Channeling film art

The Walker brings local short films to public access television

Emily Garber

Public television is where Sesame Street meets black holes, safari excursions and candy factories. It’s a free babysitter, a world’s fair and an orchestra hall wrapped up in convenient packaging.

The best things in life may be free, but public television often loses audiences to “elite” cable channels like MTV and Comedy Central. We rarely turn to the boob tube for a science class or English lesson, but, in this avoidance, we may be losing a golden opportunity.

The Walker Art Center, in partnership with Independent Feature Project Minnesota and Intermedia Arts, is combining this overlooked medium with the talents of local filmmakers in the MNTV 2006 series.

The three installments break down barriers between art and viewer, medium and message. There won’t be screenings in a 100-seat theater with wine and cheese afterward. You can even watch in your underwear and no one will know.

“Anyone who has television reception can watch,” said Dean Otto, a film and video curator at the Walker who was on the selection committee for the series. “(MNTV) provides filmmakers with a larger audience by broadcasting right into people’s homes.”

To put the whole series together, Otto worked with Twin Cities Public Television, Marlina Gonzales from Intermedia Arts, a community-based media arts center and Bill Kruse at Independent Feature Project Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that supports the development of independent filmmakers.

“To submit your work and have it played on public television requires a lot more professional development,” such as converting the film to video format, Otto said. Local filmmakers are often lost in the paperwork, so “(Independent Feature Project) helps with that, too.”

MNTV 2006, Program Three

WHEN: 10 p.m. Nov. 5 on Channel 2; 10 p.m. Nov. 11 on Channel 17

The first program in the series, which aired in October, showcased work by women filmmakers. “The themes ranged from aging to body issues Ö to feminist intergenerational ideas,” Otto said. “My Mom Got a Boob Job” by Kim Johnson is a comical and often absurd documentary about a mother-daughter relationship that goes under the knife.

The second program featured films about new development in other countries. The seven-minute film “Lunch on the Run-Bombay’s Dubbawallas” by Simone Ahuja is about a very organized lunch delivery service in India, and Michael Forstein’s “Big Quarters’ ‘Lou Diamond’ ” is a lip-synched music video.

The last program for MNTV 2006 features more experimental work with a focus on filming techniques. “Endless Day” by Jan Estep, a professor in the art department at the University, is a silent five-minute shot of clouds and sky reminiscent of Charles Osgood’s moment of Zen on CBS Sunday Morning.

Though he didn’t have the exact numbers, Otto said that “there’s usually a few hundred thousand people watching” when MNTV airs – certainly a few steps up from a 350-seat theater. To increase the number of viewers even more, the films are streamed online on Google Video after they’re aired on TV.

MNTV 2006 takes the work out viewing of the art. “All you have to do is turn (the television) on,” said Otto. “There’s a larger potential audience with television Ö it’s easier for these filmmakers to share their stories.”