Wednesday 28 November 2012

Facebook Is NOT Democratic

1. I have spent years building up my Kid In The Front Row Facebook Fan Page. It has over a thousand followers.

The idea behind it: if you like my blog, you join the page. When I post an article on there, you see it.

Turns out that, on average, only 75 of the 1,135 fans see each update. And those tend to be people who have 'liked' and commented on recent posts. Everyone else is frozen out.

To reach them, I have to pay for 'sponsored posts'.

Facebook is free? Don't be ridiculous. 

You can pay for Facebook ads to bring in New 'fans'. But if you do that, you have to pay to promote posts for them to actually see them.

2. I just updated the Facebook app on my smartphone. Used to have it so I wouldn't get notifications on my phone every time I get a message. Since updating, I have them again. 

It's down to me to opt out. Again. 

You make your choices, decide on the options, but each step of the way they change your decisions to suit them.

3. The idea of the Facebook news feed is that you see your friend's updates in chronological order.

Turns out that's not true. Facebook's algorithms decide who you'll see.

And sure, Facebook claims it knows you and what you like, so it's trying to help you - that's how they see it.

You've collected your friends in one online community, and now this company, Facebook, is picking and choosing what you see, based on algorithms they don't share.

4. Hiding information. Being selective. This is what the old media did. 

With the internet, we were finally meant to be free. To share information as we please, with whomever we want.

But Facebook filters information. It makes decisions on our behalf. It's like law enforcement, or government. We feel we're free, but they take that freedom away from us. You can say it's not a big deal --- but if you're following me on Facebook, you're not even seeing my posts! Shouldn't YOU get to decide that? 

Care to share?

OVEREXPOSED and DISINTERESTED: The Fight For Attention In The Modern Era

You used to go searching for that rare record. You'd line up for hours. You'd travel home desperate to hear the magic on Vinyl. Or CD. 

Even when mp3s first came about, do you remember? It took an hour to download one song. When it finally arrived, you were in heaven.

Now we stream movies. We watch box-sets hour after hour. We carry 10,000 books in our pockets. We read the newspaper while jogging.

Hearing your favourite song used to be a privilege. Now you're so bored 18 seconds in that you skip ahead, eager to find something better.

But how often do you find that magic?

Hardly ever. The magic is gone, we have too much access. 

We get false highs all the time. A quirky band comes along, and we're momentarily quenched. Or the marketing guys tell us the new Bond and Batman are the greatest films ever -- we believe them, momentarily, until we remember what a perfect movie really is.

A perfect movie is what we knew back when we were kids in the front row.

But that was long ago. Truth is, 'Casablanca' isn't as good as it once was, because our neurons are wired to think about tweets and emails while we're watching. And we have to glance at the phone, just in case there's a text.

If you can sit down and truly sink into a book, I applaud you -- you're one of an extremely rare group of people.

We have too much. So much that, nearly all of it bores us.

We pretend we're paying attention, but it's just not possible for the modern digestive system. We're stuffed. Over-fed.

We think this is evolution, but it's not. The devices, programs and apps are things that were invented and marketed at us, regardless of whether they're good for us. The human brain cannot multi-task in an efficient way. This has been proved time and time again by neuroscience. 

So we find a battle going on; there's a montage happening in the movie? Maybe I'll check my email. The song's boring? Maybe the next one suits my energy. The YouTube video lasts another 30 seconds? Maybe I'll read that article about Israel at the same time. 

We're kidding ourselves, and we're losing the battle. We're losing our passions. We can pretend we're paying attention, or we can say we're different and that all this technology helps us --- but we're rewiring our brains to suit the app-sellers and device marketers. In the process, we're losing our love of the things we hold dearest. 

Care to share?

Monday 12 November 2012

Interview with Film Producer LISA RUDIN

It's not that making a film for $25,000 is impossible, many have done it. But how many of them are good? LISA RUDIN managed the small miracle of producing a feature film on a tiny budget that was actually GREAT. You can read my review here, or you can talk to the many hundreds of people at film festivals who have been lucky enough to get to see it. 

When a great indie film is made for virtually no money, we have a tendency to to shine a light on the director. How did they do it with so few resources? The truth is, it's an impossible task. That's unless you have a great producer, which is precisely why I wanted to interview Lisa Rudin.

You made 'Missed Connections' for around $25,000, is that right? What was your budget after marketing, festival entries, and all that kind of thing?

'Missed Connections' was made for $25,000.  We raised nearly all the money through two Kickstarter campaigns. The first one supported our initial production costs and insurance.  The second one helped us finish with production and left money for post expenses.  Our marketing budget was less than 1K.  We had a company print posters and postcards which we designed with the help of a couple talented friends and developed a website on our own. 

The festival entries can get very expensive on the other hand.  We needed a few thousand dollars for entry fees, although some were waived.  Another hefty expense was the cost to travel to fests.  Not all of them cover travel costs and those that did were usually willing to cover travel for one person.  We are a four person filmmaking team (Eric Kissack - the director, Kenny Stevenson - the writer and lead, and Dorien Davies - the female lead) so we're all broke now, but it was worth it!

On a script level - what makes a good independent film? What makes you want to produce something?

Great question. Dorien and I were friends and she mentioned to me that her husband had written a script.  I read it and met with them.  I loved this script because it was so clever and funny.  I asked Kenny if his goal was to get managers or agents to read it and if he wanted my help in doing that.  He said no.  He wanted to make it himself.  I was just crazy enough to be convinced.  He explained that he wrote it with his friends in mind and from there we did a table read with all of them.  They were all so talented.  It was perfectly cast.  I introduced them to Eric and he felt the same.  I knew we had something special.  The actors were perfect for their parts and it really flowed.  Because of the nature of independent film, you need to have extra passion to make up for the lack of money.  This project had it and I could see it in this group.  It was an easy sell to get me on board.  

When producing - do you tend to be on set every day?

I do.  With indie films there seems to be a lot more room for little fires.  We had lots of days where unexpected issues popped up. This is the nature of shooting without permits and with no money.  You have to get very creative!  We had a day where the grip truck didn't show up.  We had a day where we were stopped by the police.  We lost power for a few hours one day.  You never know what can come up, and unfortunately you don't have money to throw at the problem.  Because of all this, I find it helpful for me to be on set.  Eric was directing and needed to focus on that aspect.  We are a good team and he trusts me.  I might not always alert him to a problem, but he can be sure that if there is one, its being handled.  

You've worked as an assistant to Larry Charles on some amazing projects -- what did you learn about comedy from him --- and from Larry David, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Bill Maher..?

I have been very lucky to work with such talented people.  A lot of the projects these guy do are improv heavy.  Over the years, I've been able to watch that process and have really enjoyed seeing actors work on projects that allow for flexibility with the script and characters.  I tend to be more interested in projects I come across that incorporate that element.  In production this can sometimes translate to scenarios that you didn't expect.  On some of the projects I've worked on with these guys, we had limited resources and a lot of changes to our schedule, location or set needs.  You have to think fast and be resourceful in these situations and I learned a lot from those experiences.  I drew on all these lessons while making this movie.  

The film is doing really well at the film festivals -- what has it been like travelling around with the film? It's like being on tour in a band, right?

Oh yes, just as wild and crazy...but probably not in the sex, drugs and rock n roll aspect.  It's been a great way to see the country (and London!) and to catch up with friends and family.  That has been a really special experience.  Nothing better than travelling with your film to new audiences and watching people laugh and enjoy it. 

Kenny Stevenson, Dorien Davies, Lisa Rudin

How do you find material you want to produce -- how does it get into your hands? 

Many ways.  Sometimes my friends ask me about a project.  Sometimes I meet people at festivals.  Sometimes it's through word of mouth.  Or, sometimes it's through past work contacts.  All ways are good.  I'm always looking for new projects.  

What's next for you? 

I am currently working on a couple shorts and the four of us are working on selling 'Missed Connections'.  We are also discussing a new project...  We shall see. 

The internet is playing a huge part in every stage of production. In what ways has the internet been important to you?

Without the internet, we couldn't have told Neal's story, we couldn't have raised money through Kickstarter and we wouldn't be able to bring the movie to YOU.  It's crucial.  I could go on about the internet for days.  I'm sort of a geek.  

What can you tell us about distribution? Is anything lined up? 

Yes!  We have deal in place with Film Festival Flix and will also be in places like itunes, Netflix and other VOD and cable platforms in early 2013.  

Care to share?

Friday 9 November 2012

I Am Not Watching Movies And I Am Okay With It

I go through spells of not watching any movies, and I kind of like it. If you're not careful - watching films becomes something done out of duty rather than passion - especially when you work in the industry, or write a film blog, or both. And there's just no fun in that. 

Truth be told, I haven't seen 'Argo', or 'Looper', or 'Skyfall', or 'Rust & Bone'. I'm behind. But so what? Right now I'm loving books, and news articles, and music. I've always had this pattern, it's a natural thing, where my interests dive into different areas for short periods of time. It's usually really intense. I won't read a book in a year, then I'll read nine in six days. That's how I am, and I like it that way. 

But I don't always allow myself to be like that. Because I have this identity, as the 'film guy'. I'm not sure if other people pushed it upon me, or if I claimed it for myself. Indeed, there's something cool about being the guy people turn to if they need an opinion or, dare I say, some expertise regarding films. 

But these ways in which we identify ourselves, they're not really real. It's just a tag we wear. And actually, it can be extremely limiting. 

When I was a kid, I used to love books about crime, and aliens, and monsters. But somewhere growing up, I told myself I don't like those stories. But you know what? I kind of really do, it's just buried deep inside of me. My tastes skewed towards classic Hollywood, modern indie films, and world cinema. And I really do love those things; but I also over-identify with them a little too much sometimes, as if it means something. As if it's who I am. 

I kind of blame the blog. It adds more pressure. It shouldn't do. A blog is just a blog. But again; you start to over-identify with what you're doing. See yourself as the indie film blogger guy. The one with the slightly off mainstream opinion on things. But what is that? It's just some made up self-perception that means very little. 

We are who we are and sometimes I just wanna sit in my room for six hours and watch 'Ally Mcbeal' episodes. I never let myself do that; because it seems wasteful, or girly, or something else; I can never put my finger on it. But actually, sometimes that's really what I want to do. A voice in me says "watch eight Billy Wilder movies then write an epic article about them," or "read ten screenplays, they'll help you with your scripts and then they'll help you come up with something really interesting for the blog...." -- but it's not a voice of passion, it's just this crazy nutbag inside of me who pushes me to keep to this identity; the film guy persona. 

But no, tonight I just want to watch a bunch of Ally Mcbeal episodes, and then read a good book. The movies will still be there a day, week or month from now. 

Care to share?

Tuesday 6 November 2012

SHORT STORY: In Search of Writer's Block

Abley was competent with words, some might even say talented. He'd experienced many things as a writer, but never writer's block.

He was of the belief that to be truly great, you have to suffer from the pain of writer's block. He constantly daydreamed about being blocked, and romanticised about it endlessly. "I don't want to have all these ideas," he said, to a passer by, called Merv, who didn't expect to be a part of this story.
"Excuse me?" asked Merv.
"I have too many ideas. It's all flowing," said Abley.
"What are you talking about?"
"I want to have writer's block. I'm desperate to be fresh out of ideas."
"Have you thought about moving to Hollywood?" said Merv.

Abley mumbled something offensive and sauntered off towards home. He arrived and turned on his laptop. Much to his dismay, he was full of creativity. He instantly wrote 2000 words, and that was just to respond to Liz on Facebook. Then he worked on his novel. Eight hours later, the novel was complete and he'd written outlines for four new stories.

Abley was meeting Greg and Nancy for coffee. They were both writers who didn't take him seriously due to his unusual productivity. Abley was desperate to be more like them, more like a real writer. He looked for patterns. Greg had a beard - and so did Nancy. Maybe this was the key to creative death.

"What are you working on at the moment?" asked Greg.
"Nothing," replied Abley, who convinced no-one, probably because he was scribbling down the seventh chapter while talking. Nancy was deeply concerned about him. Without the huge struggle, and years of creative bankruptcy, how could Abley ever expect to be taken seriously? 

Abley was desperate. He wrote six books on 'the hunt for writer's block', and they were all best-sellers. The depression was hitting hard. He stayed up nights, consumed with fear that he would never run out of ideas. How could he be more like his writing idols who had all suffered extreme bouts of creative nothingness?

Care to share?

Saturday 3 November 2012

The Lonely Cinema

Jon and Nancy were on their first date. He was nervous and had sweaty palms. "I want to hold your hand," she said. Jon plummeted both hands into the popcorn. "No, sorry," he said, smiling like a madman. His whole body began sweating and he died a little inside, knowing this was all too much for him.

Brad, Tom and AJ were in the middle row, dead centre. They were film geeks and all decided they hated the movie -- and this was before it had even started. They bought tickets without knowing what it was -- but they knew it would be terrible, they could tell by the type of audience.

Riley and Alice loved the movie, but hated the three guys behind them who were constantly ridiculing it. It was obvious to them that the guys were trying to impress them with their trendy disdain, but it wasn't working. Alice felt sad, thinking about all the men who'd stayed alone because they didn't realise how negative being negative sounded to women.

Stefan was angry at the projection. There was definitely a problem. Also, the sound was too quiet. Lisa just wanted him to kiss her, but he was too outraged. She tried her magic -- a movement of the arms and a little eye contact. He looked at her, and wow she was beautiful. He wondered why he could see her so clearly. It was because of the Fire Exit sign, so bright! Stefan kicked the chair in front of him and mumbled something about the cinema staff being 'amateurs'.

Albert didn't know for sure, but he sensed that this would probably be his last visit to the cinema. He longed for Ginger Rogers, but was content with a bald guy shooting at cars, because it distracted him from what the doctor had just told him. He thought about Gina, and all her favourite pictures. He missed being able to talk to her. He missed her smell. There was one film she absolutely loved, that starred Henry Fonda, but he couldn't remember the name of it.

Scarlett didn't care about the movie, she only cared about Liam. For the next two hours, she could pretend he wasn't leaving. She could pretend the play-fight over popcorn didn't have a subtext. She could pretend she wasn't lost in sadness. She could pretend he cared more than he did. While he was made to sit silently in a dark room, she could convince herself he wasn't an asshole. She could convince herself this thing wasn't over.

All Becci could see as she looked for a seat, was couples. But then she saw: the guy. All alone and intriguing. She sat next to him, of course. She spent the entire movie wondering what she would say to him at the end. The end came, and she rushed out quickly without saying a word. She always does things like that, and has no idea why.

Care to share?