30 November 2007

Fringe Friday


While not totally applicable to us, we attended a Fringe Friday meeting tonight. The Fringe festival in Wellington consists mostly of theatre, concerts, exhibitions and other performance based events, but as it turned out we learnt lost of interesting stuff about where to get money from. There were people there from the Cuba Street Carnival, Wellington Council, someone from a new fund called EAT (Emerging Artists Trust), and the usual rabble of artists.

 Since the Fringe events lend themselves to this, there was a lot of talk of finding private sponsors and branding. This made me think that it could be applied to film funding, too, if only in the shape of asking for favours and promising logos in the credits. But even a short film could include branding, if it is appropriate. this started me thinking that at least the boat scene and the bookshop, as well as other businesses in the background could be hit up for sponsorship for product placement. Why not? 

There is a lot of work to be done before any sponsors can be approached, more probably than if we just applied for straight funding: research audience and target market, consider the aims and content of the film to find sponsors who match them. Researching potential sponsors mission statements would help to connect with them and their brand. One other interesting statement made was that when writing a budget, we should always put in proper wages for all crew and cast, even if we can’t pay this in the end, since this is a more professional approach to budgeting and gives a clearer picture what this production would actually cost.

23 November 2007


I just finished a commercial short for NZX's passive sharedealing product smartshares. They had contacted me a while ago with a script for a short viral film to be posted to their new blog-based website and to YouTube. They were looking for something that was provocative, but work-safe at the same time, and would promote the idea that passive equals cool.

We filmed the script with a small crew and one actor, and Ben Parsons provided the cheesy music. We did a neat trick where we shot two dolly shots into the same room, one going left to right and one right to left. In Final Cut Pro I flopped the second shot and with a cross fade it looks like one continuous shot from one room to another.

16 November 2007

Script to Screen@SPADA conference

I couldn’t attend the whole conference, but made it to Script to Screen’s lunchtime talk with Scott Meek, Jeremy Nathan and Derek Fox. The specifically New Zealand theme was: Creating a National Cinema and a Unique Voice on the World Stage. Scott Meek, formerly managing director of Zenith in the UK, now living in Australia, made some interesting comments on the subject from the British perspective.

He pointed out that Truffaut said that the words ‘cinema’ and ‘England’ should not be mentioned in the same sentence. Meek pointed out that the UK film industry is a permanent film school for Hollywood. He also compared Robert McKee’s approach to film as laid out in his book Story to L Ron Hubbard’s Scientology teachings, refusing the need for films that meander, films that have no structure. He also said that he prefers making films with few people over a longer period of time than with lots of people very quickly.

Jeremy Nathan, who has been making films in South Africa for almost 2 decades told an instructional story of the Nigerian film industry, which receives no government funding whatsoever and still produces 800 feature films per year for the Africa-wide market. Budgets are in the region of $40k, with one week pre-production, one week shoot and one week post-production. They are generally love stories, voodoo films or historical epics with an average length of 3 hours. Eight years ago there were no Nigerian films on TV, now some of those film makers are being picked up as a reaction to this surge and make - presumably - classier fare for TV. He talked of the uphill struggle of making films in South Africa, with a distribution model of 400 cinemas for 40 million people. The whole of Africa has only 600 screens for 900 million people, so new distribution methods are developing, where mobile phone users can subscribe to 30 minute episodes, or businesses screen DVDs to a paying audience on their TVs. He called it a post-theatrical model of distribution.

07 November 2007


A break in the shooting schedule today: We are invited to the AnimeFX NZ conference student day, held at the Film Archive. The Film School has kindly arranged free entry for us, and since we are not filming today due to scheduling issues on Ice, I figured I might as well see what happens in the world of animation. you never know when you need an animator for a film.

The first thing I noticed was how every lecturer was using a Powerbook, except for the BBC Children’s TV presenter, who was running a very inadequate Windows PC, which had trouble playing his PR films. This is probably part of their Windows-only policies.

Most of the attendees were from Massey University’s animation course, so the questions were very job-seeking oriented and I could feel the atmosphere of wanting to look professional in the room.

There were some pretty cool speakers, but none so popular as Matt Aitken from Weta Digital, who gave an interesting talk on the workflow of animated shots through from pre-production to post.

My favourite speaker was Rita Street, a producer from Radar Cartoons. She told us to “Try the impossible, there’s less competition.” A brilliant conceit, and she was a very inspiring speaker. Her approach is to just contact people, not being afraid of them if they are famous or very senior in the industry or busy. “Swimming in the Impossible pond”, she called it.

The first speaker of the day, Tim Johnson from Dreamworks, probably had the most useful things to say to students, his talk was entitled “Mistakes Student's make and How to Avoid Them”.

These included:
 • Not showing work until it is finished,
 • bad sound,
• Tired themes: ninjas, suicide
• not following up on contacts
• Not being able to communicate your ideas,
• Being too focussed. Get a life outside animation.
• Demo reels that are too long and don’t put the best stuff first.
• Not finishing work. Better a short finished than a feature that never gets done.

The coolest guy there, in the end, was Dan Curry, Star Trek Visual Effects Producer for 18 years, including Deep Space Nine, The Next Generation and Enterprise. Wow. He told us all sorts of cool stories about low-tech effects he made. He used to live in Thailand and learnt about shadow puppets there, so when he had an episode where giant insects take over the Enterprise, he made movable puppets out of foam board; he spoke very fondly of a glitter-dispensing pompom which he used to create star clusters. Apparently he used it in every single episode of Next Generation. His favourite special effects films are: Sindbad the Sailor Forbidden Planet Quo Vadis - for matte painting King Kong - the original The Thief of Baghdad

03 November 2007

Ghost Story - Second meeting

Another pre-pre-production meeting before Amelia goes off on her adventures to Cambodia. Still no script in sight. But there is a beginning and an end, a boat at night and a perilous fall at the edge of the water. And questions: What’s it like being a ghost? What does a ghost look, talk, move like? How do you interact with a ghost? What happens when you lose someone and they just disappear, you don’t know if they live or are dead? How does it work when all around you think they have gone, but there are still there with you?

We also have two characters: Isabella and Francesca. Isabella is sensible and a little fearful of the world. She is at the mercy of her sister who appears and disappears at the most inconvenient times or important moments in her life. Her family is influential for her, but her dream life and time with her sister is somehow more colourful and intense than the rest of her world. After Bella’s disappearance she set up a bookshop called Bella’s Book. Francesca disappears one night during a sailing trip and since then is always a bit wet. She is also upset that the only person she can talk to is her big sister Isabella, who is a stick in the mud and boring. Unfortunately she has little control over the time and place she appears and disappears, although Isabella seems to think she is showing up at inappropriate moments just to spite her.

To keep the water theme we are thinking of locations, like a boat, bathtub, kitchen sink, pool, beach. waterfront, pier, dam or lake; objects like fish tanks, water bottles, fountains, sprinkler. I think I’ll be starting to write things down soon.