The Austin Chronicle

Out There

Reviews and reports from SXSW Film and Interactive 05

By Joe O'Connell, March 18, 2005, Screens



Saturday, March 12

A wealthy executive complains about his taxes; a documentary filmmaker in flush times frets about getting lost in the crowd. Diana Holtzberg of Films Transit expressed the good news/bad news syndrome: "There are more documentaries on television than every before, more of them are in theatres and the DVD companies are picking them up, but there are still too many filmmakers out there vying for not too many places." Now that docs are gaining equal footing, they must deal with the issues long faced by features, said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, who urged filmmakers not to bemoan their newfound riches. "Documentaries have always had a difficult time in the marketplace, but times are better than they've ever been." Barker sees the change as a result of a trend created when the Sundance Film Festival first treated documentaries as equals to feature films, the inclusion of doc makers in the Oscars selection process, and the heavy support of the genre by television outlets like HBO and A&E. And the emergence of filmmaker Michael Moore as "our own Tom Cruise" doesn't hurt, Barker said. Now, the big question for documentarians is whether to seek a theatrical release or concentrate on television. Michael Galinsky, co-director of Code 33, argued that the critical reviews that spur later DVD sales come only with a theatrical release. Panel moderator Paul Stekler (Last Man Standing) summed up the switch to reality in film and television: "Maybe it's appropriate that the secret Real World headquarters is right across the street from the convention center."

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