By Amy Taubin

>> Split Screen, indie film guru John Pierson's magazine-style series. is back for another season on the Independent Film Channel. The success of The Blair Witch Project reestablishes Pierson as the numero uno indie rainmaker. Over two years ago, when Blair Witch was still just a figment of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's imaginations, Split Screen commissioned them to make a teaser about the film. Resourceful filmmakers that they are, they used the $10,000 fee from Split Screen as seed money for the film proper.

I can't call myself a fan of Split Screen, which seems overly enamored of the anti-intellectual, anti-aesthetic aspect of independent film. Something about the show encourages filmmakers, even those who should know better, to act like they're applying for membership in a fraternity of fun-loving geeks. Split Screen also confirms the general message of the indie film world, which is "Women keep away." (Last-season's segment on Miranda July was an exception.) This season, the series has already blown a great opportunity by failing to include Sadie Benning in the opening show (September 6 at 8 p.m.) in the segment on Pixelvision. True, Pierson mentions her in his intro; but that's not the same as having her on screen. I don't care if she was traveling on the moon; the segment should not have been produced without her.

That said, the program begins promisingly with a segment in which Christopher Walken and Julien Schnabel do their version of a cooking show. It does for food preparation what John Lurie's Fishing With John does for, well, fishing. Walken, who, when he's in friendly company, has a smile that can light up a 40-inch TV screen and then some, is in rare form, and seems like he knows what he's doing in the kitchen. I'd try his exploding shrimp any day.

I won't dignify with a response Amy Taubin's claim that the cable series Split Screen confirms a "Women keep away" message from within the indie film world - it's far too insulting to the dozens of gifted and hard-working women filmmakers who have both contributed to the show and been profiled on it (and who are clearly credited for having done so).

I will say, however, that as a supportive voice for women in film, Taubin displays shocking irresponsibility for perpetuating the myth that outlets like ours are inaccessible to women. I hope that the many talented women in the film world are not discouraged by her misstatements.

Howard Bernstein, Producer
Split Screen

Amy Taubin replies: Nothing Bernstein writes contradicts the substance of my argument - that Split Screen has devoted few segments to women directors and that its lack of interest in doing so is revealed by its failure to include Sadie Benning in its piece on Pixelvision. As for all the female contributors women have toiled as producers in television for years and that hasn't gotten them any closer to becoming what Split Screen is in business to heroize - feature film directors.

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