Spit and Potatoes

I’ve been holding my tongue in regards to Cosmo Inserra and his San Antonio Media Future Initiative organization. Actually I had typed out an eye-rolling blog some weeks back which I decided not to post. You know, all about how here we have another individual who is helping to Keep San Antonio Lame. (This, unfortunately, is a grassroots slogan along the lines of Keep Austin Weird.) We’re already suffering under Mark Sullivan and Al Frakes, and we now have another well-meaning naif to bring shame to this city’s nascent and ever-struggling media industry? Wonderful.

I have to confess I keep the man on my radar because he’s a sweet nugget of comic relief. Cosmo Inserra seems to be the Napoleon Madrid of the San Antonio production world. The difference is that I was able to meet ultra-fringe mayoral nut-case candidate Madrid on two occasions. Yet I have never met this Inserra chap. I see his nemesis (well, his off-and-on nemesis) Drew Mayer-Oakes all the time. Our film commissioner is out there interacting with us, the San Antonio media community. And to be honest, he doesn’t have to. His office is deep in the belly of the CVB, also known as the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau. Drew’s job description is to bring large productions here. He is involved in spreading the word. Come and film in San Antonio.

When I moved to San Antonio, maybe a year before Drew got the job at the commission, I had been working some with the San Antonio Film Commission. And when Drew took over, the commission seemed to work more smoothly. But, unlike Mr. Inserra, I had visited the Film Commission webpage. I learned what this office could and couldn’t do. Back then I was mainly using the commission to pull shooting permits and gather advice on production-friendly locations. From the years I’ve known Drew and Janet, I’ve come to the conclusion that the San Antonio Film Commission basically provides two services which are funded by their meager resources. They help productions find locations; and they provide advocacy out-reach, getting the word out to the world that San Antonio is a great place to make moves. (And yes, I know, the commission also does other things. They provide a free online production manual. They post crew / casting calls on their webpage, as well as upcoming film events. They help to sponsor film festivals and local film groups — SAL, San Antonio Film Festival, NALIP, etc. They run the annual 48 Hour Film Experience. They throw a great annual mixer. They offer a free monthly film forum. Oh, yeah. Don’t forget all the hard work Drew and Janet have done to push for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance to force the Texas legislation to expand Texas film incentive programs. All this with a paltry budget of 350,000 dollars a year. Impressive.) The fact is, the San Antonio Film Commission needs to be removed from the bosom of the CVB — they need a larger staff and loads more money. Maybe one day!

But I’m writing about Cosmo. Here is a link to one of the SA Current’s blogs. (Thanks, I think, Sarah Fisch.)

http://www.sacurrent.com/blog/default.asp?perm=69508

This is the first time I’d heard of Mr. Inserra. He writes this “open” letter to Drew Mayer-Oakes (CCing everyone), demanding transparency concerning the San Antonio Film Commission’s behavior. He goes on the attack without first contacting the Film Commission. And from the vagaries of his emails it seems as though he has done no real research as to what the purpose of the San Antonio Film Commission might be.

So, one might wonder, just who is this unknown individual who has never met with and spoken to one of the most accessible city employees I’ve ever met … and yet who seems so horny to throw brickbats at what he perceives as an elevated ivory tower built by the blood and sweat and tears of the tax payers’ wallet. But if you’re some malcontent who is incapable of doing the most basic Google research (or attend the monthly free San Antonio Film Commission’s Film Forum at the downtown public library where you can meet and speak with Mr. Mayer-Oakes), and you lash out and attack one of the most benign bureaucracies in San Antonio, well, how are we supposed to judge you? Transparency? I can think of no city organization more transparent and open than the San Antonio Film Commission.

I might demand to see the financial statements of the San Antonio Media Future Initiative, but, really, that would just be me being an ass. The fact is, I like that it’s there. You know, like the Birch Society, to give me ironic pleasure.

Of all the things to get bent out of shape over — and fuck there are loads in this day and age — who would turn the sights on the San Antonio Film Commission? We continue to fight two illegal and immoral wars. We can’t shut down Gitmo because we apparently can’t recall the concept of the rule of law and process these poor bastards through the court system. And we still have military recruiters in our high schools. And Cosmo Inserra wants to bone the the CVB and the San Antonio Film Commission up the ass because, what? They’re not doing things they were never created to do?

Mr. Inserra, do a bit of research before you turn on the histrionics.

I did not intend to take this into two pages. But let me just say two more things.

First, this second tryst that the SA Current has had with Inserra —

http://www.sacurrent.com/film/story.asp?id=70158

–does make some good points. Large productions pass us by because: San Antonio lacks a large studio with the associated infrastructures; we have shitloads of wonderful film and video programs for teens but really nothing at the college level; the city and county aren’t behind us pushing for needed film facilities; and the San Antonio film Commission is too small and too underfunded to really shine.

(As a parenthetical aside, this quote from Inserra seemed rather strange: “He said it’s not fair to place blame squarely on Mayer-Oakes’ shoulders, but Inserra would like to see more return on taxpayers’ investment. ‘The money (for the film commission) needs to be there,’ Inserra said. ‘The $352,000 I don’t have a problem with. But it needs to be spent in the right places.'” Wow. Does Inserra not realize what a drop in the bucket 350,000 dollars is? I really don’t know what he thinks should be done with a city department with a couple of full time employees who are expected to travel often to festivals and conventions. It sounds like they’re doing a great job running on little more than spit and potatoes.)

And second, one of the things we do so well in San Antonio is turn against one another. All this bitching and sniping (lord knows I do my share — just look at the lines above) gets us nowhere. There are individuals and groups trying to bring the film community together. Drew and Janet are certainly on the front lines. As is Veronica Hernandez, the head honcha of NALIP-SA. And Dar Miller of the SAL Festival. George and Catherine Cisneros of URBAN-15 with their student film festival, the Josiah Youth Media Festival. Adam Rocha, with his San Antonio Film Festival, which has gone through three name changes and 13 years. Victor Payan and Sandra Sarmiento who will be running, for the third year, Cine Festival, the oldest Chicano Film Festival in North America. There are educators, artists, production companies, and independent filmmakers in this town who have worked tirelessly and often with little to no pay to bring people together.

And so I hope Cosmo Inserra can work with all these great people. It’s easier and a lot more fun to point fingers and tear things apart, but the truth is, we all need each other.

So Cosmo, come on out. There are events all the time all over the city. When you’re not working on productions, let us all get to know you … you know, outside of the social media world.

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5 thoughts on “Spit and Potatoes

  1. I love this blog! Thank you for being honest. If you really want to know about SAMFI you should know that it is me by myself and there is no budget. i think the article in the current showed the more glib side of cosmo, but that’s showbusiness. The bottom line is that my arguments are validm otherwise there wouldn’t be an entire page article about it. I agree that 350k is a drop in the bucket and there needs to be 10 times that in SAFC before we can do what we need to as a city. I provide a advocacy and an oversight where there is none, can you fault me for that? I agree with your point of view entirely and only wish there were more people like you. Thank you again for the write up, it is an honor. and please feel free to call me any time 213 709 3210

    Sincerely

    Cosmo Inserra

  2. well at least Cosmo signs his name. I was in San Antonio film Community for 15 years. I know we need the open dialog. What have you been doing to stop the wars and the injustices of the world???? If we start on our corner of the world, improve it. then maybe we can move to larger issues. Cosmo is asking Questions. there are no dumb questions. now start a dialog not a single blog

    TC
    Tom Clark
    Gaffer,Grip,Electric,Best Boy, Generator operator, equipment owner.

  3. For every argument there is a rebuttal, and Erik you are all over it. Thanks for taking the time to blog about what I feel will be a long argument. I also felt there were some good points to that article in the Current, but some unfair as well. Drew (and Janet) have been nothing but helpful when it comes to helping me, and others I know secure locations for shoots here in San Antonio, and then they actually make it to the screening of that very film. I’ve also always known Drew to be completely accessible, and within arms reach, just like everyone else in this small film community we have. There are limitations to a budget of 350,000, that in reality is squeamish in the film world, and only so much one can do to talk up San Antonio, and pitch our fair city to filmmakers and studios. It’s up to us to make better films, and up to the productions to make their way over here already. Let’s hope the recent incentives will draw more productions our way, and we will be ready to crew those sets if need be.

    Sincerely your “weekend filmmaker”

    • SamLerma

      i could not agree with you more. Drew and Janet are very helpful to the indie video maker. they are in fact the most awesome thing that has happened to indie film in the history of SA. But in all fairness, they have done nothing for the actual industry. The last film that came to San Antonio was in 2001. That is also the last film I worked on in SA. I had to move to NY and LA because there is no industry in SA.
      If you would read the mission statement of SAMFI you wold understand that our “initiative” is to open a dialogue and discuss in a positive way. Let the press run whatever they want to. It is up to all of us to build the future if all media in the Alamo city. so are you in?

      Cosmo Inserra

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