David Fanning’s Loper Lecture, 2009

David Fanning, the founding executive producer of PBS's Frontline series, gave this talk in 2009 as the annual James L. Loper Lecture in Public Service Broadcasting sponsored by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Thank you, Geoff Cowan and Dean Wilson, for your kind words, and especially for your invitation to come here to the Annenberg School to give the annual Loper Lecture. This also gives me a chance publicly to thank Jim Loper, for the years of work he gave not just to KCET but as a leader in public broadcasting. It’s an honor to be invited in his name. I would also like to thank Mr. Russell Smith for his sponsorship of this lecture.

Student hugging principal at graduation

Why fund a whole doc?

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.

Prenups: precautions for prudent producers

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.”

Real-life characters in PBS documentary series

Rich and rare: docs that unfold over decades

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....

Once the feisty advocate for indies, AIVF fades to black

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.

StoryCorps opened booths, sent out trailers to record extraordinary ordinary folks like the Perasas (inset). (Photos: Sound Portraits Productions.)

StoryCorps puts flesh on bones of history

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.

It’s OK: Despite son’s disability, laughter is allowed in this film

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.