June 1, 1997

Short Takes, June 1997


June is the month of travel for IDA execs. Executive Director Betsy A. McLane, having skyed to Gotham for confabs in April and May—first, for the very successful seminar on budgeting, held at AIVF on April 24th, with Mel Stuart holding forth; then, for an HBO-sponsored gathering of our trustees on May 21st—returns to the Big Apple for an HBO evening with Jessica Yu, on June 12th. IDA prexy David Haugland is representing the Association at Vue sur Jes Docs/Sunny Side of the Doc, tin Marseilles. Haugland then jets to Budapest with his Academy Award® nominated Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker, at the invitation of the 3rd Hungarian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

P.O.V. Celebrates its 10th Anniversary on PBS

The award-winning series P.O.V. launches its tenth summer season on PBS, redoubling its commitment to bringing bold, personal and independent visions to television viewers. The same series that brought audiences such award-winning films as Michael Moore's Roger and Me (1992), Christine Choy and IDA member Renee Tajima's Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1991), Peter Friedman and Tom Joslin's Silverlake Life: The View from Here (1993) and IDA member Freida Lee Mock's Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision (1996), P.O.V. promises more vibrant stories that explore diverse cultures, stimulate debate and encourage viewer involvement. Founded in 1988 by Mark N. Weiss and headed this year by Executive Producer Lisa Heller, P.O.V. has evolved from a broadcast film festival to a working laboratory for exploring creative opportunities that serve the public interest.

"P.O.V.'s goal is to gather a provocative and far-reaching array of independent films and catapult these works in a most effective and creative way into American life," says Ellen Schneider, executive director of American Documentary, Inc., the organization that produces P.O.V. "In our first ten years, we've proven that powerful stories can do more than just create a buzz; they can inspire people to actually engage with each other. The next ten will prove how dynamic and productive these interaction s can really be."

LA Independent Film Fest Honors "Sick"

Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist captured the top award at the 3rd Los Angeles Independent Film Festival last April . The J(jrby Dick documentary graphically chronicles the life, art and craft of performance artist Bob Flanagan , whose lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis inspired him to create and perform works that rejected the pity and pathos that death portends and embraced a righteous rage to live on his own terms. Sick has left an indelible mark on the 1997 festival circuit so far, garnering great reviews from critics and awards from audiences, but incurring the wrath of some documentary fans, for whom nailing one 's penis to the wall—a much-discussed and debated scene from the film—is not their cup o' Joe.

McVey Leaves AFI Fest for American Cinema Foundation

Gary McVey was appointed executive director of the American Cinema Foundation this past April. He was formerly director of the AFI International Film Festival. The ACF currently honors films and individuals that embrace "values that tie Americans together "; it also sponsors screenwriting contests and conferences. McVey will be spearheading a new project entitled the Freedom Film Festival, a traveling series designed to "insure that audiences get a wider range of movies, issues and ideas ."

Documentary Guide Recently Published

Dan Einstein, a television archivist at UCLA, recently released Special Edition: A Guide to Network Television Documentary Series and Special News Reports, 1980-1989. The voluminous compendium, totaling over 900 pages, documents more than 2,400 American network programs and includes information ranging from content description to production and technical credits.

Pat Mitchell Named President of Time Inc.-Turner Original Productions

IDA Trustee Pat Mitchell has been named president of Time Inc.-Turner Original Productions, expanding her current duties as president of Turner Original Productions. Mitchell 's newly created position gives her overall responsibility for all new television extensions of Time Inc., magazines and brands, adding to her existing responsibility for developing, commissioning and supervising all Turner Original Productions projects. In her new role, Mitchell will work with Joelle Attinger, executive editor of Time Inc., and with the company's individual divisions, to coordinate au stages of program development and identification of network partners and, when needed, assemble production staffs and supervise production. Though maintaining her base in Atlanta, Mitchell will now have an office in the Time & Life Building in New York.

Women Make Movies Celebrates 25 Years

Women Make Movies recently celebrated its 25th anniversary of training women to become film and video makers and expanding distribution and exhibition activities for women. Over the past decade, Women Make Movies 'distribution service has rapidly grown into an internationally recognized resource; the organization now distributes over 400 films by emerging and established women artists to media arts centers, museums , theaters, libraries, communities groups throughout the United States and around the world. The WMM Production Assistance program has assisted more than 2000 films and videotapes to completion.

In commemoration of this landmark year, the Museum of Modem Art in New York hosted a six-week retrospective of WMM collections. Included in this retrospective are Conjure Women (IDA members Demetria Royals and Louise Diamond); Girls Like Us (Jane Wagner and IDA member Tina DiFeliciantonio); and Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter (IDA member Deborah Hoffman).

Festival/Awards Roundup

Home Box Office was honored at WorldFest-Houston for Best Television Production for Smoke Alarm: The Unfiltered Truth about Cigarettes, and Dallas' Holden Productions won the Best Documentary Production Award for America's Games. HBO also received four Peabody Awards for Programming Excellence: The Celluloid Closet (IDA member Rob Epstein, producer); How Do You Spell God?; The Journey of the African-American Athlete; and Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (IDA members Joe Berliner and Bruce Sinofsky, producers/directors). Other Peabody-winning documentaries included Vote for Me: Politics in America (Center for New American Media , Midnight Films and WETA-TV, Washington, DC, producers) ; Frontline: The Gate of Heavenly Peace (Long Bow Group Inc. and Independent Television Service, producers); Frontline: The Choice' 96 (Frontlin e/WGBH—TV, Boston, and Helen Whitney Productions, producers); NOVA: Odyssey of Life (NOVA/WGBH—TY, Boston; Agaton Film and Television; Swedish Television; SYTI; ZDF-Arte; and Channel 4, London; producers); People's Century (BBC, London; and WGBH-TV, Boston, producers); The American Experience: The Battle over Citizen Kane (The American Experience and Lennon Documentary group/WGBH TV, Boston, producers); The Great War and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century (KCET-TV, Los Angeles and BBC, London, producers); and Survivors of the Holocaust (Turner Entertainment Group, Atlanta; and Steven Spielberg, in association with Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, producers).


Allan Francovich, a documentarian whose most celebrated work probed the Central Intelligence Agency's covert operations in other countries, died of a heart at tack in Houston at 56. The film, On Company Business: A Documentary History of the Central Intelligence Agency, caused a stir among audiences when it first played in theaters in the early 1980s. It went on to win the International Critics Award at the Berlin Film Festival and the Jury Prize at the Leipzig Film Festival. Francovich's most recent documentary, The Maltese Double Cross, examines the tragic 1988 destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbee, Scotland. It won first prize at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Robert Saudek, who creating the pioneering Omnibus television series from the 1950s and early 1960s, died in Baltimore last March at the age of 85. Omnibus grew out of a project initiated by the Ford Foundation, which hired Saudek to head its TV/Radio Workshop in 1951. What followed for the next ten years was one of the most innovative and valuable programs of its day. Predating and perhaps anticipating the National Endowment for the Arts, Saudek shared his passion for the arts week after week, introducing a national audience to such luminaries as Agnes De Mille, Leopold Stokowski, Pablo Casals, Arthur Rubinstein, Marian Anderson, Igor Stravinsky, William Saroyan, Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould. He later went on to produce such programs as Profiles in Courage, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic and Sol Hurok Presents.

He complemented his producing career as founding president of the Museum of Television & Radio and finally as head of the division for motion pictures, broadcasting and recorded sound for the Library of Congress.


In its short life, the Internet, along with its various servers and searchers, has made a tremendous impact as a communications medium and an informational resource. As the Internet offers new and innovative opportunities every day for documentarians, ID will monitor some of these developments and share them in Cybertakes. If readers hear of new Web sites, chat rooms, or online services before we do, please let us know.

Hot Docs! '97 on the Web

The new Hot Docs! web site was launched in February on the Sympatico Internet Service, Canada's premier internet service and web site. The site will showcase and celebrate the great Canadian and international independent documentary productions of the year. It can be found at http://www1.sympatico.ca/hotdocs/.

FCC Invites Your Comments

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is fielding comments from the American people about their opinions on and experiences with the ratings system. To contact the FCC, write to 1919 M St., NW, Washington, DC 20544; fax: 202-418-2801; e-mail: vchip@fcc.gov; website: http://www.fcc.gov/vchip.

Other web sites that address the ongoing developments in the television ratings issue:

Center for Media Literacy

Children Now

Center for Media Education

TV Industry Ratings Group

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

San Francisco Museum Launches First Multimedia CD-ROM

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) recently introduced its first multimedia publication, the educational CD-ROM Voices & Images of California Art. With 40 video and audio clips of selected California—based artists, more than 150 illustrations of artists' work, over 75 photographs of the artists and more than 250 original letters, diary entries and archival documents organized into artist—by artist sections, Voices & Image s of California Art represents a new form of scholarship and knowledge—building that has become possible with the digital age. The CD-ROM was developed by SFMOMA's Education department as part of the museum's New Technology Initiative, a venture designed to help shape new media technologies and ensure their use as effective educational tools.