Output: PBS’s first-ever Online Film Festival screens 20 short films, gilded applause for The Moth, public education through Indian humor, and more

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In “Flawed,” a short film to be screened at INPUT, artist Andrea Dorfman was awed by her plastic-surgeon friend’s ability to heal a man who had nailed his fingers together. Why did she still have qualms about his profession?

Partners in the project are the pubmedia minority consortia — the Center for Asian American Media, Latino Public Broadcasting, Native American Public Telecommunications, the National Black Programming Consortium and Pacific Islanders in Communication — as well as the Independent Television Service and POV. The festival will be offered for video streaming on PBS.org and the redesigned PBS YouTube channel, which will be unveiled as the festival opens.

The festival includes an audience participation element. Viewers can cast online votes for their favorite films, and PBS will recognize the winner with a People’s Choice festival award. PBS will use the Twitter handle #PBSolff to build social media buzz during the five-week run. — Dru Sefton

Public radio aggregator Audiofiles helps listeners “share and discover great radio.”

Former colleagues Lisa Tobin, a producer of WBUR’s Morning Edition broadcast, and Andrew Phelps, a reporter/blogger for the Boston station who now writes for the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, created and launched the website and Twitter feed in November as an independent project.

“We’re both doing this off of the clock,” said Tobin. “It’s truly just a project of love.”

The website offers a “Producer’s Picks” section that Tobin curates, a feed of audio stories recommended via Twitter and a blog that assembles audio clips thematically. (Twitter users can follow @audiofil_es or use the #audiofiles hashtag to submit stories.)

“You can just use Twitter or just use the website – or both,” Tobin said. “I like the idea that you can experience it in either of these ways.”

“The whole idea is just to get great audio content out and have people become aware of it,” she said. By encouraging followers to share their own favorites, she aims to create a new kind of “interactive social experience around public radio.”

In addition to stories from public radio stars such as Jad Abumrad of Radiolab, Ira Glass of This American Life and Terry Gross of Fresh Air, Audiofiles compiles and features work from local stations, indie producers and podcasters.

“I love to give a home to stories like that, because it’s a way to discover stuff that you wouldn’t find otherwise,” said Tobin. “That’s kind of the dream — people come looking for something in particular, but then they also discover all the stuff that they didn’t even know was out there.”

This stockpile of stories is searchable by mood (awesome, dark, haunting, intimate), genre (documentary, business, humor), source (NPR, BBC Radio, Yiddish Radio Project) and even length (0-10 minutes, 10–30 and 30+).

By linking to audio hosted on other pubradio websites, Audiofiles operates as a curation site, but Tobin would like to build technical capacity to host audio. “We cannot access audio internally – but that’s the dream for the site,” she said. “That’s where we’d like to end up, but it’s going to be a lot of work.”

Tobin and Phelps also plan to link Audiofiles to Facebook, adding another social element.

“Audiofiles has been very well-received within community of people who really love audio and public radio, but that’s an inherently small community,” said Tobin.

“I’m really proud of fact that this is first truly interactive public radio site,” said Tobin. “That being said, there is so much more to be done in that way.” — Rhys Heyden

The Moth, the nonprofit behind the storytelling Moth Radio Hour, has won a $750,000 award from the MacArthur Foundation.

The grant, announced Feb. 16, is part of MacArthur’s Awards for Creative and Effective Institutions. It backs Radio Hour’s expansion into a weekly series, digitizing and cataloging of The Moth’s extensive audio archive, and the creation of a cash reserve to support the organization’s stability.

The eclectic show’s motto, “True stories told live,” reflects its content of recorded performances of live storytelling. It came to public radio via a five-episode pilot series from Public Radio Exchange nearly three years ago (Current, Sept. 8, 2009).

Along with the work on its archives, The Moth will produce more live storytelling events at cities around the country, creating a “big funnel” of content that can be curated and produced into the highly produced stories that characterize the radio broadcast, said Jake Shapiro, PRX ceo.

“This gives me a lot of hope and encouragement about the opportunity to create a lasting and impactful enterprise with The Moth,” Shapiro said.

Another pubmedia entity, the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, Calif., was awarded $1 million, which it will use to create a venture fund for new projects, strengthen fundraising work, upgrade its technology infrastructure and establish a reserve fund for legal defense. — Karen Everhart

As long as he can remember, people have been telling Wisconsin Public Radio host Richie Plass that he’s funny.

This year, Plass, 60, decided it was finally time to do something about it.

Plass debuted his one-man comedy show on the image of Native Americans, An Indian . . . One Block East of Broadway, Feb. 23 at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wis. “It’s fun, man,” Plass told Current, “and it’s an education. I’m still just Richie — still this fat little Indian from the Rez with a big mouth. The glitz and the glamour stuff, it’s a little bizarre.”

The show features videos, music, humor and dancing. Plass developed the material over time, finding humor in difficult subjects such as his fight against prostate cancer and the 80-mile trek his Menominee Indian ancestors made to their present home area.

While growing up on the Menominee Reservation, northwest of Green Bay, Plass spent a fateful year as the “Indian” mascot at his public high school. After being laughed at, spat on and having food thrown at him, he decided to try to educate people about Native Americans and quash the ignorance he faced.

“Honestly — I’m not stretching the truth at all here — I still get asked if we live in teepees,” he said. “I get asked how many horses I have. It is really that serious and that bad.”

The comedy show, which Plass hopes to take on the road to Native American casinos, is the third prong of his education-spreading strategy. Plass already curates and manages “Bittersweet Winds,” an exhibit on the history of the image of Native Americans that’s travelled to 13 states. He has co-hosted WPR’s Kalihwiyo’se for 10 years. For two hours, Thursday nights on the network’s Green Bay station, the show features both traditional and contemporary Native American music.

“Everybody I have met in public radio has been very supportive,” Plass said. “All of the sudden last year I went, ‘Wow — I’m a part of that community.’ I don’t usually think that way, because I kind of stumbled into it. I must be okay at what I do, because I’m still here.” — R.H.\

Four indie films and a Nashville Public TV doc will be screened at INPUT, the international pubmedia showcase set for May in Australia.

Screening in Sydney May 7–12 will be Flawed, the story of a woman’s long-distance relationship with a plastic surgeon, from POV; More Than a Month, about the history of Black History Month, from Independent Lens; Southern Belle, which went inside a Civil War historical-reenactment summer camp for girls, from Nashville Public Television and MakeWright Films; Wham! Bam! Islam!, on the man behind a comic book of Muslim superheroes, from Independent Lens and Worker Drone, part of the online Futurestates project from ITVS.

Preselection of public media entries from the United States took place Nov. 16–20 in Charleston, S.C.; and an international panel of 14 INPUT “shop stewards” decided which programs will be screened in Sydney. — D.S.

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