Thursday, July 29, 2010

Not Good: Goodbye UK Film Council

Between 1997 and 2009, turnover in the British film industry went up by 50%, contributing £4.5 billion to the economy, while cinema takings in the U.K. are at an all time high. This can be partly attributed to the creation, in 2000, of the UK Film Council, a publicly-funded body (whose budget comes from the takings of the National Lottery), with the stated aim "To stimulate a competitive, successful and vibrant UK film industry and culture, and to promote the widest possible enjoyment and understanding of cinema throughout the nations and regions of the UK. The UKFC has a mandate that spans cultural, social and economic priorities."

This past May saw the election of a new government, one that's making cuts to departmental budgets left and right in an attempt to stave off financial disaster, and their latest move, announced on Monday by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and without any kind of consultation within the industry, is to abolish the UKFC. And, while ther
e were many problems with the institution, it's very, very bad news for anyone with a love of cinema, either in the UK or abroad.

The UKFC's principle role was that of a funding body, aiding the development, production and release of British films. In the States, public funding of film is almost non-existent, but in most European countries, and indeed much of the rest of the world, it's a necessity; the studio infrastructure simply doesn't exist in the same way, and it's nearly impossible for a feature film to get made in the UK without some form of backing from at least one of the three
publicly-owned boards: the UK Film Council, BBC Films (the likes of "An Education") or Film 4 ("Slumdog Millionaire," among others).

The Film Council has three principal feature funding strands. Firstly, there's a Development Fund, investing roughly £4 million a year on working on screenplays, either in the First Feature Film Development Programme, for newcomers, like Sam Taylor-Wood's "Nowhere Boy," or the Feature Film Development Programme for more established names, including Jane Campion's "Bright Star," one of The Playlist's favorites of last year. This is vital, as it's something that private companies are often less willing to fund; it's less glamorous and more intangible -- too often, British films feel like they haven't progressed past a first draft, and this department helps refine projects before they get in front of cameras.

Once things are further along, there are another two strands. Firstly, there's The New Cinema Fund, which again looks to support emerging talent, with a particular focus on writers and directors from minorities. Recent successes have included "Man On Wire," "Fish Tank," "In The Loop," "Hunger" and "This Is England," films that, to be frank, may well have remained in development hell were it not for the UKFC. For more mainstream fare, there's The Premiere Fund, which has a patchier track record although there have also been some gems, like "Happy-Go-Lucky," or "The Escapist," from director Rupert Wyatt (whose success landed him the gig directed "Rise of the Apes" for 20th Century Fox).

They've certainly backed their fair share of stinkers, though, most notably "Sex Lives of the Potato Men," a raunchy comedy starring Mackenzie Crook ("The Office," "Pirates of the Caribbean"), which is generally regarded as one of the great disasters of the 21st century so far. And they've also missed plenty of opportunities; Garth Jennings' "Son of Rambow," one of the most critically and commerciall
y successful British films of the last few years, was turned down by every British funding board in existence, including the UKFC, and had to go to Europe to raise its budget.

But ultimately, a publicly funded entity can't just fund 12 "Fish Tanks" a year; they have a wider remit. You might hate the "St. Trinians" films (assuming you've seen them), and we certainly do, but, unfortunately, our opinion isn't any more valid than the phalanx of tweens that have brought them to huge grosses at the U.K. box office, and the Film Council simply can't ignore an audience like that, nor should they.

In fact, as a funding body, the UKFC is remarkably successful, returning £5 for every £1 that the council invests -- a rate of return that any studio would be jealous of. Which isn't to say that there aren't naysayers; one look at the comments section of Deadline's story on the matter will show a number of filmmakers who've been wronged by the UK Film Council to one degree or another. One of the most common complaints seems to be that the board awards people who are already familiar to them, at the expense of newcomers; the award-winning likes of Jane Campion, Mike Leigh and Stephen Frears win out, as do names who've won out with the council in the past, while fresh new talent are left out in the cold.

Except that this isn't really true. At all. Newcomers like Wyatt, Duane Hopkins ("Better Things") and Gerard McMorrow ("Franklyn") received substantial awards, and that's only in features. Filmmakers like Tom Harper ("The Scouting Book For Boys," which is still our favorite British movie of the year so far) were able to move up to the big leagues by having shorts funded by the UKFC; the board gives funding of some kind to over 100 every year.

It becomes clear that filmmakers like Arnold, Wyatt and Steve McQueen wouldn't be making the kind of contribution to cinema that they are without the support of a funding body like the UKFC, and cinephiles the world over would be worse off without them. The government have promised to continue funding the film industry, to the tune of £15 million, but it's unclear how this will happen; it seems most likely that the British Film Institute, a charitable organization, will take over this role, but they have a very different remit, focusing more on cinema heritage, and they haven't had an infrastructure in place for this for years. There's also the idea to split their budget and give it to BBC Films and Film4, which is poorly thought out to say the least, and likely to be even more unpopular.

But still, this ignores the impact that the UKFC has at every level of the industry -- it's not simply a funding body. Other initiatives include Skillset, a comprehensive training scheme for people wanting to enter the industry, and First Light, which enables young people to get a taste of digital filmmaking. They're also responsible for aiding distribution for smaller and non-mainstream films through the Prints & Advertising Fund, which has enabled films of all stripes to compete with Hollywood blockbusters - £2 million a year was spent on the distribution of international films, so it's not just British films that would lose out. The UK is still one of the top markets for cinema outside the States, and films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Donnie Darko" partly owe their reputations to being taken to the hearts of British audiences.

They now partially fund the London and Edinburgh Film Festivals, and the Sheffield Documentary Festival, and enable increased cinemagoing for the disabled through the Cinema Access Programme. Even if the funding for the films themselves continue, it seems unlikely that many of these programs will be continued, and there's little point in funding movies if you don't have a trained crew to make them, festivals to show them at and the ability to compete in the marketplace.

Maybe it'll all be fine. Maybe all the functions of the existing UKFC will be preserved, moved to other bodies and be more efficiently run. There can be little doubt that there was fat to trim in the institution, and that cuts could, and should, have been made; the overheads were very high, even for an institution as large as this one, and a strong argument could be made that the top figures were overpaid. But at the same time, April had seen it announce plans to cut its admin costs by 20%, with the loss of 22 jobs, so plans were already afoot for streamlining, but were never given a chance to be put to use. To scrap the institution entirely seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and undoes a lot of very good work being done by very good people.

It's not expected to be disbanded until early 2012, so there's still time for the plans to be stopped, and there's a petition to sign and a Facebook group to join for anyone who wants to add their voices. Ultimately, it's a very short-sighted, wrongheaded move, done to make the account books presentable, rather than with any view of the big picture. Hopefully Hunt and his colleagues will see sense, otherwise it risks crippling the country's film industry, and leaving moviegoers everywhere worse off.

Monday, July 19, 2010

YouTube Launches $5 Million Grant Program

YouTube has announced the launch of a $5 million program to support amateur video creators and help them attract a larger audience to its Web site.

Several emerging YouTube video creators have been able to generate substantial revenues and command an audience that rivals those of the broadcast networks while managing all aspects of their business, from writing, filming, and producing content to the marketing, post-production, and distribution of videos. Despite this success, however, many video creators lack the resources and deep financial backing available to studio-backed production houses.

To remedy the situation, YouTube established the Partner Grants program to bolster the production budgets of a small group of YouTube video creators who are at the forefront of innovation. The grants will serve as an advance against the video creators' future YouTube revenue share, enabling them to invest in better cameras, shoot for higher production values, expand their marketing efforts, and hire more staff, with the ultimate goal of bringing a richer body of content to YouTube users and advertisers and raising the creative bar for online video.

"Ultimately the game has changed, and people are throwing the rules out the window," George Strompolos, partner development manager at YouTube, told the New York Times. "Folks who ten years ago couldn't even get their content shared to friends across the street are now connecting with audiences around the world. We see that not only as a cute thing, where someone has a viral hit, we see these people as the next content creators, the next brand in original programming. It's where our roots have always been, and we are doubling down on that type of programming."

SnagFilms to Expand Library’s Reach to New Platforms

Documentary distribution outlet SnagFilms—the parent company of indieWIRE—will unveil later today an expansion of the platforms for its nonfiction titles that is timed to its second anniversary, as well as deals with a range of companies for more films. Snag will bring its library of 1,500-plus films to a suite of new sources beyond the original web platform upon which it was launched. New outlets will include the creation of VOD channels with cable network Comcast and Verizon FiOS TV. Additionally, selections from SnagFilms’ library will be available for purchase on Apple’s iTunes and for rental from YouTube’s premium program. There will be both free and paid options for watching films on the new Apple iPad.

Overall, the deals being announced today will increase the size of the company’s library and also bring the titles to an array of outlets instead of relying just on the Internet. Notably, the move highlights a shift away from an entirely free model for accessing some documentary features and shorts.

Select SnagFilms titles will be available through mobile phone carriers worldwide via A3 Media Network, Snag will announce. In the fall, its library will be accessible to internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and set-top boxes. Plans are underway as well for the launch of SnagLearning, a site that will be made available next month to educators in time for the new school year, with over 100 films available to educators for grade and subject, to which supplemental study materials will be added.

Also on tap, SnagFilms will now offer films produced by indie studio Lionsgate, large documentary aggregator New Video/Docurama, select student films from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, selections from the National Film Board of Canada, a Flip Cam film from the Disney Imagineers showing their creative process, and an array of extreme adventure and music films from the production arm of Red Bull.

Currently, SnagFilms is hosting its second annual SummerFest, which began July 15th. The series offers viewers screenings for two weeks of six documentaries headed to theaters or television in the Autumn. This year’s crop includes “The Age of Stupid,” “Shooting Robert King,” “Disco and Atomic War,” “Videocracy,” “The Socalled Movie,” as well as “A Fighting Chance,” which will later be shown on ESPN.

“Our first two years were aimed at building our library and making those films widely available,” commented SnagFilms CEO Rick Allen, in a statement to be widely distributed this morning. “Our 1,500 films are available on mainstream media sites.”

“We started SnagFilms two years ago for four simple reasons,” said SnagFilms founder Ted Leonsis in a separate statement being issued today by the company. “We wanted to use the scale and interactivity of the web to bring great films to a broader audience. We wanted to create new tools and revenue opportunities for the entire indie ecosystem – filmmakers, festivals, film schools, non-profits, journalists and advertisers. We wanted to provide context and a community for film fans and the industry. And we wanted to deepen the reach of what we call filmanthropy.”

A profile in The New York Times today that broke the news of the deals said that Snag is also working on a deal to put its films on Netflix, but the Times said that the pact is still in the works. The piece, by Michael Cieply, said that Snag is aimed at, “distributing as many as 100,000 films,” quoting Ted Leonsis.

Founded by AOL Vice-Chair Emeritus Leonsis, SnagFilms has become the web’s largest home for non-fiction films, with more than 1500 documentaries streamed free to consumers on 90,000 websites and webpages. 

“Two years in, we believe we are benefiting every aspect of the indie world,” Rick Allen said in his statement, “And define our success as a ‘double bottom line’ business that does well by doing good.” - Brian Brooks

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Indie Film is alive: "The Kids Are Alright" makes One Million

 With few new indie films hitting the marketplace (and the unusually intelligible studio film, “Inception,” raking more than $60 million), the specialty box office was once again all about “The Kids” as Lisa Cholodenko’s family dramedy expanded very nicely in its second weekend.  According to estimates earlier this afternoon, Focus Features released “The Kids are All Right” grossed $1,027,356 on just 38 screens (up from 7 screens last weekend).  That placed it 12th overall, beating out films playing in hundreds of screens more than it.

The warmly reviewed “Kids” - which seems like a bonafide contender for this year’s Oscar race - details a tempestuous summer in the lives of Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), a couple anticipating their daughter Joni’s move to college.  Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has just turned 18, and her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) wants her to make use of her newfound status as a legal adult to seek out the sperm donor to which both of them were born from.  Enter Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who immediately hits it off with his newfound biological children and in turn begins to send the family into quite the emotional tailspin.

Its sophomore gross amounted to a strong $27,036 per-theater-average, obviously a big drop from last weekend’s mammoth average but a promising one as the film continues to expand. It was the best per-theater-average of any specialty release in its second weekend, grossing well beyond “The Ghost Writer,” which averaged $18,350 back in February, and “Cyrus,” which took in $17,719 a few weeks ago. “Kids” total now stands at $1,776,863.

Speaking of “Cyrus,” Fox Searchlight’s comedy went from 200 to 446 in this its fifth weekend, and appears to have peaked. Grossing $1,075,000, the improvised dark comedy actually dropped off 16% from last weekend despite nearly double the screen count. Its $2,410 per-theater-average was down from $6,875 last weekend.  Still, the $7 million budgeted film total now stands at $5,065,000 with a few more million sure to come, making it one of the year’s top indie grossers. It’s just clearly not becoming the $30 million+ hit Searchlight had with “(500) Days of Summer” last year.

After debuting on an aggressive 110 screens last weekend (one of the widest foreign film openings in some time), Music Box Films took Daniel Alfredson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire” to 141 screens and saw a 27% fall in grosses. “Fire” grossed $662,379 for a decent $4,698 average. The second film adapted from the popular book series, “Fire” was eleased just 4 months afters its intensely successful predecessor “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”  “Fire” (which has already grossed over $50 million overseas) has now already grossed $2,001,137, an impressive number for a foreign release.

Meanwhile, two summer success stories continued to perform well. In its fifth weekend, Luca Guadagnino’s critical darling “I Am Love” went from 110 to 140 screens and grossed $420,000, averaging roughly $3,000 per screen and taking its total to $2,666,939. The film, which details the refined world of a wealthy Italian family (led by Tilda Swinton, who learned to speak Italian for the role), is quickly becoming a significant success story for distributor Magnolia Pictures.  It should cross the $3 million mark by the end of next weekend.

Crossing that mark this weekend was another summer hit, Debra Granik’s Sundance prize winner “Winter’s Bone.” The film, which follows a young woman living in the Ozark Mountains played by Jennifer Lawrence, went from 106 to 120 screens and grossed a strong $361,720.  That gave the Roadside Attractions release a $3,014 average and took its total to a stellar $3,078,392.

Another big Sundance winner - Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning doc “Restrepo” -  went from 25 to 31 screens and grossed $94,262 for distributor National Geographic. That gave the film a decent average of $3,041 and a cume of $410,497.

Finally, in its fourteenth week in release, Sony Pictures Classics’ foreign language Oscar winner, “The Secret In Their Eyes,” passed the $6 million mark at the box office. The film drew $96,213 on 81 screens over the weekend. - Peter Knegt

Whatever happened to the box-office bomb?

People are understandably excited about Christopher Nolan's Inception. To start with, it marks the director's first film since his 2008 mega-smash The Dark Knight, which took more than $1 billion at the box office. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a dream thief who breaks into people's minds and steals their ideas, thus suggesting not only a blockbuster requiring an intimate knowledge of Descartes' Principles of Philosophy to understand it but also a withering satire on the way Hollywood comes up with its summer movie ideas. Most importantly of all, of course, it affords audiences a peek at that most endangered of species, an original idea for a motion picture, making it the only movie this year that could reasonably fail.

Remember that? When films used to fail? Films get called "bombs" all the time, of course—or "disappointments" to use the modern term. This year Prince of Persia, The A-Team, and Robin Hood all "underperformed," taking $190 million, $84 million, and $61 million respectively, although for the true belly flops, we must turn to poor old Jonah Hex, which debuted last weekend with a dismal $5 million, or Uma Thurman's Motherhood, a comedy about a stressed-out Manhattan mother that took just 88 pounds when it opened in the United Kingdom earlier this year. On one Sunday, the box-office sales totaled just 9 pounds, meaning that only one person bought a ticket, thus providing a fresh twist on the old Buddhist paradox: Can a movie be said to bomb if nobody even sees it go off?

The movie bomb used to be one of the more raucous spectator sports in America—watching Hollywood gather together some of the finest talents in the land, throw barrowfuls of money at them, lock them in a sound stage, and not let them out until they had made the biggest, proudest, costliest turkeys yet devised by human hand. Bonfire of the Vanities. Waterworld. Last Action Hero. Cutthroat Island. Their names alone were legend. They bestrode the world like colossi, their charred, rusting bulks a testament to the reach of man's hubris, the folly of human dreams, and the price of bottled water at Spago. They were so famous, people wrote books about them; we pored over every directorial temper tantrum and movie-star sulk like fish inspecting a shipwreck, looking for signs of the times, auguries of things to come, or else just a cheap shot of schadenfreude, although frequently it would be the bombs themselves that had the last laugh. Their notoriety was so great, their shadows so long, that eventually they were subjected to the same revisionism that envelops anything that sticks around in the culture for long enough. Recent critical opinion has it that Heaven's Gate is not a bad film, just a ruinously costly one, and even Ishtar has its defenders—ironic, coquettish types who wink at you from behind their yashmaghs.

What's happened to those films—the megabombs, the nuclear flops? Look up the list of the biggest flops on Wikipedia and you'll find plenty of movies from the last 10 years: You just won't have heard of them. Did anyone here see The 13th Warrior, a 1999 Viking-and-cannibal flick with Antonio Banderas and Omar Sharif? Or what about Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a computer-animated Japanese-American co-production about marauding phantoms featuring the voices of Donald Sutherland and James Woods? Sad to say I neglected to see Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, a 2002 secret-agent thriller starring Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu, but I neglected even to hear about Soldier, a 1998 sci-fi flick starring Kurt Russell and Gary Busey. As for Anne Bancroft's last role, alongside Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt in the computer-animated dragon fantasy Delgo—well, here's to you, Mrs. Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you will know.

Together, these movies lost in excess of $1 billion at the box office. They didn't explode so much as implode, sucking up all traces of their existence like those depth charges you see go off in submarine movies, first pluming outward then, just as quickly, inward, smothered by the pound-for-pound pressure at 40 fathoms, of wherever it is that Japanese-American computer- animated co-productions starring Antonio Banderas like to lurk. There are some higher-profile productions in there—Gigli (2003), Battlefield Earth (2000), Catwoman (2004) all have something of the old negative glamour, the inverted stature—but to a large degree, we are in an A-list-free zone. The Alamo (2004) was all set to be a true $200-million stinker starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ron Howard until Disney got cold feet and stripped it down to a 95 million "disappointment" directed by John Lee Hancock and starring Dennis Quaid. Darren Aronofsky looked to be nursing along a beautifully misguided $70 million folly with The Fountain, his metaphysical head-scratcher set in three different time zones and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, until Warner Bros. pulled the plug and forced him to make it for $35 million with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz instead. Where's the fun in that?

In a way it was inevitable that Hollywood would wise up. The costs of franchise moviemaking had gotten too high, the risks too great. Failure was always such an un-American concept, anyway; it made perfect sense to simply abolish it. Not all failure, of course—we still get out Jonah Hexes and A-Teams—but here's what you don't see anymore: big box office failures of the magnitude of Waterworld, Wild Wild West, Hudson Hawk, Last Action Hero, or Cutthroat Island, the swashbuckler that derailed the careers of Renny Harlin, Geena Davis, and Matthew Modine—and the last film to actually force a movie studio to close, Heaven's Gate-style. By the time we got to Titanic in 1997*, Fox and Paramount would have the sense to split the costs between them.

That didn't stop the Los Angeles Times from running a daily "Titanic Watch" column detailing the troubled production's every snag and snafu. Through the '80s and nineties, the press grew very adept at spotting these things ahead of time. A fired DP. Rewrites. Reshoots. A runaway budget. Those deliciously evocative words "action comedy." They smelled blood in the water, and they moved in for the kill. There was only one problem: Their narrative of Hollywood Hubris was a leftover from another era, before cable and DVD rentals, before the rise of the overseas markets and all the other ancillary revenues with which blockbusters beefed up their box-office figures. The press was all over Last Action Hero, pronouncing it a bomb-in-the-making before it had even reached cinemas, but thanks to overseas revenues, the film ended up making $137 million. Waterworld similarly wound up making $264 million. By the time we got to Godzilla, which made $243 million worldwide, we seemed to be witnessing a new breed of movie altogether: neither a hit nor a flop, neither a blockbuster nor a bomb, but somehow both, circling the earth with the stateliness of blimps, quietly siphoning up rental revenues from Abu Dhabi; pay-per-view profits from Stockholm, Sweden; cable kick-back from Kiev, Ukraine.

Nowadays, they are everywhere: Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Speed Racer, Land of the Lost, Prince of Persia, the bombs that won't go off, all of them swirling in the same dust-cloud of disappointment that in the old days would have led to them being tagged "flops," only now, thanks to Hollywood's nose for the "presold," standing a pretty decent chance of making their money back—painfully, arduously, slowly but surely. It's not pretty, but Prince of Persia is well on its way to making a small profit, thank you very much, and the same goes for most of the year's other "disappointments"—Sex and the City 2, The A-Team, The Book of Eli—all of them failing upward in the modern way.

I miss the time when we let these things die. Because I am a sicko with an overdeveloped sense of schadenfreude, yes, but also because I think that failures can be just as revealing as successes, maybe more so. One From the Heart is one of my favorite Coppola movies, as beautiful and intricate as a Faberge egg, and I'm a big fan of the bomb buried deep inside Apocalypse Now: That film's proximity to pretentiousness is exactly what makes it such a thrill. I think that Hudson Hawk is not a bad movie. I'm not so certain that Ishtar is a good movie, but it evokes the friendship between Hoffman and Beatty at a high point in both men's careers; there is something lustrous and familiar to their tomfoolery, like old friends who cannot leave a joke alone. Until Waterworld beaches itself on that supertanker with Dennis Hopper, the movie is possessed of a salty, wind-in-your-hair sense of adventure: Costner looks good against an aquamarine backdrop. And I will never turn off The Abyss when it comes on TV (not until the moment when Ed Harris comes back from the dead; then I'm outta there). James Cameron is one of the few filmmakers who regularly look as if they are going to deliver a 24-carat disaster only to make good at the last minute, thus pushing him into the company of such filmmaker-adventurers as John Huston and Howard Hawks, men for whom a movie wasn't really a movie unless it threatened to go into a life-threatening nose-dive at some point.

So yes, I will be first in line to see Inception, damp-palmed and a little nervous for Nolan, hoping he pulls magic out of the hat, grateful just for the suspense. - Tom Shone

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Is a Serial Killer Priest Going Far Enough?

I have been reading scripts recently and wanted to bring a certain thought to our readers attention. What constitutes as originality?

The answer to that question varies from person to person and for a writer becomes a hurdle in a world where so many thousands consider themselves writers, where it be screenplays, books, or simple poetry. Now can we consider all these self proclaimed writers worthy of their title. Well thats an issue I've been fighting for, for years now. Almost every literate person can write, but to be a professional writer it takes quite a lot more. One of these major facts is originality. Then there is plagiarism and simply tributes as well. We've seen Romeo and Juliet adapted into a million different films and that isn't a stretch since it was once called Tristan and Isolde. The tradition of star crossed lovers goes back beyond generations. Everyone wants to believe that their love is forbidden by society. 

Yes there are those that copy the story to the teeth and fail at achieving anything. Then there are those who change certain important aspects of it to make it an entirely new film or any piece of literature. Now you put Romeo and Juliet at opposite ends of the Palestinian and Israeli border, working at competing fast food chains on the border and you have an academy award winning short film. Or was the film a rebirth of Westside Story. Which in turn was a beautifully mastered reiteration of the Romeo and Juliet story. 

Make a priest an evil entity and you might achieve the same originality, that was until the Catholic priest scandals of recent history. Now it almost seems that the profession is somewhat tainted as is. However, the trusted local priest being a serial killer is one for the books. Now since we are going that far, how far is too far? Or is a better question; how far is not far enough? If you want to push the boundary than please do so, but do it completely and convincingly. A family film about a Rabbi that edges on psychosis but in the end turns out to be a nice guy, is neither a family film nor a adult drama. 

Here is where originality comes into question more so than anything else. The limits need to be pushed, and when they have adequately been demolished, the audience can look back and say this was a great film and not just a good film. These things are not easy to understand or implement as the case may be. A writer is to close to his/her work to simple say "Hmmm… more perversion would help this priest." The writer is merely capturing his reality and the rest takes place as it may. Workshops and such help, but in the end it is the writer that wrote the piece and only he/she has the ability to change it drastically. 

So we come back to what is originality. well originality has a lot of names and faces, thats what makes it original right. It is too easy to be comfortable in your ideas and depictions. The boundary of expression needs to be pushed and pushed and redefined a million times to create a million hits. That is not to say that sometimes it isn't pushed too far or simply exploited. But that is exactly the mystery factor in making great films. If there was a formula the studios would have already paid a billion to acquire it, but to the fortunes of writers, directors, and other creative individuals there is no one answer. Art is in the strive to reach the obscure an unknown. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Chris Thilk - Talking about Theaters

"I’ve been trying to figure out why a story about theater owners focusing on strategies involving 3D and digital presentations (Hollywood Reporter, 6/24/10) rubbed me the wrong way. Finally it occurred to me that the problem with this strategy is that they’re relying on Hollywood to continue to keep the theater-going experience relevant to the movie-going public instead of embracing their own future.

In the restaurant business new places are usually judged on “bread and circus,” the former being the food itself and the latter being the overall environment of the establishment. But, barring something horrible happening, the conversation about going to a movie theater is almost exclusively about the “bread,” the movie itself. If someone is asked about a new theater by a friend, the response is usually limited to a generic “It’s a nice place” or something equally as noncommittal. Especially with the rise of the multiplex in the 90′s, the theater going experience has become a generic one and if a particular theater closes it’s just fine to shift one’s habits to getting the exact same experience elsewhere.

So instead of relying on Hollywood and their current fascination with 3D theaters need to figure out ways to create consumer word-of-mouth. That’s the only way they’re going to survive the next five years in a healthy condition considering those same Hollywood studios are increasingly experimenting with release window changes that are going to impact theater business. The studios have their own best interests in mind and will go where the money is. So theaters need to look at alternate ways to engender a conversation not about the movies but about the theaters themselves if they want people to choose that experience over a Redbox rental and a night in." - Chris Thilk