Kickstarter users have given more than $42M to documentaries

Crowdfunding website Kickstarter announced Thursday that independent film projects on its site had passed the $100 million mark in pledges since its 2009 launch, with $42.6 million of that total pledged to documentaries — the largest share of any film genre. Many Kickstarter-funded documentaries find their way to larger success, whether through film festivals, theatrical distribution or airings on networks like PBS. This year, three Kickstarter-assisted documentary features shortlisted for a Best Documentary Oscar nomination will also air on PBS in 2013: The Waiting Room, Detropia and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Continue Reading

George Stoney, public-access television pioneer, dies at 96

George Stoney, a pioneering documentarian widely regarded as the father of public-access television, died July 12 at his Manhattan home, days after celebrating his 96th birthday. Stoney was a prolific filmmaker and longtime New York University professor, and was active on the boards of Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public-access channel, and the Alliance for Community Media. He co-founded the Alternate Media Center, the organization that gave birth to public-access television. “A catalyst, that was the word for George,” said Barbara Abrash, former director of public programs at the Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU, and a longtime colleague and friend. “He inspired people to do what they could do best and was full of ambition, but only for worthwhile pursuits.”

Stoney was born July 1, 1916, in Winston-Salem, N.C., and his career ran the gamut: In addition to his work as a filmmaker, professor, and journalist, he served as a photo intelligence officer during WWII. Continue Reading

NEA slashes funds to WNET arts series, elevates digital media

The Arts on Radio and Television fund of the National Endowment for the Arts, a source of millions of programming dollars for public media, is distributing matching grants to a wider range of recipients this year — from a smaller pool of money. Pubcasters are anxious about the plunge in funding to flagship programs and independent projects now that the Endowment’s revamped Arts in Media fund also supplies cash to digital-game designers, app designers and artists working on web-based interactive platforms.

In 2011, almost all of the grants went to public TV and radio programs. This year about half did. The number of grantees was up from 64 to 78 and the total amount committed was down from $4 million to $3.55 million. In the past, two major beneficiaries of NEA funding are the PBS arts showcases American Masters and Great Performances, both produced by New York’s WNET. The biographical documentary series and the performance strand each received $400,000 from the NEA last year. Continue Reading