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LEF Foundation Blog

The past few years have seen new energy and investment in thinking about what’s next for public media. Projects like the Public Radio Talent Quest and MQ2 have inspired an  eruption of creativity and new ideas, many of them germinating from brain trusts right here in our own backyard in Cambridge. Nellie recently wrote about Zeega and the brilliant innovations being cooked up by the likes of Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler and James Burns. They have a partner in crime nearby in Sue Schardt from AIR (Association of Independents in Radio). In her leadership of the organization, Sue has put AIR at the forefront of innovation in storytelling and their new project Localore is just another example of the kind of vision that AIR is contributing to new experiments in public media.

As part of the ongoing Frederick Wiseman retrospective happening at the Harvard Film Archive,
this week brings us screenings of the Cambridge-based filmmaker's Belfast, Maine (1999) (Sunday 20 Nov. at 6pm) and Titicut Follies (1967) (Monday 21 Nov at 7pm). Belfast, Maine is "serenely composed of the illuminating routines and intimate minutiae" of a New England town, while Titicut Follies, Wiseman's first film (also set in New England, in Massachusetts), "proved so shocking in its unadorned rendering of a state mental institution that it remains the only American film to have been completely censored for reasons other than obscenity or national security."  No matter what slice of American life he chooses to film, Wiseman's documentaries are engrossing - this is a chance to see a part of his panorama of work on a big screen.

In a special event on 2 Dec, the filmmaker will be at the HFA in person to talk about The Last Letter (La Dernier Lettre), his only fiction film. The last movie of the series is State Legsislature on 2 Dec - a film that LEF supported with a Production grant.

The screenings at the HFA coincide with Frederick Wiseman's Phelps Lecture at the Radcliffe Institude for Advanced Study on Dec 1:"Shooting, Editing, and Reading a Documentary Film"

"Frederick Wiseman will discuss—and illustrate with sequences from his films—his approach to documentary filmmaking. He will address choice of subject, fundraising, technical filming
issues, sound recording and editing, analysis of sequences, relation of facts to metaphor and abstraction, and the creation of a dramatic structure. Wiseman will end with a discussion
about how he applies the principles of "close reading" to film." 

The lecture is free and open to the public on Dec 1 at 4pm at the Radcliffe Gymnasium, 10 Garden St. Cambridge MA.

- Nellie

The Center for Social Media at American University has created yet another helpful and informative study examining the work of nonfiction filmmakers. This one is "Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Challenges in Their Work"; a report based on conversations with 45 filmmakers about the ethical challenges they face in the creation of their work and how they handle them.
The Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives program of the John and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation in Chicago is funding the production and distribution of documentary films with an open call that begins Nov. 1 with proposals due Dec 2.  The guidelines are fairly specific, and the deadline will be competitive, but If your project does meet the Foundation's criteria, this is a great chance to apply for some substantial funding!
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the IFP’s Indie Film Week. It had been years since I had gone and I knew that in just the last year or so, the format had changed dramatically. LEF had one film in the market this year, Banker White’s THE GENIUS OF MARION, and so I took the opportunity to see what was new at the IFP.
I love Maine. As you cross the border into this fair state, you see the sign “The Way Life Should Be” and you learn in just moments from the fiery hills and the salty fresh air that it’s true, this is the way life should be. I am nothing but grateful that the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) gives me an excuse every year to get up there. CIFF is an amazing festival celebrating the best, brightest, and newest ideas in nonfiction cinema, and it keeps getting better every year.
To add to the list of things to be excited about at the upcoming Camden International Film Festival: Northeast Historic Film Presents: Working Waterfronts of Maine.

This program of film clips from the Northeast Historic Film Archive promises seamoss harvesting, lobstering and boat launching, among other coastal activities. The screening takes place on Saturday, October 1 at 10:30am at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, ME, with NHF Executive Director David Weiss on hand to talk about the films.

For filmmakers or other interested parties attending CIFF, a side trip to check out Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport, ME might be worth investigating. This past July I attended the annual Summer Symposium at NHF – the 2011 theme was Das Wunderkino: A Cinematic Cabinet of Curiosities,...
Zeega is a new platform for documentary storytelling that was selected as a 2011 Knight News Challenge winner. It’s being developed right here in Cambridge and I talked to Zeega co-founder and media artist Jesse Shapins about what Zeega is and what it hopes to do.
Producer and LEF Grantee Yu Ying Chou (also known as Sally Wu) is working with director Marlo Poras on the epic tale THE MOSUO SISTERS, about two spirited daughters of China's last matriarchal society and their challenges as they balance their responsibilities to their family, their culture, and themselves. Sally and Marlo were selected to participate in the 2011 Sundance Creative Producing Summit, held recently in Utah. Here are some of Sally's thoughts about the experience....
There's always something great going on at the Maine Media Workshops, a fantastic educational center to hone your craft in filmmaking, photography, multi-media and design located in lovely Rockport, Maine. Next week, they are tapping the local talent by hosting a workshop on documentary financing and distribution with filmmaker and rep extraordinaire Louise Rosen!

New England