american cinema foundation

freedom film festival

american cinema foundation

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ACF Tribute to Cathy Seipp

Come celebrate as we roast one of our own!

Cathy Seipp has been in the trenches of the battle for independent thinking in Hollywood for as long as she has plied her craft -- and it's an amazing record! Here's a chance to join with like-minded others and salute her courage, her humor, her leadership and her incredible mind.

This is a memorable bash that you won't forgive yourself for missing!

Sunday, September 10th 4:00pm
Figueroa Hotel
939 S. Figueroa Street (just north of Olympic Blvd.)
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Appetizers, no-host bar.

Parking: $8 flat fee
Parking lot behind the hotel
Enter from Olympic Blvd, into alley next to the car wash, turn left into parking lot

RSVP by September 5th to
Please provide your name and number of guests attending

Finding the Future of Public Television

Presented by the American Cinema Foundation
Sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Friday, October 14, 2005 - Saturday, October 15, 2005

AFI Mark Goodson Screening Room
2021 N. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027


Participants are television creators, executives, and journalists, including Lionel Chetwynd, Frank Price, Mel Stuart, Rob Long, Matt Welch, Cathy Seipp, Ray Richmond, and others (see complete schedule and list of panelists below).

Public television broadcasting has been, for 40 years, one of the most visible expressions of our sense of the common good in arts and education. We're concerned that this sense of a shared culture may be lost in today's partisanship. This series of panels will focus on identifying cultural biases that might limit public television's ability to carry out its mandate to represent American culture in all its diversity.

Finding ways to remedy this situation will take much public involvement, and this is the first of a continuing series of presentations. The panelists hold a variety of viewpoints, some of which are not often expressed. Each panel will attempt to identify an area of consensus about the future of the public television system.

The American Cinema Foundation (ACF) is a non-profit arts organization. Its film and television presentations seek to connect today's audience with idealistic visions of America's common culture-past, present, and future.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967. The mission of CPB is to facilitate the development of, and ensure universal access to, non-commercial high-quality programming and telecommunications services. It does this in conjunction with non-commercial educational telecommunications licensees across America.

AFI is a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media.


How we got here
Los Angeles television has always had a taste for novelty. In 1953, KTLA built a microwave network through the mountains just to bring southern California a single moment: a live shot of an atomic blast in Nevada. Six months later, Channel 28, KTHE-TV Los Angeles, the nation's second educational television station, went on the air. Its most famous on-camera personality, Dr. Frank Baxter, was a gifted science lecturer who went on to become famous on the commercial networks, and a familiar face to any kid who grew up in the '50s. He didn't stay on Channel 28. He couldn't: it went broke and left the air in 1954. It took years before USC was finally able to sell the transmitter.

Remember that ten-year gap in part of L.A.'s public life, and mourn the loss of KTHE, the local hero nobody remembers today. While public television was no more than a memory here, the freeways were built, and so was Disneyland. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, Chavez Ravine was bulldozed, and so was much of Bunker Hill, while the Music Center was built. The L.A. County museum opened. When "28" came back on the air, this was a transformed city, and publicly funded television had a different vision, a '60s vision that seemed to suit Los Angeles. And now it's hard to remember the L.A. of the past 40 years without KCET's images, and the national conversations it brought to us.

In those early days, New York didn't have a non-profit station either. It seemed as hard to believe then as it does now, but Houston had an educational TV channel nine years before New York did. Our national cultural capital had no non-commercial TV until the early '60s, and even then it got a station only because of massive, behind-the-scenes arm twisting. Frank Price, who was a television executive in New York at the time, tells the story: the big three networks wanted to free themselves of the FCC-mandated "Sunday ghetto" of high-minded morning and afternoon programming, so New York's WNET bought its own new channel with money contributed by New York's six commercial channels-which were happy to eliminate a potential competitor for advertising in the bargain. That's how non-profit TV, American style, got started: with no guiding authority and no master plan. Later attempts at a retrofit have met with mixed success.

What are CPB and PBS?
Whatever your own opinion of public television, it's a good idea to keep the local flavor or your own PBS affiliate station in mind, and the stubborn autonomy it guards. Stations usually reflect local values. To generalize about what you see on public television, you don't have to know anything about the basic relationship among PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and your local broadcast station. But, going into any detail about the state of public TV without understanding these relationships is like leaving the movie "Chinatown" five minutes before the ending: you really won't know what's going on.

Just to make things confusing, public television was a distributed system, with many power centers (long before the internet existed). It's hard to describe in simple terms.

Here's one working summary of US public television: it's the creature of local, non-profit television stations. Stations are crucial - they own the PBS network, not the other way around. Powerful program-producing stations in the PBS affiliate system have independent power, and they exercise it in ways that have few parallels in commercial broadcasting. In this respect it's not at all like its documentary competitors in the cable and satellite arena, each station of which uplinks one set of signals, which is carried everywhere in a geographical area. TV critics and pundits nearly always use "PBS" as shorthand for the entire creation and delivery system, and in most areas of the country that's an oversimplification that fails to acknowledge real opportunities for diversity on the air.

PBS coordinates, cheerleads, and above all makes schedules on behalf of those stations which choose to air a particular show. It reflects its own assessment of the common culture that underlies the values of its member stations. The programs shown on PBS stations are usually made by independent producers, working in partnership with specific stations and ideally, with dedicated program sponsors. The laws regulating public television are complex and seemingly designed to perpetuate an allegedly creative tension.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting gives money directly to local stations, as well as to PBS. CPB also funds "targeted" production of shows, which it can offer to - but not impose on - the national program service (CPB doesn't make programming decisions). It also sponsors various studies and forums relating to public TV, like this one, for which we thank them.

How do we go forward?
This series of seminars was inspired by the popular perception that there's a new sensibility, brought by a new wave of idealistic social skeptics who are coming to non-fiction film and television today and tomorrow. If this widespread speculation is true, it would be only logical that these newcomers might come to public broadcasting through personal networks different from those established by PBS contributors who are now popular. It's vital for them to engage the system if they want some of the funding, and not just stand outside it and throw rocks.

Today's video bloggers are documentarians without opinion filters, without license from any authority, and eminently as independent as Joris Ivens or Robert Flaherty ever dreamed of being. But their social vocabulary is nothing like that of the classic wave of non-fiction filmmakers. They are intrepid users of novel production techniques, and are self-distribution savvy, but is this younger generation of skeptics reaching a level of storytelling sophistication that warrants the attention of public television's talent development process? PBS producing stations, and other independent entities, may find in some of these artists both regional, and emerging talents deserving of the first stages of creative contact. Some may also hold points of view that could help to mitigate criticism that suggests one-sidedness in public broadcasting's treatment of social and political sensitivity.-Gary McVey, Executive Director, American Cinema Foundation


Friday, October 14, 8pm
Welcome addresses

Nick De Martino, Senior Vice President for Information and Technology, American Film Institute; Michael Pack, Sr. Vice President, Television Programming, Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Program introduction: Gary McVey, Executive Director, American Cinema Foundation

Opening panel
A gaggle of imaginative producer/writers consider why they and others like them don't produce more for public television. Why do shows that take on the hot topics of the day (from Bill Maher to Dennis Miller), and shows whose genres originated on public TV, end up on cable? What part does politics play? How can public broadcasting hold its ground?

Moderator: Rob Long (writer/producer, "Cheers," "George and Leo;" columnist, National Review; commentator, "Martini Shot" on KCRW)

Panelists: Luca Bentivoglio (executive director, Latino Public Broadcasting), Harry Shearer (writer/performer, "The Simpsons," "This Is Spinal Tap"), Peter Robinson (presidential speechwriter; Hoover Inst. research fellow; host of public TV's "Uncommon Knowledge")

Saturday, October 15, 2pm
Will You, Won't You Join the Dance: The Experience of Producing for Public Television

We hear from veteran producers who feel that their programming has been marginalized because they hold viewpoints that fall outside the mainstream of current PBS culture. How should stewards of a national trust go about the business of funding and distributing programs that represent a wide spectrum of positions, while maintaining their own personal and political views?

Introduction: Michael Pack (Sr. Vice President, Television Programming, Corporation for Public Broadcasting)

Moderator: Cathy Seipp (journalist, Independent Women's Forum, National Review Online)

Panelists: Lionel Chetwynd (writer/director/producer, "Ike: Countdown to D-Day," "Varian's War," "National Desk"), Frank Price (former studio chief of Universal, Columbia; producer, "The Tuskegee Airmen" etc.), Ted Steinberg (co-executive producer, "Reverse Angle," "National Desk")

Saturday, October 15, 4pm
New Formats/New Thinking from the AFI Digital Content Lab.

PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are technological innovators, who have often led the commercial TV industry-from satellite distribution in the '70s, to added content in the '90s. Over seven years, the AFI Digital Content Lab, funded in part by CPB, has produced more than 50 prototypes-from wireless, to set-top boxes, to game consoles. This session showcases examples created for PBS programs, suppliers and stations, including KCET, POV and ITVS.

Presenter: Anna Marie Piersimoni, Director, Internet Communications, Media and Technology, American Film Institute

Guest: Jackie Kain, Vice President, New Media, KCET

Saturday, October 15, 8pm
Public Television Confidential: A Look at Basic Premises

The question is whether publicly funded programming meets its own high standards, and whether we ask enough of the system that spends our dollars. Is "Sesame Street" still the utlimate in quality educational programming? Is it fair to ask producers to treat more of the country's widely held values as legitimate?

Introduction: John Prizer (Vice President, Television Program Development, Corporation for Public Broadcasting)

Moderator: Cathy Seipp (journalist, Independent Women's Forum, National Review Online)

Panelists: Ray Richmond (television critic, The Hollywood Reporter) , Mel Stuart (director, "The Hobart Shakespeareans," "American Masters: Billy Wilder," "The Making of the President 1960"), Matt Welch (associate editor, Reason Magazine; blogger,

Freedom Film Festival 2005

Eighth Annual Freedom Film Festival
Los Angeles

May 19-21, 2005

The American Cinema Foundation, in cooperation with GILA, presented the eighth edition of its yearly festival celebrating cinema from central and eastern Europe. The Andrzej Wajda Freedom Prize, given annually by the ACF during the Berlin International Film Festival each February, recognizes European talent and celebrates the relationship between two great film cities, Berlin and Los Angeles. FFF 2005 highlights two winners of this prize Andreas Dresen and Jan Svankmajer and looks back on a quarter century of dramatic change in Europe. All films are presented in their original language with English subtitles. The festival took place May 19-21 at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles.

Freedom Film Festival Pre-Event:
Goethe Institute-Los Angeles

March 2005

The American Cinema Foundation has presented the Freedom Film Festival since 1997; it is one of Hollywood's best-known showcases for films from the formerly socialist countries of central and eastern Europe. The festival has presented prizes in Berlin, Moscow, Baku (Azerbaijan), and the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic. Its highest award was given to Andrzej Wajda in Berlin in 1999.

The Andrzej Wajda Freedom Award
February 6, 2005

The Prize is named after world artist Andrzej Wajda, Poland's great filmmaker, winner of a special Academy Award in 2000. His powerful collection of works includes Ashes and Diamonds (1958), The Demons (1987), Doctor Korczak (1990) and Pan Tadeusz (1999). Mr. Wajda agreed to become the artistic patron and final judge of the new annual award, recognizing filmmakers from the former socialist countries of eastern and central Europe, in 1999. It has been presented to Kira Muratova (Ukraine, 2000) Jan Svankmajer (Czech Republic, 2001), Andreas Dresen (eastern Germany, 2002), Alexander Sokurov (Russia, 2003) and Marcel Lozinski (Poland, 2004). This year's prize recipient is Hungarian director Bela Tarr. The Friends of the German Cinematheque (FDK) will screen a selection of Bela Tarr films at the Arsenal Kino from 4 to 6 February, concluding with the prize ceremony on Sunday, the sixth.

"It is an honor for us to be able to pay tribute to Bela Tarr, one of Hungary's gifts to world cinema," said Gary McVey, executive director of the American Cinema Foundation. "We are especially honored to be presenting the award in collaboration with Ulrich and Erika Gregor, curators of one of the world's great cinematheques. "

Cathy Seipp

Lionel Chetwynd - Cathy's Tribute

Rob Long - Cathy's Tribute