Most People Feel It Is Okay To Share Content

TorrentFreak reported last week:

One of the most comprehensive studies into media sharing and consumption habits in the United States and Germany reveals that nearly half of the populations have copied, shared or downloaded music, movies, and TV shows. Sharing occurs both on- and offline, but the latter is seen as reasonable by most people. The report does, however, reveal that online file-sharers consume more music than their non-file-sharing counterparts.

Today the American Assembly, a non-partisan public policy forum affiliated with Columbia University, published its long-awaited Copy Culture report.

The study is based on thousands of telephone interviews conducted in the United States and Germany and provides a unique insight into copying habits in the two countries.

“The study suggests that most people in the US and Germany recognize the constitutive dilemma of copyright as a set of tradeoffs between rightsholders and the public. And it provides a snapshot of where ‘most’ people are in trying to reconcile these tradeoffs with the digital age,” author Joe Karaganis told TorrentFreak.

Read the article here.

When Do They Need A License To Screen A Film?

The other week I tweeted:

Any time a film is shown outside a person's personal home, the screening is considered "public"& u must license the rights.

I expected not much of a response, but it got some retweets & favs.  I fell into this subject courtesy of the Art House Convergence google group (always a fountain of information!).  My tweet was abbreviated from IFC's contractual license language:

Any time a film is shown outside a person's personal home, the screening is considered "public". It does not matter if admission is charged or if the entity screening the film is a non-profit organization, school, or library. If the film is being shown outside the home, it is considered "public" and it is necessary to license the rights for such a showing.

However, this does not seem to be the whole picture.  The AHC conversation continued and it was sourced that Title 17 of USC (United States Code), section 110, states:

§ 110 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;

If anyone would like to read, the entirety of copyright law (it's riveting stuff), you can here:

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

 (courtesy of Dr. Eric Faden, Associate Professor of English and Film/Media Studies, Bucknell University).
 
So if you want to show a film in a pub, get a license.  But if you are a not-for-profit educational institution and providing face-to-face instruction, you are in the clear.

Some Movies TRULY Improve The World

Two days before THE INVISIBLE WAR got an Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary (i.e. today), Congress announced it would hold a hearing on sexual abuse in the Military. When it becomes more and more difficult for our mainstream media to examine complex issues in depth and with true soul, it is left to independent filmmakers to dig in and expose what our world is.  When done well,the world can not help but listen.  When it is done really well, the world begins to act.  It does get better.

The invisible becomes visible to us all.  Movies show us how to see the truth (as well as much much more).

"a great day for documentary filmmaking & for the future of books"

Variety recently reported:

"Documentary filmmakers have won a ruling from the U.S. Copyright Office that allows them to legally break the encryption codes of DVDs and online streaming content to obtain clips for their projects.

The material still must fall under the "fair use" exemption of copyright law, but the decision by Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante was hailed as a victory for non-fiction filmmakers seeking high-quality clips for their movies. The decision also allows educators and multimedia e-book authors, as well as makers of non-commercial videos, to circumvent copy-protection software to obtain such clips, although the use has to be limited in scope." (Read the whole article)

I have long dreamed of a day when I have a wealth of titles akin to Adam Curtis's THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES and Sophie Fiennes' THE PERVERTS GUIDE TO CINEMA.  I love video essays and could appreciate a whole lot more of them.

Culture is built upon itself.  We need to be able to remix it.  It just can't be taken -- we need to use it to add to the dialogue.  We return value when we use it fairly.

Although this ruling doesn't advance Fair Use, at least it gets rid of a substantial barrier.

 

Give Your Team TIME OFF FOR VOTING

How is this for a policy?

In the event that an employee does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote in a state or nationwide election, the employee may take off enough working time to enable him or her to vote. Such time off shall be taken at the beginning or the end of the regular working shift, whichever allows for more free time, and the time taken off shall be combined with the voting time available outside of working hours. Under these circumstances an employee will be allowed a maximum of two (2) hours on the election day without loss of pay. Deductions will not be made from the salary of an exempt employee for time taken off for voting. Where possible, the employee shall give his or her manager at least two (2) days notice that time off to vote is needed.

Of course it is hard to do with call times and film shoots, but...

Let Others Pay For Your Office Rent

The most important issue for independent filmmakers these days is survival.  How do you make ends meet? Taking rent off the table, filmmakers have room to move.  When we shut down our offices at This is that, and I started working out of my kitchen, I got less productive and could share less (and limited my intern use).  That won't happen to you though.  Why?  Because if you live in San Francisco, the San Francisco Film Society can help you with your office expense by providing you a free office.

The San Francisco Film Society is pleased to announce that, as of September 2012, FilmHouse is open once again in 4,800 spacious square feet of newly-renovated office space located in the bustling Fillmore District. With generous funding from theKenneth Rainin Foundation and additional support from the San Francisco Film Commission, the FilmHouse residency program is designed to offer free office space to filmmakers in various stages of production where they can share talents and resources with their peers.

Open to both narrative and documentary filmmakers, FilmHouse offers a residency of either 6 or 12 months to filmmakers with projects that, through plot, character, theme or setting explore social issues of our time.

 

APPLICATION NOW OPEN
EARLY DEADLINE: October 31
LATE DEADLINE: November 7

CONTACT
Jessica Anthony
FilmHouse Coordinator
415-561-5033
janthony@sffs.org

How Can Women Gain Influence in Hollywood?

I wrote my first piece for the NY Times the other day -- and it's up now! I was fortunate enough to be asked to be the lone male voice in the "Room For Debate" on How Can Women Gain Influence In Hollywood. It's an excellent discussion and a great group of commentators. It's also a question that action is not taken on enough. My piece begins:

Mainstream mass-market film culture is stuck in a deep rut. When making money is the top priority, people produce work and hire people who keep them in power. Call it risk mitigation or cowardice, the lack of women in Hollywood comes from the same root.

Industries are like people: they change only when the pain of the present outweighs the fear of the future. The stakes may be too great for Hollywood to ever accept that audiences and communities want something other than what they have already had. If audiences continue to behave like the March Hare in “Alice in Wonderland,” confusing "I like what I get" for “I get what I like,” neither films nor the entities that produce them will evolve.

Leadership is required to recognize that “When Harry Met Sally,” "Bridesmaids" and "Lost in Translation" are not outliers, but clear indicators of vast communities of underserved audiences. Unfortunately, the movie industry is designed to follow the competitor, creating perpetually redundant stories, creators and executives. The entire film business remains predicated on antiquated concepts of scarcity of content and control thereof. It should instead get ambitious and start to redesign itself for today’s reality of super-abundance of — and total access to — hugely varied content.

Please read the rest of it here.  And read all the pieces.

THE INVISIBLE WAR Proves That Films Can Change The World

Don't you love it when you see a film and want to change the world? Don't you love it even more when you see a film and learn that that film has already changed the world -- and for the better? I sat watching Amy Ziering's & Kirby Dick's THE INVISIBLE WAR with my jaw hanging open, literally; my fury growing by the minute. When I was done, my understanding of the world had expanded, and my confidence in the power of film was confirmed. As informed and engaged as we all are, there are significant acts going on that we may not be cognizant or aware of, but if we -- and our representative institutions -- don't take action we are essentially giving consent to continue. Part of the complete definition of cinema these days is engagement and action, and THE INVISIBLE WAR fulfills this commitment (and more). It has made the world a safer place for those that work to make our world safe.

Ziering & Dick not only deliver an argument but provide all of the intimacy and emotional impact that a direct personal relationship usually brings. When you encounter those who have been the victim of a system that seems to endorse and covers up rape in our military forces, you can't help but be outraged. A female soldier in a combat zone is more likely to be raped by her fellow soldiers than killed by enemy fire.

THE INVISIBLE WAR won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It opens on June 22nd, but thanks to Goldcrest, I am hosting a free screening for those on my list. Hopefully everyone brings a bottle of wine or the beverage of their choice and we discuss it afterwards.

Visit the website here: http://invisiblewarmovie.com/ Watch the trailer here: http://youtu.be/ECOqpv45tIo "Like" the film here: http://www.facebook.com/invisiblewarmovie

Demand The Government To Incentive Job Creation & Support The Arts (via Fed181 Extension)

America is in danger of losing a critical part of it's culture: Independent Film. All throughout this year I have heard one producer or director after another complain they can no longer afford to stay in the business. I know I too feel this on a regular basis. Yet, here in New York, I have seen the crafts and support elements run at close to full employment. Why? The New York State Tax Credits keep television and other productions going at a steady pace. There is no question that effective tax policy can also be job stimulus.

Without any policy for funding of the arts in America,it is critical that we incentive potential investors to consider backing the arts. It was great to hear (via Entertainment Partners' Film Incentive Services) that there is a movement afoot to reinstate Fed 181. They pointed out:

Congressmen Howard Berman and David Drier co-sponsored a bill (HR 5793) to extend the federal film incentive program aimed at keeping film production in the U.S. Internal Revenue Code section 181 expired at the end of last year. The current proposal would extend the election to treat film costs as an immediate deduction rather than a capital expense. To qualify, productions must spend ≥ 75% of the compensation on services performed in the U.S.

The Hollywood Reporter points out the many benefits for the country at large.

"Berman and Drier point out that runaway foreign production has become a national issue. With production of movies and TV programs now occurring throughout the United States, this industry creates well-paying jobs and generates tangible economic benefits to cities and states nationwide. A typical motion picture employs 350-500 people. Production jobs have an average salary that is 73 percent higher than the current nationwide average. A major motion picture shooting on location contributes $225,000 on average every day to the local economy, so it is no surprise that it is seen as a critical engine of economic development in many places across the country. Thus, the lawmakers argue, extension of the tax not only will help to promote well-paying film industry jobs but will have a ripple effect across broad sectors of the economy by generating revenue and employment opportunities for a wide range of local businesses, such as caterers, dry cleaners, lodging, equipment rental facilities, transportation vendors and many others."

If you live in the States, and work in the arts, the least you can do is call your representatives and urge them to support the bill, HR 5793.

How Do You Make Art When You Can't Afford Housing?

I am sure I was not the only one who was a bit shocked to see the infographic that demonstrated that NOWHERE IN THE USA IS IT POSSIBLE TO AFFORD A TWO BEDROOM APARTMENT ON A FORTY HOUR PER WEEK MINIMUM WAGE JOB. How can you have a family when you can not afford to care for them? The creation of art has become a luxury in America. No wonder we are a nation of money-movers when students leave college with a debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Simple But Genius Idea To Keep Wall Street Occupied

If there was a social contract in this country, not only would America NOT be at the bottom of countries in terms of fairness and justice (check out the graph linked to the post), but we'd recognize how support for the arts, and culture in general, is part of what civilization should be.

I love it when you can see how things you care about -- or even wish you did not have to care about -- are linked. I hate junk mail and have tried to find ways to free myself from it for years. Now, thanks to this video, I have a new love of it. I can use it to take action.

Our financial institutions are service industries. The dialogue does not have to be one way. I wasn't being mindful until I saw this video, and realized that it didn't have to be.

Save Public Radio & Television

WNYC just sent me this:

Within days, Congress will vote on legislation that could cut 100% of funding for public broadcasting, which includes $3 million to fund programming operations for New York Public Radio (WNYC and WQXR), plus an additional $1.25 million for innovative, original programming. These proposed cuts threaten WNYC and public broadcasting as a whole. 

170 million Americans rely on public radio and public television for trusted news and perspective and programming that brings the arts to everyone — for a minimal investment of $1.35 per U.S. citizen per year. 

You can make a difference — contact your representatives in Congress to let them know how you feel about federal funding for the independent journalism, thought-provoking news, conversations and cultural programs you hear on WNYC.

I encourage you to take action now to let Congress know what public radio means to you. 

  • Click here to send a pre-written (and editable) e-mail. 
  • Or call your representative in Congress at (202) 224-3121.

Your support for public radio helps our democracy thrive. Your voice now can make a critical difference. 

Once Again, More Indies Needed In The National Film Registry

It's that time of year again.  The National Film Registry just got 25 more films.  Like the last two years, it only gives a nod to indies.  What people seem to forget is that we, the people, can make recommendations as to what gets listed.  How great would it be if every reader of this blog wrote in and recommended an indie film?  There's no charge for this blog, no pay wall to avoid, so how about that for a subscription fee: you have to nominate a film to the National Film Registry? The Librarian of Congress provides some guidelines on what to nominate for next year's registry at the Film Board's website at www.loc.gov/film. To be eligible for the Registry, a film must be at least 10 years old and be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  I list my recommended films on last year's post.  My list is not changing this year.

To nominate films, send up to fifty titles to:

dross@loc.gov

Demand Jafar Panahi's Freedom

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison, and twenty years without making films, contact with the press, or travel. Another filmmaker, Mohammad Rassoulov, has been likewise sentenced to six years in prison. They are both in Iran and sentenced by the court there. Artists and citizens everywhere must do all they can to prevent this attack on artistic freedom. The Cannes Film Festival and other organizations have started this petition that all should sign as soon as possible.

Indie Film's Future To Be Decided Today

If your ability to earn a living as an Indie Filmmaker is not a big enough issue to catch your attention, how about considering that your freedom is at stake?  What if you knew that the principal and practice of free speech was at risk, would that wake you up? How about if you knew that corporate interests were once again being favored over those of the people?  Well, today is the day that all those things are happening, so whachagonnnado? The FCC meets today and proposes regulations that could seriously undermine net neutrality.  It generally appears that corporate interests are being looked after, and we are headed towards a tiered internet where providers can favor some content over others.  Prepare to get really upset.  Prepare to do something to fight back and protect a free and open internet.

Al Franken says it is the most important free speech issue of our time.  VC fund, Union Square Ventures, recommends prohibiting "application-specific discrimination", and that seems to make good sense.

You can watch it all live right here starting at 1030A EST.

181 Renewed! Indie Filmmakers Rejoice!

Why does this matter? Zak Forsman tweeted it nicely: " if tax payer is in 35% tax bracket and the film's shot in a state with a 42% credit, investor's eligible to get 77% of her investment back."

To go a tad deeper, Zak Forsman posted it well:

Minutes ago, I received this email from my friend and fellow filmmaker, Justin Evans.

Dear Film Professionals -

Section 181 has finally been renewed! The new Tax Bill was signed into law by President Obama earlier today. The tax law includes Section 744, which includes language that replaces IRS Section 181's expiration date of December 31, 2009 with December 31, 2011.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-111hr4853enr/pdf/BILLS-111hr4853enr.pdf

Here is what this means:

  • Any money spent on qualifying domestic film production* in 2010 now qualifies for the Section 181 tax write-off.
  • Any money spent on qualifying domestic film production* in 2011 will also qualify for the Section 181 tax write-off.
  • There is no gap in Section 181 protection...which means all the fear and worry that someone might have begun a project in 2009, somehow didn't get the financing in place and investors invested in early 2010 can now breath a sigh of relief.

Read all of what Zak has to say about it here. Thanks Zak!

Piracy: (Some Of) The Short & The Long Of It

Thankfully, Taylor Hackford recognizes that the film industry needs to wise up and educate itself on piracy. He and I agree on that. And I think we agree on the goal of it all, but I suspect we have completely different approaches to solving the problem.  And that is where I am really concerned.  To solve it, Hackford seems willing to sacrifice greater principles in the service of business, and that is a shame.  I hope I am wrong. Mr. Hackford, president of the DGA, was recently speaking at the Content Protection Summit and Variety reported on it. Reading the article I remain unclear as to what Hackford's point is about piracy beyond that it is bad and we need to make it a real concern of the industry. He seems to be saying that if we want to protect our content, we have to be willing to give up on a free and open internet. He claims groups like Public Knowledge and Free Press as enemies. Shutting down a free and open internet is not the path to solving the piracy problem; it is the path to a closed society that favors a class or capital over access and opportunity -- and that is the antithesis of what we need to do.

We can not create a system that favors the powerful, the connected, or the well capitalized. The Film Business already favors all those niches quite well, and government and utilities should do all they can to provide for all equally.  Equality under the law and within the society remains one of the greatest ideals, and personally speaking, I would rather have a world that strives for that ideal's enforcement, even if that striving has to support some bad apples, rather than risk that anyone does not have equal access or equal opportunity.

Hackford was insightful to link Hollywood's focus on event pictures to piracy, in that if piracy is eroding film's revenue -- or even thought to be -- then investors will be more likely to put money into the projects most likely to generate the quickest return and the most unique experience.  The insight would actually make sense if individual investors were backers of event pictures, let alone studio pictures.  They rarely have such opportunities.

Being someone who has depended on private equity for all but a few of my 60+ films, I have never once heard an investor confess concern about piracy (and granted some of that may have to do with their education on the issue).  I do have investors express concern about distribution opportunities, access to markets, cost of promotion, and difficulties to reaching audiences.     I do hear people intrigued about using the systems that have been developed by pirates and copy-forward advocates to reach audiences that they have not reached before.  They know that the system has to change and recognize the realities of the time we are living in.

I have witnessed first hand, and was one of the key witnesses, in a successful anti-trust suit against the MPAA for coercing the studios to take action that unfairly hurt independents in the process.  That case, popularly known as The Screener Ban, used piracy as the fear that prompted excluding the key marketing tool of Award Screeners from all filmmakers' arsenal.  The powerful often look out for their interests without even consulting the rest of the industry about their practices.  When Dan Glickman took over at the MPAA, he was quite vigilant at soliciting the indie sector's opinion on the state of the industry, and I hope his successor remains as committed.  I hope whomever takes over the MPAA recognizes the necessity of our culture industry to commit to a free & open internet or else exclude a serious sector of our community.

When it comes to protecting artists' rights, piracy is a serious issue, but open and free access to a public good (i.e. the internet) is a greater one.  We can not look at short term solutions that have long term repercussions.  The focus on the piracy issue tends to take place at events that exclude a large portion of the film community -- namely the truly independent artists that will never have access to the studio system.  We need institutions, organizations, and methods that make sure to include this segment's voice -- and that includes the DGA.

I, and artists everywhere, will not be able to support ourselves -- and thus generate new work -- if our work is widely stolen and we are not compensated.   Mr. Hackford is right on when he speaks of the need for passion and education when it comes to the issue of intellectual property theft, but as we enter that discussion, we need to strenuously protect the greater ideal of equal access and opportunity.  We also need to recognize human behavior and the current state of things -- people want convenience, but they also want other things.  The large media corporations have done little to offer a better option to theft.  Our methods of licensing and distributing work relies on out of date analogue models.  There are actions that can be taken, by artists and businesses, and it is hight time that we begun this discussion in earnest -- but let's not abandon the ideals as we start the march down the road.

Save the internet!