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In the Company of Men 

From Burning Man to downtown San Fran: the life of a documentary team

Wednesday, Jan 14 2004
For their next documentary, Paul Barnett and Unsu Lee are jump-cutting from the remote desert setting of Confessions of a Burning Man to the canyons of downtown. The San Francisco filmmakers have begun adapting Price M. Cobbs' guide to ladder-climbing, Cracking the Corporate Code: The Revealing Success Stories of 32 African-American Executives. "They're more isolated from their own black community than from the white community," Barnett reports. "They're really on their own, these guys. The one unifying fact is that they're all interested in doing a good job. They're not interested in the race card."

Barnett and Lee have shot a batch of pre-interviews, which they'll use to choose five honchos for in-depth portraits. (You might not have realized that casting -- and screen tests -- is as crucial to certain documentaries as to narrative films.) Backed by a seed grant from Sears that amounts to about a tenth of the film's budget, the duo aims to finish by this time next year.

Meanwhile, Happily Even After, the feature that Lee directed and Barnett produced here last year, has been completed and submitted to the S.F. International and Tribeca film festivals. And Windline Films, the distribution company Barnett launched with entertainment attorney Jeffrey Brandstetter, is opening Confessions of a Burning Man in 25 cities, starting Feb. 27 in New York. The $40,000 the doc grossed during its two-week run at the Metreon last September greased the wheels for the out-of-town bookings, Barnett says. (Windline has also lined up an eight-city tour of Kevin Epps' Straight Outta Hunters Point, which Barnett and Brandstetter produced, beginning in Reno in early February.)

The Notorious Lone Wolf The notion of solo artists laboring in isolation in their garrets is a relic of the pre-digital era, maintains David Rosen. "I have a real belief that what exists today is a real independent media community," says the executive producer of Digital Independence 2004, a three-day conference in the city for filmmakers, musicians, video-game developers, and hobbyists interested in hot-wiring art and technology. But even with ubiquitous connectivity, some creative types don't intersect -- consider, for example, the lack of overlap between attendees of the Sundance Film Festival and those of Macworld. "I'm bringing in policy specialists with games makers, people who don't normally get together in the same space," Rosen says. DI04, which includes panel discussions (I am moderating one), runs Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 at the Marriott Hotel. Check out the lineup at

Kind Hearts and Coronets Nancy Fishman has joined the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival as program director. The veteran publicist and programmer (and one-time distribution director at Frameline) was a program adviser for last year's SFJFF. ... Maïa Carpenter, a member of the S.F. Cinematheque's curatorial committee for the past year, is the San Francisco International Film Festival's new Golden Gate Awards coordinator. ... Of the thousand or so homemade "ads" submitted to MoveOn's "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest, just one local work -- Hood Robbin' by Nathania Vishnevsky of Foster City -- made the cut of 15 finalists. That's more than a little surprising, given the Bay Area's long history of activism media. Check out Vishnevsky's contribution at ... S.F. Sketchfest presents the Bay Area premiere of Martin & Orloff at the Roxie on Jan. 26, with co-writers and stars Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh on hand for both shows. Go to for ticket info. ... Judy Irving's The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (Reel World, Aug. 27, 2003) has its San Francisco premiere on Feb. 5 with a pair of Lumiere screenings that benefit the Telegraph Hill Dwellers and Film Arts Foundation. To reserve tickets, call 362-2420 and send a check for $25 per ducat to Pelican Media, 1736 Stockton #2, San Francisco, CA 94133.

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Michael Fox


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