The Southwest Alternate Media Project (www.swamp.org) has undergone changes this year so I was curious about where they are now. SWAMP, the first Texas independent nonprofit organization for the “citizen filmmaker,” was founded in 1977 as a program at Rice University by media activist James Blue with the help of philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil. SWAMP director Ed Hugetz was notorious in those early days for hopping into a van and roaming Houston’s streets with Blue and a camera, looking for stories. Since then, the media arts nonprofit has grown tremendously but more recently has had to adjust to a different film climate and a shrinking budget. To their credit, they have remained true to their mission almost forty years later as a regional media arts center committed to film and video while supporting media literacy – now more important than ever in this era of YouTube sensations and iPhone® movies.
Earlier this year, SWAMP closed their office in a reconverted Montrose home and let go of Executive Director Mary Lampe, who is now doing film consulting and fine art appraisal. Board members continue to run its many programs – filmmaker/ chef/writer Adán Medrano is currently at the helm and filmmaker Michelle Mower will take over as president next year. Michelle recently told me SWAMP is planning to move into a small office at the hip new home for the arts, MATCH (www.matchouston.org). The new digs are an exciting sign of SWAMP’s revitalization.
One of the many ways SWAMP supports filmmakers and projects is by serving as a fiscal sponsor, thus giving organizations much-needed nonprofit status; they currently have seven sponsored projects. Other programs at SWAMP include their long-running indie film television program, “The Territory,” in its 35th season this year (check www.houstonpbs.org for showtimes); the Salon, a monthly meeting of film pros and fans on the last Tuesday of the month; teen summer camps every August; and ongoing workshops for emerging and developing filmmakers as well as for the film enthusiast.
One of their most important programs is their annual “Business of Film” conference, taking place this September 18–19 at Rice University Media Center. The keynote speaker is trailblazer Louis Black, co-founder of SXSW and the Austin Chronicle as well as a writer, filmmaker and producer. Other speakers include film consultants Ashland Viscosi and Annie Bush, who have helped many independent films build successful crowdfunding and audience-building campaigns. The only conference of its kind in Texas or Louisiana, “Business of Film” aims to support filmmaking in the southwest region. It’s a perfect signature program for SWAMP and one that will ensure a lasting legacy for them.
WANT TO SEE MORE ART FILMS?
CHECK OUT THESE VENUES
14 Pews (www.14pews.org)
Alamo Drafthouse (www.drafthouse.com)
Asia Society (www.asiasociety.org/texas)
Aurora Picture Show (www.aurorapictureshow.org)
Blaffer Art Museum (www.blafferartmuseum.org)
Café Brasil (www.cafe-brasil.net)
Contemporary Arts Museum (www.camh.org)
Discovery Green (www.discoverygreen.com)
Holocaust Museum (www.hmh.org)
Jewish Community Center (www.erjcchouston.org)
Landmark River Oaks Theatre (www.landmarktheatres.com)
Menil Collection (www.menil.org)
Miller Outdoor Theatre (www.milleroutdoortheatre.com)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (www.mfah.org/films)
Orange Show (www.orangeshow.org)
Rice Cinema (www.ricecinema.rice.edu)
Sundance Cinemas (www.sundancecinemas.com)