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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Blog posting by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production ’16, FLEFF Blogger, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
March 3rd is only a few days away, which means that in just five days, the Upstate Filmmakers Showcase will be occurring downtown at Ithaca’s local, independent movie theater, Cinemapolis.
For those who don’t know, all profits from the showcase will go to support Cinemapolis in its complete digital conversion. Sadly, the days of 35 mm film projection in theaters are extremely numbered, and every theater that wishes to survive in the modern multiplex business needs to make sure they’re ready to compete in the digital marketplace. For Cinemapolis, this means equipping all five of their theaters with brand new digital projection systems. You can read more about the technological aspect of it here.
As suggested by its name, the Upstate Filmmaker’s Showcase will be featuring work exclusively from filmmakers in Upstate New York. I recently spoke to Carol Jennings, an upstate filmmaker herself, and the director of the Park Media Lab at Ithaca College, about Park Productions’ contribution to the showcase.
Park Productions is a media production company stationed on the IC campus that is staffed exclusively by Park students. The company primarily works on collaborative projects with non-profit organizations within the Ithaca community. Through their client-driven work, Park Productions gives students professional experience in media production.
In 2011, in collaboration with the Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce, Park Productions produced a series of webisodes that “showcases popular destinations” and “highlights the unique natural beauty of the Finger Lakes Region” in order to promote tourism in the region. Finger Lakes Uncorked! “follows the adventures of a fictional character Craig Vinholtz, a magician and wine enthusiast living in the Finger Lakes region of New York.”
The production team for the project was composed of students, faculty, and alumni who worked closely with the Visitors Bureau and the Finger Lakes Wine Country to produce all nine webisodes. The series, which was intended to be a “social media release,” as Jennings puts it, premiered at FLEFF in 2011 and hit the web shortly after.
Jennings says her favorite part of the festival is seeing the “continuity of students, alumni, and professionals,” much like the combination that worked on Finger Lakes Uncorked! “It’s great to see former students come back as alumni, and then to come back even later on as professionals. Everyone looks at the work of current students and can offer suggestions and talk about their past work at Ithaca.”
Jennings says she is “honored that Park Productions is included in the group of incredibly talented filmmakers” who will be showing their work at the showcase. “We have an amazing pool of talent in the area,” she concludes.
Be sure to come out to Cinemapolis this Sunday, March 3rd to support your fellow Ithacans, Cinemapolis, and Upstate New York art!
Monday, February 11, 2013
Blog posting by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF Blogger, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
I recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of aforementioned upstate artist, Samantha Raut, whose project Art is Atrocity was displayed in FLEFF's Distributed Microtopia's Exhibition.
Taking a satirical approach through the use of tacky billboards, Raut gathered attention on the recent budget cuts that resulted in cuts to fine arts programs in the Syracuse school system. Read what the artist had to say about this project and what kind of attention it received.
KC: To start, what is some of your other work? Is it all as thought provoking as Art is Atrocity?
SR: A lot of my past work has been through storytelling and mainly animation. Usually what kind of is the core of that is I really want to take social issues or traditions that we have or go along with as a society and I end up flipping it. Art is Atrocity follows that same sort of storyline.
KC: What made you decide to take such a satirical approach to the project?
SR: I was trying to figure out what was the best way to catch people’s attention and keep it. That’s one of the most challenging aspects of doing something like this. If I took a straightforward approach, just saying, “Art is good,” I would probably just get a pat on the back and people would just move on. If I took it in the complete opposite direction of what people think, people would think it was crazy. I saw how effective satire was in other areas of media, for example, Stephen Colbert, and The Onion and decided to roll with it. It’s very, very effective.
KC: What have reactions to the project been like?
SR: Most of the reactions that I got were very negative. They didn’t outright see that it was satirical. There were a few out there that caught on the first time around and contacted me. Some contacted me with anger and hatred, but backed it up with stories about how art changed their life. When I told them, under my alias, they were very, very happy. People believed it because there are outrageous groups out there that exist.
KC: As far as you know, have there been any changes made in the Syracuse school system?
SR: As far as I know, I don’t think that there has been. I would have to probably dig a little deeper and look at their new budget. The point of this project, it’s my first almost “activist” piece, it’s very new to me, the medium was very new, my main goal was to get people to talk about the issue amongst themselves and to create a dialogue, which I think is the first step to any lasting change. The people who wrote to me after the project said that the project was circulating around their school places and work environments as a topic, which is what I wanted.
What are your reactions to Art is Atrocity?
Friday, February 8, 2013
Blog posting written by Andrew Ronald, Film, Photography & Visual Arts '15, FLEFF Blogger, Mahopac, New York.
I recently had the opportunity to Skype with Shambhavi Kaul, a continuation of this blog post.
After joking about the almost too-idyllic introduction of being able to pick up a camera at the age of five and instantly fall in love with the art of cinema, Kaul and I discussed a few things, ranging from what inspires her as an artist, some analysis on her piece, Scene 32, and how the piece fits into FLEFF's theme of "mobilities."
To begin, I asked her a question most artists are quite familiar with: what inspires you? Kaul responded with quite a powerful answer in which she stated, "meaning within cinema is produced in part by presenting both the familiar and the unfamiliar. The unfamiliar is usually what we take for granted, the aspects upon which the familiar becomes possible, the moon, animals, certain backdrops...my interest is to re-circulate these aspects while resisting the frames by which we claim to understand them."
Scene 32 also makes vivid use of both HD video and 16mm film. Upon elaboration, Kaul explained that "Film and video are two totally different mediums. When you put them next to each other in a deliberate way, their modes of description begin to seem imperfect and thus meaning is made unstable.”
This only reinforces her place in the exhibition as part of the mobilities movement. Cinema travels, and it is one of the original modes of portability in the way it has become enhanced. “The deluge of images that was once thought to exist only in the darkened rooms of theaters is now all around us. In all this, I think of my work as acts of recirculation where a resistance, perhaps a counter argument to some modes of appropriation may be enacted.”
As for plans for the future, Kaul is working on yet another exciting new project shot in Southern California and Northern Mexico. "It's a piece about borders and landscapes, and how they affect each other," she explains. "What pertains to meaning in landscape? This is something I definitely plan on looking out for. Are you?
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Blog posting written by Andrew Ronald, Film, Photography & Visual Arts '15, FLEFF Intern, Mahopac, NY
Anyone with an interest in film and independent cinema should certainly take the time to get to know Karen Rodriguez, the curator of the Upstate Filmmaker Showcase for FLEFF at Cinemapolis. I recently had the opportunity to interview Rodriguez and learned a lot about her.
Rodriguez has had outstanding experience with production, videography, cinematography and lighting as her academic career has spanned across the historic country of Germany and the bustling city of Boston. As she studied photography, Super-8 and film analysis, her passion for film exploded and led her to independently produce features and shorts, followed by working at the Thaw festival where "we screened narrative, experimental and documentary short films and videos and it was a complete blast! My favorite parts of filmmaking are the actual production and attending the film festivals!"
"I think of myself as a bit of a generalist when it comes to production work...My own work that I'm most excited about falls into the personal/experimental form. While I love the camaraderie and focus of a large crew, my ideal mode of production would be analogous to a singer-songwriter writing a song where the filmmaker has an idea, picks up a camera and makes it happen." To me, this sounds like a beautiful sentiment as art forms are often compared to each other and it is interesting to think of film on such a microscopic scale.
What Are Microtopias?
"Microtopias is a rich metaphor and brings up for me many ideas. Most concretely, it reminds me of the idea that all politics are local meaning that sometimes it is difficult to think about affecting the world on a large scale, but that small efforts, local efforts can make a difference. It's connecting these local efforts to one another that is important for making large scale change."
Advice For Future Filmmakers
A strong recommendation Rodriguez deploys in her interview address the need to stay independent and work outside of the industry. This singularity, even if you are an independent documentary producer tackling corrupt politics and popular culture through a critical lens, facilitates the arduous process behind developing your own voice and artistic aesthetic that differs from corporatized media.
"In addition to the two Upstate Shorts screenings, I'm looking forward to Patrick Winter's talk on sound design, the talk with Laura Kissel and Matt Podolsky on new forms of environmental documentary, "Veins in the Gulf," and "100 Short Films about Water," anything with live music accompaniment, and of course, the parties!"
Monday, March 28, 2011
Blog posting written by Peter Keahey, Film, Photography and Visual Arts, '12, FLEFF Intern, Yellow Springs, Ohio
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ithaca College Professor, Jodi Cohen. She is a professor of communications at Ithaca College, and teaches lessons of public communication, theory, modern criticism, and rhetoric. Before Ithaca College, Jodi spent time studying in Colorado. She has brought her knowledge and experience from those times back to Ithaca to share with her students. This year for FLEFF, she is teaching a mini-course titled, "Tipping Points." which explores human involvement in creating change.
Peter: When did you first become involved with FLEFF?
Jodi: I don’t know. It was after patty brought it to Ithaca. FLEFF was at Cornell before then. When I was on the board at Cinemapolis, Patty and Tom came and the theatre became involved and I went to see all of the FLEFF films at Cinemapolis, which I would have done anyway.
Peter: What brought you to Ithaca from Colorado?
Jodi: I went to Penn State for my PhD and I taught there. I would love to go back to Colorado or to Utah or somewhere like that. I came to Ithaca for personal reasons. My husband was living in Albany and I got a job in Ithaca College. I like the small, informal school, unlike Penn State’s corporate-like image. Ithaca was much more my style.
Peter: Did you always want to have a focus on communications?
Jodi: Yes, ever since I was in high school. Like many young people today, I was interested in media, TV editing and filming, but I’m not good at it. I can’t handle the tension. I’m an excellent editor, but the business of media isn’t a good fit for me. It’s much too intense. I was much more interested in politics and rhetoric: persuasion and political, social, and environmental issues.
Peter: How long have you been involved with FLEFF?
Jodi: Since Patty had it, maybe in 2000. So 10-11 years. I joined the first or second year that Patty and Tom had it. Cinemapolis went nonprofit in 2000 and I joined the board there and Patty was the president of that board, but she had other obligations including to FLEFF.
Peter: How did you become involved with Cinemapolis?
Jodi: Through an IC student, Brent Runyon. He has published some books since his graduation. He worked for Len and Rich who owned Cinemapolis. He was a student of mine and I went to the movies and lot so I saw him in class and at Cinemapolis. He introduced me to Len and Rich and they turned the theaters into nonprofit when they couldn’t maintain a business and they created a board of their friends, including me. I had experience on a board for the YMCA in Portland. Patty pulled it together and I was the president after she resigned.
First we focused on becoming nonprofit. Nick Davis was a Cornell student and he was president after me until he graduated. Cinemapolis was still floundering a little and I became president again after Nick for about 5 years and we really got it together with bylaws and a 12-member board and a community presence. Len and Rich inspired us and ran the theater. But regal was building their new theater and they were bad for our nonprofit business. We were fundraising to maintain and Len Cohen (no relation) really kept everybody going. We fought regal to stay out of downtown. Cinemapolis is doing very well now after all the steps of getting the building and putting up the theater and getting the city to agree and to be there without regal, it all took a lot of persuasion.
Peter: As the presidents of the board of Cinemapolis, what were your responsibilities?
Jodi: I was basically a people manager and I took care of any issues that needed dealing with. A board president is an arranger: manage people, run meetings, plan agendas, deal with conflict. I educated myself about nonprofit and I worked to keep board members and get them involve and resolve conflict. I also talked to Len and Rich and the Cinemapolis employees, but didn’t that’s not a presidential responsibility. The logic of a board is sometimes curious. Boards tend to deal more with finances and not with films: budget and fundraise and worry about the mission. If there is ever a problem with Cinemapolis, the board takes care of it.
Petr: What inspired your mini-course, Tipping Points?
Jodi: I had just read the book and it was the first thing that popped into my mind for creating classes. Most films will deal with tipping points: what caused an event or series of events to happen and how people can become involved in making change.
Peter: Are you using FLEFF screenings as part of the mini-course?
Jodi: Yes, students will watch FLEFF films and read the book Tipping Points and watch whatever movies with whatever tipping points interest them. That will be the framework.
Peter: What do you hope students will take away from your mini-course?
Jodi: Three things: 1) Understand the value and the limits of the theory of Malcolm Gladwell’s theory in Tipping Points. 2) Develop their own interests and acquire new interests in topics through watching films. 3) Understand and have a sense of how they can make a difference in the issues that they care about. If something needs to be tipped, how they can play a role in that or if something is tipping and they want to stop it, how will they recognize that and stop it. I don’t know if Gladwell’s theory will always work and students should be reflective of that. Theory is not truth; it has holes.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Blog posting written by Peter Keahey, Film, Photography and Visual Arts, '12, FLEFF Intern, Yellow Springs, Ohio
I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with former director of marketing for FLEFF, Tom Torello.
Mr. Torello is an Ithaca college, Roy H. Park school alum, who majored in television and radio, and minored in religion and philosophy. He is currently the vice president of University Relations at Pace University. Previously, he was the Executive Director of Marketing for Ithaca Collage. Mr. Torello has over 14 years of marketing experience in higher education, working in numerous positions including Media Planner, Account Executive and Senior Account Manager.
I was able to ask Mr. Torello a few questions about his previous experience with the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, as well as his experience as a Television Radio student at Ithaca College.
Peter: As a former TVR student, what were your interests at Ithaca?
Tom: I worked in the TV and radio stations. On the radio, I was a DJ on an AM station and hosted my own talk show. On TV, I hosted Panorama and was in the comedy show Nothing Special. I worked the camera or reported the weather or whatever needed to be done. As a weatherman I got some recognition around town. There is an IC TV jacket in the student union that was mine.
Peter: Did you have any interest in marketing at the time?
Tom: No, my goal was to by on-air talent as an anchorman, but when I arrived there were already incredibly talented people and I didn’t have that talent. I had a little interest in ads and decided to go in that direction.
Peter: When did you become involved with FLEFF?
Tom: Patty and Tom brought it to Ithaca and wanted help marketing it; I was in the marketing department. That was 4-5 years ago. Together, we came up with a marketing plan.
Peter: What were your responsibilities with FLEFF?
Tom: We took care of all the brochures, ads, website content, media relations and public relations, basically the branding of the college. For FLEFF, we decided what it should look like, its graphic identity, and how to build an audience. Each year, we had different goals and we built communication strategies specifically for those goals.
Peter: Are you still involved with FLEFF?
Tom: Yes, but not as much. I am on the advisory board. I still keep in touch with Patty and Tom. I give strategic input and this will be my first year attending as a guest.
Peter: How is FLEFF important to Ithaca and to the film community?
Tom: For Ithaca College, FLEFF creates and international presence and reputation, in addition to those already made by their academic programs. In India, FLEFF helps curate a project on water. International films come in through FLEFF. 10,000 people will see FLEFF films.
FLEFF creates an awareness of the city of Ithaca, too. through the film festival.
For the film community, FLEFF is not like Sundance or other festivals with traditional environmental agendas. FLEFF creates a broader awareness of environmental problems and creates more opportunity for film makers.
For example, once I met a couple who made films on polar bears. They had one film that other film festivals turned down because in their film, they said that global warming won’t kill the polar bears--because the change will be so gradual over time---but oil drilling will. Traditional environmentalists don’t want that message in their festivals, but FLEFF doesn’t have that agenda.
Also, FLEFF is incredibly entertaining, a great venue for artists.
Peter: What are you looking forward to at FLEFF this year?
Tom: The silent films and the parties and seeing people from Ithaca: Patty and Tom and other people I’ve connected with through FLEFF. Also, the musicians are amazing!