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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

HBO - live on a building

For those of you considering that TV is not for you and the cinema is full of rehashes that suck your soul - there is a new format. The side of a building.

Here is what HBO projected onto 4 stories of a New York building.

You can do an on-line version where you explore it more here. Most interestingly though the funding for this project is from the marketing department.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My own anecdotes from TV doc land

I've only ever made one TV documentary. And this is it. Humourous journalism style - Wimborne Road: Is it too long?

And I reshow it for your viewing pleasure today with a reason. The reason being that we shot it in as honest a manner as we could - following on from my previous post. We did walk the whole road with Peter Lee and we did start at one end and made our way on foot all the way to the other end - by dusk.

This was despite ITV almost trying to make us do it the 'normal' way - fixing it and pretending we'd walked it.

TV Lies have no home here though and we ignored them.

But for full disclosure I must admit that presenter Peter Lee's microphone is a comedy prop. But I was such a fan of when Terry Wogan had the same one on Blankety Blank that I went for it anyway on the basis that it didn't actually distort the truth - I hope!

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Honesty, editing and the end of TV

There is a lot of talk in old media about the TV 'scandal' - which is a bit odd. As it almost seems to be similar to when politicians talk about corruption in politics. It's too close. The phone-in quiz blanket ban is seen by some as a storm in a TV cup. But by others as the thin end of a wedgie. As long-time blog readers will know the contract between viewer and creator (in whatever media form) is something I've posted about many times. I have detected a disquiet for a number of years, a growing and simmering revulsion towards broadcast TV. I even predicted a sort of implosion within television, a downward spiral of desperate measures, falling audience, 'safe' bets, drop in income, plummeting budgets.

But a strong media is good for the country and the BBC is perhaps the UKs most important asset full stop. So I hope this isn't the start of that prediction. But its time to take stock and look at honesty in TV.

There is a difference between using editing techniques to present what happened and using it to distort what happened.

If you use edit techniques to simply slice a show together, make it accessible and make it of a suitable length you are still presenting what you found. The emphasis is that way around. You as a programme maker are reflecting life, reflecting people.

If you use edit techniques to distort the truth then this is dangerous. The danger is you are using the techniques to present your agenda. You don't care about the reality of what was filmed because you had decided what the reality was before you even filmed.

The public expect TV to be a slightly chopped up version of real life. They don't expect it to be lies. Like it or not the broadcasters do have a 'contract' with the audience - at least in the audience's mind. Just like a customer does if they go into a shop and buy something.

If the shopkeeper says 'This jumper is made of wool' it had better damn well be made of wool. What would we think of a shopkeeper who would say 'It's nylon really but that's better isn't it, more exciting, they don't want wool anyway. Besides they will never notice'.

Who is to blame for this shift - commissioners / producers. They are putting a squeeze on budget but more importantly demanding a full vision of the final programme before it is shot so as to avoid disappointed and to live a more risk-free life.

If I was in News, current affairs, reality TV style programming or quiz shows I would be watching my back.

My advice to TV makers of any level:
Be bold, be honest, be on the side of the audience. Treat them as equals - you will get treated well in return. Stick to your guns - if that means doing the show elsewhere (on-line, DVD, in theatre) then do that.

You serve the audience, not the format. Be proud of what you do.


For my own honesty I point out again that I am an outsider to this issue.

Image from one of my TV proposals to equip children with media savvy skills. The proposal wasn't picked up.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

For fans of the story cards. Heroes on BBC2

I recommend that fans of structure - and those that like to use the card method check out Heroes on BBC2.

Heroes BBC 2 Logo

Heroes is a great case study of using the card method (and good fun to watch). Thanks to media spotter 'The Uncle' for both recommending it and showing me the entire series.

In fact, in a little in joke, in about episode 15 or so a character actually build a card structure in his apartment featuring all the characters from the series and what they've done. I guess all writers write about what they know!

For those who choose their TV on a basic level then Hayden Panettiere plays a cheerleader.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

By Royal Appointment

Special repost on honesty. First uploaded 1 year ago to the day Steve Keevil reminded me that this seems oddly topical with HRH The Queens (TM) recent edit suite adventures...

...Most people just thought film making was filming stuff happen anyway - no real editing occurred. Now people know it. They look out for it. What editing has occurred in Big Brother to skew the story? "Hey, they've edited that to change the emphasis" and so on.

I'd go further. I'd say people are tired of the whole thing. They don't want anymore TV lies. They don't want situations that are contrived and false. 'oh look - here conviently is an expert of the subject'. Blogs (and MySpace et al) have shown us the real people can be cool anyway. Just tell us how it is. If someone didn't turn up - say it. If something went wrong - show us. In this age you need to be honest to build trust with an audience. Be proud of your editing. Tell us what was cut and why. People can take it / understand it these days.

My hope: Less TV lies. More TV honesty.

I'd also add to that - today media literacy is probably as essential to learn as english literature. Who can you trust in the media and why? Do schools have it high enough on their agenda. If they don't then we are not equipping the population to ask ITV News 'Yeah, you say that, but I don't have to pay for your service so where is the money coming from?"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Less is more

Sometimes going one better is not really enough. A step up might seem obvious but it isn't exciting. I believe that sometimes doing the opposite of everyone else is a better option. At the very least it gets noticed.

For example take BBC1. What about the idea of shutting it down at around midnight. Complete shut down, no news24 or any of that other filler stuff. Just shut it down.

It sends out a signal that this is a channel of carefully selected programming - not just a way to pump crap into your homes. I really doubt there is much benefit (in a multi-channel environment) to having news24 on there. So taking it off might be incredibly beneficial to their branding. Less is more.

You could even have Myleene Klass on the testcard. Although that is just a 'step up' from the old testcard!

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Territory selling rates

This scan from Screen International may interest the more film business types amongst you. Its the rate you can expect to sell the rights to your feature film for - by territory. Its handy as it has a range of budgets.

Monday, July 09, 2007

People who love Circumference - episode 6

Peter Buckingham - head of distribution and exhibition at the UK Film Council says...
Projector Films are doing everything that a film entrepreneur should be doing - utilising and exploring to the full all the new and huge opportunities of the digital revolution. Increasingly common in North America, this is one of the first I am aware of in Europe. It deserves to succeed!

As head of distribution & exhibition at the UK Film Council, Peter Buckingham is tasked with increasing the breadth and diversity of cinema going across the UK, as well as assisting audience appreciation of UK films. He heads up a range of schemes to support this strategy which include the P&A Fund (prints & advertising) and the world's first digital screen network.

Photo and bio from here.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

A new contract with the audience is needed

A couple of guys came down from Bristol Uni to interview me last week - Louis and Joe. They are making a documentary on product placement and were interested in the Circumference way of working as a possible future direction. In my mind I don't see Circumference as using product placement but I can see their angle. Just to be clear...

I don't like product placement.

That seems an odd statement from someone whose new film business model is about integrating adverts into the plot of a film. But the difference is small - yet massive. It is about honesty.

We are very clear with the potential audience for Circumference. "It's a free film. It's free because it contains some adverts. But don't worry - we're convinced they are good fun and that you'll enjoy them. Does that sound like a fair deal? Then please watch it."

Contrast that with the product placement way... "It's just a movie, please pay £10 to watch it." but really "and look at that BMW because they gave us some cash. Look hard enough to notice but not hard enough that you think its an advert. What? No. You still have to have paid £10. Er, can I go now?"

In fact, if we add to that the fact that we know cinemas make more profit from food than from ticket sales AND the fact that we know that a cinema release is really a giant advert for the DVD release (which makes 3 times the money) then you wonder if it hasn't just all gone wrong.

What we need is a new contract with the audience. So they know where they stand and don't feel both ripped off and told off (don't pirate this movie etc). The way the film business works has moved on - but the deal with the audience hasn't. That can't work long term.

Photo from the Director's Cut competition
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Swarming ideas

I encourage you to keep an eye on Swarm of Angels. It's another great film2.0 idea. Perhaps a short cut to understanding it is to call it a whip round for a film! The idea it to make truly internet based film. That is free to copy and share and also remix and reuse. Its open source.

Very radical.

And 100% opposite to the normal way of working. Can Matt and the guys pull it off? Check it out and see. In a way I can't understand why Hollywood isn't all over these ideas more. How much would hardcore Spiderman fans pay if you did the same for Spiderman 4 - $200 maybe. Beats getting 10 bucks for a cinema ticket.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Storydust - the most obvious source of all

I've been hawking around this idea of Storydust for a while now. In fact the datestamp on the original article says Feb 2006. Some people like it, some people don't like it, some find it a pointless buzz word for an activity that writers do anyway.

I guess it's somewhere inbetween them all. That's what time has taught me.

Just to recap, storydust is a way of thinking about collecting ideas. It is an analogy: In outer space, matter and gas collect together over time, very slowly, using gravity. Eventually you have a ball of heavy matter. This then collects more space dust. It gets bigger and bigger until it gets so heavy that it crushes itself and a reaction starts in the centre. A lot of residual dust and gas is thrown off and you are left with a bright burning star.

This can happen with your story. You want your story to burst into a bright singular point of great ideas. But you need a lot of 'dust and gas' first.

The good news is we see story dust everyday. Over the past year I've written about dust sources: various on-line collections, other films, real-life events, even in email spam!

But, like a lot of things I blog about, it might be overly complex. Yes, we can find storydust in all these things. But isn't the most obvious source in fact - ourselves, other human beings that we meet everyday.

Here is the real-life anecdote that made me think about this. I used to go to a sandwich bar called 'Grub' in Bournemouth. I'm sure you can imagine it from the name alone. There was a girl who worked in there who made a nice sandwich but always had quite a miserable face on her. Whatever. Just make the sandwich dear - and no sauce. And give us a slice of that tiffin will ya? Ta.

This was about 4 years ago. I met her again recently. Georgina (as I discovered her name was) works with the youngsters I've been helping out with their film. She has been studying hard, trying to hold down 4 part-time jobs to pay her way through the training period. But she now has a smile on her face.

That's what real people are like, that's what they are doing. Everyone is interesting, everyone has a story. But how often do you discover it? Maybe you are not as judgemental as I obviously am - dimissing the girl in a sandwich shop. But maybe you are. And maybe, like me, you are missing out on the rich experiences, even if they are second-hand, needed to be a writer.

Everyone you meet is your raw material. Get out there. Talk to one new person everyday. Or rather get to know one new person everyday.

We are stardust.
Joni Mitchell

Tiffin recipe to create the photo above: .
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