Dr Media says the comments of this indie filmmaker should be taken to heart not only by filmmakers but by all media makers, and entrepreneurs. You’ve heard it before, you have to believe on your vision, regardless of what the world says
Last spring we took an exclusive look inside the Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Labs as filmmaker Braden King posted weekly stories about his experience with his project, Here,
co-written by himself and Dani Valent. Now, he’s graciously given us an
insight into what he took away from the Institute, including attending
this year’s Festival, where he was involved in the New Frontier’s
Multimedia Performance Events with The Story Is Still Asleep and Here was selected as the U.S. recipient of the 2008 Sundance / NHK International Filmmakers Award.
“I haven’t fought much with the past, but I’ve fought plenty with the future.”
– Patti Smith at the Sundance Main Street Music Café, January 21, 2008.
before the Sundance Film Festival last month, Emily Brunt from the
Institute asked me if I’d be willing to put together some reflections
on my experiences over the past year with the Sundance Writers and
Directors Labs and, more specifically, what comes after. I was completely overwhelmed with preparations for a multi-media and live music piece entitled The Story Is Still Asleep that would soon be presented in the New Frontiers section of the Festival and I had just been informed that my lab project, Here,
had been selected as the U.S. recipient of the 2008 Sundance / NHK
International Filmmakers Award. It was an incredibly busy time, as was
the Festival itself. (I saw one film in seven days, Man On Wire,
about Philippe Petit’s infamous, unauthorized high-wire walk between
the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in 1974. It couldn’t have been
more appropriate. If you don’t know the story, stop reading now, get on
Google and don’t come back. This real-life, true myth contains more
essential lessons about the world, life and filmmaking than anything
that I could possibly write.)
At any rate, the blur of the
Festival has begun to recede, the dust (snow?) has begun to settle and
I’ve managed to collect a few impressionistic thoughts.
NHK Award at Sundance capped off what was, for me, a life-changing year
spent with the Sundance Institute – first at the January Writers lab
and then at the June Directors Lab. People often ask what the Labs were
like and I often say things like, “They were an overwhelming gift.” But
that doesn’t really do the experience justice. The totality of it is
difficult to articulate. At some point the Labs begin to transcend
being solely about filmmaking. They really do. They end up being about
something much larger, something that revolves around getting to the
deepest and most resonant places that you can find within yourself and
those around you.
And then you come out. And it’s kind of
sadistic – after the January Writers Lab, which takes place at the
Sundance Resort, high in the idyllic Wasatch Mountains, they take you
over to the Marriott in Park City and kind of kick you out of the van,
out of their warm, perfect womb and into the cold, hard, hassle-filled
reality of the Sundance Film Festival’s first weekend, which is a
madhouse. I went from a luxurious and cozy mountain cabin with its own
fireplace and kitchenette to a cold, ratty, basement motel room with a
shower that barely worked. Which mirrors the metaphoric journey you
undertake coming out of the Lab – from a warm place of pure creativity
toward a direct confrontation what can feel like a very frigid business
landscape for independent film.
once you come down from the mountain and survive that initial splash of
cold, hard reality, you start to go about the actual making of your
film and you start to hear a lot about what a difficult climate it is
out there and “how are we going to market this?” and “who is your
audience?” and “it would be great if all we had to care about was the
art but that’s not the world we’re living in and and, and, and, and…
Well, we live in the world we accept.
rather than writing about how crazy it is to begin to try to orient
yourself in the “industry,” I wanted to write about a few ideas that
have been forming as I’ve begun to slowly wade into these (most
definitely shark-infested) waters.
Jack Kerouac, when asked to
give a talk on the question, “Is There a Beat Generation,” began with
the following introduction: “What we really should be wondering about
tonight is ‘Is there a world?’ And I could go and talk for five, ten,
twenty minutes about ‘Is there a world?’ because there really is no
world. Sometimes I’m walking on the ground and I see right through the
ground. And there is no world. And you’ll find out!”
My current project, Here,
is a landscape-obsessed road movie about a brief but intensely
affecting journey that is undertaken by satellite mapping engineer and
an art and landscape photographer who impulsively decide to travel
together into uncharted foreign territory – literally and
It has been an attempt to make a film that
felt personally essential; an attempt to confront an unavoidable place
and to find my way into something that I simply could not NOT do. And I
recently realized that it is, at least in part, a film about whether we
choose to live in a world we accept or in a world that we create.
I was trying to navigate Sundance this year, a series of questions kept
recurring inside my head: “Is this Festival (love it or hate it) – is
the Institute – is the NHK Award, given with so much hope and so much
trust to projects that are not yet realized – is any of this result of
people who lived in a world they accepted?” The answer, obviously, is no. These are people who live in a world they created. They are people who live in a world that they are constantly
creating. And that realization was an incredible source of strength and
inspiration as I ran around the festival trying to figure out if there
was anyone out there in the “film world” with whom I might share a
I finally came to see is that the “reality of the market” does not
exist. The “reality of the market” is what we allow it to be, what we,
as creators, choose to accept. If my time with Sundance has taught me anything, it’s that we have to create our own realities; that we have to create the world that we want to live, work in and create in. As filmmakers, we have a responsibility to be as creative with the lives and the business of our films as we are with the films themselves. We have to fight for what we believe in and for the world we want our films to live in. Period.
Listen to John Cassavetes (from the completely essential Cassavetes on Cassavetes): “The main thing is to support art. If we, the artists, kill our own avenues of working – the theater, film, etc. – we ourselves
suffer. The movies are not dead. And if somebody says to you. ‘Ah, I
don’t know, this picture’s not going to make money,’ or ‘That play’s
never gonna make it,’ you’ve got to attack them. You’ve got
to attack them! Because they will only get away with that social custom
if you don’t protect your art. And if you don’t, then next year you
will come into a dead business and you’re going to suffer. Find the people that you want to emulate and support them. No matter where they are and what
form of art – whether it’s music or anything. Support them because they
are later on going to be your support – by keeping that pure thing
back on the past year, I see this idea as the heart of what the Robert
Redford and Sundance Institute’s vision is all about. As I move forward
with Here, and get caught up in the “reality” of fundraising,
logistics, casting, “marketing,” etc., that sense of possibility feels
like the most priceless gift of all the priceless gifts that came out
of my experience with the Labs, and the one that I feel the most
passionate about continuing to fight for and to help realize.
We all live in the world we create, if we are willing to create it.
Online dating firms split over screening
Some ask if criminal background checks help clients’ safety
David Crary, Associated Press
Sunday, February 17, 2008
True.com founder Herb Vest: “The online dating industry t…
(02-17) 04:00 PST New York —
All is not lovey-dovey in the high-stakes online dating industry.
The contentious issue of the moment – pitting one of the three biggest companies, True.com, against its major rivals – is whether online dating services can enhance their clients’ safety by conducting criminal background screenings of would-be daters.
Last month, New Jersey became the first state to enact a law requiring the sites to disclose whether they perform background checks.
True.com – the only large online dating service that already does such screenings – was elated by its successful lobbying and hopes other states will follow suit.
“The online dating industry tends to get a real bad rap because of criminal activity,” said True.com’s founder and chief executive, Herb Vest. “If we were to clean up, there’s hordes of offline singles who’d come online to find their soul mate.”
The pitch appeals to women like Jayne Hitchcock of York, Maine, who was victimized by three years of online harassment and cyberstalking in late ’90s after someone assumed her identity and sent sexually explicit messages.
When Hitchcock later decided to try online dating, she turned to True.com.
“There are people out there looking for a site where they’d feel a little bit safer,” said Hitchcock, who recently met her fiance on True.com.
However, Vest’s many critics in the industry say he is acting mostly out of self-interest. They contend that True.com’s screening method – running names through state databases of criminal records – is incomplete and too easily thwarted, potentially creating a false sense of security for customers.
“It’s so superficial that it’s worthless,” said Braden Cox, policy counsel with NetChoice, a coalition of e-commerce companies that includes Yahoo, AOL and other major players in online dating.
Match.com, one of largest dating services, said it had been assessing online background checks for six years and concluded they offered no extra protection.
“Match.com is disappointed New Jersey has enacted a flawed and unconstitutional law, and we will explore opportunities to challenge it,” a company statement said.
Even sponsors of the New Jersey bill conceded it was imperfect, but suggested it would at least make online daters more aware of security concerns.
There are no authoritative national statistics on serious crimes arising from online dating, but such cases periodically make headlines.
A Philadelphia man, Jeffrey Marsalis, was accused of raping several women he met through Match.com, and was sentenced in October to at least 10 years in prison.
A Cleveland firefighter, George Greer, was indicted in June for raping a woman he met through an Internet dating site.
An online dater in New York City, actor/musician Franca Vercelloni, said background screenings “couldn’t hurt matters” but should not be a reason for dropping one’s guard.
“You’re not going to rely on what you learn from the online profile anyway,” said Vercelloni, who’s in her late 20s. “Dating in New York City is just as hard as trying to get a job or an apartment. You have to take a risk.”
The New Jersey law, similar to ones considered in other states, will require online dating services to notify their customers in the state whether criminal background screenings have been conducted.
If a dating service doesn’t perform such screenings, it must acknowledge that in large capital letters in every electronic communication with members from New Jersey, who would be identified by ZIP codes they provide when registering.
Details of the notification rules are still being worked out.
Services that do conduct screenings must disclose that fact and say whether they allow people with criminal convictions to use the site. Those services also must note that background checks are not foolproof, but that disclaimer doesn’t have to be displayed as prominently as the disclosure by companies that don’t do screenings.
Critics say the type of screening envisioned by the law – checking for a particular name in databases of criminal convictions – has inherent flaws: users could give fake names, and many dangerous people may not be in the databases. Methods used in more probing background checks – such as fingerprint scans and research into employment records and Social Security numbers – are not required by the law.
More broadly, some worry that New Jersey’s action will push other states to regulate the online dating industry, creating a hodgepodge of laws that will drive up operating costs and force some companies out of business. Some in the industry say they would prefer federal legislation addressing background checks, rather than a patchwork of state laws.
Huge sums are at stake. Projections by Jupiter Research, an Internet consultancy, suggest the online dating market now totals $700 million or more, and Online Dating Magazine estimates that more than 20 million people visit online dating services each month.
A relative newcomer – founded in 2003 – Dallas-based True.com has drawn attention with racy ads as well as background screenings.
Avowedly for singles only – not straying spouses – it claims to be the only dating service that checks on marital status as well as criminal convictions.
“We can’t guarantee that criminals can’t get on our site, but we can guarantee that they’ll be sorry they did,” the site declares. “We report violators to appropriate federal, state and local authorities, including parole boards.”