October 1, 2002

Short Takes, October 2002


AMPAS Elects Two to Represent Doc Branch

Michael Apted and Arthur Dong have been elected by the members of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to join Frieda Lee Mock in representing them on the organization's Board of Governors.

The Board voted in June to grant the year-old Documentary Branch a full complement of three governors. When the Documentary Branch was created in January 2001, it was represented on the Academy's Board by a single governor, Mock, who was elected to a three-year term. A special election was conducted over the past two months to nominate and elect the two new governors.

Apted will serve a three-year term and Dong a one-year term. With two years to go on Mock's term, the branch is now positioned to elect or re-elect one governor each year, as does each of the other 13 branches.

Oscars Move to Late February for 2004

According to reports in indieWire and Variety, organizers of the annual Academy Awards have confirmed a date change for the 2004 ceremony. The 76th Academy Awards will be moved up to a new late February date from their previous date of late March.

As many other organizations set their clock by the Academy Awards, the date change is causing a shake up in the awards season calendar. Both the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) are considering moving their ceremonies to an earlier date as a result.

WPA Film Library Acquires Ground Zero Footage

It is through the firsthand insight of veteran firefighters Amy Steelman and Lou Angeli that many TV viewers have come to understand the shocking reality of the World Trade Center disaster. Beginning just hours after the attack, the husband and wife filmmaking team spent 16 days in September recording heroic rescue and recovery efforts and documenting the firefighters’ stories first-hand. The historic footage, along with a new collection on the nation’s firefighters, is now available for licensing exclusively from the WPA Film Library.

“The story of the effort at Ground Zero is the story of America over the past year, and is best told through the camera’s lens. Our hope is that this material can be a healing experience for all who watch; a chance to end our year of grieving and look forward once again,” said Steelman in a prepared statement. The couple’s account of the events at Ground Zero was the basis of the upcoming CBS documentary Bound By Courage, which aired on the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedy. It was produced in conjunction with FDNY fire photographer Steve Spak.

In times of distress, Steelman and Angeli “aim for sensitivity, not sensationalism: to provide information, not entertainment,” reports James Careless in Government Video Magazine. “These stories from inside the World Trade Center are a must-see for everyone whose life was changed by the events of September 11, 2001.”

The new collection of footage includes ten hours of coverage of the burning Twin Towers, 16 days of rescue and recovery efforts, 30 hours of footage on the FDNY (1982-present) and 100 hours of firefighters in action – wildfires, floods, firefighter training and rescue efforts. The WPA Film Library is a leading commercial film library, boasting one of the world’s largest collections of high quality historical and contemporary footage.

PBS Primetime Focuses on Independent Lens

Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of PBS, announced at the Television Critics Association Press Tour last summer that independent documentaries will be presented in a series new to the PBS primetime schedule beginning February 2003. Independent Lens, a 10-week fall series that premiered in 1999, will now expand to 29 primetime episodes per year and will be curated by ITVS (the Independent Television Service) and PBS. The series is designed to complement P.O.V., PBS's award-winning 14-week showcase for personal documentary.

"Just as Frontline and Wide Angle offer differing perspectives on contemporary global events, PBS will now have two series – Independent Lens and P.O.V. – to capture more fascinating, compelling stories from the world of nonfiction,” said Ms. Mitchell. “Multiple points of entry for independent producers will inevitably bring a greater diversity of voices and viewpoints to our audience.”

Independent Lens is an anthology series that will present hour-long (and occasional 90-minute) documentaries that showcase the best documentary programming from the US and abroad. Encompassing the full spectrum of nonfiction film, from history to animation to shorts to social-issue films, the series will broaden the scope for documentary filmmakers. It will be curated by a team from PBS and ITVS. The series is made possible by a special launch grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

“We are very pleased to be working with PBS on Independent Lens because it demonstrates PBS' increased commitment to independent filmmakers,” ITVS Executive Director Sally Fifer said in a release. “The series fulfills a 10-year dream on the part of ITVS and the independent community to have a consistent place for nonfiction programming on the national schedule. We look forward to re-launching a smart, creative series that will include a broad range of documentaries, from current events and historical docs to true tales that are stranger than fiction. Think reality TV with a brain.”

ITN opens Left Coast Office

ITN Archive – the archive business of the UK news broadcaster ITN - has opened a new office in Los Angeles, further expanding its US business. The new office, working out of the Reuters LA bureau will establish a dedicated representative in LA, working alongside ITN Archive’s headquarters in London and its New York office. The initiative builds on ITN Archive’s already strong relationship with Reuters, and will also give ITN Archive and its clients greater access to the wealth of locally shot material from the LA/Hollywood bureau, with a particular emphasis on showbusiness and celebrity material.

Dominic Dare, who for the past three years has worked in ITN Archive’s New York office, has relocated to the new LA office. A dedicated ITN Archive presence on the West Coast of the US means that, for the first time, TV producers and film-makers will have a local point of contact they can deal with face to face and in the same time zone.

Sundance Channel Launches Home Video Line

The Sundance Channel has entered the home video business, launching Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, which will release approximately 12 titles per year on VHS and DVD. Showtime Entertainment will distribute the products. The line will be overseen by Paola Freccero, Sundance Channel Senior Vice President of Film Programming, along with Sallie Fraenkel, Showtime Networks Senior Vice President of Program Enterprises and Distribution.

“Sundance Channel has a reputation for discovering independent films that might not find a home in the marketplace and bringing them to a broader audience,” said Freccero in a prepared statement. “In today’s highly competitive film marketplace, there are many outstanding independent films that have limited, if any, theatrical life. Bringing these films to video/DVD means new opportunities for filmmakers and audiences.”


Last Dance plays at Quad Cinema

Last Dance goes behind the scenes with the audacious, innovative dance company Pilobolus and legendary author-illustrator Maurice Sendak to reveal a stormy collaboration. Their shared creative venture—to create a work that confronts the Holocaust—appears dubious at the outset of the film. But the intensity of the artists' conflict is equaled by the power of their achievement.

Award-wining filmmaker Mirra Bank spent over a year with Pilobolus and Sendak. Each artist's idea of the piece was challenged by an opposing vision of equal authority: How much narrative is too much? Will anyone want to see another Holocaust story? Can it be both moving and irreverent? From the first day of improvisation in the studio, Bank followed Pilobolus and Sendak as they transformed a haunting Holocaust legacy into a stark and provocative dance-theater piece that comes to life onstage as A Selection, which quickly established itself as one of Pilobolus' most powerful dance-theater works, and has toured the world.

Banks’ film weaves verite rehearsal scenes, probing interview, rare Holocaust footage and thrilling performance into a uniquely intimate look at the incredible tenacity and wit that drive the creative process when serious artists work together.

Plexifilm Acquires Titles

Independent DVD label and film production company Plexifilm recently acquired several new home video acquisitions. As reported in indieWire, the four films that Plexifilm acquired are Mysterious Object at Noon, a 2002 Thai feature from Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Friends Forever, a 2002 indie rock doc from director Ben Wolfinsohn; Fruit of the Vine, a 2000 skateboarding documentary by Coan Nichols and Rick Charnoski; and Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks ItsBack, a 1998 film about a community in transition by Braden King and Laura Moya.

Plexifilm recently co-produced and is planning the DVD release of I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, a new feature-length documentary about the band Wilco. The film was released theatrically by Cowboy Pictures in August. Plexi also handled the theatrical and DVD re-release of Ciao! Manhattan, John Palmer and David Weisman's cult classic starring Edie Sedgwick. The company also does DVD production work for studios and music labels, and it recently launched Pleximusic, a film music division and soundtrack record label headed by veteran music supervisor Tracy McKnight.

Other DVDs coming from Plexi in the near future include George Ratliff's Hell House, a doc about a fundamentalist church's controversial haunted house depicting modern-day sins; Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen’s award-winning music documentary Benjamin Smoke, Gus Van Sant's debut feature Mala Noche, and Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's graffiti doc Style Wars.


We neglected to include the following Primetime Emmy nominations in the last issue. Here they are: Outstanding Sound Editing For Non-Fiction Programming (Single Or Multi-Camera): Blue Planet: Seas Of Life (Discovery Channel/ BBC; Lucy Rutherford—Sound Editor); In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 (HBO; Brad Grey Pictures; Kunhardt Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; Stuart Stanley—Supervising Sound Editor); 9/11 (CBS; Goldfish Pictures; Silverstar Productions LLC in association with CBS; Ray Palagy, Tony Pipitone, Neil Cedar, John Bowen, Philippe Desloovere—Sound Editors; John Hassler—Foley Artist); The True Story Of Black Hawk Down (The History Channel; 44 Blue Productions in association with Wild Eyes for The History Channel; Andrew McCracken—Sound Editor); When Dinosaurs Roamed America (Discovery Channel/Evergreen Films, LLC; Michael Payne, David Esparza, Nancy Nugent, Jonathon Wareham—Sound Editors)

Outstanding Sound Mixing For Non-Fiction Programming (Single Or Multi-Camera): Blue Planet: Seas Of Life (Discovery Channel/ BBC; Graham Wild—Sound Mixer); In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 (HBO; Brad Grey Pictures, Kunhardt Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; Larry Rock—Production Mixer; Ken Hahn—Re-Recording Mixer); 9/11 (CBS; Goldfish Pictures; Silverstar Productions LLC in association with CBS; Grant Maxwell, Ken Hahn, Danny Caccavo—Re-Recording Mixers); Recording The Producers: A Musical Romp With Mel Brooks ( PBS; Sony Classical; Peter Miller, Roger Phenix—Production Sound Mixers; Lee Dichter—Re-Recording Mixer); The True Story Of Black Hawk Down (The History Channel; 44 Blue Productions in association with Wild Eyes for The History Channel; Marcus Pardo—Sound Mixer).

Christine Courtney and Jocelyn Glatzer are the recipients of the eighth annual Roy W. Dean Film Grant for their documentary The Flute Player. The film tells the story of Cambodian Am Chorn Pond, a survivor of genocide and a gifted flute player, following him on his mission as a human rights leader in healing the scars of his nation's past by returning Cambodia's traditional music to its people. Courtney and Glatzer will receive more than $50,000 in goods and services.

Seven projects documenting mountain culture from locations as diverse as the mountains of Romania and the Coastal Ranges of British Columbia, Canada will receive funding from The Banff Centre's 2002 Banff Mountain Grants Program. The projects reflect the diversity of the world's mountain cultures. This year’s grant recipients with film-related projects are Will Parrinello of the Mill Valley Film Group in California for Dreaming of Tibet, a film on Tibetan culture in exile in Nepal and the United States; Joseph Houseal of Core of Culture, Chicago, for Tibetan Buddhist Cham: Dance Technique and Performance, archival video to preserve endangered ancient dance traditions; Hope Frazier of Ojai, California, for BRUSHY: Between the Halves of my Heart, a traveling exhibition of film, photo etchings and poetry about the environmental and social consequences of mountaintop-removal coal mining in Kentucky; Paul Iacobas of Bihor, Romania, for Celebrating Life, Celebrating Mountains!, a festival and film celebrating the Romania's Apuseni Mountains; and Angela Heck and Ivan Hughes of Fringe Filmworks, Vancouver, Canada, for In the Shadow of the Chief, a television documentary on the climbing history of the Squamish area.


Felix Zurita's El Chogui was awarded Best Documentary at the sixth annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.

The third annual New York International Latino Film Festival presented its best vanguard documentary prize to Testimony: The Mario Guardado Story, by Randy Vasquez. The film traces Salvadoran political activist Maria Guardado as she returns to San Salvador from exile to participate in a march honoring a slain leader.

The Karlovy Vary Film Festival voted Japanese director Kaoru Ikeya's En'an No Musume (Daughter from Yan'an) best documentary over 30 minutes in length, while Filip Remunda's Obec B.(Village B.) took home the short documentary prize. Lucy Walker's Devil’s Playground and Andrei Osipov's Ochota Na Angela Ili Cetyre Ljubvi Poeta I Poricatelja (Hunting Down An Angel or Four Passions of The Soothsayer Poet), both received special mentions.


A New CEO Springs in the Desert

Mitch Levin has been named executive director and CEO of the organization that produces the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. He recently served as production director for both the IFP/West Los Angeles Film Festival and the AFI International Film Festival. Additionally, he has held posts at the Los Angeles Directors Project and the Geneva Performing Arts Festival and has worked as a special representative to the United Nations.

Levine's new role includes oversight of the institutional and creative development of the organization. He will spearhead the roster selection and scheduling for the international fest and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films

“It is a tremendous honor to continue the tradition begun by Palm Springs Mayor Bono in 1990,” said Levine in a release. “My hope is to explore the art of cinema in a dynamic, exciting and engaging way for audiences that love great international and American films and for members of the entertainment industry who seek a place where their work and their art are discovered, nurtured and appreciated.”