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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Update on stuff and whatever you know

Just a quick round up of my live projects that continue to get enquires but I never get around to mentioning on here. As ever I hope to be saying it 'as it is' so others may learn from my frontline adventures...

Circumference. The script for Circumference is in the quarterfinals semifinals of the Scriptapalooza competition. The funding idea itself still continues to draw interest but not any bottom line cash. So only a minor success here so far. I believe that 3 years after I raised the idea the rest of the industry has finally caught up. However I was hoping to use this gap, this headstart, as a way of bringing in newer talent. As ever (and understandably) the people who have managed to launch similar projects successfully have done so by teaming up with more established institutions. For instance if C4 had been behind the idea it would have been done by now. Lesson learnt - keep in with the 'old boys' but continue to have 'new boys' ideas.

Eight has been ripped and is available to be pirated here. I've made it at last! This film is nearly 10 years old now. And it still gets attention. It just goes to show that films are a good investment in the long term - but only if you keep them alive.

Mr Vista, the online downbeat comedy series for geeks had a few personal goals. I wanted to get a series that had a least quarter of a million views, would act as a good viral showcase and would break even in terms of funding. A partial success here. Audience wise we are slightly short - coming in somewhere around 150k views. Not too bad. It has opened a few doors for me to get some commissioned virals, but only in the few 100 quid bracket. And it is breaking even just - enough to fund a second series though. Some sources of advertising are drying up however and I wonder if I am seeing a trend (or just a dip) in falling video ad spend. Perhaps the competition has simply caught up at last and there are more film makers and films competing for the same money???

10 Seconds still gets picked up for various screenings and also on-line showcases like here. In fact both 10 Seconds and Mr Vista form part of the Media Guardian Viral Awards. You can watch them again below if you are new / feel bored / feel charitable to let me win. This may be the first ever competition where the winner simply has to get the most views. Never mind the quality feel the width! I should have entered a ten second shot of my ass and seen if I could won with that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dr Horrible's disastrous adventures in cyberspace!

As a quick follow up to yesterday enjoy while you can Dr Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog. As Dim mentioned in his comment there are connection issues as this seems to stream rather than progressively download.

What is really weird (yes, weird enough to be put in bold) is that this is hard to find online. The makers seem to have done deals with iTunes and MySpace that limits the viewership to various platforms for various parts of the world. Very confusing. And very old school. And crap.

That to one side, its not a bad romp. As writers though there is something extra to enjoy here. And that is the simple fact that if you wanted to write about a musical about crap superheroes where would sell that? Come on, do you think the BBC would commission it. Well now at least you have a chance. So all hail the horrible!

Just to add context this is from Joss Whedon to wrote Buffy - so he has a head start.

Monday, July 28, 2008

film 2.0 and film 1.0 news - 2 flavours same refreshing taste!

Long time blog reader Kulvinder Gill emailed me a link to a Wired article about a 'high budget' web series from the US. You can watch a trailer above. If brevity is your thing then feel free to enjoy two specially selected snippets from the article that lie directly below this writing. They are coming up..... now!

So far, however, this is a gold rush without any gold. Nobody knows how the business is supposed to work — what kind of stories to tell, whether to tell them in 90 seconds or 20 minutes, whether to build a destination site or distribute episodes across the Net, how to generate revenue, how to do it all on a shoestring. The Gemini team is betting they can figure it out. "People ask, 'What's your business model?'" says the director, Stan Rogow, during a lull in the shoot. "And I say, 'This morning's or this afternoon's?' It's only partly a joke."

I recognise that alright. And I love it because it always reminds me of the days of early cinema. I'm 100 years too late for that action. But spot on for this new art form / business. The second section looks at where the money is coming from...

Right now they need a distributor, and they've been talking with everyone from NBC Universal to MySpace about putting Gemini Division on their sites. Whoever they partner with would sell advertising and maybe even help fund the production. MySpace isn't offering money up front, but it does sell ads and split the revenue with producers. Eisner partnered with MySpace on Prom Queen, as did Herskovitz with Quarterlife, but Rogow is hoping for a more lucrative arrangement — which is why he has spent half the afternoon squiring around a pair of suits from NBC. The deal he's discussing would put Electric Farm well on its way to recouping the $1.75 million or so it will cost to make the 50 three-minute episodes Rogow plans to shoot. But the deal's not done yet.

With my own project "Circumference" we're still on the hunt for about £300k. That has been often deemed to expensive (by people with the cash) to recover from advertisers. So surely 1.75 mill is!

Anyway, I still feel perhaps that this project is a bit off the ball. It looks like cheap TV, not something new, fresh and full on film 2.0. I'd still prefer to watch ZeFrank I think. Especially when he talks about product placement.

Kulvinder also reminded me that Cinema Extreme and Microwave have come round again for those that prefer a film 1.0 flavour. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Storydust episode 43 photo

Storydust - episode 43

Today I saw this which may inspire you in some way. This man is asleep in McDonalds. Not only McDonalds but McDonalds in Fleet services. If that means anything to you then you know it adds a certain flavour. Where has he been? Where is he going? Why did no one wake him up? Why did all the staff come and look? What happened that meant he fell asleep half way through his egg mcmuffin? Is he asleep?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Film 2.0 ideas going on right now!

A great guy that I did meet at the Screenwriters Festival was David Lemon, writer of the new film Faintheart. David's a great guy and a very supportive and open writer. So no dirt to dish there. For shame.

Therefore, instead this post is about how Faintheart got made. Hazzah!

Faintheart was the film that came out of the MySpace Movie MashUp competition last year. So a quick turn around as you would expect with a social networking project. Just a recap; the movie mashup was an open competition where directors could upload their showreel with a chance to direct this £1m film. The same for actors looking to be in it. Composers etc.

This system does kind of work. Chris R Wright from Small Town Folk landed a part for instance which is really a great boost and a fantastic opportunity for him.

But in another way it doesn't work. The winning director was Vito Rocco. I'm a fan of his short film Goodbye Cruel World (which you can watch here) and I think he'll be great for Faintheart. The winning director simply had to get the most votes and the most views. However Vito had the backing of Slingshot (a film production company) who put 3 interns on the job of getting people to vote.

At first my thinking was - that's not in the spirit of it. But then my thinking changed to 'Hey, if its a level playing field then lets get in there'. In other words - I should have been equally agressive.

On related news; Alex Jovy has set up his own way of using the film 2.0 vibe. Voting, ITV style. Vote for the people who audition. It's all over at An interesting model, but personally not for me.

If you know of any more mashup / film2.0 then let me know. If your interested in a cheekly little competition then check out Mike Figgis with his 'tell a story in 5 photos' effort over at Sony.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Barbara Machin on what makes a great TV series

What makes a great TV serial? What makes a good TV writer? How do we create the best TV shows? These are questions that Barbara Machin is wrestling with everyday. Here are some quotes from her that I captured on 2 separate occasions at the Screenwriters Festival. While TV long running serials and soaps are not my thing I must admire her passion and dedication and I celebrate that here...

A short bio: Barbara Machin is an Emmy award winning television writer with over fifty hours of prime-time television to her credit. She has had, productions on all the major British TV channels and has many TV films to her name, specialising in long-running series including 'Waking the Dead' and 'Casualty'. With 'Waking the Dead', Barbara secured the award for the Best Drama Series at the 2004 Emmys.

On new ideas...
"Innovation is a must. We should be giving the audience not what they want, but what they never dreamed of. Offering a surprise, delivering characters that are really real - thats what we must do. Surprise and real characters have become the territory of reality TV. But that's our job! That's what we should be doing! We must be the most exciting thing in the room. Are we being bold enough?"

On creating a new series...
"The 'smash and grab' technique of making a series doesn't work. Why are we shooting when we don't have a full plan? Instead let's over plan. Let's map out not just this series but series 2 as well - all BEFORE we shoot a single frame."

On writing for serials...
"The good news is that serials are a great place for writers to learn. The bad news is that the pressure to turn around so many episodes means that new writers don't get the support they once did. But this is the world so we should live with it."

On writing for established series...
"In fact, serials are a great way to get your stories out there. They are like a framework to weave in your ideas. Don't see them as a straightjacket. See them as a method to tell your stories, about your issues, smuggled in under the radar"

I say...
Some of those phrases really work for me. Especially about the challenge to be 'the most exciting thing in the room'. This carries extra resonance for me as today there are more distractions, more competition for people's time, more things in the room.

Also, I like her idea about being bold. But I think I'd go further. We should be bold in our careers as well as bold in our storytelling. As writers, are we bold enough to find other ways to tell stories? TV is no longer the only show in the town, no longer the only thing in the room. We don't need to smuggle in our ideas anymore. We don't need to make our ideas fit their format. We can go elsewhere.

Photo and bio fromGloucester Uni.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Phone Philms

David Lynch says this...

But that reminds me of a post I've been wanting to write for a while about the benefits of watching a film on the phone. Yes, that's right - the benefits.

Initially I agreed with Lynch. That a small screen was a small experience. That perhaps the only up side was convenience. If you couldn't see a film in another way, due to time, then it was a poor substitute - but never mind, just live with it.

However, there is something else. Something great about using the phone. Something that I didn't imagine would matter. An unexpected upside. It is the fact that you hold it in your hand, that it is close, personal. You are holding the fictional world in your palm and only you can see it and hear it. Other people are around you. But they aren't invited (unlike the cinema) - it is just you and the story. On your own.

That up close and personal interaction with the screen suits some stories and not others. That is obvious. Imagine an Alan Bennett monologue. That would be a very intense experience. 2001 - wouldn't be.

So it is a new way to reach an audience in a new way. And not worth dismissing completely. In the same way TV is not cinema. It's different.

But its still about people and their stories. So we should be writing for it. Phone films - or should it be Phone Philms.

Cheers to Suki for link
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Storytelling the old fashioned way

Right. If you want to know how to tell a story watch this. And listen. It's 25 minutes long. Sorry. But there you go. Watch it anyway. Trust me.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Screenwriters Festival: Epilogue

I've got some great guest speaker talks to upload over the next few weeks including some inspirational advice and helpful techniques. But here I simply wanted to give an overview of the festival and say thanks to all the great writers I met. Three thoughts...

One: TV is still the traditional route for writers. But TV isn't what it used to be and is really struggling. The shows that used to be the good training ground (soaps etc) are now under so much pressure they can't develop writing talent like they used to. Which everyone says is a shame. But there you go. The end.

Two: Writers forget their craft in person. Guys - if you are giving a lecture then remember the story telling devices that you use everyday. Don't leave them at the door! Some talks lacked the powerful presence and intrigue that you knew the writers had. If I had to give over some of my money to a writer based on their performances on stage I'm not sure I would have done. Everything is an opportunity to show off craft.

Three: You have to go your own way. Other people are successful because they are who they are with all the things that have made them unique. You can't be Mike Leigh. Because Mike Leigh is. So what do you do that others don't? Do that.
Bonus thought: Writers can talk. Poor old Stuart even lost his voice!

Pics stolen from Lee Thomson and Jason Arnopp.