age of 88. She spent most of her time traversing Africa with her late husband, Armand, recording everything from elephants in the Congo to headhunters in New Guinea. Their programs were first broadcast on British television in the 1950s.     

The two were known for their intimate voiceovers, Armand's heavily-accented, scholarly voice complementing the enthusiastic Michaela's. Quite camera-friendly, she is credited with helping to attract viewers to their programs. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, their expedition gear always included her makeup case. Though she said that cosmetics helped her make friends with native women, who were fascinated by such items as lipstick, she later admitted she also wanted to be glamorous.                           

The couple met at a party in New York City, and married during a filmmaking trip in La Paz, Bolivia. They built a house outside Nairobi in the late 1940s, and had additional homes in New York City, Florida and Antwerp, Belgium. 

WGBH's David Ives Dies at 84

David Otis Ives passed away on May 16 at the age of 84 while visiting family in San Francisco. The Cambridge, Massachusetts resident, former head of public broadcasting station WGBH-Boston, helped build the station into a national jewel for the Public Broadcasting Service.

Ives' career at WGBH spanned 40 years. He first joined the station in 1960 as assistant general manager of the WGBH Educational Foundation, and director of development. He was president and CEO of the station from 1970-1984, and remained vice chairman of the board of trustees and chairman of its executive committee until 2001.

Ives was responsible for bringing such favorites as NOVA, Frontline, Masterpiece Theater and Mystery! to prime time. He also oversaw daytime how-to shows, including cooking shows with Julia Childs and This Old House. Ives also initiated community-based programming with shows such as La Plaza and more recently, Basic Black, a long-running program focusing on African Americans.

Ives was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and received his MBA from Harvard in 1943. He served in the Navy for six years, and was then sent to California to make training films for the Navy Department. He subsequently worked as a journalist for The Wall Street Journal and WBZ-TV-AM in Boston before beginning his tenure with WGBH.

Ives is survived by his second wife, Patricia Howard Ives; two sons, David and Stephen; and five grandchildren. Also surviving are three stepsons, a stepdaughter and seven step-grandchildren.

Linda Mabalot, 49, Filmmaker and Founder of Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film and Video Festival

Linda Mabalot, the longtime head of the Los Angeles-based Visual Communications, a nonprofit media arts and advocacy organization for Asian-American filmmakers, died on May 19 of cancer.

Mabalot joined the staff of Visual Communications in 1977 and took the helm of the organization in 1985. She created the Asian Pacific Film and Video Festival, which grew to become one of the largest festivals of its kind in the country.

During her tenure at Visual Communications, she also learned the art and craft of filmmaking, and directed and produced Manong, a documentary about Filipino-American farm workers in Central California, and one of the first documentaries about Filipino Americans.

Her other projects included Planting Roots: A Pictorial History of Filipinos in California; Moving the Image, which aired on the International Channel Network; Hiroshima 20 Years Later; and Imaging: A Century of Asian Women in Film. Mabalot will best be remembered for nurturing the careers of scores of Asian-American filmmakers.

She is survived by her mother, two sisters and nieces and nephews.