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DCTV - New York's Downtown Community Television Center - An Overview

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DCTV - New York's Downtown Community Television Center - An Overview

DCTV Logo

Courtesy DCTV

Dedicated to Providing Public Access

The Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV), founded in 1972 by documentary filmmakers and educators Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating New Yorkers, especially youngsters and those from diverse ethnic communities, about documentary film and public access.

Headquartered in a landmark firehouse at 87 Lafayette Street, near Chinatown and practically next door to New York City's courthouses, the DCTV organization offers a selection of some 150 practical courses to teach members of the community and the general public the various skills required for production of documentary films.

The organization's goal is to democratize media, giving the public the skills and providing media access so that all can tell their own stories from their own perspectives.

In addition to offering classes and workshops, DCTV supervises or facilitates the production of independent documentaries and serves the filmmaking community by providing affordable equipment, production and editing facility rentals.

The organization also distributes films from its catalog of independently produced documentaries that were produced by DCTV or were in some way supported or facilitated by DCTV's staff and resources. Among the films in the catalog are War Torn 1861-2010 and China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province, two extraordinary documentaries, both directed by DCTV's co-founder, Jon Alpert.

DCTV Courses and Workshops

When DCTV was founded, high on its agenda was the assurance that communities -- the public -- would have ongoing access to media channels. Video production and public access broadcast were key considerations at the time.

However, DCTV has kept abreast of the proliferation of digital media outlets and current social media trends, and now offers cutting edge courses which incorporate use of the latest equipment and technology as it applies to and enhances public access.

DCTV courses are open to and attended by novices who want a working introduction to filmmaking, as well as by professionals who seek exposure to new ideas and technologies that can enhance their work.

Calling upon a wide network of professional filmmakers and film educators to serve as teachers and workshop leaders, DCTV offers practical hands-on courses in digital video production, with emphasis on camera fundamentals, digital cinematography, audio fundamentals and lighting fundamentals, as well as the use of the Canon HDSLR First Frame to Final Cut and Green Screen First Frame to Final Cut, plus courses on interviewing techniques and guerrilla filmmaking. Most of the courses and workshops are short-term intensives, designed to be fully immersive, challenging and productive experiences for students. There is also a week-long production intensive course that is something like a filmmaker boot camp, a complete primer to the art.

The teachers and workshop leaders take a mentoring approach, giving personal attention to each student and project. Enrollment in courses and workshops is limited to from two to ten students. Students must use DCTV's equipment exclusively, and the student-equipment ratio is two to one. In other words, two students (at most) will be assigned to use one camera, for example. Courses are affordable, ranging in price from $150 to $450, with discounts given to those who are or who become DCTV members.

Building a New Venue

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, DCTV announced its plans to build Manhattan's first and only documentaries-only theater, which will be housed within the organization's headquarters building.

Construction on the new cinema will begin in March of 2013, and it will take about a year to finish the project. When finished, the DCTV Cinema will be a state-of-the-art 3500 square foot venue with 73 seats and equipped with 4K digital cinema technology and equipment that is being contributed by Sony.

With fiscal support and grants coming from both public and private sectors, including major contributions from the Office of the Mayor of New York City, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Office of the New York City Council and the Rockefeller Foundation, DCTV has already raised $3.2 million for constructing the new theater.

The new theater will show first run documentary films throughout the year, and will be one of the venues that nonfiction films can use to qualify for Academy Awards consideration. It will also be a screening venue for films produced at DCTV, and a place where new and established filmmakers can meet each other and interact with audiences and communities or groups who have special interests in their films and/or documentary filmmaking in general. The new theater's digital technology will allow DCTV to extend its screenings to additional venues, thereby greatly increasing the film's accessibility to wider audiences.

Further Details

For additional information on DCTV, courses and workshops, screenings and the new theater, the documentaries catalog and membership, visit the DCTV Website.

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