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An independent voice for film

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Peter McDermott

Paul Power landed on his feet when he came back to New York in March 1998.

Shortly after his arrival, he was appointed managing editor of the Independent Film and Video Monthly, a newsstand magazine with a circulation of 15,000.

Back home, Power had been the editor of Film Ireland, which, like the Independent, is a publication of a membership-based organization. The two magazines have similar functions and ethos.

"It was easy to make the transition," said Power, a Dubliner who’d spent the early 1990s in the New York.

However it was also a step into a different league: New York is the center of the independent filmmaking world. "There’s lots of traffic coming through here. You hear what’s happening," he said. "It’s a hub of activity and information."

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The 5,000-member Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers promotes, the 35-year-old Power said, "individual voices: those more concerned with the work itself than with the trappings surrounding the industry."

"The real definition of an independent film is one that takes a perspective or tells a story outside of the mainstream; it’s different from what you’d get in a studio film," Power said.

"I look for a story that’s well-told in a film and for engaging imagery," he said. As a recent example, he cites the "La Ciudad," ("The City"), which is about immigrants in New York. "That’s the kind of work the organization would champion and I would too."

In March 1999, four months before its release, Power saw a movie he said was "startling and impressive." It was made for $60,000. "However, its real innovation was that it was marketed entirely on the internet," he said. That film, "The Blair Witch Project," went on to make $150 million.

"It’s a really interesting time to be where I am right now," he said. "The whole dynamics of the industry are changing."

Nowadays there are many more distributors in the market. "Very little that’s good falls through the cracks," Power said. "The downside of that is that there is little opportunity for word of mouth to develop. A film often has to do well on its first weekend.

"The internet is also perfect for short filmmaking," he said. "There’s been an explosion for better or worse of short films due to the internet and digital filmmaking equipment."

Part of Power’s job is to keep track of all of this. He reads the trade papers and deals with 30-50 e-mails a day. He’s also responsible for getting out a 64-page magazine each month.

"I’m the second in command. The editor-in-chief, Patricia Thompson, is responsible for the overall vision. I take care of the nuts and bolts," he said.

Power’s tasks include writing for the magazine, editing the technology and news sections and overseeing the production process. "It’s a nice environment," he said of the Independent’s offices on Hudson Street.

Power himself is a major factor in the good atmosphere there, according to the magazine’s advertising director, Laura D. Davis. "Paul’s a great person and has a great disposition," she said.

Power works a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. day. Near production deadline, he takes work home but more often evenings are spent at a screening or writing on the arts for the daily and weekly editions of Variety.

"I like the non-profit sector because there’s flexibility. You don’t have to live your job," he said.

Power lives on the Lower East Side with his wife, Jill Graves, a New Hampshire native who works as a set costumer in film and TV. The couple are expecting their first baby before Christmas. "He’ll be father of the year when the time comes," Davis said.

December will be particularly busy for Power: in that month, too, he’s planning with two friends to launch a web site called docsinprogress.com. It will be a resource for documentary filmmakers looking for funding and will feature clips of works in progress

Little in Paul Power’s background suggested a career in a high-tech environment. After graduating in law from UCD, he completed a two-year master’s degree in town-planning. He then worked for a period with An Taisce, Ireland’s heritage council.

Always passionate about cinema, he found his first full-time job in the industry after he immigrated in 1991, working as a projectionist at Theatre 80 on East 8th Street, which at that time screened classic movies.

"The beauty of New York is that you find can find work as a projectionist or whatever you want. There are many more outlets and possibilities" he said. "You can make your own luck."

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