Launched: The New Self-Reliant Film.

If you're looking at this website in anything other than an RSS reader you can probably tell that we've completely overhauled the website. Thanks to our wonderful designer friends at Nathanna, we've both expanded and simplified the Self-Reliant Film website.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, our new look is based on some new directions for the website.

Today, with the launch of the new site you can do a few things that you couldn't do before:

 

Sign up for the email list. Our new email newsletter will have exclusive content we don't put on the blog. We’ll share tips on great films we’ve recently discovered, we'll provide some extra filmmaking tips, and you’ll get access to see our films for free. The newsletter is only sent once a month, we never sell or share others’ email addresses, and it’s ad-free. Subscribe!

 

Watch our films: Some folks that visit this site do so because they're fans of our films. Others visit the site because of the blog. If you've not seen our work, or you want to see our films again, or you want to see more of them… we've spelled out all the ways to watch.

The easiest and least expensive way is to sign up for the email list. But there are other ways, too. Find out more here.

Must reads: Look to the sidebar on the left. These are a few of the most popular posts on the site. Check them out if you're new here or if you've not read these. The Declaration of Principles was the first post on the blog, and it's still pretty much as relevant today as it was when it was drafted in November 2005.

 

Resources: If you click on "Resources" (look to the upper left of this page) you'll see some of the more helpful pages we've assembled for filmmakers (and everyone) since beginning the site. Over the coming weeks we'll be updating and expanding these pages.

 

Submission guidelines: We've always received emails from readers wanting us to watch and/or review our films. This has been done pretty much catch-as-catch-can in the past. We finally drew up some ideas about how to do this, as seen in the sidebar on the left. We want to review and put a spotlight on great films more than we've been able to recently. This is a way to encourage this. Click on the Submission Guidelines and and let us know if you've got a film you want us to watch.

 

What hasn't changed?

 

Our blog still features all the same stuff that we've championed and discussed from the beginning -- DIY, regional, and personal filmmaking. We've moved it to selfreliantfilm.com/blog, so update your bookmarks.

(If you bookmarked an old page from the blog it should automatically redirect to the new permalink structure, but if you encounter a broken link, let us know!)  

Finally, one other thing that hasn't changed: This site is still ad-free.

For us, self-reliance has always gone hand in hand with the idea of simplicity. While filmmaking is a vocation that often resists even our attempts to simplify the process of making movies, we feel the least we can do, sometimes at least, is keep our tiny corner of the internet quiet from flashing banners, pop-ups, and google ads buried within our own reflections. This website, like our films, continues to be a labor of love.

We hope you like the new site, and the things to come. If you do, spread the word by sharing with a friend by using facebook, twitter or, you know, by actually telling someone about it face-to-face.

Film Festivals, Energy Drinks and Playing the Odds

Attending a film festival is exhausting. You race around town to screenings and stand in lines throughout the day. Then at night you run around town to parties, sometimes several of them. I’m not about to complain. Leading a life in film is an immense privilege and I try to remind myself of it all the time. But there’s no question that festival-going can take its toll on your body. On more than one occasion at SXSW, I thought that there should be festival volunteers on 6th Street handing off Gatorade to badge holders. Kinda like a marathon, only minus the running.

Instead, in reality, the sponsors of film festivals are always trying to ply you with massive amounts of incredibly unhealthy stuff. Among the free “refreshments” offered at SXSW this year were cigarettes, fried fish, inordinate amounts of beer, whiskey and tequila, and an “energy” drink with so much caffeine that its container cautions to “limit intake to maximum one bottle per 4 hours.”

I’m not saying I didn’t partake of some of this stuff. I’m just… well, I’m the son of a nutritionist. I think about these things.

I also think about the health of film festivals and the filmmakers that they host. Seeing the long lines and sitting in (or being shut out of) the many sell-out screenings in Austin certainly confirmed that SXSW has a healthy prognosis.

For filmmakers, though, I’m less certain.

As the barriers to making a film continue to be lowered, I fully expect submissions to SXSW to double within three or four years. Assuming the number of films being programmed remains the same, the acceptance rate will drop to something like .5% or even lower. That’s not a typo. That’s half of one percent. SXSW is not alone in this; other, similarly prestigious festivals will have roughly the same odds of acceptance.

I grant you, the odds of getting your film into SXSW (1% this year) are better than, say, the odds of winning the Powerball Jackpot (1 in 195,249,054). But, then again, the cost to play is higher for festivals. I’m not just talking about festival entry fees. First you’ve got to make your film.

Similarly, the payout ratio for the Powerball ($1 for a chance at +/- $350,000,000) is far better than that of making a movie. Most filmmakers and their investors would love to just double their money. As we all know, many films don’t make their money back at all.

This isn’t an argument for quitting film and instead playing Powerball. Most people making films at this level aren't solely in it for the money -- they're in it because they have stories to tell. At least, that's why I'm in it.

But considering financial sustainability has to be part of the equation too. If it's not, well... it's not sustainable.

And part of that means that filmmakers these days need to ask tough questions both of themselves and of film festivals:

    When you consider the costs of festival entry fees, festival travel and lodging (if not provided), food, and promotion (posters, etc), how much are you paying, per head, for each audience member that saw your film?

    How much are you paying for each review or blog post that fest screenings generate about your film?

    If your film sells out a screening, where does that money go? Will you see a penny of it?

    Are you comfortable paying for people to pay others to see your film?

    In the final cost-benefit analysis, are festivals worth it?

    What do you get out of the deal?

I mean, of course, in addition to the free cigarettes, beer, and energy drinks.

We’ve known this for a while, of course, but it bears repeating: For the independent filmmaker, festivals used to be the answer. Now they’re the question.

Take the Survey: 50 States, 50 Filmmakers

I've been looking over Ted Hope's blog lately and one thing he keeps returning to is the idea that in order for cinema to be truly free (i.e., liberated), we have to do our part to help film culture. I agree.

That's part of what this blog has always been about. One of the reasons I began this blog was to champion filmmakers working regionally.

But now I'd like to undertake a concrete project specifically dedicated to spotlighting filmmakers that live around the country. To do that I need your help. Not a lot of help, mind you -- just a few minutes.

I'm calling this undertaking 50 States, 50 Filmmakers.

It will probably end up being a series of discussions with filmmakers working around the country. I hope to talk with others about why they live and work where they do, the challenges and opportunities they face, the resources available to them, and how they support their work. Ideally, these discussions will include links that allow you to watch or purchase their work. And I'd like to do one for each state, in case the title didn't tip you off.

So, to restate, to do this project completely, I need your help.

I want you to tell me who you think is living and making interesting films outside of New York or Los Angeles. The films can be feature films, documentaries, or short experimental works. I don't care. "Interesting" and "not-New-York-or-Los-Angeles" is all I care about.

If you want to nominate a filmmaking team or filmmaking collective, that's cool. I'm open to doing a few historical surveys, too, so if you prefer to nominate someone deceased (say, Eagle Pennell of Texas or Colorado's Stan Brakhage), go for it. I just want some interesting ideas.

So, without further ado, CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY.

Don't know 50 filmmakers in 50 states? That's okay. I don't either. That's why I'm doing the survey -- to fill in some blanks and to get some good ideas for this thing. Just take the survey and give suggestions where you can. You don't have to provide nominations for all 50 states.

And please pass this along to your friends. I'd like as many people throwing out ideas as possible. I'm going to leave this post up for a couple of weeks, after which I'll start compiling replies.

Again, here's the link to the survey.

Congrats to Rooftop Films Filmmakers' Fund Recipients

Rooftop Films today announced the four recipients of their 2009 Filmmakers' Fund Short Film Grants. It gives me a lot of pleasure to spread the word about this because, in addition to being someone whose career benefitted greatly from a short film grant, I happen know two of the recipients. Recipients and summaries of the projects:

ROOFTOP FILMS AND THE CHICKEN & EGG FUND SHORT FILM GRANT + Sara Zia Ebrahimi: Norman Schwartzkopf Made Me Gay

ROOFTOP FILMMAKERS’ FUND SHORT FILM GRANTS Underwritten by Cinereach

+ Moon Molson: Crazy Beats Strong Every Time

+ James M. Johnston: Knife

+ Dustin Guy Defa: We Have No Home

Way to go Sara Zia and James -- and congrats to all!

More details about the grants and the projects selected for funding here.

UFVA Panel - "Self-Reliant Filmmaking"

I am in New Orleans at the University Film & Video Association conference. Today I moderated a panel on Self-Reliant Filmmaking. There was a good crowd and, as often happens with these things, the discussion just scraped the tip of the iceberg. The panelists were:

Paul Harrill, Virginia Tech. Moderator. Sasha Waters, University of Iowa. Jennifer Proctor, Grand Valley State University. Bob Hurst, University of Kansas.

As promised, I am posting links to many of the articles and resources discussed by the panelists and myself. If this is your first time visiting Self-Reliant Film, I encourage you to sift through the posts, especially the first post, which lays out some of the points made in my discussion today, and the resources page.

Paul Harrill: Panel Opening Remarks

Yes, The Sky is Really Falling" by Mark Gill Welcome to the New World of Distribution by Peter Broderick

Workbook Project - website led by Lance Weiler that "bridges the gap between tech and entertainment"

CinemaTech - Scott Kirsner's blog about "digital cinema, democratization, and other trends remaking the movies"

Self-Distribution Case Studies: Power to the Pixel conference presentation: Brave New Films Power to the Pixel conference presentation:Four Eyed Monsters

Panelist Sasha Waters:

Be Fake, Remake - group blog featuring work from Sasha Waters' Remake Seminar

Panelist Jennifer Proctor:

Jennifer Proctor: home page (see "Teaching Materials")

Center for Social Media - Best Practices for Fair Use in Online Video

Vimeo -- a video hosting community

Student work shown: Anna Gustafson, “Woman” Evan Rattenbury, “Land O’ Dreams” Josh Carlson, “Donkeys vs. Elephants

Sita Sings the Blues is out on DVD. How, I'm still not sure.

Sita Sings the Blues, the critically acclaimed animated feature film single-handedly made by Nina Paley, is being released on DVD today. For those that haven't been following the story, the film's use of uncleared, copyrighted musical compositions has restricted the film's release. Today, indieWire reports that "[t]hrough an intense study of copyright laws, Paley has realized the opportunity to allow other people to sell her work with her endorsement, and she can receive donations from these distributors."

But the author of the article does not mention the legal conclusions that Paley (and her lawyers) arrived at, nor does the article make any mention of the source for this information.

One website that is acknowledged is QuestionCopyright, which has a lengthy interview with Paley. The comments section that follows the interview is worth a read, too, as there's a lot of back-and-forth between commenters supporting Paley's attempts to produce "new work" (as copyright law is supposed to encourage) and several other others that argue that blame Paley for the situation at hand.

Unfortunately, I still don't have answers about how Paley and her lawyers have decided to release the film on DVD. Perhaps it's because they're also giving it away via torrent?

If you want to buy the DVD, it's available here.

UPDATE: See the comments for answers....

This one's for the graduates...

Reader (and former student) Jonathan Poritsky writes in:

I've replied to enough "your-dad-said-you-work-in-film-what-should-i-do-now?" e-mails that I got tired of it and decided to write the response to end all responses. It seemed relevant to SRF, and also in part inspired by what you do on your site. So here's the link, do with it what you will...

I will link to it. Here it is: Starting Out in Film, Now What?

How to make a screenings map with Google

After my recent post, which mapped out the past and upcoming Quick Feet, Soft Hands television screenings, some folks at ITVS asked if I wouldn't mind sharing how I made the map so that they could encourage other filmmakers they work with to do the same. Though I'm far from the first person to do this sort of thing, I was, of course, happy to oblige. It's a great way to visually communicate with your audience about when and where they can see your work.

How to create a screenings map using Google Maps:

1) You'll need a Google account, like a Gmail account. If you don't have one, sign up for one.

2) Once you have logged into your Google account, go to Google Maps.

3) In the upper left hand corner, click on "My Maps", then click on "Create new map."

4) A new window area appears on the screen.

Title the map, and describe it. Obviously, you can make this map for TV screenings, festival screenings, a theatrical release, whatever. For my television screenings, here's what I wrote:

"Quick Feet Soft Hands" TV Screenings Upcoming and past screenings for "Quick Feet, Soft Hands."

In some cases, the film will be showing on multiple streams (i.e., regular and Hi-Def), so double-check with your local listings to confirm the details listed here.

If the film is not available in your area, contact your local station to request it.

To find your local station, visit: http://www.pbs.org/stationfinder

For more information on "Quick Feet, Soft Hands" visit: http://www.lovellfilms.com or search "Quick Feet Soft Hands" on Facebook.

5) Immediately under the text box where you'll type your description, select whether you want the map to be PUBLIC or UNLISTED. You may want it unlisted while you develop the map. Then, when you're done, make it public.

6) Now, start adding your screenings:

Begin by searching for a venue (say, a film festival or television station) in the Google search bar at the top of the screen.

a) If it shows up on the map, click on the link and a small "dialogue bubble" will appear. In that bubble click on "Save to My Maps."

Follow the prompt and select the name of the map you're creating.

Clicking "save" will make a new "dialogue bubble" appear. Here you can add information of your choosing. For my "Quick Feet, Soft Hands" map I added the screening date(s) and time(s) for each station.

This is also where you can choose the icon you prefer. I went with some blue thumbtack looking icons. There are several to choose from -- you can even make your own.

b) If searching for the venue does not produce the results you want, you'll need to add the venue yourself. Start by finding the approximate location on your map for the venue, then click on map "pin" in the upper left hand corner of the map. This will change your cursor into a "pin" which you can then place where you like.

Once it's placed, click on it again to add information. (See 6a above for instructions.)

7) As you add your venues, be sure to intermittently save your map. Saving is accomplished by clicking on the "Save" button to the left of the map.

8 ) If you haven't already done so, make your map public by selecting the "Public" radio button after it's done.

9) Finally, you need to share it! To get the URL of your map, click on the "Link" button in the upper right hand corner of the map.

This will show not only the URL for your map (which you can email to all of your fans and supporters), but also the HTML code so that you can embed the map in other web pages (like a blog).

Enjoy!

NOTES:

- If you wish to allow others to edit your map, you can click on the "Collaborate" link near your map's title.

- If you wish to add other venues after later, just log into your Google account, select "My Maps", choose the map that you want to edit, and click on the "Edit" button. Remember to save your work.


View "Quick Feet Soft Hands" TV Screenings in a larger map

Scott Kirsner's ITVS Case Studies

A few weeks ago Scott Kirsner blogged about a series of case studies he recently authored regarding independent filmmakers connecting with their audiences. Commissioned by ITVS, the case studies focus on, as Scott puts it,

indie filmmakers who are pioneering new ways to: - Open up the production process to more audience participation

- Find and connect with new audiences for their work

- Distribute their finished film in new ways.

While all of the case studies focus on documentaries, there are a lot of insights here that are not limited to any one genre. In fact, I've made these case studies required reading in the Movie Business class that I teach at Virginia Tech. If you read this blog, chances are they should be required reading for you, too.

Read Scott's introductory blog post. Or go straight to the case studies.

Peter Broderick's "New World"

This was originally pub'd in indieWire and is getting some linkage, but I've got to link to it too, as it's an astute piece on old and new distribution. Some of it is common knowledge by this point, but it does feel more up to date than Mark Gill's "sky is falling" speech a while back. Why?

Mark’s keynote focused on the distributors, production companies, studio specialty divisions, and foreign sales companies that dominate independent film in the Old World. Mark has many years of experience in this world. He was President of Miramax Films, then head of Warner Independent, and is now CEO of the Film Department. He sees things from the perspective of a seasoned Old World executive.

I see things from the filmmaker’s perspective. For the past 11 years, I have been helping filmmakers maximize revenues, get their films seen as widely as possible, and launch or further their careers. From 1997 until 2002, I experienced the deteriorating state of the Old World of Distribution as head of IFC’s Next Wave Films. After the company closed, I discovered the New World of Distribution in its formative stages. A few directors had already gotten impressive results by splitting up their rights and selling DVDs directly from their websites.

Read Welcome to the New World of Distribution.

The Conversation... with Scott Kirsner

Though this website is a direct result of my belief that new technologies are reshaping filmmaking, as well as the relationships that filmmakers have with their audience, I rarely write about the intersections between cinema, the web, gaming, and business. One the reason I don't is because there's already someone that does that much better than I could. His name is Scott Kirsner. A journalist by trade, Kirsner is the author of "The Future of Web Video: Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers", the editor of CinemaTech (his must-read blog) and a contributor to publications as diverse as has also contributed to Variety, Wired, Salon.com, and BusinessWeek, among others.

Recently, Kirsner announced a new event to be held this fall in Berkeley, called The Conversation.

The Conversation

 

Billed as "a gathering... intended to explore the new business and creative opportunities emerging in 2008," The Conversation is "targeted to media-makers and technologists who want to understand and help shape the future of the entertainment industry."

If the list of organizers and "conversation leaders" is any indication, The Conversation will be well worth sitting in on.

In anticipation of the event, Kirsner and I exchanged a couple of Q+A emails. I thought I'd share this (lowercase "c") conversation with you:

**

Your journalism has covered motion pictures, new technologies, the internet, and the intersections of all of these overlapping worlds. But I've, at least, always thought of you as a journalist -- someone that reports, someone that analyzes. With The Conversation you're an instigator, a participant.

I'm really interested in innovation, and how new ideas get introduced to the world. It's fun to write about that, but it's also fun to bring together people whom I've met in my journalistic travels, and get them talking to each other -- in person. All kinds of cool sparks fly. That's what we aim to do with The Conversation. I'll be there to ask questions and instigate, sure, but I also expect that our participants will do a lot of that, too.

How did The Conversation got started (no pun intended)?

There were two dynamics, really, that led to its creation. One is that a lot of times at film festivals, the discussions about new technologies, new tools, and new business models wind up as a side-show to the main event, which is watching movies. We wanted to do something where mapping out the future and getting up to speed with what other creators are doing would be the central purpose. The second dynamic was that there used to be this great event that happened twice in Montreal, called Digimart. Lance Weiler, Peter Broderick, Tiffany Shlain and I all spoke at the second Digimart a few years ago. It was a great gathering... but it didn't continue after 2006, and we wanted to keep its spirit alive and take it to a new geography.

One of the things the website says is that The Conversation is "definitely not a conference." Why make the distinction?

Conferences, to me, are about listening passively. They're often sold out to sponsors, which means they don't serve the participants very well. They tend to feature the same old speakers delivering the same old PowerPoint presentations. We're trying to avoid all that, and simply host a high-energy conversation among people creating change in the entertainment industry.

If you could only ask one question to all the people that will be attending -- the presenters and the registered attendees -- what would it be?

How is your relationship with your audience changing? That's a topic I'm obsessed with right now -- I think that some of the biggest changes over the next 10 years in TV, film, video, and games are going to revolve around that relationship between creator and audience.

 

**

The Conversation unfolds October 17-18 in Berkeley, California. Visit the website for more information and to register.

cicadas on PBS in New York, OR: How to Write a Press Release

Because of this website, I receive press releases on a daily basis from a multitude of PR firms. It's clear with many of them that the sender hasn't spent more than 5 seconds thinking about the audience for this website. Some of these are pretty unintentionally funny: My favorite media alert is probably the one about a re-recording of a jingle for canned beans by a Country music recording artist. But I digress. The point is, few notices get my attention. And even fewer do I end up writing about. When I receive a notice like the one quoted verbatim below, though, I try to act on it.

Why? Four reasons:

1) The thing being promoted sounds interesting.

2) The people that read this website might be interested in it too.

3) The thing being promoted sounds as if it could use my help as far as promotion goes. I tend to favor humble affairs, not stuff with a big advertising budget. (In case you hadn't noticed by now.)

4) The release sounds like it was written by an actual human being. You'd be surprised at how rare this is. Or maybe you wouldn't.

Oh yes, I'm sure Kat Candler's email breaks all sorts of "rules" about writing press releases. But I have noticed that there seems to be a direct correlation between points #1-3 and point #4. In the end, the result is that, Candler's email not only makes me want to see this movie -- it makes me want to tell others about it.

And in my book that's a press release that works.

cicadas 

cicadas Screening on PBS in New York Saturday, 7/19, 11:55pm Sunday, 7/20, 4:25am WNET, Reel 13 http://www.bside.com/films/cicadas

Long ago, I made this feature film called, cicadas. We shot it over the summer of 1999 in a tiny, tiny town called Bertram (population 835). We shot the film on a Canon XL1 back when mini-DV was brand spankin' new. Over 6 weeks, Thursdays through Sundays a cast and crew trucked out to the middle of nowhere Texas to make a story loosely based on a crush I had at age 16 on a skater punk kid.

The summer of 1999 was one of the best summers of my life. We had no expectations, no grandiose ideas of making it big ... we just wanted to make a feature film just to learn how to do it. And what came out of that little film was a family of friends, a super fun summer and a little movie that could.

The film went on to win some audience awards at festivals, get picked up for distribution and then dropped by distribution. And then picked up again for distribution.

If you have friends in New York who like to stay up crazy late or can record stuff to their VHS or DVD players, pass this along. It's fun to share your heart with people. Even if it's super rough around the edges and frayed along the hem line.

***

One other thing to note about press releases. For me, whether or not I write about something is also a matter of timing. Some days and weeks I'm slammed. Some days, a notice will come in and, if I've got a few spare minutes, I'll throw something up on the web. People that are paid to blog full time probably work differently, but that's how I roll.

As always, thanks for reading. And if you're a filmmaker, don't be afraid to see if I can cover your film. Just don't be hurt if I don't.

©opy®ight: A Few Helpful Links

Some helpful links: U.S. Copyright Office Copyright is a kind of intellectual property monopoly. And if it was intellectual property Monopoly, this site would be "Go." Translation: Start here.

How to Register a Work This site takes you to eCO, where you can file a copyright registration for your work through the Copyright Office online system.

Public Domain(?):

Stanford Copyright Renewal Database Lets you search for whether a work is still under copyright or not.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States A chart to help you understand the labyrinthine laws regarding when a work will fall into the public domain. The chart is available as a PDF.

Fair Use:

Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use If you are a documentary maker you should know this up and down.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video Like the Documentary Best Practices, this is something to know and learn.

Center for Social Media: Fair Use FAQ A must.

Creative Commons:

Creative Commons. Where to go if you want to give it away, legally speaking.

Resource pages and other links:

Stanford University Libraries: Copyright & Fair Use: Charts and Tools: A great page of links.

Cornell University Copyright Information Center: More great links.

EDIT (7/9/08): This post was accidentally deleted. I think I've restored it pretty completely, and added some more links in the process.

EDIT (9/29/16): Fixed some broken links.

The(ir) Sky Is Falling.

Brian Newman of the Tribeca Film Institute has the best response I've seen to Mark Gill's "The Sky is Falling" speech, the one that has the (film-centric) internets all abuzz. An excerpt from Newman's post, which summarizes much of what I was thinking when I read Gill's speech:

[N]either I nor the people making the music I like are in this game to make a lot of money....Same with most of the filmmakers I know – they are passionate about making films, want an audience and would like to just make enough to live on. The suits are in it for the major profit, and for them the sky is falling – it actually fell a long time ago, but all that dumb money kept the eyes glazed enough not to notice it. So, from the rest of us to all of you just joining us – welcome to our party, it’s not making us any money, but some of us are still finding what we want and having fun.

Click here for the whole thing.

SXSW: Wrap-up

Last year I think I spent as much time posting thoughts on films I was seeing at South by Southwest as I did actually attending films and panels. This year I chose to err in the other direction. There were simply too many movies to see, panels to attend, people to meet, and parties to drop by. Highlights (in the order I saw them):

Nights and Weekends by Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig Wellness by Jake Mahaffy Paper Covers Rock by Joe Maggio The New Year Parade by Tom Quinn Present Company by Frank V. Ross

All make use of handheld digital video, feature naturalistic performances, and were made with small (or no) crews and budgets. Despite the superficial sharing of neo-neo-realistic qualities, it would be tough to compare them. Suffice to say that all are worth seeing.

As good as those films were, perhaps my two favorites of SXSW were two very polished documentaries, Second Skin and At the Death House Door.

Second Skin digs into the world of MMORPGs, and how these online games create new lives and identities -- on both sides of the computer screen -- for the people playing them. Not being a gamer, I wondered how much I would care about the film's subject, especially in light of the fact that 90% of the audience I viewed it with seemed to be there to see a film about their lives. Happily, the film finds some dynamic people to follow and it does superb job of chronicling their lives, both on- and off-line. I suspect this will have a healthy life on DVD, and perhaps theatrically.

At the Death House Door was the most emotionally gripping film I saw at SXSW. A somewhat conventionally shot documentary featuring lots of interviews, it reminded me that no single documentary style has a monopoly on greatness. The film follows Carroll Pickett who, during his 15 years as the house chaplain to a Texas prison, presided over 95 executions, including the very first lethal injection done anywhere in the world. The film also tells the story of Carlos De Luna, one of those 95 prisoners executed, and one that Pickett believed to be innocent. This is a movie that had me in tears -- both at horrific things, and also in admiration at the remarkable heroism of ordinary individuals. Emotions aside, it did bring some nuance to arguments for and (especially) against the death penalty. The fact that it was premiering in Austin -- that is, in the capital of the state where these executions took place -- made the screening experience all the more poignant. At the Death House Door was co-produced by IFC, so look for it there (and, perhaps, theatrically).

As for panels, not all of the ones I attended have been posted (nor do I know if they will) but here are the festival's recordings of some for those of you that couldn't be there.

Oscar® Bragging Rights: Avid vs. Mac

I ran across some amusing (because they're duelling) press releases today: Avid is touting that all of the nominees in "every single one of the nominated and award-winning films in the Best Motion Picture, Directing, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Documentary Feature and Original Score categories at this year's Academy Awards were created using at least one Avid, Digidesign, Sibelius or Softimage product."

What Avid doesn't tout is the fact that multiple-Oscar (and Best Picture) winner No Country For Old Men "is the first movie edited with a completely digital workflow on Mac to win the Oscar." Indeed, the Coen Brothers have done a fair amount of promotion for Apple's Final Cut Studio suite.

This Conference is Being Recorded: 2007 Wrap-up

Over the holidays, Lance Weiler, Mark Stolaroff and I spoke about the year in review for This Conference is Being Recorded, the Workbook Project's podcast series. You can listen to the show here. I was fighting off a migraine that day, so apologies if my thoughts aren't that coherent. I do recall that Lance and Mark had some typically insightful things to say.

The recording is the second in a two part series. Part one, which features Lance, Scott Kirsner, and Woody Benson, is worth a listen, too.

MacHeist: Indy Mac Software + Good Cause = Insane Deal

If you use a Mac, you absolutely must check out the insane deal that MacHeist -- an alliance of independent Mac software developers -- is offering. For $49.95, MacHeist is selling $428 worth of fully-featured (i.e., not demo mode) Mac software. And to make the offer that much sweeter, a good chunk of the proceeds go to charity. As of this writing, $227,000+ has been raised so far.

Plus, the software is good. I would recommend all three of the twelve titles that I've previously used:

SnapzProX - a screencapture utility that's GREAT for creating screencasts iStopMotion - a great program for shooting stop motion animation 1Password - a browser extension that saves all your passwords in one place, and generates secure passwords

I'm an especially big fan of SnapzProX. Last fall I used it (in demo mode) to create a screencast for some of my students. I found it to be the best application of its kind on the Mac. It normally sells for $69, but for the next four days people can get it, plus 11 other applications, for $20 less. And it goes to charity. So I'm getting out my credit card now.

As for the charities represented, according to the MacHeist wiki:

Purchasers can choose from the following list of ten charities, or opt to split the donation from their purchase evenly among the choices.

* Action Against Hunger * AIDS Research Alliance * Alliance for Climate Protection * Direct Relief International * Humane Society International * The Nature Conservancy * Save the Children * Save Darfur * Prevent Cancer Foundation * World Wildlife Fund