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The making of the film 24 Hours on Craigslist

Wednesday, Sep 10 2003
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Of the 23,000 new posts on www.craigslist.com on Aug. 4 -- a date the site's founder, Craig Newmark, picked out of a hat -- 1,992 responded to Michael Ferris Gibson's one-day invitation to participate in a documentary. The S.F. filmmaker and a battalion of cinematographers ended up shooting 120 "stories" about Craigslist users, from the unusual (somebody trying to set up a diabetic cat support group in Alameda) to the mundane (a "casual encounter"). "My agenda is to create as realistic a spectrum as possible of the site," Gibson says. With 24 Hours on Craigslist now zipping through the editing process -- the Sundance deadline approacheth -- Gibson estimates the finished product will include 86 vignettes. Some will last only 30 seconds, but several have longer arcs, such as the segment on the male Ethel Merman impersonator who's been auditioning a backing band for his gig at the Castro Street Fair in early October.

24 Hours was authorized, though not commissioned, by the site. The idea originated with Gibson and producer Simon Johnson of Zealot Pictures, a distribution company they and a few other local moviemakers set up early this year. Zealot's first theatrical release could be Numb, Gibson's sci-fi narrative feature, which premieres at the London Film Festival on Halloween. Although Gibson is optimistic about opening Numb in San Francisco around Christmastime, DVD distribution is a certainty. (Zealot has already established itself in that market in the U.K., where it has the rights to the local doc Straight Outta Hunters Point.) As for the local debut of 24 Hours, wait until next year -- when Gibson sees in his tea leaves the potential for a national release by a mainstream distributor.

Begotten Some industry seer predicted last week that downloading and streaming will render the DVD (and the CD, for that matter) obsolete within seven years. In the meantime, Other Cinema founder and programmer Craig Baldwin has paired with director/curator Noel Lawrence to start a DVD label called OCD (Other Cinema Digital). The first title, due out this month, is Baldwin's Spectres of the Spectrum. A found-footage tour de force Baldwin once described as "a rough, noisy, handmade, totally appropriated artifact from the time-space continuum," it was selected for the prestigious Whitney Biennial in 2000. Lawrence's horror-themed compilation of experimental shorts, trailers, and archival oddities, Experiments in Terror, will be out around Halloween, and Stephen Parr's equally quirky collection titled The Subject Is Sex is on tap for holiday gift-giving.

"In order to bust through, to create a space on the shelf, we really have to have a catalog," Baldwin explains. Although offering several titles is important, so is a distinct identity. Baldwin wants store managers and customers to say, "I see what they're doing. They're to the left of [avant-garde filmmaker Stan] Brakhage." As he points out, Criterion, a high-end home video and DVD company, "isn't doing edgy, transgressive, underground stuff." Learn more about OCD titles -- and buy them soon -- at www.othercinemadvd.com.

Dementia 13 The S.F. Cinematheque has swapped the S.F. Art Institute auditorium for a new screening location, Timken Hall at the California College of Arts and Crafts (1111 Eighth St.). The venerable presenter of avant-garde film will continue at its other venue, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. ... KQED veteran Judy Holme Agnew is the new executive director at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC). Tamara Gould, her predecessor at the nonprofit editing and training facility, hopped the desk to go produce a doc on Afghanistan. ... According to Reuters, Sofia Coppola told the Venice Film Festival press that she had Bill Murray in mind all along for Lost in Translation. "I sent him pages as I finished them, and after many months of leaving messages, he finally agreed to meet with me." That strategy may not have worked if her last name were, say, Podolskay. Then again, the entire screenplay couldn't have run more than 30 pages. Lost in Translation, opening here on Sept. 12, is (pick one) an extended commercial for a Japanese whiskey or a series of ethereal music videos, but it's emphatically not a movie.

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Michael Fox

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