Monday, January 09, 2012

Light for Haiti








In honor of celebrating Haitian culture, Rara Tou Limen Dance Troup received a standing ovation at the opening of their Fall Season’s first full-length Repertory Concert.
Limye pou Ayiti…Lavi Kontinye!, Light for Haiti…Life Continues, is the choreo-prayer and artistic offering to Haiti – performed by Rara Tou Limen at Laney College Theatre in Oakland, CA.
As the media topics have shifted to other parts of the world, for Haitian people, life will not be the same for those severely affected by the earthquake.
RTL bridges the gap in solidarity as it showcases the stories, struggles and spirit of Haiti, the first free Black Republic in the world. 
Known for performing at festivals, cultural and academic institutions throughout the bay area, including The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, The Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival, the deYoung Museum, San Francisco Carnival, UC Berkeley and more, RTL was established in 2004 by Artistic Director Portsha Jefferson.  
“She is the centerpiece,” says Patrice Roland, lead male dancer with Rara Tou Limen Dance Troup.  
According to Roland, RTL offers Bay Area residents and dancers nationwide the opportunity to experience Haitian music, dance and culture through classes, workshops, performances and educational events in the United States and Haiti.  
The season kicked off with the Dance Workshop on Thursday, October 6th at the Malonga Casquelourd Center in Oakland taught by world  renowned visionary choreographer, and educator Jeanguy Saintus, from Haiti.
Saintus goes globally teaching master classes around the world.
With the closing of Haiti’s leading arts institution and cultural hub due to the major earthquake, instructors and dance companies have no where to train and produce quality and meaningful work. 
Saintus is founder of Ayikodans and Artcho Danse, a dance center training program for children and adults in Port-au-Prince. The center provides scholarship programs to those unable to afford tuition.
Invited guest artists from around the world teach there.
“What most of America know about Haiti is its misery. They don’t know that the people are happy when they dance and dream of being onstage. Helping others realize their dreams to be onstage, especially those kids coming from a hard time, is what I am about,” says Jeanguy Saintus.
Haiti born Saintus, honorary guest choreographer for the season’s premier says, “I want to give dance its place. First in Haiti, and then being able to share it with the world. I first place myself where I come from,” says Saintus.
The ever-present history and identity, the collective past and the personal present, the paradoxical state of being that is the condition of the spirit of Haiti reflects the resilience and strength of the culture and remains as a candlelit ritual in the memory of the victims.
The performance began in a darkened theatre with prayer chants echoing throughout as the audience is taken on a meditative journey to the mythical land of the ancestors, invocating stories, mystery, social identity and a quest for the self.

The curtain rises on a dimly lighted stage of blue lights with a large full moon superimposed in the background. Blue lights shine on flowing silk panels of fabric across the stage creating blue waters brought to evoke life. Shifting vertical lights create an ocean of beautiful projections. The ever-changing landscape materializes with magical inevitability.
The lighting is as brilliantly realized as the visual design.
Permeated by fascinating movement and style, dancers stomped out rhythms as a ritualistic village scene arrives.
The embodiment of the village people in magnificent colors fed the drummers as the audience became one with the performance.  
“The piece on the ancestors is so moving and beautiful,” says Gena O’Brien, a bay area dancer from Berkeley.
“There was beautiful technique, not everyone can do that kind of dance with the freedom of movement as seen here tonight,” says Samar Nassar, of Hipline Studio, in Berkeley.
The beautiful dance skirts take at least 6 to 8 yards of fabrics.


Daniel “Brav” Brevil, musical director, from Haiti, brought down the house with traditional Haitian Folkloric rhythms as well as contemporary jazz and reggae beats.
“In the last dance, the Rara piece, the personalities of the musicians and the dancers come out,” says Roland.
These experiences are the heart of Saintus’, Jefferson’s and Brevil’s work.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Saying Goodbye to 2011 - Shakespeare Resonates With Oakland School for the Arts in: Comedy of Errors


 

While some universities have dropped the Shakespeare requirement for English majors, Oakland School for the Arts’ weekend performance got standing ovation on their version of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors.

Featuring acrobats, aerialists, mistaken identities, slapstick, puns, word play and much more, these middle and high school students under the direction of Terry Bamberger, Theater teacher, received  standing ovations all weekend long from a packed house at the Kinetic Arts Center in Oakland.
The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare’s earliest, shortest and farcical comedies. 

In the OSA’s version, the town of Ephesus is suggestive of a 10th century Italian circus town preparing for their town’s performance. The setting of the comedy involves a history of portrayal in a fashion done with clowns and jesters in 19th century London productions that resurged in the 21st century by the Brothers Karamazov, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s 2009 production.


According to Bamberger, it was their first Shakespeare production and it was transformative. “To watch the cast of students go from the first reading after never having done this before, the kids got a crash course in scanning lines, imagery and research as well as a crash course in history that created meaning for them now – within a two month period.” 

With a cast of 28 actors and crew members, the make-up and exquisite costumes created a magic on stage that was impressive. “A lot of the costumes were on loan from American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco,” says Bamberger.

OSA provides students with intensive conservatory style training in the arts while maintaining a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum. “Our students work and study hard and really know how to play hard as well,” says Don Harris, Executive and Artistic Director.



Filled with the dramatic mix of trickery, nimble jugglers deceiving the eye, amazing acrobats and dark working sorcerers, this skilled cast of circus arts and theater student actors’ delivered a five–show run in one weekend. 

“The most fun of all for me were the cool tricks I got to do, says 8th grader,” Isabella Miller. Miller is a member of the Circus Spire Youth Group.

The college prep arts school is a charter from Oakland Unified School District and was the dream child of California Governor Jerry Brown.

Starting at the Alice Arts Center Building in downtown Oakland in 2002, by January, 2009 it moved to the newly remodeled historical Fox Oakland Theater.

The first senior graduation class of 2006, graduated with 100 percent of the class being accepted at four-year colleges. Students were accepted at a wide variety of academic and artistic institutions to include, Le Cardon Bleu California Culinary Academy, Columbia University, Stanford University, Spelman College, Howard University, Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, California College of the Arts, UCLA, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, our own CSUEB and many more.

Known as one of the most supported schools in Oakland by parents, teachers and the community, the school has done international productions in New York, England, and all over the globe.
 
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In charge of advertising and publicity, Andrea Fullington and Terese Merrell, parents of middle school students participating in the performance worked diligently to attract advertising for the performance from a variety of sources, including KQED and KCBS.
“The students are amazing and represent the culture of visual arts in Oakland,” says Rosie Fogelman, mother of Primo Stockton, 7th grade, who played the First Merchant in the production.

















Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Diasporic Reflection on Land and Water



Photo by
Dinah deSpenza
Influenced by Shamanism, Jazz, the Graphic School of NY, Dada and Gutenberg's moveable type, multi-disciplinary media artist and CSUEB alumna, Rozita Fogelman makes waves at Oakland’s FLOAT Gallery this fall.
Using the elements of earth, land, and water, Fogelman, maps water histories with art as she presents – a visual history of water, land and people at the FLOAT Gallery.
FLOAT, an urban art spa is the only floatation center art gallery in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“In Hebrew, ומים אדמה ,דם ,אדם  adam, dam, adama and maiem; translated as human, blood, land and water – all share the same root. My series, Body, Land and Water is my attempt to create a space addressing the need to reconnect the link between art, language, people, land and water. I want to create a connection between the past collective ideas and the archetypal symbols and our current culture, a grounding place where one can reconnect with the original concept and structure of balance,” says Fogelman.
Grace Munakata, Professor of Pictorial Art at CSUEB says, “Rozita believes the distractions of our multi-tasking culture need balance, and hopes to create a quiet, interactive space where viewers can respond to the artwork in a meditative manner, perhaps reminding us of our actual connection and dependence on elements of earth and water, and of our collective consciousness as a society.”
“Such a feast for the eyes.  Her work is beautiful, says Jan Martinez, Administrative Support Coordinator, CSUEB Art Department.
 “Absolutely stunning, I love it,” says Raquel Arcia, Graduate Coordinate of CSUEB Multimedia Department.
Having pioneered a unique Interdisciplinary Master program between the Multimedia, Communications and Art Studio practice, Fogelman earned her M.A. in Multimedia Disciplinary Media Arts in spring of 2011.
Originally from Tbilisi, Georgia, the Russian born artist sees visual communication as her first language out of five.
Her life long diasporic journey between her dislocated identities was the driving force of her fascination to express through art.
As a feminist, her life long dedication to create art professionally came from a need for free speech and expression.
“In Russia, my family suffered from violent outbreaks of anti-Semitism. I witnessed many of the events of Jews being attacked. In 1969, when I was 5 years old, the Russian KGB arrested my father, sentencing him for five-years in a Siberia jail. The agony of the trip to visit him in a jail in 1971 will remain with me forever. After the rumors spread about my father being sent away, I fell victim to assault and was abused by the neighborhood children. My early childhood was plagued with fear, betrayal and insecurity,” says Fogelman.
According to Samuel Beckett, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, “The fundamental tension between human frailty and the expressive instinct of human culture has never kept humans from seeking refuge in art and turning to it to try to comprehend tragedy.” 
In 1975, her family left Russia immigrating to Israel, and settled down in the mountains of Jerusalem, Mevaseret Zion.
In Jerusalem she studied Hebrew for the first time, and got close to the multi-cultural dynamic under an intense religious backdrop.
Land and water represented a source of regeneration of the physical body for Fogelman.
“A year after my family graduated from the Hebrew Ulpan in Mevaseret Zion, we moved to the city of Bat-Yam, located on the Mediterranean Sea on the central coastal strip, just south of Tel Aviv Jaffa.
“Living by the Mediterranean Sea was healing and transforming. It was a dream come true for me,” says Fogelman.
Fogelman’s new exhibit, “Transient Spaces,” explores symbiotic dualities – change and stability.
“She is also interested in the inherent change in the appearance of the work while it is literally wet, and after each layer dries.  The work must be done on a flat surface allowing for heavy textures reminiscent of rain drenched earth worked over rhythmically with tools. 
Although she is selective about the colors she uses, their hues/contrast shift significantly when dry, a metaphor for spiritual changes and the impact of weather and time on land,” says Professor Munakata.
“Your paintings make me think, feel, and look harder at what I thought was there,” says Rosanne Harris, Academic Policies/Curriculum Coordinator at CSUEB.
Transient Spaces” opened September 11th and runs through October 29th.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Origins of the Banjo - The Black Legacy - 7/18/11






Guy de Chalus, banjo teacher at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music’s summer camp brings storytelling to instill the value of the instrument for cultural preservation and education.
In African traditions, he is called a Griot – the storyteller.
One of 50 known people studying the history of the banjo in the United States, de Chalus embraces its African origins and the old time style of playing.
 “As far as I know there are perhaps one or two others on the west coast that play old time style banjo besides me. I haven't seen them in these parts, I'm it,” says de Chalus.
de Chalus purchased his first banjo for $50 from a man trying to get rid of it because he was moving out of town. After connecting with a teacher, he eventually linked with other banjoist and scholars who felt the need to discuss the African origin and the Black legacy of the banjo.
There is a tremendous amount of African American participation in banjo up through the early period of jazz.
According to “The Old–Time Herald,” banjoist, Tony Thomas, founder of “Then and Now,” a forum for old-time music players, scholars, and thinkers concerned for the history that pervade the banjo and its music says, “We needed a place to express the explosion of African American banjoists including African American Heritage Elder Etta Baker, Taj Mahal, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Guy Davis, Otis Taylor, Sule Greg Wilson, Don Vappie, Dr. Joan, and Rex Ellis, all known in the old-time, blues, classic, and jazz banjo communities.
de Chalus talks to his students about people like folklorist, Mike Seeger, (brother of Pete Seeger) being one of the few enlightened experts who dug deeper into the roots and discovered through stories that African Americans were involved with the banjo.
“The Earliest banjo (of sorts) was found in what is today known as Surinam, the former Dutch Guiana.
The banjo in the American colonies go back as early as the 17th century. An instrument transplanted by Africans to the Caribbean during the slave trade, it was brought to the United States and transformed through the relationship between blacks and whites in the South from a gourd-bodied, gut-stringed instrument to a wooden-pot, steel-strung, fretted instrument,” says de Chalus.
“The banjo is different from the guitar, I like that it’s more high pitched, says Rachel Stovall, a student at OPC.
“I like learning and knowing about the roots of where it came from and that it is native to America. It is history,” says Carolina Gonzalez Navarro, student at OPC.
             “I agree with Carolina and I love informing people that it is a native instrument and of it’s origins in Africa. When you tell people you’re learning the banjo, at first they assume you came from a farm or something, then after explaining the history they become intrigued, and that makes me feel happy,” says Vinkya Hunter, a student at OPC.
According to de Chalus, musicians create ways to express complex ideas simply. When he teaches his students a song, it comes with a story.

“In a story told to Mike Seeger by Josh Thomas, an African American musician that Seeger met during his fieldwork gathering, "Roustabout," is a tune from Thomas that researchers believe to have alternated names. He called it "Roustabout" from one of the words used in the opening part of the tune.” says de Chalus.
“We’re doing “Bum Ditty” to the second string, sixteen times. I don’t know of any other kids playing that song,” says de Chalus.
Bum Ditty is one of many ways to understand Clawhammer technique and how it works. “It creates a rhythm that can be summed up by saying "Bum Ditty."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Eye Implant - Millimeter-scale Computing System



On February 22, 2011 in San Francisco, at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, researchers from University of Michigan presented a millimeter-scale computing system. It is the first in a new class of millimeter-scale ubiquitous computing. It is revolutionary and directly points to of Bell’s Law and Moore’s law – pervasive computing.


It is almost invisible having a microprocessor, pressure sensor, memory, thin-film battery, solar cell and wireless radio with an antenna that can transmit data to an external reader device just over one cubic millimeter in size.



It is significant in that it is a prototype for implantable continuous eye pressure tracking monitor, (readings are taken every 15 minutes) targeted for medical applications with the focus on glaucoma patients. The other innovative applications for building are to track pollution, weapons, and structural integrity, making any object smart and traceable.

The system uses ultra-low power consumption while in extreme sleep mode and stores up to one week of data. Each day it requires exposure to 10 hours of indoor light or 1 ½ hours of sunlight to keep the battery charged. It consumes an average of 5.3 nanowatts.

"This is the first true millimeter-scale complete computing system," said Dennis Sylvester, also a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan.

Key Qualities

Unique Architecture

Small in scale

Contains compact radio with wireless sensor networks

Better, faster


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Instrumentation And The Body - Hi Tech Spirituality

To producers such as Derrick May, the transference of spirit from the body to the machine is often a central preoccupation; essentially an expression of technological spirituality.

Research Questions:

  • How can we combine technology and imersive environments to create art as history and culture in performance that re-examine the relationship between human bodies, sound vibrations and the soul?
  • What is the future of music evolution?
  • Are the noises of the industrial age considered music?
  • What is the future of techno music as education? How does it enhance learning?
  • What are low tech tools?
  • What is Techno Music?
  • What are some choices of instruments or tools that can be used in music as instrumentation and performance art?
  • What is call and response?
  • What types of new forms of communication can be formed by integrating both primal forms and contemporary forms of call and response?
  • What possibilities exist in the old and new forms in relation to the brain, the body and machines and the world?
  • What types of new forms of communication can be formed with primal forms of call and response?
  • What types of new forms of communication can be formed with contemporary forms of call and response?




The rise of music that is totally without social commitment also increases the separation between composer and public, and represents still another form of departure from tradition. The cynicism with which this particular departure seems to have been made is perfectly symbolized in John Cage's account of a public lecture he had given: "Later, during the question period, I gave one of six previously prepared answers regardless of the question asked. This was a reflection of my engagement in Zen." While Mr. Cage's famous silent piece [i.e. 4′33″], or his Landscapes for a dozen radio receivers may be of little interest as music, they are of enormous importance historically as representing the complete abdication of the artist's power.



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Photos of Pamela Z
by Valerie Oliverio
& Courtesy of Ars Electronica


Stick Pounding is the rhythmic language of the Gullah people. In slavery days they developed a ceremony called "ring shout" in which participants danced in a ritual fashion in a circle amidst the rhythmical pounding of sticks and then, at the culminating moment, experienced possession by the Holy Spirit while shouting expressions of praise and thanksgiving.
-Melanie DeMore
Watch 5minute documentary on Stick Pounding -
http://itdonnedonme.com/videos/stick_and_pound.mp4

"In the meantime, it has awakened in me a sort of curiosity about artists' choices of instruments or tools. I find that I am fascinated with artists who work with relatively low-tech tools, and I am also drawn to work by artists who have developed very technically complex tools for making their work. Some of the most exciting work I've seen lately combines very different types of tools. Acoustic instruments with electronic ones, mechanical devices with digital devices, machines with flesh and blood instruments. And it is interesting that, in a field that historically has seemed very male-dominated, many of the artists doing this are women." -Pamela Z




The initial take on techno arose from the melding of European electronic music by artists such as Kraftwerk with African American music including funk, electro, Chicago house and electric jazz. Added to this is the influence of futuristic and fictional themes that are relevant to life in American late capitalist society—particularly the book The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler. Pioneering producer Juan Atkins cites Toffler's phrase "techno rebels" as inspiring him to use the word techno to describe the musical style he helped to create. This unique blend of influences aligns techno with the aesthetic referred to as afrofuturism.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

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SELF-DISTRIBUTION: IT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING IN MOVIE MAKING

“Innovation happens when people with vision are forced to build something to realize their goals, because it doesn’t already exist.” – Jeff Gomez

The future of independent moviemaking is bright. As it stands at an undefined but utterly crucial precipice: Funding has vanished and distribution has become manic. The old and big structures are tumbling down. It is a very exciting time, and there are no rules. People haven’t figured it all out yet because “small & independent” happened so fast. The only certainty is that new paths are being forged all the time.

The major studio system is being replaced by several hundred thousand micro-studios that will serve audiences better than the majors could, because a micro-studio film industry is one based on passion. In this new landscape of things to come, there are those innovators primed to lead the charge of this new indie revolution. The industry is being fortified with fresh ideas and is safely being guided through the foggy landscape so that it emerges on the other side in better shape. It is becoming clearer that the future dictates what it means to be a moviemaker as production and distribution values force more and more creative solutions.

BIG v.s. SMALL

Seth Godin says “Big” used to matter. Big meant economies of scale. (You never hear about “economies of tiny” do you?) Hollywood and Fortune 500 used to be the place people went to make a fortune. The reason being, value was added in ways that big organizations were good at. Value was added with efficient manufacturing, widespread distribution and very large R&D staffs. Value came from hundreds of operators standing by and from nine-figure TV ad budgets. Value also came from a huge sales force.

GET BIG FAST was the motto for startups, because big companies and big film productions can go public and get more access to capital and use the capital to get even bigger. Big accounting firms were the place to go to get audited if you were a big company, because a big accounting firm could be trusted. Big law firms were the place to find the right lawyer because big law firms were a one-stop shop.

And then small happened.

Enron (big) got audited by Andersen (big) and failed (big.) The World Trade Center was a target. TV advertising is collapsing fast. The writers strike in Hollywood took out a lot of the normal night time TV programming and was replaced with Reality Shows. American Airlines (big) got slammed dunked by Jet Blue (think small). BoingBoing (four people) grew a readership a hundred times faster than the New Yorker (hundreds of people.) In 2006, Craigslist (18 employees) was the fourth most visited site according to some measures.
Seth says the following about small:
• Small is the new big because small gives you the flexibility to change the business model when your competition changes theirs.
• Small also means you can tell the truth on your blog.
• Small means that you can answer email from your audiences and customers.
• Small means that you will outsource the boring, low-impact stuff like manufacturing and shipping and billing and packing to others, while you keep the power because you invent the remarkable and tell stories to people who want to hear them.
• A small law firm or accounting firm or ad agency is succeeding because they’re good, not because they’re big. So smart small companies are happy to hire them.
• A small restaurant has an owner who greets you by name.
• A small venture fund doesn’t have to fund big bad ideas in order to get capital doing work. They can make small investments in tiny companies with good (big) ideas.
• Small is the new big only when the person running the small thinks big. Don’t wait, get small to think big.

The Format Is A Container – Self-Distribution

If you wait around for that great “one” you don’t get better. Short (small) films allow you to learn more and get better. You work things out over time. For example, “do I want to light this way or that way.”

It is important to build a relationship with people to engage with you and your company/team. Think of self-distribution of your own movies.

One of the easiest ways to get fans is to put your film in as many formats as possible. At the least make five different formats to include a give away DVD. You can start by putting it in your blog as an RSS attachment. You lose if you make it hard to get. It needs to convince people to come back. This tells a story or your idea as a story. Selecting topics that are not totally explored makes people come back to see how things get resolved. Give them a reason to come back.

There are increasingly more new ways to distribute your media. First consider who your audience is. With the various Internet distribution outlets, including YouTube, it is incredibly easy to find an audience for your work. The key is to let people choose how they want to experience a film, when and on which platform.

Access to inexpensive, yet high quality filmmaking has never been better. As an independent producer, the question to ask yourself is: How best can I make it easier for people to download my work and look at. Then, build up an audience from one of the many communities around the world that are connected by common interest (that you can eventually make money off) by producing good content and letting people download it. Consider viral marketing; i.e., people passing on videos to their friends (at least ten people). If you can do a video show that fans think is so good that you get a natural viral audience that’s done organically, you end up with a small scale production with a large scale audience and get fans and evangelists to spread the word in getting your production to the right people and audience that likes what you’re doing with minimal resources by getting it in the right spot.

You can release your mini-masterpiece via TubeMogul.com, which spits them to all the important video sites including YouTube, MySpace, Vimeo, Viddler, blips and a few others. They usually want to buy a DVD from you. This is a great way to build an audience because your giving it away is getting it exposed to more people.

Pre-Promotion & Niche Marketing

Think about your product in terms of final audience by asking yourself who wants to see it and what about mine that would make others watch it and share it with their friends and how I can make it so that it satisfies more people.

Communicating your passion to a community of those who have the same passion as a reflection of themselves; or what they’d like to see in the world, that people will tell friends and would make their friends want to see it. Find people interested in your video and related blogs and discussion forums.

I do think theaters will need to have the ability to digitally download, but that just gives a fantastic array of new opportunities to show more films. But I don’t think one thing will completely replace another. I think there is room for many of these options to happen simultaneously. Bay Area Moviemaker, Tiffany Shlain, 39

Every independent moviemaker should prepare a self-distribution strategy. The journey however differs for each moviemaker and his or her particular project. It is not only a way to get your movie in front of an audience, but also a way to control your own destiny.
Independent moviemakers can thrive by using the best equipment you can afford without having to go into debt. If that is a cell phone, that’s okay; you just need to start something.

The Micro-Studio

The future takes us into an entirely different landscape of being a micro-studio, where you and your team produce, distribute publicize and monetize work, taking the proceeds to provide budgets for future projects (and pay yourselves if and when you get lucky eventually).
As stated in an article put out by MovieMaker Magazine (Issue 81 Volume 16, 2009, Ten Tips For Successfully Distribution) it is important to believe in your film because you will be investing a tremendous amount of time and energy of your life from the time you write the script to finally distributing the film. If you really don’t believe in it, don’t do it.
Making five-minute movies and producing them for submission in local film projects/festivals are a good way to get good fast while getting the type of exposure and distribution through the film festival circuit. More people click on to a five minute video than longer ones. This makes it easy for viewers to watch independent productions.

Produce something that makes a reference (a way to make money). Selling other products that relate to your video or finding those who can pay you to make their video and look at ways to sell your videos through Amazon without investing money or your time up front. And consider a source that can make your DVD’s and distribute them. Be creative by posting links to any companies or sites you find which might be helpful.

PRESS

Get attention from the Press. It can be hard to get attention if you have no stars, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Write to the editors of magazines, newspapers and Websites and tell them about your film. Also, ask friends and friends of friends working in media for opportunities for interviews. Its possible there’s something newsworthy-or review-worthy.
The movie SCALP (2009) was shot in Ghost Lake, NJ, which is supposed to be haunted. (Google it and you will see.) Paul Chau (www.scalpthemovie.com) suggests you find something cool about your film. “That adds something intangible to the film and a great angle for press coverage.”

Sometimes a particular genre may not be festival-friendly and not a likely path to get your film attention. Paul Chau held his own distributor screenings (one in NY and one in L.A.) even though he knew it was unlikely that many distributors if any would attend. But his goal was to create awareness for his film so people would request screeners.

As it turned out, in New York, Dan Guando from The Weinstein Company did come and watch the entire film (SCALP). After the screening, he congratulated me on a job well done and asked for a screener to send to his L.A. team. Eventually it did pass, but it was reassuring to see their interest and Dan was a great guy (and contact).

Knowing your audience before you make your film and understanding what you really want from self-distribution is very important. For instance, my personal experience has shown me that you should know your audience before you make your film. As an educator and a member of the bay area’s It Donned On Me, (a competitive filmmaking team) I am learning that the best audiences for documentaries are educators and historians. Upon completion of Stick & Pound (2008) and A Place Like This (2009) submitted to the International Documentary Challenge (www.Itdonnedonme.com) art/music educators around the nation and the world became followers as soon as the movies became available online.

The goal is to create awareness for the film and understanding what you really want from self-distribution. Get reviews from critics and create a resume piece for future films. You can make money via a DVD release, even if you self-distribute so make sure you have lots of extras to load onto that DVD. Think audition footage, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, behind the scenes bloopers, director commentary, etc.

FILM FESTIVAL ON YOUR COUCH

At the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2009 IFC Films appeared at a press conference with moviemaker Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs) and South by Southwest Film Festival producer Janet Pierson to make a radical announcement: When the Austin-based SXSW rolled around in March, IFC would premier Swanberg’s latest feature, Alexander the Last - in addition, the four other recent acquisitions at the event on demand simultaneously. In doing so, IFC found a tentative solution to elusive audiences: Catch them at home.

The company had for many years utilized a video-on-demand (VOD) strategy in which cable subscribers can watch almost all of IFC’s current theatrical releases on television. Small movies suddenly show up in 50 million homes with the click of a button. A very good approach. However, with the growing indie fare, the company has carved out more space in its VOD grid to accommodate additional titles, namely those movies that would likely never see an audience beyond their festival runs.

IFC added a new on demand channel called Festival Direct in 2008; it is an outlet for films that might not be viable theatrical prospects, but would likely appeal to art house-minded audiences at home.

Although the initial Festival Direct lineup enabled certain specialty films to wind up in countless living rooms, another year passed before IFC found a way to take audiences further, by offering a peek into the content of a film festival program as it takes place and allowing “moviemakers” television screenings to continue months after their festival premieres.
As walls between the creator and the fan comes down, new business models are being developed daily. The unlimited shelf space of the Internet is helping to build a long tail for filmmakers work and it’s never been easier to build an audience and keep it. It’s still a lot of work, but it’s been radically democratized.

References:
MovieMaker Magazine, Issue 81, Volume 16, Future of Movie Making 2009 – New Product and Technology Review:

Festival On Demand, p. 26; Eric Kohn

The Real Deal On Internet Distribution, p.42; Mark Sells

Indie Innovators, p.46; Andrew Gnerre


Agent of Change: Small Is The New Big, 2005-06, Seth Godin’s Blog video