On Saturday, March 27th, at Columbia University, there will be an all-day seminar on Social Media, Digital Distribution and The Future of Film. The Conversation will bring together a group of filmmakers, social media experts and industry execs to continue to explore the new and ever-changing ways we tell cinematic and multi-platform stories, how we can continue to successfully connect with audiences, and, perhaps, how we can make a bit of dough in the process.
In various panel discussions and workshops, co-hosts Scott Kirsner (CinemaTech), Tiffany Shlain (The Tribe) and Lance Weiler (The Workbook Project) will lead talks that address what's of utmost concern to both new and experienced media makers working in the field today. Speakers include Steve Savage of New Video, Fred Seibert of Next New Networks, Cory McAbee of "Stingray Sam," Thomas Woodrow of "Bass Ackwards," and Richard Lorber of Kino Lorber. There should be some spots left, but they're probably going fast; you can register here now to hold a space.
Curator, Rachel Rakes, of DocTruck has started a new listserv called Undercine, a space for New York-area experimental work--"rare, old, newer-than-new, inexpensive, micro, smart, thoughtful, underground, slightly-above-ground, true, speculative, cramped, spacious, serious, partying, silent, musical, and radical" film programs that are happening around town.
Programmers, curators, filmmakers, projector owners can join and post event announcements and other news vital to the collective. It is meant to be a place for generative ideas and community. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to join the mailing list or to inquire about more info.
In an attempt to stretch my wings a bit and keep this blog relevant and useful to the community which it serves so intrepidly (ahem), I've decided to start a series called Projects On the Brink (with a grateful wink and a nod to my friend, Jesse, the original OTB boy). Photo by Julie Shiels.
To jumpstart this endeavor, a while ago I blogged a short post called Attention All Micro Budgeters, asking for filmmakers in production or post-production to get in touch with me if they were funding their nonfiction film projects with very small amounts of money from a wide array of sources, artists who were building a constituency (audience) for their work by asking people showing interest in the project to help fund it with as little or as much as they wanted to offer. We have certainly seen success stories out there using this method, but I thought I'd jump into the fray and highlight those projects that have fallen outside the purview of Sundance, ITVS, PBS, HBO, IFP and other organizations that supply labs and mentors to a few projects every year to give them a leg up. For many filmmakers, this leg never appears no matter how many applications they complete, so it's hoist the mainsails and DIY all the way, baby. It gives me pleasure to celebrate this kind of independent filmmaker and showcase the foolhardy bravery on display to keep moving forward, despite odds stacked so high even Sisyphus is intimidated and calls it a day.
I'm also getting opportunities to see film projects in their infancy and have chosen to track a few as case studies in how all of this is supposed to be working without any viable funding support. To a person, it involves sheer perseverance and determination to keep moving forward, of course. But in Diana Whitten's case, it has encompassed a marketing and outreach strategy as one of the core pillars of her creative endeavor at her project's inception. In this first installment of POTB, we'll talk about her feature-length documentary project called Vessel, currently entering its post-production phase.
I want to highlight this project for a number of reasons, but mostly because I think Whitten's struggle to make her film adequately mirrors many other nonfiction projects out there: a filmmaker sitting with hours and hours of compelling footage, somewhere in that amassed footage a great story waiting to be told. At this moment in time, Whitten is in the midst of editing, something she's not really had a chance in which to devote too much time since she also works as a freelance videographer and other temp work to support herself. And also because she has devoted most of her time on the outreach, marketing and audience-building for Vessel. At this point, she needs a substantive "teaser" piece to deliver to her executive producer, Mitchell Block, so he can shop it around for finishing funds and look for investors who need to see more of a polished piece before offering funding.
Almost from its inception, when she read about Dr. Rebecca Gomperts (pictured) and her team of doctors and volunteers sailing a ship through loopholes in international law, providing abortions at sea for women with no other safe option, Whitten has concentrated on getting the story, certainly. But more than that, what she's done is to use this project to build a community--not after the film is made, but well before that happens. Dutch doctor, Rebecca Gomperts and her organization, Women On Waves, sail a ship around the world to countries where abortion is illegal. Using a hotline for communication, the activists pick up women at various ports and take them twelve miles offshore (outside the jurisdiction of domestic waters). On board, doctors administer safe medical abortions. Of course, they cause havoc, mayhem and immense outbursts of opposition and rage from local churches, governments, and the media wherever they sail, provoking much controversy and debate among the population.
Whitten realized the advantages of building a worldwide community right away and got busy getting fiscal sponsors in place (Arts Engine and Off the Leesh) so that she and her outreach coordinator, Danielle Bernstein, could utilize the money coming in to build a website which houses a hub of activity well beyond just reports on the production progress of the film. It was also an opportunity to start Sovereignty Productions, "a forum to use video and new media to explore how sovereign spaces, those offshore and of exile, can be isolated and charged by activist agendas that challenge accepted frameworks in the name of social change." Right away, Whitten figured out how to utilize the power of the Internet to keep that community growing, to continue to constituency-build and gather a good-sized population of people hooked into the project at production stage. Part of that outreach work is consolidating and organizing the contacts she gathers, constantly organizing and winnowing them down. With the help of a program like Constant Contact, her plan is to start sending out regular posts and other info via personal emails for a much more targeted approach, assuring people that their investment in the project means there is some modicum of "ownership" in its success, the foundation of a strong PR and marketing machine.
In the midst of an editing session, Whitten took some time to chat with me about the project and her journey, thus far. She was also getting ready for another quick shooting trip to Amsterdam (where there have been grave setbacks in abortion policy) to capture the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Women On Waves' mission. The majority of present and future fundraising efforts is geared towards post-production needs. One of the main things for which she needs money is to hire an editor, but right now she is taking pleasure in the creative work of delving into the footage, something she hasn't really had an opportunity to do with everything else needing almost full-time attention. But eventually, she hopes to bring editor Madeleine Gavin onto the project.
Whitten admits that the long, uphill process to keep things moving, which has included lots of unexpected things along the way, has been beneficial and advantageous. In odd ways, the length of time it takes to create and finish a project like this, can also be a distinct benefit. She acknowledges that this is the case with Vessel, because in that time it has allowed a fuller, more substantive story to emerge. "The nature of making a documentary does consist largely of not knowing what's going to happen to your subjects or your story. In the beginning, I thought the movie would be confined to what was happening in Ecuador, but that course was suddenly changed before the ship ever got there when it had a wreck on its way to Quito from Costa Rica. There was the question of whether the Women On Waves campaign could continue." This event, among others, encouraged her to pull down her "documentarian's wall," and she quickly became a participant in the proceedings, as well as the one following the story. In this spirit, she started a really excellent blog from the very beginning of the project. Many blog entries have also appeared on other highly-trafficked sites, such as The Huffington Post.
As with most documentary projects, Whitten first learned of Gomperts and her work through a friend and she set about researching the doctor, her work and the organization. About two and a half years ago, she impulsively bought a ticket to Amsterdam to meet Gomperts, even before really speaking with her or asking permission to film her story. In fact, a couple of weeks before she was supposed to leave, she still hadn't called or corresponded with Dr. Gomperts, apprehensive that she wouldn't meet with Whitten or be interested in the project. "She turned out to be very nice and, also, very media-savvy," says Whitten. "She was immediately interested in being followed with a camera."
I asked her to explain why, as a filmmaker, she had to tell this story and follow this impulse without any backing or real forethought about what she might be getting herself into. "Obviously, the subject matter spoke very forcefully to me: this issue has touched most everyone, or at least someone they know and it's still hard to discuss considering how many legal, moral, ethical, religious and philosophical challenges surround it. Also, and in many ways more importantly, there was this highly romantic notion of this team of women sailing the high seas and using modern technology, modern media, to disseminate messages across the globe, using networks to connect people.
"I found myself having conversations about abortion and abortion rights, what it means to not have any rights, with people from every demographic you can think of. It's been wildly eye-opening in that sense, the stories people will share with you, the conclusions and realizations they share. They've never shared these stories with anyone before, mostly because no one has ever asked. These conversations were with people who would otherwise think the subject impolite, unapproachable, forbidden. There's still a good amount of fear and ignorance around the issue and people relate to it in various ways on a very personal level. The making of this film, concentrating on the work that Rebecca is doing, is a great vehicle to get those conversations going. As we've gone along, the number of people who know about the project and have been educated by the contents of the film, has grown. I've also taken every opportunity I can to speak at schools and other organizations."
She also feels like her experience, in a way, has mirrored that of her subject. A lot of people are drawn to the story at first blush by the subject matter, the controversy, etc. But because the story hits most everyone on such a personal and visceral level, that connection is key to making and disseminating a meaningful piece of work. The metaphor of being "offshore," and having that offshore entity connected to the world via technology and media, is quite profound and really might be what the film speaks to over and above the abortion issue and its legalities and human rights quandaries. Gomperts and crew are what amount to modern-day pirates, garnering lots of press and attention through their work in a very deliberate and dramatic way. Both subjects and filmmakers are at a table with very high stakes, indeed.
"I'm not really interested in making a movie about the ethical debates of abortion. My goals for making this film are in line with what resonates the most with people when they learn about this project, the story of one woman and her dedicated team doing something extraordinary--beyond the ken of what most of us are willing to take on. The biggest lesson I've learned, thus far, is that any artist creating something like this needs to be very clear on why you're making what you're making. Yes, there's the issue; but there's the story that's compelling and exciting and life-changing. Rebecca is the kind of subject that, despite your personal feelings about her, changes the way you see the world a bit. She's dedicated to making it better for the women that still live in countries where it's against the law to have an abortion. She discovered a really classical way to get the conversation going and that's what I want to highlight in my film."
Going back to funding and finding the money to start this endeavor, I asked about any problems or roadblocks in raising funding directly because of the subject matter. After throwing themselves into a grass-roots fundraising mode, Whitten and her small team reached out to people they knew first to get the ball rolling and enlisted those friends to help start a massive letter-writing campaign, get the website up and running, start a blog and designate a spot for donations directly on the site. "We received a couple of hundred checks, some as low as $15, but money did start to come in. Some of those checks, however, were pretty generous and just from that effort, we raised about $27K. So for such a modest effort, we did pretty well. I also, at that time, started applying for grants, a really long process--some take close to a year to get back to you and the amounts, when they do come through, are pretty low. I do think people were, and are, a bit scared of the topic; it takes an open mind and a dedication to female causes, in particular. I think what we make clear, however, in all of our communications, is that this film is about so much more than the abortion issue. I think it deals with a lot of the UN Millenium goals, for instance."
Executive producer, Mitchell Block, came onto the project rather early and helped secure some substantial investors in that first grass-roots push. After seeing an early trailer, shown to him by Diana's sister, he committed to the project and offered whatever support he could. However, even with an exec producer, Whitten is still doing the majority of the legwork for fundraising, the onus still on her, the one person with the biggest vested interest in realizing completion, thus her commitment right now to getting a more comprehensive piece done. Since Block is also well-versed in distribution and distribution strategies, he needs that fuller piece to use in his efforts to secure monies for exhibiting and disseminating the film, a major advantage of working with someone with those kinds of connections and know-how.
Even though many filmmakers are still trying to skirt the inevitability of having to put all this in place, just as much as any production component, and even though this work is overwhelming in its intensity of labor and time, Whitten feels confident that Vessel will be well-positioned to make much more of an impact than if she hadn't bothered to do all the preliminary outreach work involved in setting up this scenario and keeping it in motion as she's gone about making and crafting the film. It will stand her in good stead when all is said and done, for both her exhibition plan and the film's domestic and international distribution.
Acknowledging that her site will be set up to also work as a public forum and repository for issue-oriented information and a meeting spot for sharing stories from around the world, it should prove to be an impressive archive for many different organizations and communities. Diana finds the potential for all this very exciting and energizing; she herself has admitted that it has helped her become more politicized, more willing to put her own voice out there regularly. The honing of this skill, becoming a public advocate through your creative work, cannot be overestimated in the way this helps to court audiences. It's equally as fundamental as courting a funder or an executive producer to drive a project forward.
The example of Vessel's story shows us that to harness the way we create modes of communication and outreach for our film projects can be just as much of an adventure as making the film, for in this effort lies the potential for people to want to go out to the movies again. That is to say that the "community" will not ultimately live just on the Internet, but will physically gather and come together to experience a collective event, one in which they have been personally invested all along.
There's a new online site called Put It On, "home to the world's undiscovered artists," be they filmmakers, musicians, fine artists or fashion designers.
The newly-launched site enables artists from all over the world to connect and share work, display portfolios and sell their wares (the site does not take a commission). You get a free gigabyte of space to showcase your talent, and you're able to stream audio and video work, including live personal broadcasts. There is also the capability of getting everything translated into ten different languages which is very cool.
The site is very simply designed for optimum navigation, nothing fancy, nothing revolutionary; however, it provides another place to reach your audience and potential fans and supporters. Click here to take a test drive.
This is what Thom Powers always says when he's ready to open up a filmmaker Q&A session to the audience. And now he's taken this concept to the Web where everyone can join in, via the D-Word.
D-Word co-hosts, Doug Block, Ben Kempas, John Burgan and Marj Safinia send word that there is a new public forum on the site devoted to Powers' nonfiction cinema series Stranger Than Fiction hosted at New York's IFC Center by Powers and Raphaela Neihausen. The series is in the midst of its 10th year and will host such directors as Doug Pray, Jonathan Demme and Peter Davis this spring season.
The online conversation will reflect the criticism, insider sharing and professional networking (but, alas, not the drinking) that happens every week at STF. Now you can join in from anywhere to learn how you can start your own local film clubs and screening series and chat about a wide array of topics about the current state of making (and viewing) nonfiction cinema.
The proceedings start right before STF screens Doug Pray's Sundance premiere, Art & Copy this Tuesday. D-Worders will discuss the intersection between documentary and advertising. The dedicated Stranger Than Fiction strand on the D-Word site lives here. (You might want to bookmark.) Pour yourself a glass of wine and join the conversation.
Here's a cool thing to do for all you doc geeks in LA: the International Documentary Association is presenting an evening with filmmaker activist, Robert Greenwald, the first in the 2009 series of Doc U seminars the organization has on offer. Join Greenwald for this two-hour event at his Brave New Films offices and studio space in bustling Culver City and see a production house in action. Greenwald will be sharing strategies on audience-building, fund raising and distributing documentary film work.
Greenwald has proven his merit as a producer, director and activist many times over by making films such as Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (2006); Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005); and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004). IDA members have a jump start on buying tickets now; ticketing will open to the general public next Wednesday the 6th for the May 14 event.
The seminar series will meet the second Thursday of every month. Keep checking back on the site for announcements of upcoming events with master filmmakers and other experts in the field.
Just out this month: Fans, Friends & Followers, a book about how creatives can build audiences for their work online while creating sustainable business models for themselves. Kirsner, editor of CinemaTech, falls under the "guru" category when it comes to this stuff, and in his new book he presents some strategies through interviews and encounters with various artists who are (digitally) making a shekel or two from their works. For as we know, for the most part in this day and age, the onus of survival and sustainability rests upon the shoulders of the musician, filmmaker, artist, writer, etc.
Kirsner's book is based on dozens of interviews with some of the artists pioneering new approaches to production, marketing, promotion, collaboration, and distribution on the Web.
The paperback is priced at $15.95; you can also purchase it as an E-book for $12.00 (it's 181 pages so you might want to have it on your bookshelf for reference). It's available at Amazon.com, or you can purchase it directly from Kirsner's site by clicking here. You will also be able to have access to a 35-page preview.
Finding and watching stellar long-form nonfiction films is getting easier and easier. SnagFilms and YouTube have partnered and gone live on http://www.youtube.com/user/snagfilms, a site that features full-length documentary films selected from Snag's online library.
For those of you who have still not discovered SnagFilms, it is an entity that brings the best of nonfiction films to audiences worldwide via the Web, promotes viral distribution through virtual movie theater widgets, and encourages audiences to participate in charitable and community efforts based on the films they watch and love. (I'm sure most of you know about YouTube, unless you've been, literally, living in a cave.)
In addition to being able to find films via YouTube's search feature, users will be able to visit the SnagFilms channel to see listings from its extensive library. SnagFilms will split the revenue it receives from the accompanying commercials with the filmmakers and increase exposure of the incredible nonfiction fare most of you are missing out there. Hurray.
In the couple of weeks following the maelstrom of President-Elect Oback Barama's historic inauguration, the Center for Social Media at American University in Washington, DC will host established and aspiring filmmakers, nonprofit communications leaders, funding entities and students at their 5th annual two-day MYMM conference. I attended last year and finally got to meet the wonderful Pat Aufderheide and all the folks that created the center to explore and nurture cutting-edge practices for creating meaningful media.
I hope to attend again this year; the program and special guests they have on tap are top-notch: to open the conference, George Stoney will speak on ethics in social-issue film, and Kartemquin Films' Gordon Quinn will then deliver a keynote on ethics in cinema vérité. The next day's activities include three panels (and much time for networking and schmoozing) made up of folks working on the cutting edge of funding, grant-giving, festivals, outreach, digital connection, art, ethics and mission. Click here for more details on the participants and for registration information. For a conference of this calibre, it's quite inexpensive to attend ($100) and IDA members get an additional $25 off; students can attend for $50 (ID required at check-in).
Also coming up soon on SIM: Next week while everyone will be freezing their asses off, seeing movies and partying into the wee hours in Park City, Utah, yours truly will be doing the same in Helsinki, Finland at the 2009 DocPoint Festival (January 20 - 25). The 8th iteration of the fest, helmed by new festival director, Erkko Lyytinen, will honor special guest, Nick Broomfield. Broomfield will bring a retrospective of his work and teach the Master Class, a festival tradition that has brought the shining lights of international documentary film to enthusiastic Finnish audiences. Past guests and honorees have included Alexandr Sokurov, DA Pennebaker, Pirjo Honkasalo, and Albert Maysles. This year, in addition to Broomfield's presence, Richard Leacock's decades-long oeuvre will be celebrated and honored, as it has been at several international festivals this past year including HotDocs in his native Canada, and at the nascent Cinema Vérité International Documentary Festival in Tehran. Each year, in addition to showcasing new Finnish works, the festival travels to
far-off lands to celebrate the nonfiction fare being made all over the world; this year's spotlights will be on Italy and India. For more info, go to the fest's web site and stay tuned for reviews, interviews and more.
Also coming up, interviews with filmmakers Lucia Small and Ed Pincus (their deeply personal Katrina tale, The Axe in the Attic, will be screening at Thom Powers' Stranger Than Fiction series on the 10th of February) and Rachel Grady of Loki Films (she and her partner, Heidi Ewing, are currently working on three, count 'em, three films). I'll also have a conversation in late January with SILVERDOCS' Director of Programming, Sky Sitney (also appearing as a panelist at the above-mentioned conference on February 13).
I'm being approached more and more to consult and help produce nascent documentary projects using new media technologies and alternate platforms for sharing media virally through crowdsourcing (aka, open sourcing). It's an interesting and challenging variation on the usual pre-pro discussions. The fact that these discussions are happening pre-pro is an important indicator, in and of itself, I think.
This may be the year when we see the ideas and strategies that gurus like Lance Weiler, Scott Kirsner and Woody Benson have been implementing and sharing in their respective "labs" and projects for the past several years being utilized by more and more filmmakers, now more desperate than ever to realize viable revenue streams for their artistic endeavors. In fact, the three had a lively convo this past Monday about the year in tech and entertainment and share their thoughts on what's ahead in '09. You can listen to their conference call off the podcast Weiler has posted on The Workbook Project in his TCIBR series. (Illustration courtesy of The Institute for the Future of the Book. I'm writing one now; there better be a future for them.)
The folks over at the wonderful Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) have their deadline coming up (Jan. 30) for their 2009 Producers Initiative for New Media Technologies, the third year they have been given funding to bring eight creative teams to San Francisco to participate in a residency that connects "independent producers and their socially relevant content to emerging models of storytelling and distribution," based on developing and prototyping a multi-platform project inspired by, or based on, a significant documentary project. For some samples of the kinds of projects they take on and for a good dose of just pure-D(oc) inspiration, you can click here to watch videos of last year's projects. Great stuff.
I've been working with artists for decades now, producing content in all forms of media from coffee-table art books to funky fashion photo shoots/installations with lots of taxidermy (don't ask), and everything in between, and one thing that hasn't changed is the desire to retain artistic integrity in what's presented to the world in your name. Despite, or maybe because of, all the razzle-dazzle and excitement over these new media opportunities, the impetus to stay true to that artistic vision is more important than ever. This week's report from Worldchanging highlights an article on The Canary Project, and while it's more an off-the-grid/Internet project, meaning more physically than digitally representational, I think it speaks beautifully to this artistic/social relevancy issue that crops up for many media makers that are struggling with how their work can fit into all these various scenarios right now and still maintain artistic integrity and creative heft.
I'm very interested in using this space this year to highlight and celebrate any creative out there working in nonfiction storytelling striving to implement something along these lines, so drop a line and share what you're working on. I have a small queue of stories I'll be posting about, but there's a lot of movement out there and I'd like to know all about it. Share, share.
As regular readers of this blog know, I think one of the best things any filmmaker can do for him/herself is to seek out co-production money and partnerships from abroad to help finance and fund an independent project. In that spirit, I wanted to report the latest news from the good folks at BRITDOC.
They've partnered, along with many others, with the Discovery Campus to promote DC's brand-new online initiative called Reelisor. Discovery Campus is one of the leading documentary training initiatives in Europe dedicated to international co-productions for a large audience. And it's free to join.
If you have new projects and are looking for
broadcasters and additional money, or you have recent films already broadcasting, or you're interested in financing new projects, here's where you can find out more about Reelisor. Discovery Campus is very well connected with all
relevant European training institutions, film schools, major documentary festivals, markets and national documentary associations.
Reelisor is a navigator for existing platforms and websites. It offers
guidance and information throughout the year and its mission is to
encourage training, education and the exchange of knowledge within the international film market, connecting documentary film professionals, commissioning editors, festivals,
markets and other active initiatives. Go on and be an international playboy.
The Tribeca Film Institute has been working on the launch of a major project with Amazon.com to create a new digital marketplace for precious film and video works that have languished in archives, have extremely limited distribution, or have just been plain hard to find. At last, Re:Frame is here.
As of yesterday, the service is now active through Reframecollection.org and I am happy to say that I will soon be one of the film curator/bloggers contributing regularly on the new site, specializing in hybrid nonfiction works and contributing a series of interviews with this year's TFI Fellows. The core audiences are the educational and institutional markets, but I know there are many film fans out there whose taste goes beyond what even Netflix can provide. Right now, about 500 works live on the site, from some of Sally Potter's works, to hard-to-find documentaries and experimental fare.
The service will be a nonprofit storefront for both short- and long-form film works, as well as providing rights holders a way to sell or rent downloads or DVDs through Amazon. What really distinguishes the Re:Frame model is that it offers services to convert all works to a digital format from video free of charge, and will also offer conversion services from film formats to digital at a cost well below what most standard conversions run. The digital copy is then returned to the rights holder while the work is retained in Amazon's archive. The rights holder determines what to charge and will receive royalty payments amounting to 50% of any download or online rental, or a share of DVD sales.
Over the last two years, the Re:Frame Collection project, under the auspices of the Tribeca Film Institute run by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, has had financial support through grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. The initiative was established to preserve film history and to make classic and rare works available to a larger community of students, artists, educators and film fans. The hope is that close to 10,000 titles will be available in the next twelve months.
To learn more about the various deal structures for filmmakers and rights holders, and other information about the collection, visit the web site.
Babelgum, the online global broadcast network, is having a competition where viewers get to review a group of shortlisted films in their Online Film Festival, taking place during the Festival de Cannes next week. The "critic" with the best review will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Cannes. A not-too-shabby prize, non? Oui! Click here for more info.
Monday night, I attended a talk at Union Docs in Williamsburg under the auspices of their Documentary Bodega Series. Neighborhood Public Radio founders, Lee Montergomery and Jon Brumit were there to discuss their project, one of the many curated art installations that are part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial of American Art currently happening in New York City through May 31.
This NPR is an artist-run radio project broadcasting live from a former shoe store in Manhattan. They're broadcasting from the Whitney on 91.9 FM and streaming on their website Wednesdays through Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The shows are 30 minutes to an hour and they're produced by local artists, activists, musicians, commentators--anyone, really--focusing on under-represented voices. They are encouraging people to come by the storefront studio located at 941 Madison Avenue at 74th Street. You can also contact them at email@example.com to be added to the broadcast schedule.
What's so exciting about this is that NPR provides an alternative media platform for just about anyone with something to say. By opening up channels of communication through internet streams and micro-powered signals, NPR creates an open space, free of FCC rules and regs, corporate underwriters or any body that can regulate/censor information. Their motto is, "If it's in the neighborhood and it makes noise, we hope to put it on the air."
Montgomery (pictured in the studio above) and Brumit also offer boxed broadcasting kits that they are distributing to cities and neighborhoods across the US. During their talk at Union Docs, they discussed the genesis and philosophy of their project, talked about some memorable locally-produced radio moments and their reactions to a piece about them that recently aired on "the other" NPR network. They also played some audio from their other community-based transmission arts projects, State of Mind Stations and Talking Homes, also found on the main website--take a listen. Also, if you live in the city, you should stop by the station and speak out. It's an amazing opportunity to be a part of a living, breathing art installation.
Also coming up at Union Docs: a Spring Symposium Fever on April 27th at 7:00 p.m. You can submit your work or presentation proposal. It can be any genre, but should be able to be presented in a medium-sized room and run ten minutes or less. They have a projector, mixer and sound system on hand. Click here for more info.
Check in here all this week to read more on the upcoming 1st Annual Cinema Eye Honors at the IFC Center next Tuesday, March 18. Read the latest updates on presenters and nominees, and be sure to chime in on the conversation. We'd love to dialogue with you and hear what you think.
As well as being a doc geek, I am also an art hound. And for this reason (among others), NYC is a great place to be. This item was just jettisoned into my email inbox:
"Humor shedding light into darkness and the fragmented isolation within claustrophobic chaos to render us overwhelmed and incomplete, are just some of the paradoxical themes Ron Beach Jr. and Adam Krueger set out to explore in their art." This kind of stuff gets my attention.
Beach and Krueger have shared a studio space in Tribeca for a year, and in their exhibit entitled Better version of me, curated by Jenn Wirtz, they take the dynamism that exists in their studio and fix it into their first physical collaboration, a two-man show held at The Canal Chapter December 10 through January 12, 2008. ("Better Version Of Me" is also the title of a fab song by the beautiful Fiona Apple.)
The process of the show is accessible to the public in two ways: First the gallery will be open to the public as the artists develop and install their pieces into the space every day from noon to 6:00 p.m. (see above dates). Then, with further collaboration from director Xander Strohm and alternative media production company, East Pleasant Pictures, bi-weekly webisode clips of Beach and Krueger working on the exhibit will be available for the duration of the project on YouTube. YouTube searches under "The Canal Chapter" or "adamandron" provide short clips of the Better version of me exhibition documentary--it always comes back to the doc, see.
A reception will follow the completion of the project on Saturday, January 5. Coolio.
Doug Block, Ben Kempas and John Burgan moderate a web discussion on applying for ITVS money. Starting today through Friday (12/17 - 22), ITVS execs Joy-Marie Scott, Cynthia Kane, Karim Ahmad and Kathryn Washington are online to talk about the ins and outs of their funding process. Block, Kempas and Burgan (residing in New York, Munich and Denmark, respectively) have been hosting discussion forums online since '99. The D-Word is a fantastic resource with a membership of some 2,000 doc filmmakers from about 80 countries. Join in; the discussions are always illuminating, informative and intelligent.
As a featured component of Los Angeles’ International AFI Film Festival,
AFI DigiFest is presenting two interactive media showcases highlighting
the latest innovations in digital media and their real-world
applications. Presented at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences’ beautiful Linwood-Dunn Theater, the two days of presentations and seminars will be filled with some pretty dazzling stuff. Here’s the program:
Day One (November 8): AFI hosts a series of curated presentations
that highlight noteworthy digital productions from around the world.
Among the presentations, Marshall Herskovitz, creator of “Thirty
Something,” “My So-Called Life,” and Blood Diamond,
will preview “Quarterlife,” a new dramatic broadband series
that premieres on myspace on November 11. Presentations rounding out
the day feature the best in new digital thinking from the worlds of
film, television, games and mobile.
Day Two (November 9): AFI presents five new prototypes incubated in the AFI Digital Content Lab: an online video platform and citizen journalist toolkit for NOW,
PBS’ weekly investigative news program; a strategy for retaining
viewer interest during ads in a DVR environment for Bravo; a social
network tailored for Players, a documentary about video game fans being produced by MTV, EA, and Mekanism; a pilot for an original dramatic machinima series created within a 3D game engine; and, finally, a unique user-generated film contest, Filmocracy, for ITVS.
All five prototypes were conceived and produced by the Lab in
collaboration with mentors drawn from top-tier interactive design and
You can contact marketing and events manager, Chris Denson, at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 323.856.7825, to find out more and to get on the
list to receive an official invitation.
In today's indieWIRE "On the Web" section, where various bloggers weigh in on what's on their radar at the moment, SpringBoardMedia spouts off on "potential" versus "real" numbers of viewers who will purchase, download or watch a film. I recently wrote a couple of in-depth posts on Re:Sources regarding what was talked about at Sundance about online distribution and how it's all supposed to create decent revenue for filmmakers and allow audiences hungry for specific content to have easier access to those films through various sites and retailers.
The tracking of real-time statistical data of where a film sells and how many times it's downloaded, who's watching and for how long, etc., is not accurately reported right now in any comprehensive way. Companies like Mediastile are working on ways to reflect these metrics in a useful way, but it's not quite there yet. So what we have right now is potential. Which is great. But I think online distributors need to adjust the language in their claims about audience--who's subscribed to the service and who's actually purchasing/watching the product.
I subscribe to lots of services and listservs and other online groups, however, I don't really use all those services the way they're meant to be used. Like most people, I just like to see what's out there. Unless I'm specifically looking for something or doing research, the chances of me buying or renting something online, at this point, are rare, although I have been renting DVDs from Netflix ever since the service began.
For more discussion and information on selling your film and music content online from the companies spearheading the business models that are working on methods to make marketing and distribution on the web feasible and potentially profitable, click here.
Still reeling (har, har) from my long weekend at Sundance (even though it's Tuesday already) and am taking my time to digest, for a change, before I post something about that--in fact, other things by me about the Conference will be published sooner on other sites, probably, than on here. Too many new things have been whizzing past me, I'm a bit on overload these days.
So instead of writing and finishing various articles, writing assignments and postmortems, follow-ups, etc., etc., etc., I was just aimlessly site surfing and came upon Gimundo (I think it's supposed to be said like the Australians say "gidday," meaning Good World.) Like in Patti Smith's song, "Cartwheels." Anyway, saw it advertised on The Daily Reel site. (And that's awesome that Patti Smith has a myspace page.)
So wanted to share--go there, read, contribute, spread it around.
Or maybe just the California sunshine's got me loopy. I could use some loopy. Like someone said shortly before the Conference this past weekend was over: "I could use some Dumb and Dumber." No aspersions cast, I assure you.
Ben Kempas, co-host of The D-Word, sent a notice this week that they are continuing their series of online conferences around new approaches to promoting and selling documentaries online. All concepts and ideas can certainly be applied to narratives and other multi-media creations, as well. This is Part 4, entitled "Broadcasters Go Broadband." The series has included discussions on self-distribution, the use of social networks and other alternative distribution platforms. There will be discussions with traditional broadcasters from around the world on how they're reacting to these new paradigms and models. Subjects will cover new ways of storytelling, the economics or profit structures of these scenarios for the filmmaker, and the ever-sticky issue of rights management. Charlie Phillips, of FourDocs, is the co-developer of this forum. Over the course of this week, broadcasters from the U.K., Australia and the U.S. will join in.
You must be a member of the D-Word (it's free) to join the discussion. Here's the link.
There are also links to the previous forums once you click on the site--a wealth of information from programmers and distributors and, most importantly, the filmmakers, on the forefront of what's happening out there with online distribution. The forums are participatory, so go ahead and add your voice to the mix.