Professor sets film students up for success

Bart Weiss, art and art history associate professor, gives film junior Ibrahim Mpiana advice on a video entry for the CineSpace Short Film Competition on Aug. 27 in the Fine Arts Building. Contestants must incorporate NASA-captured imagery into their original films. Submissions were due Monday, and the winners will be announced at a CineSpace event at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival in November.

“Frame of Mind” celebrates 25 years because of Bart Weiss, show producer and art and art history associate professor.

Over 25 years, the KERA television show devoted to Texas independent filmmakers has evolved. When the show started, founding producers Suzanne Dooley and Marlis Schmidt focused on experimental filmmaking. Instead of running a whole film all the way through, they showcased bits and parts of films, especially narrative films.

In January 1997, Weiss took over the show. He focuses on documentaries and showcases high school and college student filmmakers, and he has featured several UTA students on the show.

“There are no typical days,” Weiss said.

He conceptualizes each season and every episode, Weiss said. For example, he features different filmmakers and their films and finds a coherent way to add the clips together.

Weiss goes through the station and fills out paperwork to ensure the filmmakers have rights to the music. He requests the tapes from the filmmakers and once he receives the tapes, he carefully edits the episodes together. He makes sure the titles, fade-ins, fade-outs and credits are correct, Weiss said.

“The challenging part is to keep the show interesting and find work that I think an audience will like,” Weiss said. “It’s very different than programming things for my festival, because you have to worry about language and what is appropriate for public television.”

Lastly, Weiss said he works on press releases and promotes the show every week to get the word out.

“I don’t think audiences have any understanding of the time that it takes to edit once the shooting is done,” contributing filmmaker Mark Birnbaum said.

When an audience watches a film, they see Hollywood and glamour, Birnbaum said. They do not see the hours, days, weeks, months and years of editing it takes to pull a story together.

“It’s like sculpture,” Birnbaum said. “You keep taking out and removing stuff until what’s left is the art in the middle, the story that you are trying to tell.”

Schmidt and Dooley built the show from the ground up. Schmidt said she wishes the audience knew how much attention, commitment and thought is put into making a show.

Dooley remembers the challenges she faced in getting the new show up and running. At the beginning, they had no money to pay the filmmakers, Dooley said. They wanted to be fair and equal to all film genres, so they quickly learned what constituted a good and interesting film.

“If you work in this business for very long, you’re going to have to do a lot of compromise,” contributing filmmaker Keith Alcorn said.

Filmmaking requires collaboration and cooperation, Alcorn said. He chooses his battles wisely and does not fight every step of the way on everything that comes up.

“I hope we have another 25 years,” Weiss said.

Having a television show run for 25 years is a rare and wonderful thing, Weiss said. It’s a great opportunity to feature young, up-and-coming filmmakers and alternative and independent films.

“Frame of Mind” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m., unless noted otherwise on KERA, Weiss said. This season will showcase animations, documentaries, music videos and shorts beginning Thursday.

“‘Frame of Mind’ to me means Bart Weiss,” Birnbaum said. “It’s yet another example of the work that he has done for decades and continues to do in spite of a lot of courses that may be arrayed against him.”


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