Great review: 100 Words Or Less: Skatopia: 88 Acres Of Anarchy

On April 28, 2011 by Colin

This little review escaped our notice lat spring… Thanks Flicksided!

100 Words Or Less: Skatopia: 88 Acres Of Anarchy

Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy is a documentary that follows Brewce Martin, the man who has brought anarchy to a small Appalachian section of Ohio. He runs the aptly-named Skatopia, a haven for skateboarders, misfits, and all those who live a nomadic lifestyle. This self-sustaining community of people who never seem to stop getting drunk or beat the hell out of each other during a live punk song on a tightly-packed stage also manages to put together one of the best areas to skate in the entire country. Martin’s personal quirks and issues make this a perplexing, almost tragic, but ultimately engrossing look at a true subculture.

Marwencol Doc on Independent Lens

On April 27, 2011 by Colin

This award winning doc will show on Mountain Lake PBS on Sunday June 11 at 10:30. I’ll be tuning in for sure.

Watch the full episode. See more Independent Lens.

More on “An American Family”: The Toll on the Creator

On April 25, 2011 by Colin

The New Yorker delved into producer Cragi Gilbert’s regrets after creating the seminal “An American Family” series. Verite film making presents many difficult situations – ones typically skirted in today’s semi-scripted “reality” programs by the cast members’ knowledge of or indifference to the creator’s willingness to distort the story. In 1973, the filmmaker and his subjects didn’t have a set of common assumptions about what documentary television might look like or how it would be perceived by critics and the American public. It is terrifically sad to think that a talent as significant as Gilbert could be effectively silenced for 40 years because he was so far ahead of his time.

Craig Gilbert, the creator of “An American Family,” the PBS series that documented the Loud family of Santa Barbara for seven months in 1971 and was a premonition of reality TV, has lived in a one-bedroom apartment on Jane Street for twenty-one years. He has the same patrician hair and beard that he had when he appeared on “The Dick Cavett Show,” thirty-eight years ago, sitting uncomfortably alongside Pat and Bill Loud. On the show, he defended himself against charges that he had exploited the family and betrayed their trust. One recent morning, Gilbert, who is eighty-five, sat at his dining table peering at eight bottles of pills. A home-care nurse hovered nearby with a clipboard. He had just been released from the hospital after accidentally overdosing on Mucinex. Framed on a wall in the living room was an old cartoon from this magazine showing two couples at a dinner table. One woman smiles as she says, “I’m probably old-fashioned, but I felt much more at home with the Forsytes than I do with the Louds.”

Gilbert talked about a dinner he’d recently had with James Gandolfini, who was doing research for his role as Craig Gilbert in “Cinema Verite,” HBO’s new docudrama about the making of “An American Family.” Gandolfini had asked about an old rumor that Gilbert and Pat Loud had had an affair during the filming.

“I told him no in twenty ways,” Gilbert said.

In 1973, American viewers were consumed with the five Loud children and their parents, who handled their travails with a composure that, depending on your point of view, was either admirable or chilling. Gilbert never worked again after “An American Family” aired, and he has spent the years since then trying to avoid the notoriety that came with his creation.

“ ‘An American Family’ changed the lives of the Louds, and it changed my life,” he said. “It was pretty damn tumultuous, and I don’t want to go over it anymore.” He went on, “The Mucinex episode was the climax of a six-month nightmare.” Last year, one of the Loud children sent him a copy of HBO’s script. “The story line was essentially fallacious,” Gilbert said. He hired a lawyer to represent both his and the Loud family’s interests, but although he voiced his displeasure, he did not sue. (The Louds, who also were reportedly unhappy with the script, ended up accepting a financial settlement from HBO for agreeing not to discuss it publicly.) “Cinema Verite” depicts Gilbert showing Pat Loud (played by Diane Lane) evidence of her husband’s infidelity (Bill Loud is played by Tim Robbins), and then taking her up to his hotel room—all, the movie suggests, in the service of capturing their divorce on camera. Like Gilbert, Pat Loud has always maintained that the two did not have an affair. “If you are given the assignment to write a two-hour film that exposes the making of ‘An American Family,’ the only avenue to take is that the producer is corrupt,” Gilbert said.

“Cinema Verite” depicts another behind-the-scenes drama, between Gilbert and a married couple who worked on the series with him, Alan and Susan Raymond. Gilbert hired them to film and record sound for “An American Family.” But the Raymonds balked at capturing several of the series’ rawest moments. In the HBO version, Gilbert and Alan Raymond have a fistfight over whether to film what became a famous and painful scene between Bill and Pat at a restaurant, in which Pat finally loses her cool and calls her husband “a goddamned asshole.”

Both men insist that they didn’t come to blows. When asked to comment on this scene, Alan Raymond said, “I did push him. I should have punched him.” Susan Raymond claims that Gilbert had a “Svengali hold” on Pat Loud, and said, “Craig destroyed that family.”

Looking back, Gilbert blames the Raymonds for not being willing to observe the first rule of the form: never stop filming. “What did they think cinéma vérité is?” Gilbert said. “You shoot only certain things?” He also fought with the couple about their credit on the series. The Raymonds are still bitter that they weren’t given proper credit for effectively creating reality TV, and Gilbert seems crushed by the knowledge that he did.

When “An American Family” began its broadcast, in January, 1973, the Loud family was devastated by the public’s response. One critic called the family “affluent zombies,” and the Times described Lance Loud, the gay son, as “camping and queening about like a pathetic court jester, a Goya-esque emotional dwarf.” Gilbert remembers getting a late-night phone call from Pat after she had read the first of many scathing articles that would be written about her family.

“Pat was screaming,” Gilbert said. “She’d taken a below-the-belt hit, and it hurt. That, right there, was the beginning of my own confusion. What have I done? What do I do?” He paused. “I’ve never resolved it. I didn’t know what I had wrought. I still don’t.” 

An American Family is back after 40 years

On April 25, 2011 by Colin

An American Family is an amazing time capsule from 1973 and was a groundbreaking documentary series that pre-saged reality television. It featured an openly gay 22-year old, Lance Loud and a family that supported him despite marital and other tensions. All of this at a time when Hollywood was bringing us the Brady Bunch. Catch episodes on PBS video player while it remains available.

A Conservative Case for Public Broadcasting

On April 25, 2011 by Colin

Bill Shireman brings a less-than-typical view from the conservative camp. I share his interest in seeing a show as thoughtful as “Firing Line” return to public media. Perhaps he should anchor it?

If we defund PBS, should we defund commercial media, too?

I have been struggling in recent weeks with the conservative attack on public broadcasting.

As a fiscal conservative but a social libertarian, I can see plenty of reason to put a stop to taxpayer-financed radio and television. The libertarian in me instinctively fears government-supported media: doesn’t that just lead to political capture? The fiscal conservative in me wonders why we should waste taxpayer dollars on PBS, with today’s superabundance of media outlets. And the capitalist in me loves the innovation and diversity generated by a wide-open, unsubsidized, competitive media marketplace.

But the realist in me — the one that actually listens to both commercial and public media — sees something different. Today, public broadcasting offers far more important and thoughtful programming, and is far less politically biased, than its commercial counterparts.

Why would public and commercial media be so different? It mostly comes down to the incentives that drive the two.

Commercial broadcasting depends on advertising. And advertisers depend on people who buy things. People buy things most readily when they are feeling impulsive — when their basic drives for sex, love, power, and chocolate are tickled. Therefore, commercial broadcasters select programs that trigger peoples’ impulses.

Take a look at what draws mindless eyeballs in commercial media these days. “Reality shows” lure us with the seven deadly sins — every one of them celebrates lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride, or all of the above. “News” has morphed into Glenn Beck on the right and Rachel Maddow on the left, which feed on the fear and anger of their viewers by bashing their respective political enemies as a bunch of idiots. True, perhaps, but not very introspective or enlightening.

Lust, greed, fear, anger, and rage — these are the impulses that draw us to the commercial networks. Then, once we’re captured, the networks toss us into a advertising lion’s den, for a series of 30-second “words from our sponsors.” Those spots, you may have noticed, don’t sell us with words — they bypass our cortex and take their case directly to those same basic animal drives, to sell us fast beer (sex), fast food (gluttony), fast money (greed), and fast cars (sex, gluttony, greed, plus envy).

Everyone thinks it’s someone else who is influenced by advertising. And everyone is right. Few of us make any conscious choice to buy the stuff we see on TV — the preference to consume builds up unconsciously.

That’s mostly a good thing. Our core instincts have an ancient wisdom to them — they have helped keep us from dying out as a species for a half-million years. But they all depend on the most powerful survival tool at our service: our cerebral cortex — our thoughtful, conscious, and caring human selves. That’s the part of us that helps us choose when we should, or should not, follow our instincts.

None of this is an attack on free enterprise, or capitalism, or the marketplace. None is meant to condemn products that appeal to our impulses, or oppose commercial media. None of it reflects a Puritanical desire to rid society of the core instincts that help drive the survival of the species.

But the overwhelming onslaught of advertising leaves us impoverished, when it comes to thoughtful, humane programming. We need genuine choice in media. Right now, public broadcasting offers one important choice.

Yes, PBS can be irritatingly self-righteous, and reflects a left-of-center bias in both its tone of voice and its story selection. And I’m not sure how programs like NPR’s Car Talk or Antique Road Show improve my lot.

But PBS is fundamentally different from Fox or MSNBC, the conservative and liberal champions of commercial media. It is calm, thoughtful, measured, and introspective. It triggers not my passions and impulses, but my intellect. Even if I disagree — as I often do — I feel like I am more grounded and thoughtful when I listen to PBS.

I remember, forty years ago, William F. Buckley’s Firing Line was the most thoughtful political program on the air: a staunchly conservative, pro-free market program, on a liberal, publicly-supported network. Oh, how we need more of that.

PBS is a small, almost trivial counterweight to the power of advertising-supported media. If anything, we need more of it, not less. More important, probably, is that we think about the effects of commercial media more systemically — not to replace it, but to provide a genuine, self-supporting alternative, one that appeals not just to our base instincts, delicious as they are, but to our higher yearnings as well.

Follow Bill Shireman on Twitter:

Citizen journalism at its finest

On April 11, 2011 by Colin

This short video was created by a first-time producer/shooter/editor who took one of RosenblumTV’s video journalism courses. It’s got story, pacing, music, humor and great cinematography. According to Rosenblum the student had “never touched a camera or an edit before” in her life. A little training, some lightweight equipment and some desire can create great outcomes.

Skatopia and ‘True Life’ – see how Reality TV meets reality

On April 8, 2011 by Colin

This weekend watch MTV’s True Life to see how a newcomer handles Skatopia…. lets see how Reality TV meets reality! You weigh in… did they get it right or not?

Skatopia and ‘True Life’

RUTLAND — Skatopia is a destination with its share of myths, rumors and reality – all captured in an upcoming episode of MTV’s long-running, Emmy award-winning series “True Life.”

The episode is slated to air on April 9 on MTV and consists of footage shot at last year’s Bowl Bash – an annual weekend of music, skating and tired eyes watching the sun come up over an amphitheatre in Rutland Township.

Skatopia Mastermind Brewce Martin said he’d been in talks with a production company to shoot the episode in 2009 but due to an injury he sustained, the filming was pushed back to Bowl Bash 2010. The film crew was on location at Skatopia for around two weeks in June of last year, again, focusing on the annual bash.

Martin hasn’t seen the finished episode though he says he hopes it captures what he feels several people have missed when it comes to Skatopia by focusing on the sensationalist aspect of the place – a place captured in the documentary “Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy” and within the pages of “Rolling Stone” magazine.

“It’s not just a place to party and 99 percent of the time out here it’s just normal life going on,” Martin said.

Poking fun at what some see as Skatopia stereotypes, Martin said his skating Mecca isn’t full of “poverty-ridden dirt bags” though he admits to attracting a diverse population when it comes to those who make the pilgrimage.

“This is the funny thing, there are all kinds of people here just like when you go to Wal-Mart…you don’t know who you’re going to see,” Martin said.

“True Life” is notorious and celebrated for showing viewers an intimate view of life, reality and the versatility (and often ingenuity) of its narrators. The series began running in 1998 and attempts, according to MTV, to provide a window into the struggles, hopes and dreams of young people – episodes are narrated by its characters and each episode documents the unusual (and often remarkable) circumstances of real individuals.

Skatopia will join a long list of episodes which have examined everything from soldiers returning from Iraq to young people living with tourettes or struggling with food addictions – the topics are endless. As for how Rutland Township’s Skatopia will translate with the MTV audience – if the episode is real, it’ll be classic “True Life.”

What would public broadcasting do with $178 billion?

On April 4, 2011 by Colin

Wow, knowing this, I can finally buy that Caribbean Island I’ve been looking at…

What would public broadcasting do with $178 billion?


Apparently Americans want to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting because they think 5 percent of the federal budget goes to NPR and PBS. That was the median guess in a CNN poll released Friday. If that were true, Talking Points Memo noted, that would mean the CPB would receive $178 billion a year from the government. (And that’s not even counting what they get from Archer Daniels Midland and viewers like you.)

BBC, the largest broadcaster in the world, takes in $7.5 billion in income a year. If Americans were right, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would have a bigger budget than every military on Earth besides our own. NPR would beat China in an arms race.

What would the Corporation for Public Broadcasting even do with that kind of money, besides continue to have a liberal bias and support the establishment of sharia law? We have some guesses:

  • “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” would be broadcast live from a moon base.
  • PBS would require a donation of at least $100,000,000 before sending you a DVD box set of a Fleetwood Mac reunion show.
  • $250,000,000 gets you a genuine Thai silk tote bag filled with precious stones. And one DVD documentary on the making of “The Red Green Show.”
  • “Frontline” would always be in IMAX 3-D.
  • Robert Siegel and Neil Conan voiced at all times by Kiefer Sutherland and Morgan Freeman.
  • Childrens Television Workshop would purchase the entirety of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in order to film Sesame Street live on location.
  • Click and Clack would be androids.
  • “Are You Being Served?” would be painstakingly digitally altered until funny.
  • Terry Gross would conclude interviews by deciding if the subject lives or dies.
  • Ken Burns documentaries would be produced with original footage obtained via time travel.
  • Every home, office and classroom in the nation would have a radio that can be turned down, but never completely off.
  • Juan Williams would be missing and presumed killed by an unmanned CPB drone.
  • “And part three of our show: What do you do when your mega-yacht’s death ray disintegrates your mother-in-law? It’s David Sedaris on the best Thanksgiving ever.”
  • Garrison Keillor could finally get that thing with his sinuses cleared up.


On April 4, 2011 by Colin

Can you say Dorky and Awesome in the same breath!

Weird Soviet (Ukranian) pop number from late 60s

On April 1, 2011 by Colin

This reminds me vaguely of The Prisoner… only less linear (!?)