Archive for January, 2005

The Talented Julia

JuliasandberghassonMy friend Julia wants to be an Undead Nurse in "Silent Hill". Please Mr Hadida cast her so she can get over her obsession with this film and focus on making her own films – something at which she is ridiculously good.  Actually Julia’s raw talent is somewhat awesome – the work she has done to date and the staggering originality of her projects is phenomenal at age 21.  If she does not get swallowed by the industry she will be a towering talent.

Anyway Roger Avary has put in a good word so that should help.  Me I think Silent hill is just not worth the effort – now if it was the Call of Cthulhu film…


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Describing God

StarmakerbookDescribing God is always a bit of a challenge – our minds are limited while God is not.  One of the best efforts at a description is Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker . Stapledon was either awakened or very close to it as he has a phenomenal understanding of what God is and goes about building up to him in a most original, compelling and entertaining fashion.

Looking at the starry night from an English hillside, the unnamed
narrator is snatched from his earthly body and flung through space at
impossible acceleration, soon outstripping light. He visits other
stars, sees other worlds and alien races, a gallery of SF marvels in
documentary rather than story form. Fellow disembodied intelligences from the galactic community
join our hero, sensing something beyond mere matter and energy:

felt presence of the Star Maker remained unintelligible, even though it
increasingly illuminated the cosmos, like the splendour of the unseen
sun at dawn.

Amazon UK are currently selling this book for £3.99 which is a great price, if you live in the UK buy it here

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Shooters_logoThese are the predicitons I made for the independant film scene in the UK in 2005.  They were originally posted to Shooting People where I edit the Filmmaker’s bulletin.

So the new year! It gives me the chance to make wild predictions about
the future and look like a genius if by some fluke they come true.
Here’s what I think we’ll see happening in 2005 – I promise to repost
it this time next year so you can all jeer at my wild-eyed optimism.

There are a lot of Internet predictions in here but hey that is going
to be *the* medium so its all related. The late majority will get
broadband in ’05 and the early adopters will move on to seriously fast
connections which means ’05 will be the year the net arrives as a te
medium for everything: phone calls, text, audio and yes – video too.

PREDICTION 1 – Year of the film/TV program download.

’05 is the year downloads will become a viable distribution mechanism –
mainly through Bittorrent. People have already started downloading
movies in earnest this is gowing to grow rapidly next year. People will
also start violating copyright in earnest. As a reaction to the surging
sucess of Bittorrent the studios (if they are smart) will quickly start
cutting deals with iTunes and other music stores to move into film
downloads. A lot of these relationships are already proven through WB,
Sony, etcetera’s music divisions. Bigger hard drives and faster net
connections will drive this trend.

Conventional Digital Video Recorders will drop in price and get built
into more devices – many more people will stop watching scheduled TV.
The next generation of Digital Video Recorders will just be called
digital recorders and will be high capacity hardrives we put all our
films and music on. Right now we carry audio around on our iPods how
long before we carry video around too? No I don’t think we’ll *watch*
the video on an ipod but we’ll plug it into a monitor or better yet a
projector (which will soon get much smaller and start becoming
ubiquitous not next year though) and watch it that way. Expect these
devices to start appearing toward the end of ’05.

PREDICTION 2 – Blog on!

Weblogs will continue their inexorable rise moving from early adopter
to early majority stage. More publications will get into blogging
making it a central component of their websites. This matters for
filmmakers in a number of ways:

1. Blogs will be a powerful way to market your film. The King Kong blog
is already generating serious buzz for the film. Yes I know you’re not
Peter Jackson and not remaking one of the greatest love stories ever –
but you are making niche films for a specific audience right (if not
you are competing with hollywood which probably isn’t all that smart)?
A blog is a great way to reach that audience.

2. Blogging will leave the realm of print and hit audio. Google for
"podcasting" to see how quickly audio blogs are springing up. Expect
radio stations to poo-poo podcasting (just like newspapers poo-pooed
blogs) until the end of the year when they go "oh shit we better do
this!" – of course few of them will do it right. Video podcasting
(vidcasting?), where we come in, will appear in ’05 but won’t breakout
until ’06. Get ready for it this coming year by scripting your vidcast
shows now – this way we can take out television just that little bit

PREDICTION 3 – More films than you can shake a clapperboard at

Waaaay more indie features appear in the second half of ’05 – mostly
thanks to HDV taking off and personal digital filmmakers graduating
from shorts to the longer form. They typically be distibuted on DVD but
some will be downloadable. Most will be pretty dire but there will be a
couple of gems.

The fragmentation of the film industry with more and more niche
contnent appearing begins this year. Around about the middle of the
year everyone will be talking about this and "The Long Tail". "The Long
Tail" comes from a WIRED article by the magazine’s editor-in-chief
Chris Anderson who is now writing a book about the phenomena. Here is
the original article. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail_pr.html.
In a nutshell the argument is that the era of total dominance by
mass-manufacture, mass-media, mass most things is ending – the future
belongs to those that serve the millions of untapped niche markets.

If you read the article and agree with it then niche, niche, niche must
be our watchword. Make idiosycratic films or tell stories about little
know subjects which appeal to an audience of only a few tens or
hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Sell them on DVD for
a tenner apiece and make a couple of hundred thousand. We can make
money at that level because we are multi-skilled and can bring in films
for those kind of budgets.

This has already happened in publishng and music – the only reason it
hasn’t happend in film yet is because film *used* to be really
expensive to do well. Not any more.

PREDICTION 4 – Micro Cinemas

As every bar, art gallery and coffee shop gets a dvd player and
projector film nights and micro cinemas will spring up all over the
place. Expect the picture quality, sound and seating to start improving
and making these some of these places real challengers to conventional
cinemas. You no longer need hugely expensive equipment or specialised
staff to run a cinema. 5 Grand and a reasonably switched on bartender
will do.

Mostly the films will be cheap or free – a way to attract you to the
venue to drink, eat or do something else later. This is going to hurt
cinemas and the indie/arthouse cinemas (esp those doing a lot of older
releases) most of all – we lost The Other Cinema this year, expect
another one to go in ’05. The problem for these places is that they are
targeting the same people who might go catch a film in their local
trendy cafe. The multiplexes are okay; they have a different audience
and will still do well with first run blockbusters.

For viewers the micro cinema movement will be a boon. There will be
funky spots with comfy sofas, lounge chairs and waited service showing
classic or interesting films one rarely gets to see in the company of

Will the filmmakers get paid for these screenings? Maybe – if someone
figures out a way to formalise it and offer the micro cinemas a good
deal. There is a good business in that for someone. If one of you
decides to take this further take me to dinner after the Guardian runs
a piece crowning you the micro-cinema king of London.

PREDICTION 5 – A Shooter will make a serious impact

I expect at least one breakout success from a film crewed or cast via
SP. Not Blair Witch type success but a film which gets considerable
mainstream press attention makes a fair old bit of money and which
everyone in the conventional UK industry thinks came from nowhere.

’05 is the year they stop sneering and actually start realising the
future is not indie features made for 1-4 million pounds directed by
the usual names with the same tired old stars playing on the same tired
old British themes. The era of the 1-4 hundred thousand pound or less
feature (yes that’s right we will cut productions costs by a factor of
10) begins this year and it is us who are ushering it in.

***A Few Bite Size Predicitons***
– Most UK personal filmmakers will still hate the film council and consider it irrelevant
– SP members will still argue about tax breaks and low paid work
– Editing tools for linux mature rapidly but are still not ready from primetime yet.
– King Kong is big hit and Peter Jackson announces his next project will be making the LOTR prequel – "The hobbit"

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Movie Making Manual

MoviemakingmanualI am one of the cofounders of the Movie Making Manual a practical guide to filmmaking taking the form of a wikibook.

Wikibooks are online books which are editable by anyone. Anyone can update or change any page – this quickly produces accurate
and detailed information. The concept of freely editable online information has been proven by the phenomenal sucess of the
wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) which has now overtaken Encyclopedia Britanica in number of entries, is far more up-to-date and in
many cases is more accurate.

The more contributors a project has the greater the breadth and depth of the information on offer. We would like to invite you
to come along and be an editor of/contibutor to the Movie Making Manual.

Being an Editor entails doing one or more of the following:

  • Contibuting content
  • Promoting the concept
  • Telling everyone you know about it both online and offline
  • Encouraging others to contribute to the project
  • Checking submitted postings
  • Dealing with vandalism (reverting pages)

The principals of the Movie Making Manual

Free as in Freedom

The books will be released under an open content license that means that they are free forever. No one can keep you from using these materials, modifying them or distributing them. Also, the license guarantees that any works that are derived from these materials will be similarily free to modify and distribute, forever.

Free as in Money

Should filmmakers really spend $50 or more for a filmmaking book when they can get the same information for free? These texts are owned by the community and the world, not an individual or company.

Academia Meets the Real World

Our filmmaking book is started by filmmakers and is continually augmented by working filmmakers. These are no ex-filmmakers seeking additional income, these are the people at the coal face.
Up-to-the-minute Changes

Readers will never have to wait months or years for another edition to come out that incorporates the latest changes in the field. The very minute a discovery or advancement is made the text can be updated to reflect that change. With the radical pace of change in the digital film era this is a good thing.

Built-in Feedback

Every module in the books has its own associated talk page where filmmakers can ask each other questions and help each other with the material.

Global Access

Filmmakers from around the world who have access to the Web can find quality educational information, regardless of financial status, local/regional educational restrictions, or proximity to an educational institution.

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If I ran the Big Issue

RoughsleephackneyempireThis is a follow-up to my piece on begging.  After writing it I starting thinking about what a great concept the Big Issue is but how how much better they could do with a bit of creativity.  So here’s what I would do if I ran the Big Issue:

The Magazine

  • Sort out the content.  Get rid of the cleebrity gossip and vacuous interviews they create the image of a cheap badly printed HEAT.  I would go for meatier articles.  Think pieces, original fiction (both short and serialised), photo layouts.  I would try to get all my content for free exchanging the visibility and kudos of being in the magazine for content.   Seriously Top bloggers would jump at the chance to write pieces for the Big issue. I would develop it as a place for new voices and make it a "must read" and hence a "must write for".
  • I would start a BIG ISSUE graphic novel which could be an insrt or a section of the magazine.  I would get Warren Ellis to edit this section.  He could offer it to young comic writers/artist looking for a place to showcase their work.
  • I would drop the price to 50p.  You want it to sell like hotcakes and people to be dissapointed if it sells out and they do not have one.  Give other magazines a run for their money.
  • Extend the product range that vendors carry.  Do fun stuff that plays on the homeless angle like Big Issue soap and Big Issue carry bags.  Do consumables which people need the whole time like chewing gum.  Again compete on quality and price make the products competitive with the mainstream alternatives.  Compete by cutting costs on the supply side and using the charitable status to wrangle good deals from suppliers.
  • Get Hugh McLeod from Gaping Void to design the marketing and branding campaign.  You know he’d do an awesome job.

Happybivendor_1Big Issue and the concept of making homeless people effectively small business owners while counselling them is a fantastic idea – I just think they could do better.

I have said nothing about the charity side and the support side as I know very little about how that operates and will assume they are doing a good job there but could simply do with more income for themselves and the vendors.

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I’ve not yet given to beggars here in London (I normally do a bit) but after the constant institutionalised begging in India (and being picked on because you are a foreigner) one hardly notices beggars in London.

You have to shut off a part of yourself to beg, or rather most people do – very rare is the beggar who can look someone in the eye normally without shame or anger.  Likewise when we give money to beggars we normally shut off a part of ourselves.  We often give to get them to leave us alone and stop confronting us with their misfortune by reminding us how fortunate we are.  It is easier to pay a bit of money than to truly empathise with how awful some of these lives must be to reduce a person to the ignomity of begging.

Unlike say helping an old lady with her shopping giving to beggars is an act of charity which often does not feel good.  This is because we somehow know that this is a temporary solution and because the beggars themselves are not feeling good abut accepting the money.  Also the beggar is often trying to make you feel guilty or uncomfortable so you will give them money to make them go away form you.  Its like buying some bizzare form of protection.  We pay money the beggar goes and we could keep our hearts closed and not feel compassion.

This is what is great about visiting India – you pay money and then there is another beggar, and another, and another.  You cannot keep giving and buying compassion off.  So you then have 2 options, you can close your heart and try not to see people’s misery or you keep you heart open, acknowledge their suffering but only give ocassionally if it feels good.

There is a practical aspect to this also – while begging is very occassionally the only solution it is ultimately unsustainable and.  This was the genius of the concept of the Big Issue [1] in the UK.  Give down and out people a way to become economically active and cousel them at the same time and so allow them to help themselves out without begging.  Of course the Big Issue concept no longer works because the quality of the magazine is poor and the price is exhorbitant so buying one is simply charity by another means.

Keeping hiking the price while not looking after the quality of the magazine was a real mistake on the part of the Big Issue management as buying one feels little better for the purchaser than simply giving to a beggar.  I normally just give the vendors some money as I rarely find anything in the magazine worth reading. Far better would be to do a magazine which competed on merit but was only sold by the homeless.  Imagine if homeless people made less per magazine but instead of a few copies a day they sold hundreds of copies at a time this would do far more for their self esteem.

Even better still would be a range of products which are universal as magazine often have a "voice" and if people do not agree with the voice they will not buy the magazine – the same prejudice does not exist with say umbrellas.

[1] The Big issue is a magazine sold by Homeless people in the UK.  The homeless vendors keep most of the magazine’s profits.

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While I’m doing so read Hugh McLeod

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