Sunday, January 31, 2010

This is what's going in the paper this week. It hasn't been copy-edited so don't yell at me if there are typos.

The Republican spotlight was on Western Massachusetts last week with two events signifying a renewed interest in the GOP here.

Senator-elect Scott Brown kicked off a “thank you” tour of the state with an appearance in Chicopee on Friday that drew over 500 people. On Saturday, over 200 supporters met Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charles Baker and his running mate State Sen. Richard Tisei at a campaign event at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The bitter cold didn’t keep them away.

The lines were around front of the He Ke Lau restaurant in Chicopee on Friday morning with people waiting patiently to enter the restaurant showroom to see Brown on his first stop of several around the state to thank supporters for sending him to the Senate.

Even as the doors were open and the event was underway, people still kept coming. Local officials who attended included Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette, Chicopee City Councilor Jay Croteau, George Moreau, Frank LaFlamme, and Charles Swider, Chicopee School Committee member Adam LaMontagne, Springfield City Councilor John Lysak, State Sens. Michael Knapik and Stephen Buoniconti and States Rep. James Welch, Michael Kane, John Scibak and Thomas Petrolati.

It was evident though the event was far less about Brown meeting with other elected officials and more with greeting the people who voted for him.

The event drew not only local press but also reporters from Boston television stations as well as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press.

Both Buoniconti and Knapik who served with Brown in the State Senate praised Brown for his bipartisanship and his willingness to listen and participate in debate.

Buoniconti said that in political circles Chicopee is a “bellwether community.”

“How goes Chicopee, goes the state,” he said. He added that when he learned Chicopee had gone for Brown he knew Brown had won the race.

Knapik said the Brown is “the real deal, a regular guy.” He added that in Massachusetts Republicans have to work with Democrats to get legislation passed and that is a lesson Knapik predicted he will carry to Washington D.C.

Knapik added Brown’s election was “a wake-up call to both parties.”

Driving himself from his home in his now famous truck, Brown was on time for the noon event, and appeared on stage after introductions from local businessman Brian Corridan and comedian Steve Sweeney, a friend of Brown’s.

Brown joked the last time he was at the Hu Ke Lau he could fit all of his supporters in one booth.

Brown said that with the “boxes of cards, e-mails, text messages from supporters, “I have to tell you I’m so humbled and so honored to be here to say thank you.”

“Right now all I say is that I’m everybody’s senator for almost the next three years. It’s my job to make sure we have full representation down there for everybody,” he said.

After his short remarks, Brown stepped off the stage and into what quickly began a mosh pit of supporters, eager to say hello or grab a photo and an autograph. Many people carried the Brown yard signs from their lawns, while others had photos taken during the campaign and newspaper clippings.

Although Brown did have another stop in Chicopee, he stayed at the Hu Ke Lau way past his scheduled time in order that he could greet everyone there.

Baker served as the Secretary of Administration and Finance under Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci and was more recently the CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. He said he understands the problems of municipal government as he served on the Select Board of his hometown of Swampscott.

Baker’s message to his audience this weekend was the Patrick Administration and the Democratic controlled Legislature has made Massachusetts “a really tough place to do business.” The increase in taxes, the complexity of regulations and permitting and the mid-year budget cuts have resulted in the state not being a “reliable, predictable, dependable partner” for businesses, Baker said.

As an example, he cited the state has changed the corporate tax policy four times in the last seven years.

Tisei is the minority leader of the State Senate. He represents the Middlesex and Essex District, which consists of Lynnfield, Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham and Wakefield. He won his first election in 1984 at the age of 22, becoming the youngest Republican ever elected to the Legislature. After serving six years in the House of Representatives, Tisei has been re-elected to ten consecutive Senate terms. He owns a real estate firm as well.

As a realtor, Tisei said he personally has heard the stories from people who have been forced to move out of the state either because they had lost their jobs here or because the cost of living is much more affordable elsewhere.

Tisei is openly gay – having come out in a Nov. 19, 2009 interview with the Boston Globe – and fought for marriage equality in the state. How social conservatives across the Commonwealth will view his candidacy remains to be seen. Clearly no one who attended the event this weekend seemed to care about Tisei’s private life, as he and Baker were warmly greeted.

Baker said the state shouldn’t rely any longer on one-time revenue sources such as federal stimulus money to stave off a problem. He said he would undertake structural reform to lower the cost of government.

He also promised to lower the sales tax back to five percent and bring the income tax to that level as well.
“You don’t need the Legislature to do a lot of this,” he said.

Baker’s approach to economic development would not be by manufacturing sector, but by region. He said that in his travels across the state he has seen how the economic development issues of Pittsfield differ from Springfield, which differ from Worcester.

When asked about the cost of health insurance, Baker said the Patrick Administration has failed on the issue of health care reform by decreasing options and increasing regulations. He said he would reverse this situation and that he would set in place a public disclosure of all health plan costs.

Baker asserted that Gov. Deval Patrick has been watching what he has been doing. Patrick put in place policies changes to help the state fishing industry after Baker had called for the reforms. Baker said he had caked for pensions reform before Patrick and that Patrick’s bill contained many of the provisions Baker had suggested.

After the event baker spoke with members of the press. He maintained the economic problems of the state had been caused more by state policy than they had been by the deep recession that started in 2008.

“I think if you look at the data that just came out this week about the U.S. economy and the Massachusetts economy the US economy grew by sic percent in the fourth quarter and the Massachusetts economy shrank by whatever it was .2 or .5 percent. It’s kind of an indicator right there.

“I also think the inability of this state to send a clear and consistent message about tax and regulatory policy is a huge issue when I talk to businesses about investment decisions, “ he added.

Baker said this lack of a new message is nothing new and added the state has added any new jobs in the past ten years.
If the state is serious about maintaining or attracting businesses, it would address issues such as the cost of electricity, which Baker said was double that of other states. States decision, he asserted, have caused high prices. He cited one company that has moved its 400 jobs to North Carolina because of electricity costs.

Baker believes that part of the job of governor is “figuring out how to work with the Legislature” and said he will be able to do that.

His number one priority is “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”

To build jobs, he said his first task to fix the state budget.

Will Brown’s victory help Baker reach Beacon Hill? Baker believes there is some momentum for the Republican message.
In the last five months of 2009, Baker said he was at 200 events that attracted 15,000 people. “If you spent any time with the voters, the electorate, you knew this whole thing was about jobs … in Scott’s case it was all about federal spending, taxes and all the rest. It was a huge over-hang for that race. I think Republicans actually in Massachusetts have a pretty good track record on that fiscal stuff and the fiscal discipline stuff. I think that’s going to matter a lot,” he said.

For more on Baker’s candidacy, go to

© 2010 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, January 29, 2010

Backstage at the big show

Today was the Scott Brown appearance in Chicopee and a story I desperately wanted to cover. Thanks to my friend Tony Cignoli I had about a much advance word on the event as anyone did.

Tony – a world-class political consultant – was called in to help with some of the arrangements of the event. Now most political events, whether they are press conference, campaign stops, town hall meetings or victory events go by pre-determined rules. By necessity most elected officials go by fairly strict schedules. Tony is a master at facilitating such events and making sure the press gets what it needs while sticking to the official’s schedule.

Generally at such events an official, especially someone such as a U.S. senator, will have a member of his or her staff at the event prior to its start to make sure everything is as it should be. Another convention is that at a non-press conference event, there is a press availability at which time the press has the newsmaker all to themselves.

Brown has no staff at this time and wasn’t interested in a press availability. He seemed content simply saying thank you to supporters. Tony had things running as smooth as they could have been.

The event was scheduled to take place at noon at the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee. Chicopee was won by Brown and the restaurant has allowed Brown to campaign among its diners there early in his campaign. I asked the restaurant’s owner how many people the large showroom could seat and it was 500 people. There were between 500 and 600 people in the room as new folks came in as other left.

People were lined up outside the restaurant at 11:20 when I got there. Tony had advised me to walk through the kitchen from the loading dock to get inside to set up before the noon start.

There was the usual local media, plus reporters from The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times and The Detroit Free Press. Brown’s election is a big national political story that has been hyped even more by silly elements as his career as a male model and the supposed revelation that Massachusetts is a Democratic state through and through, but "turned" Republican.

I don’t know how people can say that when so many of our governors for the past 25 years have been Republican. And the attitudes of so many residents from issues on bussing to same sex marriage don’t refect this huge liberal establishment as we allegedly have.

Brown, though, is a huge rock star in the political world, but what impressed me was that it doesn’t look like it’s hit him as yet. Sure, he’s been on Leno and people have been talking about Brown running for president in 2012, but I don’t think his head has been turned.

I say this because defying all political rules of thumb, Brown did this thank you event without a staff and with the roughest of plans. He drove himself there in his now famous pick-up truck. He had no assistants. After a friend of his who is a stand-up comic warmed up the crowd, he gave a short speech. Then said he wanted to me everyone in the room.

Most people in his position would have a staff of sorts at this point who would be keeping the event in line. Brown didn’t. Perhaps Brown is a true maverick. This event certainly seemed more genuine than any of the Palin gosh-golly-gee-I’m a-woman-of-the-people things I’ve seen on TV.

State Sen. Michael Knapik who worked with Brown told me he is a “regular guy” who is very open to reaching across aisle to get things done. Knapik, a fellow Republican, said he didn’t expect Brown to vote in “lockstep” with other Republican senators in D.C.

Brown just walked into the center of the room and was mobbed in a mosh pit of happy voters. Some had things for him to sign while others had their cameras ready. One person held up a sign reading “My sons are available.”

Brown was supposed to then go to WWLP TV22 for a brief stop, but couldn’t come due to schedule conflicts.

Despite the fact I’ve been burned before on expectations of politicians, I’m willing to give Brown a chance. His genuine touch at this event, no matter how chaotic it was for the press to cover, did seem refreshing.

© 2010 by Gordon M. Dobbs

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This what I wrote about Tuesday's election:

As you read this column, all of us have had the opportunity to settle down a bit. Those who supported Scott Brown will probably come to the understanding that he will have many moments of enlightenment as the new kid in the Senate and that changing the direction of the nation’s business is hard work.

Martha Coakley’s supporters will comprehend through the fog of their grief the defeat of the candidate should only spur them on to work harder to achieve their political goals.

Brown will have a nice time in the media spotlight as the right wing talk show hosts will elevate him to rock star status for the next few weeks. Coakley will have to live as the Democratic candidate who allowed Ted Kennedy’s legacy to slip through her fingers. She will also have to decide if she is going to run as attorney general again.

This was not a mandate for Brown. It was a solid win, but the margin was not enough to declare he truly represents the overwhelming majority of the electorate.

Considering his statement about Kennedy in his victory speech – “Sen. Ted Kennedy was a tireless worker and a big-hearted public servant. There’s no replacing a man like that. But tonight I honor the memory and I pledge to be the very best and try to be a worthy successor to the late Sen. Kennedy” – I wonder how he will reconcile his right-leaning political views with Kennedy’s legacy of positions in the opposite direction.

Time of course will tell. We have a few years before the next regularly scheduled race to see how Brown represents us.

I was the chief greeter at the breakfast meeting of the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce last week and when Betsy Daley, who the chair of the breakfast, announced some significant events including the end of the first year of President Obama’s term no one applauded. When she mentioned Brown’s election about half of the room showed their support.

There are an awful lot of fearful, angry people in this country whose emotions are legitimate and understandable. An unnecessary war in Iraq, a deep, deep recession, a crisis in housing, bank failures and other problems face this nation. Some of these problems are 30 years in the making and culminated with the policies of the last administration.

What has made the mood worse is that some people thought the president could turn the nation around on a dime. They are disappointed. Progressives are disappointed Obama has been more decisive and liberal in his approach. Conservatives believe Obama is too liberal.

Certainly there is anger in Massachusetts with our Democratic governor and Legislature and their missteps and hijinks.
I reject the notion, though, this election was a referendum on the president. According to one exit poll I heard about Massachusetts voters still gave him relatively high marks.

No, this election was about Scott Brown and Martha Coakley and the fact that more voters responded to his candidacy than hers.

Here’s a question to ponder: if Kennedy was alive and well and Brown was his opponent, do you think he would have beat Ted?

Well, are there any points of agreement between these opposite camps? Allow me to suggest one; recently my buddy City Jake concocted one of most temptingly delicious offerings at his City Jake’s CafĂ© on Main Street in Springfield. He took a bed of sweet potato fries and topped them with his homemade chili, cheese, sour cream and hot peppers.

It was so mind-blowing that I’m sure it could provide a bridge over the most contentious political disagreements.

Jake’s is another locally owned business, like the ones which advertise with us, who deserve your support.

© 2010 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

With Art Clokey’s recent death, I though it would be appropriate to post an interview piece that is included in my book, “Escape: How Animation Went Mainstream in the 1990s.”

This piece was originally published in 1995.

He’s lean, green and, now, is going to be a star on the movie screen. Art Clokey’s Gumby has been a staple on television since the character’s debut in 1956 on the Howdy Doody Show. Now, the clay-animated character is on his way to theaters for the first time in Gumby - The Movie.

The movie’s release capitalizes on Gumby’s newest success in television, a show on Nickelodeon featuring both older episodes and ones produced in the mid-Eighties.

“Years ago, they thought Gumby had had it. It would just come and go like fads. Fortunately, we got a chance to make a new series back in 1986 and ‘87. They combine that with the old ones on the present Nickelodeon show” explained Clokey. The Nickelodeon show has received solid ratings from both new and older fans.

Indeed, Gumby has maintained his place in the American pop culture for almost 40 years. The original episodes were widely syndicated after their network run, and then enjoyed distribution on home video. Gumby merchandising has almost been a constant in the marketplace for years. Clokey, more than any other animator, has popularized the medium of clay animation.

Clokey who had wanted to produce a feature, took the profits from the television deal to underwrite the feature, which he and his wife Gloria produced in their Marin County, CA studio.

“We did the movie in 1988, ‘89 and ‘91. We just finished some of the post-production a few months ago,” said Clokey. Since the Clokeys were financing the feature themselves, Clokey reported with pleasure that they could work “like humans” on the film with a schedule of 8 hour days, instead of the 14 hours demanded by the new television work.

The movie was a family affair with Art Clokey co-writing, directing, and storyboarding the film while his wife Gloria also co-wrote the script, did the set breakdowns and wrote some of the songs. Art performed three voices, including that of Pokey, while Gloria was the voice for Goo, one of Gumby’s friends.

Those looking for another animated musical fairy tale will be disappointed. Gumby - The Movie is indeed animated, and has music, but follows the style long established by Clokey. As anyone who has watched Gumby can tell you, Gumby is..well..different than other animated characters. Clokey’s sense of the abstract and surreal and his strong religious and moral beliefs produce a singularly individual animated film.

In this case, when was the last time you saw an animated film in which cloning, rock’n’roll and low interest loans were key plot points?

Producing the new television episodes provided the Clokeys with a way to find the talent necessary for a feature film.

“We were able to train animators on the new series we did in 1986-88. We had 18 animators. We found them from all over the country and trained them,” explained Clokey.” That’s why the new series is uneven in its quality. Some episodes have good animation and some don’t. Lorimar [the company] who was financing the series wanted to have it done in 18 months. Well, we did it in 20 months. If you realize the 99 episodes we did was equal to six to eight features films, you see we couldn’t be very perfectionistic in our shooting.”

The feature film was made under different conditions.

“We picked out some of the best animators to do the movie after we did the series. We had all the equipment, studio, and artists and so on to do the movie. The first version was completed in 1992, and since then we’ve made changes and the last changes were made about six months ago. We improved the soundtrack and got a new composer, and did some editing and so on. We added a song over the end credits so people won’t want to get up out of their seats.”

Gumby - The Movie is an independent production which is being released by a small New York-based distributor, Arrow Releasing, Inc. Clokey could have gone with a larger distributor, but decided against it.

“Warner Brothers and Universal both registered some interest in distributing it. Warner Brothers wanted to put Eddie Murphy in it, and Universal wanted to change the script too much. So we passed them by and decided to do it ourselves.”

In this time of computer-generated animation, Gumby is comfortably and reassuringly low-tech in many ways. Gumby and his co-stars are still wire-reinforced models made of the clay-like modeling compound plastocene. While Gumby the character has proven to be durable, Gumby the model is not. Eighty to ninety Gumby figures are used to make a single television episode.

While much remains the same, Clokey noted there have been changes to the production techniques.

“The big changes were in the new materials, the new plastics that came out in the time between we were making the old series and the new, like styrofoam, and foamcore board and various types of tape. One of the things we used that we never used before was a motion controlled camera. We had the camera mounted on a device that was controlled by the computer. We could program in exact movements we wanted the camera to make.”
Something else new for Gumby is a girlfriend named Tara, which Clokey points out means “star” in Sanskrit. This kind of detail, and a strong moral core are some of the most appealing aspects of Clokey’s work. His background and interests are reflected in his films, but Clokey said it’s not deliberate.

“It comes out of my subconscious when I’m writing a script, it’s almost like daydreaming. The subconscious is a very spiritual place sometimes,” Clokey explained.

“No, we don’t set out to make a moral issue. It just happens spontaneously. I was brought up going to be an Episcopal minister. After graduating from the university, I went to seminary in Connecticut, but after the first year I decided I didn’t want to be a minister in the Episcopal or any church. I, what you might say, fled to Hollywood where I could make religious films. I couldn’t make religious films there because I had to be a member of the union to get into any of the production companies.”

Calling himself “an idealist,” Clokey recalled that for the first seven years of Gumby’s run, he would not allow any merchandising because he wanted the character to be “a gift to children and not exploit children.” Clokey also produced the religious animated children’s show Davey and Goliath, underwritten by the Lutheran Church, for a decade.

Clokey has maintained a deep interest in the world’s religions, and has been particularly involved with the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, a guru from India. In fact, Clokey attributes much of the new interest in Gumby to an event that happened in 1979 when Clokey went to India to meet Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and the religious leader blessed Gumby. Gumby - The Movie is dedicated to this teacher.

What’s next? Arrow Releasing has announced an October date for the distribution of the video of Gumby - The Movie, and Clokey has already completed the script for the next Gumby feature, Gumby II.

I don't believe Clokey ever got the second feature off the ground.

© 2010 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I received the following from Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Department the other day:

"At 3:15 A.M. this morning Officer Jose R. Diaz conducted a motor vehicle stop at the intersection of Bethel Street and Brunswick Street after the officer was almost struck by the vehicle at Sumner and Dorset Street. The driver of the car swerved into oncoming traffic to take a left onto Dorset Street almost hitting the cruiser that Officer Diaz was operating. Officer Diaz then followed and pulled over the driver. Officers Diaz arrested the driver because he was a FUGITIVE FROM JUSTICE ......
David B. Hodge age 21 of 22 Jamaica Street Springfield, charges ...
Fugitive From Justice from Pulaski County, Missouri....Hodge is wanted there for ...
Poss. of Cocaine With Intent to Distribute (two counts)
Assault in the 3rd degree
Authorities in Missouri have been contacted at stated that they will rendite Mr. Hodge to their state."

I like the way John writes, but what attracted me to this message was the mug shot:

There are some beauties that come my way. I'll post more in the future.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Image © Nina Paley

I've had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing many people in contemporary animation whose works clearly have had a significant impact on the artform, but I think in years to come my conversation with Nina Paley will stand out as among the most important.

I do believe that Paley has crafted an economic model that will work for independent filmmakers who do not want to go the standard distribution route and all of its perils.

This is the piece that I wrote for the 'papers this week.

“Sita Sings the Blues” is a highly improbable film. It is an animated adaptation of a revered story from the Hindu tradition told from the perspective of its non-Indian creator. Unlike big studio animated features, the film has four different art styles and much of the action is accompanied by vintage jazz songs performed by the late Annette Hanshaw.

By commercial standards, this low budget animated movie has no business being successful and yet it has garnered enthusiastic reactions from reviewers and audiences alike and its manner of release may revolutionize the independent film industry. Now that it is on pre-recorded DVD anyone interested in independent film or animation should check out this remarkable film.

Cartoonist and animator Nina Paley chose to put a version of the Indian epic “The Ramayana” on film – a story she described as “the greatest break-up story ever told – after her own marital split. “The Ramayana” is about Sita, a goddess separated from her beloved lord and husband Rama. Rama questions Sita’s purity after she is abducted by a rival king and although Sita ultimately proves she has remained true, she is banished to live in the forest.

Paley tells this story on four artistic levels. There is a rough “cartoony” narrative relating her own story, another looking like ancient paintings, one more that uses a more contemporary depiction of Hindu deities and a final one that is used for the musical numbers.

In many ways, the musical numbers resemble the classic Fleischer Brothers Betty Boop cartoons with the construction of Sita with a Boop-like series of circles and the evocative recordings by Hanshaw.

This shifting of styles might be a bit jarring at first for some audiences, but I found it very playful. I love it when animators take chances with their story material and audiences and Paley does that in spades.

The result is a must-see animated film for adults. Paley has tested the boundaries of animated stories farther than any of the commercial studios.

Speaking to me by phone from her home in New York City, Paley said the origin of the film was a series of random events. She was married to a man whose work brought him to India, where she first introduced to “The Ramayana.” During a business trip she made to New York City, her husband broke up with her through e-mail.

Stranded in New York, she recounted she was reading “The Ramayana” – “I was obsessed with the story” – and found comfort in the story at the same time she was “sofa surfing” – staying at the homes of friends while looking for a place to live in New York. One of those friends was a record collector who introduced her to the recordings of Hanshaw.

“All these happened at the same time,” she said.

Paley said that, like Sita, “if there had been a funeral pyre I would have thrown myself on it.”

Her emotions, though, became channeled into the creation of her film.

A veteran cartoonist but a novice animator, she began work on the film and “did three years of work over five years of time.” Animating the film on her home computer she was essentially a one-woman studio. She supported her herself as a freelance artist and her project was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

She also asked for donations from friends and the general public through her Web site. She said that including her living expenses for the time period, “Sita” cost about $270,000. In comparison the Pixar hit “Monsters, Inc.” reportedly cost $115 million.

A considerable amount of the budget went to licensing the music – about $70,000 – and the manufacture of a 35mm print for theatrical showings. The print cost Paley $30,000.

She said the use of different artistic styles was due to several factors, the first being “to keep myself from getting bored.”

“There is a huge breath of ‘The Ramayana’ art in the world and I wanted to give a little taste [of it],” she added.

Although this writer saw a strong influence from the classic Fleischer Brothers Betty Boop cartoons – from its flying monsters to characters gently bouncing to the beat of the music to the anthropomorphized dancing moon – Paley said, “Everything I’ve seen is an influence. I wasn’t thinking of Betty Boop when designing those segments.”

An integral part of the film is commentary on “The Ramayana” from three animated Asian shadow puppets who provide commentary and analysis of the story. Interestingly enough, they sometimes bicker a bit and disagree about the details of the story and its implications.

The dialogue for the three characters is bright and spontaneous and Paley said it was a conversation about “The Ramayana” from three Indians living in the United States recorded for the film. Paley called the non-scripted dialogue “an experiment.”

“Obviously, it was perfect,” she said with a laugh.

She said the three people all grew up with the story and were from different parts of India and had their own views on it.

There has been criticism of the film’s depiction of the story from Hindu fundamentalists and Paley said that many of the negative reviews have come from people who haven’t seen the movie. She doubted the film would ever be released in India because of state censorship issues as well her refusal to sell exclusive rights to a distributor.

The film is being seen in India, however, thanks to the way Paley has released the film, a method that has attracted more mainstream attention than the film itself from such media outlets as Time and The Wall Street Journal.

Typically, a distributor would buy exclusive rights to getting a movie into theaters, while separate deals would be made for DVDs and television screenings. These distribution deals also are usually for one country, so a filmmaker must make multiple efforts to have his or her film seen worldwide.

Paley has said that one distributor of independent films offered $20,000 upfront, hardly enough to cover her costs. She added she has learned that a distributor “can keep a smaller film down.”

With a standard distribution contract, “no one can compete with them [distributors] to make [a film] available.”

“This was highly influential in my decision to free the film,” she added.

So “freeing” the film meant she did not copyright it. She allowed WNET in New York City to stream it on its Web site. She encouraged people to download the film and make copies.

She has made “endorsement deals” with several DVD companies, which have released the film to the home video market. These arrangements are not exclusive and Paley gets a significant percentage of each DVD sale.

She explained she is not signing over her rights to the film but signing over endorsements. The downloading and sharing of the film has resulted in an underground marketing effort. Generally, she said, about half of a movie’s cost goes to marketing. By taking her approach, she said she “is getting tons of free advertising when people see it.”

“If it hadn’t been free, the film would have been at the mercy of a marketing director,” she said.

People who have seen it on-line have sought out ways to buy the film on DVD and other “Sita” merchandise.

By last October she had earned $65,000 through this arrangement.

Reaction from the animation community was at first hostile. She was called a “freak” and a “traitor.”

Her success, though, has changed some minds.

“With success more and more people have been writing ‘She may have something,’” she said.

Paley also went through a copyright dispute over the use of the Hanshaw music and through her struggles with the songs and with her decision to “free” the film, she has become a leader in the “Free Culture” movement. She has joined others in questioning if art and culture should be controlled by monopolies.

“The whole struggle with our broken copyright system turned me into a Free Culture activist. I’m actually going to release all my old ‘Nina’s Adventures’ and ‘Fluff’ comics under a Share Alike (copyleft) license too. I saw what happened to Annette Hanshaw’s beautiful recordings: they got locked up so no one could hear them. I didn’t want that to happen to my film. My first concern is art, and art has no life if people can’t share it,” she said.

For more information on the film and on the Free Culture concept, log onto

© 2010 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

As Facebook has clearly continues to illustrate to me, life is full of connections. If you live long enough those circles in the pond get wider and wider.

An example of this is the documentary my friend Marty lent me titled Blood, Boobs & Beast.” “ It’s the story of the late Baltimore-based filmmaker and publisher Don Dohler.

I was eager to see it as Dohler was part of the fanzine circle that meant so much to me when I was in high school and college.

I’m not sure modern day fanboys – and girls – understand what it was like in those pre-Internet days of long ago when you could be the only person you knew who was interested in science fiction or horror or comics or movies in general. There was certainly isolation to being a fan in Granby, Massachusetts in 1972 when I graduated from high school.

Nobody among my peers really understood just why I was interested in that stuff and I was lucky to have a girlfriend who tolerated it. I often wondered what it would have been like living in a larger community where the chances were greater there were people of similar interests.

The fanzine I produced – “Inertron” – was one of group of amateur magazines that were distributed to readers through the mail and marketed through one another. I regularly read “Gore Creatures” – now know as “Midnight Marquee” – and “Photon,” which included a glossy 8” by 10 “ movie still as a premium.

There were many more and I bought as many as I could as well as contribute to them as a writer.

Dohler was part of this fanzine network as he first published a proto-underground comic called “Wild” and then produced his do-it-yourself movie making ‘zine “Cinemagic.”

He advertised in “Inertron” – bless him – and we exchanged several letters.

Dohler later started making science fiction and horror movies, which I read about but never had the opportunity to see. Although they endured some harsh criticism, they also made him enough money and received enough release for Dohler to become an inspiration to other aspiring filmmakers.

The documentary was nostalgic to me in a disconnected way. I never knew him, but I certainly felt a connection as I watched the film. It’s quite well done and is the type of film anyone thinking of producing his or her own feature should watch.

The DVD package also includes Dohler’s science fiction gore movie “Nightbeast.” It is a remarkably bad movie in many respects, not the least of which is the inclusion of completely unnecessary sex and nudity, – and not good unnecessary sex and nudity – some really silly plot points and some really bad performances.

Yet I enjoyed it for what it really was: a fanboy living his dream.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, January 04, 2010

Well, it’s time to get back to business and one of my resolutions is to blog much more frequently.

I should point out there are some changes here at Out of the Inkwell. There is a revised link list with a bunch of additions and some deletions. I’m sure some sharp-eyed readers will note the Pioneer Valley Central logo is gone. I’ve officially filed that effort under noble, but failed, experiments.

Since the collaborative blogging attempt received some nice press in The Valley Advocate, I was hopeful it was going to succeed. It didn’t for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that life got into the way. In my own case, I wanted to blog on local subjects for it, but I was too frequently compelled to write about other things here other than Springfield area news. I just thought my entries wouldn’t fit into the Pioneer Valley format.

Of course it didn’t help that one of the key members of the group decided to tell the Advocate he thought it was going to fail but wanted to be a part of it if it succeeded! As I get older I tolerate stabs in the back much less than when I was a beardless youth. Of course, he wanted to be my friend on Facebook. I said, “No.”

I continue to believe that such an idea has validity, but the truth is everyone wants to make money off his or her content, but the question is how on the Web? For any such enterprise to succeed, one needs to have a marketing budget in place to drive readers to the site as well as figure out a way to get money from subscriptions or advertising. We weren’t prepared to tackle such issues in the way they demanded.

Frankly I think the best way is to take up the porn site model – offer so much content for free and then ask for a subscription for more content. The content has to be compelling enough to warrant a subscription though and the price has to be low enough for people to sign up.

I think about this stuff a lot, as I would like to find that magic formula to transmute the lead of the Web into gold. I’ve not found it yet.