Brad Lichtenstein’s blog

Behind the scenes of What We Got: DJ Spooky’s Journey to the Commons

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Swing Your Parter Round and Round…maybe not!

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The National Center for Media Engagement published this template for partnership.  I’m using it to guide a partnership agreement discussion with Jae Rhim Lee for a film we are proposing to do together about death denial and the funeral industry.  I think you filmmakers out there might find it useful, too.

A Pre-Nuptial Contract

Just like personal relationships, production partnerships can be filled with satisfaction, strategy, and struggle.

The Proposal: I Think I’m In Love
Are the participants/decision-makers compatible? Will they be able to achieve resolution when potential conflicts arise? Are their editorial standards in-synch?

’Til Death Do Us Part
How long should the partnership last? Is this a monogamous relationship? How many partners will there be? What does each partner add to the project? Caveat: Each additional partner adds exponentially to meeting time and decision-making time and effort.

The Vows (Write Your Own)
What are the goals for each partner? Publicity? Name value? Clout? Added resources? Extension of project visibility and public service?

What is the project?
Are there broadcast, print, web, event components? What are the roles and responsibilities for each organization? (Be precise.) What are the editorial standards and policies? What is the process for finding consensus on issues and resolving conflicts? Who are the decision-makers for each organization? Is there a need for regular meetings?

Having the Marriage Blessed
Does the partnership need formal/informal buy-in or sanction from senior management, the GM, or the Board?

Will There Be Progeny?
Will there be secondary or limited partners? What are their roles, privileges, and obligations?

For Richer or Poorer
What are the financial obligations of each partner? What will each contribute in cash or in-kind? What are the roles in fundraising? For commercial/noncommercial partnerships, how will underwriters and advertisers be acknowledged?

Renewing the Vows
What are the check-in points to ensure that the partners are satisfied and that goals are being met? How will we determine whether to extend the term of the partnership? What are the criteria to critique project success?

Mr./Mrs./Ms.?
Does the partnership have a name? How will each partner be acknowledged on air, in print, on the web, in signage? How will organizational logos be incorporated?  Basically, credits.

I Want a Divorce!
What is the process for ending the partnership on amiable terms?

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Almost Home Film in BROOKLYN!

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Almost Home aired back in 2006, but that was just the beginning…

We saw how the film spoke to so many people either afraid of dealing with aging issues, or overwhelmed with the care of their parents or a loved one.

We’ve been working all over the country to put the film to work — screening it with community audiences, then following up with discussion groups facilitated by local experts who can answer questions and point people to help right nearby.

The topics usually include caregiving, changing the negative culture built up around aging, and end of life.

Now, I made the film, so of course I think its great.  (But rest assured, a lot of people have said the same).  So come for the film, stay for the discussion, leave with a clearer sense of how you can deal with issues that aging may present to you in your life now, or down the road.

Saturday, March 13th

Park Slope United Methodist Church (6th avenue and 8th street)

7pm-10pm

For more info, directions, etc….

Sunday, March 14th

Union Temple (at Grand Army Plaza)

10am – 1pm (with some food served)

For more info, directions, etc….

Hope to see you there…..and please, spread the word.

Written by Brad Lichtenstein

March 8, 2010 at 11:01 am

My presentation on Cultural Commons that I gave at the NAMAC conference

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Joaquin Alvarado touts public tv 2.0 at Namac.  He's the new Senior Vice President for Diversity and Innovation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Joaquin Alvarado touts public tv 2.0 at Namac. He's the new Senior Vice President for Diversity and Innovation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

(thanks are due to Jay Walljasper for some kind edits and augmentations)

The commons describes a social practice that unleashes people’s capacity to create things together and take their lives and livelihood into their own hands. It is a social form that has long lived in the shadows of our market culture, but which is now on the rise.

But how does the commons relate to questions of culture and creativity, which we tend to think of as individualistic pursuits. What do we mean when we talk about cultural commons?  First, we mean something that we create together, whether we are talking about wikipedia, which participants research, write and manage together on-line, or ancient traditions forged and passed along by a particular group such as, say, the Hopi nation.    Secondly, we mean a way of creativity that embraces values like sharing, community and stewardship as opposed to privatization, enclosure and exploitation.

The founders of the United States embraced the ideas of the commons when it came to ideas.  They understood that the best fresh ideas are generated out of  previous ideas, and therefore should remain in the public domain (a cultural commons).  Indeed, copyright and patent law in the early days of the nation expressly aimed to move new cultural creations into the public domain as soon as possible.  Today’s long terms for copyright, (as much as 70 years beyond the life of the original creator) are a relatively new phenomenon.

It’s only very recently that the rise of intellectual property law has tipped the scales toward private ownership of every conceivable aspect of what we create, from breakthroughs in science and other academic fields to traditions in art and pop culture.  Today people are attempting to claim exclusive rights to spices, healing herbs or yoga poses that have been used for centuries. Compare that to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of the U.S. Patent Office, who  refused to patent the famous Franklin stove.  Why?  Because he said he was merely building on ideas of stoves that came before.

Novelist Jonathan Lethem documented how the free exchange of ideas works in art in an essay for Harper’s Magazine, “The Ecstasy of Influence” in which he traced patterns of borrowed influences through music (Delta bluesman Son House to Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters to British rock bands), animation (without Fritz the Cat, there would be no Ren & Stimpy Show), literature (Pyramus and Thisbe is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which in turns was the the inspiration for West Side Story).  To prove his point about the mutually collaborative nature of new ideas (as opposed to “eureka” theory, in which ideas are concocted out of thin air), he strived to footnote the influence of every line of his essay.

The Scientific Commons

A great example of a cultural commons from the field of science is the Human Genome Project, a massive collective effort on the part of scientists around the globe to decode human genetics.  New information discovered in the project was shared for all to use and to improve upon in their own research. The project was competing with a private venture that sought to decode the genome, and then sell the data that was produced.  The private venture didn’t succeed, and thankfully so because the high cost of their data may have stymied many subsequent scientific and medical advances.

The Human Genome Project used a commons approach that was based on two assumptions: 1) genes are part of nature and thus belong to all of us;  and 2) that sharing and collaborating information would be more productive than privatizing it.

Busting Out of the Market Mindset

Many of us in the U.S. have grown up in a time that when market economics and privatized ownership were hailed as the formula for all progress, innovation, and prosperity.  Private wealth is worshipped, while our common wealth has been dismantled. If something is not owned by an individual, we are told, it will fall prey to misuse, disuse, or overuse—the tragedy of the commons. Many people today have lost sight of the common as both a practical way to share things valuable to all of us and as a cooperative model of how we can relate to one another as creators and users of culture.

Examples of thriving systems managed according to the principles of the commons, rather than the privatized market, exist all around the world today, from fisheries off the coast of Greece to forests in Tanzania and Indonesia, to the open source software movement.

But most of us have been taught that the commons began to fade away in 17th and 18th century England, when private landowners claimed and enclosed (literally with fences) land used by commoners to graze livestock.  Yet the commons endures to this day throughout the British countryside in form of legally-protected rights of way that entitle anyone to cross private property on tens of thousands of miles of paths throughout England, Scotland and Wales.  This is also true in the cultural realm, where we make imaginative journeys thanks to stories, songs, ideas, knowledge and research belonging to all of us.  It is not trespassing to take advantage of the creativity of Plato, Buddha, Leonardo daVinci, Shakespeare, Bach, Darwin, Florence Nightingale and many others.

Those fences of the 18th century England give us a powerful image and metaphor for the “enclosure” of culture going on today at an alarming pace. Here are a couple of examples.  Media companies want to slow down your access to websites that don’t pay a premium fee for their place on the internet,  a troubling violation of the commons principle of  net neutrality that will allow huge enterprises to dominate the flow of information.  Another is example is the Walt Disney Corporation, which has built its empire on appropriating and ultimately copyrighting material from the public domain—from The Little Mermaid and Robin Hood, all the way back to  Mickey’s first cartoon “Steamboat Willie,”  which was taken directly from Buster Keaton’s character Steamboat Bill. But try using an image of Mickey Mouse in your own work, and you’ll soon hear from the Mouse’s lawyers.

Creative Commons Licenses

No one wants to deny people the chance to make an honest living off their creative work. But the recent proliferation of copyright and intellectual property privileges means that many artists, scientists and other creators are denied access to material they need to do their most valuable work—an even graver threat to their livelihoods, and to the needs of society as a whole.  The Creative Commons license was created to address this dilemma, allowing sharing, remixing and reuse that is not possible within the more restrictive copyright framework, but still protecting creators’ opportunity to realize profits when their work is bought and sold.  I’m making a film called What We Got:  DJ Spooky’s Journey To the Commons to highlight all that we share, from air, water and land to our art, culture and discoveries.  I want to practice what I preach by sharing the movie we make online so that others can remix and repurpose it under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

Adapted from a presentation given at NAMAC

Day 4 of writing retreat

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Day 4 was fab.  Finally broke through the loss of the Fiji scene (I know, what’s the big deal?) and wrote all the way through Act 2.  I feel the argument of the film and the narrative are joining nicely.  This film won’t be for everyone, but frankly, who cares about that, now?  I think its going to be good, and I trust some others will, too.  I wrote Samir’s final speech, a unity of the natural commons and created commons, and the joy of a bright, somewhat unknown future guided by the commons-esque notion of a gift (a la Lewis Hyde).  Knowing more about the end informs the rest of the script.  I also feel I have a handle on the documentary/fiction blend within scenes.  The whole is something that needs to be examined more closely, but I’m not ready for that, yet.  I did figure out that a scene Jason wrote that takes place in a great commons – an AA meeting – is going to be near the end and in a way deal with Samir’s addiction to repeating old mistakes.  In the room are archetypes of all kinds of people representing “recovering” institutions that want to steer a new path in the bold “share economy” of the future and not be doomed to repeat past mistakes.  I know that sounds rather vague or silly or incomplete — so, you’ll just have to read it.  I’ll post a draft of the script in a month or so, once its been revised and a few trusted souls feel it is ready for your feedback.  Just an hour or so before I leave to rejoin my family “up north” (as they say here in Wisconsin).  My goal:  get the new outline up on the white board so that I can attack acts 3 and 4 next week.  Act 5 (the final act) is in pretty good shape.

I love my notecards and white board.

I love my notecards and white board.

Day 3 of writing retreat

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This was a frustrating day.  For a long time I thought that there was a delicious irony in Fiji exporting their boutique bottled product while a good portion of their own population wanted access to clean water.  For a long, long time that scene has been in the script.  But I realized that Fiji’s problem with access to clean water is not only, or even primarily, the result of privatization and export of their water supply.  It probably has more to do with bad government than anything else.  Thus, it doesn’t fit my needs at this point in the script.  What I need is a case in which water is privatized, resulting in restricted or no access for people.  I wanted an example of water being treated as a commodity rather than a commons, or basic right.  And examples abound.  But it took the entire day to come to terms with this change, and then to read and research the alternatives.  So, the train was stuck in the station for most of the day.  As I sat, frustrated, I found Fiji’s PR person and follwed him on Twitter.  His name is Rob Six, and his Twitter handle is @RobSix.  Follow him.  He seems like a good guy, if a little enthusiastic about bottled water — which is still a global problem, by the way.  More later…..photo

Day 2 of writing retreat

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I returned to the studio on Tuesday after a break on Monday for obligations like screening scenes for the Hmong film my students are making and a quick shoot in Janesville for a new film. It was a very good day. I finished structuring with notecards, moving on if there was a gap that I couldn’t solve at this level. Then I dove into the rearranging and writing on Act 1. Jason’s script v.4 spent 26 pages in mostly live-action with actors until the crazy DJ Spooky effects start to whisk Samir off into a tumble of a magical journey to discover “the commons.” My focus was to reduce that amount of live action drastically both to avoid too much of the directing of actors, something I’ve barely ever done, and to get on with the journey as quickly as possible. Now the journey more or less starts on page 15. I’ll be able to reduce that even more on a second pass. I’ve also decided that the journey progresses from almost normal but strange to really wacky. In that light, I’m working on a scene in which Samir is on a plane to Fiji (where there is a bottled water documentary scene). While flying, a Michael Crichton book “talks” to Samir about the privatization of genetic material. Crichton was a critic of such privatization, and his last published book, Next, is about the issue (in part). Anyway, I’m on to day 3, now. Fun, fun, fun……

And, because these things matter: I FINALLY got a male/male mini-stereo cable so that my super sweet Audio-Technics no-noise headphones will work. My last cable was cutting in and out.

Good headphones make for good work

Good headphones make for good work

Check it out…the budget for Almost Home

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Well, when the author of Shaking the Money Tree suggests that a budget would be helpful, I jump!  Thanks for the suggestion, Morrie.

My back is killing me!

My back is killing me!

Please know that the budget I’ve included here made a few assumptions that turned out not to be true.  For instance, while the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee did provide space in-kind, it did not offer adequate legal services, so I had to purchase my own.  Thank you FKKS!  And technology has changed in just 3 years, when this budget was created, so keep that in mind.  By and large, though, this budget is a good reflection of our effort. And we held to its bottom line.  Let me know your thoughts.  And please feel free to use the comments section of this blog to ask questions or discuss the budget.  Hope you find this helpful.   One note.  Some links remained in the budget document that I pasted.  I can’t get rid of them.  They go nowhere.  Sorry!

Enjoy!

Acct. Account Name Unit Qty Rate Amount Detail Totals
1100 PRODUCTION STAFF
1101 Producer allow 1 $100,000 $100,000
1102 Associate Producer weeks 77 $800 $61,280
1105 Project Intern(s) UWM In-kind 0 $0 $0
1106 Bookkeeper weeks 77 $90 $6,894
1190 Payroll Expenses
1191 Production Staff taxes & fringe allow 1 $31,325 $31,325
TOTAL 1100 DETAIL $199,499
1300 RESEARCH & PREPRODUCTION TRAVEL/MATERIALS
1301 Plane fares RT – persons 2 $350 $700
1302 Car rental days 2 $65 $130
1303 Hotel persons – days 2 $100 $200
1304 Ground transportation days 2 $75 $150
1305 Meals person-days 2 $45 $90
1306 Research materials allow 1 $750 $750
1307 Gratuities, Misc. Expenses allow 1 $250 $250
TOTAL 1300 DETAIL $2,270
1400 PRODUCTION
1401 Cameraperson shoot days 84 $600 $50,400
1402 Camera w/ ultra-wide lens months 7 $4,500 $31,500
1403 Sound Recordist shoot days 84 $325 $27,300
1405 Add’l Lighting Package allow 1 $2,000 $2,000
1406 DVCam Stock T-60 294 $24 $7,056
1407 Production supplies allow 1 $1,500 $1,500
TOTAL 1400 DETAIL $119,756
1500 PRODUCTION EXPENSES
1501 Van Rental days 28 $85 $2,380
1506 Tolls, Parking, Gas days 28 $20 $560
1507 Production Food days-persons 168 $45 $7,560
1510 Location Fees allow 1 $1,000 $1,000
1511 Gratuities allow 1 $500 $500
TOTAL 1500 DETAIL $12,000
1600 POST-PRODUCTION PERSONNEL
1601 Editor weeks 36 $2,500 $89,000
1604 Ass’t Editor weeks 40 $650 $25,740
1605 Post-production Intern weeks/inkind 0 $0 $0
1691 Post-production Staff taxes & fringe weeks / union payments 36 220.00 $7,832
TOTAL 1600 DETAIL $122,572
1700 POST-PRODUCTION EQPT, SERVICES & TRAVEL
1701 Avid (editing facilities) weeks 36 $1,000 $36,000
1702 Edit phone, office & petty cash Months 9 $75 $675
1703 Transcription Service hours 74 $120 $8,820
1705 Add’l VHS Dubs T-120 150 $7 $1,050
1706 On-line Edit hours 32 $300 $9,600
1707 Color Correct hours 24 $300 $7,200
1708 Computer Animation (Photos) hours 4 $250 $1,000
1709 Chryon Pre-programming hours 8 $100 $800
1710 Sound Editing days 10 $650 $6,500
1711 Audio Mix hours 48 $300 $14,400
1712 DigiBeta stock for masters T-124 2 $180 $360
1713 Online Layoff to Digibeta T-124 2 $180 $360
1714 Digibeta Copies from Master Digibeta T-124 8 $180 $1,440
1715 Misc dubs, preview copies, etc allow 1 $250 $250
1716 VHS cassettes of final film dubs 100 $7 $700
1717 Edit Room Computer allow 1 $2,000 $2,000
1718 Graphic Opening Sequence allow 1 $15,000 $15,000
1719 Closed Captioning hours 2 $1,600 $3,200
1720 Plane Fares trips 7 $350 $2,450
1721 Ground Transportation trips 7 $150 $1,050
1722 Meals trips 21 $65 $1,365
TOTAL 1700 DETAIL $114,220
1800 LICENSING
1801 Original Music Score (incl. production) allow 1 $15,000 $15,000
1802 Music Cue Licensing allow 1 $8,000 $8,000
1803 Archival Footage Licensing (incl. transfers) allow 1 $1,500 $1,500
TOTAL 1800 DETAIL $24,500
2000 PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
2001 Legal UWM In-kind / allow 1 $0 $0
2002 Publicity allow 1 $9,000 $9,000
2003 Insurance (E&O) allow 1 $6,000 $6,000
TOTAL 2000 DETAIL $15,000
Subtotal $609,817
Outreach Grand Total $262,048

$887,038