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Seen on the Scene at NAMAC

31 Aug , 2009  

Written by Erin Trahan | Posted by:

NAMAC presented opportunities to connect and re-connect -- Erin Trahan reports from the field.

It wasn’t just any conference, it was the annual gathering of members of the The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC), and those members traveled from parts known and unknown to Boston for three days of careful deliberation about how best to meet the country’s independent media needs.

Attendees included filmmakers of all stripes, persons working in distribution, exhibition, education, social change, and much more. The conference embraced the theme of Common Wealth, which aside from the play on what the state of Massachusetts calls itself, appears critical for media advocates in the current economic climate.

On Friday night, August 28th, Women in Film & Video/New England (WIFV/NE) and the Mass Film Office hosted a cocktail party (sponsored in part by in honor of the festivities and to give those who couldn’t attend the full conference a chance to rub elbows with those who could. I dropped what I was doing, which was packing a moving truck full of my worldly possessions, and took the Intercontinental Hotel’s up escalator to the second floor.

Of course I saw people I knew: publisher Michele Meek and writer/filmmaker Scott Caseley; Amy Geller and Lucia Small, past WIFV/NE presidents; and Cheryl Eagan-Donovan, current WIFV/NE president and the event’s chief organizer along with Michelle Davis. My friend, filmmaker Alison Justus, joined me for the night out, too.

Always great to catch up. But even more fun, or hey, at least as fun, is meeting new people. Or in my case, meeting a few people I feel like I’ve known for years.

Exhibit A: The staff of Images Cinema in Williamstown, MA. It’s no lie to say that I’ve loved their spunky programming virtually, from afar, for some time. Executive director Sandra Thomas put up with my rapid-fire questioning for several minutes before she and I connected our dots. Thomas said that she enjoyed several panels and found particular value in meeting other independent film exhibitors face-to-face. (That’s when Will Williams, executive director of Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT jumped in.) ‘I just met Will a few minutes ago!’ said Thomas.

‘Where’s Janet?’ I wondered. Managing director Janet Curran, who is responsible for press outreach for Images, sends me email all the time. Clear, reliable, email that makes me feel like I know exactly what’s going on at the cinema. Curran said she often feels like her blasts ‘go into a black hole,’ but no, I affirmed that’s not the case.

Conferences like NAMAC have a way of disbanding black hole theories. I witnessed a room full of people who, once they met each other, watched their black holes collapse. I’m no physicist but isn’t that how stars form? Or something big, like a galaxy?

It was a film party so there are always would-be stars lurking about. Thankfully I avoided them and talked instead to Zak Piper, who has worked for Kartemquin Films in Chicago for eight years. Kartemquin produces socially-conscious documentaries (In the Family, Hoop Dreams). Piper helps with producing, postproduction, and outreach. He tried to get into a fundraising panel but it was SRO so he slipped into the neighboring event. There he saw a short film that knocked his socks off. ‘It was the most powerful four minutes of film I’ve seen in… a long time,’ raved Piper.

The film, Leila’s Eyebrow, made by a British teen, depicts a young Iranian woman’s cultural and identity clash during a day at school. ‘But, it was so much more,’ said Piper, who later sent the link so viewers could experience it firsthand.

Tucker Chambers, on staff at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, joined the circle and talked about the importance of considering the life of media in all its various incarnations. ‘I don’t often have the chance to speak directly with filmmakers,’ he said. As a graduate of a museum studies program, he described his interests in preserving ethnographic film and conveying its significance to museumgoers.

Some party attendees seized the eve by passing out postcards and flyers. Diana Barton of Carver, MA is the owner and president of a new business, Walking City Production Rentals. According to the card she slid in my hand, her custom built travel trailers — or ‘walkie talkies, canopies, chairs, tables, and more!’ — can be rented for location shooting.

Barton had just stepped off a plane from LA, where she produced a red carpet spot for TV Guide Channel. ‘I’ve done almost every award show you can think of,’ said Barton, who used to script supervise and produce in LA but returned to MA about 10 years ago. The new production rental business is her effort to reduce travel and work closer to home.

Close to home is nice, especially when it starts raining two inches per hour. Friends old and new parted ways and I tried, as usual, to be the last one out. Alison caught a cab and I got soaked walking to the T, en route to my new home. The train doors opened just as I reached the platform.

Learn about NAMAC at

Learn about NAMAC at