short takes

* As an adjunct to the latest New York Film Festival, a day-long symposium was held on the subject Channeling the Future: Cable and the New TV. Since it was presented under film-festival auspices, the focus was on how independent filmmakers and producers will fit into the supposedly exploding world of cable, satellite, low-power, and other TV offshoots.Judging from the morning and much of the afternoon session, however, the future doesn't look too bright for young artists and entrepreneurs with truly independent leanings.

Before lunch, the board chairman of Twentieth Century-Fox called the new TV technology an "electronic fireplace" that will revolutionize lives, and experts talked of the enormous hunger that 100-channel cable systems will imminently have for new (and hitherto hard-to-sell) creative work. But after lunch, actual independent TV workers told how hard it is to get solid commitments, adequate contracts, and even agreed-upon paychecks from the giant media concerns, and expressed only limited hope that things will improve in the future.

One young panelist asked how many audience members were independent producers or filmmakers and got a lively show of hands. Then he asked how many thought their work would fit into the "packages" of new entertainment that were proudly displayed during the symposium. Scarcely a hand went up, indicating that the "new TV" is amazingly like the "old TV." True, a representative from PBS broke the mold with a realistic speech and a screening of Robert Wilson's brilliant videotape "Deafman Glance." But for the most part, it appears that people with independent minds may have to struggle as much as ever in the largely uniform, business-as-usual world of the 100-channel "electronic fireplace" that is being touted as the entertainment-and-information wave of the future.

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