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Archive for April, 2011

Tonight, April 23, 2011, HBO is premiering a drama entitled “Cinema Verite.” Now I haven’t seen the film, but there has been quite a debate on Documentary message boards like Doculink, IMDB and even between film reviewers over the tag line being used in the marketing as this was “the first reality show.” San Francisco Chronicle loves the HBO film, Los Angeles Times does not.
Just the term “Cinema Verite” is hotly debated in documentary circles, about how real anything is once edited. I wrote in one of my previous blogs, “Virtual Sundance” about a wonderful two hour discussion between Werner Herzog and Frederick Wiseman on this very subject at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Filmed in 1971, “An American Family” (which the HBO movie is based on) followed the Loud family, Pat and Bill and their five children of Santa Barbara in their lives, airing two years later on PBS. At the time, it was considered a real life documentary series. I guess the HBO movie suggests things were staged, more like a contemporary “Reality” series.

This is all funny because Director/Producer David Zeiger and I were just talking about this with a few of the former characters from our series, “Senior Year.” Over 10 years ago we delivered thirteen episodes for PBS about fifteen kids at Fairfax High, the most diverse school in Los Angeles, as they navigated through their senior year on the edge of the new millennium. “Senior Year” is going to be rebroadcast starting May 5th on KCET and we were filming with some of the original students from the show, sort of a “where are they now” segment, to tag to the end of each episode.

We started to wonder aloud how audiences will react now that they’ve been poisoned by “reality” television. Would they think the scenes had been scripted, the diary cams and camera confessions a lame rip off of what was presently on television. The fact of the matter is there was very little reality television on in 1999/2000, so our influences were the Maysles Brothers, Richard Leacock, Wiseman and “American Family.” We wanted to be the fly on the wall, even hiring recent film college graduates to be camera people, so there wouldn’t be such a difference in age, to get a more honest approach. Of course, we edited the footage, but we refused to manipulate anything that wasn’t true. Maybe that’s why all the students we followed wanted to return 10 years later to recap and update their lives.

“Senior Year” was successful enough that after the series ran, I was offered and took a bunch of good paying gigs on reality television, (Simple Life, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Black.White., Dramatic Auditions) but I’ve also worked in narrative filmmaking, so I’ve always known the difference between reality television and documentary. I’ve almost lost friendships and jobs with producers that do not. My fear is that less and less audiences actually do anymore.

“American Family” lasts because it is still a great documentary. “Reality” shows, by contrast, have no shelf-life at all. Most have no success if repeated on television or sell on DVD.  I guess that’s another reason why “Senior Year” is a documentary, it’s got a shelf life. But Reality TV is here to stay, it’s too cheap to produce and although many claim to dislike Reality television, I think everyone has at least one show they love (mine is “Amazing Race”). Just like a piece of candy, we know we shouldn’t eat it and it’s not good for us, but we indulge anyway. I’m sure the HBO movie will be fun to watch, just don’t take it as “documentary” or “reality.”

If you want to know more about the upcoming rebroadcast of “Senior Year” we’ve started a Facebook Fan Page.

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Winner Best Director – Nicole Torre, DocuWest Film Festival, 2010
Winner Best Point of View Documentary, EcoFocus Film Festival

Official Selection – Documentary Fortnight, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, 2010
Official Selection – United Nations Association, Traveling Film Festival
Official Selection – Over 30 National and International Film Festivals

It’s been a busy year of festival screenings and promotion for our award winning documentary feature film, HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

Now available for a very short time to view online, this week only, special for Earth Day!  If you feel like others should see this film, like we do, help spread the word.  Until April 30, 2011 for only $8.95, (cheaper then most feature documentaries on itunes), gather around the computer, have an Earth Day party, discuss the increase in gas costs, the war in Libya, learn and enjoy the film.  If you have a fast internet connection, click on the HD button, either way watch it full screen. Watch it HERE.

HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM stands out in the surge of films that address “green” issues. It takes a close examination inside the energy capital of the world to see America’s dangerous appetite for oil consumption.  The film traces the history of oil drilling in America and how the United States came to rely on foreign oil, from the Texas oilmen themselves, tracking Congress’ empty promises for alternative energy since the 1970s. The energy policy of the USA has only been a strategy of defense, not offense, problems (like the Gulf disaster last year, an inevitable tragedy) that extend far beyond profit, politics, and party lines. However, a new form of “Wildcatting” in alternatives is changing the oil industry and the country.  See and Hear the confessions of oilmen, who work in the trenches every day, scrambling to feed America’s ferocious appetite.

HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM brings both sides together, seeking solutions, making it clear that we must embrace all forms of alternatives in order to save the planet and ourselves.

Director Nicole Torre has gathered exclusive interviews with an A-list cast of Texas oil barons, Wildcatters, and top executives, including the former president of Shell Oil; the chairman of BP Capital; Sen. Harry Reid; Van Jones, Founder of Green for All; and Middle East adviser Joanne Herring, who married the founder of Enron and was the basis for Julia Roberts’ role in Charlie Wilson’s War. Watch what everyone is calling “a must see film at this time in history”.

HUFFINGTON POST just reviewed the film and wrote, “Houston We Have a Problem is an educational, upbeat examination into the history and future of oil. It is a refreshing reminder that the energy debates are not black and white.” Read the full review HERE.

CURRENT TV reviewed the film and called it “upbeat and engaging editing harmoniously meshes with its original NON-partisan clean energy stance, LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE UNITED AS A NATION.” Here’s the full REVIEW.

KPFK in Los Angeles did a one hour radio program in March of the film now archived for listening. My favorite is this British Press TV discussion.

PLANET GREEN, which aired the film as part of it’s Reel Impact Series has submitted HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM for an EMMY Award!

In addition to all this, HOUSTON has been recognized by the scientific community. Last May, it screened at the Athens International Science Film Festival in Athens, Greece, and has just recently played the Academia Film Olomouc, International Festival of Science Documentary Films. For a full list of festivals and screenings, go to our website . You can also see a POST when the film first started playing the festivals.

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m proud to have been a producer on the film and if you’ve seen it, please help us spread the word, embed the links to the website on to your favorite environmental sites and blogs. If you haven’t seen the film, please watch it online now or buy the DVD for $19.95 at the website. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also see a bunch of clips and extra material from the film at our youtube channel.

Thank you, as always, for your interest.

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