Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Well, we thought it was a good film. Maybe we finished 14th.

The Doc Challenge Results are in.

We'll get 'em next year.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Doc Challenge DVD

Our short film Bend & Bow is now available on the International Documentary Challenge DVD, selling through amazon.com.

"This DVD collection features a variety of short non-fiction works from around the globe - from China to New York City; from Seattle to Amsterdam; from Montana to Japan - representing the very best from filmmakers who participated in the first three years of the International Documentary Challenge."

More information at Typecast Films.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Newspaper Collapse 101

There's been endless speculation on both the short-term and long term future of newspapers. Most of it has been uninformed and ill-considered. (In fact, I ignored the first wave of it, since much of that was politically-fueled "serves 'em right!" posting by morons. Also, as I've said before, I tend to gravitate to the "let it go" stance on any collapse.)

Clearly, though, the crunch is here. I've already lost one major great video production gig because of the downturn -- we made one video out of a planned 32 just as things hit and the project disappeared.

And as someone who has freelanced (a lot) for the New York Times I've kept an eye out for stories on their future as well. For example:

Times Co. Announces Temporary Salary Cuts

"Also on Thursday, The Times laid off 100 people in its business operations, and Mr. Keller said it would make other cuts, like reducing spending on freelancers by 10 to 15 percent and possibly consolidating some sections."
So what do we know, and what's the real deal? Well, the clearest, most level-headed article I've seen on this lately is here, by the excellent writer Donna Trussell:

Newspapers: It’s All Over But the Cryin’
"For years my interest in media’s evolution was tepid at best. Until now. As Samuel Johnson noted, hanging at dawn tends to focus the mind. My husband, a Kansas City Star journalist since 1977, was just cut to part time.

What do you do if, after 32 years on the job, your industry suddenly starts to crater? Do you accept the part-time offer? Leave? Sue? Launch your own website?

For guidance I turned to the Internet."
Go and see what she found....

"12th and 3rd" Screening at ASU

12th and 3rd in Brooklyn, our short film on stickball, is screening at the Thirteenth Annual ASU Art Museum Short Film and Video Festival Saturday, April 18, 2008 at 8 p.m. In Tempe, Arizona, of course.

I notice they've listed me as director, but the film is also co-directed by Iris Lee and Maya Mumma, as you can see here, so I'll send them a note asking to correct that.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Al Maysles at AIPAD

Went to the AIPAD Photography Show today to see the exhibition and to attend two panel discussions. Seemed like a bigger turnout than last year.

The first panel was a rather uninspiring discussion on The Art of Fashion Photography. Very few images were shown, and nothing new or interesting was said. To be frank, what was said was vague and at times just factually incorrect. One repeated theme was the strange idea that museums haven't paid enough attention to fashion photography, which is just not true. (I won't bother making a list of shows here, but search for yourself -- every few years there's been a large fashion-related show.) There's been too much attention to fashion as art. How about some art as art?

The second panel, however, was much more to my taste: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Albert Maysles were in attendance for a panel on Photographers as Filmmakers. Both artists made some great points about making documentaries, and both showed some of their stills as well.

Above: Al Maysles arrives.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Lately I've been focused on interview-based films.

One of the best I've seen in the last few years is Jessica Yu's "Protagonist." It's now on Snagfilms, so you can watch it for free, right here. Set aside an hour and give it a chance -- I really like the weaving of the stories, and the subtext of the traditional concerns of Greek drama: character and fate....

Great puppets, also.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The last time I took a snap of the Reservoir, it was frozen over. The last time I was there at all involved tossing a hula hoop -- and it was still slush covered and cold. Not so today: it was 60 degrees out, so I took a good run around the water. (It's about 3/4 mile to Central park, then 1.5 miles around the reservoir.)

On the way back, I think I passed Kevin Kline in a makeup chair preparing to shoot a scene. I believe it was him, but I didn't have my glasses and I didn't want to stare.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We Prefer The Term "Background Actor"

Wednesday they're filming a movie on my street. It's called The Extra Man and features Katie Holmes, Paul Dano, John C. Reilly, Cathy Moriarty, and a local fellow named Kevin Kline. If I go outside, I may accidently become an extra.

The location scouts made a good choice, since the plot is: "A man who escorts wealthy widows in New York's Upper East Side takes a young aspiring playwright under his wing."

I'm just hoping they're aware they'll have to face these creatures several times during the day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Doc Challenge: Notes for Next Year

Last year, as soon as we finished our film for the International Documentary Challenge I wrote up a few notes for the 2009 Challenge. You can read the full post here but the three main points were:

1. Finish shooting on Thursday.

2. Team Technical Practice

3. Lighting Gear

Were we able to apply these three ideas?

Well, no. Our last taping session -- and the one that was most important to the edit -- didn't finish until late Saturday afternoon, which meant I didn't get everything logged and captured until about 11 p.m. Saturday. We did no practice before the shoot -- getting by with email communication and one brunch meeting. We did have slightly better lighting gear -- we used a set of lights meant for shooting stills, but not a kit really meant for video. But no video lights or softboxes or anything with plenty of power. We did use a good foldable reflector, though.

So those three recommendations stand, and here are three new ones:

4. Make our kit more transportable. We lugged multiple heavy bags both across town and up five flights of stairs. We should find a way to consolidate our gear and put everything in reasonable rolling cases.

5. We should dedicate a person to the job of sound. We did fine, but made mistakes that cost us time. A person who was thinking only of sound and working to reduce post-production requirements would help a lot.

6. Make a shot list. We shot plenty of material, but at the end of our editing process there was a moment when we realized we hadn't treated enough as a location shoot -- we didn't grab a number of shots you normally would on a verite shoot. We were focused on what we "needed" and didn't get everything as it unfolded.

Great. Now I just need to write four more tips after next year's event and I'll have a full list...

Monday, March 09, 2009

And Boy Are My Arms Tired

Just finished our film for this year's International Doc Challenge.

I'm tired -- but I think we've made a good film.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Second Day of the Doc Challenge

Today: started with some editing. Then I met two of my team members for brunch, and then moved on to shooting in Central Park.

To the man we nearly injured with an errant hula hoop toss: we're deeply, deeply sorry, and we will never throw a hula hoop at you again.

While in Central Park, I got a little good news about a film, then got ready for the last part of the day.

I can't tell you much at this point, except that documentary production can take you to many places in the world. Sometimes the people there aren't wearing much in the way of clothing and don't seem at all shy. (Other times, of course, you have to leave New York.)

Now it's 1:30 a.m. and I'm digitizing footage again. One more tape to capture....

12th and 3rd Goes to ASU

Just found out that the short doc I made with Maya Mumma and Iris Lee -- "12th and 3rd in Brooklyn" -- will be screening at the 13th Annual Arizona State University Art Museum Short Film and Video Festival. The acceptance letter mentioned this: "After viewing the 405 entries from 35 U.S. states and 27 nations, 19 works made the final cut."

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Challenge, Certainly

Over on my other blog is my first post covering this year's Doc Challenge. Wish us luck.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Shifting Gears

It's been slow posting on this blog lately. Maybe that's good -- I'm often tempted to cut way way back on Web-related stuff.

Nonetheless, expect some posting in the week ahead, here and on my other blog. There will be a number of exciting events, I think -- not the least of which is the Doc Challenge. That's right: by this time next week, we should have a new short film done.

At least, if all doesn't go disastrously wrong.

Above: somewhere in The Bronx.