Information Philosopher


Working as an independent media maker is a complicated business. While the impulse to produce media that is personal, formally challenging, or politically controversial has perhaps never been stronger. the cultural landscape in which independents work is largely inhospitable. Access to equipment and funding is limited, distribution outlets like public television are hostile to independent work, and other non-theatrical outlets - like libraries and schools - have had their budgets slashed over the past twenty years. And, to make matters worse, independents by definition often work ii isolation, away from institutional support and profit motive.

The Boston Film/Video Foundation, has played a crucial role in supporting the production of independent media in New England for the past 25 years. Some of the support is practical, as in offering low cost access to equipment and training or by being the premier information provider in the region. Certainly, no other organization nurtures the field in the ways BF/VF does. By keeping track of local productions and their contact people, for example, the organization provides working opportunities for young people looking to join the community of independent makers. And because BF/VF has earned the respect of the filmmaking community at large, it has been able to administer and arbitrate all the regional competitions, festivals, and grant monies, a crucial, time consuming, and sometimes thankless endeavor.

For the past quarter century, BF/VF has been at the heart of film and video culture in New England. It houses the collective memory of the region, has catalogued our failures and successes, and in the end is the keeper of our identity and history. The organization is crucial to the current vitality and future health of media making in New England. Indeed, my guess is that without BF/VF there would be no film and video "community" in New England, simply individual makers and their friends. And our region would be a much poorer place in which to live and work.

Robb Moss
filmmaker, Africa Revisited, Riverdogs, The Tourist Harvard University
BF/VF has been a true center of independence for me as a woman filmmaker of color. It was the organization to validate my aspiration as an independent through its Regional Fellowship program by giving me the first grant of my filmmaking career. Its role in encouraging emerging filmmakers has been just as critical for many others as it has been for me. Its survival is also tied to the survival of independent filmmakers in New England, new and veterans alike. I want to congratulate BF/VF for 25 years of championing independent thought and practice and wish it another 25 years of even higher levels of success in its endeavor to nurture the independent film community.
Salem Mekuria
Writer, producer, director, As I Remember It, A Portrait of Dorothy West; Sidet: Forced Exile, Deluge at the moment, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
For me BF/VF was my "real world" film school. At BF/VF I honed my filmmaking skills with other struggling filmmakers, that is to say, we learned through our numerous mistakes. I screened early films there to praise, scorn and/or indifference... (anyone remember "Frankenstein's Planet of Monsters"?!) an experience which toughened me up for the real world, which I've learned isn't really all that different. except the movie screens are bigger and the chairs more comfortable.

And I made good friends and contacts at BF/VF and of course, as an intern, learned how to answer the phones and stamp envelopes. It always felt like I was part of a vital creative scene and the place was always buzzing with activity and a genuine DIY energy. My experiences in Boston and at BF/VF really taught me that a good bit of making films for a living is about perseverance and community support - you can't give up and you can't do it alone. BF/VF was my first filmmaking "community" and for me and others I hope it continues to grow and thrive.

Brad Anderson
Director, Darien Gap, Next Stop Wonderland, Happy Accidents
Thinking back over more than a decade of involvement with BF/VF as Board member (1986-88), film instructor (1987), contributing writer for VISIONS (1984-88), filmmaker screening my own work (1987, 1990, 1991), and advocate for independent producers in public television (1984 - 91), what resonates most powerfully - and perhaps most clearly since I have relocated to geographically dispersed Southern California - is BF/VF's role as a meeting place, a focal point in the independent film community around which events could take shape.

My introduction to BF/VF occurred in 1982 when a friend invited me to attend a screening of a Chantal Ackerman film, News From Home. Some months later I was again sitting in the audience at BF/VF, this time for a screening of my own film, Letter to My Uncle, which had just received an Independent Filmmaker Award at the New England Film Festival. This screening at BF/VF marked my first festival experience, my first film award, and the first sense I had of myself as a film professional.

In 1984 I attended a meeting at BF/VF to hear Austin Lamont's report about his trip to Washington, DC as a member of the newly organized National Coalition of -dependent Public Broadcasting Producers. I remember my excitement about the advocacy agenda proposed by the Coalition, and my strong desire to participate in the Coalition's next policy meeting with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I had then no idea how much time and energy I - along with Nick Kaufman and Elliot Hoffman - �would devote during the next seven years to organizing meetings, making endless phone calls, and traveling back and forth to Washington, DC for policy discussions and lobbying on Capitol Hill. Nor could any of us have foreseen the Coalition's success in ultimately creating a new federally funded agency, the Independent Television Service.

In 1986, I was hired as New England Regional Coordinator for the first season of Deep Dish TV, a national satellite network for the distribution of public access programs that received some of its funding from a grant administered by BF/VF as fiscal agent. I recall the arrival of two Deep Dish producers from New York who camped out in my apartment during the day in order to edit all night at BF/VF's post-prod uction facility. After the success of the first season, a Regional Planning Committee formed which included BF/VF members Abigail Norman and Tim Wright and helped secure additional funding for the second season of Deep Dish T.V. with BF/VF again serving as fiscal agent.

As I sit in my new home in Southern California and replay in my mind other events and conversations, the actual physical space provided by BF/VF seems to have been an important catalyst. Neither Los Angeles nor San Diego, with all their resident film- and videomakers, has a media arts center. Shortly after moving here, I was dismayed to learn that the local chapter of a national arts organization did not have monthly meetings because, as the organization's president told me over the phone, "after negotiating the freeways to and from work, no one has the energy to go out again in the evening for a meeting." I too spend many hours of many days in my car, and I too have learned the convenience of navigating the Internet. But there is no substitute for face-to-face encounters, and for those, a virtual space will not suffice.

Deborah Lefkowitz
filmmaker and installation artist (Letter to My Uncle, Intervals of Silence)
BFVF has touched the lives of almost every independent film and video maker in the New England area It is very rare to find someone in the independent media field that has not benefited from BFVF, whether by taking a course, or teaching, or being given a screening, or making important contacts. BFVF is an invaluable organization.
Susan Welsh
producer, Robbins Entertainment, former BF/VF Education Director
When I arrived in Boston from Ireland fourteen years ago one of my first ports of call was BF/VF. I offered to teach a class. Since then I have taught, taken classes, attended screenings, met clients, worked for free and for money on films made by BF/VF members, volunteered, and was president of the board, and worked on the staff, made intense friendships with wonderful creative artists and supporters of media arts. When I talked to Susan Welsh she said that BF/VF touches so many lives in so many ways, it deeply impressed me. Jerry and I have fostered 8 children to date, as a result of meeting a foster child neighbor of a BF/VF staff member. When you get involved in BF/VF, you never know what is going to happen next. Susan Welsh is right. It changes your life.
Marie Jackson, Producer, Director
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