Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Culture planning at the metropolitan scale should include funding for "local" documentary film making

Yesterday's Post mentions the IndieGoGo crowdfunding initiative to help fund a locally-produced documentary on a Washington-area music legend, "Late D.C. guitar legend Danny Gatton is the subject of an upcoming documentary."

It made me realize this is yet another area to consider under the "media, communications, and broadcasting" element that I have been thinking about in terms of yet another element that should be included in a more wide-ranging framework for culture master planning processes (e.g., see "Should community culture plans include elements on higher education?").

I have been thinking about the "media" element because in today's entertainment-dominated media world, for profit television and radio do very little "public affairs programming."  It's been left to public television and radio, such as WAMU-FM, the area NPR affiliate, which like many NPR and PBS stations, does a lot of local news and other programming.

By contrast to our NPR affiliate, DC and Northern Virginia are somewhat underserved by "public television" because we have two stations, plus the Maryland Public Television network is a third, and none of the stations do much in the way of truly local programming.

WETA doesn't do as much as they could, because they are nationally-focused, but they have done good programs on recent history, such as "Washington in the 60's" (70s; 80s) on the social history of the area by decade, and shown various documentaries on Marion Barry and others.

WHUT doesn't because of their HBCU related mission.  I mentioned this in a recent blog post on civic knowledge and voting in a section on "newspapers and media."

MPT does programs related to Maryland, such as the "State Circle" state politics program, "Maryland Outdoors and Farming," and "Chesapeake Collectibles," a locally-oriented version of "Antiques Roadshow."

WETA also presents short programs on area neighborhoods, but the programs vary considerably in their quality (at least IMO). I didn't mention the latest one, even though it had some bright spots, like with Eastern Market and Archibald's Walk alley, because overall I wasn't impressed.

There is also the Megahertz public television stations in Northern Virginia, but they are pretty grassroots, and more oriented to rebroadcast of foreign television news and entertainment programming and are nationally distributed.

Communities ought to consider developing funding programs to support the production of documentaries on local topics.  Otherwise, stories aren't cataloged and preserved, and knowledge is lost.

Aerial of the mall maybe dating to the 1980s.

Tonight, PBS SoCal is premiering a documentary ("HENRY T. SEGERSTROM: IMAGINING THE FUTURE" )on Henry Segerstrom.  His family farmed in Orange County, and with the rise of suburban development ("sprawl") he shifted the lands to real estate development, including South Coast Plaza shopping center, which is supposed to be the most successful retail shopping malls in the nation, with annual sales approaching $2 billion(!).

Mr. Segerstrom, in part because of his interest, but also because of how it helped Orange County and his projects, was a major funder of arts programs in Orange County, including the creation of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (pictured right), a multi-building facility in Costa Mesa.

How many people in Orange County know that story?
A photo taken of the groundbreaking ceremony for South Coast Plaza.

Besides programs on the area's music history, and fortunately some have already been produced ("Salad Days | A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90);" "Punk the Capital"), the DC area could benefit from focused creation of objective documentaries on a wide variety of topics, including the history of local land use development, featuring people like Til Hazel and the Lerner family, the Smith family in Crystal City, the Carrs and other members of the Growth Machine, like Bud Doggett (a parking magnate) active in the DC real estate market.  Douglas Jemal.  Meanwhile, like Henry Segerstrom, the earlier generation has already died off.

Having a general funding stream for such programs makes it easier to produce them.  While there are various national funding programs for documentary film development, I don't think there are many such funds for locally-focused documentaries.  They are needed.

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