Thursday, March 13, 2008

Press Club kicks off new series


Three local documentary filmmakers convened on Wednesday night at Stateside Restaurant and Lounge for a panel titled “Changing Media in Changing World,” the first in a series of events sponsored by the Santa Barbara Press Club.
The filmmakers consisted of Sam Tyler, director and producer of “Citizen McCaw,” Russ Spencer, director of “Backstage at the Santa Barbara Bowl,” and Allan Langdale, who made the educational documentary, “Stones of Famagusta.”

Press Club President and Editor and Publisher of the Daily Sound, Jeramy Gordon, said the three filmmakers were chosen due to the diverse nature of their films.
Many of the 60 people on hand seemed particularly interested in Tyler’s film, which was shown for the first time last Friday to a sold-out crowd at the Arlington Theatre.
“Citizen McCaw” chronicles events at the Santa Barbara News-Press over the past two years, which have included the resignations and firings of nearly 80 of that paper’s employees and the heated labor dispute that has ensued.
Gordon asked Tyler, who primarily has made business related films for the Public Broadcasting Service, what he believes his role as a documentary filmmaker is.
“My responsibility is to be balanced, but as a documentary filmmaker you don’t have to be,” Tyler said. “We committed to balance and fairness all the way with Citizen McCaw.”
Tyler said Wendy McCaw, owner and publisher of the News-Press, refused to comment in the film, but the movie remains fair because he made every attempt to get her comments and even had an actress read the reclusive millionaire’s statements that had been printed in her paper.
Tyler said he is proud of the film for many reasons, but primarily because it’s true and doesn’t “have a single ounce of libel in it.”
“The film is true,” he said. “We didn’t write the script, we just told the story.”
Spencer said he made “Backstage at the Bowl” four years ago and did so because there was no comprehensive history of the outdoor amphitheater ever compiled.
“It was really a huge amount of work because no history of the Bowl had ever been put together,” he said.
Gordon asked the directors why they chose to tell the stories they did and how the medium of documentary filmmaking has changed over the years.
Langdale, an architectural historian who taught courses in Famagusta, which is an island near Cyprus and is part of the Turkish Republic, said he was asked by his students there to tell the world that Famagusta exists.
Langdale, who can be seen in the film riding his bike to historical spots on the island, said he felt like Indiana Jones discovering a lost city because it is rarely visited by tourists and many people don’t even know it exists.
“It really was a forgotten city in a way,” he said. “I felt like I really had to do something to tell the world about this remarkable place.”
Langdale said his students in Famagusta grew up under an international embargo and as a result, it was nearly impossible for most people on the island to move up the socioeconomic ladder.
“I wanted to show them that something can be done,” he said.
Tyler said he and his co-producers wanted to make “Citizen McCaw” because they felt it was an important story to tell, and is one with national and international implications.
He said film was the perfect medium to tell the story with, because in newspapers, the story is there for a day and then it’s gone.
“In 90 minutes the whole sorry story is there for everybody to see on film,” Tyler said.
Gordon said additional Press Club panels dealing with the same theme will be held throughout the year.
He said the Press Club, which was founded in September 2007 and has more than 30 members, has continued to grow and is scheduled to have a mixer next month.
“The ultimate goal of the Press Club really is to unite the media on the South Coast and for a couple of hours, be friends and colleagues instead of competitors all the time,” Gordon said.

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