Monday, November 27, 2006

Would "Do Ask Do Tell" make a good name for a movie studio?

When I designed the black-and-white blocked cover for my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book, my editor thought that the book had a Spartan, “Schindler’s List” look, after the 1993 Spielberg film shot in garish black-and-white.

I have thought that the blocked design would make an effective trademark for a movie studio, production company or distributor. There are a couple of companies that have lightly similar blocked design trademarks (like Strand, Typecast, and Tartan).

Yes, that would be a fantasy, to produce and release films about important political and social issues, with a certain emphasis on documentary. Of course, we have some companies that do that now: Participant (“Good Night, and Good Luck”, “Syriana”, “Fast Food Nation”), and, of course (“life happens”) HBO Documentary (“Hacking Democracy”, “Iraq in Fragments”, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts”), as well as PBS Point-of-View.

There are a number of projects around that I can see being drawn together by such a company. There is Dream OutLoud’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, Gode Davis and “American Lynching,” Sam Nunn’s and the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Last Best Chance, and a recent film by DC area filmmakers Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan, “Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story.” Another good dramatic film from a few years back that dealt with a lot of issues was Nicholas Panagopolus “Five Lines,” with intersecting and compelling stories mapped to the five lines of the Washington DC area Metro system. When I lived in Minneapolis (1997-2003), I saw many interesting local projects in the Cinema Lounge (sponsored by IFPMSP) at the Cabaret Theater at Bryant Lake Bowl, such as some films by Jon Springer and Cricket Films, such as “The Hymens Parable” and “Heterosapiens.”

Another idea would be a good documentary on the achievement gap among various classes of students in public schools, as explained in The New York Times Magazine article by Paul Tough, "What Will It Really Take to Close the Education Gap?"

I tried out for a part as a military captain in Darin Heinis's short 2002 film, "The Retreat", about supernatural remnants from the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. As far as I know, I have been in a crowd as an extra only once, in a silly movie "Major League III" (Morgan Creek), in a scene filmed in the Minneapolis Metrodome in 1997.

Despite the advances in video and digital technology, and the popularity of sites like YouTube, it’s still pretty hard to make a commercially meaningful film by yourself. But I can see that there is room for another innovative company to get films out like some of these. Resources, that is another matter.

(For a discussion of trademark, especially the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2005, go here.)

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