In addition to offering numerous groups and nonprofits their space to hold fundraising events and drives for free, Media Bureau has always opened its doors to artists in need of a venue, equipment or advice.
In 2009, the Bureau collaborated with the Philadelphia Youth Network, the U.S Department of Labor and the Philadelphia Film Office, provided studio space and equipment to teach 14 students the craft of documentary filmmaking. For Entrepreneurship Week back in April, in partnership with the nonprofit the Empowerment Group, Barnett held workshops at the University of the Arts about starting a small business and how to market it online using social media. PA2012.com has recently partnered with PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com—a Temple journalism class—to allow students to contribute to the site.
“The spirit of entrepreneurship is definitely alive at Media Bureau at all times,” Cohen says. Which was evident when they founded the Independent Film Festival, the Bureau’s bread and butter for the past four years.
The film fest screens titles that many Philadelphians would never get a chance to see. This year’s program showcased close to 100 local and international titles.
While this might not compare to the 250 screenings that the Philadelphia Film Festival puts on every year, Barnett doesn’t see them as competition. Noting that people often equate “indie” with “dinky” and “unprofitable,” he says what people don’t realize is that, “We get 10,000 people from out of state to show up online and interact.”
This is in addition to the thousand or so people who actually attended the screenings and the 20 or so filmmakers who came from across the globe to promote their projects during a series of roundtables and Q&A sessions. Giving the fest even greater muscle, the Franklin Institute partnered with Media Bureau this year to host the majority of the screenings.
The film festival, which wrapped up in late June, is actually just the start of a 12-month marketing program that includes weekly/monthly screenings, forums and Q&A sessions. “A lot of times when you take your film to a festival, they show it and that’s it,” Cohen explains. The Bureau has produced an estimated 10 titles and been involved in the filming of at least 35 others. Currently in the works is The Halls of Harold Carvey, a psychological thriller set in an insane asylum by local director James Difonzo. “We want to really get behind the filmmakers and support their art,” Cohen says.
On the night the film fest kicked off, Cohen was driving around the city delivering screeners to the five different venues. He returned clearly dazed and drenched in sweat.
“If I’m not sweating, I’m not working,” he later joked.
At the end of the day, passion is what keeps Media Bureau in business.
“We are almost an endless reservoir of stories, places, films, voices,” says Cohen. “And I love it.”