In the YouTube age, any filmmaker theoretically has access to a world of viewers. In practice, of course, he or she must compete for attention against a world of other filmmakers, as well. Meanwhile, traditional mass-exhibition outlets can still reject work for any reason. Commercial distributors, festivals and television might deem films too raw, too specialized ... even too short to screen.
So WQED TV's Filmmakers' Corner is a potential boon to Pittsburgh artists. The new hour-long series is devoted to shorter work by locals. It debuts at 10 p.m. Sat., Jan. 23, with a special cut of East of Liberty, Chris Ivey's provocative, multi-part documentary about housing, racial politics and gentrification in East Liberty.
Darryl Ford Williams, QED's vice president of production, says the public-TV station has long wanted to do such a program, but only recently acquired the funding. "It just makes sense for us to give voice to local filmmakers," she says. While Filmmakers' Corner, like other QED programs, will be pre-empted for things like pledge drives, weekly episodes are planned. The Jan. 30 broadcast will showcase selections from 2009's "Neighborhood Narratives" anthology of independent fiction shorts set in Pittsburgh neighborhoods. QED continues to seek funding to sustain the series, Williams says.
Williams says that while series producer Minette Seate will interview Ivey in the first episode, future installments will be shown without commentary. Gary Kaboly, director of exhibitions for Pittsburgh Filmmakers, says that's a mistake: The absence of commentary could prevent Filmmakers' Corner from connecting to viewers with less conventional films. "You need some kind of discussion when it comes to short films," says Kaboly. "You need a context to watch these things."
Meanwhile, the time slot (10 p.m. Saturday) isn't plum. And neither are filmmakers being paid to screen their work; QED spokesperson Rosemary Martinelli says many are simply happy for the exposure. Ivey, for one, agrees. He has screened his self-produced East of Liberty many times in public, here and even once overseas, in London. Often, however, such audiences have numbered in the dozens -- or fewer. QED's regional audience, by contrast, encompasses couch potatoes and more. "This will really reach the ultimate audience," says Ivey. "You're reaching the whole city."
Filmmakers' Corner broadcasts East of Liberty 10 p.m. Sat., Jan. 23. WQED TV www.wqed.org