Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fair Use in Morelia

I can't believe I haven't posted in over a month, but I've been traveling and delinquent on blogging. I am currently in Morelia at the lovely Morelia Film Festival (FICM). I've been visiting here for 4 years now, as we present the Media Arts Fellowships in Mexico annually at this festival (photos of winners at left). Today, after going to the mercado and stocking up on ancho chiles for cooking back home, I spoke on a panel at the Morelia Lab - a sidebar of the festival where 30 documentaty filmmakers from Latin America spend the week learning important things about documentaries, inluding international co-production, pitching and this year - the importance of Fair Use! Filmmaker Gordon Quinn and I led a two hour session on the struggle to re-establish the principles of Fair Use in the US, which has been led by Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi with the creation of the Guide to Best Practices in Fair Use.

While neither of us could speak to specifics of the law in Mexico, Brazil or other Latin American countries, we had a great talk about what has been done in the US and how filmmakers here can use this resource in thinking about their own films, as well as in continuing the fair use movement abroad. Gordon showed some great realworld examples from Kartemquin of how they've used fair use, how for many years their creativity was curtailed by not understanding fair use and how the Statement of Best Practices has influenced how they now approach licensing in their films. It was a great panel, and I'm glad Morelia is forward thinking enough to make sure their lab participants are thinking progressively about their rights.

Morelia is a very special festival, and I am lucky to attend each year. Other highlights were tributes to Todd Haynes, Mexican film star Julio Aleman and to the festival "patron saint" so to speak, Pepe Escriche of the Huesca Film Festival, who recently, tragically died of cancer (he was an inspiration to the festival's founders and all guests). The photo here shows the plaque in his honor. Festival Director Daniela Michel, and President of the Festival's board, Alejandro Ramirez, really make this a special event, a must-stop on the festival circuit and an exemplar of hospitality that all fests should follow. Their film programming is stellar as well - retrospectives, important films from the circuit and many Mexican and Latin American premieres. They do a great job with free outdoor screenings for the public, and fill most screenings, even for obscure foreign work. Kudos to them on a great 6th anniversary.

I came here directly from the Woodstock Film Festival, where I moderated a panel on fundraising (though I somehow fell off the web page, I really did moderate it!). Woodstock is also a great festival with amazing staff and volunteers who really go the extra mile to make you feel at home. The film program was great as well, but I didn't get to see a single film. I was there for less than 24 hrs, much less, as I had a cold and had to get ready to leave for Morelia. Our panel had a great line-up with experienced producers, funders of film and film attorneys explaining new business models for funding your film. People were cautiously optimistic about raising funds in the current economic climate. We also had a lively chat both backstage and on about the importance of keeping your digital rights. Steven Beer pointed out that there's too much change out there to trust anyone with your rights if they want exclusive deals or long terms - a topic that needs more open discussion on the fest circuit IMHO. More on this soon, but I'm off now to Grantmakers in the Arts, Power to the Pixel and Scottish Audience Development Forum.