Few docs as substantial as The Principal Story, which airs on P.O.V. Sept. 15, are funded in full by a single angel, but this one was. The Wallace Foundation didn’t choose to cover the whole cost to make independent producers’ lives easier, though the grant did that.
Too many couples were splitting up before the offspring came along. Or they lived together grumpily, keenly aware they shouldn’t have had that second date. Ellen Schneider and her crew saw it was time for an intervention. Schneider’s San Francisco company, Active Voice, has published a 25-page booklet to turn things around: “The Prenups: What Filmmakers and Funders Should Talk About Before Tying the Knot.”
Following a very public dustup, Frontline and correspondent T.R. Reid have parted ways. The split leaves series producers and freelance on-air correspondents examining their complex and sometimes contentious relationship.
If you stand quite rightly in awe at Michael Apted’s 49 Up, which aired on P.O.V. [in October 2007], you’re likely to be cheered by the news that a Frontline producer is now in postproduction to start similar series of periodic interviews with nine diverse people in China....
The Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, a 30-year-old group that coordinated activism and provided networking and training for independent filmmakers, shuttered its offices and shut down operations in late June. The Manhattan-based association told members in March that it faced a financial crisis, but an emergency fundraising appeal didn’t generate enough contributions to maintain operations. The AIVF Board is looking for another group to take over publication of The Independent, AIVF’s monthly magazine. Although the board considered a scenario of eventually resuming operations, it’s unlikely that the association will revive, said Bart Weiss, organizer of the Dallas Video Festival and board president. “I wish it could, but I don’t see how it could happen,” he said.
Danny and Annie Perasa enjoyed the sort of dream marriage promised in diamond ads and sappy romantic comedies, only it all actually happened. All the laughs, the finished sentences, the little love letters — “glorified weather reports,” Annie called them — that Danny would leave for “my princess” each morning on the kitchen table at home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. All the funny stories. Like the one about Danny, with his monumentally bad eyesight, mistaking a herd of goats in St. Martin for a pack of “really incredible leaping dogs.” Or about the time he befriended a crew of Hells Angels on Long Island, who put him on the back of a chopper and gave him a lift to the train station.
The title character of The Teachings of Jon is a middle-aged North Carolina man with Down syndrome who has an IQ of 20, can’t speak and has a job that pulls in 27 cents a week. “But my film is not about Down syndrome at all,” says Jennifer Owensby, producer, director — and Jon’s younger sister. She says the documentary is not really about Jon, either. “My brother can’t be the main character because my brother never changes. It’s my family and the audience as they’re watching who become the main character.”
The Teachings of Jon offers an entertaining short course on family values, albeit as embodied by a somewhat unorthodox family.
Friday afternoon, things changed for producers who need to use somebody else’s footage and music in their documentaries. Clearing rights may still cost a lot and take too much time, as in the past, but Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi believe producers now have a solid rationale for not paying excessive and confounding fees for copyrighted materials in certain cases. On Nov. 18 , the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, the Independent Documentary Association, public TV’s Independent Television Service and the series P.O.V., and other media groups endorsed a Statement of Best Practices defining four kinds of situations when a producer, under the “fair use” provisions of copyright law, need not pay for a film clip, a shot of a painting or a snatch of music. Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media at American University in Washington, D.C., and Jaszi, an intellectual property expert at the university’s law school, convened groups of experienced filmmakers around the country to look closely at the producers’ (and their lawyers’) working definition of fair use.
Thoughts of Appalachia may stir up visions of either hillbilly backwoods or quaint Edens, but both miss the complicated truth illuminated by three documentaries coming to public TV. The docs diverge in their depictions of the mountain region