Thursday, December 22, 2011


This time of year, every woman, man, blogger, columnist (and his dog) is publishing a "Year in Review 2011" piece. Why?

Surely looking back on the year, when it's not even finished yet, is somewhat of an exercise in futility.

What if aliens invade on December 30th?

And really, what value do you get out of someone reviewing the year that has just past for you?

The time to reflect, and the lessons you feel you need to learn, surely are your own. For your own time.

Unless, of course, you are someone who likes being told what to think. I hope not.

So, what if we reviewed 2012 in advance instead? Looking forward with an open mind, instead of backward with nostalgia.

What to expect in the year to come?

Starting with the bad news. Well, first of all, movie piracy will continue ad nauseum, but I think you are going to hear more stories about prosecution of movie pirates. The film industry is getting more aggressive than ever before on this, with Internet service blocking deals and legislation against pirates. And then, there was the news, just in the last week, of the film pirate who put 'XMen Origins: Wolverine' online (before it was released in cinemas) being sentenced to a year in Federal prison in the USA.

He could have at least pirated a GOOD movie.

In the world at large, the economic news is going to get gloomier, as we break through the European Debt crisis and feel the aftershocks of unravelling the messes caused by 30 years of poorly regulated financial markets. But new ideas will start to come, as bright and optimistic new minds start to think of ways to sustain our economies without bankrupting people who are already below the poverty line (read "Prosperity Without Growth", if you don't believe me). For filmmakers, expect this to result in more and more cries of "There is no money out there for films!", "it is too hard to make films!" and "you should get out of the industry and get a job that pays!". All of these are true in part, but have always been true in an industry of high risk but high rewards.

DVD's will be almost dead in 2012. The sales of DVD's are PLUMMETING fast, and the next big thing, watching movies via the internet, doesn't require any new players or technology (e.g. like a DVD player) for people to purchase to make the switch. They can just use the computer they already have. Blue Rays will likely keep up sales due to their HD Quality and price decreases of late, but there is still the inconvenience factor of having to go out and physically buy them, as compared to just going online and watching the film you want.

As far as the quality of films being released, I can't say whether they will improve or not. I am encouraged by the number of quality independent films coming out, but there will be just as many super hero movies: Spiderman (rebooted), Superman (rebooted), The Avengers and, of course, Batman 3. Overall, expect 2012 to be 'the year of the bat' as the last Christopher Nolan Batman film 'The Dark Knight Rises' makes an absolute fortune and is most likely the highest grossing film of 2012.

Which brings me to the good news for the year ahead!

People will start to watch more and more movies on the internet. As a result, 2012 will see much more positive news about the money being made in online video-on-demand (VOD) distribution for films. As a matter of fact, it has already started, with films like Lars Von Trier's 'Melancholia' making as much money in VOD as he did in the cinemas!

2012 looks like it could be the year of new original films! This is because major franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight have run, or are running, out of books to adapt into films. This is great news for people with original movies to make, or original scripts to sell. In Hollywood, for example, 2011 saw the highest new original (i.e. 'spec') script sales in 4 years.

2012 will see the continued return of our cinema audiences and will be the year of the highest worldwide global box office! 2010 was the highest ever, despite the Global Financial Crisis. The 2011 box office is down overall, but are having a record US Summer/Christmas that is being touted to bring them back to record breaking territory. As economic conditions first worsen then improve, and the major blockbuster 'The Dark Knight Rises' is released mid 2012, audiences will flock back to cinemas for cheap (relatively) entertainment.

And finally, the technology to make films will keep getting cheaper. This will mean more people will be making films in 2012 than ever before, with their high quality cheap digital cameras. But, this will also mean that filmmakers who are creative, dedicated and work hard will have the chance to rise to the top. Also, with crowdsourcing now seeing filmmakers raise over $100,000 to make their films, purely from donations from supporters of their film, 2012 will see more filmmakers engaging with their audience to produce great films that people have supported financially AND want to see.

So, what should you be doing to make 2012 your most successful year?

First of all, CREATE!!! No matter whether you are a filmmaker or a plumber, the world is crying out for people who are good at what they do and are actually out there completing great work. Stop procrastinating and make something. The world needs you to take your brilliant new ideas and then use your work ethic to polish them into something amazing!

Second, the bullshit era is failing. The 'hype with no substance model' is a dying, as seen by the catatonic ratings of the once-successful reality music TV shows. The pervasiveness of social media and the internet has changed the world, because finding out if you are a "fake" (or that your film is terrible) has never been easier. 2012 will see the return to being judged by the quality of your work. So, don't be a hype machine with no substance. No matter what your industry, 2012 will reward people who focus on being the best at what they do.

Most of all, be aware! In the era where you can make high quality films cheaply and talk directly to your audience with technology, you need to know what is going on in the world and take your destiny in your own hands. You may not think about the world at large, but the world most certainly has an impact on you and your success. For example, did you know that the Free Trade Agreement with the USA has an impact on how much Australian TV stations can require there to be Australian shows on TV? This has a direct impact on how much Australian TV production there is, and therefore how many Australian TV Production jobs there are. If you didn't know this, why not? The information is freely available, you just have to shake off apathy and be informed enough to make good career choices.

2012 will be big, shiny and new. There will be challenges and opportunities. Winners and losers.

Aliens are unlikely to invade, but you're going to be a winner. I can feel it.



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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


As a filmmaker outside of Los Angeles, you get used to hearing "No".

We live in a culture of "No".

"No" that is only possible in Hollywood.

"No" you should get a proper job in mining or accountancy.

"No" way there is room for you in the overcrowded film industry.

For the thin-skinned it's demoralising.

There are far worse alternatives though. Apparently, in LA, compliments are free flowing, but the all important "Yes" to your film project is rarely forthcoming. There is even a famous line about it:

“Hollywood is the only place where you can die from encouragement.”
- Dorothy Parker

And it's worse if you take a lot of meetings. "Death by Meeting", I call it.

Even a thick skinned person has trouble enduring weeks of meetings where all you hear is "No".

This week's meetings were unusual for me, hence the late newsletter. In one evening alone I was fortunate enough to meet luminaries such as Paul Cox (the noted director of 'Exile'), Chris Murray (Popcorn Taxi director who launched Empire Magazine in Australia) and Vincent D'onofrio (acted in everything from 'Full Metal Jacket' to 'Men In Black').

But while this shoulder-rubbing was fun, as was the horrifically blatant name dropping I just did, it wasn't actually the best part of my week.

Earlier in the week, I had a meeting to discuss a strategic proposal around social networking and marketing. It had the potential to be dreadful, truly truly dreadful.

Instead, there was a metaphorical sparring match. It was polite, but we challenged each other. Ideas were thought of, and then replaced with better ideas.

Just over an hour later, we shook hands and headed our separate ways. "No" had not been said once, only "What if instead..."

My mind was flowing with ideas. I was energised.

And I realised, one good meeting will outweigh a calendar full of bad ones.

A good meeting will remind you why you expend the energy in pursuit of an idea.

To be challenged. To connect with peers. To produce your best work.

So, don't be dismayed by the sea of bad meetings you have to navigate. They serve a purpose.

They remind you what a good meeting looks like.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011


Good news! The feature film I worked on, John Duigan's 'Careless Love' has secured a limited cinema release in 2012!

In preparation, check out the trailer at:

In the first 20 seconds, my good friend and collaborator Kyle Sellers features as the guy eating pizza. Never a more impressive debut has been seen.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Have you ever played "buzz word bingo"?

The basic premise is to keep a tally of ridiculous buzz words used in meetings, like "synergy" or "strategic", and laugh quietly to yourself. It makes the meetings go faster, trust me.

Sometimes though, the jokes on you. Someone uses a word that everyone else seems to know...except you. Your only defense is to smile and nod, like a moron, hoping no-one notices your ignorance. Don't worry, it happens to all of us. William Shakespeare is said to have invented up to 1700 new words, including "skim milk". Imagine how often his peers had no idea what he was talking about.

A new word that keeps popping up for me is 'Gamesification'. The first time I heard it was in a new media presentation. I immediately looked around to see if everyone else knew what the speaker was talking about. They were all nodding. This means either they knew what 'Gamesification' was, or they were trying their hardest to appear that they did.

Months later, I was reading an article, and the word came up again. Hearing it twice told me it wasn't going away.

So I looked it up.

The only definition I could find was:

"Gamesification: Turning Other Things into Games".


There was not a lot more resources on this available, but over time I have managed to piece a few things together, which I am happy to share.

So, what is 'Gamesification'?

Allegedly, it's the future. 'Real life games'.

Instead of just going to a ski resort, you have a special chip in your ski pass which tracks all of your achievements - like you are a player in a game. Successfully ski the highest peak, and you earn a "badge" that shows you have. This shows up on your online profile, which you share, compare and compete with friends and other skiing fanatics.

Or you're a holidayer at a resort in Ibiza, and a special chip in a wristband allows you to track which dance party events you went to, like a badge of honour. Using your Facebook account, you can share these experiences with friends and link photos taken by professional photographers at the events. So, attending the parties becomes a game.

Or the movie premiere, a mystery movie, where you are given clues to follow to find the theatre and engage in the story. Like a game. (Note: a long video, but very good and he mentions the 'Transmedia/Gamesification' campaign for a film)

What is 'Gamesification'? It's about making real life experiences into games.

But, why would you create a real life game?

The money makers will say it's so that people attend your nightclub, ski at your resort, or watch your movie.

But the creators are saying it is about engaging with your audience and making the experience even better. The movie-goer loves the movie because they are more immersed in the world of the story. The skier loves the ski holiday because they can compete with their friends and track their winter vacation. The Ibiza clubbers can say "I was there!" to their friends and share stories.

And they buy things too, so everybody wins.

The consumer of the future is focussed on the "experience", not just buying things. Play to that, and people will show up in droves, like they did for the "3D Experience" of Avatar ($3Billion sales and counting).

That is why 'Gamesification' is not going away.

Making games of real life. Like 'buzz word bingo'.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011


This one will be very short and sweet.

I wouldn't wish food poisoning on anyone.

I had this great idea for this week's newsletter, about the 'Gamesification' of the world, especially in entertainment content. Like any idea, it was fermenting nicely over a few days.

Then, on the weekend, I went for a lunch with a friend of mine and a mutual acquaintance. We chatted about film, possible moves to L.A. and the idea of living comfortably off of arts grants. It was lovely and we all parted ways after a few hours and a good chin wag.

That night, a wild and violent party broke my stomach.

I'll save you the detail, but 5 days, 2 doctors visits and some strong medication later, and I am starting to feel a bit better. Yeesh.

But the show must go on. So, with that in mind, I thought I would share something small I noticed while on Facebook Chat. I was talking to a writer/director friend of mine, who was contemplating what he should do next. He made a good short film, has a few options now, but is paralysed by the thought of actually choosing something.

There is a lot of debate about whether we are living in a "short attention span" world now. There are a lot of negatives to this development, but one positive is it forces us to be more concise.

When I read back my reply to my friend, I realised that being forced to write small sentences in Facebook Chat, made me give better advice than if I had a page of free text.

I said:

when you're lost in the edit
go back to the script
good advice I got once
you had a story to tell
you told it well
it still has life out there
and is a stepping stone to a next thing
or the weight around your neck of the one great thing you did
up to you which one

That may not mean a lot to you, but it did to him.

So, what advice can I offer you?

Don't eat the grilled chicken sandwich.

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