What does net neutrality mean to you?

For some of you, that phrase brings an automatic response, but others of you are perhaps thinking, "Huh?" I mean, it's good to be for things, and often it's good to be against other things, but to be neutral?

Well, forgive me the net neutrality 101, but "net neutrality" is the concept, and if you are an independent filmmaker, says attorney Michael C. Donaldson, whose Clearance and Copyright is probably the most useful book I have on my film shelf, it is good to be for it. Briefly, "net neutrality" refers to the principle of all information delivered over the Internet being treated equally. Under the Obama administration the FCC has been supportive of net neutrality arguments and, last fall, issued an NPRM -- "notice of proposed rulemaking" -- that outlined six net neutrality rules, and those rules have been up for public debate. Various interested parties, including the IFP, have forwarded comments, and these comments include statements from independent filmmakers. The initial filing of these responses has already occurred, but they are still being collected and you can still have your voice heard.

Donaldson, whose firm Donaldson & Callif has represented the Future of Music Coalition and the WGA in a filing in support of net neutrality, explains further: "The reason the FCC is pushing this is that studios are pushing for a system in which they can pay for priority, where they can pay to get their stuff in front of your stuff. Your stuff will start out being a little slower, but in time, your stuff will be a lot slower. If you believe as I do that the Internet will be the prime distribution system in five years, net neutrality will be very important to the exercise of free speech. You can imagine what will happen with e-mail, but let's say on a Friday night you are trying to send out your independent film but there are people in the line in front of you? It will be like being in an airport security line when they have put that band in front of you while others are led through. [Without net neutrality] it will be the difference between driving on the autobahn in Germany and a road in Port-au-Prince."

Net neutrality is a complicated issue, and the debates have let in other concerns ranging from the regulatory authority of the FCC to the concerns about combating piracy. But amidst all these other concerns, the principle of an open internet should remain at the core. As Donaldson says, "You have to fight hard to make sure the interests of the independent film community are not sacrificed on the altar of piracy."

What are your thoughts as filmmakers about net neutrality? How is an open Internet vital to your work as both creators and entrepreneurs? As always, you can email me at editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com, and I will forward them on.

Shifting gears, I want to point you to our Oscar Preview section, which went up this week. In it we are posting all the articles we've run over the last year about Oscar-nominated films. (Three out of our last four covers went to Best Picture-nominated films, which is something that has never happened before.) Many of these articles have not previously appeared online, including my long interview with Quentin Tarantino about Inglourious Basterds. You can check it out here.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay

In America, since we don't have royalty, we look to the next best thing: celebrities. They are glamorous, idolized, and they have all the money we don't. But, as it turns out, Italy isn't much different. In the documentary Videocracy, director Erik Gandini focuses on a small population of Italians who are transfixed by fame, celebrity, and the ordinary civilians who wish to achieve it. It also relates the cult of celebrity to the rise of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's controversial prime minister, who has become infamous for his sexist and conservative views. But as Damon Smith notes when interviewing Gandini in this week's Director Interviews, the filmmaker's style is less in your face than the subjects he highlights. "Instead of stampeding into this tangle of cultural conflict with rhetorical guns a-blazing," Smith notes, "Gandini adopts a far subtler, more intriguingly first-person approach." Read our interview with Gandini below.

A documentary co-directed by "25 New Faces" Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, October Country paints a portrait of one American working class family (Mosher's, in fact), chronicling the complicated ups and downs of their lives in ways that only a son could. Mosher shot this footage over the course of one year in upstate New York, from Halloween to Halloween, and he captures their experiences dealing with foster care, child abuse, teen pregnancy, and the military. It's a strikingly composed film, filled with sadness, humor, grit, honesty, and visual imagination, and it should not be missed.

Directed by French noir master Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips, The Beat that My Heart Skipped), A Prophet centers on a young Arab man named Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) who enters prison as a youth estranged from the Muslim community but re-emerges as an unlikely mafia hero, able to straddle both the Muslim and Corsican worlds to make drug deals and carry out criminal missions. His allegiance to an undisputed Corsican gang leader in prison gives him safety and respect amongst men who initially distrusted him because of his Arab identity. This protection only boxes Malik in, as he is never knows who is truly on his side. Nominated for Best Foreign Language film at this year's Oscars, A Prophet is a tense and intense drama about an unusual outcast who learns to control one of the most dangerous sects of organized crime ever, and the cost on his soul.


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay posts a video of David Lynch discussing how to make a good movie, Paul Proulx puts together a creative montage of the movies of the 2000s, and the Canon Rebel T2i camera (pictured left) offers many of the features of the company's 7D DSLR for less than half the price.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

Congratulations to directors Miao Wang (Beijing Taxi) and Rebecca Richman Cohen (War Don Don), both alumni of IFP's 2009 Independent Filmmaker Labs, whose now completed Documentary Lab projects were selected for the Documentary Competition at SXSW next month.

IFP's Independent Filmmaker Labs is the only program in the U.S. supporting first-time feature directors with projects at the crucial rough cut stage, before they are submitted to festivals. The Labs are a free, week-long workshop in New York offering personalized feedback and advice on all aspects of the post-production process, audience building, and distribution strategies in the digital age, followed by continued support from IFP as the project premieres in the marketplace. This Friday (2/12) is the final application deadline for the 2010 Documentary Lab which takes place in April. Criteria and applications are available here. (Narrative Lab applications for the June Lab will be taken through March 26).

By Damon Smith

Television has been blamed for the dumbing down of the American public since the ascendance of the boob tube in the 1950s. But in Italy, where scandal-plagued prime minister Silvio Berlusconi controls the flow of information through his monopolistic holdings in that nation's biggest media conglomerates, there is a more insidious aspect to the chronic press muzzling at RAI and trashy tits-and-ass programming that predominate on his Mediaset channels. If you want to get a sense of how the billionaire entrepreneur's televisual imagination has transformed the political and mass-media landscape in Italy, Erik Gandini's cunningly choreographed documentary Videocracy provides plenty of food for thought. read more


Boston International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Feb. 26.
Festival Dates: April 16-25

New Jersey International Film Festival
Next Submission Deadline: Feb 23. Final Deadline: April 2
Festival Dates: June 4-20


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