June 2, 2003

Short Takes, June 2003


New Trade Group Formed By Film Libraries

Film and video libraries from leading media organizations have joined forces to form a nonprofit organization called ACSIL, the Association of Commercial Stock Image Licensors. The organization will act as a trade association to raise the profile of stock footage as a creative source for all markets, to conduct research into expanding the business of stock footage and to evaluate new technologies for multiple markets such as ecommerce.

"We're delighted to work together to help further the stock footage industry and to make all of our resources more accessible to independent producers, broadband services, corporations, advertisers and educational organizations," said Matthew White, President, ACSIL, in a statement at the MIP-TV Television Festival. "Film libraries provide an essential service." White is vice president of National Geographic Film Library.

The new endeavor was launched with 11 charter members, including ABCNEWS VideoSource; Berman-Bogdan Productions/footagefinders; CNN Imagesource; Discovery Communications, Inc.; Getty Images; ITN Archive LTD; Jill Hawkins Consulting; National Geographic Film Library; NBC News Archives; Producers Library Service; WGBH Media Library; and the WPA Film Library.

The New York-based organization was formed by footage collections that are responsible for generating revenue out of archives. ACSIL was created to address new complexities in the industry from production (MPEG-2, HD) to distribution (Digital Asset Management and streaming media) to identifying and developing new market opportunities. The Executive Committee includes President Matthew White, Executive Director Jill Hawkins, Treasurer James Jordan and Secretary, Alison Smith.

Toronto Aims to Build New Festival Center

The Toronto International Film Festival Group (TIFFG) has announced a major initiative to create "Festival Centre," a unique, dynamic, international destination that celebrates the world of film. Located on the northwest corner of King and John Streets, the Centre will play host to an expanded screening program, increased educational activities for the public and for the film industry, a publicly accessible archive and film library, a film tribute program and exhibition space to present film-themed museum quality shows.

"Our goal is to provide more access to more films for more people," said Piers Handling, director, Toronto International Film Festival Group, in a statement. "Festival Centre is an adjunct of that vision. With its increased exhibition, archive and installation space, and with the consolidation of Toronto International Film Festival Group programs under one roof, Festival Centre will be an essential tourist destination for film lovers of all ages from all over the world, thereby confirming Toronto as the epicenter of film culture."

In addition to the five-story podium building where the Centre will be housed, the site will also include Festival Tower, a residential condominium development. TIFFG has secured both the site and partners for the project. The King & John Festival Corporation is a partnership comprised of Ivan Reitman, his sisters Susan Michaels and Agi Mandel, and The Daniels Corporation.

In addition to being a key player to the development of Festival Centre, the King & John Festival Corporation also committed to the Group's comprehensive capital and endowment campaign. "We are thrilled to kick-start Festival Centre's comprehensive fundraising campaign through this joint venture with The Daniels Corporation," said Reitman in a statement. "My parents, Leslie and Clara, purchased the land at King and John Streets almost 35 years ago and built their business there. They felt that the downtown core would grow up around this site. The arrival of Festival Centre and Festival Tower creates a wonderful opportunity for a lasting tribute to my parents."

Ivan Reitman, as a producer and director, has created many of contemporary cinema's most successful and best-loved comedies, including Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Dave.

Downtown Media Arts Center on New York Development Slate


Toronto isn't the only city with visions of filmic real estate development dancing in its sites. Empire State Development (ESD) Chairman Charles A. Gargano announced that IFP/New York in partnership with Film/Video Arts (F/VA) were selected to receive a $100,000 grant to create an action plan for developing a Media Arts Center in Lower Manhattan.

"As we rebuild Lower Manhattan, we must take into consideration fresh, ideas that will create an even brighter future for the entire City," said Chairman Gargano in a statement. "By bringing cultural organizations and artists to a downtown Media Arts Center, Lower Manhattan will begin its transformation into a 24/7 destination. This area will not only emerge as it once was, but it will grow and strengthen through arts and culture...I applaud Governor Pataki for his support of this vital industry and would also like to thank IFP/New York and the Film/Video Arts for partnering and bringing their ideas to the forefront of the rebuilding process."

 Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Governor Pataki obtained a $1 million Economic Adjustment Strategy grant award from the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, to help New York formulate a redevelopment strategy.

 The study will discern where and how to create a single focal point for the independent film community in Lower Manhattan. The IFP/New York and F/VA-coordinated study will examine appropriate Lower Manhattan locations, establish a plan for the development of the center and identify potential funding sources, both for its construction and ongoing operation and maintenance.

 The proposed center, which will accommodate office space, film/video screenings rooms, editing facilities, classrooms, special events, conferences and meetings, will be anchored by IFP/New York and F/VA, both of which are well-established, nonprofit organizations in the field of independent film development, production and exhibition. The overall goal of the center is to create a dynamic environment that brings together individuals and organizations from various disciplines and fosters cross-fertilization of their ideas, thus stimulating creativity.

Michelle Byrd, executive director of Independent Feature Project of New York said in a statement, "Combined, IFP and FVA have over 50 years of relationships with independent filmmakers and the film industry. As IFP approaches its 25th anniversary, we are excited by the potential of the center to serve as the physical manifestation of a home for independent artists and their audiences."

Added Eileen Newman, executive director for Film/Video Arts, "This is an exciting opportunity to create a place where filmmakers at all stages of their career can come together to learn, create, view and discuss their work."

New Film School Converges Upon Los Angeles  

Los Angeles now has another film school hoping to launch the careers of the next wave of film gurus. The Academy of Converging Arts, a newly formed international film academy in Hollywood, is dedicated to completing the education of professional filmmakers.  Founded by international stage and film director/writer/producer Daniele J. Suissa, the academy coursework will include master classes and clinics, "Jump SHORT Your Career," an intensive, eight-week digital filmmaking workshop, and private coaching. 

The centerpiece of the academy curriculum is an acting/networking program called L'Atelier, a weekly gathering of filmmaking ­ professional writers, directors and actors.  The workshop, led by Suissa, guides participants through professor- and peer-reviewed sessions to learn about the art of directing through mise en scene.  Class-guided discussions about the storytelling process and regular visits from Hollywood industry luminaries round out the program.

Banff Television Foundation Expands Programming

The Banff Television Foundation has acquired the International New Media Festival in Brudenell, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and will take on the management of News World, the independent forum of the international news industry. Banff will also launch the first-ever World Congress of Arts Producers and Performance.

Pat Ferns, president and CEO of the foundation, expressed his sincere thanks to industry partners for their encouragement and support in making the foundation a world leader in global niche events. "The Banff brand stands for innovation, excellence and opportunity, but none of this would be possible without collaboration. Our ongoing dealings with London's Media Ventures have led to the opportunity to manage News World International; our long standing relationship with IMZ has encouraged us to launch Arts and Performance; and our discussions with Technology PEI have enabled us to acquire the International New Media Festival."

 The foundation is headquartered in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, operating with partners worldwide. In addition to the previously mentioned events, the organization's annual calendar of events includes the following programs in Banff, Canada: The 7th Edition Alliance Atlantis Banff Television Executive Program (January); 24th Banff Television Festival (June); and the 8th Edition Alliance Atlantis Banff Television Executive Program (November). Foundation programs held in Paris, France, include two December programs: the 11th World Congress of Science Producers and the 3rd World Congress of History Producers. 

Patent Nullified for Frazier/Panavision Lens

A federal judge has ruled that Panavision and Australian cinematographer James Frazier deceived the US Patent and Trademark Office about the capabilities of the widely used Frazier/Panavision lens.

Frazier and Panavision's Chief Technical Officer, Iain Neil, had won a Technical Achievement Award from the Motion Picture Academy in 1997 for inventing the lens, but the judge found that Frazier used trick photography with a different lens in an effort to show the patent office that his own lens is able to defy the laws of physics. The Frazier/Panavision lens "displays the same depth of field properties as every other conventional lens system of the equivalent effective focal length," said the judge.

The judge awarded a complete defense victory to Roessel Cine Photo Tech, Inc., of New York and P+S Technik of Munich. Both companies distribute a competing lens system, the T-Rex System, and were accused by Panavision and Frazier of violating the Panavision/Frazier Lens patent.

Peter Toren, a New York intellectual property partner with Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, who represented defendants Rossell Cine Photo Tech and P+S Technik, said "No one is disputing the quality of the Panavision/Frazier Lens System. But what was at stake in this case was whether the Panavision/Frazier lens system could perform certain kinds of extreme focus depth contrary to optical laws, and then claim that it represents proprietary technology. The court found that since he could not bend the laws of physics with his own lens, Frazier resorted to the use of a special photographic lens system in order to approximate what his lens itself could not, in fact, do."

24-Hour Video Race Begins in Dallas

If you happen to be in Dallas on the night of May 9 and notice that the town seems to have been taken over by a bevy of guerilla filmmakers, never fear. You're simply witnessing the Dallas Video Festival's 24-Hour Video Race. The project involves everyone from film professionals to die-hard soloists, to sheer novices, challenging them all to create a five-minute video from start to finish in only 24 hours. To make it a little bit harder, the theme, prop and location are kept a surprise until the beginning of the race. 

 "The 24-Hour Video Race is a great opportunity to unite the North Texas film and video community by engaging them in some fun, friendly rivalry. Having only 24-hours to complete a digital video will make it a true challenge of talent and creativity and grace under pressure," says Laura Neitzel, managing director of the Video Association of Dallas.

Judging of all the videos will be done tournament style. Videos will be grouped by category (pro and amateur) and in smaller groups of 10 to 15 as needed. Three independent judges will rank each video, with top scorers proceeding to the final round.


HBO Adjusts Doc Slate

HBO had planned to broadcast Oliver Stone's documentary Commandante this spring. The film, which depicts three days of Stone's interviews with Cuban President Fidel Castro, premiered at Sundance and then played at the Berlinale in February. However, in light of recent events in Cuba—the crackdown on and jailing of dissidents, the executions of hijackers—airing of the film has been postponed.

Meanwhile, according to zentertainment.com, the cable channel has commissioned Rock Bottom, a documentary about actor Jason Mewes' legal and personal problems stemming from his addiction to heroin. Mewes is known to most as the more loquacious half of the "Jay and Silent Bob" duo appearing in Kevin Smith's movies.  


Wellspring Acquires Raw and Horns

Wellspring announced that it has acquired international rights to two docs, Billy Corben's Raw Deal and Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky's Horns and Halos. Wellspring secured international rights outside of North America for Raw Deal, about an alleged rape at a fraternity house in Gainesville, Florida. Wellspring got international rights exclusive of North and South America and Australia for Horns and Halos, about a small publisher's fight to publish a controversial biography of George W. Bush. Galinsky is an IDA member, and the film came out of the IDA fiscal sponsorship program.


Lourdes Portillo's Senorita Extraviada received the best documentary feature award at Mexico's 45th Ariel Awards, which are given to the country's best films.

The Dan David Prize announced the winners of its 2003 prizes for the Past, Present and Future Time Dimensions. The prize, named after international entrepreneur and auto photo booth developer, Dan David, is funded from a $100 million Dan David Foundation endowment administered by Tel Aviv University. A key facet of the prize is that it "pays forward" where $100,000 of each $1,000,000 award goes to scholarships for young researchers or scholars in the winner's field of studies. Sharing the award for the Present Time Dimension/Print & Electronic Media were photojournalist James Nachtwey, the subject of Christian Frei's Academy Award-nominated War Photographer, and documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman has produced 32 documentaries and two fiction films whose subjects have included the criminal  justice  system, education, medical  care, science,  the military, the  performing  arts, leisure, entertainment and sports.

The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, a program of Sundance Institute, has announced the 14 projects that will receive funding grants for 2003. The fund is dedicated to supporting US and international documentary films and videos that focus on current human rights issues, freedom of expression, social justice and civil liberties. "These 14 projects are powerful stories from Latin America to Scandinavia, the Middle East to Eastern Europe, and the US to South Africa," said Diane Weyermann, Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, in a statement. "From the legacy of the Vietnam War to the current crisis in the Middle East, they illuminate the global society we live in. There could not be a more urgent time for supporting international documentary filmmakers whose work is intended to inform, heal, and inspire." "Work in Progress" grants were awarded to the following: Michael Christoffersen, Milosovic On Trial (Denmark); Saleem Daw, Mafeteeh (Palestine/ Israel); Fabrizio Lazzaretti, Justice (Italy); Hart Perry, Valley of Tears (US); Foke Ryden, The Boy with No Face (Sweden); Jamie Stobie, Freedom Machines (US); and Shiri Tsur, On the Objection Front-A Personal Journey (Israel). Recipients of Development grants include: Simone Bitton, The Wall (France); Doug Block, Two Men Talking (US); Angelika Schuster and Tristan Sindelgruber, Operation Spring (Austria); and David Van Taylor, Advise and Dissent (US). Supplemental grants were awarded to the following: Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz, Garden (Israel); Meema Spadola, Red Hook Justice (US); Liliana Sulzbach, Pink Inferno/Four Prison Stories (Brazil). Created in 2002, the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund is made possible by a $4.6 million grant from the New York-based Open Society Institute (OSI). Originally established in 1996 as the Soros Documentary Fund, the Fund is widely respected for the quality and exposure of the projects it supports.   


Paul Devlin's Power Trip, a look at the political and cultural struggles that surround a power company in Tbilisi, won the grand jury prize for best doc at the Florida Film Festival. The documentary audience award this year went to Elaine Epstein's State of Denial.

Spellbound, Jeff Blitz's crowd-pleasing Academy Award-nominated documentary about the National Spelling Bee, nabbed the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the 27th Cleveland International Film Festival.

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival handed out a variety of awards. Flag Wars, a film from Linda Goode Bryant and Laura Poitras, claimed the $5000 Center for Documentary Studies filmmaker award. This film, which also snagged top honors at its SXSW premiere last month, is a riveting study of the conflicts that emerge when white gays and lesbians begin gentrifying a black working-class neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. The Full Frame Jury Award went to Nicolas Philibert's Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have), a charming study of a year in the life of a one-room schoolhouse in rural France. In an unusual move, the jury was moved enough by the strength of this year's offerings to award an honorable mention to Wedding in Ramallah, a film from the Australian filmmaker Sherine Salama that looks at two Palestinian women who are separated from their husbands in America by the intifada. From Brazil, the gripping, appalling and journalistically rigorous Omnibus 174 (Bus 174) garnered director Jose Padilha the inaugural Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award. Jennifer Dworkin's celebrated Love and Diane continued its triumphant ride through the festival circuit by claiming the MTV News Docs Prize. Travis Wilkerson's An Injury to One picked up the Roland House Editing Prize, while Emily James' The Luckiest Nut in the World snared the CameraPlanet/Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short. The jury also awarded an honorable mention in the latter category to Vance Malone's glass eyeball study, Ocularist.

Aspen Shortsfest awarded the $2,000 Best Documentary prize to Sandy McLeod's Asylum and Bill Guttentag and Robert Port's Academy Award-winning Twin Towers. The latter also won the Audience Favorite selection. The $500 Best Editing award went to Terminal Bar, by Stefan Nadelman. Jay Rosenblatt's I Used To Be A Filmmaker garnered Special Jury Recognition.