May 1, 2002

Short Takes, May 2000

May, with alle tht floures and thy grene,
Welcome be thou, faiere, fresshee May.

-Geolfrey Chaucer

 

And May could not have come any sooner for the intrepid crew at IDA after a month of packing up nine years of growth and expansion, loading up the trucks and heading eastward, to the Los Angeles Center Studios downtown. The years at the Robertson Production Center have been good to us, but we went about as far as we could go, and the time was right for lightin' out for the territory. Many thanks and a fond farewell to all our neighbors at Robertson—Mel Stuart, Harrison Engle, Douglass Stewart, Nick Clapp, Bob Guenette and everyone else, especially "slumlord" Ben Bennett. These individuals built the IDA from the ground up, watched it grow, took turns in the President's chair and finally shed tears as IDA left the nest for more expansive digs.

And the beat goes on. No sooner had the last crate been wheeled off the U-Haul when Exec. Betsy Mclane jetted off to Toronto to take her seat on the Hot Docs jury. A month earlier, IDA Board member Thelma Vickroy had overseen the proceedings at the fledgling Sun Valley (Idaho) Documentary Film Festival. Meanwhile in New York, East Coast Coordinator Susan Berry continues to commandeer IDA's New Millennium Production Seminar Series, which runs every Tuesday through May 23 at Eastman Kodak's office on 360 West 31st Street. Many thanks, as always, to Eastman Kodak and PBS for helping to make this seminar series possible.

 

NEWS BRIEFS

 

Discovery Launches New Channels

Discovery Networks international, the international programming distribution division of Discovery Communications, announced in March the introduction of two new channels—Discovery Health and Discovery Travel and Adventure. Discovery currently encompasses 15 entertainment brands available in 47 countries, reaching approximately 1.2 billion people.

Discovery is committing $100 million to the global launches of the two channels, which join Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Discovery Kids as the global brands among Discovery's real world entertainment channels. Discovery Health was launched in the United States last summer, while Discovery Travel and Adventure has been successful in Europe.

ABC's Nightline Commemorates 20 Years

It began as a nightly vigil of the American hostage crisis in Iran, and over the next two decades it would break new ground in news broadcast programming, bringing together parties representing opposing sides of an issue, holding town meetings and more than holding its own against the laughter and lightness of most late-night fare. On March 24, ABC News officially celebrated 20 years of Nightline, a span that has earned the program 41 Emmys; Ted Koppel has guided Nightline from the beginning, overseeing landmark shows on apartheid, AIDS and the Middle East peace process.

AIVF and NAMAC Team Up for Regional Tour

The Association of Independent Film and Video (AIVF) and the National Alliance of Media Arts Centers (NAMAC) are kicking off a Media Arts Environmental Scanning Tour (MAESTRO) this month to Los Angeles, Buffalo and New Orleans. Representatives of the two organizations will work with local media arts organizations for three days of screenings, studio visits, dialogues and workshops. In addition, Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media will convene panels in each city of local artists, organizations and funders to explore the challenge of media funding today.

For more information on the MAESTRO tour, check www.aivf.org, or call 323.871.8554 for the Los Angeles leg of the tour; 212.807.1400, ext. 244, for Buffalo; and 504.523.3818 for New Orleans.

Reifenstahl Injured in Helicopter Crash

Leni Reifenstahl, the notorious Geman documentary maker, suffered broken ribs when the helicopter carrying her and film crew crashed in the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan in February. Reifenstahl recuperated in a Munich hospital.

The 97-year-old filmmaker is best known for her films Triumph of the Will and Olympia, both of which she made under the auspices of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Reifenstahl is the subject of two feature films currently in development in Germany and the United States, respectively.

 

CHANGES AT THE HELM

 

Colin Brown Named Cinesite CEO; Scovill Tapped to Head U.S. Operations

Colin Brown was named Chief Executive Officer of Cinesite, Eastman Kodak's digital motion imaging business. Brown, who has headed Cinesite (Europe) Limited since its founding in 1994, will continue to be based in London. Ruth Scovill was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer of the US subsidiary, Cinesite, Inc., based in Los Angeles. Scovil comes to Cinesite from DreamWorks SKG, where she was in corporate strategic planning. Prior to that, she was head of technology for feature animation.

Cinesite was founded in Los Angeles in 1992 and has since provided a complete range of visual effects and restoration services for narrative films and TV commercials. Cinesite also provides digital film scanning and recording services for customers around the world and provides film inspection and archiving services for studios and independent producers.

A&E, History Channel Promote Two Execs Following Brooke Bailey Johnson's Departure.

Brooke Bailey Johnson recently resigned from A&E after ten years as Executive Vice President and General Manager. "The time is right for me to leave because A&E's ratings have never been better," Johnson told Variety. She will continue as a consultant with A&E.

Dan Davids, who was instrumental in getting A&E's sister network The History Channel on the air, was promoted to Johnson's former position. Davids has been with A&E for 15 years. In addition, Abbe Raven was named Executive Vice President and General Manager of The History Channel, replacing Davids. Raven had been Senior Vice President of Programming at History Channel.

 

DOCS WATCH

 

IDA member Cary Tarpinian's latest film Operation Thunderbolt—The Entebbe Hostage Rescue, a co-production through his company Morningstar Entertainment and Powersports Millennium International and The Learning Channel, aired on TLC in February and was showcased at MIPDoc in Cannes last month....

According to a report on indieWlRE, Barry Blaustein's Beyond the Mat faced some considerable opposition prior to theatrical release from the subject of the film: the World Wrestling Federation. The WWF initially banned television advertising of the film during WWF telecasts, then it tried to stop the film's distributor. Lion's Gate, from depicting or referencing WWF in any advertising for the film. Beyond the Mat was released despite the WWF's warnings of legal action and has been enjoying a successful run on the festival circuit as well (see FESTIVALS ROUNDUP)....

According to Variety, On the Ropes, the IDA Award-winner and Academy Award nominee, has been optioned by Warner Brothers for a fictionalized feature to be directed by Brad Silberling and written by Ann Peacock. Silberling will focus on the story of Tyree Matson, the stand-out female boxer whose rising career is waylayed by a highly questionable conviction for drug trafficking. "I'm interested in collapsing a lot of elements and loyalty and focus and putting them onto Tyree," Silberling remarked to Variety."She reminds me of the human tenacity from my mentor Marty Ritt's Norma Rae, another character who shows strength and perseverance in the face of so little hope." ...

Crossover, Justin Lin's short documentary about the 70-year history of Japanese-American basketball leagues, and IDA member John Esaki's Top of their Game, an hour-long doc that profiles well-known and little-known Japanese-American sports heroes, both premiered at the Japanese American National Museum in February...

Devillier Donegan Enterprises's EMPIRES series of pre-archival historical documentaries got off to a good start in February with the national PBS broadcast of The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization. The airing was received enthusiastically by critics and viewers alike. The next two strands in the series, Islam: Empire of Faith and Napoleon, will air on PBS this fall...

Colleen Sturtevant of Zen Pictures is currently in production on Heart of the Earth, which she began filming at Earth Day 2000 in Washington, DC, last month.

 

AWARDS ROUNDUP

 

Congratulations to producer Arthur Cohn and director Kevin MacDonald for their Academy Award for Best Achievement in a Documentary Feature for One Day in September. Susan Hannah Hadary and William A. Whiteford's King Gimp won the Oscar for Documentary Short Subject.

IDA member Owsley Brown was the Independent Sprit Truer Than Fiction Award for his documentary Night Waltz: The Music of Paul Bowles...

Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen took the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries for their muchlauded On the Ropes. The other nominees included Barry W. Blaustein for Beyond the Mat; Marc Levin for Thug Life in DC; Errol Moris for Mr. Death: Tha Rise and Fall of Fred Leuchter, Jr.; and IDA member Gary Weimberg for The Double Life of Ernesto Gomez Gomez...

Michael Kirk and Peter J. Boyer won the Writers Guild Award for Documentary/Current Events for Give War a Chance, a FRONTLINE program for PBS; the WGA Documentary/Non-Current Events award went to Stephen Stept for Hoover Dam, a program for PBS's AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Lori A Boles and ABC's 20/20 shared the News Writing award...

IDA member Erin Flannery and Marianna Yaravskaya, both students at University of Southern California, took first and second place, respectively, in the Documentary category at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College Television Awards for Judy's Time and Undesirables. Bradford Luck took third place in the News, Sports and Magazine category for Impact...

Producers Marilyn and Hal Weiner and their Washington, DC-based production company Screenscope were awarded a $1.1 million matching grant from the National Science Foundation for their PBS series JOURNEY TO PLANET EARTH, the first continuing television series to deal exclusively with important environmental and sustainable development issues... 

At the RealScreen Summit in February, IDA member Tod Lending was presented with the Innovation in Documentaries Award for his film Legacy...

The following films won CINE Masters'Series Awards in February: Televised—American Buffalo: Spirit of a Nation, Judith Dwan Hallet Productions; Non-Televised—Journeys, Donna Lawrence Productions; Amateur/Pre-professional—Ilyanovich Rasputin, North Carolina School of the Arts. In addition, CINE presented its first-ever Leadership Award to Tim Kelly, President of National Geographic Television...

At the CINE Golden Eagle Awards, IDA member American Movie Classics (AMC) were honored with eight awards, including six in the nonfiction categories: The Arts—Hollywood Fashion Machine: People & Persons—The DeMille Dynasty and Lee Marvin: A Personal Portrait; Documentary—Behind the Planet of the Apes, Between Heaven and Hell: Hollywood Looks at The Bible, and Small Steps, Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood...

Filmmakers Jacques Giraldeau and Michael Snow earned Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Among the films to be preserved with grants from the National Film Preservation Foundation include home movies of Ernest Hemingway; footage of Lakota Sioux life in the 1940s; actualities of the Alaska Statehood Convention (1955-56): studies by industrial designer Noman Bel Geddes; and portraits of Appalachian craftsmen. Recipients of the grants include Alaska Film Archives, Anthology Film Archives, George Eastman House and Pacific Film Archive

 

FESTIVALS ROUNDUP

 

Jason Rosette took Best Documentary honors at the New York Underground Film Festival for Bookwars, while Chris Wilcha's The Target Shoots First was awarded for Best Music Documentary.

Target also  won the Documentary Feature Award and Audience Prize for Best Documentary at the 2000 South by Southwest Festival, while Aiyana Elliott's The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack and James Ronald Whitney's Just, Melvin were honored as runners-up. Barry Blaustein won the Audience Prize for First Film in the documentary category for Beyond the Mat and Dennis Karsten's Kingdom of Poet O took the Documentary Short award...

Just, Melvin was also honored at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, earning the Insights Award for Best Documentary, while IDA member Kevin McKiernan's Good Kurds, Bad Kurds won the Human Rights Award...

At Cinequest San Jose Film Festival Blaustein's Beyond the Mat look the Best Documentary award and earned an honorable mention for the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary. That prize went to IDA member Lisa F. Jackson's Life Afterlife. Other honorable mentions at Cinequest included Six Days in Roswell, by Timothy B. Johnson, and X-Philes, by Chris Clements and Maria Bowen....

Surviving Abyssinia, Elizabeth Jackson's doc about Ethiopia was named Best Documentary at the Hollywood Black Film Festival...

This month's Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival was inundated with entries for its inaugural Toronto Documentary
Forum, with over 100 entries from around the world vieing for 36 pitching slots. The selected projects came from all over the world, with 19 from North America, seven from Australia and New Zealand, eight from Europe and one each from Russia and Iceland. The Forum is modeled after the FORUM for International Co-Financing of Documentaries in Amsterdam and is presented with their co-operation. The Festival itself will screen over 80 docs from Canada and around the world....

 

PASSINGS

 

Don Klugherz, Award-Winning Documentarian, Dies at 84

Don Klugherz, whose long, distinguished career earned him many accolades, died in Florida in March at age 84.

Klugherz served in the Signal Corps in World War II as a combat cameraman, writer and director. He directed 20th Century for CBS and NET Journal and The 51st State for PBS. Other films in his canon include The Real JuliaMarked For Failure, Women in Sports, The Great Black Hope and American Samoa: Paradise Lost?. Over the course of his career, he earned a Blue Ribbon and a Red Ribbon at the American Film Festival; a CINE Golden Eagle; and Best Documentary of the Year from TV-Radio Life Magazine.

Klugherz is survived by his wife, two daughters, a grandson and a sister.

 

CYBERTAKES

POPFEST Launch Announced at Yahoo! Festival

The Yahoo! Internet Life Online Festival made its debut in LA in the middle of Oscars month last March and for two days was the talk of the town. The biggest announcement of this jam-packed cyberfest was the formation of POPFEST, a user-generated feature of the much anticipated site POP.com, which will showcase independent shorts, animation, games and other digital programs. POP.com is driven by some of the biggest names in Hollywood—Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Jeffery Katzenberg and David Geffen. New York-based indie producer and attorney John Sloss, joined the POP.com team, which is headed by Dan Sullivan.

Kodak and Qualcomm to Team on Digital Cinema Initiative

Eastman Kodak Company announced at Showest last March an agreement with San Diego-based QUALCOMM to collaborate on testing of core technologies for the creation of a high-quality digital cinema system. QUALCOMM, a leader in developing and delivering innovative digital wireless communications products and services, will work with Kodak to incorporate compression, encryption and watermarking techniques into a prototype digital projection system that Kodak is developing.

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