A New Model for Online Media Distribution

Last night at Filmmakers Workshop (the salon I co-organize for Boston’s independent mediamakers), two visitors spoke about online distribution for independent film work. It was fascinating to hear from Brian Newman, Executive Director of Renew Media in New York, about their very ambitious REFRAME project to digitize and make accessible vast quantities of media arts from independent filmmakers, artists, distributors, archives and other sources of independent and alternative media.

REFRAME is funded largely by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and has the refreshing non-commercial goal of furthering “the dissemination of important media arts and the preservation and accessibility of our visual heritage.” Contracts with artists, archives, distributors, and other partners will be non-exclusive, include free or low-cost digitization, and allow media partners to set their own purchase and rental prices. According to Newman this will all be delivered via a polished website with robust searching and browsing features. Launch is scheduled for the coming months, and it will be very exciting to see what happens! You can read more at their website or on David Tamés’s Kino-Eye blog.

Joe Zina, Executive Director of the Coolidge Corner Theater, also spoke about the Coolidge Internet Theater – an exciting new section of their website where conversations begun in the theater can continue, students and young filmmakers can gain exposure, and independent mediamakers can fundraise or get the word out about their work. It’s an interesting way to use the power of the Internet to build local community. Congratulations, Coolidge!

A Student Again

My family and I spent the summer in the San Francisco Bay Area as I began a low-residency MFA program at the San Francisco Art Institute. What fun to be a student again! After twelve years of teaching – pouring energy into bringing out my students’ vision as filmmakers – I now have advisors and teachers who help me develop as an artist.

Art school feels a lot different from my usual environment at a liberal arts college and among the documentary filmmaker/ public television crowd. As I sit among my classmates – painters, sculptors, photographers, and printmakers – I can’t help but look at video in a new way. I’m seeing the colors applied on the frame the way paint adheres to its surface. It’s freeing to try out new shooting and editing styles without worrying about narrative, context, exposition – or fundraising, rights clearances, and distribution.

My first project was a study of four tiny shops in a block of San Francisco’s multicultural Mission District. It started out as a little exercise and I got gradually drawn into the way surfaces are cleaned, colored, and transformed in these four locales. I think I will continue to explore some of these shooting and editing techniques in upcoming projects. I hope to find a way to bring a more formally interesting approach to work that has social content I care about.

Take a look at the video (7 minutes, MPEG) if you're interested:


I’m finally joining the 21st century and starting a blog. Please check back for postings on my film and video work, life as an independent filmmaker and teacher, and things I’m learning from work in Boston’s mediamaking, academic, and social service communities.