at Leopold's

A few more session highlights:

New Media Distribution Technologies. Brian Newman of Tribeca Film Institute gave a great presentation on Re:frame. Archivists, filmmakers, and distributors of independent film should know about Re:frame, which is making all kinds of previously unavailable or hard-to-find independent film available via DVD on demand and download to own/rent. WITNESS is a soon-to-be contributor to this project, so there was not too much here that I didn’t know but it was exciting to hear it; I sensed a lot of enthusiasm in the room and I imagine the support from the archival community will be substantial.

A big question, addressed by Brian and others, is to what extent the availability of free content impinges on sales of DVDs, downloads, etc. One anecdote from Brian: “Steal this Film” by Jamie King was released via pirate networks, with a plea for donations. It was subsequently viewed 10 million times and earned 60K in donations, far more than it ever would have generated under a traditional distribution model.

Session chair Stephen Parr pointed out the irony of the simultaneous movement towards higher quality HD, Blu-ray on the one-hand, and crappy pixilated videos on Youtube on the other. Will people pay for better quality?

Brian stated his belief that the younger generation of amateur but self-identified filmmakers will ultimately be drawn to the older works if they are easily accessible and affordable.

One of the other cool things is that Reframe is capturing the data that tells you how people find your films, and will share it with contributors.

From the Edit Room to the Archives: Saving DV: Peter Oleksik (NYU MIAP), Ben Moscowitz (NYU) and Heather Weaver (Video Editor/Preservationist) spoke on a panel convened by Mona Jimenez about preserving DV. Again, we are back in the realm of production-oriented workflows. This was a coherently-structured and really informative panel. Peter gave an overview of DV production. Ben picked up at the repository standpoint. And Heather discussed a recent editing project “Ask Not” , a film about the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy; her talk succinctly demonstrated the challenges posed by production and post-production choices, even within the DV framework, eg frame rates, codecs, etc.

Mona stressed that we need to be really proactive to make sure this media is available in the future. She also noted that we lack production histories; what systems, formats and hardware were in use when, by whom.

The conference highlight is always Archival Screening Night, and this year was particularly well-curated, I thought. Rachel Mattson blogs here about some of the highlights, all of which I concur with. I was also thrilled to experience “Blazes” by the sublime Robert Breer, whose work I first encountered at MoMA almost thirty years ago. I think I decided to study film in the first place because Breer and Brakhage and others expanded my notions of what the medium could be (which is a bit ironic since I have worked for twenty years with nonfiction and actuality footage.)

A Mobile Media Screening was curated by Melissa Dollman and the inimitable Stephen Parr; they presented shorts created in flash and cellphone for mobile devices and the web. There were some surprisingly effective pieces; I liked especially one by Katherin McInnis of skateboarders at the Unisphere, a nice interplay of image and sound. There was also an amusing film noir piece by Ishai Setton shot completely on cellphone. Much of this stuff doesn’t really amount to much, perhaps, but it strikes me as akin to graffiti art, a vernacular mode in which surprising creative and new work does sometimes emerge.

The Media Archive has been lucky this fall to have two terrific full-time interns, Erwin Verbruggen and Ioannis Papaloizu (above, with Chad Hunter), from the
Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image graduate program at the University of Amsterdam. We were luckier still to be able to bring them to AMIA. At SAA in August one of the discussions I heard concerned archivists aging out of the profession, where the next generation will come from, the difficulties in attracting younger people to a field which is low in pay and often status. All this is true, but I have to say the energy, creativity and skill coming out of these new programs, such as NYU’s MIAP and Amsterdam, is really heartening.

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