PIX FOR GLOBAL
Leveraging admiration for American filmmaking in support of diplomatic goals.
NOVEMBER 24 2022
For a century, cinephiles around the world have admired and emulated American filmmakers. The American Film Showcase is a cultural exchange program designed to leverage this admiration in service to diplomatic goals – strengthening ties and fostering cross-cultural understanding.
The AFS is a partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. In its first decade, the program has reached 120 countries and more than a quarter of a million people, offering insight into American society and empowering local filmmakers. PIX is a supporting partner, providing secure and dependable ways to enhance American cultural cache around the world.
The AFS consists of three main efforts: a film slate that annually includes about 60 American documentaries, chosen in part to support the mission goals of embassies and consulates; a training program that sends American experts to foreign countries to train local filmmakers in the latest techniques and tools; and workshops held in the U.S. for foreign filmmakers, covering subjects like virtual production, story development, and pitch refinement.
Ben Chance is the Curation and Distribution Manager for the AFS. As the person in charge of safely getting AFS films to hundreds of global destinations, he is particularly grateful for the support of PIX.
“When I first came to the AFS, we exclusively distributed a slate of movies by sending a package of DVDs of each film to every U.S. Embassy on the roster,” he says. “Digital files were problematic, because we didn’t have watermarking, and it was basically asking the filmmakers to accept the risk. Often, we just couldn’t do it – a Pro Res DCP is just too valuable, and too easy to pirate.”
The program was getting high marks and growing interest from embassies, but high-quality files were often impossible, even for screening rooms with the capability of delivering it. Around that time, the AFS was getting requests for the film Free Solo, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2019. Chance knew it was unlikely that the filmmakers would provide a download. He began cold-calling various file transfer services used in the motion picture business. Friends at Universal and Netflix recommended PIX, the industry standard information exchange system built around secure sharing of quality images.
“It quickly became clear that PIX works with everyone, starting with the major studios,” says Chance. “Since we operate on a government grant, our resources are limited. The people at PIX were just great, and we were able to create a strong public-private partnership. PIX is now our standard. Once we get the files, the day the licensing agreement launches, every embassy or consulate that’s signed up can start reviewing the slate, as opposed to waiting for the disks – which can take weeks to get to an embassy in Timor-Leste, for example. The staff at the embassy can plan their program, tailored to the particular situation in their country. It saves us so much time that we’ve been able to accomplish more with our small, eight-person team.
“In many of these countries, local ministries of culture have to preview these screenings taking into account local cultural sensitivities, and PIX helps us streamline that process as well,” he says. “They no longer have to wait for a disk to arrive, then take that single copy for a week in order to review it. The question of subtitles – a significant question at AFS – is much easier now.”
"IT QUICKLY BECAME CLEAR THAT PIX WORKS WITH EVERYONE, STARTING WITH THE MAJOR STUDIOS"
Across the motion picture industry, PIX was a perfect solution when Covid isolation prevented in-person meetings. AFS was no exception. “When the pandemic hit, staff at the various embassies were thinned out, and keeping track of DVD packages became problematic at best,” he says. “With PIX, you can do the review from home. Also, we were able to get some master classes and virtual screenings off the ground pretty quickly, and within a couple months we tripled our volume. PIX really ended up saving the day on that front – without it, we would have been in a very tough spot.”
PIX initially established a foothold in production as a dailies solution, but it has evolved into a system of organizing and streamlining the secure flow of information across the complex webs of creatives who produce media content. Now it’s used from script to screen, incorporating almost any kind of information, from sketches to costume swatches, reference photos and director’s notes.
PIX is the preferred method for the Motion Picture Association to screen ratings submissions and is widely used to securely send screeners to press and publicity channels – PIX has worked with every major talk show over the years to place custom hardware in production offices. The industry-standard security protocols ensure that pre-release content screenings can be safely shared with inbox-only accounts, as well as with large numbers of employees or vendors, obviating the need to rent a screening room.
"THE PEOPLE AT PIX WERE JUST GREAT, AND WE WERE ABLE TO CREATE A STRONG PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP. PIX IS NOW OUR STANDARD"
The vast majority of AFS films are documentaries, but one recent program combined the Warner Bros. narrative feature King Richard, about tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, with a Q&A featuring Billie Jean King and Katrina Adams discussing the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the federal statute addressing gender equity.
“With PIX, we can assure the filmmakers that they are protected,” says Chance. “We’ve found in general that PIX simplifies the entire process, and all stakeholders are comfortable knowing their IP is safe.”
Watch the making of Oscar-winning Free Solo