MEDIA - October 2000

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Tuesday October 31

  • TRANSATLANTIC ENVY: British film and media types are quick to criticize Hollywood fare as "too bland, too formulaic, too predictable, too dumb. If only, the argument goes, we had such resources: our films - edgy, relevant, cool and British - would surely sweep the world. But it's inescapable that America has the most diverse, intriguing and professional film culture of any country in the world. Their breadth and range shames our admittedly small film industry, which is obsessed by gangsters and clubbing." The Telegraph (London) 10/31/00
  • THE MUSIC TO COME: In a demonstration of the new data-transmission capabilities of Internet2, a conference in Atlanta today will "allow musicians from across the U.S. to perform together over the Web. At the Atlanta conference, Dr. Karl Sievers of the University of Oklahoma will play trumpet while the rest of his brass quintet accompanies him - via Internet2 video conferencing - from the university." 10/31/00
  • THE NET'S KILLER-APP: Just how popular has the music-sharing company become? "At peak times, Napster CEO Hank Barry says, the company has 'about a million' simultaneous users - a staggering number. America Online, by comparison, has about 1.6 million users at peak hour, according to SEC documents filed last month. In other words, during peak hours, a startup with a few dozen employees, beta software and no income stream accounts for two-thirds as many Internet connections as a 15-year-old Net behemoth with 15,000 employees and a pre-merger market capitalization of $108.5 billion." 10/31/00

Monday October 30

  • BACK TO WORK: After the resolution last week of Hollywood’s longest ever talent walkout, board members of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists agreed to terms to send actors out on long-awaited auditions starting Monday. ABC 10/29/00
  • OVER THE HILL AT 40? "In a twist of irony over youth obsession in America's television dream factory, actors are not the only ones fretting over on-camera looks. They are concerns of the unseen talents who dream up the plots of TV sitcoms and dramas - writers. And the concern about age is not cosmetic: It's job preservation." A lawsuit filed last week alleges age discrimination in the movie and TV business. Nando Times (Christian Science Monitor) 10/30/00
  • DOWN ON FILM DOWN UNDER: Why does the Australian film industry seem to be perennially in a state of crisis, in fear of cutbacks and dwindling audiences? And what exactly is the critic’s role in helping create a thriving local film culture? According to one critic, "they have a duty to make a positive contribution to film culture - otherwise, they are basically just glorified PR agents for the major movie corporations. Mainstream cinema is blinkered and amnesiac: it pretends that what's on screen, in the here and now, is all there is. Too many critics accept this pathetic reduction of cinema as their sole field of operations." The Age (Melbourne) 10/30/00
  • AND LITTLE PRAISE FOR THREE DECADES OF BRITISH FILM: As the London Film Festival opens this week, the first in a four-part series on the state of British film over the last 30 years. Don’t look here for aggrandizing praise. "British film has for the most part been second-rate, the culture of film-makers has been undernourished, the cinema-going public has been too shy of invention, and, without the brilliant, redeeming system of television funding and production in this country, British film would be dead in the water." The Telegraph (London) 10/30/00

Friday October 27

  • ART OF FILM: Is art film dying? "On the surface it is as it always has been: more art films are produced annually than any sane person could possibly want to see. Maybe the problem is that the kind of films that I loved are being made." Prospect 10/00
  • THE LITTLE SCHOOL THAT COULD: Afect is something of a legend in Britain - a film school where students can come part time, learn on outdated equipment and understand what it really means to make a film. But the school, which has always struggled to keep going, fears for its existence. The Guardian (London) 1027/00

Wednesday October 25

  • THERE’S POWER IN PRECEDENT: The settlement of Hollywood’s six-month-long commercial actors’ strike may embolden members of the Writers Guild of America to hold out for better deals when their contracts expire next spring and summer. "This year's success is likely to lead to more strikes next year since the deal essentially validates the unions' hardline stance." Variety 10/24/00
  • COSTS OF STRIKING: Hollywood's six-month actors strike against producers of commercials cost the economy of Los Angeles more than $275 million, and is expected to surpass $300 million when all the figures are in. "During the six months when American actors who did commercials were on strike, producers took their business elsewhere and Canada is believed to have benefitted most from the estimated $275 million US in so-called 'runaway productions'." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 10/25/00

Tuesday October 24

  • BUT I CAN WRITE YOUNG: Television writers in Hollywood have filed a $200 million age discrimination suit against producers. The writers content that producers systematically discriminate against writers over 40. "According to the suit, writers over age 40 account for more than two-thirds of the Writers Guild of America membership. During the 1997-98 television season, however, writers age 40-plus made up one-third or less of the writing staff on half of all prime-time series." Dallas Morning News 10/24/00
  • MOVIE CHAIN MAY FILE BANKRUPTCY: Loews Cineplex, one of North America's largest movie theatre chains, is considering filing for bankruptcy. Loews "announced late last week that it had lost $55.5 million US in its second quarter. The company had a profit of almost $16 million US for the same period last year." CBC 10/24/00

Monday October 23

  • ACTORS STRIKE OVER: The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists reached a tentative agreement with the advertising industry to end their nearly half-year-long strike. 10/23/00
    • "Early details appeared to give the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists jurisdiction over the Internet and a healthy boost in cable rates." Variety 10/23/00
  • TV TURN-OFF: A new study in Britain says that audiences may be getting tired of violence on TV. "Sixty per cent of people questioned for the report complained there was too much violence on TV. The study showed that increasing numbers of people are switching off programmes which disgust them." BBC 10/23/00

Friday October 20

  • WEB OF ANIMATION: At this stage in its development, animation on the web is constrained by some technical limitations. On the other hand, a growing body of work suggests that web animation is an artform worth paying attention to. SFGate 10/20/00

Thursday October 19

  • RECORD CANADIAN MOVIE AUDIENCES: A record 112 million Canadians bought movie tickets last year. It's the seventh year in a row that overall attendance has been up. But despite the record sales, profitability of movie houses is down. CBC 10/18/00

Wednesday October 18

  • HOW LONG ‘TIL ALL FILMS ARE "G"? Are movie studios going to continue making as many adult-oriented pictures if they can no longer market them as widely, given the restrictions imposed by the latest political controversy over ratings? Anyone who says that it won't (affect what gets a green light) is being disingenuous." 10/17/00

Tuesday October 17

  • ART AS POLITICS? Actor Gary Oldman says that the film "The Contender" that he stars in was purposely re-edited to make Republicans the bad guys.  Oldman's manager calls the film an "almost Goebbels-like piece of propaganda". BBC 10/17/00
  • THE RATINGS LIMBO: So what harm is having a ratings system that warns parents about the content of movies? None, perhaps, but for those movies that fall in the cracks of the "R" or "NC" ratings it can mean the difference between being seen and sinking to obscurity. And, of course, it's about the money. Chicago Tribune 10/17/00
  • MEGA MEGA-LAND (OR IS IT NEVER NEVER-LAND?): Last week Toronto's mayor announced he was negotiating to build a major movie studio complex in the city. The movies are a $1.2 billion industry in Toronto. But industry insiders are scratching their heads wondering what the mayor is doing. Toronto Star 10/17/00 

Monday October 16

  • STAMPING OUT LITTLE-GUY RADIO: "To most ears, low-power radio - 10- or 100-watt stations with a broadcast range of a few square miles at most - sounds like a cheap, easy and democratic way of giving communities a small but potent voice on the dial. But now, 21 months after the Federal Communications Commission first proposed creating a new brand of low-power FM radio stations, the initiative is fighting for its life." Salon 10/15/00

Sunday October 15

  • THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT OR A NEW ARTFORM? Are computer video games "a massive drain on our income, time and energy?" Last year Americans bought 215 million of them, making them one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Are they a "new form of cultural pollution, as one U.S. senator described them? No. Computer games are art—a popular art, an emerging art, a largely unrecognized art, but art nevertheless." Technology Review 10/00
  • MCLUHAN GETS ANOTHER 15 MINUTES: Marshall Mcluhan was seen as a visionary in his time, but soon after he died, his pronouncements were regarded as quaint and outdated. But now he's been adopted as an icon of the new digital age. "Everyone thought that McLuhan was talking about TV, but what he was really talking about was the Internet — two decades before it appeared." The New York Times 10/14/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • WHAT MAKES A MOVIE AUDIENCE? Given the high stakes of making movies, the movie-makers want to know what it is that makes an audience willing to see movies. "Who is this audience, and what kind of influence do they have on filmmaking? What kind of influence should they have? Can the audience even be considered 'the audience', as opposed to just lots of people with widely diverging tastes?" Chicago Tribune 10/15/00

Thursday October 12

  • KEEPING AWAY FROM THE CRITICS: Want to avoid bad reviews? Don't let the critics see your movie before it opens. It's a practice more and more studios are adopting with movies they're afraid will not be popular with critics. The Guardian (London) 10/11/00
  • TOUGH AUDIENCE: In Korea recently, some artists have been beaten up by factions who thought the artists hadn't portrayed them faithfully in their work. It has artists scared. "This is supposed to be a democratic country, but how can we call it that when powerful groups still use violence and pressure to get the things they want?" Korea Herald 10/12/00
  • TORONTO = FILM CITY: The mayor of Toronto wants to build an enormous "film city" production center. Last year the movie business brought in $1.2 billion worth of business to the city, and the total is expected to grow to $1.5 billion this year. CBC 10/11/00

Wednesday October 11

  • FCC BLASTS TV NETWORKS: The chairman of the FCC slams American TV networks for dragging their feet over getting into digital television and "ignoring the public interest". He regrets the $70 billion giveaway in new digital bands to networks four years ago as an incentive for them to adopt new technology. Variety 10/11/00
  • NOTHING BUT HISTORY: Gong Li is the most recognizable and lauded actress in Chinese film today, yet she still has trouble finding satisfying roles, and when she does they are nearly always historical drama, rather than films tackling contemporary issues. "’Historical dramas are freer from government interference." Sydney Morning Herald 10/11/00

Tuesday October 10

  • WHY BAD MOVIE GET MADE: What's wrong with Hollywood? The stars. "What does it say of a culture that prominent among its most rewarded are those born with high cheekbones and capable of superficial imitation? This isn't to say, of course, that there are not actors who work away at the dramatic art as truly and as dedicatedly as any other artist - but one could be forgiven for thinking they are thin on the ground in Hollywood." Sydney Morning Herald 10/10/00

Monday October 9

  • WHY ARE MOVIE PRODUCTIONS LEAVING HOLLYWOOD FOR OTHER COUNTRIES? "These countries are offering an ever-growing list of financial incentives to U.S. producers in an effort to build their own production capacity and increase their share of the worldwide production industry. There is no "free market" at work here. Other countries, recognizing the value of film and television production to their future economic health, are virtually bribing U.S. producers to make their films and TV series outside the United States." Los Angeles Times 10/09/00
    •  PRODUCTION DOWN: Some parts of the film production business in Los Angeles are down as much as 30 percent this year, and the business is in a big slump. 10/09/00 

Friday October 6

  • POWER OF THE LITTLE GUYS: Last year the FCC approved the creation of low-watt radio stations - micro stations broadcasting at 10 watts. Since then thousands of potential micro-broadcasters have applied to begin broadcasting. "But the FCC's plans have run into resistance from established broadcast interests who say they're concerned that the low-power stations, slipped into vacant frequencies on the FM dial, will create static and diminish their product." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 10/06/00

Thursday October 5

  • EMPTY THEATRES: Now the Olympics have picked up and left Sydney, the collateral effects are being tallied. One of the victims during the games? Movie theatres, which saw ticket sales fall off the charts. "Business was truly appalling. It's probably the most sustained level of terrible trade in the [past] five years." Sydney Morning Herald 10/05/00
  • WE'RE GONNA BE STARS (OR AT LEAST "WORLD CLASS"):The Canadian government is going to invest $50 million in the Canadian film industry. "The fund will be targeted toward drawing bigger audiences to Canadian films. It will also provide money for established producers to make highly polished films that will be sure hits at the box office. 'We want to make sure that the Canadian public is aware that their films are world-class'." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 10/05/00
  • HOLLYWOOD NORTH? The betting now is that Hollywood will be paralyzed by strikes next year as writers, actors and directors all negotiate new contracts. Will that stop the insatiable worldwide demand for entertainment? Not hardly. Much of the production figures to head north. "In Toronto and Vancouver, the main English-language production centres, directors, actors, technicians, casting agents and craft industries are already experiencing an unprecedented boom in demand - and reaping the dividends of Hollywood's woes." The Globe and Mail 10/05/00

Wednesday October 4

  • LOVE THY NEIGHBOR: A five-month-long British film festival opens in Paris this week, the biggest retrospective of British films ever held outside the UK. A surprising setting, given that less than 5% of French filmgoers currently watch British films. BBC 10/03/00

Tuesday October 3

  • WHO WANTS TO BE A MOVIE STAR: Director Roman Polanski ran a classified ad to cast the lead for his next movie. Some 1,500 "sensitive, vulnerable and charismatic men who want to star in a $35m movie about a Polish pianist who escapes the Nazi gas chambers" showed up to audition. A "hard-nosed blonde woman, the casting director looked as if she had seen about 700 nobodies that day and had another 700 to see." The Guardian (London) 10/03/00

Monday October 2

  • GOING FOR SUCCESS AT THE BOX OFFICE: Now that the British Film Council has taken over responsibility for the public funding of films to the tune of more than £50m of lottery money a year there will be a greater emphasis on funding fewer, but more commercially successful films. BBC 10/02/00

Sunday October 1

  • SEA CHANGE: "Hollywood is in a panic mode. For the first time, unions are confronting networks and studios about how writers and actors should be paid when films and television shows are shown on the Internet and on the growing number of cable outlets. And they are threatening strikes that union officials and television and film executives all expect to define the issues that will shape the entertainment industry's labor relations for decades." New York Times 10/01/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • HOLLYWOOD'S "SLEEP-AWAY CAMP": Movie productions are filming everywhere in Vancouver, Canada. Tax breaks, cooperative workers, beautiful scenery - what's not to like? It's no wonder the movie-makers are desserting Hollywood. Los Angeles Times 10/01/00