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Friday, May 30, 2008

The new gatekeepers (and how to be a keymaster)

There are a new set of gatekeepers in town.

In the old days, to get your film noticed, you had to go through 'gatekeepers'. These are people who you have to get past in order to succeed, they guard the success gate. That might make you think of Cerberus. But in the real world a festival programmer is an example of a gatekeeper - you need them to pick your film in order for it to be shown. A commissioning editor is another example, a distributor is another. Peter Broderick reckons that most films have to get past 7 gatekeepers on average before Joe Public* sees it.

Ages ago I did this diagram to sum it up.

The democracy of the internet, blogs and wikis has led to a new way of films being noticed. Putting your film on-line for people to see involves going past zero gatekeepers. This 'new' way also makes it easier for the writer (or filmmaker) and the audience to work together directly and have a 2 way conversation.

But something else has happened. The rise of the content manager. They are new and slightly different. They like the idea of the 'new' way of working, of letting the web 2.0 philosophy work, of allowing films to live and die by the audience directly. However they are reluctant gatekeepers.

I'm talking about the people who pick what goes on the homepage of video website. Whatever is on the homepage of YouTube or Dailymotion or Revver does best in terms of viewing figures. By well I mean 100 times better.

"Hey Tim, this is opinion, not fact."

Well, here is my case study. This version of Mr Vista was featured on Dailymotion homepage thanks to their support for the project. It has had 40,000 views on their site. I then did another version which I asked them not to feature as it was just for festivals etc. So basically the same film. This time it got only 247 views.

So perhaps the success of our on-line films does lie partly in getting in with these new gatekeepers. Clearly, an excellent film that engages the audience is a given for success. Maybe they are not gatekeepers, which seems a bit negative, but rather enablers or accelerators. Either way, understanding them and their needs is becoming crucial. What do they want? What are they looking for? What appeals? What doesn't?

That's what I'll be looking at in the next post.

*Other names allowed
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Google Earth for films - first on Earth? Maybe.

As part of my whole Google Earth script thing going on at the moment I did an extra bit of work - as I do. This is based on a light hearted road movie documentary that I did a few years ago called "Wimborne Road - is it too long?". As you can see from the image above I used a map interface (on screen all the time) for the film - as I've always been keen on new ways to present stories.

Now I've replaced all that and you can watch the film right in Google Earth.

Simply download this file and open it from Google Earth. If you don't have Google Earth then get it, its free.

If you click the play button then I fly you through the journey. Want to watch any of the adventure then simply click the little map pin and YouTube shows you the relevant bit. Genius.

Not sure if its a World's first etc. But maybe.

Click here to download the kmz file.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Check out... or not... who knows

To help me with my new script my good friend Steve Keevil has been feeding in some links to me. These are social networking / on line, off line / 'distances we put between ourselves' tit bits. He has been doing it for the past 4 weeks or so. He is a one man story dust collector.

Here are some of the things he found that may be of wider interest... or not... but probably...

This movie is being funded by donations and shares - they have nearly half a million pounds so far. Not chump change. (note: check out the Mr Vista style of the thermometer)
Dropbox is in beta. But it will be great for writers. It is a place to upload your files to and then access them from anywhere. Perfect for people on the move or collaborating or wanting to show stuff to producers etc and change it live.
The media 2.0 workgroup is a collective of thinkers on the future of media. Good for anyone who wants to work in the media and keep ahead.
MyLatestPiece shows how you can use the new Google friend connect to add comments to your static website or film. Good for drawing up a fan base. I wish we had this when Circumference was first launched.
BrightKite is social networking based on location - so online yet offline!
Seesmic is getting a lot of press elsewhere - but is essentially a forum that runs on video rather than text.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

As regular readers will know I am working on a new script about the gap between the offline and online world - with google earth being a metaphor. In fact, that's not what its about at all (its about the distances that people create between each other) but everyone always remembers the Google Earth bit.

Why Google Earth? Well, for me, it examines the idea that we all love the distance it offers. The fact that we look at the world from above and from a safe vantage point. People are messy. Maps are safe.

Last night I met up with cartographer Elanor McBay as part of my research and exploration around this idea. She says the big difference between maps in the past and maps now (eg maps online) is that now you are always at the centre. That's a fundamental shift. And an idea that I may try to get in to the script somehow.

But she also had another idea from her writing days that reminded me of the Bruce Block graph. She says she would also struggle with a story until she drew a map of it. Just one more new idea around visualizing words. Rock on.

Image from this blog.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

That's why I invented the web

From Tim Berners-Lee...

There are more web links then there are neural connections in your brain. So share your ideas and put them out there.

The moment of genius in your mind is when you join up 2 seemingly unconnected thoughts suddenly in a new way.

But what if you have half the idea in your brain and the other half is in someone else's? Well, that's why I invented the web.

Well apart from the fact that it will always seem odd for someone to say that phrase I think T B-L is onto something more than advocating some sort of omni-mind.

As writers and creatives we don't like to share too early. We prefer to put our arms around our notebook and get ready to shout "please sir he's copying my homework sir"

Instead we should be seeking the other half of the idea.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This blog is great says Gordon Brown

Well almost

At the NESTA conference the PM said the real opportunity right now is for business to work with creative people. Also that "new ideas are the key to the future of Britain".

So there has never been a better time to do that crazy film idea or odd story telling initiative in whatever form. It is now or never. If anyone says different then tell them Gordon said it was okay.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New ideas - a whole day of it!

On Tuesday I'll be at the NESTA conference - with speakers such as Tim Berners-Lee, Bob Geldof and David Puttnam. It's a change to discuss and hear about new ideas. So obviously had to go. If anyone is going, or is around the South Bank then let me know - I'll be checking emails. Could be afterwards as I'm in town until 7:30.

Story graph - a new idea to me

Bruce Block loves graphs.

I didn't. But now I do.

Above would be a typical 'action film' graph. A series of escalating sequences that build up the tension and action over time, perhaps with a couple of peaks for a pre-credit sequence in a James Bond style and an extra twisty bit at the end. And I guess that is why I didn't initially value this idea. Because it seemed simple and showed us things we already knew. So what is the point.

But then I found myself analysing my own new script with it. This is an episodic story. But straight away I could see that my episodes weren't in the best order - the graph was flat. And there wasn't enough of a through story to tie them together. Luckily I'm still very much at the planning stage. So it's the right time for bold changes.

It's also a great tool for talking through ideas and plots with co-writers, producers or potential financiers. It is a way to see the flow of the film. Other notes and key plot points can be added as required. Here is my current graph. Obviously its not really for showing at this stage but you can see how I added some extra stuff on there.

Would it work for you? I can't yet recommend it at this early stage. But I say - think on about it. Try it. Or at least have it in your tool kit of new ideas.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who is Bruce Block and why is he drawing pictures of me?

Over the weekend I went (with fellow Bournemouth film maker Andy Marsh) to a talk by Bruce Block.

One does not always relish getting up at 6am on Saturday but new ideas have to be sought out as one learnt recently.

Bruce does a talk on visual structure. More details on his ideas to follow. Generally I come out in favour of recommending his lecture and he also has a book. But boiled down he is challenging film makers and directors to apply and consider an over riding arc of visual techniques that runs through the whole film, just as scriptwriters have narrative structures and character arcs that run through the whole story.

The reason? So that just as writers, once they have a solid structure, always know where they are going - so directors will now always know where to place the camera and what it should be focusing on.

As I said more to come. For now, a prologue, Bruce's career. He teaches as USC, he lectures around the world and he also producers and advises on films. He was producer on 'The Holiday' but also helped on Stuart Little, Father of the Bride and What Women Want.

For those that say they are too busy teaching to make their own films I say look at Bruce.
For those that are working and say that they are too busy to mentor others I say look at Bruce.

He is a theory guy and a practical guy. In fact he warns of the dangers of over analysing and too much theory with a killer line - dissecting something nearly always kills it. So be life givers, keep writing new things.

Image of discarded acetate sheets - he ploughs through them - this is after 1 hour.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On TV 1.0

See my friends Chris and Pete talk about their no budget short Small Town Folk - and producer Adam talk about local film making. Ironically I was busy doing that interview at Dailymotion so couldn't be interviewed by them! For shame.

Here is the link which is up for a while -

Start 13 mins in.

When is a big idea not a big idea?

Is an idea right or wrong? Is it big or small?

Is the structure of Memento (as a completely random example) a big new idea, or a small one? That's what a lot of people ask us to discuss. To bring big new ideas. But the problem, but also the good news around this issue is - this needs to be looked at from a different perspective.

You can only judge the amount of meaningthat an idea has to you.

How much meaning or relevance does it have for you? That is the only way to measure a new idea. How much does it mean to you? How much impact does it have - to you? The new feature in multimap. Is it a radical idea, a big idea, a great idea. We cannot say. But if it changes the way you like to use it - then its a good idea. If it changes how you live your life (somehow!) then it's a great idea.

In other words, if you like it, go for it. It's great!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Where do ideas come from? Other clip.

Novelist Amy Tan digs deep into the creative process, journeying through her childhood and family history and into the worlds of physics and chance, looking for hints of where her own creativity comes from. It's a wild ride with a surprise ending.

Although a novelist she also did an uncredited rewrite on The Replacement Killers at the request of Mira Sorvino.

Amy says that in her writing uncertainty is key. But I wonder, in scriptwriting, if the opposite is true. That we are tasked by the audience to lift the contrast of life - to make grey shades more defined, maybe even black and white.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

New ideas - always a good idea - says the aristocracy

In 1958 Lady Lewisham said how new ideas were the country's best asset - and that the kids were alright. Some things never change. Lady Lewisham is Barbara Cartland's daughter, Princess Diana's stepmum and is a member of the board at Harrods. Make of that what you will.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Learning stuff - me clever

So what have I been doing? Where have I been? And does anyone care?

Well they should - damn you! And here is why. I've been learning things and seeing other people learning things.

For a start I spent a full day at the Dailymotion office seeing what the guys there are up to and how they work. I interviewed them on video about the pace of change and how easy it is to fall behind. The video will be on-line in a few weeks time. The rushes are looking fascinating.

They talked about how, today, standing still means that effectively you are going backwards. In the fast paced world they live in, the video web world, we can see that is true. But perhaps we can all see that, in all of our lives. So how do we cope with that? The answer would seem to be simple. It's as simple as keeping your eye out for new ideas and new things going on. The hard part is getting yourself in the position where having your eyes open means that they might actually see something interesting.

Sitting around at home isn't a good place.

But a better example was right under my nose on that very shoot. Helping me out was Stuart Arnott from The Red Planet. Now Stuart is a top producer himself. He doesn't need to come down and help me out. He has better things to do. But in fact Stuart himself has realised that getting out and about, seeing what other people do, how they work - that is a 'better thing to do'. Working with other people, shadowing them is a good place to learn new ideas.

We probably all know the story that Google suggests its staff spend 20% of their time on self development and new ideas.

Do we all do the same? And keep that up? So todays new ideas for film makers is - get yourself in places where you can find more new ideas!

On Saturday I will be at a seminar by Bruce Block talking about The Visual Story - so expect some insights from that soon. It's about structure, for directors - so a bridge between writing and directing. Maybe see you there.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mr Vista and his interactive adventure

I enjoyed putting this together for a quick giggle and a reminder of the simplicity of interactivity - and a spoof of it...

Yes. It's true. Now you can live the dream. Be Mr Vista in one of his mind-numbingly average adventures.
Start here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Quota Quickie

It's not too late to apply to be part of The Director's Lab. Apply here.

Taking place during the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June, the Director's Lab is an intensive, five-day personal and professional development programme that will equip the filmmakers with the skills, contacts and knowledge they need to develop their careers. Those selected to take part will have access to free accommodation, travel, subsistence, festival passes and help with childcare during the five days that The Lab takes place.

Deadline 12 pm, 12 May 2008