I am a Piscean 30 year old indie film making, rabblerousing, nonprofit hardworking mama. I was born in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA and misspent my youth within small town America. I finally arrived in New York when I figured that I didn?t fit in anywhere else. My Scorpio partner is not only my best friend, he is the greatest father, and a brilliant (but undiscovered) Avant Garde theater director. We have a lively 19 month old Capricorn daughter named Sophia. New York Motto? ?No sleep til Brooklyn?
As advocacy director at AIVF, you?re able to fight for the rights of independent media makers. In 2002 you spearheaded a campaign to challenge FCC rule changes related to media concentration. Tell us about that. Any thoughts on the FCC?
The problems that are caused by media concentration are the most important issues facing the nation today. We live in a society that receives all the news, information and social education through the media. All of our information is received from six sources, they are: Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner, The Walt Disney Co, News Corporation, Viacom and Bertelsmann AC. So, you may say that is the free market at work. If you believe that, then you should look at Italy and see where we will be in ten years if this continues. The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, owns over half of Italy?s media outlets. Specifically he owns three of the four major television stations, and his influence over the fourth has raised some eyebrows...his government is the longest standing government in Italy?s history. Think the media is ever critical of the boss?
When I arrived at the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, one of the founding principles of the organization is to engage in advocacy for our membership. Our members are independent filmmakers. Every year tens of thousands of film students graduate from universities across the country, back in the day (think, pre-1990) television had quite a bit of locally produced programming, from teen dance parties to midnight movies to local talk shows. Communities across the country could watch television and receive information about the community around them. Local filmmakers would have outlets for their work with local production. Today, the programming timetable is filled with syndicated national programs. It is cheaper to program, produce and distribute. As a result our collective unconscious is cheapened, weak and unable to dialogue on basic issues. As one person said, ?why do you think they call it programming??
The FCC, under Michael Powell?s leadership, continues to insult the American public with its ?localism initiatives.? If they were serious about solving the problem of media concentration the commissioners would sit down and say, ?there are six companies controlling the entire media, they must all divest their holdings to where it is impossible to own more than 5% of any media system in any market, be it radio, newspapers, books, magazines, television stations, cable systems or film theaters. I guess that is hard to do though when you are Michael Powell, to provide that kind of visionary influence and leadership. His father, Colin Powell served on the board of directors of America Online and made over four million dollars when the AOL/Time Warner merge happened. After son Michael lobbied for the merger to be approved at the FCC (he was a commissioner then), President Bush appointed him to be the chairman of the FCC.
AIVF felt that it was necessary for our members to be aware of and be able to act on what is happening to the media outlets in the country. The same media outlets that you were able to sell short films to in the 80?s, and actually make a decent amount of money off of your work, not now.
Media concentration affects everyone in every way. Want to solve to problems of the country? Start by breaking apart the holdings of the six companies that control your media and control your information.
Screens are aflurry with political documentaries these days, including a film you Co-produced about the 2000 election directed by Matt Kohn called Everywhere But Florida (premiering during the Imagine Festival). Do you sense a sea change in the way the public is becoming engaged with the political process? Do think these films can actually effect change or are they just preaching to the choir?
I think that a conversation is finally developing that hasn?t happened in a while. For all the great things Clinton did for this country, his legacy is that of creating a sated nation. When society is fat and happy, they tend to forget that there are more things that need to happen. Complacence is what has allowed us to get to the place where we are right now. George Bush is one of the worst presidents, with the worst administration EVER. The election that placed him in the oval office was so obviously rigged, yet the people of the United States did nothing to fight the Supreme Court Decision that placed him in the White House.
Why? Because it has been so long since real political action has fallen into the hands of the people. I really believe that American Society, outside of the activist community has no clue how to change the country. These films can act as a kind of ?Common Sense? for the present. The way to reach out to the masses is through film and television. It is unfortunate that the channels of distribution are controlled by so few people.
If ownership was diversified even ten percent more, the quality of the conversation and examination of the life we live presently would be increased exponentially. But it is in the interest of the media outlets to keep you examining the lives of self-absorbed celebrities than why you don?t have health insurance, why stadiums are built with the money you earn, and why you must shoulder enormous academic debt in order to qualify to enter the workforce.
Everywhere but Florida essentially argues to move towards abolishing the Electoral College and establishing a new voting system in the United States. Is it just preaching to the choir? What choir? Has this subject been really examined by any media outlet? Did you even know that this was a problem in previous elections? No, because the conversation isn?t happening.
Change happens when the people want it to happen. The people have to talk about the issues to figure out if change is in their interest. Unfortunately the political change is not as sexy as PageSix gossip and sensational news items. Perhaps as desperation about survival and quality of life increases, people will get active. People get angry when they are constantly sick and hungry.
You?re part of an organization called M*A*M*A (Mothers Alliance for Militant Action) that advocates for the rights of mothers, women and children and recently staged an event to reclaim Mother?s Day from Hallmark. What?s it like to be a mom and an activist in New York City?
It is a symbiotic combination, I don?t know how you can be a parent anywhere and NOT be an activist. There are so many challenges to being a parent in this country from job security to childcare support and none of them are being met significantly. Gloria Steinem once said the true words, ?if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.? I say that if men could have children, parental leave would be nearly a year off from work with pay. It works in Canada, why not here?
When I had my daughter, I had an emergency Caesarian. This is an operation where about five layers of muscle are cut through to get to the uterus, which is then cut open to get to the baby. Any similar abdominal surgery requires about two months of bed rest to recover. The Family and Medical Leave Act legislates that you get six weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child. This only covers employers with over 50 employees. If you are a woman working in a small company, they can refuse to grant you leave after the birth of your child, and they would more than likely get away with it.
Six weeks isn?t two months. And babies don?t start ?sleeping through the night? (this means for more than four hours at a time) until they are six months, they aren?t designed to sleep that much. So after six weeks you return to work bleary eyed from getting up every three hours and still healing from the birth that you never really got enough bed rest to recover.
I am just thankful I do not do manual labor. The Family and Medical Leave Act is the bare minimum of support for some families, and it is an insult to families in America. This is just the beginning of my gripes.
What about booting women off the welfare rolls, making them work, then not having childcare available for them?
Regardless, if you believe that your role as a parent is to create a loving and inspired environment for your child, it is your duty to be an activist and be a part of the solution for the problems of the world.
Before making your home in New York, you were pretty active in the underground punk rock scene and were involved with some radical political groups. Briefly describe some of the things you were involved with and what it was like to be part of the counterculture in places like Columbus OH, Atlanta GA, Knoxville and Murfreesboro TN?
The counter culture in those places, were the only way for me to survive mentally and spiritually. ?Counterculture? means something entirely different there than New York. In New York, you have all of these choices, all of these options, for the most part, people respect you for whatever choices you want to make, and there is a community for you, whatever you want to do, there is a place for you to express or learn about it.
In small town middle America, I found myself fighting something in every community I involved myself with. I was disappointed on many levels, from simple straight up sexism, to finding a challenging intellectual environment, to having artistic freedom. The underground punk rock scene seemed to be free of most of the things that bothered me about the world. It was just a bonus that the music absolutely rocked my world while reflecting my anger.
I was involved in lots of stuff, spoken word tour here, booked some bands there, worked as a patient escort for an abortion clinic here, had a radio show there... but at the end of the day a lot of the problems that I was running away from in mainstream society, were still in the underground punk scene.
To illustrate, I was at a Music festival in Columbus, OH called ?More than Music.? Between the shows there were discussions on all the ?isms.? Sexism, Racism, Fascism... you know. Well during the ?Racism in the Punk Scene? discussion, all the participants were white. It was at that moment that I knew I was in the wrong place. I lost my enthusiasm for this underground movement. It was good to develop in this place where everything was challenged and it seemed that anything was possible, but at the end of the day I found it unhealthy for my social circle to be so unilateral from hairstyles and music to politics and beliefs. As the great Penny Arcade says, ?that?s not a community that?s a demographic.?
Give an example of something you witnessed or experienced that had you think "only in New York" or "damn, I'm glad I live in this city."
Everyday it is something new. Today when I was entering into Brooklyn on the BQE someone has bought a billboard and it is white, with the words, ?worst president, ever.?
Who is your favorite New Yorker (dead or alive) and why?
Penny Arcade, her work is filled with revolution.
Since this is the ?city that never sleeps,? tell us a good 3am story
Are there any ?good? 3am stories? Unless you are making out with someone you dig, there is nothing good about 3am.
Billy's Topless is now a bagel shop, no more smoking in bars or restaurants, Times Square has been Disneyfied, what's next?
At the moment I just hope the RNC doesn?t turn the city into week long martial law. I will be just fine if I never see another army vehicle in the streets again.
There are over 39,000 police officers in the Big Apple. Any out of the ordinary run-ins (positive or negative) with any members of the NYPD you?d like to share?
I had a new roommate move in. I live on the top floor of a brownstone. To enter, we have to go through two doors. One of us had forgotten to close the doors. She came up to the apartment and told me that the doors were open and she thought she heard someone in the house. Of course I was I was like, ?oh shit, call the cops? which I did on my cell phone. Within two minutes (literally) six cops were on our stoop ready to kick some intruder ass. It was impressive.
But they really are more an army than a police force, and that frightens me. I don?t think my tax dollars should go to training them how to beat up protesters. Oh, I meant keep the peace...
From Wall Street to Riverdale, Far Rockaway to Kew Gardens, Williamsburg to Red Hook, New York City is a city famous for its neighborhoods. What?s your favorite?
The neighborhood that I live in presently, it is unnamed, because if you move here and make my rent increase anymore I will kill you.
If there were a drink called a ?Brooklyn,? what would be in it?
Champagne and mango juice.
Bloomberg... good, bad or just plain ugly?
Ugly for the most part, but damn, 311 is efficient.
Plans for Ground Zero... good, bad or just plain ugly?
Whatever, just divest the media, stop beating up Middle Eastern men and get me health insurance.
Martin Scorcese or Woody Allen?
What?s your favorite NY eatery?
[Ed. Note: Sonali is an Indian restaurant on Indian Row - E6th St. between 1st and 2nd Avenues.]
Name one person you trust in politics.
Trust is not within politics, we can only hope.
You hear all the time that ?every vote counts,? but New York State is pretty much of a given to go Democratic in the upcoming election. So? does every vote really count? If you really wanted to make a difference, wouldn?t it make more sense to do something like move to Florida or Ohio?
No, but registering absolutely everyone in Florida or Ohio to vote would make a difference. You have to think big picture. Want to make a difference? Take a road trip with your friends and sign up everyone to vote in every blue state. You have 70 days left to register people- go.
What source(s) do you turn to for news?
NPR, New York Times, and National News broadcasts on one of the big three (ABC, CBS, NBC). If I want real in-depth kind of stuff, CNN, The Nation, various web articles.
It?s the year 2025, what do you think will be the hot topic of discussion at the water cooler?
Can you believe how short sighted and crazy it is that they paid so much
attention to so much stupid crap back then?
If you could ask G-d one question, what would you ask?
If you are truly on the side of the people, why does only a small percentage
of the world?s population own such a large percentage of the wealth?