September 1, 2002

Short Takes: September, 2002


Film Friendly California

California Governor Gray Davis helped the California Film Commission (CFC) kick off 2002 in a big way, expanding and improving its landmark “Film California First” program by adding more opportunities for filmmakers to reduce below-the-line costs when filming on public lands. Already embraced by film, television and commercial production companies, Film California First (FCF) reimburses location fees and covers local, state and federal personnel costs, excluding local police, when filming on public land – up to $300,000 per project. As announced by Governor Davis in January, FCF now offers higher caps on location fee reimbursements, in addition to rebates for multiple location shoots by the same production company occurring on the same day.

“We are very excited about these new enhancements to the Film California First program,” said CFC Director Karen Constine in a prepared statement. “This program helps filmmakers lower their production costs and helps them complete their projects here in California.”

Effective immediately, FCF’s enhancements include an increase in caps for film permit fees (from $500 to $1,000/excluding local permits), public location fees (from $500 to $1,500), and public equipment (from $250 to $500). Public labor reimbursements remain unchanged (the FCF does not reimburse local police.)

In addition, FCF allows reimbursements for multiple film shoots by the same production company on the same day. Finally, fire department spot-check fees and public-notification fees associated with filming on public property can be reimbursed as well.

Constine said that users can expect to receive their checks four to six weeks after applying. Updated guidelines are available on the Website. Announces Fall Programs

Media That Matters Film Festival, a program of the socially-conscious organization, is launching a focus on youth with “reActions: Get Into the Issues,” co-hosted with Web Lab and YouthNOISE. The program is an online discussion centered on youth-made films in the festival where young viewers will respond to the work presented in small online groups.

Also this year, Connect for Kids will sponsor the Fight Family Poverty award. This year's recipient is the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families’ My Family, My Neighborhood, My Story, a personal film about a woman’s dreams for her family as she fights conditions in her working class community in Milwaukee. was founded in July 2000 as a nonprofit media arts and activist organization to promote documentaries as a means to encourage action and inspire dialogue on timely social issues.


Women Make Movies Acquires Georgie Girl and Escuela

Women Make Movies has acquired the New Zealand doc Georgie Girl, directed by Annie Goldson (Punitive Damage) and Peter Wells, and Escuela, directed by Hannah Weyer and produced by Jim McKay (Girls Town, Our Song).

Georgie Girl reveals a fascinating profile of Georgina Beyer, a Maori ex-sex worker who became the world's first transgender person to be elected to national office. Now under the WMM banner, Georgie Girl continues it’s successful festival run throughout North America with upcoming screenings.

“The acquisition of Georgie Girl marks an historic moment at Women Make Movies, “said Executive Director Debra Zimmerman, in a prepared statement. “It is the first documentary in the organization’s vast collection of films and videos by and about women to tell the story about the triumph of a male-to-female transgender person. We strongly believe that this film will convey how queer issues are also feminist issues.”

In Escuela, director Weyer returns to the Luis family, which she profiled in her critically-acclaimed feature doc, La Boda. She now follows young Liliana over the course of her freshman year in high school and the obstacles she faces as one of eight children in a migrant worker family. Escuela was the recent recipient of the 2002 MTV/News/Docs Award at Full Frame(née DoubleTake), one of the country’s preeminent documentary film festivals, and winner of special jury prize awards at both the San Antonio Cine Festival and the South by Southwest Film Festival. The film aired nationally on PBS’ P.O.V. last month.

Women Make Movies is a national nonprofit media arts organization dedicated to the production, promotion, distribution and exhibition of films and videos made by and about women. Established in 1972 to address the under-representation and misrepresentation of women in the media, Women Make Movies is the largest distributor of women’s films and videos in the world.

Artisan Finds Harmony in Tale of Music and Apartheid

Artisan Pictures has acquired North American distribution rights to Lee Hirsch’s Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony, which examines the role of music in stamping out apartheid in South Africa. The film won the Freedom of Expression award and the Documentary Audience Award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

“This is a very intriguing film because it showcases a unique form of political struggle through music and ideas that make it very accessible to audiences,” commented Artisan Executive V.P. Patrick Gunn in a prepared statement. "We are very selective about which documentary films are championed, and this is a film which we all wanted to support.”

Miramax Attaches Itself to Clips

The documentary Paper Clips has been acquired by Miramax Films for worldwide theatrical and home video distribution. The film is about a rural Tennessee middle school class and its quest to honor the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust by collecting a paper clip for each life lost in the tragedy.

The film is produced by Joe Fab, Ari Daniel Pinchot (associate producer for The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg) and Robert M. Johnson. The Johnson Group's Elliot Berlin and Fab are directing the project, which Fab also is writing. Ergo Entertainment's Donny Epstein, Yeeshai Gross and Eli Landau are executive producing.

Commented Miramax LA president Mark Gill in a prepared statement "In a world short on empathy, cross-cultural understanding and tolerance, this remarkable film gives us a ray of hope and inspiration for our collective future.”

Redglare! Shines Light on Morra

Rockets Redglare!, a documentary by Luis Fernandez de la Reguera, has just completed post-production. The film tells the story of Rockets Redglare, born Michael Morra. Born to a 15 year-old heroin addict and a career criminal father, Michael went through countless detoxes in his lifetime. Eventually, his father was deported to Italy, and his mother was murdered by her junkie boxer boyfriend. After his mother’s death, Morra transformed himself into Redglare and went on to explore his own tragic beginnings through stand up comedy and landing numerous roles playing characters not unlike himself or derived from the rough and seedy neighborhoods that were his home.

Looking at Morra’s irreverent comedy and his lust for life, the film follows him on his travels through some of the darkest worlds of decadence that have ever existed in New York City. The fight to survive the emotional consequences of a traumatic childhood and live, despite the physical damage from years of alcohol, heroin and methadone, is his ultimate battle.

NFB Commits Criminal Acts

Director Tony Snowsill and National Film Board of Canada producer Tracey Friesen are in production on the NFB documentary Criminal Acts (working title).

William Head is a medium-security federal penitentiary located 30 kilometers outside Victoria, British Columbia. Despite its pristine location, Williamn Head is still a prison, replete with violence, crackdowns and lockdowns. This is the environment in which the William Head on Stage Theatre Society (WhoS) has been mounting plays for the inmate population and general public for 20 years.

Through the participation of inmates and prison administration, Criminal Acts follows the real life drama of prison life as the inmates prepare for the 2002 spring production of two short plays that resonate within the prison environment—The Cage by Mario Fratti, and Edgar Allen Poe's The Telltale Heart.

Douglas/Steinman Wraps My Heart

Douglas/Steinman Productions has just wrapped production on Luboml: My Heart Remembers, a personal look at the vibrant Jewish community of Luboml, a Polish shtetl that no longer exists.

Producer Eileen Douglas was in production on a documentary about her grandfather, who had lived in a shtetl, when was contacted by Aaron Ziegelman, a survivor of Luboml and founder of the Aaron Ziegelman Foundation. He was about to donate his collection of artifacts from Luboml to The Library of Congress. Douglas’s piece made him realize that there might be another way to tell the story that could reach a larger audience.

Douglas and her production company traveled to Luboml, Ukraine, to shoot the film, spent hours recording the town’s survivors and pored over thousands of photographs. This is the first time the survivor’s emotional stories were captured on film and preserved for future generations to see.

Says Ziegelman, “It’s very important to me that everyone realize that before these people became victims, they were first individuals. Life in Luboml was real. It had highs and lows and was not a romanticized version of Fiddler on the Roof.”

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Gate

Variety reports that HBO is developing a documentary about the Heaven’s Gate cult, which committed suicide in 1997. A Level Beyond Human: Reaching Heaven's Gate will be part of HBO’s America Undercover series next year. The doc will take the point of view of one of the cult members who found 39 of his colleagues dead. “In order for us to understand this Heaven's Gate cult, we need to see the world through their eyes,” says producer Sergio Myers.


The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced the 54th Primetime Emmy Nominations in July. The following programs received nods: Outstanding Cinematography For Non-Fiction Programming (Single Or Multi-Cam): American Experience: Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film (PBS; A co-production of Sierra Club Productions and Steeplechase Films; Buddy Squires, Michael Chin, Jon Else—Cinematography); Blue Planet: Seas Of Life (Ocean World /DISC/Discovery Channel/ BBC; Doug Allen, Simon Carroll, Bob Cranston, Mike deGruy, Yuri Farrant, Tom Fitz, Mark Gottlieb, Simon King, Ian McCarthy, Charles Maxwell, Didier Noirot, Michael Pitts, Rick Rosenthal, Peter Scoones, Paul Stewart—Photography); The Human Face with John Cleese (TLC; TLC/BBC; Chris Hartley, Richard Numeroff, John Johnson, Allan Palmer, John Hooper, Jeremy Pollard, Patrick Duval, Nancy Schiesari, Bill Broomfield, John Halliday, Rajesh Bedi—Photography); In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 (HBO; Brad Grey Pictures/ Kunhardt Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; Greg Andracke, Jeb Bergh, Edward Marritz, Bob Richman—Cinematographers); 9/11 (CBS; Goldfish Pictures/Silverstar Productions LLC in association with CBS; Gedeon Naudet, Jules Naudet, James Hanlon—Cinematographers).

Outstanding Picture Editing For Non-Fiction Programming (Single Or Multi-Camera): America Undercover: Small Town Ecstasy (HBO; Arnold Shapiro Productions, Inc. in association with HBO Original Programming; Mark Baum—Editor); America Undercover: Southern Comfort (HBO; Q-Ball Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; Kate Davis—Editor); Blue Planet: Seas Of Life (Ocean World; DISC; Discovery Channel/ BBC; Martin Elsbury—Editor); In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 (HBO; Brad Grey Pictures/ Kunhardt Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; Paula Heredia—Editor; Geof Bartz—Contributing Editor); 9/11 (CBS; Goldfish Pictures/ Silverstar Productions LLC in association with CBS; Richard Barber, Michael J. Maloy, Bruce Spiegel, Mead Stone, Jason Schmidt—Editors;); Survivor: Marquesas: Two Peas In A Pod (CBS; SEG, Inc.; Lane Baker, Brian Barefoot, Jonathon Braun, Brian Catalina, Jeanette Christensen, David H. Cutler, Sean Foley, Jerry U. Frizell, Ivan Ladizinsky, Bob Mathews, Craig Serling, Chris Simpson, Rod C. Spence—Editors).

Outstanding Non-Fiction Special (Informational): The Human Face with John Cleese (TLC; TLC/BBC; Michael Mosley, Nicholas Rossiter, Nancy Lavin—Executive Producers); In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 (HBO; Brad Grey Pictures/Kunhardt Productions in association with HBO Original Programming; Jonathan Liebman, Peter Kunhardt—Executive Producers); Inside The Actors Studio: 100th Guest Special (BRAVO; In The Moment Productions in association with Betelgeuse Productions and Bravo; James Lipton—Executive Producer/Writer/Host; Christian Barcellos, Frances Berwick—Executive Producers); 9/11 (CBS; Goldfish Pictures/Silverstar Productions LLC in association with CBS; Jules Naudet, Gedeon Naudet, James Hanlon—Executive Producers/Directors; Susan Zirinsky, Graydon Carter, David Friend—Executive Producers); We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company (HBO; Home Box Office presents a Dreamworks/Playtone production in association with Cowen/Richter Productions; Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg—Executive Producers).

Outstanding Non-Fiction Series (Informational): Antiques Roadshow (PBS; WGBH Educational Foundation; Peter Cook—Executive Producer); Behind The Music (VH1; VH1; George Moll, Paul Gallagher—Executive Producers); Biography (A&E; Vanness Films for A&E Television; CarolAnne Dolan, Kevin Burns—Executive Producers); The E! True Hollywood Story (E!; E! Entertainment Television; Jeff Shore—Executive Producer); Inside The Actors Studio (BRAVO; In The Moment Productions in association with Betelgeuse Productions and Bravo; James Lipton, Christian Barcellos, Frances Berwick—Executive Producers).

Outstanding Non-Fiction Program (Reality): American High (PBS; Actual Reality Pictures in association with 20th Century Fox Television; R.J. Cutler—Executive Producer); Frontier House (PBS; A co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York and Wall To Wall Television in association with Channel 4 Television Corporation 4 International; Beth Hoppe, Alex Graham—Executive Producers); The Osbournes (MTV; MTV Networks; Lois Curren, R. Greg Johnston, Jeff Stilson—Executive Producers); Project Greenlight (HBO; Miramax Television; Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Sean Bailey, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Billy Campbell—Executive Producers); Taxicab Confessions (HBO; View Film; Sheila Nevins—Executive Producer); Trauma: Life In The ER (TLC; TLC/NYT Television; Stephen H. Schwartz—Executive Producers).

Documentary filmmakers Marco Williams and Whitney Dow have been added to the list of winners for the 2002 IFP Gotham Awards, which takes place on September 26 at New York’s Chelsea Piers and will air on the Bravo Channel on September 29.The filmmakers will take home the Anthony Radziwill Documentary Achievement Prize for their film Two Towns of Jasper, which tells the story of the 1998 racially motivated murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the winners in its 29th annual Student Academy Awards competition. Gold winners received a cash prize of $5,000, Silver winners received $3,000 and Bronze winners received $2,000. Documentary category winners were Pin Pin Tan's Moving House (Northwestern University) taking Gold; Eva Saks' Family Values (New York University) taking Silver and Thomas Burn's Revolutions Per Minute (Stanford University) receiving the Bronze medal.


PlanetOut and HBO, in association with the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, announced the winners of the third annual PlanetOut.Com Short Movie Awards. The jury documentary prize went to Julie Hill, Kathy Richter and Barbara Rosenthal's Losing Lois and the audience award was given to Mark McCormick's Madonnalogue.

The New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival gave the Vito Russo award, presented to a New York film project in progress, to The Furies. The documentary by Janet Baus and Ara Wilson takes a look at the radical lesbian collective of the early 1970s. The Best Documentary Feature award went to Out in the Cold by directors Eric Criswell and Martin Bedogne. The festival cited the film’s “compelling exploration of vital, unaddressed issues for homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual youth in the Bible Belt of the US.” Deborah Dickson's doc Ruthie and Connie, about two Jewish lesbian grandmothers, took the audience award for best feature. The film also won the Golden Space Needle for best documentary at the 28th Seattle International Film Festival.

David E. Simpson’s Refrigerator Mothers captured the Jury Prize for best documentary at the Florida Film Festival. The film examines the lives of seven mothers who were blamed for their children's autism in the '50s, '60s and '70s. The Audience Award for docs went to Jonny Symons’ Daddy and Papa, about gay couples who adopt. Robert A. Nakamura’s Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray was recognized by the jury as best documentary short. The jury also awarded a special prize to Kevin Fitzgerald's Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme.

The Lake Placid Film Forum bestowed the best documentary prize on Dierdre Lynch’s Photos to Send.

Mike Gordon's Rising Low, a tribute to the late Government Mule bassist Allen Woody, and Matthew Ginsburg's Uncle Frank, about a dynamic 80-year-old ladies man and self-taught musician tied for the Joe Jarvis Audience Choice Award for best documentary at the fifth annual Newport International Film Festival.

At the IFP/West Los Angeles Film Festival, Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s OT: Our Town, about a high school in a hard-scrabble city in Southern Calif. that stages Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, took best documentary feature honors, while Jeffrey Blitz’ Spellbound, which looks at the complexities and nuances of a national spelling bee competition, won a Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best documentary. Melissa Regan’s No Dumb Questions, which follows three young sisters trying to understand their uncle’s decision to get a sex-change operation, took the Audience Award for best short film.

Producer Deirdre Imershein reports that Scene Smoking: Cigarettes, Cinema and the Myth of Cool received the Gold Special Jury award for best documentary feature at this year’s Houston WorldFest. IDA member Ann Coppel’s Harold Balazs – Creating Wonder, the fourth program in her Living Treasures series, won a Platinum Award.

The Audience Award at the 26th Atlanta Film Festival went to Matthew Buzzell's Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew. The doc short award went to Roger Weisberg and Murray Nossel's Why Can't We Be a Family Again?

San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, presented by Frameline, gave the Audience Award for best documentary to Dee Mosbacher's Radical Harmonies, a history of the women’s music movement from the folk singers of the ‘70s to the riot grrls of the '90s. Also recognized was Annie Goldson and Peter Wells' Georgie Girl, which took the festival's inaugural Stu & Dave's Excellent Documentary Award for a doc that received its Bay Area premiere at the event.

Joey Garfield and Jacob Craycroft's Breath Control: History of the Human Beat Box took home the Documentary Audience Award at CineVegas.

The US International Film and Video Festival presented its “Best of Festival” (Grand Prix) award for top production in this year’s competition to Africa: Southern Treasures (Thirteen/WNET New York). The production tells the story of how in the old mines of Johannesburg, a young South African is making history in a time of change.

The 11th Annual Aspen Shortsfest awarded best documentary honors to The Collector of Bedford Street (Alice Elliot), which also received an Audience Award. The Best Short Short prize went to A Dios (Jean-Stephane Sauvaire, France).

The 20th Anniversary edition of OUTFest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, honored Thomas Allen Harris’ That’s My Face with the jury prize for best documentary feature, while Deborah Dickson’s Ruth and Connie took the audience prize in the same category. Melissa Regan’s No Dumb Questions once again won the audience award for best documentary short.


Guillemet Moves From Sundance to Miami Sunshine

As the Miami Film Festival (MFF) prepares for its 20th anniversary, it has named as its new director former Sundance Film Festival Co-Director Nicole Guillemet. Guillemet began work with Sundance in 1985, working in a variety of areas and becoming highly involved in the creation of Sundance programs overseas.

In a prepared statement, festival President Modesto A. Maidique said, “Nicole Guillemet has been a central figure in the growth and development of Sundance and her impressive expertise will help us raise our festival to a new level.”

Guillemet’s plans for the festival include building further on the festival’s history of showcasing international film. “The Miami International Film Festival has the potential to become a premiere event for the exhibition of world cinema, with a focus on Spanish-language film,” Guillemet said in a prepared statement.

Kersnowski Returns to NYC for The Independent

The Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) has hired Maud Kersnowski as Editor in Chief for its publication, The Independent Film & Video Monthly. Kernsnowski was most recently a contributing editor for indieWIRE, working from Los Angeles. She also worked for Metropolis, Digital Coast Reporter and Texas Monthly.


Alan Lomax, Musicologist and Archivist, Dead at 87

Alan Lomax, who traveled across America and around the world to record and preserve indigenous, traditional music that might not otherwise have found a wider, appreciative audience, died in Sarasota, Florida,. in July. He was 87.

Although widely renowned as a musicologist and producer, Lomax produced , directed and wrote a number of documentaries for public television, including several about dance, with Forrestine Paulay in the 1970s; The Land Where the Blues Began, in 1985; and American Patchwork, a series on American traditions, in the early ‘90s.