Friday, June 30, 2006

Amanda Congdon on Net neutrality

I meant to get this up earlier this week, but it's still relevant. Rocketboom has a nice edition on Net Neutrality. The Senate seems dead set on killing the internet. I won't go on and on about why you should care,as a full site has been put up for this purpose. Today, Senator Kerry put out a letter saying:

Free and open access to the internet is something all Americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live. It is profoundly disappointing that the Senate is going let a handful of companies hold internet access hostage by legalizing the cherry-picking of cable service providers and new entrants. That is a dynamic that would leave some communities with inferior service, higher cable rates, and even the loss of service. Not to mention inadequate internet service — in the age of the information.

This bill was passed in committee over our objections. Now we need to fight to either fix it or kill it in the full Senate. Senator Wyden has already drawn a line in the sand — putting a “hold” on the bill, which prevents it from going forward for now. But there will be a day of reckoning on this legislation soon, make no mistake about it, and we need you to get engaged — pressure your Senators, follow the issue, demand net neutrality and build-out.

SaveTheInternet has links for action - and take it today, because after July 4th, the Senate returns and simultaneously tries to kill the Net and figure out a way to allow Bush to get around the Supreme Court's orders yesterday that he act civilized on Guantanamo. Busy folks.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Four Eyed Monsters Invite

Great new invitiation from the 4 Eyed Monsters Folks - it's an ad, it's instructions, it's viral's brilliant.

New York, NY - Cinema Village

Tuesday June 27th @ 7:30pm | Wednesday June 28th @ 7:30pm
Buy Tickets | Print B&W flier | Directions | Who is attending
Trailer | Video Podcast

Monday, June 19, 2006

NYC Losing Arts

A great email was sent out by Galapagos Arts Space today. In it they refer to ten performing arts spaces going out of business in New York, and how this is just the beginnings of a loss of emerging arts, and artists, from NYC.

As I've written elsewhere, this trend is also hitting the media arts, and the recent closing of AIVF can, in part, be seen as indicative of this change. Is the same trend mentioned by Galapagos starting to be seen in NYC's media landscape? We're probably in better shape due to the continued imnportance of NYC as a film town, even for Hollywood production. But, I would argue that what Robert of Galapagos mentions below could easily be seen occuring in the film world next. Perhaps filmmakers and media artists that call NYC home should start addressing this possibility now:

The original article is quoted almost entirely here, and is worth reading:

"The canaries in New York City’s real estate gold mine – the emerging arts – are no longer talking about the next show they hope to land, they’re talking about the next city they think they can land in once their current lease runs out. (...) Within the next few months, ten off-Broadway theaters will permanently close . The price of real estate has risen so far that, from a cultural point of view, in three to five years we’ll be experiencing a fundamentally different idea of what it means to live in New York City and be a New Yorker. City Hall must find ways to incentivize rebuilding the emerging arts infrastructure that’s evaporating in our white-hot real estate market, or it won’t be built.


In a New York too expensive to incubate young artists many of these best young minds will fly right past our exploding real-estate market and rezoned artistic neighborhoods to cultivate and grow cultural and economic opportunities in other, less expensive cities. It’s important to remember that these young artists have no loyalty to New York; they’re from places like Des Moines after all. Many in New York City believe that the vital underground of emerging artists’ environments is here to stay ‘just because’. This is wrong. New York doesn’t have to be the cultural capital of the emerging arts, or of the financial or the media industries for that matter, New York needs to continue to earn its place and it can easily price itself out of that role. London is only one of many capable cities who are very busy trying to beat us at our best industries.

The Future:

As more and more cities begin to understand the advantage they can place in their populations by proactively attracting the emerging arts and either establishing or buttressing their own creative economies, the bidding for our young cultural participants will begin. Smart cities will soon make New York based artists offers they’d be foolish to refuse, and cities like (gasp!) Philadelphia, Berlin, Pittsburg or London will get the most adventurous of them – the ones our meritocracy would obviously miss the most – if we can’t find effective ways to continue pooling them here, in our city."

What we need to do:

The cost of real estate is crushing the emerging arts. We’re about to see a huge exodus of emerging artists leaving new York for other, less expensive cities. To even think about retaining them we have to incentivize the creation of opportunity at the emergent level. And we have to create lots of it.


If emerging artists and the best young cultural thinkers can’t see themselves possibly affording to live here then we’d better find ways to make them think they can’t possibly afford to live anywhere else.

In the end only one-thing matters: good artists and the best young cultural thinkers follow ideas, and ideas flourish when and where there is opportunity to realize them. .

No one can roll back the cost of real estate or prevent small performance spaces from becoming chic little clothing stores, but to create so much opportunity in this real estate climate that we remain an effective cultural capital and not simply a wonderful museum city where art isn’t made, there are a number of questions that must be asked.

What can our City government do?
What can the largest cultural institutions do?
What can the foundation and funding community do?
What can the business community do?
What can our next Governor do?
What can you, the audience, do?

Robert Elmes
Director, Galapagos Art Space"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Filmmaker Julia Reichert’s Big Day

A quick shout out to wish filmmaker Julia Reichert Happy Birthday, and to congratulate her on getting to this day. (Okay, her birthday is June 16th, but I had to post this a day early). As some of you probably read in IndieWire or heard through others, Julia found out in January at the Sundance Film Festival that she had cancer, and her doctors advised her to leave Sundance immediately and return home for treatment. Julia had been at Sundance with her partner in life and film, Steven Bognar to premiere their documentary A Lion in the House, a four-hour long film about kids and their families struggling with cancer (filmed over eight years). Since that time, many of us have kept up with them through emails that both she and Steven have been sending out chronicling her journey. It’s been harrowing, sad, honest and lately it’s been turning for the better - much better.

I’ve known Steven and Julia for years, having first met Steven at the Atlanta Film Festival in the early 1990s. I later met Julia at the same festival, and have always found them to be among the most genuine filmmakers I’ve ever met, not to mention quite talented. When I arrived at my current gig in New York, both of them had already received Fellowships from our organization, and it made me proud to have them in our roster even if I had nothing to do with their success. Their bios, from the NVR website:

Bognar’s documentaries and short narratives have screened widely at festivals and on television. He has produced feature films, taught media production and received several fellowships. Reichert has directed and produced both fiction features and documentaries, and teaches filmmaking at Wright State University, Ohio. She co-founded the film distribution co-op New Day Films and Film Fund, the predecessor of Independent Feature Project. They have collaborated on several films, often as producers, since the mid-1990s.

A Lion in the House has been playing at several festivals, and has won numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the Nashville Film Festival. It just ended a run at the Makor Theater in New York, and it premieres on Independent Lens on PBS on June 21 and 22nd. I recommend you check it out.

Best wishes to Julia as she celebrates an important birthday!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

AIVF Closing Shop

After several months of attempting to reverse their slide, AIVF sent an email out announcing that they will close the doors on June 28th. They do give word that some members are gathering soon to try to save the magazine and possibly relaunch the organization. My understanding is that some ex-board members (from long ago, I believe), and concerned members of the community plan to meet at the Flaherty Film Conference to discuss the demise of AIVF and see if they can figure out a way to relaunch it. In addition, as mentioned in the email, several groups are discussing with AIVF the possibility of at least taking on the magazine, The Independent, and keeping its focus of in-depth information and advocacy. (Full Disclosure: The group I run, NVR, has discussed this possibility, although we have no plans at this time).

I'm not sure, however, that trying to relaunch the organization is a good idea. As I described in an earlier post, AIVF is dying for a variety of reasons, and no one has been able to step forward and offer a plan for revitalization during the appropriate time - which would be the last five months of reorganization. Furthermore, part of AIVF's problems were due to having a board comprised mainly of filmmakers without much ability to raise funds. The group coming together sounds like more of the same.

It would possibly be much wiser for people to rally behind any of the numerous other groups that serve filmmakers, and that are also currently struggling, and help them transition. During the beginnings of the (public knowledge) of the AIVF crisis, several filmmakers gathered and made it clear that they didn't feel that any other organization was serving their needs. This is probably true, but organizations are really what their members make of them. If organization X isn't serving filmmakers needs, then their members (that means those of you willing to pay for the right to complain about them) should gather and force change. These organizations have to respond to their members needs, but they won't if those needs aren't articulated.

I continue to believe that even in this new age of media, where access is near ubiquitous and everyone seems to be a filmmaker, artists still need a group that can advocate on their behalf, serve their needs, get them information they can use and possibly help them get their films made and seen by more people. Such a group will undoubtedly need a stronger web presence, new business models and stronger commitment to its members, but the need is still there. Perhaps it's time for media artists to get more vocal about what they want and deserve.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Poor Glickman

Dan Glickman agreed to debate John Perry Barlow about movie piracy on the BBC. Didn't he know he'd end up looking really, really bad? You've gotta wonder sometimes about the advice given to the MPAA by their PR people. Read the full interivew here, or just my favorite snippet:

"JPB: I've got good news and bad news and good news. And the good news is that you guys have managed to buy every major legislative body on the planet, and the courts are even with you. So you've done a great job there and you should congratulate yourself.

But you know the problem is - the bad news is that you're up against a dedicated foe that is younger and smarter that you are and will be alive when you're dead. You're 55 years old and these kids are 17 and they're just smarter than you. So you're gonna lose that one.

But the good news is that you guys are mean sons of bitches and you've been figuring out ways of ripping off audiences and artists for centuries....."

I've never met Dan Glickman, but a friend has and they told me he's actually a nice guy. I've been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it appears he is hopelessly confused about the potential economics of the internet. Says Glickman:

"It is ridiculous to believe that you can give product away for free and be more successful. I mean it defies the laws of nature."

Well Dan, you should talk to Rick Prelinger at Prelinger Archives. He made all of his content available for free, and his sales increased more than 40% defying all laws of nature. Or check out one of the numerous studies showing that free availability of music has had zero statistical effect on music sales.

The MPAA is going to keep fighting this war, and keep losing, for quite some time. It would be interesting to see them take their collective heads out of the sand and think about the possibilities of addressing the changes due to the internet, instead of reacting in a manner that alienates their consumers.