Looking back at the late nineties fifty years from now will be quite entertaining. I won't be here to do it, but being one never to miss the fun, I'll take a crack at it now.
The 1990's have been dubbed the decade of the Web. What hype and hyperbole spewed forth with the onset of the primitive Internet application. Prognosticators predicted the end of every non-virtual institution. Fortunes were made by college grad's overnight with the offering of things appropriately called, "YAHOO".
Sporadic describes the L.A. marginal art screenings, for example, one Sunday or Monday night per month.
The following sketches ideas which will be developed more fully in a forthcoming article on California Newsreel's 30th Anniversary and its implications for independent social change film production and distribution. The author is Co-director of California Newsreel but the views expressed here do not reflect those of California Newsreel.
I suppose, in the overused parlance of the time, this should be an occasion to "celebrate" California Newsreel and its 30th anniversary. Age, however, disposes me towards more sober and sobering reflections.
Here is an abbreviated history of both organizations: the Community Film Workshop of Chicago has a 27-year history of training over 800 emerging and mid-career film makers. CFWC has provided film history and aesthetic instruction, equipment/facility access, exhibition, and media literacy and training in schools.
While Seattle's cable access station (TCI, Channel 29) recently has taken some heat for one program with some questionable content, the overwhelming volume of its high quality arts programming has gone unnoticed. Writing as an organizer of the Seattle Independent Film and Video Consortium (SIFVC), I find this lamentable, since the curators of these programs have taken creative steps to network their content with the community and leading media arts organizations in the city.
I've been thinking about the personal side of being a professional interdependent filmmaker. Not celluloid, or lenses, or digital media, but flesh and blood. I wonder where filmmakers go now for a sense of professional community? For validation of difficult and controversial work? For money? For emotional support? I've been wondering lately what happened to the animals we used to call "media arts centers" and what we even meant by that term. What happened to NAMAC and to Film in the Cities and to AFI? What happened to the NEA Media Arts Program?
There was once a myth about the permanence of magnetic media that has been proven to be just that: myth. Individuals and organizations that have produced work as recently as the 1990s are dealing with the need to preserve that work for the future. There is an even greater need to preserve works from earlier decades, as much of it was recorded on formats that are now extinct. Functional equipment to reproduce these tapes is difficult to locate and maintain. No true archival format exists. Migration to current magnetic formats is the best we can offer at present. New formats come and go, and media continues to degrade.
Saturday night I got home from a party. While I was scanning emails—deleting ads for Viagra, cheap airfare, and listserv nonsense—I saw the subject header, “NY Independent Media Center (IMC) Journalist Murdered by Paramilitaries.”
Once we agree (and most do agree) that myth isn’t a matter of fact or fiction, but rather a matter of belief, then we can come to understand the power of myth in both the narrative and documentary forms of media. The validity of a myth is established not by the number of people who claim to follow it, or the relative voracity of its lineage, but instead by the number of people who are willing to act based on what they believe.