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Friday, December 30, 2005

Circumference


I'm heading into the New Year by getting back into a script that I had to put to one side. Circumference is a post-modern romance. Its a love story. Scream took apart the horror movie and turned it inside ou. This film does the same for the classic story of a pair of star-crossed lovers.

Our 'boy' in the boy the meets girl story is a salesman. He knows all the tricks and angles for human behaviour. But he often steps out of the story to provide his own commentary on how he is doing. All with the aid of his trusty flipchart stand.

The girl is a free spirit and someone who doesn't always follow the rules.

So will opposites attract?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Now someone else has said it...

I've been banging on about if for months. But now someone else (someone with cash) has said it - some changes look likely to happen...

J.P. Morgan analysts last month issued a report suggesting studios would actually make more money overall if they released films simultaneously in theaters and on DVD. While collapsing the window would reduce box office receipts by 49%, the bankers said they would expect a 76% increase in DVD revenues would lead to an overall 36% increase in studio revenues, from $14.9 billion to $20.2 billion per year.

Now then. I've also said that cinemas need to get a little showmanship going. Who'll be first to jump on the bandwagon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Not just the flicks


Oh dear. The disease spreads. Now 'the new hollywood' of the computer games industry sees a slump. I feel that in myself. I used to play a lot of games and buy a lot of games. But like most of TV I've now given it up. Why? There's nought new. Get some new ideas, get some crazy ideas, inject them with life and push them out.

All the things I've been talking about with regard to cinema are now showing up in games - sequels, over marketing, safe decisions. The result - the same down turn.

The answer. Get some proper writers in. A few years ago I did a little bit of writing for an EA game. But this is rare. Surely its time to get some new thinking in there. And while we are at it maybe this should work the other way around. Get some game people working in pre-production. Who knows what will happen? I don't. But I know what won't happen. More of the same old shit!

Original photo

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Acting


I've been doing some acting recently.

Not crazy comedy sketch acting like in 'This Time Last Tuesday' but a small monologue in a corporate. I was directing it but we needed a small extra part so I stepped in. We had a bit of fun with it. The 'real' actors all sat in a line like a reality TV show panel and all rushed to give me direction. Revenge!

But it was also a great experience for me. I learned a lot about what it takes to stand up and read lines out. In this case lines that I hadn't written. Its odd. You just want to rewrite it yourself. I was wondering if other writers have ever done this. I recommend it everyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Exeter Talk


I'm very excited to be heading down to Exeter University in the New Year to talk to the students down there. I want to see if I notice the problems that Joe Tunmer has been experiencing. Or will I find a thriving and interesting group of students. We shall see.

There is a couple of interesting things about Film Studies at Exeter.

The first is the excellent Bill Douglas centre which has an archive of film knick-knacks. That description completely downplays its scope and importance however. If we see film as a cultural window then the memorabilia around it can tell us a lot. Don't worry if you can't go - you can access it on-line.

The second interesting thing is that Film Studies course is part of the Languages department. Now presumably this has something to do with 'fitting it in' somewhere. But surely it also demonstrates that the language of film can take as long to understand and pick up as any other language. But to me it also reinforces my opinion that film should be more two way. If film is a language then we shouldn't be delivering monologues. We should be having conversations.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ideas


Mockingbird by Joe Tunmer

I was having a discussion with Joe Tunmer a little while back. Joe spends some of his time teaching at Bournemouth University where he tackles the ever thorny topic of script development. The first part of this of course is 'the idea'.

When I was at University I was taught a method of brainstorming that involved looking around and spinning ideas off. An example: I'm looking at a Mac monitor as I write this. A mac is a coat. I could do a story about a coat and its life - from the rich bloke he buys it to the tramp who dies in it. Joe teaches a similar method.

Rubbish! You'd be bloody lucky to write a great script but thinking 'Hmmm... What's also orange?'

When I ran the scriptwriting workshop I used a different method that started from a point of view of what you wanted to say or what you wanted the audience to feel. Start there. Start at the end. And then work back.

Joe says this method is useless to him. Why? Because students don't have anything to say. What the hell is that about? If you don't have anything to say - get out of the media.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gender


I was talking to my good friend and slick director Suki the other day. We were talking about forthcoming productions and our plans for the new year. Part of this was a quick outline of a new feature script he is working on - Analogue. An interesting story, which obviously I can't go into here, and the central protagonist is a cop.

I know it seems obvious, and it is when it isn't your script, but always rethink your genders. This was a piece of advice I read a long time ago (can't remember where) and I also try to apply it from now on. Why does it have to be a male cop. It doesn't matter to his story, but it will make a difference to the film.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Don't hold back

An interview in Wired magazine with Steven Soderbergh examines his decision to release on DVD and at the cinema with his new film. In his own words:
Name any big-title movie that's come out in the last four years. It has been available in all formats on the day of release. It's called piracy. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, Ocean's Eleven, and Ocean's Twelve - I saw them on Canal Street on opening day. Simultaneous release is already here. We're just trying to gain control over it.

I'm in favour of this approach for the Landcrab Film Festival next year. Buy the DVD on the way out!

All the way?


Good night at the Future Shorts screening. My favourite was The Unusual Inventions of Henry Cavendish - a silent era style offering.

It put me in the mood to do a silent film. "10 Seconds" was half way there, but faint heart ner won fair maiden or somesuch. So maybe I need to go all the way?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Me and You and Everyone we Know


Great film. And a great film because of its unusual structure.

I've talked before about how over analysing your structure can ruin it. This film is free. See it. It will make you love films again.

Houston event


Directing '10 Seconds'

To redress the balance with all the recent UK events I've been publicising - here is an American event.

Microcinema is presenting their screening program at Diverseworks. This program was curated this summer, includes "10 Seconds", and has yet to be screened before Houston audiences.

12 short films and videos from the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom presenting a diverse and eclectic range of typical summertime themes...such as sex, coffee, the beauty of electric can openers, Davidic Psalms, hot dogs, and french fries, urban legends, and the search for the 100% perfect girl.

Screening: 12/10/05 8:00pm, 5$ admission
info ph. 713-412-5120
diverseworks
1117 east freeway, I-10 at north main
houston

Click here for full details on the program

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blogs

At the recent "Les Blogs 2.0" Ben Hammersley laid out the following in his speech...

8 Ideas That Will Revolutionize the 21st Century (and blogging isn't one of them).

1. Information wants to be free (vs. copyright).
2. Zero distance (vs. borders).
3. Mass amateurisation (vs.censorship).
4. More is much more. (vs. network blocking).
5. True names (vs. idendity cards & databases ).
6. Viral behaviour (vs. more network blocking).
7. Everything is personal (vs. everything is trackable).
8. Ubiquitous computing (no privacy).

As you know, at this blog, we always try to see how this will effect TV2.0 or how ideas effect audience / filmmaker interaction.

What would a copyright free TV situation look like? As advertising drops off and piracy becomes more commonplace is there a future in finding new revenue sources. A great, free, easy to swap movie would spread like crazy! If you didn't have to always worry about people copying your show or affording the DVD but instead you just went with the flow imagine what would happen. But how does it get made? Who stumps up? Will we have ads in our vodcasts?

Future Shorts


Don't forget - Future Shorts on Monday at Twisters Comedy Club - Bournemouth, 8pm. Great short films and a one-off Christmas special treat, stand up comedy turns!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Kiss of Judas


A project that has never been blogged before is The Kiss of Judas. It is in development with Covent Garden Films whom I met at Cannes.

Its is a medieval western. What does that mean? It means taking the genre of the western and transplanting that into Britain's own time of feudal life - the Medieval era. In a similar way to how Kurosawa moved the western into his own country to create The Seven Samurai.

Simon and Margo at Covent Garden have been pitching it all around the world and their sights are now on the UK Film Council. The UKFC state that they want British stories that define the UK state of mind. This story does this. We just need to hit them on the head until they realise it!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Top Landcrab


Another great festival. Hope won the best Drama award with my long suffering colleague Shaune Fradley picking up the main prize - the palm door. Remember - there are always two dark lords!

A great festival also in terms of audience participation. Lots of great feedback. Lots of conversations. Lots of new films being planned.

That's what its all about.

Speaking to the non-film making audience they loved it also. They associate it more with panto or theatre than cinema. Why? Because going to the cinema is boring. My goodness something is going to have to change or those screens are going to price themselves out of the market and begin to close.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Quick link

In my cheeky way I'll hand you over to Cinema Tech for a quick report on a conference to do with getting your short film out there. MicroCinema (who are mentioned in the article) distribute 10 Seconds.

LandCrab


Its the Film Festival this Saturday. A quick note to all you detail junkies that the photo is from last year so that's why it says the 4th on it. This year it will be on the 3rd! A top event and as we talk about how as film makers we can get more in touch with the audience then this is the best way! Sit in a room full of them and listen. Then you know you should have cut your film shorter.

And what an audience. Last year we had over 200 people. This year we are on course to beat that again. We get no funding and ask for no sponsorship. Why? Because we don't need it. We just put on such a great night that people WANT TO COME. I know - its radical!

So all you fans of crazy off-the-wall shorts come down, enjoy the films, have a good time (bar open all night) and still be safe in the knowledge you are supporting your fellow film makers.

Venue : The Mowlem Theatre, Swanage  (www.themowlem.com)
Time : 7.00pm till 12.00am (with the bar staying open for another hour or so)
Cost : As usual a small charge to cover costs, estimated at £4 per person.
Dress Code : Your glad rags (crack out the black ties you scruffy film makers!)
Getting there: If you are in Bournemouth or Poole we have a special bus to get you there. Enquiries to…emma.powell@sha.co.uk

See you there.

Website is www.landcrabfilmfestival.co.uk

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who likes short shorts?


I've just back from the Brief Encounters short film event in Bristol. 10 Seconds was showing there as well as my good old friend Joe Tunmers latest Mockingbird.

We also saw some great shorts. But this was a bitter sweet feeling for me. Joe's film is fantastic, but it took over 5 years to get to the screen. And there was a similar story behind most of the films. Is there a future for these kind of shorts? To compete in this arena at this level you need such high production values and budget and help from funding etc that you could have shot a feature! And then at least you've got a better chance of getting some money back in.

I know it seems a strange question - but I wonder if short films have got too good? Too good for these small outlets at least. Either they need to get cheaper or we need a way to get them more mainstream.

Still from "The Adventures of the Tattooed Man" by Tim Clague and Adrian Ward for Britannia Building Society

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Instant films

An interesting article from the NY Times on how movies live or die in such a short time. This is becoming such a problem surely someone needs to do something radical or something's going to snap!

Just checked the link. It used to be open and now is locked down. Its still free but you have to log in with your email etc. So you may do so if you wish. But, lets be honest, its not the best way to spread your opinion is it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Draft 1



Just emailed in my first draft of the rewrite. Its too long - but full of character. Let's see what the final balance will be.

The only podcast I listen to really is Sam and Jim go to Hollywood. They defined an interesting vision of a writer - or rather a successful writer. They say if you find rewriting an exciting challenge then writing is a career for you. If you find it scary or daunting, then probably not!

Writing is less like the careful construction of a building, and more like running down a Spanish street being chased by bulls. Can you dodge them all?

Still from This Time Last Tuesday

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Nostalgia


With this script rewrite I've been trying to recapture the flavour of a classic family film. Will this appeal to an audience? We have seen, by the ease with which people got excited about an old game show (see comments on last post) that people love harking back. But they don't like it too much. I think it would be hard to sit through the actual show. So the balance has to be a bit of the old, with an injection of the new.

Let's just be clear - I'm talking about the style here, not the content. Apply the same thinking to that and you end up with Starsky and Hutch, Dukes of Hazzard etc. And they've had more than enough space wasted on them by me already.

Still from Everyday Man

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Head down


Apologies for the infrequent blogging. I've got my head down in the 1940's script rewrite. Although, as I've said - its not so much of a rewrite as a complete reworking. Some great new scenes but I have managed to use quite a few lines and ideas from the original. As its a period piece anyway, this works.

As I graft on it I'm left to ponder mostly on the genre. Its a family film. This is often a forgetten genre. Herbie Rides Again did very well at the box office I think even films like the Pacifier do good business. But none of these films are ever considered 'interesting' or 'worthy'. The only exception I can think of is the animations like The Incredibles. So is there such a thing as a great modern family film?

We can all name classic family films - the Disney live actions, or back to Its A Wonderful Life. My angle is to use the period to create a feeling of those older films, even a touch of the Marx Brothers.

A period family film - can it work???

Its nearly time to hand it in so I best get back to it.

Still from Clint Wise Writes Back

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More bits and bobs on writing

Continuing the writing theme here is a short extract from RobSog's Blog. You can read the whole article here.

'The word character (greek kharakter) originally meant an engraving tool, and by extension the impression or mark made by that tool, and by further extension the features and qualities associated with that mark.'

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Quartz Shorts update


Quartz Shorts is going well. Its hard to know how to measure such things - as their is no direct competition. But we are now well past 1000 visitors and have had over 4 gigabytes of downloads. But how do we get more of a two way conversation going?

Monday, November 14, 2005

What is all this crazy blog - TV 2.0 talk?


Yeah - what is it all about? Isn't it a bit late 90's to do the whole dot number thing anyway?

Check out this article from Dave Wilson and DavidCoe about what they call 4G. The web is entering its fourth strategy. You what? Read it!

Still from Consecration.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Recap of lessons learnt - part 2










THE STORY SO FAR

I think it wise to recap where we are since the last recap.

So far we have concluded:

Coming up:

  • Is Hollywood on a bounce back?
  • Has someone woken up? Maybe Disney?
  • More from Quartz Shorts
  • Can this grow into a full 365films launch?

See you in the future

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Writing and your normal work


Check out this advice from Tim Grahl. Its not specifically about writing but it struck a chord with me.


Hope and Fear


You ever notice the unending hope that worker bees have?

“Things are gonna get better.”

“This year I’ll get the raise I deserve.”

“I think my boss will change, just give him time…”

“This time things are gonna be different.”

“I’ll get this promotion and then I’ll actually enjoy my job.”

Is it fear or just stupidity?

It’s not gonna change.

It’s not gonna get better.

And more money isn’t gonna solve that problem.

The problem’s in your gut.

You know this isn’t the life you should be living.

There’s a better way.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Writer quotes

The Constipated Writer aka Jason D'Amico has a nice bunch of quotes at the bottom of his email. I like them so much I though I'd share them - in the spirit of the blog!

"As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly." - Paul Rudnick

"Every writer, without exception, is a masochist, a sadist, a peeping Tom, an exhibitionist, a narcissist, an 'injustice collector' and a depressed person constantly haunted by fears of unproductivity". - Edmund Bergler, M.D.

"When I'm writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is." - Anne Rice

"The solitude of writing is also quite frightening. It's quite close to madness, one just disappears for a day and loses touch." - Nadine Gordimer

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." - Red Smith

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Warner Bros - they don't get it!

Short and sweet this one!

Cinema Tech have posted a blog entry on how Warner Brothers don't get the low marketing idea. They want to make fewer films and market them more! And they don't like new distribution. No Quartz Shorts and TV 2.0 t-shirt for them!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Remember the 5th November

Today is the day that the tables turned. We now work for the machines. Look at Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

The amazon computer is farming out work to humans that it finds too difficult.

On related news:
Its Guy Fawkes Day
T3 on tv today
V for Vendetta is out

Friday, November 04, 2005

The new cool



Remember when TV shows were cool. Okay, and a little camp. But generally cool. It didn't matter that it took someone 5 minutes of screen time to get in their car, drive round the corner and go up in a lift. Because it looks cool. We want to see it. Surely you'd cut that scene because nothing is happening? Wrong! Something is happening and that thing is coolness.

Nowadays we'd cut it. Is that a shame? No. We'd be right to cut it today. We'd be right to leave it on the cutting room floor cos it ain't cool. Nothing happening - no cool.

Bring back the cool.

So - here is my 'cool' proposal. Its an action TV series

Now I know that I've been spending ages going on about TV 2.0 being great and TV 1.0 being dead. (see here.) I say that this is okay in this case as it is a retro project and most suited to the old school TV 1.0 mentality.

So its an action TV series featuring a guy who each week gets into scrapes and tries to keep order and peace and solve a few issues. He's a gangsta rapper type of a guy and spends a lot of time each week driving around looking cool in his pimped up ride.

Okay - so its ill thought out and a bit off the top of my head. But shit man - it could be cool couldn't it. And don't we need that badly on TV right now?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Meantime...

A quick catch up on other projects:


  • The rewrite on the 1940s script is going well, at 75 pages, but is going to run over length. I'm going to carry on and deal with cutting it down later.
  • 'This Time Last Tuesday' didn't win the Nokia Award
  • The 'Hope' animation is almost finished and will be at Landcrab
  • Quartz Shorts website is up and running. TV 2.0 is official
  • The Kiss of Judas, the medieval western, has been optioned by Covent Garden films

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

TV 2.0


You've heard of Web 2.0 maybe. Is Quartz Shorts TV 2.0?

A new idea

Seth Godin talks about how you need to innovate - not just try to go 'one more'. Does Quartz Shorts do that? Can it grow into an indentity and find its feet. Lets find out!

Monday, October 31, 2005

The first 365films trials is launched...


Yes. Its up and away!

Quartz Shorts has launched.

What is Quartz Shorts?

  • It is a mini series for the full 365films vision.
  • Its about using all media - video, text, images, sounds, music
  • It is about us, as film makers and writers, taking a backseat. We steer the agenda together.
  • We may 'throw stuff out' but you decide 'whether it sticks'.


Why love?
Because normal linear, one-way, old school media just tackle this subject. Sure enough, it can try to answer what is love or when did you fall in love. We don't care about these small questions. We want to look at all of love. Explore all its meanings. Just how big is it?

How do I join the fun?

  • Go to this blog as often as you can.Link
  • If you are user of an RSS service then this is the stream.Link
  • Through iTunes / on your iPod. Put this link into the subscribe to podcast box in your iTunesLink


Join us as we ramble around the topic. And hey - at least its something nice to talk about!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

All the way up to the big guys

A post from Cinema Tech shows that these sort of distribution discussions are going all the way to the top! M. Night Shyamalan and Steven Soderbergh, two well respected directors, both a little outside of the Hollywood standard, can't even agree. It seems to me that the discussion is live and well - which is good. What is bad is that the arguements about how we watch films is rapidly becoming more entertaining and interesting than some of the films themselves!

Friday, October 28, 2005

The mobile phone method


I'm not all that convinced about short films on mobile phones. Having said that This Time Last Tuesday is on the shortlist for a mobile phone festival from Nokia.

So maybe its great.

At the very least I can say that this film, which is shot from one position and in 2 hours, is in the spirit of the amateur film making that Nokia are seeking to create.

Off topic - democracy in the 21st C

A little off topic musing...

We now live in a world of conversation and discussions. It doesn't matter where you live, we can talk about our shared interest - in the case if this blog; writing and distribution thinking.

Where is this heading? The end result of all this is groups of people that are united by thoughts, opinions and ideologies - not geography.

The impact - in terms of the real world what does this matter? Perhaps one view is that Governments will become squeezed and seem useless. Terrorists (another group linked by ideology, not geography) are fighting against a certain way of life, not against a country.

Britain isn't under attack - ruthless capitalism is. So what does the British Government have to do with it? What can it do? Its irrelevant!

No wonder voting is down in most democracies. I feel I have much more in common with people across the world than I necessarily do with people that live nearby. Why do my politicians have to represent me geographically. That isn't where my heart is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

At last. The reality kicks in!


An article on Variety about why US box office is down. You don't think... surely not... it can't be... they finally realise that the films are poor and generic. The bottom line has kicked in at last! Great. What is their answer? Carry on as normal of course and tweak with the advertising. Well done mate! Radical!

Still from 10 Seconds

Monday, October 24, 2005

Word of mouth was wrong



Always at the cutting edge of new ideas to do with flogging stuff Hugh Macleod makes an interesting comment on how word of mouth was always misinterpreted.

The idea is not to get people chatting about your product. But to make your product join their conversation. And shake up the market by doing that!

His example is Starbucks who got people talking about WiFi - not about great Starbucks coffee. Remember Starbucks don't advertise. They only have conversations to spread the word!

So this approach requires big ideas. Is 365 films that sort of idea. Its bold enough for sure. I'm hoping that the growing sense of disappointment towards film and TV will help. Heres to more crap tele!

Still from 'Four Poems' by Peter Lee

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Another 'no middle man' solution

The CinemaTech blog has an interesting article on direct DVDs for independent features. Here is a way to get your film in front of an audience directly. With far fewer middle men. The price is right as well.

How does it work? They have a master copy and burn duplicates as required by the public. Its yours in the post for 10 dollars. Their slogan is - "Own a movie for less than a movie ticket."

All you need now is a top notch audience pleasing film - but that's your business bud!

Friday, October 21, 2005

TV no more!


More evidence for the end of the world - if you are in old school media. Heineken have announced no more TV ads for them! See the BBC news item.Why? Because it doesn't work anymore. Some go as far as to say that marketing is dead altogether. Maybe this is an exaggeration for shock purposes but I'm sure that traditional marketing is not as effective as it used to be. Word of mouth (or the internet version - word of mouse) is much more important now that everyone can talk to everyone else. Heineken must know. 365films is built on the word of mouse idea.

Pic is from here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Vodcast content


Tom Baker has done a great job of kicking us off with some content for the vodcast pilot series. Here is the proposition. We are adapting a previous project that never suited a linear, old school, approach. Some of you will have seen it. It was called Quartz Shorts and featured an attempt to cram every media into a TV documentary. The revolutionary part was the approach that stated we would explore subjects without drawing conclusions. The example we chose was 'Love' - not what is love, or who do you love, but the whole thing. All of love!

TV companies couldn't cope with the unstructured approach and our pitch of 'TV for the Google generation' caused unease rather than excitement. But maybe we were wrong to take new ideas to old media. I'm sure that this project will find a new, exciting life in the vodcast / blogging area. Small chunks of multi-media that is polished and well edited. All on one subject. The full 365films proposition gives more variety. A series of unconnected films. So which is better? A set topic or random craziness? That's part of the experiment I guess!

So that's what we have. Content coming on line now, ready for the love launch.

Tomorrow we meet up with Apple / Quicktime / Digital / Streaming / Hosting guru Richard Pride to sort out the technical stuff. Nearly there. Paul D - jump in also if you have any advice.

See you at the love in!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New distribution idea from the US

The savage art blog posted this article about a new distribution idea for film makers. Hiring your own cinema chain and you keep all the profits! Like the landcrab - but countrywide!

Do you have Hope?


I'm really pleased to announce that sound design guru Gary Hayton (who did the post sound for WaterMelon) has started work on the sound for my new animation Hope. The film has a minimal monochrome look and the sound will absolutely crucial in its success. The film will premiere at the Landcrab Film Festival in December. See you there!

Vodcast update


Work has started on our pilot vodcast idea. The aim is to upload a new entry about twice a week. Tom Baker is editing right now and we're looking for a hosting site for the clips. Things are starting to come together fast. There has been a ton of interest. Especially in the full on 365 films proposition. But I'm convinced that this is the way forward to do a pilot first. See you there soon.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Friday, October 14, 2005

NOW!


Download your favourite (or favorite for the US readers) TV shows direct to your iPod through iTunes. The new iPod has TV out. So basically - download, for TV.

No TV company / cable company / Murdoch / advertisers / sky+ / freeview / etc. needed. So now 'Desperate Housewives' will be competing with the Landcrab films for viewers attention. On iTunes podcasting. A level playing field.

Our video blog launches next week.

When I started this blog in August this was something to aim for in the future. Now it is here. So it begins...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sunshine blog


Here is a new blog site for a film by Danny Boyle called Sunshine.. Its early days but the blogger is caught in the middle of the very fight we are talking about on this blog. She want to use the new 'open and direct' model. The studio (obviously) wants to use heavy controlled marketing. See this particular entry.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The internet is rubbish!

A while back in a previous post about new ideas Paul said...

Sometimes a writer sitting in his shed will come up with something extraordinary and best off untouched by any kind of appraisal until release. I'd like to propose that The Werckmeister Harmonies is such a work (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0249241/). Extraordinary.

I once heard that the internet can viewed as a suppressor of new ideas. A normal 'blogger' view would be that the spread of ideas quickly means that evolution of thought is accelerated. But pockets of isolated thought can sometimes be more beneficial. If everyone knows the same thing and the same trends - you don't get 'movements'. No Italian neo-realism, no German expressionism, no French new wave. Once these ideas hit a critical mass they exploded worldwide and created new thinking and new ideas globally. Currently we don't explosions - just a trickle.

Conclusion: internet = bad thing?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another one-way media collapse

A one-off or part of a trend. Another big one-way media outlet is falling.

The New York Times reports that newspapers are in even more trouble that we thought. The Philadelphia Inquirer lost 30% of its subscription base in the last twenty years.

For just about any venture, it's the first customers that pay the rent, and the last ones that make a profit. It's hard to imagine anyone going back to newspapers, isn't it?

As reported on Seth Godin's blog

I know it, they know it.



Film 2005 on the BBC had an interesting segment on the film business. Its not easy to blog about as there is no on-line version of it on the offical site. But it was examining a topic that we've often discussed here. Why the cinema is starting to fail. The number one reason - poor scripts. The number two reason - bad business model. There was a claim that distributors want to move the DVD release even closer to the cinema release. Closer than close. In fact to the same day.

I'd go even further than that. At the moment its a no mans land.

As you all know I'd prefer a larger range of films that stay around longer as dictated by the audience. A low marketing, interactive approach. The other way, the big marketing, get em on the first weekend way, isn't big enough either. If its supposed to be an event then make it an event. I want to buy the Soundtrack and a poster as I come out of a good film. Not be thrown out into the cold. I want the DVD and to chat about the film in the cafe. But alas I'm out on my ear in the cold British weather.

Either way - sort it out. Just hiring out a darkened room doesn't really cut it anymore.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Blog Radio or 'The World's First Blog'


We already looked at Blog TV. No news on that. But as I stirred from my pit of a bed this morning I had a revelation while listening to the Terry Wogan show.

Surely his show was the world's first blog. It follows the same structure. He says something daft / controversial and then people text / email in with comments and slowly the show moves to a new agenda. Its not a phone-in show as no topic is ever set or discussed. There is just one topic - the show itself. It is a show completely based on the participation of the audience. They set the agenda. Terry just steers it. And he has done for 30 years (although e-communication has brought it to life)

So who would have thought it. Terry Wogan invented blogging.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A word from our competitors.


I don't think I do enough anecdotes or examples on here. Sure, there is a lot of rambling on about theory. But here is one TV viewers opinion on why the middle ground isn't working. About why 'big business' media making must end. It is ruining good work now. Simple as that.

Read it here.

Picture from Peter Lee's Four Poems

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New distribution - idea one



Less moaning - more creative thinking. Lets go...

Now might be a good time to mention an event that I am heavily involved with. Its called the Landcrab Film Festival and is an annual event in the Bournemouth area. Its been going for 8 years now and has built slowly up to an audience of 210 movie fans. We show about 15 shorts from film makers with many levels of experience. Our only criteria is that films must be exciting, fresh and entertaining. We are the largest fully independent screening in the South.

So who cares about another old film fest in southern England? Firstly there is the business model. No arts funding, no sponsorship, no fees to enter. We only cover our costs through entrance fees. So for it to continue we need to deliver a top-notch evening of entertainment. We have to compete with TV and regular cinema. Which we do. The theatre where the event is held says the Landcrab night is the busiest night of the year.

Secondly there is the spirit of the festival. Film makers have to stand up and introduce their film (if you're not there we don't show it) and in the bar afterwards there is plenty of opportunity to talk about it. Very immediate and highly direct.

What is the moral of this story? That people love a good night of films and the immediacy of discussion and feedback. Let's look at my chart again. With the landrab method we are halfway between the top and bottom route. As hard as we try to keep out of the way - we do in fact provide the distribution. But its a good start. Could we go further and ever achieve the top route?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Oh dear. Am I coming at this the wrong way?

Paul said recently (with regard to the position of writers in Hollywood) 'Why is it ridiculous if it works though?'. A kind of if it ain't broke don't fix it. Which, let's be honest, is sometimes a good policy. I mean, its not me that is making $200m at the US box office is it? But some films are - so what's my beef? It's only Hollywood films after all - the writer is much more highly regarded in say British TV. So maybe I have come at this the wrong way. The producers do know best. Get a writer in to do the job and let's package something up for the folks.

Fine - except for 3 pieces of evidence.

1: As we have seen - this summer was quite bad for films with regard to income. So something may in fact be broken and require fixing. The film business is fragile. A little bad streak bites deep.
2: The Media Guardian this week had 2 articles on blogging and 2 on the fact that audiences aren't in tune with summer blockbuster films. No link between these articles was drawn. But that is what I am trying to do! Show that a change is coming.
3: (and this is a cheeky one). I know that Paul loves the cinema. But I know that personally he finds a lot more interest in Asian, European and low budget films - albiet via his DVD player. I'm asking - is this the new way forward. More smaller films that communicate more directly with the audience.

Can we ride the change this is coming? Can Hollywood?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Back where we started


I wanted to launch into some upbeat proposition about a brave new way forward. But before we do that I couldn't let this article pass. Its by Mark Lawson in the Guardian and its about how writers are tossed about with regard to credits. Read it here.
Photo from "The Adventures of the Tattooed Man, directed by Tim Clague and Adrian Ward for Brittannia Building Society

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Recap of lessons learnt










THE STORY SO FAR

I think it wise to recap where we are so far for those that have come in late and are having to stand at the back.

So far we have concluded:

  • Writing is a lonely existence
  • As the writer of the script you have little influence on the final film
  • You have no power as you are invisible to the public
  • The public don't know you as what you do is not 'sexy'
  • You need to be sexy
  • One way is to do something else. What we have called a hyphen, eg. writer-director
  • Another way is to be a 'brand'. Someone who delivers fresh thinking. eg. Charlie Kaufman
  • The traditional structure of delivery is about marketing - NOT about making good films.
  • We want to make good films
  • So we need to remove as much of the middle man as possible.

Coming up:

  • How can the audience and film maker connect more easily
  • Can you do away with the middle men
  • How can blogs help?

See you in the future

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The aggressive proposal

Myself and Shaune write our proposals in what we have dubbed an aggressive style. They are very challenging and advocate a change in thinking and how we look at the world. We don't write - its a bit like... - we tackle what we've seen before and what we don't like about it. Check out this proposal for a show called Intermission. It was written in jest (almost) but it shows the point:

Intermission: Why have a documentary about anything. Let’s be honest - most people can’t follow them anyway. Television is just moving wallpaper isn’t it? So this programme sets out to be the best. Shots of cute kittens, sunsets, babies laughing, rolling hills and knitting give our eyes something to look at for half an hour. The end.

Anyway. The point of all this is that Shaune saw a similar writing style in the marketing site of an ISP. Here's the link.

But I like that they call it a manifesto and I think we'll copy that name and use it from now on. Its a bit less scary!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

High concept - low talent

Check out this unusual blog called Query Letters I Love. Its a string of bad pitches recieved by an mystery Hollywood dude. He shares them with the world as a warning to us all. Either that or he makes up a continuous stream of rubbish. Either way - its good fun to read about bad ideas. And it means that I had better stop work on my version of 'Harsky & Stutch: Truant Officers Extraordinaire!' as someone else has beaten me to it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Blog TV - part two

An update on Blog TV. As Paul Draper said in reply it will be hard to replicate the blog experience in TV form - maybe even a futile or pointless task. But I've given it a go anyway. Shaune Fradley, who I worked with on Wimborne Road a few years ago has sent it on to Sky and ITV already.

Here is the proposal

Blog TV

Nobody has all the answers. So why do we pretend they do? Why do we let people in our living rooms so they can talk at us?

This programme is different. This programme seeks out the answer through the exploring the shared experience. Not through vox-pops, not through ‘experts’ but by talking sensibly to everyday people. Give them a chance to shine.

Example show: Topic – Euthanasia
• A doctor, a firm believer in the defence of life at all costs, lays out his opinion.
• But then he meets a man whose mother is terminally ill. Why can’t she have her dignity?
• Which leads him to talk to the consultant in charge of the patient – what is his prognosis?
• But then he talks to someone who came out of a coma after a year. What is there life like now?
• Which leads him to talk to a lawyer – what is the legal point of view?

Through the ongoing ‘conversation’ will our presenter change his view. Only through talking can we shift our perspective.

Taking the best of documentary and the best of discussion programmes we get out and about and create a country-wide conversation with people who know what they are talking about, yet have never been asked. No spin, no ego, no celebrity. Just people like you and me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Thank you for the music

Just getting back for a moment to the idea of why the writer is lost in the film making process. Lets look at another industry...

Maybe its because I identify with the plight of being 'invisible' but I often feel bad about music producers. Not for too long obviously. But I mean, am I mistaken, but don't they actually create the sound of the album (or the song). They are similar to the director of a film. The singer is just like the actor - important yes, but essentially another instrument. Is that fair to say that?

Who is this?

Why it's William Orbit. No? He produced Madonna's Ray of Light. But you wouldn't know that from its amazon page. Not a mention of him. I quite like the sound. So I might want to check out some of the other productions of his. Like I might want to see other films directed by Spike Jonze after enjoying Adaptation. Well bad luck. You can't.

Why is that? What is it that says we are allowed to follow Madonna's career but not William Orbit. Unless of course he was a hyphen. Like Dr Dre (producer-artist) or Simon Cowell (producer-TV villain).

And let's not even get started on who writes these songs!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Blog TV



I'm just about to put in a TV proposal. The aim of the proposal is to try and capture what we have been talking about here so far. Can you have a programme that talks directly and in a two way direction to the audience? Above is a chart that shows the change in the media.

With a blog you bypass the controlling elements of the editor (the gatekeeper) and the distributors (the means of production). You also bypass those costs.
Obviously with a TV show you can never truly achieve the top route. You always need to go the bottom route - for now anyway. But this idea is a half way house.

What is the show then?
The show would run in a similar way to a blog. I would say in episode one - writers have no control. Someone would email in saying why this was wrong and I'd go and talk to them on camera. They would show me what they mean with examples, clips etc. And then I'd move on to 3 other people with opinions. And slowly over the series I would form a new opinion.
I'm not saying this would be the topic and I'm not saying that I would present it. But it demonstrates how it would work. It tries to be inclusive. And shows how our opinions should change as we learn more. Most of all it tries to go the top route, not the bottom and bypass the one-way lecture.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hey kids - just say no


Seth Godin's got another interesting challenge on his blog.

Hearing that cock pit doors were turned by penny pinchers at the FAA before 9/11 he made this business proposition:
Appoint a CNO - chief no officer. No longer can someone say no to an idea and leave it at that. If you want to turn something down, you've got to pass it on to your boss. Then either he says yes or gives it to his boss. For a "no" to be official, it'’s got to be approved by the chief no officer and countersigned by every manager along the way.

So, what would have happened if the FAA or FEMA had a CNO? Who would have had the guts to turn down cockpit door locks if saying "no" meant the idea would go upstairs?

And what happens to any organization that creates a culture where maintaining the status quo requires your boss to give you the okay?

Of course, it's not this simple. But the very act of talking about it helps people focus on what's killing their organization. I don't care if you're in radio, packaged goods, organized religion or an online merchant. If you're not saying yes to change, you're slowly losing whatever race you happen to be in.


Now - this sounds great. But this situation is what exists in the film industry. Where no one wants to say NO. They don't want to be the guy (or gal - but it is mainly men) who turned down 'Ghost' or 'Donnie Darko' or any other sleeper hit. But they don't want to say YES either. They don't want to be the guy who spent millions on Pluto Nash. So they say nothing and the project goes into development hell. Tpurgatoryory for ideas. Only maybe a triphyphenpen can help you escape.

The result of CNO is the exact opposite of the aim. No change! Fear keeps us prisoner

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Get closer


Wouldn't it be better if the audience and film maker could get closer? Doesn't that happen with blogs? The world is becoming much more immediate. Instant feedback for text. Viewing figures for TV. QVC constantly monitor the phonecalls as every word is spoken and every graphic appears on screen. They 'talk' - at least in someway - with their audience.

Films seem behind on this. There is still that idea of the silver screen and the people on it are beyond reach. But now we know that all you need to be a celebrity is to go on a TV gameshow this seems a little out of date. We need to break the silver screen. Let's get on the same side as the audience. Work together. How can you make a flop if you've worked WITH your audience?

Monday, September 12, 2005

An aside

Seth Godin wrote on his blog

The first lesson is that free ebooks spread FORTY times faster than ebooks that cost money. That should give you pause if your goal is to spread your ideas. It seems to me that it's really difficult to imagine that the $9 or $12 you can charge for an ebook is more effective than reaching forty times as many as people for free.

What is the film equalivant? Those viral shorts from beer companies? Great, but that's an advert - not a film. Get a good fun film, less a 1 meg in size and it'll fly. DePict is a festival for films under 90 seconds in length so this kind of production is out there. But...

I never get emailed films. Do you?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who is in charge around here?

So far we've talked about dynamic inside the industry. Now the bigger picture...

Let's jump straight to the top of the tree. We all know that in standard, entertainment style, film the audience is in charge. If they turn up - its a hit and you get a sequel. If not - then it disappears. So a film needs to be hit from the off. And people like an easy sell.

We used to have high concept pitches such as "a man finds that his whole life has been lived in a computer simulation" but now we have high concept titles where the title IS the sell. But when was the last time you heard someone say that they really loved "Dukes of Hazzard" or "Bewitched". Someone here is massively underestimating the audience I think.

"Memento", "Donnie Darko", "Sixth Sense" - give people a good film and they go. Not only that they will tell ALL their mates. No big nasty marketing required. Maybe what we need is a new form of distribution - and make the link between audience and film maker transparent and one step. Not through seven layers of companies with cross deals and partnerships that each need to take a cut. Even 10 Seconds had 3 companies between me and the money!

So that's the next topic. How can film makers hear directly from the audience? How can we get along side the audience?

Friday, September 09, 2005

The agents view...

Bit of a lazy post this one. By here is what Julian Friedmann said on another message board - yet it seemed highly relevant. He is still starting from a point of view of getting yourself a hyphen.

I applaud the debate about why so few writers direct, although as an agent my experience is that most of those who do so fail to see that if they are any good as writers they should want a better director than themselves, and if they think they are any good as a director they should want to direct better scripts than they can write. Too many writers are forced to try directing because they can't sell their script to anyone and because the industry appears to love writer-directors.

Instead, I think that it makes more sense for writers to become "filmmakers" by producing. Directing is very skilled, ideally requiring both training and considerable practice doing shorts and television before risking a feature film. The September issue of ScriptWriter Magazine has an entire editorial about this, because it will be a more successful way forward in my opinion as the technology becomes simpler and less expensive. There is also an article on how films are sold and distributed, essential knowledge that few writers have.

We are entering an era of UKP 50,000 to UKP 250,000 feature films, some of which will make a great deal of money even if they do not get theatrical release. It will also be an era in which theatrical release becomes less important.


Remember, Julian's idea of a writer-producer dramatically shifts the balance of power. Now the writer-producer can fire the director!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

She's leaving home, bye bye. (C)


Paul Draper replied to the last post and here is a little extract:
If the film eventually becomes a collaboration between yourself and the world why not collaborate from the off and write to pass to another to interpret in their direction or production? ...a good parent knows when to allow school, friends to influence their child, and so I think the writer should welcome artistic additions to his/her vision. Something beautiful may emerge you never even imagined.

Paul obviously has a point. And in fact I talked about the use of the fully collaborative method that created my short film WaterMelon a while ago in a previous post. Here I advocate the use of giving up elements of your film to allow an influx of ideas.

But as the writer of the film, (and just the writer - if you had no hyphen) you are powerless to control what happens next. Does someone take your story and miss the point? Do they cast it against how you see it? Yes, maybe as Paul suggests this will be a fresh new direction. Or will it be a disaster? You won't know. Your sitting at home in front of a keyboard while someone adds a car chase to sex up your coming-of-age deeply felt drama.

Children need to leave home, yes. But do you sell them at the slave market? Wouldn't you worry if they didn't keep in touch?

Paul's film is available to watch on the BBC Film Network site.

Monday, September 05, 2005

What - just a writer

Back onto the main theme of this blog. How to make sure the film that you want to get made - is the one that does get made. The big shame is that you need to a hyphen. A writer-director or a writer-producer. Being a writer-writer just doesn't seem to cut it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

10 Seconds Update



My short film 10 seconds continues to find success. Here is a run down so far.

* Selected for the Short Film category at the Rushes Soho shorts festival
* Selected for the Talent Circle super shorts festival
* Selected for the RollingStock festival
* US distribution through MicroCinema
* Chosen as film of the month, with a full page write up, in Showreel Magazine
* Shown at Reading festival last month

The SuperShorts screenings are coming up. Get along there to check out some great UK short films.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rules

I don't like rules I have decided. I don't really like the 3 or 9 act structure. Why? Because of its misuse. People who don't know what else to say what you give them your script will just say something from a rule book. They will say "Its great, but there was no plot point on page 21". What is so wrong with this? The big danger is that we stop feeling the emotions and everything becomes intellectual. We start applying rules rather than building worlds with characters who do things that make sense to them. We stop living in the script and start living above it. So the next time someone 'rules' you - just ask them how they felt reading the script, not what they thought of it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Style and Content

On over simplification is to split any creative endeavor into two elements - the style of the piece and its content.

The content is, of course, the dialogue and the characters.
The style we could see as being the look and feel of the final film. But I think that's wrong and too narrow a view. The style is the structure and pace of the script.

Many scriptwriters would argue that content is more important than style. "Let's get the content down first then add the style later" or even see the style as the director's 'bag'. It is an often used criticism that someone has 'put style over content'. And it is true that this can lead to an empty film. But content over style is also a danger.

So you need style and content, yes.
Style over content, no.
Style before content, yes.

That's what may be a challenge to some people. Before dialogue, before structure, even before story - comes style.

Only when we understand the style of the film, how it will look at the end, can we write the best script. To do this effectively would mean often breaking the traditional work structure.

Plus how we fit that idea of style into a 12pt courier script. That's the task.

Monday, August 22, 2005

WaterMelon


WaterMelon is a short film that I created recently.
It is now finished and has its own page on the Projector Films website. It is currently being pushed at festivals and seeking distribution.

What is interesting about the film, with regards to the topic of this blog, was the method used in its creation. We tried to make a truly collaborative film. One that fully utilises the creativity of the people involved. But what does that mean?

It means talking about the script to Dave Purse, the composer, before we shot. And using his music on the set. It means sitting down and discussing the shots with Shaune Fradley, the DoP, before we got on set. What ideas does he have while we can still rewrite the script. It means talking to Gary Hayton, the sound designer, while we are storyboarding - what sound ideas does he have as we can shoot images to go with his great sounds.

What is so strange is how obvious this seems yet how back to front to appears to the normal way of shooting. Yes, it is slower, but it is better. And life's to short to make shit films.