Friday, March 30, 2012


For some reason, Hollywood hates fun.

I don't know if it is because they are terrified of not being taken seriously, or because fun is inefficient.

I am on the outside looking in, after all.

In any case, we are losing what could be classic memories before they happen. 

This time it's The Muppets.

Beloved by millions.

Educators and friends to generations of children and adults. 

But not good enough for the Oscars, apparently.

During the recent Academy Awards telecast, the Muppets were banned from singing their Oscar nominated song, "Man or Muppet".,68933/?mobile=true = the song.

Now, I know acting and filmmaking are an art, on some level, and are not to be taken lightly.

I know that in Hollywood, sometimes all people have is their credibility.

But, I don't care.

The film industry has many responsibilities, and one is entertaining people. Forget the audience at your own peril.

I meet so many wonderful creatives and filmmakers who are beautifully attuned to good storytelling and can also put themselves in their audiences perspective. It makes them great filmmakers.

And telling a great story is about taking risks. All creatives are at risk of looking foolish and being ridiculed for their art. But when they get it right, you can change lives.

Or, at the very least, you can guide people to that thing we all crave: fun.

Imagine Kermit and Billy Crystal on stage together. We would be talking about it for years. Fantastic!

Yes, the Oscars are steeped in esteem and prestige.

But come on, the Muppets have been around since 1954. They've earned it.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

OAFILMS NEWS - 'The Good Neighbour' is off to America and is eligible for an IF Award nomination!!

The Good Neighbour has been selected for the Rochester International Film Festival, which is the oldest continually running film festival in the world!

This will be The Good Neighbour's North American Premier, which is a fantastic next step for the film. We are screening on Saturday, April 21st, in the final session of the festival, at 8:00pm. Our Director, the one and only Mr James Crisp, will be representing the film there and collecting our 'Official Selection' trophy. Make us proud Crispy.

The screening at the Byron Bay Film Festival also went really well and the film was very well received. I made the trip to Byron for the screening and the feedback on all aspects of the film, the performances and the production values, was all really positive.

You should also know that The Good Neighbour is now eligible for an Inside Film Awards nomination! This is because of our screening at the wonderful Byron Bay Film Festival, and is something that you can influence by voting for the film online. For those who don't know, the IF Awards are one of the two main film awards on the Australian film calendar, the other being the Australian Academy Awards.

The IF Awards are open to voting from the public via the internet. To help our chances of being nominated, we have put a version of 'The Good Neighbour' online on Vimeo ( so that people can watch the film and then vote for it on the IF Awards website. Please note, the VIMEO site is password protected (password: THEGNFULL2011) to make sure we don't disqualify ourselves from screening in other festivals.

Please watch the film (if you haven't already seen it) and then rate the film at:

If we get enough good ratings, we can be IF Award nominated. Also, please feel free to PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS!! Together, we might be able to win our film its biggest honour yet!

Remember, we are also posting information to our Facebook Page (

Monday, March 26, 2012


This has been one of those weeks when I thank (insert deity here) for a moment to scratch myself.

When I did finally get a moment, I did what we all do when trying to clear one's head yet avoid complete silence. I prostrated at the altar of television.

While I could have settled for mindless fluff like the Kardashians, I instead was drawn to a gangly Briton named Loius Theroux.

I had seen some of his work before, but nothing like this. Louis visited the city anecdotally referred to as the most Methamphetamine ("Crystal Meth") addicted in America.

With humanity and honesty, he delved into the lives of the drug addicted and the desperate. Very moving.

I'm not here, however, to do a review on the program. You can watch and do that yourself.

What struck me was the depth to which it delved into people's lives. For better or worse.

It occurred to me that, while I was interested in the program and what I learned about these people who's lives had become slaves to a drug, I was discovering an awful truth that would have remained otherwise unseen.

I couldn't help but think: is the growing role of the filmmaker to illuminate truths in the world making things better or worse?

Before Facebook, for example, there were certain things you didn't know about complete strangers. Then, when Facebook appeared, everyone was so excited by this new technology that they uploaded their whole lives online. Slowly, however, we have realised that discretion can be a good thing. Don't believe me? Ask the people who lost their jobs for putting information on their Facebook wall. (

The same is true for filmmakers, in that the technology to make our films (cameras and such) has become very cheap. As a result, there are more and more documentaries being made, leading to a deeper and deeper examination of the human condition.

If one were to judge the welfare of the world, based on this wave of documentary films, you might assume that the we are all doomed.

The question therefore, of responsibility for the filmmaker's message, is becoming particularly important. Are filmmakers, like Louis Theroux, making the world a worse place by exploring our deepest and darkest secrets?

Personally, I think this is simply a matter of visibility. I read once about 'Golden Age Theory', which suggested people always yearn for a "Golden Age" (where the world was a better place) that never really existed in the first place.

Similarly, in the modern age, we are gaining drastically more visibility of each others' lives through documentaries and technology, and therefore it would be easy to think there are more social problems than in the wonderful past ('The Golden Age').

The truth is, however, people have always been weird, perverted and strange. They just kept it a secret.

One of my favourite stand-up comedians, Stewart Lee, articulated this much better than I can. Mr Lee stated that, while we judge the people we see on programs like Jerry Springer, the themes of these shows can easily be found in classic literature. Shakespeare's plays for example were about incest, murder, rape and adultery.

The behaviour, therefore, isn't new. We just couldn't see it in high definition piped right into our living rooms in Shakespeare's day.

While all these thoughts were crossing my mind, Louie's documentary on Crystal Meth addiction suddenly illuminated the truth for me very clearly. As one of the drug addicted young men was preparing to smoke meth, he detailed the fact that his father used to cook the drug and sell it in the 1970's. According to the man, the market for crystal meth was large in the city, even as far back as the 1970's.

In his own words, this man was saying that Louis Theroux, therefore, is not exacerbating this problem by making a film about it. The problem exists, regardless of whether there is a filmmaker there to explore it or not.

Having said that, I can't be completely sure that these documentaries are not making the world worse. After all, someone could argue that awareness breeds curiosity and therefore more of the problem.

I can be certain of two things, however.

First, the capabilities given to us by technology are growing faster than our ability to determine whether we should use it.

And second, I should have just watched the Kardashians.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012


What if one person decided that you, and all the people you work with, suddenly owed thousands of dollars?

What if that same person decided that the work you do should not even be called a profession?

How would you react?

In a strange case of reality writing better stories than Hollywood screenwriters, one such person actually exists.

Judge Diane Kroupa.

Judge Kroupa is a Federal Tax judge in the United States from South Dakota. In what should surprise very few of you, Judge Kroupa was appointed to the United States Tax Court, in 2003, by none other then George 'Dubya' Bush. With that in mind, you may form your own opinions on where Judge Kroupa falls in the liberal-conservative spectrum.

Lee Storey, on the other hand, is a water rights lawyer from Arizona. After 15 years of marriage, Mrs Storey found out that her husband was keeping a secret. Mrs Storey discovered that, in the 1960s, Mr Storey had been part of the quasi-right-wing-religious-cult-music-group 'Up With People'. 'Up With People' became famous for touring their group of fresh-faced wholesome American youth, who also just happened to have conservative political and religious beliefs, around the country to sing about good old fashioned values and morality. They were actually parodied in the brilliant mock-umentary film 'A Mighty Mind'.

Now, though her husband had distanced himself from 'Up With People' due to their 'interesting' beliefs around organised marriage and marital sex, Mrs Storey knew this was a tale that needed to be told.

With no experience, Mrs Storey set about producing and directing a documentary telling the story of her husband and 'Up With People'. In 2009, despite having to learn filmmaking from scratch, Mrs Storey finished her film: 'Smile Till It Hurts - The 'Up With People Story'.

The film screened at the Slamdance Film Festival and the Florida Film Festival in 2009 and Mrs Storey won best director at First Glance Film Festival. Not bad for a first effort.

Joy soon turned to concern, however, when Mrs Storey was called to a tax audit in 2010 regarding the claiming of production expenses for 'Smile Till It Hurts' as 'business expenditure'. Claiming expenses as 'business expenditure' is a common practice for any business in the world, so Mrs Storey had a right to feel quietly confident.

Then, in March 2011, the audit turned into a tax trial. During the trial in the United States Tax Court, Judge Kroupa made a statement that made every documentary maker break out into a cold sweat.

Judge Kroupa declared that documentary films 'mainly served to educate rather than make money'.


Judge Kroupa's contention, which would then be the view of the tax authorities in the United States, is that documentary filmmaking is therefore a not-for-profit venture and holds the tax status of a HOBBY.

Production expenses incurred for a hobby, are not tax deductible. If this view were to be upheld, Mrs Storey, and many other documentary filmmakers, would owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties to the United States tax authorities.

All because a conservative judge, with no film production experience and therefore no understanding of the time it effort it takes to finish a film, believes that there is no profit motive in making a documentary.

And apparently, Mrs Storey is not the first to experience this.

But at least, for this filmmaker, his case was restricted to his own personal finances. Judge Kroupa has decided that her case will determine whether all documentary films can be considered a for-profit exercise.

Where does she get off?

Any documentary filmmaker, even some I know of that work for a charity, will tell you that they ABSOLUTELY want to make a profit.

But that's not actually the point.

The point is that the logic of Judge Kroupa's contention is wafer thin. Regardless of what I know to be the perspective of actual filmmakers, does she honestly believe that anyone putting their blood and sweat into finishing a film for YEARS, then doesn't want it to make any money? On what planet?

How else are they meant to live and make more films?

Filmmaking is a lot like oil prospecting. The investment is huge and a dry well can happen easily. The result is a bust and a lot of financial loss. But, if you strike oil, the returns can be substantial.

Would anyone in their right mind say that oil prospectors are not motivated by profit?

Do oil prospectors quit when they find one well?

No. And neither do filmmakers. They use the profit they make to eat, create jobs and create more films that entertain, educate and inspire.

But I am sure Judge Kroupa knows all of this, being a Federal Taxation Judge.

Seriously, you couldn't make this stuff up.

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Sunday, March 04, 2012


I am writing this on a plane on the way to the Byron Bay International Film festival. So far my phone hasn't caused a major failure in the plane's navigational system, but if you are now reading this newsletter posthumously, the jokes on me.

It's a cliche I know, but I actually worried about what I would wear to the red carpet opening night tonight. There is no getting past it though. In the film industry, where the entire product is based on pretend characters, played on false sets or locations, appearances matter.

But how much?

Last year I made an exploratory trip to Los Angeles, to see how the ideological centre of the industry operates. It was certainly eye opening, but not for the reason you think.

What struck me was how many disappointed tourists there were. They had grown up watching the glorious facades of Hollywood, only to get there and find out it was a working town. Hollywood is a lot like Detroit, extremely functional with only a few real tourist fun spots. The only difference is Detroit exports the blue collar car industry and Hollywood the glitz of entertainment. But that's not what they tell you on TV and the movies.

The same thing has happened at filmmaker "meet and greets" I've been too. There are always people at these events who put a lot of effort into looking 'successful' or appearing to be 'developing projects', when their film slate or CV shows they have barely finished a script or a short film. They try their best to look the part, can actually be quite rude (because they are trying to avoid being caught out) and have little experience to talk about and add to the knowledge of the other filmmakers in the room.

They certainly have 'cool' clothes though.

There is something to be said for good grooming, but even more to be said for authenticity. Lady gaga hasn't learned this lesson yet, but she's working on it.

The realisation for me, as I critiqued my way mercilessly through my own wardrobe, was that its easy to be distracted by appearing to be successful. It's much harder to actually be a success.

In the end, rather than trying to construct a veneer of impressive glamour, or pretending to be a major success, I decided to just dress like myself.

Jeans, a white tshirt and a suit jacket.

I'll impress them with my jokes.

Assuming the plane lands safely.

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