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Posts from the ‘filmmaking’ Category

Dropping Film Knowledge like a Clumsy Librarian (somewhere in the 700 section…)

The_Horse_in_MotionHi all!

People seem to be liking the film industry / history writing I’ve been doing over at Quora, so if you’re one of the folks mad I don’t have more time for long-form industry ramblings these days, there might be something there to scratch your itch?

Here’s a list of every Quora I’ve answered as one gigantic list

Or here’s a few direct-links to whet your appetite:

And many, many, (many) more… including topics as disparate as Toronto chicken bylaws, or (possibly the most read thing I’ve ever written in my life) 90 words about the history of Scooby-Doo.

The Internet everyone!

Crowdfinancing For Film

Kickstarter raising millions for creative projects, prospective donors lining up with their wallets out, does the age of “Crowd Financing” shepard in an exciting new era of film financing? Actually I think there’s some potential troubles there worth talking about. To the shiny new videoblog thing! Read more

Kevin Smith, and the “Red State” Experiment

red-state-posterKevin Smith’s release plan for “Red State” isn’t particularly revolutionary – and you can’t convince me it was supposed to be. What it is, is an interesting experiment if one happens to be Kevin Smith. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the armchair studio-heads need to be careful to recognize in their blogs and tweets that there is absolutely nothing that “the industry” is going to be able to learn from this little adventure – unless you happen to be interested in investing in low-budget features directed by Kevin Smith.

Your nickle tour summary is that Smith had a much-hyped event yesterday after the Sundance premiere of the film (replete with protesting Fred Phelps), where he was to auction off the distribution rights to his new horror film “Red State”. What actually happened was the classic “old switcheroo” where Smith actually sold himself the distribution rights, and announced he’d be four-walling the film for several months – prior to a wider October 19th release (presumably with a traditional distributor). “Four Walling”, if you’re not familiar with the term, is when a distributor pays to rent out an entire theatre in advance, and then keeps the entirety of the ticket proceeds… as opposed to regular exhibition where the distributor and the exhibitor split ticket revenues.

It was at this point that the film bloggosphere exploded with rage, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me. Writers were alternately angry that Smith lied to them about his intentions, or that he was using them for promotion of his new distribution company, or that he plans to charge $60 to $70 for tickets to these advance screenings when critics are used to getting promotional screenings for free… or… something. They were certainly angry. The one thing that surprises me is that more prominent film-bloggers didn’t grow up watching professional wrestling – since the “vaguely worded *big reveal* let-down” is pretty much the oldest game in town. I don’t really have anything to say about any of that. I wasn’t even aware of the film until e-mail started trickling in today on the topic. Read more

Lessons from Pirates? Not Quite.

Nollywood DVD Stall - Flickr photo (cc) by Paul KellerWired (and WELL) co-founder (and all around writer/blogger/lecturer/savant) Kevin Kelly has written an interesting blog “How to Thrive Among Pirates” wherein he extrapolates lessons Western film producers could learn from the piracy-ridden filmmaking cultures of China, Nigeria, and India.

The short summary, for those unfamiliar with China/Nollywood/Bollywood filmmaking, is that there is a thriving low (or no) budget domestic filmmaking culture in these countries which one would presume would be impossible, given the widespread piracy in each.

It’s a very comprehensive, well written read – but I think his conclusions miss the mark, and often gloss over (or conveniently ignore) some of the realities of the situations and solutions he raises.

What do these gray zones have to teach us? I think the emerging pattern is clear. If you are a producer of films in the future you will:

1) Price your copies near the cost of pirated copies. Maybe 99 cents, like iTunes. Even decent pirated copies are not free; there is some cost to maintain integrity, authenticity, or accessibility to the work.

The problem with this approach is that Kevin is thinking in terms of the lessons he’s learned in three countries where physical media is the primary distribution channel of pirated material. In the west, the “cost of a pirated copy” for many movies is zero (or, at best, the pro-rated cost of a low-end computer and a couple of hours of internet time to snag a torrent. This, in most cases, doesn’t even get you a fuzzy multiple-generation bootleg, or shaky handicam movie, but a pristine, DVD-quality film – better than what you’d get at most theatres in Nigeria or India. Read more

YOU SHALL NOT… charge completion bonds multiple times?

When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that only 20% of home video revenue was being counted as revenue...

When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that only 20% of home video revenue was being counted as revenue...

It looks like “Lord of the Rings” accounting will be back in the news as the Estate of JRR Tolkien is suing New Line over their calculation of profits from the three blockbuster films. You may recall that Peter Jackson and Saul Zaentz have sued New Line as well claiming they saw no royalties on the film either (although both those cases were settled out of court).

I get asked a lot how studios and distributors can get away with claiming that films never turn a profit, especially on fare that clearly has… say Return of the Jedi. The short answer is that when studios have huge slates of films (many of which, aren’t successful) it’s difficult to track what bona-fide operating expenses should be allocated to a well-performing film versus the dozens of films in a slate that have recouped no money. It gets equally complex when there are many deals through many different layers of companies – each of which is entitled to their own share of revenue before it gets to the producer.

For a great example of this from a different field, and it’s been ages since I’ve talked comics (which is odd given that there’s great stuff out there right now), I highly recommend Colleen Doran’s blog series “The Perils of Colleen” wherein she recounts her relationship with the “second-worst” publisher she has ever dealt with. It’s a doozy of a story, and should be required reading for any independent contractor in any artistic field, but it also goes into detail (especially in part III) how her contract was structured to ensure she never saw a royalty nickel, no matter the sales of her books. Thankfully Colleen’s story has a reasonably happy ending (although with some bizarre twists you wouldn’t believe if I told you) – but it does a very nice job of showing a case study of the myriad ways a distributor/publisher/studio relationship can go south in a big way.

It’ll be interesting to follow the LOTR case going forward, especially if the Estate gets any leverage with their claim that they have the ability to revoke the rights for the upcoming “Hobbit” prequels.

Talent Lab 2009 Applications Are Now Available

Talent Lab

Considering there really isn’t a topic for this blog beyond “shameless self-promotion”, you think I’d be better at the promoting.

Toronto International Film Festival Talent Lab 2009 applications have been up for weeks now, and that means you have a hair under three weeks to get them in if you’re an emerging Canadian writer, director, or producer interested in taking part in the 2009 Lab.

Sandra Cunningham and I will be co-producing this program again this year which is a real honour. I legitimately think this is one of the most inspiring developmental programs for film artists in the world, and a truly unique way to tap right into the heart of the creative brilliance that fuels the Toronto International Film Festival every fall. For four intense days the select group of 20 emerging artists will get to participate directly in group discussions with some of the worlds most notable filmmaker talent. It’s an amazing experience, and I know it’s made a real difference in the craft of many of the lab’s former participants.

It hasn’t been as bad as last year, but all the same – could I please ask anyone with questions about the program, or the application process to e-mail, instead of using my contact form? There is a crack Industry Initiatives staff that will be able to answer faster and (more importantly) will ensure no response gets lost in the cracks.

Application forms and support material are due at the TIFF offices by Friday June 26th at 5pm EST.

Please stop e-mailing me about Archie #600

No. <br />


Dear Internet,

I know you mean well, but you can really stop pummeling me with coverage about “Archie #600”. Even if the developments therein weren’t being covered by every single newspaper in the city… let alone all media , now known or hereinafter devised – I’ve been “Hangin’ with the Riverdale” crew for over twenty years now. I have three different re-prints and collections containing Pep Comics #22, I own the crossover with the Punisher, heck I own Dan DeCarlo’s spicy pin-up collection (not the really spicy one… just the “kind of unnervingly saucy” one). I remember January McAndrews, Jughead’s Diner, and the amazing year-long advertisement that was “Archie’s R/C Racers“. I can generally narrow re-prints down to decade based on the backup features (Katy Keene, Frankie and Me, Lil Jinx, Josie and the Pussycats). I know the name of Sabrina’s uncle. I can’t find a good link to Sabrina’s uncle… but I guess he was on the 90s live-action sit-com as well as the 00’s manga reimaginings… so that’s not as obscure as I’d hoped. Listen Internet I don’t need any lip from you… do you remember when “The New Archies” turned Dilton Doiley into an African-American kid named Eugene and gave him a superfluous sister? No? I do.

My point?

If two decades of a weird hybrid of fandom and “scholarship” have taught me *anything* it’s imaginary stories about “how the love triangle between Archie, Betty, and Veroinca is going to work out” are always…. always really disappointing.

Except when 40-something Jughead does bad late 80s “rap”:

Update: Robot 6 points out that the Archie characters have their own blogs where they post about plot developments… and that Betty’s weekly post is just about the saddest thing on the Internet.

Snake ‘n Bacon. Snake ‘n Bacon! SNAKE ‘N BACON!

One's tasty crumbled in a salad. The other's a snake. <br /> © Michael Kuppenberg

One's tasty crumbled in a salad. The other's a snake.
© Michael Kuppenberg

Attention U.S. based followers of this blog. Immediately stop what you’re doing and go on over to the AdultSwim website where you can now view the pilot for Snake ‘n Bacon adapted from the many works featuring Michael Kupperman’s celebrity duo.

“But Brad” you ask, “as a Canadian who is blocked from receiving AdultSwim programming, or even the very website you’ve linked to, how can you recommend said pilot sight unseen?” This is a reasonable question. Feel free to assume I am either extremely irresponsible with my reccomendations… or I have… “sources”.

Seriously, while I was a little unsure off the top (I’m one of those purists who doesn’t normally care for Williams Street’s house style when it comes to live-action) the pilot soon barrels headlong into familiar “Tales Designed to Thrizzle” territory with some great sequences and some old Kuppenberg friends come to life. It’s worth the (non existant) price of admission for the stylistic approach to the “Fruit of the Month Club… man” alone.

Unlike most animation adaptations, some aspects of Kupperberg’s style are even vastly improved by the transition to animation, and addition of voicework. While that’s normally a stumbling block for many animation adaptations – segments like “The Head”, or “Bullfrog” are significantly more vibrant with the spot-on vocalizations. Plus, Kupperman appears to have drawn all the animation segments himself – so it never feels like it’s not his work or “off reference”.

Why are you even still reading this? It’s short, great fun, and I can almost guarantee there’s one segment in it you’ll laugh at. You should be over there, clicking “rate this 10” and pressuring AdultSwim to turn this into a series that’s available on DVD so I can legally purchase it.

Come ON it’s got Snake AND Bacon in it. That’s like the “Oceans 11” of zoology and pork!