A few Q for 'Artists Den' producer Mark Lieberman

April 3rd, 2009

With a little over a month of Artists Den performances left to air on Thirteen and WLIW, we thought we’d get a little behind-the-scenes with the show’s producer:

1. How did the Artists Den concept come to you? Was there a concert you saw that was your inspiration for the series?

    You spend your high school and college years seeking out all kinds of live music and then, all of a sudden, you stop. The shows start too late and the clubs are unfriendly to adults. I began to host concerts in my living room – hoping to introduce new music to friends in a better setting. We called it the Artists Den. The idea grew as we found unique spaces which inspired audiences and artists alike. (more…)

Press Digest March 20-26, from WNET.ORG

March 26th, 2009

Selected press/media items featuring WNET.ORG programs, projects and services, March 20-26, 2009.

from Newsday:

“Officials at WLIW/21 continue to worry over the governor’s proposed budget, which if enacted would cut their state funding by 50 percent. Coupled with the economic downturn, which has affected corporate and individual gifts to the public-television station, the cut would be a most unwelcome one, said WLIW president Terrel Cass. ‘Faced with everything else, it mounts up,’ Cass said. ‘It’s a back-breaker.’ The 50 percent cut adds up to about $4.4 million for WLIW and sister station WNET/13, both of which are based in Manhattan. It represents 10 percent of WLIW’s budget. In January, WLIW cut about 18 percent of its staff, and already has cut 20 percent in other areas of its budget. Cass said if the governor’s budget passes as is, the 50 percent cut is likely to mean the station will reduce its educational services, such as GED training for adults and educational outreach to Long Island schools. Programming also could be affected, he said.”

(more…)

Interview: John Williams, on Great Performances, Spielberg, and more

March 25th, 2009

from: David Horn, executive producer, Great Performances

Great Performances debuts its new theme music, composed by John Williams, during the opening title sequence of King Lear, Wednesday, March 25 at 8:00 pm on Thirteen, and for PBS, check local listings. Watch the King Lear preview, watch King Lear online in its entirety.

Below is an excerpt from my interview with John Williams at Royce Hall on February 10, 2009: (more…)

Click and Save

March 19th, 2009

from: Neal Shapiro, President & CEO, WNET.ORG

In this economy everyone’s looking to save money. I know I sure am. And that includes clipping coupons. ‘Clip and save’ is the slogan of our day.

When it comes to public television, there are no coupons. But instead of ‘clip and save’ you can click and save.

In case you don’t know, New York State has proposed a 50% cut to funding for public television.

A cut of this size is unprecedented and will take New York’s public television stations to a level of state operating aid equal to what we were receiving a decade ago!

If this cut stands, Thirteen and WLIW21 here in New York City will feel the pain.

These severe cutbacks will put many of our educational and local programming efforts in jeopardy – including the annual Celebration of Teaching and Learning (which we just held so successfully this month), our new local series It’s the Economy, New York, and other vital initiatives, as well.

What can you do?

Just visit www.savenypbs.org. This website, created by the Association of Public Broadcasting Stations of New York (APBS), gives you a quick and easy way if you live in New York State to email your local legislators and the governor to let them know how you feel about the proposed budget cuts.

At www.savenypbs.org, you can also find the information you need to call your state representatives and the Governor’s office, if you wish.

It’s quick. It’s easy. And best of all it won’t cost you anything . . . except a minute or two of your time.

But one little click could add up to big, big savings for public television in New York.

A Day in Weeksville

March 11th, 2009

Inside Thirteen blogger: Bijan Rezvani, Worldfocus and producer, The City Concealed

Completed on Halloween in 1941, Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Houses shelter 2,400 people on the border of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. One of the city’s first housing projects, the complex stands as a 16-acre monument of modernist overestimation.


The Hunterfly Road houses of Weeksville,
shot from the top of the Kingsborough Houses

Across the street, the Hunterfly Road Houses of Weeksville symbolize a success to which the surrounding communities might aspire. A free African-American enclave of urban tradespeople and property owners, Weeksville provided safety for fugitive slaves and those later fleeing the Civil War draft riots of lower Manhattan. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, Weeksville was a thriving community with its own doctors, teachers, publishers, and social services.

As the Brooklyn Bridge allowed for easier population flows and the 19th century gave way to the 20th, neighboring communities grew to overtake Weeksville in the consciousness of its inhabitants. By the 1960s, the name “Weeksville” was known only to few, but a Pratt Neighborhood College workshop set out to discover the old community from the air, and succeeded.

Since then, the houses have been restored to represent three periods of inhabitants, and excavated artifacts have been collected for future display. The site hosts a series of cultural and historical events in the summer, and plans are underway for the construction of a community center with exhibition and performance space.

The Hunterfly Road houses help fill a huge historical gap between slavery and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The Weeksville staff clearly promote the idea of a successful African-American project that can be remembered with pride.

The challenges to and importance of relating this concept became clearer as we spoke with members of the surrounding community. One life-long Bed-Stuy resident we interviewed was proud of the site’s “historical” status, but believed the houses were slave quarters. A driver we encountered held the same impression, and a staffperson and resident at Kingsborough knew nothing about the site.

Observing a group of elementary school students illustrated the problem more clearly, as civil rights and slavery melted into an image of black subjugation or struggle. The tour guide did all within her power to emphasize with conscious and precise word choices the point that these were NOT slave quarters, that the impressive “master bedroom” was not built for a white man, and that the enactor of any and every imaginable good was not “Dr. King,” certainly a favorite topic of the children (though we did visit in February).

Although Weeksville existed within the context of slavery, civil war, and racism, and surely had its problems, it stands as a successful overcoming of social challenges and is presented as such in the construction of positive identity for most of its visitors.

The discussion of Weeksville’s place within an always changing, mostly African-American neighborhood might forget the fact that it is, for everyone, a fascinating piece of American history with an equally amazing story of that history’s rediscovery.

See The City Concealed for Thirteen.org’s video piece on Weeksville.

How ‘Sita Sings the Blues’ landed on Thirteen

March 11th, 2009

Inside Thirteen Blogger: Richard Siegmeister, Senior Counsel, Reel 13

As the lawyer that licenses the independent films for Reel 13, I constantly scour blogs, film festival sites and talk to distributors, all to find more independent films that would be good for our series. I was reading The House Next Door blog on September 27, and I saw the headline “Am I a Criminal?”: The continuing travails of Sita Sings The Blues filmmaker Nina Paley. I read the article. I went to her website. I saw the incredible artwork. I saw the trailer and read her blog and found out that Sita uses music from the 1920s-30s, which Nina was having problems clearing. That day I sent the following email:


one of 5 different animation styles used in Sita Sings The Blues

Greetings,
I’m writing to you from Thirteen/WNET New York, the nation’s most watched public television station. We broadcast a weekly program entitled Reel 13 Indies, a showcase for independent films from around the world. We are looking for interesting work that has not had the exposure in New York that it deserves, and Sita Sings The Blues looks like it might be a really good fit . . .

I read your blog “Am I A Criminal”–There is an exception in the US Copyright Act for Public Television. No payment is required for use of a master and the synch rights, for the music publishing is at a compulsory statutory rate that PBS pays for. Public Television may be the only way that you can legally get your film to a large audience without having to negotiate and pay the music publishers.

I got a reply right away letting me know that Nina was interested, and that a DVD was on its way. On October 4th, after watching the film, I sent this email:

I love Sita Sings The Blues. I am going to do everything I can to find a place for it on WNET. On Monday, I will give my copy to our programmer with my strongest possible recommendation.

We have shown many fine films on Reel 13, but this was the one film I felt it was important to get out there to a broader audience. I loved the story, the use of different types of animation, the music and the flying eyeballs. Nina was happy to be part of Reel 13 and gave us the right to not only broadcast the film but also to stream it on our website.

Another early proponent of Sita at Thirteen was Robin Edgerton in our Interactive & Broadband Department (i originally saw parts of it on Nina’s rooftop screenings-ed). She was independently telling people about the film without knowing that I was in the middle of closing the licensing agreement. She was thrilled that we had the online rights and worked with Dan Greenberg and Daniel Ross to make it part of the relaunch of the Reel 13 website.

In the months that followed I have been thrilled by how many people share my opinion of Sita Sings The Blues: Roger Ebert, the New York Times, and you. The public response has been phenomenal. As of March 10 (1 week after the launch of the new website that included the Sita stream), we have had around 81,000 views (and about 250 comments!) of Sita online. During the broadcasts of Sita Sings the Blues, about 50,000 more viewers watched the film over the past weekend.

I am so happy that I was able to help bring this film to our viewers. If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to. Enjoy.

Watch Sita Sings the Blues online at Reel 13.


Visit Sita Sings the Blues online.