KQED launches 11th season of ImageMakers and new spinoff show

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My Name is Your First Love, by Columbia University film student Rob Richert, airs in the debut season of KQED's Film School Shorts, a half-hour series in national distribution.

My Name is Your First Love, by Columbia University film student Rob Richert, airs in the debut season of KQED’s Film School Shorts, a half-hour series in national distribution.

ImageMakers, the indie film showcase curated by San Francisco’s KQED TV, will debut the Oscar-winning film Curfew, May 12.

Every year, KQED Program Director Scott Dwyer makes the film festival rounds and screens over 2,000 productions to curate a new season of ImageMakers, a series featuring short independent films from around the world. He rushed to buy broadcast rights to Shawn Christensen’s Curfew in January 2012, as soon as he watched it and well before the drama started gaining recognition.

“In order to compete with places like Starz, Sundance Channel and HBO, I have to buy them really fast, before they start to win awards,” said Dwyer, whose film festival circuit includes the Aspen Shortsfest and the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Dwyer, series creator and producer, conceived of ImageMakers in the late 1990s, when he realized that Masterpiece Theater was the only regular drama on PBS. He saw short film as a good option to help fill this gap, especially since they’d appeal to viewers with increasingly short attention spans.

The series, which launched its 11th season March 28, draws a 0.5 average rating in its 7:30 p.m. timeslot, below KQED’s primetime average of 1.2. According to Dwyer, these numbers are “on par” with other shows in the same timeslot, but the series value to KQED’s lineup isn’t derived from audience ratings. KQED’s viewers consistently express interest in it, even describing it as “like having a film festival in your living room,” Dwyer said.

That response prompted Dwyer to create a spinoff, Film School Shorts, which premieres locally April 15 at 11 p.m. Like ImageMakers, Film School Shorts will present a few short films in each episode, selected by Dwyer and producer Lisa Landi, around a guiding theme.

Inventor and film supporter Maurice Kanbar provided funding for the series, which will showcase productions completed by students in American film schools. For Landi, a lifelong film lover, the series offers a platform for new directors and producers to showcase their work to a bigger audience.

“It’s been such a treat to be able to contact these young filmmakers and tell them that they are going to have their first big break,” she said.

To reach film buffs outside of KQED’s viewing area, the station plans to upload many episodes of Film School Shorts to the series’ website, along with interviews with the directors and producers and behind-the-scenes features. To create an ongoing dialogue around the series, KQED’s social media team will create hashtags for each film.

Unlike ImageMakers, Film School Shorts is being offered for natio

nal broadcast, and stations in more than 20 markets have expressed interest in picking it up.

This article was originally published in Current, April 1, 2013.

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