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Film Club for the 21st C.
by Karil Daniels
Tensions mount as demonstrators face police on SF's Market Street during a 2002 anti-Iraq War rally featured in Karil Daniels' "Voices of Dissent." photo: courtesy K Daniels
What do you get when you mix a love of indie films, an affection for their makers, a commitment to distributing excellent films of all lengths to a wider audience, and a progressive agenda? Ironweed Films!
It was heartening to learn about Ironweed at an event by Bay Area Women in Film and Media in 2006, since there are so few outlets for independent activist films, especially films that don't fit into a standard PBS time slot.
The Ironweed business model is a membership film club based on a yearly subscription. Each month members receive a curated DVD with two to four selections on a particular theme. While their main focus is documentaries, they have also included indie features and often one or more shorts.
Ironweed was founded in January 2006 by Adam Werbach, the youngest-ever president of the Sierra Club but decided to sell. Through a series of serendipities, Matt Marshall, a music entrepreneur and activist, and Sharon Wilson of the Spiritual Cinema Circle, discovered that it was available, and given their progressive politics, they decided to acquire it. But Matt and Sharon had to act fast, since there was only a week to do the deal or lose it. Matt's dormant LLC named Esoterotica (a made-up word used for a 2001 compilation album) was the only legal entity available so it became the parent company of Ironweed Films.
After first learning about Ironweed, I thought that my 2004 doc, "Voices of Dissent: Activism & American Democracy" might be appropriate, since it had garnered some awards in various festivals, and focused on civil liberties. There was a long waiting period while Ironweed moved their offices and evaluated a large pile of submissions. Finally, I learned they wanted to use my film for their June 2008 edition, in a program with Lynn Hirschman Leeson's indie feature, "Strange Culture," which I had seen and loved.
Later, I approached them with the idea of featuring my doc "Water Baby: Experiences of Waterbirth," in their May 2009 edition, since May includes Mother's Day. Curator and partner Sharon Wilson liked the idea, but had difficulty finding another film for a good match. May 2009 came and went but we continued to talk and finally they found a film, "What Babies Want: An Exploration of the Consciousness of Infants" by Debby Takikawa, which I thought worked well.
Ironweed is currently seeking films with progressive content; check them out if you're looking for additional distribution options, or another arrow in your quiver. You can find descriptions of their past editions on their Website, ironweedfilms.com. Ironweed is unique in that they buy one-time DVD rights to a film they are packaging, and pay the filmmaker a fee for that specific use, while not limiting the filmmakers other distribution deals.
Karil Daniels is an award-winning filmmaker focusing on health, ecology and rights:
Posted on Aug 13, 2010 - 01:53 PM