Articles from Screen Forever 2013

Screen Forever

22 November 2013

I attended Screen Forever (the rebranded Screen Producers Australia (the rebranded Screen Producers  Association of Australia)) Conference in November 2013. Here are the articles I wrote for Screen Hub covering it. The links below take you to the articles behind Screen Hub’s paywall. The blurbs are simply lifted from the newsletter.

Screen Forever: The State of the Digital Union

Video on demand (VOD), digital distribution, and the changes industry and consumers face every day were all over Screen Forever 2013. Andrew Einspruch digs through a piles of notes to find the jewels.

Screen Forever 2013: Drama in the BBC`s DNA

If you think about producers of high quality television drama, the BBC has got to be at the top of your list. Kate Harwood, Head of Drama Production, England at the BBC talked at Screen Forever about the importance of drama to the broadcaster, and the challenge of getting good writers.

Screen Forever 2013: Dude, Where`s My Audience?

With VOD, catch-up viewing, second screens, time-shifting, cord cutting and all manner of changes looming over the content consumption landscape, it makes sense to ask, as a session did at Screen Forever 2013, “Sorry, Where Has My Audience Gone?” Andrew Einspruch tells us that the answer might surprise.

Screen Forever 2013: Multi-Channel Networks and the Business End of YouTube

The days of YouTube just being dogs on skateboards or kilted Darth Vaders on unicycles playing bagpipes are long gone. YouTube is big business and getting bigger all the time. Andrew Einspruch reports that one of the engines of this business are the emerging multi-channel networks.

Screen Forever 2013: Google`s Approach to Watching Content Owners` Backs

The world of content and culture is moving online. And search giant Google is in the driver`s seat to know what the trends are. But the digital world unfolds in a fraught way for many creators. In the opening session of this year`s Screen Forever conference, Derek Slater, Global Public Policy Manager, Google USA, gave a glimpse into this changing world, as viewed by the advertising behemoth.

Screen Forever 2013: Co-Financing with the USA

A session at Screen Forever looked at some of the ins and outs of financing a feature film with some amount of money from the USA. Andrew Einspruch reports that success factors range from making sure the Aussie elements of the project work to developing credibility as a producer.

Screen Forever 2013: Finding Out How to Get to Sesame Street

On a sunny day in Melbourne, where the clouds had clearly been swept away, Kim Wright, Film Producer with the Sesame Workshop, talked about the things that make Sesame Street a success. Screen Hub`s Andrew Einspruch reports from Screen Forever, the Screen Producers Australia conference.

Screen Forever 2013: The Challenges Facing Network Ten

Hamish McLennan, CEO and MD at Network Ten, acknowledged problems and served up a few useful nuggets to producers who have Ten in their sights, reports Andrew Einspruch.

New Facebook Page

I’ve set up a Facebook page for work-y, writerly things. Your Like on the page will make a million puppies smile, so go here and click Like.

“Blue” is the Most Argumentative Color

Blue is the Warmest Color

The  in-fighting around “Blue is the Warmest Color”, which comes to Cinecliq later this fall, continues in a very public way. The film may have taken home the Palm d’Or at Cannes this year, and been embraced by critics and audiences, but that moment of glory is becoming an afterthought as the director and cast, and even the crew, trade accusations and insults in the press.

According to IndieWire’s The Playlist, the French magazine Telerama quoted director Abdellatif Kechiche saying, “According to me, the film shouldn’t be released, it has been soiled too much,” and “The Palme d’Or had been a brief moment of happiness; then I’ve felt humiliated, dishonored, I felt rejected, I live it like I’m cursed.” Strong words, given the film’s positive reception.

These statements follow comments from the two lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos who both said that they would not work with Kechiche again. Seydoux went so far as to say that filming the coming-of-age lesbian drama was a “horrible” experience.

Similarly, author Julie Maroh, whose graphic novel was adapted for the film, expressed concern about how the film represented her work, especially its portrayal of same-sex intimacy. Quoted in the New York Times, Maroh said the film was, “a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn.”

Even the film’s crew has complained about difficult working conditions, and made allegations about violations of France’s Labor Code.

For a film that so many have praised, it is unfortunate that the off-screen circus is taking all the focus.

A version of this article originally appeared on Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.

A Short Animation to Inspire

August 30, 2013

Eight years ago, the animation below, “Ryan”, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. And when you watch it, you can see why. It blends a fantastic visual sensibility with a compelling, haunting story of a an animator, Ryan Larkin, whose brilliance sadly burn out.

Ted Hope, the successful indie producer (“21 Grams”, “American Splendor”), said “Ryan” is “a perfect balance of form with content. It is an expressionistic documentary, an animated essay film. It respects life and our struggles. It is about the creative process and inspiration.”

See for yourself. It is an amazing, inspirational work.

Ryan by Chris Landreth, National Film Board of Canada

And here is an animation done by Ryan Larkin. You can see how the above documentary both uses and draws on it.

Walking by Ryan Larkin, National Film Board of Canada

Kevin Spacey On the New World of Content

Kevin Spacey

Actor Kevin Spacey called on the screen industry to drop the ever-fading distinctions between TV and film, and further embrace on-demand viewing. Speaking as the first actor to ever give the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Spacey said, “The device and the length [of the program] are irrelevant. The labels are useless, except maybe to agents and managers and lawyers who use these labels to conduct business deals.”

The actor, whose Netflix-funded series “House of Cards” is up for nine Emmy awards, said that they went to Netflix because they did not want to go through the traditional process of making a pilot. They knew they story they wanted to tell, and Netflix was the only organisation who had the confidence to let them simply make the whole season.

As for labels, Spacey said that the changing nature of distribution and devices is blurring the once-clear line between film and TV. “For kids growing up now, there’s no difference watching ”Avatar“ on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV or watching ”Game of Thrones“ on their computer. It’s all content. It’s just story,” he said.

“And the audience has spoken. They want stories. They’re dying for them. And they’re rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus, and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly gifs, and God knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. And all we have to do is give it to them.”

It was a rousing call that ended with an Orson Wells quote: “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I just can stop eating peanuts.”

Here are some highlights from the speech:

And you might enjoy watching all 47 minutes of it here.

Interesting stuff from a plugged-in actor who is doing his part to embrace these new business and distribution models.

. . . . . .
version of this article was originally published at Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.

Ben Affleck as Batman

August 26, 2013

Ben Affleck

News that Ben Affleck will wear Batman’s cape and cowl in the Warner Bros 2015 sequel to Man of Steel caused quite a stir when it was announced last week. Snarky memes and tweets quickly emerged. And while #batfleck may have been the less than flattering reaction, don’t write him off.

Sure, he’s been in any number of less than stellar films (Gigli and Pearl Harbour spring to mind). But then, any actor with a sustained career can say the same. Plus Argo and The Town showed he was capable of interesting, nuanced performances.

Director Zac Snyder has clearly shown he can deliver on this kind of action flick. And the reaction to the news that Heath Ledger would play the Joker shows that fans aren’t always right when it comes to judging casting.

So as Val Kilmer said, “Give Ben a chance.”

. . . . . .

A version of this article was originally published at Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.


Digitise or Perish article

I wrote up the Digitise or Perish panel featuring by Rick Prelinger, who created the Internet Archive and the Prelinger Library, and Paula Le Dieu, who is currently working with the Mozilla Foundation. A version of it appeared in artsHub, and a somewhat different version (slightly shorter, mainly) in Screen Hub.

No longer dusty storehouses for unused documents, the new archive is not an end point but a beginning, Rick Prelinger, director and cofounder of the Prelinger Library  and the Internet Archive a forum of the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums sector (GLAMs)  in Canberra this week.

Prelinger said that consciously or unconsciously, people think of archives as mortuaries for works that have reached the end of their lifecycle. Instead, he said, use justifies archives so archives should measure success by how much new work and study they could facilitate.

Prelinger said if we see archives as a birthplace rather than a mortuary, we can imagine a new lifecycle for archival material that begins on accessioning.

It is a vision that is far from a dusty, locked up vault. And the implications are far-reaching. For Prelinger, it means putting users before collections, evaluating archival activities in terms of how well they serve access, and committing to pushing material out into the world. It means using records of the past to inform and intervene in the present to influence the future – what Prelinger calls historical intervention.

Read the artsHub version

Read the Screen Hub version


Cannes 2013 Extras: More Articles for Screen Hub

I had two additional article published in Screen Hub based on my trip to Cannes this year. (The original six articles are here.) Happy reading!

Cannes 2013 Extra: How to Produce for the International Market

Angus Finney brought the proverbial wealth of experience to the table. He is the Production Finance Market Project Manager at Film London, and former managing director of Renaissance Films (UK).

Finney started his talk by relaying the results of an informal survey of 15 film financiers from around the world, conducted at a private dinner last October. He had asked them what the key differences were that had occurred over the last five years in the international film market.

“The first interesting observation was that five years ago, there were at least 25 international sales companies that all those financiers trusted in terms of their ability to normally get presales, and most importantly, to hit their take estimates,” said Finney. “That number has gone to ten. Ten companies they trust to actually, definitely hit their numbers. That is food for thought when it comes to international sales and the importance of the sales community when it comes to recouping international film budgets.”

Read the rest…

Cannes 2013 Extra: branding yourself and your projects

One of the keys to success at a film market is presenting yourself and your project in the best way possible. Roshanak Behesht Nedjad of Flying Moon Filmproduktion gave a lot of insights at a session called “Branding Yourself and Your Projects” at the Cannes Film Market last May. Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch was there, reporting this, our final bit of coverage from Cannes.

Let’s start with some numbers. There were around 12,000 film buyers, sellers, agency representatives and wannabes at this year’s Cannes Film Market. Obviously, not all of them are empowered to write a cheque.

So let’s simplify for the point of illustration. Assume there are just 1,000 sales agents there who could actually make a decision, and they are there for the five main days of the market. Now assume they only have meetings with two people on any given day (which is absurdly low – it is more like five to ten per day, at least). So, 1,000 agents x 5 days x 2 meetings/day = 10,000 meetings. If they all saw the same people, that’s 5,000 projects being pitched.

The point being made by Nedjad? At a minimum, you are competing with at least 5,000 other projects. That’s your starting point, and probably a very low number.


Read the rest…

Stephen Cleary and Genre for ScreenHub

14 June 2013

Stephen Cleary

My article on Stephen Cleary’s approach to genre is up at Screen Hub. It was based on the Genre Bootcamp he conducted for ScreenACT.

Stephen Cleary has contributed a lot of clear thinking to the Australian industry`s long meditation on genre, which is such a profound tool in inderstanding projects, their structure and the contract with the audience. Andrew Einspruch reports on his Genre Bootcamp for ScreenACT.

Why do we like genre? Because we enjoy familiar stories told in an unfamiliar way – which is the heart of creating a good genre film. “Genre turns sameness into a virtue,” said Stephen Cleary. “The audience enjoys more than the individual film when they watch a genre film.” That’s because they are familiar with the genre, and bring that background of their understanding of the genre to their experience of watching the film.

“Genre is simply a way of organising things, and that’s it. There’s no need to get too hung up on it,” said Cleary. “The way you organise things depends on what you want, so genre definitions change according to who’s making them.” That is, the way a producer might think about genre is different to someone who is trying to organise a DVD store. In the US, there’s a big genre called “foreign” (everything not made in English). Or there’s the genre “arthouse”, which is a film with a limited audience. But these definitions are not particularly helpful, say, for a writer talking to a script developer about their script. They need to know about genre from the perspective of storytelling.

Read the rest.

My Interview on Showbiz Sandbox

1 June 2013

Showbiz Sandbox

I was thrilled to have been a guest on one of my favourite podcasts, the must-listen entertainment industry show Showbiz Sandbox. I joined host J. Sperling Reich in Cannes in May, when I was there for the Cannes Film Market, and he was there covering the movies. We talked about how very different experiences can be there. For example, when we spoke, he’d seen around two dozen movies, while I have seen none.

While I am there for the whole show, the first half is mainly Sperling talking to Stephen Garrett of the New York Observer about films they’d seen at the festival. My discussion starts at 36:48.

Have a listen to audio player below, or on the Showbiz Sandbox page.