Category: Commentary


I began my career with the investment banking firm JP Morgan, beating the thousands of applicants for a coveted slot and a life of three-piece suits and the dreaded power tie. One plus one equals two, it’s not that hard. When someone offers to double your salary, you take the bait and jump ship. From JP I joined up with an old school brokerage house, soon to be gobbled up by a financial services firm looking to emulate Sandy Weill and Citigroup. I watched the banking industry consolidate, followed by the brokerage industry and, later in my career, the advertising agencies and then the cable stations. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.


It was a strangely quiet morning on 23rd Street, I was sleeping in, recuperating from a late night session of photo editing when the phone rang. It was David Craig Ellis. “Paul, I have the angle for your new piece, it’s David Craig Ellis Shits His Pants.” I said “ok,” slowly realizing what I was agreeing to. “We’ll talk it over in the studio this afternoon.” I hung up thinking, this can’t be good.


For 2016 the APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) Conference offered a broad array of performers and entertainment to behold, not only for those members of the organization looking to fill out their calendars for the upcoming year – at arts facilities, festivals, colleges and universities and the like – but for aficionados of the performing arts in general. As the world’s largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals, APAP features more than 3,600 presenters, artists, managers, agents and emerging arts leaders from all 50 US states and more than 30 countries convening in one place at one time to both celebrate the disciplines they have dedicated their professional lives to, as well as discuss in many forums and panels the issues which impact the production and presentation of culture, both in the US and globally. While the Conference program unfolded over January 15-19 at the New York Hilton Hotel, the showcase performances which energize and thrill both members and general audiences alike took place over a longer period, from January 12-21 (with some showcasing performers in residencies extending for a week or more beyond), and could be seen at a great number of sites around New York in addition to the Hilton.


If you are lucky enough to know Dave Ellis, you might know him as a painter, a musician, a writer, or a specialized contractor designing and building custom recording studios for a veritable who’s who of the music world. I am lucky enough to know him in all of these personas. To put it simply Dave Ellis is a man and a half. Make a trip to Venticinque at 162 Fifth Ave in Park Slope and you will be treated to a show of ten of his paintings all created in 2014.


The recent timing of the announcement that start-up ebook retailer Zola has acquired start-up book retailer Bookish in a cash deal has had the effect of bookending, as it were, the 2013 and 2014 editions of Digital Book World, which will be taking place on January 13-15 at the Sharaton New York Hotel & Towers. After all, it was just last February – within a month after the 4th Digital Book World event concluded – that Bookish was finally up and running, after nearly two years of planning and delays. The acquisition will merge about half of the Bookish employees, mostly on the tech side, into Zola’s operations, while for the present time Zola plans to continue running Bookish as a standalone website as long-term strategies for integrating the two entities are hashed out.


Marked by a substantial change in the digital age, WESTDOC dedicated a considerable portion of its programming slate to the digital space, including its first-ever digital keynote speaker Kelly Day, CEO of Blip. A dream come true to attendees. WESTDOC offered an eclectic event presenting panels, face-to-face meetings, sit-down group discussions and roundtables with more than 150 top industry executives.


Later this month (25 June 2012) Turner Classic Movies/TCM is presenting an evening of films with Ross Alexander. He is a pretty obscure actor who played supporting parts in “A” Warners pictures and some leads in “B”s. He was considered an up and coming leading man in the Warners stock company when he shot himself in the head. There are several reasons given for his Jan. ’37 suicide, his homosexuality, studio pressure to keep up a front, his declining career, debts… There are several conflicting stories but no one has really researched it properly. The only interest in Ross Alexander was when Reagan biographer Lou Cannon mentioned that Alexander’s suicide meant there was a hole in the Warner’s line-up that Ronnie was lucky enough to fill.


With the advent of broadband technology, streaming media and digital projection of filmed entertainment, there has been a current of distress voiced in various cinema publications regarding the death of film, as we have known it. While many independent film producers hail the digital revolution as a democratizing force that will level the playing field for them in their attempts to gain an audience in the face of a marketplace hegemony long enjoyed by Hollywood and its’ boutique-indie spawn, there will indeed be something considerable lost when the term motion pictures no longer refers to flickering images on celluloid.


Despite the recently depressed market for internet IPOs and concomitant drop in share value of .com enterprises on the NASDAQ extant, there remains a climate of qualified optimism in that segment of the creative community who operate outside the umbrella of corporate patronage regarding the ability of the web as a means to bypass the pitfalls normally associated with traditional means of distributing their work. For independent filmmakers in particular it would seem that anything producing anxiety in Hollywood on the scale that the rise of the internet has can only be a positive development in the quest for a more democratic process facilitating audience access.