June 30, 2004

Short Takes, June 2004


WGBH and Thirteen/WNET Team for New Digital Networks

WGBH Boston and Thirteen/WNET New York have joined forces for World and Create, two new digital cable channels launching in New York and Boston. World will be a more conventional documentary channel, with nonfiction programming about a variety of subjects including culture, science, nature, public affairs, history and business. Create will cater more to lifestyle programming, featuring series and specials about topics such as cooking, crafts, travel and gardening.

Both channels will draw upon Thirteen and WGBH's substantial programming libraries. Already lined up for Create are This Old House and One Stroke Painting with Donna Dewberry; World titles to air include NOVA, American Masters and Ken Burns American Stories. By focusing on specific genres, the channels hope to accommodate viewers with more specific interests and busier lifestyles.

"It's an exciting time: technology is catching up with our mission, opening up new possibilities to inform, inspire and entertain wider audiences, and to reach traditional audiences in new ways," said WGBH president Henry Becton Jr. in a statement.

World and Create launched on March 1, 2004, in Boston and on April 1, 2004, in New York.

NFB and Partners in Motion Seal Agreement

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and Partners in Motion have concluded an agreement granting the NFB worldwide distribution and representation rights to over 200 hours of Partners in Motion programming.

In a statement, Johanne St-Arnauld, Director General, NFB Distribution, said, "At the NFB we have a long and distinguished track record of bringing top-notch Canadian programs to the world. It's only fitting that we're now partnering with Partners in Motion—a made-in-Canada success story."

Programs the NFB will now have access to include the Emmy-winning 13 Seconds, The Kent State Shootings and the series Crime Stories and Weather Untamed.

Philly Communities to Document Their Precious Places

Philadelphia's Scribe Video Center, a nonprofit media arts center, celebrated its 20th anniversary on May 1, 2004, with a special video project, the Precious Places Community History Project. Twenty community groups were chosen to document a place of significance (a building, a park, a street corner) and to tell the neighborhood's oral histories.

Prior to the shoot day, the groups collaborated with a humanities consultant and with experienced filmmakers. The consultant helped to guide the research and explain the process of creating oral histories, provided academic resources and assisted in locating archival materials. The filmmaker facilitators trained community residents in production techniques in preparation for the day of video documentation.

Said Louis Massiah, Scribe Video Center's executive director, in a statement, "Precious Places is an important opportunity for Philadelphia neighborhoods to honor their unique identity in the city's history. Creating an opportunity for community members to document their own neighborhoods allows all of us to see the richness of the city and provides a unique perspective of the city from the viewpoint of the people who live here."

Community groups taking part in the project included, among others, African Cultural Art Forum, Community Leadership Institute, Fair Hill Cemetary, Germantown Historical Society, Ukranian Educational and Cultural Center and Odunde.

According to Massiah, the completed eight-minute docs will be screened at the Prince Music Theater, a converted movie palace that has an active independent film screening series. Scribe will also arrange for screenings of the finished works in the individual neighborhoods that have participated in the project, most likely at libraries, community centers and other public venues. Both of Philadelphia's public television stations WHYY and WYBE are aware of the project and have long histories of showing independent work, so the project organizers are hopeful about arranging a broadcast. In addition, there will be a Web presence through Scribe for the entire project.

Without A Box Free for Filmmakers

Without A Box, the international film festival submission system, is now free to filmmakers for basic submission. At no cost, filmmakers can now open an account, set up an online press kit and apply to an unlimited number of Without A Box partner festivals. Filmmakers are still responsible for festival entry fees.

The company was founded by independent filmmakers who wanted to streamline the film festival application process.

FilmBUZZ Releases Study on Film Festivals

Independent film research and tracking firm filmBUZZ released the first in-depth, nationwide analysis of film festivals in March. The company found that festivals do indeed provide important indicators for the box office success of specialty films. More than 25,000 audience members, 419 unique film titles and 63 festivals were included in the year-long study, conducted throughout 2003.

FilmBUZZ estimates that as many as two million movie-goers attend at least one film festival in the United States each year, reflecting a loyal independent film audience that may be currently under-utilized by distributors.

Other highlights from the filmBUZZ report include a comparison of the demographics of film festival audiences and art house patrons; the playability of films among core audiences and the effect of critical reviews on theatrical revenue.

Long Term Reading

Have a film you're interested in preserving? That National Film Preservation Foundation, the nonprofit organization created by the US Congress to help save America's film heritage, has published two new guides.

The Film Preservation Guide: The Basics for Archives, Libraries, and Museums is written specifically for collection professionals without prior film preservation training. Illustrated with photographs prepared by the George Eastman House, the publication traces the path of film through the preservation process, from acquisition to exhibition, and describes practical methods for handling, duplicating, making available and storing motion pictures for research collections of 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm film. The IPI Media Storage Quick Reference is designed for institutions that store films as part of mixed-media collections.

"These are the first preservation guides designed specifically for the types of motion pictures generally found in American libraries and museums," said Dr. Abby Smith, director of programs of the Council on Library and Information Resources, who served on the project editorial committee. "Both publications answer common questions in plain English and are sure to demystify this highly technical area for scores of research institutions."


Schlessinger Media Acquires ZDF History Programs

Schlessinger Media, a division of Library Video Company, has acquired exclusive US and Canadian non-broadcast distribution rights to The Fall of Great Empires, The Explorations of Vasco da Gamma and Napoleon, produced by ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen), Germany's national public television broadcaster.

The Fall of Great Empires covers history from the beginning of Egypt through to 1806, when the Holy Roman Empire fell to Napoleon. The Explorations of Vasco Da Gamma takes viewers along with da Gamma and his crew on their amazing voyage to India, which forever changed history. Napoleon explores the ruler's importance as a pivotal figure in European history.

Library Video Company is the largest distributor of educational video to schools and libraries in the US and Canada, and Schlessinger Media has produced, co-produced and acquired over 950 of the leading K-12 educational programs in the market.

Women Make Movies Releases 2004 Catalog

Women Make Movies, the nonprofit media organization dedicated to distributing films made exclusively by women, has announced the release of its 2004 Film and Video Catalog, which features 24 new releases that address some of today's most relevant social and human rights issues.

Featured is a collection of films from women in the Middle East and South Asia. Titles include Afghanistan Unveiled, by Brigitte Brault and the Aina Women Filming Group, the first team of women journalists to be trained in that country and For a Place Under the Heavens, by Sabiha Sumar (Who Will Cast the First Stone; Don't Ask Why).

Several projects explore both the political history and contemporary issues in Latin American countries. The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt, by Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes, and War Takes, by Adelaida Trujillo and Patricia Castaňo, both address the current situation in Columbia.

More information about WMM's film can be found at www.wmm.com/catalog/new_releases.

Exhibit This!

As reported in indieWire, Avatar Films has acquired three new documentaries for theatrical release. Saints and Sinners (Abigail Honor, Yan Vizinberg), Kumbh Mela: Short Cut to Nirvana (Maurizio Benazzo, Nick Day) and MC5: a True Testimonial (David C. Thomas) were all shot on digital video, and will be released in theatres on video. The company has a history of reaching out to video-friendly venues across the country, and screening digitally will greatly reduce the costs of getting the films out into cinemas.

Also reported in indieWire, THINKFilm has acquired the North American rights to Overnight, by Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana. The doc tells the story of Troy Duffy, a  writer/director plucked from obscurity when Harvey Weinstein bought his script in the '90s and made a deal with him that included buying the bar at which he worked. THINKFilm plans to release the film this fall.

Coming to a Small Screen Near You...

The Blackchair DVD Collection released The Rainbow Man in March. Directed by Academy Award nominee Sam Green (The Weather Underground), the film tells the story of Rollen Frederick Stewart, a.k.a. "The Rainbow Man," who achieved notoriety during the late 1970s by appearing in the crowd at thousands of televised sporting events wearing his trademark rainbow-colored afro wig. Later, he added a sign reading "John 3:16." The film premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. As a special bonus, the DVD offers three short works by Green: Pie Fight '69 (co-directed with Christian Bruno), The Fabulous Stains: Behind the Movie (co-directed with Sarah Jacobson) and N Judah 5:30.

LA Reels is releasing a new series of public domain films on DVD, featuring classic advertising, educational, industrial and amateur films from 1910 onward. Because they are in the public domain, the films can be used without charge for research, study, presentation or filmmaking. The six titles in catalog focus on cartoons, American history, war propaganda, classic commercials and the war against drugs.

Docurama released two highly acclaimed films on DVD in April. In The First Year, director Davis Guggenheim followed five novice teachers as they struggled to survive their first year in some of America's toughest schools. Intense and emotional, the Peabody Award-winning film cuts through the educational rhetoric to provide a real look at the powerful relationship between teacher and student. Best Boy (Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature, 1979) follows Philly Wohl, a cheerful and lovable 52-year-old man who's been mentally handicapped since birth and still lives with his parents. When his cousin (and the director of the film) Ira Wohl questions what will happen to Philly once his elderly parents can no longer care for him, the family embarks on a mission to help Philly become more independent. On the acquisitions front, Docurama recently added the Academy Award-nominee The Weather Underground (Dirs. Sam Green and Bill Siegel) to its catalog.


IDA Trustee Eastman Kodak received a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) for the development of antistatic layer technology. The new technology controls static electricity that can cause fogging on color intermediate and sound negative films during high-speed printing operations. Kenneth Tingler, Charles Anderson, Diane Kestner and Brian Schell, the team that designed and engineered the technology, accepted for Kodak. AMPAS reserves Scientific and Technical Awards for devices, methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special an outstanding value to the art and science of motion pictures that also have a proven history of use in the industry.

Six semi-finalists for Northern Sights, the National Film Board of Canada short film competition for Yukon filmmakers, have been announced. The films are as follows: Second Chance (Mary Walden); Remote Sensibility (Marten Berkman); Way, Way Upstage (Mitch Miyagawa); Dogs in Concert (Werner Walcher); Yukon Morning Commute (Mark Hill) and Oil for Caribou (Bill Kendrick). Modeled on film development programs in other regions, the competition is designed to encourage creative filmmaking in both the documentary and animation realms while teaching participants to tell a good story within a tight time frame. Each of the semi-finalists will receive development support in the form of $1500 and professional assistance. After this process, three finalists will be selected to receive additional funding to complete their projects.


The Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at this year's South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference & Festival went to A Hard Straight, directed by Goro Toshima. The film, produced by Toshima and Lindsay Sablosky, follows three parolees in their post-prison lives; enjoying their newfound freedom, as well as negotiating the difficulties of re-entering an uncaring and sometimes hostile society. A Special Award for Documentary Feature was given to Witches in Exile, directed/produced by Allison Berg. In Ghana, women accused of witchcraft are torn from their families and banished to witch villages. Berg's film follows these accused women through their daily struggle to survive in the Kukuo Witches Camp. Audience Awards were presented in several categories. The Lone Star State Award went to Tommy Davis' Mojados: Through The Night, in which the director tags along with four migrants from a small village in Mexico as they leave their families and embark on a 120 mile trek across the deserts of Texas, attempting to evade the US Border Patrol. The Emerging Visions Award went to The Naked Feminist, produced/directed by Louisa Achille and co-produced by Stephen Kijak. The film challenges the mythology surrounding women in the porn industry head-on through a series of candid interviews with porn stars, academics and feminists.The film seeks to strip away the ideological straitjacket surrounding the decades old "porn versus feminist" debate. A League of Ordinary Gentlemen, directed by Christopher Browne and produced by Bryan and Alex H. Browne, won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature. The film chronicles the adventures of four professional bowlers' lives when their league is purchased by a trio of Microsoft programmers who hire a Nike marketing guru to turn professional bowling into the next "second tier sports franchise."

The Northwest Film Center congratulates the 27th Annual Portland International Film Festival's Audience Award winners. Byambasuren Savaa and Luigi Falorni's Story of the Weeping Camel (Mongolia) snagged the honors for Best Documentary and Best New Director.

The Seventh Annual Reel Sisters Film Festival gave the 2004 Pioneer Award to arts advocate Joan Sandler.The award is given to women of color who have served as leaders in the visual media industry. Neema Barnette, who recently released her debut film Civil Brand, was honored with the Trailblazer Award. Rhonda L. Hayes received the Best Documentary Feature and Reel Sisters Spirit Award.

HBO will be this year's recipient of the Global Television Outstanding Achievement Award at the 25th Anniversary Banff Television Festival. The winner is selected annually by the Banff Television Foundation's Board of Governors, a who's who of television executives from around the world. The award recognizes a body of work over time and is one of the world's pre-eminent television prizes. Previous recipients include NHK (Japan), TV Globo (Brazil), Canal+ (France), and WGBH Boston (USA). Steadicam will receive the Deluxe Outstanding Technical Achievement Award.