Sunday, May 18, 2008

Become your Media Landscape

Media Fabrics for Media Makers: Realizing an Expressive Landscape for Digital Dialogues

After a long rest, PIFF Notes is back in action. What better way to begin again than to post news of a very interesting, upcoming event, Media Fabrics for Media Makers: Realizing an Expressive Landscape for Digital Dialogues.

This event should not be missed.

Email this, Digg it, Twitter it, please. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Grey Gardens...American royalty

"As a documentarian I happily place my fate and faith in reality." - Albert Maysles

Reality is certainly what the audience received in 1976 when filmmakers Albert and David Maysles arrived at the decaying 28-room masion in East Hampton, known as Grey Gardens, to film the true story of Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edie, the aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The Maylses' story takes you inside the sad and eccentric lives of these two intriguing women, fringe aristocrats, who exist in a world of their own within the confines of their estate. The mother, a born aristocrat, known as Big Edie, was the sister of Jackie O's father. Little Edie was an aspiring actress, living in New York, who put her own life on hold to care for her mother, and never left.

The conditions they lived in were enough to make national headlines. Once, authories threatened to evict them for violating building and sanitation codes.

The two paint a sad and bittersweet picture of eccentricity, dependence, dreams forever gone, romance left unfulfilled and the strange and captivating relationship between mother and daughter.

For more information on this and other films by Albert and David Maysles, visit

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Shooting in HD? Get It Authored and Sold on Amazon, Free !

Microsoft and Amazon have announced a program to help indy filmmakers get their work authored and sold on Amazon's Disc on Demand service (formerly CustomFlix) at no cost. It goes without saying, this is a great opportunity for aspiring artists to get in the marketplace.

HD DVD is not hitting it big with major studios, and the Amazon/Microsoft partnership is an easy way for them to increase their catalogue while giving under-recognized artists some exposure.

The terms are very generous. But hurry. Only 1000 of the best will be selected for sale on Amazon.

Read about it here.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Film Progress Workshop

Attention, please!

This is for all you young (or maybe not-so-young) would-be filmmakers with an idea in your head and a camera in your hand!

Glorianna Davenport and David Tames are holding a workshop, entitled "Film-in-Progress RX" Sunday, July 21, at 10 AM. They're hoping young filmmakers with film ideas or films in progress will flock to this session. Glorianna and David will be able to offer useful advice on story as well as technical sticking points. Surgery will only be suggested in dire situations.

Stay tuned for more information on this and other workshops.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cinéma Vérité Dealt a Blow in NYC

Oh, boy. You may need a permit now to shoot on public property, including sidewalks, in New York City. The paranoia is really mounting.

Quote from the June 29, 2007, NYTimes article (full post here):
New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.
What kind of insurance? $1,000,000 liability insurance.

Of course you know who this is going to be aimed at - the indie documentarian whose political views are perceived to be contrary to the status quo. No more Michael Moore, hey.

Thankfully the New York Civil Liberties Union is taking notice. And you should, too. Email your comments to Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting.

If you don't, your style could really get cramped.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pervert art - Untangling the fantasy

Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, Slajov Zizek once said, "Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn't give you what you desire - it tells you how to desire."

In his film, "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema," Zizek and director Sophie Fiennes present a psychoanalyical look at some of cinema's greatest films, such as "'The Birds," "Psycho" and "The Matrix" and "The Wizard of Oz" to name a few. Zizek offers an introduction to some of his most exciting ideas on fantasy, reality, sexuality and desire, as he shoots at original locations or on replica sets, as if speaking from within the films themselves. He says, "I can really explain a line of thought if I can somehow illustrate it in a scene from the film." As such, he is IN the scene, relating what he believes is the meaning behind it.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Zizek's ideas...are frequently amusing and provocative, whether using Norman Bates' multilevel house in 'Psycho' and the Marx Brothers to illustrate Freud's theories about the superego, ego and id or the films of David Lynch to explore, well, pretty much every aspect of human sexuality."

To learn more about Slajov Zizek's "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema," visit

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Instilling the knowledge

My cubicle mate at work is a film junkie. Ask him anything - he knows about it, and there have many afternoons where he has generously taken it upon himself the educate me. I listen, of course, but admittedly, I don't absorb everything he tells me. It's not because I'm not interested. It's because the film-related trivia he is trying to instill upon me is stuff I've never heard of.

So, with my small bit of recently acquired film knowledge, I put it to him.

"Tell me about cinema verite."

He was pleasantly surprised. I could see it on his face. He began to talk about it at length, naming movies (I'm embarrassed to admit) I'd never heard of. He clearly saw the blank look on my face.

Finally, he said, "Borat."

Ah! I see! I got it - at least a little. (For the record, I hated that movie.) But I began to understand what he meant because he used something I knew.

And the lightbulb finally went on.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Try something new

I'd first heard about the Plymouth Independent Film Festival when it was in its infancy in 2004. I didn't give it much thought, being more a fan of mainstream films myself, but it seemed to be well-received in the community. There was good buzz about it, and at the newspaper, we were receiving press releases practically every week.

The following year, the festival attracted over 4,000 attendees, and local businesses reported increased revenue. In 2006, 110 films were shown, including free outdoor screenings on the waterfront. Both amateurs and film-making legends were in attendance. Actors from the HBO series, The Sopranos, were special guests.

My curiosity was piqued. Finally, I felt I had to get involved with this, even if only in some small way. I offered to blog. Why not? It's what I do, after all. And then Don mentioned something called "cinema verite." What?

According to Film Education , Cinéma Vérité was a television-style technique of recording life and people as they really are, using hand-held cameras, natural sound and the minimum of rehearsal and editing. It literally means ‘film truth’ or 'truth cinema' in French and was a style of film making developed by film directors in the 1960s. The film directors of the CinémaVérité movement strove for immediacy, spontaneity and authenticity in their films, primarily through the use of portable and unobtrusive equipment, such as small, hand-held cameras and the avoidance of any preconceived narrative line. Cinéma Vérité was characterised by the use of real people, as opposed to actors, in unrehearsed situations.

There's more to it, of course, but you get the gist of it. And so I've learned something new, because I'm willing to get involved in something new, something different, something I've never tried before. So what about you?

PIFF 2007 needs volunteers. Visit the website,, and click on "Get Involved".

Try something new for yourself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Need funding? What can you tolerate?

Funding is the killer of most projects. Today there are many more choices than a generation ago, and let's be thankful. However, take a look at what incentives are offered in other countries. Today, have a look at the UK.

I quote this post from Digital Arts for your convenience, and because it gives a good summary of what the UK Film Council offers. But please do visit the UK site for a refreshing lift.

I would be interested to hear how the efforts in the UK compare to the National Endowment for the Arts, or others' experiences with US funding sources.

From Digital Arts:

UK Film Council Sets Out Funding Plans

Friday 11 May 2007 - 09:20

The UK Film Council has published its new funding and policy priorities from April 2007 – March 2010.

The document, Film in the Digital Age, includes the creation of five new funding priorities to boost public access to film such as through film festivals and the nation’s film heritage.

The new priorities are:

UK Film Festivals Fund - £1.5 million per year – to create a thriving film festival scene in the UK giving the public better access to the rich world of cinema in all its diversity;

UK Digital Film Archives Fund - £1 million per year – to open up access to the nation’s unparalleled film heritage across the UK;

Partnership Challenge Fund - £1 million per year – bringing new funding partnerships together to widen public participation in film, initially with the following priorities: media literacy and film education; cinema capital funding; cinema access and inclusion initiatives; and London 2012 Olympic related film initiatives;

Digitisation and Marketing Fund – £2 million per year - building on the existing Prints and Advertising Fund with additional funding focusing on wider theatrical and online distribution of British and specialised film;

The UK Film Council will continue with all its existing funding priorities at the same financial level. In addition the Premiere Fund will consider applications for market testing / completion funding from non-UK Film Council funded films out of its existing budget.

John Woodward, chief executive officer of the UK Film Council said: “Our new activities are deliberately aimed at building the areas of activity which came through most strongly in the consultation exercise namely, more focus on audiences especially through digital distribution, and more impact by working more effectively with other funding partners.

“The resounding message was that digital advances will change the way the film industry works and that the UK Film Council must take a lead. We recognise this and will act upon it by ensuring our policies and funding measures encourage and support innovation.”

Digital Arts Staff

Thursday, April 12, 2007

From Filmmaking to Storytelling

When I first looked through the lens, I began a journey of discovery. From then on, there has always been the world I witness through the lens and world.

As I met other filmmakers and saw their films, I became aware that there were two approaches, two camps that often faced off one to the other. There were those who used film to discover a world and there were those who invented a world they imagined. Both existed in documentary. By and large, I found the former more compelling.

With students, I discover through another mode as I engage with them on their journey. In the beginning we share ideas, we play with them, until slowly their first inspiration is transformed into a prototype and then into a demo and a thesis document.

What remains of their journey when the student leaves? The lab is a harsh environment designed for the present journey of discovery. Most demos land on the cutting room floor soon after the semester ends or the degree is granted. Sometimes this seems a pity but then I only need to be patient, to wait for my next encounter when I can scrutinize the student to glimpse at what remnnants of their early work in the lab are still about them.

Applause and commendation are often follow, which leads me to the recent publication of a CD by Kevin Brooks, "Kiss of Summer". As a PhD student in my group, Kevin honed his storytelling skills as he grew his computational system. When I heard about this CD, I immediately ordered it from As I put his CD on, Kevin's voice exploded through the speakers; I careened back in time to some of his early tellings. Today his style is more polished; he is able to lead the listener more comfortably, even languidly, into the sensuality of his world. As the words follow one upon the next, the sights, sounds, smells, touch, and feelings of a teenager growing up in Philadelphia come to life. Try
Kiss of Summer and support an independant storyteller.

Dave Tames, another graduate of Interactive Cinema, has more to say about this CD and other fun things that are happening in the digital arena on his blog

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