Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Caveh Cancelled in Cali

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

In case you missed the drama (all 24 hours of it) Caveh Zahedi’s I Am A Sex Addict was pulled from Landmark Theaters just days before it was set for its West Coast premiere (via IFC First Take). The film was pulled by Mark Cuban (owner of Landmark Theaters). While one might have flashbacks of Ted Turner going moral (e.g., delaying Cronenberg’s Crash), the reasons are pettier. Details, including a comments from Cuban himself, found here. Crazy stuff.

The drama ended (I hope) on Tuesday afternoon. David Hudson of GreenCine reports the fallout.

My $0.02 analysis:
Score one for film blogging. Via his blog, Caveh is able to get the word out quickly about the problem. On a philosophical level, the little guy gets his voice heard just as loudly as the big guy. (Though perhaps Cuban thinks of himself as the little guy when compared with Comcast?) On a practical level, Caveh’s able to secure a new theater… fast. He finds out from IFC about the cancellation on yesterday and by 6:30pm (eastern time) the next day, Caveh has a new theater lined up. While, as David Hudson notes, the stakes have been high, this kind of success for a film that is one step-above self-distributed is quite a victory. We’re not talking about Star Wars VI. The film in question is entitled I Am A Sex Addict.

End analysis.

Meanwhile, in less dramatic news, I Am A Sex Addict will premiere in New York on April 12 at the IFC theater. I’m guessing that that screening will go off without a hitch. An interview with Caveh will run here on April 12 to coincide with the NY opening.


Predictably, Scott Kirsner and Anthony Kaufman have smart things to say about the situation.

Ken Burns’ Anger, or: Connecting the Dots between AIVF, Showtime, and Smithsonian

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Over the last couple of weeks the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) has only raised $11,000 of the $75,000 they need to weather their current financial crisis. Things could turn around but, as it stands, it’s looking dark.

There are arguments, of course, that AIVF has outlived its relevance:

– AIVF has long provided useful resources and information to independent filmmakers. Now, with the internet, such information is easily (and freely) available to anyone.

– AIVF created (or at least aimed to create) networks of filmmakers. Now, with the explosion of film festivals around the country and internet discussion forums (plus newer developments like IndieWIRE’s IndieLoop) filmmakers can connect without needing organizational support.

Shouldn’t we be happy that we don’t need an organization to supply these things anymore? I think so.

Still, one vital way that the Association of Independent Film & Videomakers has distinguished itself amidst a crowded landscape of film, video, and media arts non-profit organizations has been through its public advocacy work. (For example, AIVF was instrumental in the creation of ITVS.) I’m concerned that this is where AIVF’s death — if it indeed dies — will be felt most strongly.

For example, I am reminded of the importance of AIVF’s advocacy work when I recently read about the Smithsonian’s exclusive licensing of its archives to Showtime. Anthony Kaufman covers the story on his blog, and offers a way to protest. Ken Burns (quoted in the NY Times) sums the situation up:

I find this deal terrifying…It feels like the Smithsonian has essentially optioned America’s attic to one company, and to have access to that attic, we would have to be signed off with, and perhaps co-opted by, that entity.

Of course, in healthier days AIVF — because of its non-profit status, because it is a national member organization, because it represents all types of filmmakers — would be uniquely qualified to lobby against this selling off of America’s cultural resources to the highest bidder. AIVF has done this work in the past, and it would probably be very effective at reversing, or at least drawing substantial critical inquiries, into the deal. Yet AIVF’s current financial crisis is preventing them from doing so.

How will the cultural landscape change if/when AIVF ceases to exist? Is it possible that some new advocacy group can be formed if AIVF shuts its doors? The only certainty is that this won’t be the last time that someone attempts to make public cultural resources exclusive to a for-profit corporation.

For now, if the Smithsonian-Showtime deal makes you angry (or you simply want to know more), read this fine post at Daily Kos. If you want to help save AIVF, click here.

ADDENDUM: Eugene Hernandez writes about an AIVF discussion that went down last night in New York. I was at that meeting. It was a good conversation, and it led me to further refine my opinons on the AIVF situation…hence my posting today. Though some other people at that meeting possibly share my views, my writing (as usual) only speaks for me.

Fair Use, Pt II: Ctr for Social Media

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Agnes Varnum from the Center for Social Media has reminded me of another important resource for filmmakers dealing with issues of public domain, copyright, and fair use. It’s the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. Download it here.

Agnes describes the Statement as “a short handbook that articulates certain circumstances in documentary making when it is appropriate to claim fair use for copyrighted material.”

In her comment on this blog, Agnes adds, “I’m going to be at several fests over the next few months on panels about the issue and helping doc makers understand how to make better use of fair use. It’s a small step, but an important one. We already have a lot of movement on the gatekeeper side to adopt the principles at work in the handbook.”

She’ll be at the Nashville Film Festival (one of my favorites) in April. Check out Agnes’ blog, in addition to the Center’s website, for more info and other dates.

Open Letter to An Entertainment Marketing Firm

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Dear (name withheld):

I have recently received multiple emails from you asking me to promote a new television series, which features beautiful young people touring an exotic location with cameras rolling.

When I received your first email, which offered me content from the series so that I could cover it on my website I thought, obviously, you had emailed the wrong person. I chose not to reply. Now you’ve emailed a second time, again asking me to promote your show, so I thought I’d at least let you know why I didn’t write back the first time.

Though this website may, at times, promote films, books, and the like, I choose these works myself; they’re not suggested to me by press releases.

Furthermore, the works I discuss are often critically or popularly neglected. I aim to bring more attention to them by writing about them. Your show, which will receive loads of promotion on television, does not need my voice.

Finally, if you had read the reasons I started this website, you would know that this website is not meant to be a shill for “reality entertainment” in which corporate-sponsored American twenty-somethings tour the globe, as the press release states, to “broaden cultural awareness.” Robert Flaherty, a pioneer of self-reliant filmmaking, typically spent a year or more in the location where he was going to make a documentary before he ever picked up a camera. Now that’s cultural awareness.

Last but not least, my name is Paul. Not Pharrell.

Free Comic for Filmmakers

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

A reader of this blog (thanks, Jon) alerted me to one of the coolest works of edutainment I’ve seen in a long, long time. The work in question is Tales from the Public Domain: Bound By Law?, and it’s a graphic novel (published by Duke University’s Center for the Study of Public Domain) that explores and explains copyright, “fair use”, licensing and other tricky, sticky issues that inevitably arise when you’re making a documentary. If those topics usually make your eyes glaze over, look no further.

Granted, as a graphic novel, Bound by Law‘s anecdotes about licensing problems in docs like Sing Faster and Mad Hot Ballroom can’t compete with the storylines of, say, V for Vendetta or Watchmen, but I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the art and writing. Plus, how many other graphic novels are going to help save you money and keep you out of court when you make your next documentary?

The cost? A mere $5.95 for the book, or free as a digital copy.