screening fees

From: David Tetzlaff (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Apr 06 2009 - 21:09:54 PDT

Moira asked:

> how has it become acceptable to programme films without budgeting
> to pay their makers?

I won't attempt to offer a thorough answer, but the intersection of
new technology with visual culture has a something to do with it, I
think. Specifically, it is now possible to make and show 'films'
electronically (don't flame me, I used quotation marks). This has
several consequences for the market (such as it is) for indie/art
motion picture screenings. First, because the tools of production are
so much more accessible, there is now more work available to be
screened. (There are like a bazillion film festivals out there now,
and they all seem to get thousands of entries.) Supply way up, value
way down. In addition, exhibition in electronic form doesn't cost the
maker a significant amount, as a DVD or DV tape can be made for a few
dollars, while film prints are costly to make and wear out fairly

And here we're only talking about cinematic screening. You know,
something you have to leave the house for. Screenings now compete
with hundreds of cable channels, video games, Netflix, iTunes,
YouTube, etc. etc. etc. So people may not be going out as much as
they used to, and when they do, they may be unwilling to spend money
for anything other than Brand Name culture.

In addition, the status of funding for the arts has declined in the
United States since 1980 and the rise of Reaganism. How many
community based media centers and arts spaces have been shuttered?

These are large scale shifts that aren't really subject to resistance
or opposable by organizing. Experimental filmmaking is artisanal
work, not wage labor. If filmmakers formed a collective, who would
they bargain WITH? Citigroup? In Jack Smith's view, Uncle Fishhook
was capitalism personified, the parasite who made the profits from
the True Artist's labor. That's pretty good theater, but not very
sound political economy.

So yeah, things suck. Makers who remain committed to screening film
on FILM, unless they have a 'name', will now most likely have to
_subsidize_ the exhibition of their work, as screening venues like
Moira's art space can't even cover the wear on the print. But, in the
most over-used phrase of the new decade, it is what it is.

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