May 12 2010

PBS’ International conference – the buzz: TV is dead!

Sound the alarms! PBS veteran producer Joel Geyer is video blogging from Budapest where PBS stations from around the world are having their annual meeting.   Yes, there are Public Broadcasting stations in almost every country, and from what Joel has to say, there are still plenty of staid historical documentaries in the loop.  Joel seems to be more tolerant of these than most of us.

Via video, Joel has passed along a few choice tidbits including:
– Viral networking is over-rated, Twitter is useless, Facebook has an older demographic;
– Canon MarkII 5D camera is taking over the industry (and for only $2300 at B&H);
– Programs made by filming bloggers are a new hot product (built-in audience);
– Real people telling real stories is still a cheap new way to produce programming:
– TV as we know it is dead!!! Okay, I know. They keep saying it but this time it really is dead. Surfing for content on computers is the new TV.


Apr 16 2010

Sunscreen Film Festival

I attended the Sunscreen Film Festival workshop on Indie Film Producing and another on Master Screenwriting yesterday at St. Petersburg’s troubled BayWalk, where the storefronts are empty.  The availability of space is a fortunate coincidence for the workshops which are part of the festival.

As a festival, Sunscreen doesn’t shine so much from its selection of first-run nationally coveted festival films, though there are a few.  Rather it has excelled at keeping locals in the mix.

But it’s the workshops – geared exclusively for fiction narrative – that I found to be first-rate.

Classes are small, maybe 70 attendees, and the teaching moves at a quick clip, full of relevant and important information.  Having attended some similar workshops in major cities, I much preferred this more intimate setting – it was so intimate that Dean Batali, the workshop leader and Head Writer for That 70’s Show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, apologized for slewing spittle on the front row.  I think he was kidding.

But this was not regurgitated information.  Class leaders are current and all knowing.   Indie producers Sean Covel and Doc Wyatt honed their skills on various films but their blockbuster was Napolean Dynamite, a classic example of a low-budget film ($500,000) that took naysayers by surprise.

At $35 for a day pass, you get the classes and the films, a very reasonable rate for the talent at hand.  And although there aren’t classes for nonfiction film, good writing and good production advice applies across genres.

Grab some spf15 and head on down to Baywalk – just steer clear of that front row.


Mar 26 2010

Jump at the Sun Screening in Zora’s ‘hood

Sunday March 28 at 2P there will be a screening of Jump at the Sun at the Winter Park Public Library at 460 East New England Avenue.   The photo below is Knowles Hall at Rollins College in Winter Park, turn of the century.

Over my years of working on the film, I encountered quite a few people from Winter Park who bubbled over with their own recollections of Zora Neale Hurston, the acclaimed author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and one of the first African-American anthropologists.  Zora’s hometown of Eatonville was separated from Winter Park by a large lake or two but that didn’t stop Zora from jumping in her model-A and rumbling down Orange, Orlando, Park or Fairbanks Avenues, getting together with her white friends to play croquet.  According to Zora’s niece, Winnifred Hurston Clarke, the folks in Eatonville frowned on this.  And they also frowned on Zora’s lack of attendance in church on Sundays.  And that’s what life in a small town was like back then.  We’re fortunate that Zora created an aura that inspired so much adulation and memories in both cities.

Zora often described herself as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, sitting on her gate post, enticing tourists with her antics, querying them with “don’t you want me to go a piece of the way with you?”  She managed to lure Fannie Hurst and the travel writer for the New York World Telegram to visit Winter Park in its tourist heyday.

Please stop by for the film.  And bring your stories as we all like to hear them.  The filmmaker (me!) will be in attendance.


Jan 20 2010

Zora hits the big time – the Louvre in Paris!

Zora Neale Hurston died January 28, 1960.  And Friday, with less than a week to go before the fiftieth anniversary of her death, the Louvre in Paris will present ZORA NEALE HURSTON: JUMP AT THE SUN at 2:30 (Paris time) at the Louvre Theatre.  While you probably won’t be able to attend the screening (and unfortunately, I can’t go) we can all appreciate how much times have changed so that a feature film about a celebrated African-American novelist and folklorist can have its day at a place of such distinction.  And while you’re thinking about that, remember that Zora Neale Hurston wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in only seven weeks while she was in Haiti doing research for Tell My Horse, her fascinating account of Haiti’s religion.


Nov 14 2009

Bay Bottom News/BBN Productions Filmography:

In Development:

TAMPA/HAVANA: Two Cities/One Memory: A feature-length documentary exploring the relationship that flourished between Tampa, Florida and Havana, Cuba during the 1950s, the migrations between the two cities that have continued, and the efforts today to resume commerce and comradary.

WOMEN THE WORLD OVER: A series of five documentaries focusing on the UN Women’s Global Initiative to empower women and to achieve gender equality.

JELLY ROLL MORTON’S DEAD MAN BLUES: the first feature-length documentary on jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton, with funding from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

Filmography/finished films:

ZORA NEALE HURSTON: JUMP AT THE SUN The only feature-length documentary on Zora Neale Hurston was broadcast on PBS in 2008 on the EMMY-award winning American Masters Series. Funders include the NEA, NEH, CPB, Ford Foundation, Southern Humanities Media Fund, Humanities Councils in MD, NY, DC, LA, TN, SC, NC and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs; Produced for PBS’ “American Masters” and broadcast in 2008/(:84)

SEA TURTLES’ LAST DANCE Documentary about species diversification, with a focus on sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Atlantic, their nesting habits and efforts to help endangered Kemp’s Ridley turtles that are drowning in shrimp trawls by equipping a device on the trawl that frees them from the net; offered nationwide on PBS, an EMMY award-winner produced for the Florida Institute of Oceanography in 1988/(:30).

TAMPA BAY OASIS PBS documentary on a year in the life of an estuary and the myriad of marine life that it supports, arranged in a monthly calendar with seasonal focus on manatees, seabirds, dolphins, clams, seagrasses, crabs, and an array of outdoor activities including canoeing, birding, kayaking, and educational efforts; an independent production with support from US Fish & Wildlife, SW Florida Water Management District, Tampa Electric Company in 1990/(:60).

SHIFTING SANDS Documentary about the coastal geology and beach erosion of the Florida shore, produced for the Florida Institute of Oceanography in 1988/(:30).

BAY BOTTOM BLUES Documentary about the demise of seagrass and sealife in the Tampa Bay and efforts to restore one of the largest estuaries in the world; produced for WTOG-TV in 1985(:30).

ROAD TO THE FUTURE Documentary to preserve the culture of St. Kitts in the Caribbean while a major roadway is built, produced as an environmental campaign for the US Agency for International Development, broadcast in St. Kitts in 1989/(:30).

DREAM-MAKERS ODYSSEY Documentary of a time when Tampa’s history was tied to trolley cars; produced for the Big Bend Environmental Education Center 1995/(:20).

PEOPLE WITH AIDS Documentary on the changing faces of AIDS in Hillsborough County; produced for the Tampa AIDS Network in 1994/(:20).

MANATEE DREAMS Documentary about scientists’ efforts to save Florida manatees; produced for the Big Bend Environmental Education Center in 1993/(:20).

FLORIDA’S FIRST MAGIC KINGDOM Documentary on the turn-of-the-century Tampa Bay Hotel and railroad tycoon Henry Plant’s vision of luxury, produced for the H. B. Plant Museum in 1991/(:20).

GETTING THERE Script for media campaign for a mass transit system in the Tampa Bay area, produced for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit in 1996/(:30).