MEDIA - April 2000

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Friday April 28

  • WHAT TO DO... Hollywood heavyweights from a variety of disciplines, from film's Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee to television's Gary David Goldberg, are being invited to what's being called the PBS Summit on Creativity and Community. They'll be asked for ideas about what the noncommercial broadcaster ought to be doing. "We're looking at a media landscape that's going to change dramatically in the next five years, and public television and its member stations really need to look at some new ideas," says new PBS president Pat Mitchell. "We need an infusion of outside thinking." Los Angeles Times 04/28/00
  • CHANGE OF DIRECTION: Even though the Berlin Film Festival - the Berlinale - is second in size in Europe only to Cannes, it's not had the luster many of its supporters think it should have. Now Festival director Moritz de Hadeln has been fired - after more than two decades at its helm. Die Welt (Berlin) 04/28/00
  • STILL TOO HOT TO HANDLE: After reducing the time some of Robert Mapplethorpe's more explicit photographs are shown in its documentary about the 1990 obscenity trial over the work, Showtime's "Dirty Pictures" gets an "R" rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. As originally edited, the film would have been tagged with an NC-17 which would mean the network couldn't have shown it in prime time. Newsweek (Variety) 04/27/00 
  • DINING ROOM EDIT: Costs for shooting and editing a movie have plunged, bringing sophisticated technology to the home user. A Pittsburgh man edits his full-length feature on his dining room table - total budget $2000.   "We had a 3/4-inch online video editing system that was worth $250,000." says a movie maker. "Now, it can be done on a computer for less than $20,000." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/28/00
  • RECORD BOOTY: China has seized 200,000 pirated DVD's and CD's in a raid in Guangzhou, its largest haul yet of stolen music and movies. Variety 04/28/00

Thursday April 27

  • REINVENTING THE FUTURE: The thing about technical advances is not just that they make it easier to do what you're already doing - improvements in your tools change the way you think about your art, the way you conceive of it, the way it looks. Chicago Tribune 04/27/00
  • TV IN TEN YEARS? No question television is changing. What'll it look like in ten years? Six Australian experts make their predictions. The Age (Melbourne) 04/27/00 
  • UNDUE INFLUENCE: Consumer groups are stepping up to object to Time Warner's merger with AOL. Critics are afraid of a "content bottleneck" if the deal goes through. Variety 04/27/00

Wednesday April 26

  • UNLIMITED MOVIES: So the Napster is killing sales of recorded music. Can the "Flickster" be far behind? Who wants to buy a movie you're only going to see once, or hassle with all those late video rental charges. As soon as someone solves the compression problem (like maybe next month) Hollywood's going to find itself in the same position as the music industry. Copyright laws or no copyright laws. Toronto Star 04/26/00
  • BOX TOP MUSIC: A new set-top box promises to deliver music on demand right in the home anytime you want it. Wired 04/26/00
  • ELECTRIC RODENT: A rat knocked Sri Lanka's state-run television network off the air Monday after causing a short circuit. Network operations were moved to a mobile truck to get the station back on the air. A government inquiry has been ordered. The Age (AP) 04/26/00 

Tuesday April 25

  • BOLLYWOOD BOOST: India's Bollywood gets a big boost with the entry of a major new movie and production company aimed at exporting Indian movies to a worldwide audience. Singapore Straits-Times 04/25/00
  • TRAILING AHEAD: The movie trailer business is booming. With so many films competing for ticket-buyers, trailers can help launch a film just the right way. But the cost is going up - they average about $100,000 currently. CBC 04/25/00

Sunday April 23

  • A QUESTION OF ART: Filmmaker Wim Wenders started out as an art film director. But a series of box office failures took its toll. Now, with some successes behind him, he has a new attitude: " 'I think films are not art. I think rock'n'roll is not art. It has great songs, but it's not art. And film and rock'n'roll are very much the same.'  Those difficult years of failure stripped him not only of faith in himself, but in the medium that was his métier for so long." London Telegraph 04/23/00
  • IS THERE AN E-AUDIENCE? Sure, the internet has made it easier for writers to get published. E-books are the "Next Big Thing." But is anyone really reading the things? A new poll says that "while five percent of the survey respondents said they bought Stephen King's e-book, 'Riding the Bullet,' less than one percent claim to actually have read it. Wired 04/23/00
  • BETWEEN ME AND MY NAPSTER: Bands' lawsuits against fans downloading their music over the internet has got fans angry. "One fan became so agitated that he put all of his Metallica merchandise up for sale at eBay on Friday, promising to donate all the proceeds to the parody website" Wired 04/23/00

Friday April 21

  • HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Plenty of historians have taken director Oliver Stone to task for mixing history with fiction. They scoffed at Kevin Costner's accent in JFK and wrote off his depiction of Nixon as "a foulmouthed, pill-popping drunk guilty of trying to have Fidel Castro assassinated. None of these details are confirmed by the historical record." Stone declares he is a filmmaker, not a historian. But where do you draw the line between accuracy and entertainment, evidence and imagination? "What do they want - footnotes? Do they want a closed caption that says 'This is dubious' or 'Please see endnotes for that'?" Lingua Franca 04/00
  • NOT ONE OF OURS YOU DON'T: Filmmakers making a big new WWII movie about Pearl Harbor needed a Japanese aircraft carrier. So they propose pressing an old American warship as a stand-in. That's got veterans' groups up in arms complaining. BBC 04/21/00
Thursday April 20
  • FIRST TO THE SMALL SCREEN: Shorts, trailers, and animation features have been available on the web for some time, yet no major studio had yet made full-length features available for download - until now. Miramax Films has signed an agreement with to make 12 of their indie films available, on a pay-per-view basis, over the web. “Yet they haven’t yet decided which titles will be made available, how soon, or at what cost.” CNN (AP) 04/19/00
  • MADE (UP) FOR TV? The turmoil behind PBS's "Antiques Roadshow" continues. Another episode of the show has been pulled because of questions about the authenticity of another appraisal that might have been staged. Boston Herald 04/20/00
  • GET READY FOR RERUNS: “If nothing else, it could be the most photogenic picket line in the history of organized labor.” The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have called for a strike new television and radio commercials until advertisers agree to extend “pay-per-play” residuals (in which actors are paid based on the number of times an ad runs) to cable TV. E online 04/19/00
  • HACKING AWAY: Hackers allegedly supporting the Basque separatist group ETA sabotaged the Web site of Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum. (Newsbytes) 04/19/00
  • A WEBCASTER'S DEFINING MOMENT: What, exactly, constitutes an interactive broadcast? If webstreamers are broadcasters and can get blanket royalty licenses to cover playing music like broadcasters do, then streaming takes a big jump forward. If the licenses aren't allowed, then a webcaster would have to go to every artist it wants to play to get permission. That would guarantee stifle the infant industry. The Copyright Office will investigate. Wired 04/19/00
  • IVY LEAGUE & METAL BAND GET TOGETHER: Yale University bans students from using the Napster program for downloading and sharing music over the internet. In return, metal band Metallica, which claims Napster costs it enormous record sales, drops its suit against the university. Wired 04/19/00
  • HOLLYWOOD EAST? India already has the biggest film industry in the world. Now it is "riding a growing wave of television, internet and computer animation technologies along with an expanding international audience to become a potential alternative to its State-side big brother, Hollywood." New Zealand Herald (Reuters) 04/19/00
  • INDEPENDENCE DAY: Independent films are hot: "Suddenly the blockbuster culture, the belief that only big money thrown at big screens can work in a popcorn-eating world, feels threatened by the "indie" insurgents, massing on the skyline as if in a John Ford Western. Should the moguls offer battle or a peace pipe?" Financial Times 04/17/00
  • SO MUCH FOR EDUCATION: The Australian Film Institute has been told its funding for research and for distribution of documentaries is to be cut. That means that crucial promotion of Australian film is in jeopardy.  "It seems almost impossible that in the year 2000 one has to push the concept that information and education are important to industry development. I thought we'd got past that." The Age (Melbourne) 04/19/00
  • JUST WHEN YOU WERE WRITING THEM OFF: A number of critics are talking about a renaissance in Hollywood movies. There are a number of reasons, but one of them, ironically, was the success of "Titanic." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/16/00
  • OH DOC: Tel Aviv gets its own documentary film festival. Is the step-child of moviedom getting more respect these days? Jerusalem Post 04/16/00
  • MINNESOTA TAKES ON LA: Minnesota Public Radio has bought "Marketplace" from KUSC. The northlanders previously assumed control of a Los Angeles public radio station and the MPR president says "I want the doors to be open to the creative community." The new venture should be "a hothouse to incubate new ideas based on Los Angeles talent, cultural resources, ideas." The production company's name might evolve into something like Los Angeles Public Radio Productions. Los Angeles Times 04/14/00
  • ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY: A German court has has ruled that America Online must take ultimate responsibility for music piracy on its websites. The judgment by the Bavarian state court in Munich, published yesterday, opens the way for the music industry to sue companies that provide a gateway to the internet. AOL was sued after discovery that digital music files belonging to the complainant were being swapped on some of AOL's music forums. The Independent 04/14/00
  • WHO YA GONNA BLAME? "Blame Canada," the scurrilous little ditty in the Oscar telecast featuring Robin Williams sashaying across the stage sandwiched between high-kicking Mountie chorus girls, gave Canada the highest visibility it has had in years south of the border. New York cabbies are cursing midtown traffic and insisting their passengers "Blame Canada." Talk-show hosts and newspaper columnists are throwing up their hands at the various ills besetting the world, insisting people "Blame Canada." And just in time, a festival of Canadian cinema opens tonight in New York with the best brand name going: Blame Canada." Toronto Globe and Mail 04/14/00
  • AD-BUSTERS: The new generation of video recorders has advertisers worried. The machines can automatically skip ahead of commercials or zap them altogether. When the devices first came out, ads trumpeted the ad-busting features, but now they're not mentioned so prominently. Without the ads, who'd pay for the programming? Chicago Tribune 04/14/00 
  • IF IT'S TUESDAY IT MUST BE RECYCLING DAY: “Re-versioning” is the little-known term for the process of remaking a television series for a foreign market. Recently a slew of popular Australian shows have been flooding foreign markets in re-versioned formats, but the trend is nothing new: “All in the Family” was a re-versioning of the British classic “Till Death Do Us Part”; “Sanford & Son” was based on the UK's “Steptoe & Son”; “Man About the House” became “Three's Company”; and “George and Mildred” was known as “The Ropers”. The Age (Melbourne) 04/13/00
  • SPEED BUMPS: “It took more than a decade for the government and industry to get the next generation of TV off the ground. If consumers thought that was a bumpy ride, they'd better hold on tight: The road to digital TV is filled with potholes and little agreement on who is responsible for fixing them. This week's National Association of Broadcasters meeting has focused attention on the need for the broadcasting and TV manufacturing industries to share the responsibility for change. San Francisco Chronicle (AP) 04/11/00
  • DIGITAL CHANGES EVERYTHING: Matt Brutacao was a sophomore in high school when he wrote, shot, directed and edited his first movie - a two-hour action-adventure flick with original score and more than 80 members of the cast. He filmed it over nine months in about 30 locations, including his school bus and the local jail - where his friend's father works - and premiered it in his school's gym. His budget for the project?  About $130. He's already made more than 100 movies. Los Angeles Times 04/12/00
  • THE NEXT BIG MOVIE: They're making a movie of Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" and it's being breathlessly awaited by fans of the books. When a two-minute excerpt from the project went up on the web last week it was downloaded an astonishing 1.7 million times in the first 24 hours following its release. Wired 04/12/00
  • MOVIE SQUEEZE: One of France's giant movie-theater chains - one that has already taken over 40 percent of the market by showing big American movies - recently came up with a deal for film-goers - a yearly pass with unlimited admission at a low price. The move is killing Paris's tiny boutique theaters that specialize in small French films that get only limited distribution. The Age (Melbourne) (Telegraph) 04/11/00 
  • A THING FOR VAN DAMMY: The biggest-grossing film last year in Namibia was "The Matrix." The only cinema in Windhoek - Namibia's capital city with a population of 300,000 - is a Ster-Kinekor three-screen complex consisting of a total of 400 seats. Here, the entrance fee is N$20 during the week and N$25 on weekends, far beyond the reach of most locals. "Two entrepreneurs are walking around Windhoek, asking passersby what their favorite movie is: 'Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Wesley Snipes, Jean-Claude van Dammy [sic].' " The entrepreneurs want to revive a beat-up old cinema for African film. Daily Mail and Telegraph (South Africa) 04/11/00 
  • THEATER ON THE HIGHWIRE: Sunday night production was the first live drama shown on American TV in 39 years. Filmed on two sound stages, with 18 different cameras, the production had the boon of an all-star cast. London Telegraph 04/11/00
  • A HOLLYWOOD HOME COMPANION: Some see Minnesota Public Radio's foray into Los Angeles to takeover and makeover a local public radio station as an opportunity. MPR (whose biggest programming asset is Garrison Keillor) promises new local public affairs programming and a significant news operation. Others decry the Minnesotans' arrogance and lack of familiarity with LA values. Los Angeles Times 04/10/00
  • LITTLE SURPRISE HERE: “American Beauty” repeated its Oscar sweep by cleaning up at this weekend’s Baftas, the UK’s most prestigious film awards ceremony. And, in case you wondered: “Bafta judges were asked to cast their votes ahead of the Oscars so as not to be influenced by the famous US ceremony.” BBC 04/10/00
  • AND KIWI TOO: Ever since Jane Campion filmed “The Piano” on New Zealand’s craggy coast, more and more international film companies have been traveling south. New Zealand is “fast becoming a desirable location because of the accessibility and high quality of local film crews, production units and film laboratories and the rich variety of locations that change every 10 kilometers.” The Age (Melbourne) 04/10/00
  • DIRECTOR TRAP: Why do so many great movie directors get involved in forgettable second-rate projects? It goes directly to the way movie projects are made - the money, the power, the complications. "Imagine being, as the director is, in complete charge of hundreds if not thousands of people, to have minions endlessly lining up to (a) ask for your make-or-break opinion and (b) fulfill every fancy you have for what you want to see on the set, no matter how arcane or difficult to procure." Los Angeles Times 04/09/00
  • JOCKEYING FOR POSITION: What does it take to be successful in Hollywood? "The basic truth is that everyone wants to stay close to the fire. They don't know how they got there but they know it won't last. A great deal of the nervousness of Southern California is based on that understanding; that it's all going to slip away from them." Toronto Globe and Mail 04/09/00
  • FROM STAGE TO SCREEN: Actress Emma Thompson and director Mike Nichols have signed on to make the film version of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit” - the story of a Donne poetry professor battling ovarian cancer. Times of India  (Reuters) 04/07/00
  • MISSING OSCARS STILL MISSING after lawyer lures reporters to office with stunt. Variety 04/07/00
  • HOME VIEWING: "Sixth Sense" is a major hit in the home too. "Consumer spending on the purchase of DVD versions and the rental of VHS and DVD versions in the first five days is estimated to be as high as $50 million. DVD sales alone were so strong that the number of units sold in the first five days would have ranked the DVD version ahead of all but the top 20-25 best-selling VHS titles for all of 1999." Variety 04/06/00
  • MEET YA’ HALF WAY: Cable TV enticed new viewers with dozens of highly specialized channels, whereas the web has recently been drawing audiences to more generalized content on fewer high-profile sites. “As TV becomes more of an active medium and the web becomes more passive, they will eventually meet in the middle.” Convergence already spells success for independent film producers and other artists, but “make no mistake, streaming media is cool but it’s still embryonic.” The Age (Melbourne) 04/06/00
  • CAN HYPERLINKS BE OUTLAWED? : “Only last week a California judge ruled, in a case brought by Ticketmaster against, that it's not illegal for one site to link to another.” So what is the Motion Picture Association of America doing filing a motion to criminalize links to DeCSS, a program that decrypts DVDs so people can play them on Linux-based operating systems? Salon 04/06/0
  • LONG DRY SPELL: After violent clashes with Hindu nationalists last month, Indian director Deepa Mehta has given up all hope of shooting her new film “Water” anywhere in India this year. The new film highlights the plight of Indian widows and was denounced by angry protesters for “denigrating the image of India.” Times of India 04/06/00
  • HOME SWEET HOME: New Zealand requires that 10 percent of the music played on the country's radio stations be homegrown. Now a proposal to increase the percentage to 20 percent. But that would be very difficult say radio execs. "Increasing local content on classic hits-type stations would be the hardest because of a lack of Kiwi music from the 1960s and 70s." Maybe Australian could be considered homegrown? New Zealand Herald 04/05/00 
  • BAD OSCAR: "The Catholic Church in Mexico has attacked last week's Academy Award ceremony in Hollywood for promoting homosexuality, promiscuity and abortion." BBC 04/05/00 
  • THINK LOCAL: The Israeli parliament has passed new laws mandating a minimum number of hours of Israeli-produced programming that must be carried by the country's third channel TV network. Still, Israeli filmmakers, who had lobbied hard for content laws, are disappointed. Jerusalem Post 04/04/00