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  • March 17, 2009

    Nina Sings the Copyright Song

    Nina Paley is an animator whose critically-acclaimed film, Sita Sings the Blues (which you can watch for free in its entirety on Reel 13) recently plunged her into the tangled web of copyright law.

    To make a long story very short, Sita Sings the Blues features copyright-restricted Annette Hanshaw songs. Here’s an explanation from

    After pouring three years of her life into making the film, and having great success with audiences at festival screenings, she now can’t distribute it, because of music licensing issues: the film uses songs recorded in the late 1920’s by singer Annette Hanshaw, and although the recordings are out of copyright, the compositions themselves are still restricted. That means if you want to make a film using these songs from the 1920s, you have to pay money — a lot of money (around $50,000.00).

    Nina’s dilemma inspired her next project: a series of short animations, called Minute Memes, aimed at informing the public about copyright law. In the video below, Nina performs a number she wrote for the new series.


    UPDATE: Put the word out. Nina wants you to remix this video. From her blog: “Feel free to remix, re-record, or otherwise re-make this song so I can animate to it.”

    • Download the .mov here.
    • Download the .mp3 here.

    Reel 13 also picked Nina’s brain about the circumstances that led Sita Sings the Blues to it’s distribution on Reel 13 and We also asked her for her thoughts on online film distribution in general, both as a marketing vehicle and a venue for movie watching.

    Creative Commons License
    Nina Paley Sings “The Copyright Song” by Nina Paley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

    Creative Commons License
    Nina Paley interview by Reel 13 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

    Learn more about copyright law.

  • March 10, 2009

    Cinema of Dread: Screenwriters Discuss the Horror Film

    Last week, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts hosted a Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) panel discussion of horror screenwriters talking about horror films. Reel 13 was there and captured the disturbing discussion on tape. If you’re pondering writing a horror screenplay — or any screenplay for that matter — the discussion is definitely a useful lens through which to view writing dread.

    Event info:

    Join screenwriters Steven Katz (The Shadow of the Vampire; Wind Chill) and Neal Marshall Stevens (Thir13en Ghosts; Hellraiser: Deader), moderated by screen and television writer David Steven Cohen, for a conversation about the art of writing the horror film. How do they explore the forbidden, the unknown, the deepest terrors of the psyche and live to tell the tale – as riveting and enduring entertainment? Join us for a frighteningly enlightening conversation… if you dare.

  • February 26, 2009

    Watch “Sita Sings the Blues” online

    Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by e-mail. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

    Watch the full film on Reel 13 right now:

    If you are having trouble seeing the video, please click here to help us diagnose the problem.

    We now have a hi res version (720p 3Mbps) available for download:

  • February 26, 2009

    Welcome to the new Reel 13

    If you’ve visited Reel 13 before, you probably notice we’ve undergone some pretty big changes. The old site didn’t provide much opportunity for feedback or interaction with you, the audience. But that’s all changed.

    Now, we’ve updated Reel 13 so you can discuss the films you watch with other users, share your thoughts on Reel 13 Classic and Indie films, and keep up with what’s going on in the NYC film community.

    Our new blog will offer interviews with filmmakers – both known and obscure – along with dispatches written by filmmakers, critics, journalists, curators, and others deeply involved in New York City’s filmmaking community. The curator of Reel 13 shorts will post weekly introductions to the films she chooses for the competition, including insights about why she chose them, what she looks for in potential competitors, and thoughts about the winners and losers from the previous week’s competition.

    We’ve made voting on short films a lot easier, and we’ve added some new features, like film quizzes and a place to tell us what classic and indie films you’d like to see.

    Perhaps the biggest change you’ll notice on Reel 13 is our partnership with Vimeo, a fantastic community of people who make and share video. Going forward, filmmakers will submit their work to us by uploading their films via a Vimeo account. Short films selected for competition will play in Vimeo’s high quality, embeddable, linkable player. For you filmmakers, that means more eyeballs across the Internet will see your work.

    In the past, once Reel 13 short films aired on television, you couldn’t view them on our site. Now we’ve added a short film library so you can watch the shorts you missed. We’re launching with 23 shorts, but we‘re currently uploading our entire back catalog – nearly 150 films.

    The idea here is to create an online community of independent filmmakers – a place to share your films and discover the films made by your peers. We hope you’ll stick around and watch a few films, vote on this week’s shorts, and while you’re at it, submit a film!

    –Daniel Ross, Producer

  • February 26, 2009

    Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler discusses Gene Kelly

    This Saturday, Gene Kelly’s 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain airs on Reel 13. We thought it would be interesting to sit down with a contemporary choreographer and pick his brain about Gene Kelly’s influence on American dance. So we caught up with Andy Blankenbuehler, who choreographed In the Heights, last year’s Tony Award-winner for Best Musical and Best Choreography. Andy is currently choreographing 9 to 5, which opens April 7th at the Marriott Marquis Theater.

    Turns out Gene Kelly is one of Andy’s heroes. But is Kelly’s work relevant to the rest of us?

    Watch the video:

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