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WGBH gives films shortcut to the Web

Email|Print| Text size + By Leslie Brokaw
Globe Correspondent / December 9, 2007

You've got to hand it to WGBH: Even though it's moved to swank new digs in Brighton alongside the Mass. Pike, and it's projecting massive images from a screen on the side of its building toward the highway, it still hasn't forgotten the small things.

By small things, we're talking super-small. Like spurring filmmakers to create mini-movies for mobile devices and websites.

The station's innovative WGBH Lab, online at lab.wgbh.org, continues to experiment with how best to "[open] the door to new voices," as the website puts it. Its newest venture is a partnership with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), a New York group that commissions, funds, and distributes film and video projects for public television that reflect African-Americans and the African diaspora.

WGBH and NBPC are collaborating on an open call for filmmakers "and other aspiring media-makers" to pitch ideas for 3-minute video shorts "looking at the issue of how we resolve past wrongs, especially around matters of race," according to press materials.

The application deadline is Wednesday. A selection of pitches will be posted online for public comment before final selection. Winners will get funding and editorial support, and their works may be presented on both television and the Web during WGBH's "Telling Our Stories: African Americans" programming in February. Filmmakers who have already completed a short film on the theme are invited to submit the finished work, as well. Application procedures and other information is online at the WGBH Lab site, and at NBPC, at nbpc.tv.

The WGBH Lab also has three new filmmakers in residence who set up shop in October. Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet have been working for more than four years on a film called "The Way We Get By," about the war veterans and other men and women in Bangor, Maine, who act as "troop greeters" - folks who greet soldiers and Marines who are heading to war or returning home. At their website, dungbyproductions.com, Pullapilly and Gaudet say that the movie is meant to show "the sacrifice and commitment each individual, troops and greeters alike, have made during this time of war. The film also explores the most basic of human emotions like the fear of dying and more importantly the fear of dying alone."

Anna Wexler, the other filmmaker in residence, graduated from MIT last spring with degrees in brain and cognitive science, and humanities and science. Her project looks at the experience of American teenagers brought up as modern Orthodox Jews who spend a year in Israel.

The filmmakers get working space at the WGBH office, a stipend, access to editing equipment, and editorial guidance for nine months, from October through next June.

MASS. FILM INDUSTRY, REDUX: Last week's column highlighted statistics from the Massachusetts Film Office about how well the state tax credit introduced in 2006 is doing in bringing major film production work to the state. The office has noted that the combined budget for six big movies filmed here over the last two years, including Ben Affleck's "Gone Baby Gone" and the upcoming "Pink Panther 2," is $277 million, with a terrifically high 56 percent of that spent in-state.

The office's executive director, Nick Paleologos, e-mailed a clarification to the story: The law stipulates that production-related items bought in Massachusetts are 100 percent sales-tax free (not state-tax free, as the story said). With film money spent on salaries, transportation, hotels, and the like, the state still collects revenue from income, gas, hotel, and meal taxes.

Paleologos also noted that enhancements to the tax credit in 2007 are responsible for this year's roaring success: "The original law was very good. No doubt about it. But Governor Patrick's 2007 version (sponsored with the Speaker and Senate President) is what really sent things into warp drive. If it weren't for those improvements, production spending this year probably would have been half of what it is. Still noteworthy - to be sure. But nowhere near the record year ($125 million) we actually experienced."

Full details about the credit, what kinds of productions are eligible, and how to apply, are online at the office's website at mafilm.org (click on "tax credit law") and at the state's main website, mass.gov (search for "Film Incentive Credit").

CONVERSATION WITH: Dr. Edward O. Wilson, the Pellegrino university professor emeritus at Harvard, and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, clinical professor of pediatrics emeritus at Harvard, will be at the Harvard Science Center tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. for a discussion about "raising tomorrow's naturalists." The evening will feature a 30-minute preview of Wilson's film biography, "The Naturalist," and is free to the public. The center is at 1 Oxford St. in Cambridge; information is available at 617-495-3045 and hmnh.harvard.edu.

SCREENINGS OF NOTE: "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (the original Gene Wilder version) will be presented in Smell-O-Vision at the Brattle Theatre on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The olfactory event was developed by local artists and first presented outdoors in Somerville; this is the first indoor version (617 876-6837 and brattlefilm.org).

Also at the Brattle, the new "Lynch (one)" documentary about director David Lynch opens Friday for a one-week run. The Brattle notes that the movie "is credited to the mysterious [director] 'blackANDwhite' who many hypothesize may be Lynch himself."

"Creating Harmony: The Displaced Persons Orchestra from St. Ottilien" is the story of musicians who survived World War II and provided spiritual connection for people in displaced persons' camps. It's co-directed by Boston College fine arts professor John Michalczyk and Ronald Marsh, and presented today at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts (617-267-9300 and mfa.org/film).

And WGBH is opening the doors to the Yawkey Theater at its new building in Brighton, on Friday at 7 p.m. "American Experience" executive producer Mark Samels will introduce a sneak preview of "Oswald's Ghost," Robert Stone's examination of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and why it remains such a huge part of the American psyche. The screening is free, but you need to sign up in advance: call 617-300-5400 or e-mail info@wgbh.org.

Leslie Brokaw can be reached at lbrokaw@globe.com.

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