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An image from: “Indies Under Fire: The Battle for the American Bookstore" by Jacob Bricca '93, adjunct assistant professor of film studies. The film was screened March 6 at the Center for Film Studies.
Posted 03.02.07

Battle for American Bookstores Topic of Faculty Documentary

Though he loves to read, Jacob Bricca ’93 admits that he was never “a book person,” one of those individuals who have an affinity for books and bookstores. But when he heard that an independent bookstore called Printers, Inc., in his hometown of Palo Alto, California, was closing, he was immediately saddened.

“When I was growing up, even if you weren’t into books, that was the place to hang out,” Bricca, an adjunct assistant professor of film studies, says. “Everyone went there from singles to kids to parents with small children and senior citizens. It was a community place that had a reputation of being cool and welcoming.”

And yet they were closing.

Bricca, pictured at left, a filmmaker and editor who was living in Los Angeles at the time, was curious: what would cause an iconic place so welcomed by the local community to suddenly shut its doors? Camera in hand, he drove up the coast to see if he could find out.

That was in 1999, and the trip became the beginning of what would become a six-year project that culminated in a multi-award-winning documentary film “Indies Under Fire: The Battle for the American Bookstore.” The film was shown March 6 in the Goldsmith Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies. Admission is free. After the screening Bricca was joined by Stu Hecht, owner, The Book Vault in Wallingford, Conn., and Thomas Talbot ’91, manager, Crawford-Doyle Booksellers in New York City. The event was sponsored by The Friends of the Wesleyan Library, www.wesleyan.edu/library/friends/, and The Center for Film Studies.

“Indies Under Fire” follows the fate of a handful of small independent bookstores located on the peninsula south of San Francisco Bay as they confront the pressures of large chain bookstores such as Borders and the explosion of Internet vendors such as Amazon.com.

The documentary is an engaging 56-minute production that draws in viewers as it explores the personalities and complexities beneath the surface issue of “indie versus big box.” Key players on both sides offer frank assessments of the marketplace as well as their opinions on their adversaries. There are face-to-face encounters between opponents with emotions coming to the fore on more than one occasion.

Bricca, who has edited such films as “Lost in LaMancha,” “Jimmy Scott If You Only Knew,” and “Tell Me Do You Miss Me,” had to handle several jobs on “Indies Under Fire,” in part because the way it came together.

“I was working in L.A. as an editor for most of the process, so I didn’t have time to chase financing or go after grants,” Bricca says. “But I kept at this because I thought it was a dynamic issue that was being played out all over the country. It became a real labor of love. As a result I directed it, edited it and acted as co-producer.”

Still, any film is a collaboration, and for this one, Bricca was able to call on some friends and family to help turn it into a reality. Among them: Jonathan Crosby, a long-time friend, co-produced the film. Josh Ferrar ’93, composed some of the film’s music and his guitar playing is featured on the soundtrack. Bricca’s wife, Lisa Molomot, visiting assistant professor of film studies, served as editorial consultant. His brother David created the film’s Web site, www.indiesunderfire.com, and his sister-in-law Morgan did the painting of Printers, Inc. that appears at the beginning of the film.

Released late in 2006, the movie won the award for “Best New England Film” at the Newberry Port Documentary Film Festival, was screened at the Wine Country Film Festival in Sonoma, and will be shown at the Santa Cruz film festival in April. It also recently made its PBS premier on KTEH in San Jose.

“This isn’t a monolithic film by any means,” Bricca says. “I tried to keep it balanced in its approach, but it does seem to generate some strong emotions with independent booksellers. It’s nice to get some recognition, but I really enjoy the fact that people are finally getting to see it. It was a lot of work. It’s nice to know it’s resonating with audiences.”
 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations