Reel World

A new leader at the Bay Area Video Coalition

Tell the Truth and RunThe parade of job changes in the local filmmaking community continues apace. Tamara Gould takes over the executive director post this week at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), the long-standing Mission District media arts organization. A crucial resource in the completion of locally made documentaries -- some 200 projects pass through the facility each year -- BAVC offers top-notch post-production gear to independent producers at affordable rates, along with classes and training for newcomers to the field. Gould spent four years at BAVC in the late '90s, working her way up to associate director under Sally Jo Fifer, who departed after nine years at the helm to head the S.F.-based programming initiative the Independent Television Service ("Network," Reel World, June 6). Most recently, Gould did a stint across the street at KQED as the executive producer of Independent View, This Week in Northern California, and The Nobel: Visions of Our Century (which airs nationally in December).

"Working on the public TV side has been incredibly educational," Gould reports. "What I see it's ultimately about is having the content to broadcast, and BAVC is about helping makers create powerful content." Gould has some advice for those who want to promote alternative viewpoints on television: Pay attention to broadcast quality. Even the most riveting story has no chance of airing unless it's first rate. "Production standards are still important to the gatekeepers. They can exclude people who have great things to say if the work isn't technically sound."

Waterloo BridgeAfter Laurence Olivier left her for Vivien Leigh in 1937, his wife explained to their children, "He's with the most beautiful woman in the world." But the Indian-born, British-raised Leigh had brains and guts to match her looks, and they were never more in evidence than on the set of Gone With the Wind. "She was so upset at the way Scarlett was being reduced to a petulant bitch," says Janis Stevens, who has been portraying Leigh onstage since 1997. "The character she had fallen in love with in the book was much richer and more complex. Vivien was completely unknown in Hollywood, 25 years old, and went to the set every day to fight these Yanks. Finally, one day [producer David O.] Selznick told her to throw the damn book away. That kind of fiery determination is what is so attractive to women who see the film."

Stevens, who grew up in the Sacramento area, plays Leigh in a poignant, intimate one-woman show, Vivien: The Triumph and Madness of Vivien Leigh. While Rick Foster's script focuses on Leigh's theater work, Stevens has become an expert on her entire career. "Vivien and Larry changed the status for the British actor," she asserts. "Up until that time, they'd been used as character actors. When she got Scarlett, and he had just done Wuthering Heights and went on to Rebecca, that changed the way the British actor was used in Hollywood." Now we know who to blame for wannabe Brit Gwyneth Paltrow's career. Vivien runs through Oct. 7 at the Magic Theater at Fort Mason; call 441-3687 for info.

Head OnHaiku Tunnel is the third Bay Area feature in a month to get a nationwide release (after The Deep Endand Ghost World), but it's unlikely that co-writers/producers/directors Josh and Jacob Kornbluth can parlay their success into, say, a gig writing and directing the next Adam Sandler flick. "It's not a matter of courage," says Josh, who spent the better part of a decade laboring to bring his hit monologue to the screen. "It's not like we've been totally closed off to selling out. We can't. Nobody's buying."

The brothers hope to shoot their next film, The Best Thief in the World, in New York next summer. It's an autobiographical coming-of-age drama about a kid with a difficult family life who ends up breaking into people's houses "to rearrange the furniture and mess with their minds," says Jacob, who took a draft of the script to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab this summer. Unfortunately, there's probably no way to work into this film Haiku Tunnel's remarkable special effect: Josh's enormous head.

 
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