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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Spring 2009

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

I write this on the eve of the epochal US Presidential Inauguration. But as we also inch closer to Great Depression 2.0, this new era of Hope and Change is tinged with a countervailing riptide of Dread and Angst. Closer to home, we have witnessed a spate of consolidations and collapses in the independent film community this past year, and we’re continually reworking the wiring and apparatus to come up with a workable model.

We’ve always been a scrappy, resourceful lot, and we’re taking the DIY route more than ever--thinking smaller, leaner and meaner, and staying with our films over the longer haul. It’s no longer a matter of cutting out the middle man; that middle man is gone.

So, in this strange hybrid of Hope and Angst that informs this Web 2.0/Obama Generation world, we take stock of where we are and what we’re doing to stay afloat and move forward. First, there’s the money, and Tom Isler looks at a few experiments that filmmakers are trying out, that are working for some and not for others. On the other side, Michelle Paster checks out some of the more innovative ways that funders are ensuring that films not only get made, but get made with a little mentoring assistance kicked in. Before you get your film out there, there’s the onus of getting everything cleared, and Fair Use has proved to be a filmmaker’s best friend--provided that you know how and when to use it. Alexander Buono and Tamsin Rawady, producers of Bigger Stronger Faster, share a primer for the process of applying and defending Fair Use. Filmmaker Brett Gaylor’s RiP: A Remix Manifesto explores, through innovative mashups and graphics, just how far we can push Fair Use. Marc Glassman talks to Gaylor about where this conversation can lead.

As far as getting your films out there, Web 2.0--perhaps 2.1 by now--shows promise, if not clear financial gratification. SnagFilms and YouTube Screening Room bowed last year, joining a smattering of other platforms for screening docs. It’s the power of the long tail wagging--dusting off the forgotten gems to be rediscovered, while giving the new docs a viral showcase. Elisabeth Greenbaum Kasson explores the revenue potential for this ever-evolving model.

While the state of theatrical distribution might be dire, there are filmmakers out there who have used the Web to build their audience base; Michelle Paster talks to some of these filmmakers. In addition, Robert Bahar and Almudena Carracedo share their story of taking their film Made in LA to communities around the world--while generating revenue in the process.

Consolidation defined the nonprofit media arts sector in 2008, with Renew Media joining forces with the Tribeca Film Institute and the San Francisco Film Society acquiring Film Arts Foundation. Agnes Varnum takes a look at how these and other changes will inform how nonprofits carry out their missions.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White