One dial-up connection shared with a fax machine in office space donated by an early supporter was Day 1 of indieWIRE back on July 15, 1996, recalled Eugene Hernandez today, on iW's 15th anniversary.
The former Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of the publication, who now heads digital strategy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, said the first issue of indieWIRE went to 200 people.
"[My friends] Mark Rabinowitz, Cheri Barner and I had this idea to launch a daily newsletter, which we sent out through America Online," he said. "Originally, indieWIRE was only a section of what was then called iLine, an online community of filmmakers that we started in the spring of 1995 after going to Sundance."
The daily email (five days a week) came when the trio met filmmaker Roberto Quezada-Dardon, who published an "e-zine" called _INDIE: The Independent Filmmaker's ELECTRONIC Newsletter_.
Also integral to indieWIRE's launch was then-Filmmaker Magazine head Karol Martesko-Fenster, who gave the early iW folks use of office space where they could share a connection to check email and send out indieWIRE.
"Someone would say, 'Can I use the phone line to get on AOL?' and then the reply would be, 'Oh, there's a fax coming in, wait a few minutes,'" Hernandez recalled.
Just days after indieWIRE's first issue, Martesko-Fenster sent a copy of the email to GMD Studios head Brian Clark who also proved essential in getting indieWIRE off the ground.
"By day two, we got a call from Brian Clark who received the first issue of indieWIRE from Karol. GMD wanted to develop a website. At the time, we couldn’t manage a website because we all still had other jobs, but GMD developed an easy way to publish automatically to our website, which launched later that summer."
Hernandez added that after the first letter went out, fear set in that they would never be able to keep up with producing a daily.
"I remember distinctly that when we first sent out the first email talking to Mark, Roberto and Cheri - and I thought, 'What have we done?' I was skeptical that we'd have enough information to produce an email every day. I said, 'What have we gotten ourselves into?' We're not going to have enough content to create something everyday. But, we quickly realized we'd be able to do it. Soon after, we started getting news and information faxed or emailed to us and creating original content."
Among iW's early supporters were filmmakers like Kevin Smith and Sarah Jacobsen, whom the founders of iLine and iW met at Sundance, as well as execs inlcuding Anthony Bregman and Mary Jane Skalski, then at Good Machine. Hernandez recalled that at launch, going online was still a bit of a novelty for filmmakers and the industry, though that quickly changed.
"It's funny to think now, but there were not a lot of people going online, and those that were did so through America Online. There weren't a lot of filmmakers using email, but over the course of that year a lot more did."
GMD Studios took on a critical role through the late '90s and early 2000s before iW was sold to SnagFilms in 2009. Eugene Hernandez left iW for the Film Society of Lincoln Center late last year, but still contributes to his blog via indieWIRE. He also shares further his thoughts on iW's anniversary.
Today, indieWIRE's editorial team includes editor in chief Dana Harris, who joined at the beginning of this year, managing editor Brian Brooks, who has been with iW formally for 11 years (and was a contributing writer when it was founded), associate editor Peter Knegt who has been with iW since 2006, and contributors Bryce Renninger and Nigel Smith who've been with the team since 2009 and 2010, respectively. Also a shout out to Anthony Kaufman who is a regular contributor to iW and served as its Senior Editor in the late '90s and early 2000s.
James Israel joined iW on the editorial side in 2002 as a freelancer and came on full time in 2004. He now heads iW's ads and marketing from iW's recently opened L.A. office shared with Harris. Jason Gonzalez works with Israel from iW's New York office and has also been with the publication for a year and a half.
In the first issue of indieWIRE, the headlines for July 15, 1996 include news about dubbing rumors on "Trainspotting," a film that was banned in the Philippines, the sale of New York's Angelika Film Center and the third year of ImageFest. There is also a great timeline on Quezada-Dardon's _INDIE_.
[Editor's Note: A special thanks is well-deserved for many others not directly mentioned in this article who worked at iW for nothing (or almost nothing) in the early days including Tim LaTorre, Diane Becker, Ken Tabachnick, Mike Jones, Maya Churi, Mark Feinsod and to dozens of early supporters without whom iW wouldn't be here today.]
iW's first Daily follows from July 15, 1996:
[Publishers note: This is the premiere issue of indieWIRE, a daily news service for
the indie film community. To sign up for a FREE daily email subscription, please
send a message to “firstname.lastname@example.org” with SUBSCRIBE indieWIRE in the subject
July 15, 1995 Vol. 1 Issue 1
(c) 1996 iLine Ltd.
indieWIRE is published by iLINE Ltd. Re-publication and re-distribution in any
medium or in any platform of the Internet without the written consent of iLINE is
H E A D L I N E S
(1) + TRAINSPOTTING Rumors About Dubbing and Re-Cutting Put to Rest by Its
Director. by Cheri Barner
(2) + ANTONIA’S LINE Banned in The Philippines
(3) + Angelika Film Center to be Sold to The Reading Investment Company
(4) + RAISING HEROES OutFest Wednesday Screening Sold out
(5) + TRAINSPOTTING Writer Spends Night in Jail
(6) + IMAGEFEST ‘96 Now in its Third Year.
(7) + How The MPAA Ratings Sytem Works by Roberto Quezada-Dardon
(8) + Genealogy 1:1 by Roberto Quezada-Dardon
D A I L Y N E W S
(1) + TRAINSPOTTING Rumors About Dubbing and Re-Cutting Put to Rest by
Director Danny Boyle.
LOS ANGELES—There have been a number of rumors with regard to the “re-
dubbing” done for this week’s U.S. release of “TRAINSPOTTING.” Some reports
claim that for the United Stated release the *entire* film was dubbed and key
scenes were removed.
In an interview yesterday with Cheri Barner of _iLINE_, Director Danny Boyle
said, “we dubbed it _very_ slightly.” He acknowledged that they only did so to
clarify specific dialogue and make it more understandable. The original actors
were used to make these minor changes, and it was done only for the United States
release. The Canadian market’s prints remain undubbed. Boyle said that he had no
problem with having to dub the picture for American audiences, likening it to
dubbing the film in German for its release in that country.
Actor Ewen Bremner, however, was not as forgiving. Bremner, who portrays the
character Spud, was also present at the iLINE interview and said that it was true
he had to re-dub the job interview scene, but he wished he had not been asked to
When asked if scenes were cut from the American version of the British film, Boyle
responded that two seconds were cut: One second of the sex scene between Renton
(Ewen McGregor) and Diane (Kelly Macdonald), and one second of a needle
piercing skin. The moment of sex that was cut involved Diane leaning back while
on top of Renton apparently reaching too overtly for something between her lover’s
legs. Boyle said that both cuts were at the request of the MPAA ratings board.
Also contrary to numerous reports, a scene which depicts the death of a baby was
not cut from the film. Boyle acknowledged that had it come down to it, he would
have refused to cut the scene; it was important to him that it remain in the film.
(2) + ANTONIA’S LINE Banned in The Phillipines
MANILA—Censors in the Philippine essentially banned this year’s Oscar winner
for Best Foreign Language Film by giving it an “X” Rating, which in that country
means it is not fit for public viewing.
The Dutch film, ANTONIA’S LINE, has scenes depicting sodomy, pubic hair, and
two women making love and it seems that this is the reason for the negative rating.
In phone calls to producers who have had such action taken against them,
_iLINE_ was told that such decisions are not usually final. Local distributors are
free to appeal as many as two or three times. Some appeals have gone as high as
the to the President of the Philippines for re-consideration.
(3) + Angelika Film Center to be Sold to The Reading Investment Company
NEW YORK—Angelika Film Center announced that its downtown sixplex will be
sold to the Reading Investment Company, and that it will be operated by City Cinemas.
Reading recently acquired theaters in Australia and Puerto Rico and City Cinemas
currently operates seven theaters in New York City.
indieWIRE’S attempts to contact the officers of The Angelika were futile. However,
the company did issue a press release last week. According to Jessica Saleh Hunt,
the president of the Film Center, both Reading and City Cinemas intend to
“preserve the character and mandate of the Angelika,” which is to continue
showcasing foreign and independent film.
It has been estimated that, on a per seat basis, the Angelika is one of the highest
grossing movie theaters in the country.
(4) + RAISING HEROES OutFest screening sold out
LOS ANGELES—Tickets for the OutFest screening of RAISING HEROES, billed as
The First Gay Action Picture, have already sold out for the Wednesday, July 17th
According to Douglas Langway, the film’s director and co-writer, there is so much
interest in the John Woo-influenced shoot-em-up that a second screening has been
set up at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 on July 20, Saturday Morning at 10.
OutFest is the gay and lesbian film festival taking place in Los Angeles from July
11th to the 21st.
(5) + TRAINSPOTTING Writer Spends Night in Jail
EDINBURGH—According to a story in this week’s issue of _New Yorker
Magazine_ (July 15, 1996) the novelist who wrote TRAINSPOTTING spent a night
in jail following “a recent four-day binge which featured ‘everything—everything
you can imagine.’”
Irvine Welsh spoke to the magazine who concluded that it was perhaps in the
spirit of trying to get back to the basics which made _Trainspotting_ ,the novel,
such a phenomenon that Welsh temporarily went back to the drinking and drugs.
Critics have not been as warm to Welsh’s three novels that succeeded the one made
into a film by Danny Boyle and being released by Miramax this Friday.
(6) + IMAGEFEST ‘96 Now in its Third Year.
SAN FRANCISCO—Now in its 3rd year, this noncompetitive short film and video
festival is designed to showcase San Francisco Bay area
film/videomakers. San Francisco Bay area residents (408, 415, 510 area codes) can
submit short films and videos under 30 minutes. Industrial, promotional, or
instructional works not appropriate. IMAGEFEST 96 is sponsored by IMAGE
(Independent Media Artists Group), a nonprofit organization of independent
film/video/multimedia makers based in Palo Alto, CA. It is co-sponsored by the
City of Palo Alto, Division of Arts and Culture, and CAPA (Council for the Arts,
Formats: 16mm, SVHS, VHS; Preview on VHS.
Early Deadline: August 12, 1996 Entry Fee: $10 (IMAGE members are allowed one
free entry by this date). Late Deadline: October 1, 1996 Entry Fee: $20
For Entry forms and information, contact IMAGE at (415)856-1305,
email@example.com; or IMAGEFEST 96, Palo Alto Cultural Center, 1313
Newell Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303
D A I L Y F E A T U R E
(7) + How The MPAA Ratings System Works
Basically the rating system is a service created and paid for by the Motion Picture
Association of America and the National Association of Theater Owners to provide
parents with advance information on films so they can make judgments on the
movies they want or don’t want their children to see without giving the decision
rocess much thought and to be able to yell at a wise-ass pre-pubescent, “because
it’s R-rated, that’s why!”
Having a movie rated is a voluntary procedure, so to speak, but to play in most
theaters in the U.S. a film must be rated by the board. According to the board, the
board is comprised of a group of people—supposedly parents representative of
parents across the country—who mostly live in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb
of Los Angeles. This specially designed committee is called the Film Rating Board
of the Classification and Rating Administration.
Everyone in the Film Rating Board views each film and then has a group
discussion to try to guess what most people—parents just like them across the
country—would think about showing this film to their kids, and then they vote on
what its rating will be. This can lead to conclusions that seem historically
contradictory. What was OK in the ‘seventies is not always OK today, and things
they pass today would not have had a chance in the ‘seventies. Simply stated, sex
was out then, violence was in. Now that the free-luvin’ flower-power generation is
in the driver’s seat, it’s kind of reversed, within the boundaries of good taste.
Supposedly, the rating board uses the criteria it believes most good parents would
use when deciding what is suitable viewing for their child. Theme, language,
violence, nudity, sex, and drug use are among those content areas taken under
consideration. Also assessed is how each of these elements is employed in the
context of each individual film. The rating board claims that it places no special
emphasis on any of these elements, and that all are considered and examined
before a rating is given.
When these good people make their initial decisions on what to rate a film, I
believe their intentions are sincere. I don’t know why I believe this, I just do. I guess
it’s that they look like decent people and some of them drive Volvos. But what tips
the scales and sometimes gets ratings changed (when endless re-edits, re-
submissions, and re-evaluations don’t do the trick) is the fact that the entire
process is being paid for by the Motion Picture Association of America. What is the
MPAA? Why, the major Hollywood Studios, that’s who—business entities that have
millions and millions of dollars riding on what their marketing departments say a
movie must be rated to get it’s costs back. Or, to put it another equally accurate
way, Not Indies.
It is a well known and documented bit of Hollywoodology that when it comes to
getting a rating changed, it is more likely to happen when it’s a studio that has
been contracted to distribute the offending roll of celluloid than when an honest-
to-goodness indie is making the appeal.
When the appointees can’t get the votes to come out right, indie producers can
appeal the decision that threatens to bankrupt them the same as a Studio can.
They can both file their grievances with something called The Ratings Appeal
Board. The MPAA Ratings Board tells us that this is yet another board, but one
composed of Men and Women From the Industry Organizations That Govern the
Rating System. This is Hollywoodese for “the Studios themselves that make up the
Now who stands a better chance of getting a rating reversed? The indie producer
who can’t even get a secretary at a Studio to give him or her a call back, or a Studio
that will be voting on another Studio’s film in the future that gets cursed with the
Sometimes this impartial board might even give a kid like Spielberg a break by
inventing PG-13 especially for his movies so that younger kids in the eighth grade
can watch stuff like a human being get punched in the chest and have a beating
heart ripped out of it.
If you want further information about the rating system please write:
The National Association of Theatre Owners
4605 Lankershim Blvd., Suite 340
North Hollywood, CA 91602
The Classification and Rating Administration
14144 Ventura Blvd., Suite 210
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
[ ROBERTO QUEZADA-DARDON ]
D A I L Y C O L U M N
When the monthly e-mailed newsletter that I edited folded last December, I had
been toying with the idea for some time of enlisting the help of other writers and
making it a daily. My e-zine was called _INDIE: The Independent Filmmaker’s
ELECTRONIC Newsletter_, and it was the first online periodical to deal
exclusively with the study and making of Independent Film.
Although _INDIE_ could boast of an uninterrupted 20 month run,
conceptually it was flawed. At thirty to forty pages, it was more information at one
time than most people wanted to find in their mailboxes. What’s more, as a
monthly, it was not taking advantage of what an online publication can do best:
provide news and information faster and more conveniently than traditionally
printed and distributed “newspapers” are able to do. _The Hollywood Reporter_,
for instance, arrives whenever the mail does for most of its readers in Los Angeles.
It gets to most New Yorkers a day later.
Finding other writers to share in the costs and efforts of putting out any sort of a
publication, let alone a daily, was very frustrating until I chanced upon a group of
filmmakers and scholars who were not only putting up exceptional content in AOL
and their own website, they were incorporated and getting tens of thousands of
visits per month on their combined sites known as _iLINE_ .
_iLINE_ was the brainchild of Eugene Hernandez, Cheri Barner, Mark
Rabinowitz, and friends active in the independent filmmaking community. The
interactive sites this group puts up offers interviews with independent filmmakers
and coverage of film festivals—often live—and reviews of independent films. They
do it using text, stills, video, and audio platforms. When I met them, they had also
been putting up stories of relevance to independent filmmakers three or four times
a week in a small side section of their website called _indieWIRE_. Naturally, I
asked them for a job.
What we’ve come up with is what you’re holding in your eyes: a daily newswire
service that will deal with the business of Independent Film Making, Distribution,
and Exhibition. And it’s in your computer by 6 am PST, 9 am EST, and 7 or 8 am
in between (I couldn’t figure out which—you try the math). Not only do the
established print trade journals lack the urgency of a newspaper, they do very little
coverage of this area of film. What’s more, the high costs of ink, paper, and bulk
distribution require reporting on material that appeals to a very wide readership. A
handful of stories relating to independent film gets lost amid reports about studio
motion pictures, television, the recording industry, live theater, and who ate what,
where, and with whom. Well, at least they carry a lot more ads than we do
Besides the short ads _indieWIRE_ will be carrying, you can also look forward to
the following regular sections five days a week: Headlines; The News; Feature
Articles; Personal Columns; Moderated Infomercials (with the emphasis on “info”)
from movie equipment and service houses; and our ever growing Classifieds.
Read what you need, toss out the rest, and don’t worry about littering—the ‘net
[ ROBERTO QUEZADA-DARDON ]
C L A S S I F I E D S
For the first two months run an ad for your self, what you sell, what you do in film,
etc. for only a buck a line a week! email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
indieWIRE ++ Send comments to email@example.com
indieWIRE is published by iLINE Ltd.
Publishers: Cheri Barner, Eugene Hernandez, Mark Rabinowitz
Editor: Roberto Quezada-Dardon
East Coast Editor: Mark Feinsod
West Coast Editor: Cheri Barner
c/o Filmmaker Magazine
110 W. 57th St. New York, NY 10019
Phone 212/581-8080 Fax 212/581-1857
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