Tuesday, August 30, 2011


In a previous newsletter, I told the story of Ray Park, the guy who would be famous if he didn't keep getting cast as a character with no head.


Ray's story is relevant, because, in the world with so many artists and so much content, he shows you can be successful without being famous.

Ironically the idea of being successful without becoming a household name seems offensive to some people I meet but, as Ricky Gervais said, if you want to become famous...murder a prostitute.

In any case, as it turns out, the opposite is also true, you can be famous without being a success. Just ask Rebecca Black.

Ms Black became an internet sensation for the utterly horrible song "Friday" with poetic lyrics such as:

Yesterday was Thursday Thursday
Today it is Friday Friday
We we we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes afterwards
I don't want this weekend to end

Shakespeare is turning in his grave.

But the world has changed. Cynicism (or good judgement?) is making a comeback. In today's film/TV/music world, you have to be good. The public are savvy enough to spot a manufactured music/film/TV star a mile away.

Unfortunately for Rebecca Black, the old rules don't apply any more. Sales numbers aren't the only way for the public to tell you they dislike your work.

They get to speak to you.


Worse still, they get to tell you, everyone they know, and anyone else that will listen. That's the socially connected world we live in.

It's part of the reason why films are releasing worldwide, at the same time, more frequently. Online word of mouth in America can make or break a film's chances in the rest of the world, literally overnight. Google "The Green Lantern Movie" for proof.

As for Ms Black, her music has been universally panned, she has become the subject of ridicule online, and now she has had to withdraw from school because of constant taunts and bullying.

Let me be clear: I am not saying Rebecca Black deserves to be bullied.

I am saying that more time spent rehearsing and songwriting, perfecting the craft, would have given her a better chance of success.

With success, fame, the kind based on respect and admiration, can follow. This fame lasts.

But Rebecca wanted fame before success.

Be careful what you wish for.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BI0szjpxJs = if you really MUST watch the song.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011


Dear friends, we are gathered here today to farewell a friend we have all known and loved for some time. Some of you knew this friend from birth, others have only been lucky enough to be friends in recent years. This friend has been there, through relationships, break ups, births, deaths, good times and bad.

Some us haven't always agreed with the choices this friend has made, but in the end our relationship has always endured.

And so my friends, it is with great sadness that we commemorate the passing of our cherished companion, broadcast television.

You will be missed.

(cue Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and the laying of roses)

Morbid imagery I know.

But this is a glimpse into the future.

One of the reasons this newsletter is late this week, is that I was struggling with how to explain the lessons I learned at an Industry seminar on Tuesday. The seminar was "SPAA Masterclass 3: Digital - Where's the money?". It was supposed to be about how to make money (known as "monetising") from digital/online media.

It ended up being about how traditional media companies, especially broadcasters, were attempting to catchup to the revolution (and I use this word deliberately - it is a revolution!) that is happening in the Film, TV and Media Industry. I won't bore you with details, although feel free to email me if you would like to know more, but there were a few key sentiments that came out of it. They are:

1) The explosion of the internet has changed the world, forever.
2) The next era we are entering is the era of consumer power (i.e. the revolution). This is already true in key consumer areas like shopping (ebay), news (Google), and music (Napster/File sharing).
3) The existing major companies in these areas suffer the most from the revolution, see the major papers closing and major music labels crumbling for evidence.
4) Film, TV and media is next, as broadband speeds get faster.
5) We either evolve or starve.

Being in the room with representatives of the big media companies was a strange experience for me. It was like I had mistakenly stepped into a meeting of the rich and powerful. Like Michael Moore at a gathering of BP, Shell and ExonMobil. The film, TV and Media Establishment live in person.

And me, wondering how they kept missing the point so badly.

Do you want to know what the film, TV and Media establishment talk about?

How to stop evolution.

The film, TV and media establishment talk about how to keep up with the revolution and, as much as possible, keep things the same. For their own survival.

Survival! Not growth, SURVIVAL!

They are "experimenting" with online video under duress. They believe that whatever happens online should direct people back to the "primary platform", which is Television.

The idea of online media consumption becoming the new normal, and telling great stories that engage an audience, was only mentioned by one of the speakers. His name is Ricky, the Head of Video Media at Fairfax Digital. How ironic that a guy from a newspaper/magazine company is leading the way in online video?

I chatted to him after his presentation, and found out that he worked in music, when they were hit by the revolution. Then he worked in Newspapers, when they were hit by the revolution. Now he is in video media, when the revolution is coming. Poor guy.

But Ricky gets it. He is monetising videos on-line already, with a profit sharing arrangement with Producers. He is trying to get a head start on what's coming. He's seen it too. Currently it takes 8-24 hours to download the average pirated movie online. With the broadband speeds proposed in the next 3-5 years, the average time to download a pirated movie will reduce to just 11 minutes. At that point, the film, TV and media industry becomes the music and newspaper industry. Unless we evolve.

In the very-near future, consumers will NOT ACCEPT television channels telling them what to watch. They will watch the shows they want, when they want, online. Hell, they are already doing it with entire TV show seasons on DVD and single episodes online.

And when the audience's TV is web-enabled, so they don't have to use their computer, with high speed broadband plugged into it, the TV broadcasters better have ALL their shows online, on demand.

The consumer is KING again. Don't give us what we want, and we go online and get it somewhere else, possibly for free.

No more channel surfing to find something worth investing my precious time in watching. The broadcast TV Channels will be responsible for 3 things: Commissioning new content (i.e. pay creatives to make shows); curating their catalogue of programs (e.g. channel 7 will become the home of reality television, channel 10 the home of cooking and dancing shows); and uploading their shows online. In a world of infinite choice, they had also better make sure the shows are good, or the audience will go somewhere else.

From what I saw, sipping my free coffee and listening to them speak, the traditional media establishment don't get this. Not completely, anyway.

It's actually the start of a FANTASTIC time for creatives who want to tell good stories (you will be in demand!), and terrible for big established media companies.

Broadcast TV is already dead, it just doesn't know it yet.

The revolution is coming.

You have all been warned. Start creating.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Heard of Ray Park?

Some people have. Most haven't.

He's a martial artist from Glasgow, Scotland. This makes him unintelligible in conversation, but handy in a bar fight.

Still not ringing bells?

What if I told you he was a featured supporting actor in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.


What if I added that he was in the first X-Men movie in 2000?

Your trivia is terrible.

Last clue, he was one of the main characters in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, starring opposite Johnny Depp.

A mental blank. Terrible.

Funnily enough, Ray Park has been a major player in 4 films which have grossed a total of $1,730,165,371 worldwide.

You don't know who he is because he plays characters that have heavy make-up, obscured faces or, in one case, no head. (In order they are: Darth Maul from Star Wars EP1; Toad in XMen; Snake Eyes in GI Joe and The Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow).

To add a pinch salt to the wound, when his character did finally have a head in 'Sleepy Hollow', they substituted him.....for Christopher Walken.

Ask him, and I doubt he'll complain though. He is living the Hollywood dream.

But it's worth noting: success doesn't always equal fame.

RAY PARK - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0661917/

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011


One main reason that Film so appeals to me, more than the other storytelling mediums, is that you can walk out of a cinema and talk about it. It's communal. Its something we have over Music, which is far more niche and internalised.

Call me nostaligic, but some of my best memories are walking out of the "movies" with my family or friends still talking about what we just saw. It's my post-modern version of the "good old days".

When I was a kid, my Dad took my older brother Matt and I to one of the Sydney premiere screenings of Independence Day at midnight in Penrith. The old cinema was packed with people and the whole place cheered when the Opera House appeared with the crashed alien spaceship in the background. There was almost a live theatre atmosphere. True story.

I hope you are lucky enough to have a similar memory.

Great filmmakers make you feel something. Their film sticks with you for days, months, even years. That's why there are some movies we love, even though there is some part of them that are equal parts confusing and frustrating. We love them, but we hate them, like fast food.

One of these films, which I love, is 'No Country for Old Men' (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477348/)

You don't have to take my word about it being good, a little golden man named Oscar agrees with me (http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/no_country_for_old_men/)

The frustrating thing about No Country for Old Men film is the ending. It has spurred no end of debate. One online forum alone, mentioned in the NY Times, has over 400 individual opinion comments about the ending (http://meetinthelobby.com/debate-no-country-for-old-men-ending.html).

I won't spoil the ending for you, save to share one monologue from Tommy Lee Jones's character, about this father:

I had two dreams about him after he died. I don’t remember the first one all that well but it was about meetin’ him in town somewheres and he give me some money and I think I lost it.

But the second one it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night. Goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothin’. He just rode on past and he had this blanket wrapped around him and he had his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin’ fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin’ on ahead and that he was fixin’ to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up.

I have mulled this over for so long.

He is contemplating mortality, I know that much. That his father is waiting for him.

After months, I thought I had it: life is precious. That's why there are so many people in the world today, because we nurture life so much more. But the more people there are, the more expendable life is and the less it means to kill because we become almost like cattle. In a sense then, the modern world, with more people and with life more expendable than ever, is no country for old men, who remember the way life was when people knew each other and killing someone meant killing someone you knew.

Now, I could be wrong.

But that's not the point.

I felt something.

That's what we filmmakers should aspire to. Producing something so good that people want to share the experience with friends and family. Releasing a film that makes people want to tell you about the time they saw it with their Dad and Brother 15 years ago. Giving people a film that makes them think about it months and years later.

Forget marketing and money. For Christ's sake, make me feel something.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011


You can lead the horse to water, but you can't keep your foot on it's submerged head for more than 30 seconds. It's dangerous.

Put more simply, I am all about family and friends. Fortunately, or unfortunately for some people, I am like herpes - once you have me, I'm a friend for life.

Friends and family have the ability to encourage and also frustrate you more than anyone else. If they would just listen to me, everything would be ok!

The hardest thing about life is realising that we have control over very little. That fact can be empowering if you embrace it by learning to adapt. Adaptation is actually a great skill to have and essential for filmmakers in the changing landscape.

Its troubling, though, in the context of loved ones.

My younger brother Jack is a Type 1 diabetic. Though he is frustratingly stubborn for a 19 year old, he is his own character, and I love him dearly.

He was diagnosed over a year ago with diabetes and, given he is 19 and thinks he is invincible, he has not been managing his condition properly. But mismanaging a permanent chronic illness is like playing Russian roulette. You can get away with it for a while, but eventually....

On Saturday, he had his first major diabetic crash since he was diagnosed.

We had pleaded with him to check his blood sugars. We demanded he monitor his insulin levels.

He didn't.

On Monday, the doctor told us Jack was 24 hours of non-treatment from death. He said that once a person goes into a diabetic coma, they are only a 50-50 chance of coming back.

Jack was lucky.

Loving someone makes you vulnerable, be they a friend, a partner, or even a brother. It would be worse, however, to feel nothing at all.

I'm just glad he's alive.

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