American Cinema Foundation
E: acinema@cinemafoundation.com
T: 310.889.0742
 

Television

AFI in Vegas
AFI in Vegas, Living Large on Sheldon's Dime

From its first days, ACF—the American Cinema Foundation—was a respected talking shop, a place for issues-based conversation in Hollywood. The "Cinema" in its name included every emerging form of advanced television from the very beginning. Its leadership converged from varied paths and met in unexpected ways.

In 1984, Gary McVey was technical director of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Filmex). That year it was an official arts activity of the Los Angeles Olympics. Filmex worked with Sony in publicizing their first-ever experimental videotaping of the '84 Olympics in high definition television, a technology which would not reach the American public for another fifteen years. After the American Film Institute acquired Filmex in 1986, it presented Hollywood's first public HDTV showcase at the AFI campus in spring 1987, following the inaugural AFI Fest. Electronic technology and Hollywood were getting re-acquainted then, but the combination would heat up quickly as videotape and digital were entering the market. McVey became co-director of the AFI National Video Festival in 1990 and director from 1993-'96, while many of these new developments shook the economic foundations of the TV industry. AFI Fest's first five years were sponsored by Sheldon Adelson via Cinetex, formally the Cinema, Television and Experimental Media Exposition, a project of Adelson's Interface Group, owners of the Sands Hotel as well as the giant annual Comdex computer show in Las Vegas.

AFI's television activities were often associated with board member Ethel Winant, one of the first women to be a major executive at a big three network, CBS. She produced the first HDTV feature for American television, "World War II: When Lions Roared". Introducing that film for AFI at the HDTV production forum of the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas that year, Gary McVey made the first link (through producers Edgar Scherick and Chuck Fries) that led to his involvement in the newly forming American Cinema Foundation. The Charles W. Fries Telefeature Awards, presented in the Nineties during AFI Fest in Los Angeles each year, was one of the film industry's first regular acknowledgments of the increasing artistic and cultural power of television drama.

Robert Duvall and Lionel Chetwynd
Robert Duvall accepts ACF's Carl Foreman Award from Lionel Chetwynd

In 1994, the fledgling American Cinema Foundation, growing under the leadership of entertainment attorney and philanthropist Cathy Siegel Weiss, was equally the creation of Lionel Chetwynd, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and winner of the Writers' Guild of America award for "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz", recipient of the Berlin Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Bear. Demonstrating his own career-long commitment to serious historical drama, Chetwynd first previewed his TNT "Kissinger and Nixon" (1995) in pre-production as an ACF dramatic stage reading in Los Angeles, giving ACF onscreen credit.

Tony Jonas, Warner Bros. Television CEO
ACF Award Presenter Tony Jonas, President and CEO of Warner Bros. Television

Impressed by the enthusiasm of a tough industry crowd for serious telehistory at that panel at NAB '94, Gary became a judge of ACF's annual Screenwriting Competition. The foundation honored Tony Jonas, president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros. Television, and ACF's founding board members included Tom Selleck, writer-director Donald Wrye, and Showtime senior VP Matthew Duda.

During those years, Gary's American Film Institute international television initiatives included official visits to Stockholm's TV1, Moscow's Ostankino Television Center, and experimental studios in Barcelona. Groundbreaking Los Angeles shows of European TV included Germany's surreal historical fantasy "Der Blinde Kuh", direct from the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as a warning from history, "Television under the Swastika", and the US premiere of "The Hospital" by Denmark's Lars von Trier.

 

 

Peggy Charren and Gary Lieberthal
Peggy Charren, creator of Sesame Children's Workshop, and Gary Lieberthal, CEO of Columbia Tri-Star Television, at ACF E Pluribus Unum Awards in 1997

The ACF honored Peggy Charren, founder of the Children's Television Workshop, at the E Pluribus Unum Awards in 1997. Gary was now director of the organization. For the next couple of years it would focus on new areas of TV and digital video.

 

Willette Klausner and David E. Kelley
ACF Board Founding Member Willette Klausner and fabled show creator David E. Kelley

 

Frank Price
Frank Price, studio boss and public policy expert—a rare blend. Winner of ACF's Carl Foreman Award

The E Pluribus Unum Awards for 2000, presented at the Beverly Hills Hotel, were just one of the highlights of a vivid series of media industry events. As a sign of the new profile of the Awards, one of the main presenters was Leslie Moonves, Chairman of CBS, feisty and newsworthy as always. Frank Price, former boss of Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures, received ACF's Carl Foreman Award from the hands of Lionel Chetwynd, who worked with the formerly blacklisted screenwriter.

There was a dramatic change in the direction of ACF's TV activities in response to September 11th–the international dimension, sometimes neglected in American TV awards, became even more important. Continuing ACF's alliance with all who honor the work of Andrzej Wajda, in March 2002 we presented his videotape "The Condemnation of Frantiszek Klos" (2002) for Polish television, at the Hollywood headquarters of the Director's Guild of America.

 

ACF Writers Guild Panel, March 2005
Well before the turn of the 21st century, media technology and new program formats have been interests of the ACF. We presented TV writers' panels hosted by Cathy Seipp in 2003-2006, some of the key years for the evolution of television strong enough to more than rival theatrical film. Cathy also conducted pioneering panels about blogging in Hollywood, accurately predicting in 2003 that video content would soon be as common as text.

 

CPB 2005 Workshops
October 2005 - Visions for the First Decade of Digital Broadcasting

In October 2005, sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, we held a weekend intensive workshop for the Los Angeles TV industry called "Finding the Future of Public Television", with the assistance of KCET and the American Film Institute. Panels included critical reviews and assessments of where public TV was headed in a connected nation that was finding its own ways towards specialized documentary and public policy programming.

 

   
Michael Pack, Nick DeMartino, and John Prizer
Michael Pack, VP of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Nick DeMartino, director of Advanced Technology for the American Film Institute, and CPB Vice President John Prizer
Jacqueline Kain and Anna Marie Piersimoni
Jacqueline Kain, VP of Advanced Media for KCET, and Anna Marie Piersimoni, director of AFI's Digital Content Lab: Facing the new realities of public TV
   

 

Los Angeles broadcast coverage range map

In preparation for the shutoff of analog TV in 2009, ACF studied the new forms of micro-broadcasting via the story of KFLA, Los Angeles' Channel 8, improbably operated from the den of a suburban home, which digitally broadcasts five ad-supported national video networks and three radio stations to America's second-biggest city for less than the electrical power of a light bulb.

 

One of the major issues of the digital conversion still being resolved in 2005 was the future status of broadcasting over free radio frequencies. Few PBS affiliates had readied imaginative proposals to use the subchannels that FCC digital policy was giving them, free of charge. 2008-'12 were the pioneering years of this new digital "Over the Air" television, and with increasing interest in cord-cutting, and bypassing cultural gatekeepers, the nation is rediscovering the classic postwar moment of putting up a household TV antenna. Other digital services can piggyback on a subchannel, even internet access, all based on a metal "H" on your rooftop, a sight familiar to any kid of the Fifties. Everything old is new again.

Technical developments in television that affect decisions of communications policy have always been an interest of ACF, In July 2007, at the Tower hotel in Beverly Hills, ACF presented an invitational screening and panel discussion, "Satellite broadcasting in the Middle East", with the participation of the Consul General of Azerbaijan as well as media panelists from Israel and the US TV industry, introduced by Gary Sinise.

Mayor Arturas Zuokas with Gary McVey
Mayor Arturas Zuokas of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, with Gary McVey

2011 marked twenty years since the end of USSR, one of the key events of 20th century history. Those dramatic days of 1991, misunderstood and now nearly forgotten in the west, were the subject of ACF's acknowledgment of the role played by Lithuania and the ensuing attack on the Vilnius national television center by Soviet federal forces, killing fourteen people in what is widely remembered as a "bloodless" revolution. Even Dimitri Kiselev, current head of RT, was publicly outraged by journalist deaths in 1991. March 2011 was marked with Gary McVey paying an official visit to Audrius Siaurusevicius, the head of Lithuanian TV, and a conversation at the broadcast headquarters that had been seized in the first hours of the attack.

3D has come and gone several times in film history, but its newest incarnation looks more durable, as digital video technology is more 3D friendly than photomechanical film. 3D has found a market in action movies, fantasies, and animation, as well as occasional artistic exercises like James Cameron's "Avatar", Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity", Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" and Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin". Although the 2012 London Olympics were broadcast in the new format, 3D television arriving in the home in 2011-'14 has largely stalled until new glasses-free processes, which already exist, become affordable

On November 7, 2011 ACF held a cocktail reception at South, a Santa Monica restaurant equipped with thirty-three 3D screens, to see some preview clips of "History in Depth" as well as a stereoscopic look at that year's Vilnius film festival. As well as the display screens, guests passed around Viewmaster viewers with custom "History in Depth" content.

Viewmaster
Viewmasters

What's a Viewmaster? A toy of the 1950s based on technology of the 1850s. In the 21st century, that stereoscopic art has come to television and computers.