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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hallam Foe - new marketing ideas for a new film

Check out the progress of Hallam Foe - a new film by Dave MacKenzie. They (and Buena Vista) are trying to think of ways of involving bloggers in the film. The whole 'Snakes on a Plane' thing is great - if your film is about being nuts! But what about other kinds of films? That's the challenge here. They are planning some kind of rough cut screening for bloggers as a first step.

My favourite quote from David - " It may seem strange but as a director I have very rarely been asked to be involved too much in the marketing of my films. I rather disagreed with the marketing angle on my last film but my thoughts were basically ignored. So I am especially happy to be involved at this comparatively early and proactive stage in the process."

I think that journey is one that a lot of us are on.

If as film makers we want people to think about our work, to talk about our work, to make a difference then we MUST be willing to wade in and confront head on the issue of "how are people going to see this story?" Story, characters, dialogue AND the audience must all be one and coming from the same place. I think just calling these kind of activities 'new marketing ideas' is not quite enough. It could be more. A new way for film makers and the audience to be closer. Remember my age old graphic - it's all part of that.

Rough poster by Colin Kennedy.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006


the show with zefrank

Somewhere in all of Zefrank's rambles he illustrates the change of pace / complexity we need to keep up with a changing audience.

Zefrank is, however, the cleverest weaver of stories and comments on the web surely.

A new idea on how TV needs to change how it sells itself

American TV has record low figures.

ITV is in a bad shape.

Andy Harries (head of drama ITV) says... "Don't you think that the ABs [upmarket viewers] have stopped watching ITV because it has become unwatchable? Hundreds of people tell me this. There is too much clutter, and it is putting people off. ITV is so unfashionable. It doesn't have to be like Channel 4, but it should be modern. It looks like a bargain basement."

I feel a bit sorry for TV now. Since day one of this blog I've been banging on about TV being on the way out and being out of touch.

But who wants all that negativity? So I offer an answer to my TV colleagues. Its the same answer as for the films. Start by justifying the time you are asking (the best 1 hour of ground breaking drama) and stop taking people's time for granted (6 hours of live celebrity hula hooping etc).

I don't need to know when its on (as I will timeshift it anyway or watch on-demand).
I don't need to know what channel its on as I will find it
I don't really need to know what happens in it

I do need to know what it will do for me. How will it affect me? Why should I bother? What's in it for me?

Of course if you can't answer those questions then that may explain why people are watching in the first place.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cinematography technology special

For the techies and film tech geeks.

You can read Shaune Fradley's (DoP on Circumference) outline of the MovieTube here. Its more indepth and technical than my previous blog entry. But vital if you are considering a new shoot and what some options.

European films - what can we offer?

We've been putting in to go on the Arista development workshops for Circumference.

One question on the form asked What stories should we be telling in Europe? After a little chin tickling time I actual thought my answer was quite good. So here it is...

Bad practice though it is I will start by answering what stories we shouldn't be telling in Europe. We shouldn't be telling other people's stories. We shouldn't be a rebadge factory for Amercia stories. Let the American's tell their own stories.

What does that mean for us? I believe it means that we need stories that will change people. Hollywood has saturated the cinema with stories that DON'T change people - that just reinforce already held beliefs and recycle ideas. The most obvious manifisation of this the nurmerous sequels and remakes currently being spewed out.

In Europe we need to stop competing with that idea. We need to start working on films that make people feel something - excited, scared, cry. And we need to sell that as a positive thing, rather than being embarrassed about it.

As people become more time orientated they are going to want to know why they should spend 2 hours watching a film. What is it for them? 2 hours is a long time and we could all be doing something else. If we focus on life changing stories then that becomes the easiest sell in the world. We make stories that are worth 2 hours of your life because they will change you forever.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The gapingvoid guide to selling movies...

Hugh Macleod from Gaping Void is a marketing via blog legend. Here is an extract on how to use blogs to market films...

What I wish to use the blogosphere for, is to understand two basic questions:

1. Who is talking about the movie.
2. What are they saying about the movie.

And I want to know the answer to this question before the film is in general release.

As any Cluetrain maven will tell you, when it comes to Word Of Mouth, you don;t control the conversation. The only way you can have any control of the conversation is if you improve the conversation.

i.e. Control the conversation by improving the conversation.

i.e. Find ways to make it easier for people to talk about your movie.

Movies are loved they articulate feelings that the audience has, but cannot express themselves. As marketers, we have a duty to help them [actively] do this in terms of their conversations with [relating to] other people, not just in terms of them sitting [passively] in a movie theatre.

I believe that interacting with the blogosphere will help us come up with the answers were looking for. This to me is far more important and interesting than using to blogosphere for the rather shallow act of "creating buzz".

Next Steps:

1. Start getting bloggers to see the movie, on a limited scale, via private screenings.
2. Listen and learn from what they're saying.

3. Offer feedback. Be transparent about what you're seeing.

4. See which parts of the conversation are going "viral". Positive? Negative? Align your marketing accordingly, by making the "Porous Membrane" even more porous.

5. Start getting bloggers to see the movie on a slightly larger scale. Launch a massive "Free Movie Tickets" campaign via the blog advertising networks- Weblogs Inc, Federated, Gawker, Blogads etc.

6.Repeat process.

Remember, Word Of Mouth is not created, Word of Mouth is co-created. People will only spread your virus if there's something in it for them. They have to be complicit in your success.
Which means, of course, you have to be complicit in their success as well.

Rock on,


I still say that before any of that works we need to make sure that our film is available to watch for a long time. These techniques take a while. A one week limited release will not help. That's why I'm sure that you need a new distribution method. Like the free-to-give-way DVD idea for Circumference.

Meet the locals...

Danny Stack is right to remind us to check out Severance by fellow blogger James Moran from 'the pen is mightier than the spork' blog. In fact you can't help but notice it. Its plastered on the side of every bus it seems! Its out now at your local flicks.

Closer to home I would also like to fill you in on a great no-budget local film. Small Town Folk is the work of Peter Stanley-Ward, Chris Musselwhite, Natalie Conway, Chris Wright and too many others to mention.

I first met these guys a lifetime ago when they came on my scriptwriting workshop. But I take no credit for their skills as they were always committed to film and always had a drive and energy that was infectious. This is a labour of love for the gang. But its no pet project or dry run. This is a full on feature. Check out this trailer right now. Its fantastic.

The good news. You can come to the premiere. Its on next Saturday (the 2nd September) at 10 at the Harbour Lights in Southampton. I'll be there of course. And you'd be crazy to miss it.

Get your ticket from the producer Chris Musselwhite.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

First shots

A lot of people are asking about our experiences with the Movie Tube. This is a piece of kit we hired from Decode that increases your depth of field and allows you to use a pro set of lenses - the kind you would use for a 35mm film camera. Ever on the search for new ideas of course we also tried out the Panasonic HVX200 with an attached hard drive that allows you to record directly to disc. So no digitising required! We shot in DVCProHD (1920x1080 final image size).

We had no real issues with the kit. And the image above is one that I have just ripped off the raw material now. Its untampered in any way. In fact its probably still interlaced.

A big thanks to all the crew. Not all that interesting for most readers but if you need crew I recommend the following. It might be the greatest Bournemouth crew ever assembled. Danny Stack was my runner for goodness sake! The legendary Uncle managed to make the movietube sing as DoP - no rants - with help from 'man of the shoot' Andy Earle. James Ward did the sound collecting and spot effects while local sound guru Jim Watkins captured the sync sound. Sidekick Kim Rogers did the make up while Mark Skadding did the stills. Big thanks to Dean Evans who was general production dude and of course to Adam Merrifield from Whitelantern who pulled it all together. More on the cast tomorrow!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Off on the shoot

We're off on the Circumference trailer shoot for a few days now. So bear with us and sorry for not getting round to all the other blogs as often as I would like.

But before I go - just time for one last new idea. The postcard above is for us to hand out to people on location. Normally, members of the public are seen as pests. People who get in the way and ask questions. But its a fair enough question, 'What are you doing'. Now we have the answers on a little card. After all - these people are the people most likely to want to watch the film when it comes out. They are your easiest audience. Get them on your side now and they will stick with you.

New selling idea for scripts

Mister Blue Eyes left me a comment about selling a screenplay on eBay. The link is here.

I think the idea is an okay one and similar to how Melissa Balin sold her finished film.

But a new sales channel does not mean you can forget all your good sales practise. Where is the statement of quality? What has this writer done before? Who has read it and will give it a stamp of approval? Without that it may as well be blank sheets of paper. It might be a great script. But if it demands a high price then give me a reason to bid.

I think it is far too easy to misunderstand the concept of the new ways of selling and distributing. As we find more and more ways around the gatekeepers and approach the goal of connecting with the audience directly everything can appear easier. It appears to be easier to sell your script. It seems easier to distribute your film directly. In fact it is harder. The competition is greater and you need to work even harder to capture people's attention. But get it right and the pay off is massive.

With no agent fees and no overheads this writer could cash in. But to do that they need to become a better self-agent first. And that includes both promoting the work AND making sure it is ready to sell.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Best new film recommendation

After a few days of being back from Edinburgh what is my hot new film? Well, its not big, its not clever, but it is funky. Its Art School Confidential. Its the new film from writer Daniel Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff - who brought you Ghost World.

Its clever, but not too clever. And very much a tease on the arty bollocks within us all. It reminded me of an early Woody Allen film. The plot is playing second fiddle here - this is really about characters and acting. And I enjoyed the ride. The cast is awesome. I was probably lured in by Sophia Myles (above) but then this is a film with John Malkovich, Anjelica Huston and Jim Broadbent. As well as a guy I didn't really know but who stole the whole film - Joel Moore - keep an eye out for him. I will say no more on this film except to recommend it to you.

In fact, it was actors that stood out in all the films we saw. Not just the fact that (as always) they would make a big difference to the final quality. But instead the small pool of them. We saw Ethan Suplee in 3 films! I wonder if actors are becoming much more a 'flavour of the month'. OR if the same idea of getting 'a name' attached is now invading indy pics more than ever. Its a shame if that is true.

Also worthy of note film wise is Case de Areia (House of Sand) from Brazil. Its a film with few words and big landscapes, in a David Lean style.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New ideas for film festivals...

I went to a panel discussion - all great guests and speakers - called how to get the best out of a film festival. A good direct topic and, of course, this is what most of us need to know.

Being a kind of a cheeky guy my question was a controversial one and a direct one. "Why do we still need them?" It used to be a great way of getting your expensive 35mm print seen by a lot of people in one go. But now with fast downloads and DVDs in the post - why still do it? The original reason has gone. Here are their answers...

One: They do a lot of marketing for you. So you get free help in getting your film in front of people.
Two: The full festival circuit can act as a low budget unofficial chain. You get screening fees from some fests. This may be the ONLY theatre money a lot of films get. But it may be enough to raise the visibility of the film to secure a DVD release.
Three: It builds buzz. Its the ultimate DVD extra as the director introduces the film LIVE! The goodwill secured in this way ensures the audience talk about it to their friends.
Four: In person. People remember people they meet. So make sure you meet people. One guy said that finding a great film maker is almost as important as finding a great film. An example being SuperSizeMe. The power of Morgan Spurlock as a person is really helping his film. So meeting a postive and passionate film maker counts. The quote I will always remember is, "If you are sellable then it will raise the value of the movie". I've never heard that put as simply before.

Other festival advice includes...

  • Pick a festival strategy. Big festivals might not serve your interests. Smaller or specialist fests may be a better option.
  • Use the festival press office. Get them to help you. They can promote your film if you give them the tools to do it.
  • Top promo tool - a postcard. I was surprised to hear this, but there you go. More on this later as I picked up some examples.

Over and out.

Edinburgh show

The screening went well. There was about 60 people there which was more than I expected. Some great animations as well. Technically ours wasn't the best but I think it held its own story wise. This camera-phone pic shows Kim trying to drum up some interest!

Had some haggis, neeps and tatties (no square sausage yet) sitting next to the legendary Arthur Smith last night. We also saw a great live improv Jim Henson workshop show. You can see both the end result via big screens (ie what you would see on the muppet show on TV) and the puppeteers doing their stuff live. Those guys really live it!

Today was an early start to see Clerks II at 9am. I don't believe this to be the ideal viewing time. A short review - more of the same.

I met up with Sal Brown from Excellent Adventures blog yesterday. It turns out she was at Cannes earlier in the year. But that was when she had just started blogging. I'm sure she will be a regular in my meetings diary at future events as she is working hard at her writing and film making and putting her best effort into it.

More to come...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Live from Edinburgh

We have made it up to the Edinburgh Film Festival in one piece - despite airport security. A few first impressions...

  • Excellent staff and facilities. Its all here and all easy. A delegate centre with net access and a cafe etc.
  • Films - a mixture of industry screenings and films on show to the public. I like that approach. It means we never forget that the paying public need to be involved.
  • Talks - some good talks and seminars. First one in a moment. There are a healthy amount of writer's talks as well. Nothing for craft people though.
  • Approach - film as an international art form and not a business. So 180 degree opposite to Cannes.

So the early vibe would seem to me that this makes an excellent antidote to Cannes. Less hectic and less business. Its more about enjoying the films and talking about films. So its harder to justify spending your networking cash up here. And I'm wearing my coat!

Challenges for the 3 days (!) include seeing some fringe stuff, getting up to the castle, swapping a dozen business cards and an extra challenge from Steve in the office is eating a square sausage. I just hope that isn't rude slang up here and will get me a black eye.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A new year of the blog

The projector films blog is one year old today...

So what? Well, thinking back it has done a number of things:

  • Put me in touch with writing guru Danny Stack.
  • And other writers and film people from around the world - too many to mention.
  • Got the idea of the Gravity Model out there amongst writers.
  • The same for Storydust.
  • Holding the local film makers get together.
  • Launched the whole idea of 365 films
  • And most crucially made me consider marketing much more urgently. How can writers get the credit they deserve unless they demand it. To demand it they need to be known.
  • Made me look at my own workflow - what actually have I done today worth writing about. If nothing, then why not!
  • Made me think about what it is that I do really do (new ideas for film makers) and how much I tell people that's what I do.

What's coming up? Last year was about looking inwards to understand all those things. This next year is about making things.
  • The trailer for Circumference.
  • Leading into the full feature.
  • The Scriptwriters Life model (everything you need to know on a page).
  • And hopefully a fully blown CD-ROM made to back this model up.
  • 365 - you never know!

Anyway. I'm off to Edinburgh for the screening of Hope. Maybe see you there. I'm already meeting up with blog regular Sal from My Excellent Adventures - ahhh - the power of the blog!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Who is your boss?

Seth Godin says we all need a boss. The reasons are on his site - follow the link.

But as a writer... Who is your boss? Who is your mentor or challenger? Or do we use blogs to do peer-to-peer controls? If so, should we be tougher on each other?

On line advertising up!

This article says what we all know - internet advertising is overtaking other forms.

I'll say it again. Its not advertising we need. It conversations. Like 365films.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

New directing techniques

A long time ago I made a video about working with the actor featuring a guy who since became a great friend, Jeff Bellamy. Look out for Jeff in Everyday Man - one of favourite film that has never quite made it onto the internet yet. He's also in Yonathan Gal's new film - if that ever gets out of post!

Anyway. The point of this post is to talk about a new technique I've been using in working with actors recently. Its come out of the auditions I've been doing for the Circumference trailer. I noticed something - and it became more and more annoying until I had to find a way to do something about it. Its what I call - the falseness of acting. Not bad acting. This is not the actor's fault. This was my fault as a director. I couldn't find quite what was wrong - what was happening that I didn't like. If I couldn't communicate that then I was failing as a director.

Everyone I've met for both of the parts has been great. They laugh, they smile, they listen, they think. Turn the camera on and pling - they become someone else. Someone who is too obvious, who is too easy and too simple. In fact, as a director, all I want is for them to be who they are, but just in a controlled way. So if I say smile, I get a warm genuine (all in the eyes) smile rather than a cheesy posed (all in the mouth) smile. And this really matters for this film as I know people fall in love with people's eyes. AND my biggest problem - this is a no dialogue trailer. So it has be there - we have to see it.

Here is what I did. I told them a story. And we talked about it. And they felt it. And then I made them relive it. Now watch the subtlety as these thoughts and feelings flicker across there eyes. You can see it. Its really there.

Basically, in a nut shell, my new tip is internal dialogue. Just because you have no vocal dialogue does not mean that you don't need to write some. But write it for the inside of the actor. It will make a difference.

Still from behind the scenes of 'The Adventures of the Tattooed Man' - shot for Britannia
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Friday, August 11, 2006

Old skool

Just time to mention that myself and the Uncle are in today's Bournemouth Echo. It seems strange to mention it as the whole article is about how blogs free us from depending on 'big media' to spread our message.

On a happier note I have just had a tooth taken out and am drooling blood everywhere. Just the sort of tiny detail that the article says bloggers should never write about. Drat!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sorry for irregular postings

Why the infrequent postings? Well the Bournemouth gang are all involved in pre-production on the trailer for the film Circumference. But of course a time of activity is the greatest time to blog. Life at the coal-face is where the action is.

Normally I disagree with spending effort in producing a trailer. By the time we shot the trailer we could have shot some of the final film. But here is our rationale for doing it in this case.

  • Technical tests - I am going to shoot a lot of footage in the final film - a lot! Film is out. This will be a shoot about catching minute moments that arise from improvisation. So no film, but visually video will ruin it (see my discussion with Suki earlier. So we are trying out new systems such as the Movie Tube. But we need to try that out for real, not in a demo situation. Its been great talking to other film makers such as Dave McDowall and getting opinions from others.
  • Audition - The trailer can act as the best ever audition.
  • Sales tool - As you know Circumference is being funded through a new business model. Part of the budget would be raised by offering 30 second slots in the film for companies to advertise whatever they want. Only we can use this technique as we feature a salesman in the main role. Its more honest than product placement and means that we can give the film away for free - that's right - free! The trailer is a sales tool for this idea.
  • Concept - The concept of the lead character offering analysis of his own story is a bit odd. Better to show it than talk about it.

So we'll see how we get on. We are currently deep in casting.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Procedure films - an old idea that should come back

I'll tell you what I like in a film - and no scriptwriting book seems to cover it. In fact I've given it a name. If you know of the 'correct' name then let me know. You love these scenes too - but you feel you may have to cut them as you don't know what they are and you get nervous. Well - I've given it a fancy jargon name so you'll be able to label it and make a stand to keep it in. What is it? The procedure scene.

I love a procedure scene.

It's where things happen slowly, deliberately and where the fun is in the whole nerdishness of it. Here is an example.

The launch of a Thunderbird. Do diddy do - they slide down the shoot, they get turned over, the chair slides down, the clamps hold it in place. That's just one Thunderbird! If you need to launch two then it takes twice as long - and we still have the trees to fold down out of the way! Time taken = 45 seconds per launch. Our script editing friends may tell us to "just cut to them in their seats. You don't need to show them getting there." Tell those guys - you are wrong! Its a procedure scene - a scene that is about taking its time and enjoying the method of that way of life. Part nerdy - part exposition - part pacing. Its a scene that really underlines the culture of the society that is featured in the the film. As such it should be considered of equal importance to the 'flash' scene. The flash scene is similar but is about summing up a character through montage - for instance the start of Shaft where the 'sex machine' himself wanders about NY strutting his vitality.

The Andromeda Strain is pretty much a procedure film. This is a film that takes 20 minutes to get 3 people through decontamination. GREAT! Its by the king of procedure Robert Wise (see also Star Trek 1 and The Day the Earth Stood Still).

Another great film - 2001 - full of procedures.

But what happened to these scenes? They seem to have disappeared. Perhaps the only modern equivalent would be heist movies where we spend quite long procedure scenes outling the plan and then following the plan being carried out. But again, nothing seems quite as great as the Mission Impossible TV series.

Are audiences too busy for these kinds of scenes. I hope not. Bring back the procedure!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A new idea - please!!!

That's it. I'm sick of it. No one seems to mention it for fear of looking like an idiot. But I don't care - I'm going to stick my neck out.

All this 12 point courier stuff is bollocks.

What a waste of time having all these rules. Rules that ensure that despite ALL modern advances our scripts look as if someone wrote it on a typewriter. I could draw thousands of cliche comparisons with other industries - asking 'what if they hadn't changed design in 80 years'. But what's the point? We get it. We all get it.

It's old and its stupid.

So old and stupid we try to actually justify it! Its so we know if the writer is a professional or not. Well make up some other rule then. How about we all stick the stamp on the envelope upside if we are 'in the biz' from now on? That's just as good. It makes one page equal to one minute. Well kind of nearly it does. And I think we could estimate that anyway. Its about the writing so we want the minimal design on the page. It is about the writing, yes, but a/ this isn't a novel its for a visual medium and b/ by that way of thinking you should never have any descriptive sentences at all.

But why change it? I think it might be holding us back. I think it suits some stories well and other stories not so well. But as a creative writer its tough shit on you. You have to just do it. I think there are ideas on layout for characters, use of colour, ways to connect key sequences with codes and symbols - all things we are missing out on. Not all of us, and not all the time. Most novels look the same, but they don't HAVE to.

I think I'm going round and round here. Basically it comes down to the fact that surpressing new ideas in an artform is bad.

Comments please.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cinema sorts it act out

Mark Cuban of Landmark Theatres in the US has taken the bait...

We are currently working on 2 theater projects. One is a theater just for kids under the age of 10. Just showing kids movies, with tons of amenities for parents and kids, along with retail geared towards kids. No parent will be able to get out of the theater alive if they dont buy the Curious George goodies we sell when we show a Curious George movie. And of course we will be able to make our own movies to show, and with our policy of day n date releases, we will be selling the DVD of the movie as well.

The 2nd is what I call Rock N Roll Theater (ok Im showing my age), but bottom line it will be a theater geared towards 16 to 25 year old demo where the motto will be:

“If you expect silence during this movie. leave now. “

Again, lots of retail. Lots of security. Lots of kids who can see what they want to see , txt who they want to txt, yell what they want to yell. In fact, part of the thought process has been for the movies we make and show, to post portions of the script of the movie so kids can learn lines from the movie BEFORE they come, or hopefully make them read it after they saw it the first time and come back , creating our own rocky horror show like environment.

Mark's recent on-line discussion via his blog about the future of film showed a massive disatifaction with the current cinema experience. So its not just me. The heat is on the big chains. Sort it out or close down. Why do people put up with crappy downloads of films. Cos it beats paying £7.20 to sit in the flicks so some kid can kick your chair - that's why!

New Sony Bravia ad

Here is some clips of the filming of the new Bravia advert. Its from David Mackenzie's blog.

How about that for a new advertising strategy. Do something great and then let OTHER PEOPLE film your advert and send it around the world for you! Beyond even viral ads. Apologies to Sony for ruining their big launch though. Still, you're getting a free plug ;-)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Perfect Cast

Coming soon is a great tool for writers I've been working on for a while. It's part of the "How to promote yourself and your work" scheme that I'm putting together for South West Screen. The aim of the scheme is to help writers and directors plan their career and be able to sell their script as well as just be able to plan and write their script.

As a promotional tool for the project AND as a framework for the content I am working on putting the whole of a scriptwriters life onto a single page. Watch out for it soon and, as ever, I'll be seeking comments!

One of the things on this page was an idea that I know some people use and some people may never have heard of. I call it 'perfect cast'. The idea is to cast the film before you write it. The aim is not to actually get into a production corner where only one person could play the role but rather to help you, as a writer, get a feel for your character. Write it as if Bill Murray was the character. Whoever plays the role eventually won't sound like Bill Murray but the world-weary feel will shine through.

Extra musing

This came out of the printer at work. So I stood there and looked at it for a while. Isn't that all anyone EVER wants, for people to comment on what we do? Scripts, films, blogs - all desperate attempts at dialogue.

At the old office there was a sign in the window downstairs. It was a piece of A4 blutacked up at a jaunty angle. Handwritten on it was "Hello to the brown trays". What? And if you looked. If you looked waaaaay across to another office block, across the street and over the car park, there in the 6th floor window was a desk with a stack of 4 brown in-trays.

A desperate plea for a comment that I found both warm and heart breakingly sad.