Friday, July 11, 2008

On the right hand side of the blog today, you'll see a new addition - a widget for something called "Chip- In".

I've been thinking a lot about Arts Funding in a rural, economically depressed area like the Oil Heritage Region (See what a team player I am? Even though I loathe the petro-fetishism of the area, I'll use the brand to promote). We have some stellar events and spaces. Yet, I think that places like the Barrow, for instance, price their performances too highly for the natives to attend regularly.

$45 (not counting to glasses of box wine at intermission – why don’t they sell local wine?) for my family of three to see my neighbors doing a show that I’ve seen am million times before? Probably not.The Barrow has big bills, I understand, and a lot of our large time honored cultural landmarks also benefit from the largess of the state (full disclosure: I have received a number of grants, local , state and federal, in support of my work). But for individual artists or new series just getting off the ground, finding that initial funding can be really difficult.

What I’m suggesting is an experiment – a technological twist on the tip jar, using Chip In's widget. The idea is that not only will a widget like this motivate donors, but the constant updates cut out the “middle man” and save time for volunteers seeking updates as well. Funds are processed through Paypal, which is very familiar to those donating on the internet already. People donating can be part of the “winning team” and feel that they are making a difference versus a small drop in a bucket that may never be filled (a la those gigantic tacky thermometers outside churches and United Way offices) .

For the experiment, I've chosen the 2008 Venango Digital Film Fest (Full Disclosure: I’m involved with planning of the fest).

The first annual Venango Digital Film Festival took place in November of 2007 and attracted 12 films of excellent quality which showcased the region and the region's filmmakers. This year, The Venango Digital Film Festival will be held in three beautiful restored historic theaters: the Crawford Center in Emlenton, PA (Friday, September 12), the Latonia Theater in Oil City, PA (Saturday, September 13), and the Barrow-Civic Theater in Franklin, PA (Sunday, September 14). People's Choice awards will be selected each evening, and the winner will be carried over to compete the following night. The top three films will receive cash prizes.

In addition, we are sponsoring a 10-15 minute screenplay competition with the theme of Oil Boom Days in Venango County, in conjunction with the 150th Anniversary of the Discovery of Oil. The two winning screenplays will be produced and screened over the weekend and over the two year period of the Oil 150 Celebration. The People's Choice winner will receive a cash prize and will be screened at the Great Lakes Film Festival. Now, last year, the Film Fest was free $5 – talent rich but cash poor, so in effect I’m projecting a model where the door stays free, but you pay ahead what you think it’s worth.

Consider this for a moment. With the door free of charge, you can choose, by using Chip-In, what you want or can pay. Last month, I took the family to see the inexplicably horrible Indiana Jones movie. Total cost (excluding popcorn) ~$25 (Yes, I realize that the city folk reading this have passed out at what you perceive as the inexpense. Once you recover, call Joann Wheeler and set up an appointment to buy a house and studio here. Seriously. We’d love to have you.) was it worth that amount of money. No. Not a chance. I would have, however, paid a total of $12 (or $4/person) to see it.

To me, last year’s fest was worth about a $5 door. So, I’ve dropped $10 (for my wife and myself) in the widget you see on the side. Donate whatever you feel is appropriate .25 to $2500. The goal I chose is $1000, an amount that I see as large, but not insurmountable.

I’ll keep track of it here, and then make the donation to the Film Fest on Sept 1, 2008. Even if you don't or cant or won't contribute, I'm interested to hear what you think of this as a model for fundraising for the arts in our area.

While Franklin's Farmer Market is disintegrating rapidly (on Wedensday when I went down to get some beans for yakni, there was only one stall and the City had "forgotten" to close off the street to traffic making it a death trap that I decided to skip) Titusville's is expanding in size and moving in location.

Submit your original 10-15 page screenplay on the theme Oil Boom Days in Venango County for filming. Your opportunity to produce and direct! Cash Prize! Screening September 14.

Deadline: August 1, 2008


Submit your original short digital film by western PA filmmaker or about western PA themes. Cash Prizes for People’s Choice awards September 12-14.

Deadline: August 25, 2008


Want to get in on the fun? We will need cast, volunteer film crews, costume and location help – just give us a call! Mark your calendars for

September 12, 13, and 14,

The Second Annual Venango Digital Film Festival

Details at or call 814-677-1260

If I get all my work done today (doutbtful) I'll be building this papermodel polar bear with a nodding, empty head and a beer tatoo on its butt. Kinda reminds me of a woman I used to know...

Free Four Color T-Shirt Printing Press Plans

Want to buy a Super Bowl Ring?

Since the music scene is slow this weekend, I'll be heading to Erie's 20th Annual Panegyri Greek Fest (today from 2:30 - 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., and Sunday noon - 9 p.m.) at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on 4376 West Lake Road. Free parking and admission. For more info call (814) 838-8808.

Speaking of Erie, The Erie County Historical Society will hold a Ghosts and Legends Tour tonight and every Friday at 8 p.m., now until September 26 (exception: September 5th). Discover the mysteries of downtown Erie with a 1 1/2 hour walking tour. Since the size of each group tour is limited, reservations are required; call (814) 454-1813, ext 0. Cost: $8 Adult, $4 Child.

The Cinema and Digital Arts Program of Point Park University is creating the CINEMA ACTORS DATABASE. This will be a catalog of actors and actresses who are interested in being cast in cinema student productions. The database will be accessible to the students of Point Park¹s Cinema and Digital Arts Program.

This is an opportunity for actors and actresses to participate in productions by some of the most talented film students in the Pittsburgh area.

Works by Point Park students have gone on to be exhibited at film festivals both nationally and internationally.

Anyone interested in submitting a headshot/resume can do so by emailing the materials to:

Please put Actors Database in the subject line.

Hardcopies of headshots/resumes could be sent to:

Cinema and Digital Arts
Point Park University
201 Wood St.
Pittsburgh, Pa 15222

Further, any questions may be addressed to

Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservancy has acquired 26 pieces from the "Chihuly at Phipps: Gardens & Glass" exhibit,including 13 of these swirly, curly Amber Cattails:

Upcoming Shows of Interest:

Newmen plays Oil City's The Howling Dog Cafe tonight at 8 pm and Meadville's Artist Cup Cafe tomorrow at 9pm. Both shows are free.

Free and Legal Downloads:

Sharon Van Etten Live at Zebulon on June 25, 2008 Zebulon

Drive-By Truckers Live at 80/35 Festival on July 5, 2008

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Live at Penn's Peak on July 6, 2008

1 comment:

Joann said...

Indie Film Fest last year was $5 at the door -- glad we got the value right! -- and will be again, Michael. But we are putting all the money from the 2007 box office and then some into prizes and theater rental this year. Every penny will help us get this on its feet! I will add my contribution as soon as I have a minute to figure it out!