Re: ambitious SF Cinematheque membership drive (was Re: volunteering in San Francisco)

From: Jonathan Marlow (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Oct 25 2008 - 11:20:44 PDT

dear Eric (and, by extension, the rest of the Frameworks list initially
included in this discussion),
As I noted earlier, I take your concerns very seriously. You have
inadvertently addressed many of the key reasons why I finally agreed to join
San Francisco Cinematheque as its Executive Director. I certainly share your
frustrations with the recent foibles of this venerable organization and it
is among my sincere tasks to refocus our efforts in a direction that is more
than suitable to an institution with such a remarkable history.

I wager that the tone of your message is an accurate reflection of your
exceptional disappointment in Cinematheque's past four years. That
disappointment is arguably justified. I would briefly counter that there
were, indeed, a handful on high points during that period (along with a
number of indisputable low points). Regarding the absence of publications
since your self-imposed exile, I can at least put your mind at ease. Outside
of program notes, there have been no publications since 2004. The Gordon
Matta-Clark book was our last printed text. Although there was a "launch"
for a new Cinematograph many months ago, it still does not exist in printed
form. I hope to remedy that intentional oversight in the weeks ahead. When
it is finally available, you will receive it accordingly.

That stated, I don't believe that an empty mailbox is your pressing concern.
Unless I am misinterpreting the subtext of your missive, it appears that
your specific annoyance is the decline in active participation asked of you
and the rest of our members and donors. I certainly cannot disagree.
Cinematheque has consistently wasted opportunities for the constructive
involvement of our community. Admittedly, I have no desire to repeat past
mistakes. Although I've only been involved in the aforementioned capacity
for thirty days, we're already moving in the proper direction. I have begun
meeting individually with members of our Advisory Committee and Board of
Directors to discuss the problems that demand our attention. Furthermore,
there is a forthcoming event (due to be announced shortly) where, with the
involvement of our members, some definitive progress will likely be made on
these precise points.

I appreciate that your criticisms arrived during a moment in our evolution
when we are most able to put such speculative solutions into immediate
practice. I hope that you'll allow us a little more time to address and
correct most (if not all) of the issues that trouble you about the
organization. Ideally, these forthcoming improvements will encourage you to
start attending Cinematheque shows again. If, for instance, you wish to
discuss this matter in-person, you could potentially make an appearance at
the third part of our Leslie Thornton series tomorrow evening. I will be
there, as usual, introducing the program. As a lifetime member, your
ticket(s) will be waiting for you at the box office.

Otherwise, please contact me directly and we can ventilate these topics at
some other convenient occasion.

Jonathan Marlow

SAN FRANCISCO CINEMATHEQUE | 145 Ninth St. Suite 240 San
Francisco, CA 94103

> > The San Francisco Cinematheque
> > presents two seasons of experimental moving image art each year. We are
> > now gearing up for our 50th anniversary year in 2011 and are conducting
> > ambitious membership and donor drives.
> Dear Lawrence (and Jonathan),
> I alluded to this in my previous frameworks message to Esperanza,
> but I marked your earlier message as something to come back to and
> this seems like the opportune time.
> Towards the end of *my* term on the SF Cinematheque Board, we
> conducted an ambitious membership and donor drive, and to kick it
> off, I became a Lifetime Member, to the tune of $1500. The
> Cinematheque was a formidable organization in those days, we were
> going through the National Endowment for the Arts' Advancement
> Program, and our consultants drilled it into our heads that Board
> Members needed to put their wallets where their mouths were. I
> did, and, while not many others did, I do know that I am not the
> only person who joined at that level.
> As is typical with these things, that category was supposed to
> include the benefits of less expensive categories, and to them it
> added the benefit of receiving a copy of every SF Cinematheque
> publication, upon publication. While the organization was always
> lax about mailing these, I used to attend a third or more of the
> programs on the calendar and Steve Anker would always ask if I had
> one of everything on the table that was set up for ticket and
> publication sales.
> When the organization passed from Steve Anker to Steves Jenkins and
> Polta, this benefit came under suspicion, then disappeared. After
> nine months of pestering, a filthy envelope with my name misspelled
> turned up containing the then backlog of publications. I have not
> pestered since--why go through the humiliation?--and of course, no
> publications have been sent. That was in 2004; I haven't attended
> a show since, and, really, damn your eyes, San Francisco Cinematheque.
> Our Advancement consultants told us another obvious truth: go out
> of your way to treat your major donors well. Let them know if
> there's a screening they'd be interested in (which implies knowing
> or keeping a database of their interests) or invite them to a meal
> or after-screening drink with a visiting filmmaker. Cinematheque
> could never manage that level of grace, but clearly treating a donor
> like a chiseler when all they're asking for is the benefits associated
> with their level of membership fully flies in the face of any sane
> behavior as regards fundraising and development.
> Please treat this email as a request* for a full refund of my
> membership dues. I'll follow this up with a letter to the office
> containing my membership card (I will miss the sideways '8' for
> infinity, typed by David Gerstein on an old selectric long ago).
> All that said, it would be a happy day if the new ED can get the
> organization back on track. I had three motivations for moving to
> San Francisco in 1989: the landscape, the tolerance, and the film
> culture, which the Cinematheque of that time epitomized for me.
> --Eric
> P.S. I post this to frameworks a) so that all the filmmakers who
> have asked what my issues with the Cinematheque are can know the
> most cut-and-dry one, b) to provide an example for people who wonder
> why organizations lose the support of individuals and grantmaking
> organizations (e.g., the recent Film Arts Foundation discussion),
> and c) maybe so that other media arts organizations might hop on
> the phone and give a little love to their major benefactors; can't
> hurt!
> *demand.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.