Sunday, October 30, 2011


I have officially departed my home town of Penrith, and so my timetable on the newsletters will officially go back to normal. When I was born, there was no internet, now I can't live without it. Humorous, really.

While I was in Penrith, however, I had the opportunity to dispel a well used myth about the younger generation - the so called 'Gen i'.

A friend of mine teaches year 7 English, at a school in Fairfield, west of Sydney. 'English' has changed since my school days, because they actually completed a unit on film: specifically, animation. When I was in year 7, we had to do Shakespeare - 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' to be exact:

For aught that ever I could read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth.

Or something like that.

But before this turns into an 'in my day' diatribe, I should clarify that this is a positive story. Keep that in mind.

So, my friend asked me to speak about introductory film and animation to the year 7 kids at his school. The idea was to present to all of the year 7 English classes in two sessions. Two sessions consisting of eighty restless 13 year-olds each.

Piece of cake.

As I sipped a tea and thought about it, it seemed easy enough. After all, they had only really heard of Pixar and didn't need to know about anything complicated like Flash or Maya animation.

I got to work putting together a presentation with loads of video, from some personal favourites like Tim Burton's 'Vincent', to crowd pleasers like the 'Happy Feet' trailer. Macbook in tow, I turned up in the morning, ready to present.

I was prepared, even excited. And then, on the way in to the classroom, a teacher warned me that I had a particular class within the group that were made up of 'difficult' kids.

Naively, I asked: "What do you mean by 'difficult'?"

She frowned at my ignorance: "They have learning difficulties. So just be sure you keep them under control."

Eh...piece of cake.

So there I was, standing in front of eighty expectant faces. I got the ball rolling by asking them about what their favourite animation films were. Seemed like a good ice breaker.

Then I started to play 'Vincent', Tim Burton's 1982 short stop motion animation (using clay) about a boy who wants to be Vincent Price. It goes for roughly 6 minutes.

According to conventional wisdom, If I was going to lose the attention of a bunch of 13 year olds, this would be the moment.


They watched the whole thing from start to finish. Not a peep.

And, over the course of an hour, they listened, answered my questions, laughed occasionally and watched whatever media I put up on the screen.

Now I know that I was not presenting a boring subject, like maths, but I really believe the reports of the next generation being listless and easily distracted are grossly overstated.

We live in an information and media rich world today. The new generations are simply trying to navigate this new world.

For example, in his book 'Information Anxiety (1989)', Richard Wurman claims "that the weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person in 17th-century England was likely to come across in a lifetime."

That was in 1989.

And I don't know how Mr Wurman asked people from 17th-century England about how much information they received in a lifetime, but it is an interesting idea.

So much has changed. How different will the world look for the next generation?

I don't know.

But I saw a roomful of kids get excited about dancing penguins, giant blue 'Avatars', and a little boy who wanted to be Vincent Price.

Many things have changed, but they're still just kids.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011


For people born in distant towns or the suburbs, homecomings are a trip. Novel for a while, but slowly more irritating as the reasons you left become abundantly clear.

I grew up in Penrith, a suburban bogan Eutopia in Sydney's west. There is nothing extraordinarily wrong with the place, it is just miles away from everything and anything. The silence is deafening, punctuated by the occasional screeching tyre or siren.

Hence why you either leave for good, or anchor yourself here for life.

I got out, but every so often family business calls me back. And so here I am, no internet (until I finally managed to borrow a USB modem today), terrible public transport and random sightings of people heavy drinking at 9 in the morning. On a weekday. Yikes.

With that in mind, I have gathered some tidbits this week. Scattered pieces to match my scattered mind. The outcome of living in someone else's space for a prolonged period of time.....



I have mentioned the growing war on piracy as shifting to a 'war of convenience' - offer easy to use online alternatives for film/TV consumption and make it inconvenient to illegally download - in a couple of previous newsletters:

And then I saw this story the other day. The move for Hollywood studios to push Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hold illegal downloaders accountable is expanding at pace in Europe:

The highlights are:

Dodd singled out France's controversial three-strikes rule, which cuts off Internet access for users who repeatedly download material illegally, for particular praise.

But the senator cited similar tactics across Europe, including new anti-piracy legislation in Spain pending laws in Italy and the recent German-led raid earlier this month that shut down notorious piracy site

the Motion Picture Assn. took British Telecom to court to force it to block access to an alleged film piracy site

It's growing. FAST.


After pontificating about being relieved that we finally got a film festival selection for our film 'The Good Neighbour', it ended up winning Best Drama at the festival ( I do feel slightly bad now for even slightly coming off as whingeing when I was talking about relief vs success, but a very good friend of mine had a first festival selection for his short film and the first thing he felt was......? That's right, relief. Anyone who has had a different experience is welcome to write in and prove me wrong.


The future (i.e. online distribution with massive increases in consumer power) is barreling down on traditional television content distribution models, and Shrek is behind the wheel.

In what was considered a major shock in the cable TV Market in the USA, Dreamworks pictures, the makers of Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, passed on a traditional distribution deal with major cable broadcaster HBO and instead signed a deal with online streaming provider Netflix. This appears to be the first time first time a major Hollywood content supplier has chosen Web streaming over pay television. The longer it takes for television providers to start adapting to new technology, the more they guarantee they will be left behind.

They say change is the only constant, but the rate of change evidenced in the industry above is quite dramatic. We are in an exciting, terrifying, transformative time. The storytellers will rise and the fame hungry will fall. Mark my words.

Change is the only constant. Except when you come home. Years pass in your home town, but nothing seems to change.

Except you.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

OAFILMS NEWS - The GOOD NEIGHBOUR wins at The Blue Mountains Film Festival!

Great news!

After being selected as a finalist for the Blue Mountains Film Festival, patroned by film critic god David Stratton, The Good Neighbour won Best Drama!

This was a wonderful surprise, given this was the film's first festival selection.

At the awards ceremony on 15 October, The Good Neighbour was nominated along side The Telegram Man (a short film with Gary Sweet, Jack Thompson and Sigrid Thornton) in the Best Drama and the Festival Grand Prize categories. The Good Neighbour was awarded the trophy for Best Drama, and I proudly accepted the award from actor Josef Ber (from TV's "Rush") and MC Kitty Flanagan.

The best part of the festival was actually the audience response to the film's screening on the 14th October. Really special. Overall the festival was a wonderful experience for the film.

The award was nice too.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I am getting an early start on this Newsletter because, as well as being an AWFUL Sydney day outside, I read something I had to share straight away.

Our species are, inherently, storytellers.

Anyone who has ever told a story, at a dinner table, at a pub, on stage or on the screen, knows there is something amazing that happens when people connect with the story and you nail the ending. They laugh, they cry, they smile. Drinks are bought for you and, in the weeks that come, a thousand feeble attempts at retelling the story are made, that usually end with the statement: "Well, I guess you had to be there."

I have told many stories in many pubs. Some go really well, but others end in tumbleweeds. When the awkward silence ensues, I am often left wondering, what was missing from this one?

In a professional arena like film or TV, the risks of not getting this right are huge, given a film falling flat can literally bankrupt a studio ( for proof).

The end result is an entire industry of story experts (known as "script doctors") has grown, who specialise in selling their brand of story structure advice to the world. For example, on Amazon there are 1,545 individual paperback tomes on 'screenwriting' alone. Some are great, many are not.

With that in mind, I was reading an interview from one of these script doctors, sipping my tea and looking at the black clouds outside, and he actually produced the best one line summary of a 'good story' that I have ever seen:

Story is the perfect union of character and plot.
- John Truby

He qualified this with slightly more detail: "Most writers think plot and story are identical. They aren’t...fundamentally a good story is, once again, plot coming from character and character coming from plot."

This may seem overly simplistic, but to me it sums it up perfectly. A detailed character, in an interesting story, where the two are inextricably inked.

I can think back to all the stories I have told and heard in pubs and say that, without a doubt, Truby's summation is the reason why I have been either left laughing or being laughed at.

Worth sharing, methinks.

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The blessing and simultaneous curse of the digital era is that we have all turned into digital "packrats".

My Grandmother understands. She can't (or won't) use a computer, but she is a hoarder. Part of being an Irish-Catholic depression era baby, I guess. I have numerous memories of watching her sort through piles of "stuff". My favourite is the enormous bottom drawer full of random newspaper pages - articles she felt were worth keeping.

Occasionally, she finds a gem. The functional Super8 camera with three rolls of film, for example. Brilliant.

For every terrific retro camera, however, there are 40,000 'commemorative' teatowels.

With my genetics in mind, I thought I would share something I found buried in some old papers of mine. I was spring cleaning, and found an old production report from a short I produced in film school:

On 'Tarzan the Deaf', I learnt three things very quickly.

One. There is more than one way to skin a cat. In this sense, there is more than one way to be a producer. There are those that focus purely on logistics. There are those that focus purely on story, and become a pseudo script editor. There are those that want the power. There are others who wish they had never signed up in the first place. There are no end of people telling you how to be a producer and how they would have done it better. But, as I learned, no-one is actually “wrong” in having a different approach. Producers need to work on outcomes, not methodologies. As long as the film gets delivered in the best, safest, and most cost effective way possible, you can produce any way you like.

Two. If your first impression is that someone is lazy and likes to make excuses for why they are lazy, it will probably turn out to be true. This is a killer, especially when these people are in key roles. A lazy person who is simply absent is actually far easier to deal with than someone who tries to cover their laziness by claiming it is everyone else’s fault. The second option makes for a toxic situation, as the crew gets increasingly frustrated with the lack of results and lack of taking responsibility. On a professional set, I would give them a window of improvement and then extricate them quickly if they don’t change.

Three. Put your crew in a situation where they feel trusted, empowered and responsible, and 99% of the time they will deliver amazing results. I can say this having seen some colleagues ruling their production with an iron fist, and then wondering why the crew are on edge. Pressure is necessary, as is pushing people to produce their best work, but micromanage and patronize people at your peril. They will give you the bare minimum of effort, at best. Empowering your crew will inevitably mean that things happen, while they are in charge, that you wouldn’t have wanted to happen (e.g. too many takes and burning through footage a little too quickly), but the benefits of giving them creative freedom far outweigh the negatives and most certainly show on screen.

Like I said, sometimes you find things worth keeping.

In that sense, being a packrat isn't all bad, I guess.

Assuming you like teatowels, of course.

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I got some great news this week!

The last film I produced, The Good Neighbour, finally got selected for a film festival. The Blue Mountains Film Festival to be exact.

It has been a long journey.

We shot the film almost a year ago now.

We completed all of the post production by January this year, and finally we had a finished film.

Then we started distribution; sending our pride and joy out to film festivals around the world, in order to get our work seen by as many people as possible.

Since then, it has been many long months with many rejections.

While the feedback for the film has been positive, our two sticking points kept undermining our film festival selection chances.

'Length' and 'Subject Matter'.

The Good Neighbour is 15 minutes long, well over the optimum 7 to 10 minutes festivals want. The Good Neighbour also thematically covers the physical abuse of a child. Hard to program in a festival, apparently.

And so the months passed.

Every so often, I would hear something oddly inspirational that kept my motivation up. Like a random Facebook post from a friend:

"Met crazy man out the front of a court building this morning. He babbled something vaguely psychotic. I backed away. As I walked off I wished him luck. He called out: "remember, there's no winners and losers. Just winners and learners." quite profound. Even for man who smelt of wee..."

Nine months passed. I got so sick of the inside of the post office, mailing DVDs to the corners of the globe to be judged.

The rejections kept coming. They were polite. The one from Korea was the funniest.

And finally, this small breakthrough.

I thought I would jump 5 feet in the air if we finally got a breakthrough.

Instead, faced with a small piece of long awaited good tidings, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of...............relief.

Yes, relief. Such a strange reaction, but true.

Success, small or big is highly mythologised.

In truth, from personal experience and also from talking to people who have enjoyed far greater successes than I, the cliche actually happens to be true.

The journey really is the most rewarding thing. By the time any sort of reward or recognition comes around, you are more likely to be overwhelmed by relief that the hard work paid off, than obscene levels of joy.

That's why the first thing an athlete, public figure or oscar winner does when they win is stop and take a deep breath.


Then, after some form of alcoholic drink, happiness.

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Though my formal training is in interpretive dance, not prognostication, I am going to make a prediction.

There have been many secret meetings, in secret back rooms, between secretive people, recently.

First, the U.S.A. makes a deal, after heavy lobbying by the movie studios and music labels, where 'pirates' (i.e. regular illegal downloaders of copyrighted movies and songs) will be penalised. The deal, struck between the studios, labels and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), will see the offenders warned and have their internet speed slowed down to an irritating crawl if they continue to offend.

Then, New Zealand actually passes a law that enacts a similar system to the USA, but it will not be voluntary for the ISPs to participate.

In Australia, meanwhile, we have truly awful anti-piracy adds inflicted upon us. It's ironic really, given they are produced by a consortium of movie studios, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT).

Recently, however, AFACT has ramped up their campaign against piracy in Australia. They took iiNET, the Australian ISP, to court, claiming iiNET was responsible for allowing their users to download pirated content. iiNET won with the ruling clearly stating that "an Australian Internet provider is not responsible for illegal movie downloads by its customers.".

AFACT, however, have appealed.

And finally, last week, new data comes out of the The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF) that states, (*sarcasm alert* - shock and horror) that in Australia, "almost three-quarters of consumers would stop illegally downloading files if they received a notice from their internet service provider (ISP)."

How very convenient!

Looking into my crystal ball, although it could be a cataract, I predict that a very similar law will be coming to Australia in the nearish future.

The case is being built, and lobbying will almost certainly be happening behind the scenes.

Mark my words.

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Secrets are well hidden and the truth is subjective.

In short, never believe what you read.......unless you wrote it.

I was planning on giving you an update on a prediction I gave you some time ago, but something odd happened along the way.

I was in the Opening Act Cave, slaving over a hot keyboard for your amusement and information. An article came across my desk about the Film Piracy attitudes of regular Australians, citing "new research".

I read the press release from the Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation (IPAF) and jumped onto their bandwagon, with my flaming torch and pitchfork ready.

As I typed my fingers down to the bone, I thought, "Wonderful! What masterful prose! Just the topic they would be interested in!"

And then, as my third fingernail popped off, due to my ferocious typing, a tiny light bulb flickered in the back of my head.

I hadn't read the actual report, just the press release.

So I started looking for the actual "new research" they were trumpeting.

I clicked on the link provided by the press release. It simply took me back to the IPAF home page.


So I looked into the research company. It was conducted by the mysterious Sycamore Research and Marketing (Sycamore R&M).

I Googled them.

Strangely, the only mentions of Sycamore R&M are by news articles quoting the press release or from blogs associated with IPAF.

Manufacturing their own press? Even more curious.

Two names do appear, the mysterious "Mrs and Mrs X" - Linked in Profiles for the Owner, Sycamore R&M and Director, Sycamore R&M.

Dead end there.

And what about the company?

Well, they have a website listed in an obscure motivational e-book, where the Director, Sycamore R&M, is quoted giving her insight into starting out in business. The website for Sycamore R&M is listed as

I typed in the website address and hit enter. When you go there, however, it simply says " is a parked domain". No website.

I was starting to feel like Julia Roberts in 'The Pelican Brief'.

"So what!? You say, they are probably a new company and haven't had time to set up a website!"

EXCEPT, I found a Screen Australia submission that states that Sycamore R&M was commissioned by IPAF in August 2008 to conduct research on Australian Consumer Attitudes to piracy.

It seems EXTRAORDINARILY strange to me, that a Research and Marketing firm, in existence for at least 3 years, does not even have the basics of marketing, i.e. a website.

It is also interesting, given that their research is commissioned by an anti-piracy agency, that Sycamore's research is VERY strongly in favour of similar anti-piracy laws that were enacted in the U.S.A. I even talked about these new laws, involving Internet Service Provider (ISP's) "warning" downloaders, in a previous newsletter:

Is there a perfectly normal explanation to all of this?

Probably. I did eventually find the research.

But it was strange.

And I wonder, how many people writing stories and commenting, read more than the press release.

Everyone has an agenda.

Leave the flaming torch and pitchforks. Do the homework instead.

For those who are interested, the piracy attitudes research:

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