Tuesday, October 30, 2012

OAFILMS NEWS - 'Part One: Love' screening in the Sandfly Film Festival!

Fresh off our successful screening at the Antenna Documentary Festival, 'Part One: Love' will be screening in the Sandfly Film Festival 2012!


We will have two screenings, one at their Newtown event and one in the big finale and awards night in Jervis Bay:

Newtown Rooftop Cinema, Newtown, Sydney, NSW
Entry via Shenken Espresso Bar (formally The Old Fish Shop Cafe), 239A King Street Newtown

Huskisson Picture Theatre, Huskisson, Jervis Bay, NSW

For more details about the other great films, and for tickets to the event, check out:


Sunday, October 28, 2012


There has been a murder.

The DVD lies dead in the library, with a blunt force trauma wound to the head.

The culprits are lined up.

No-one saw the murder happen.

But one of the assembled here is the murderer.


Was it Netflix and other online distribution platforms that made it easy for people to get their films and television online?

Was it piracy?

Was it the retailers who charged too high a price for the DVD's themselves?

Was it the public, who stopped buying DVDs; preferring BluRays and online video?

Was it colonel mustard in the library with the candlestick?

If you didn't understand that last one, or any of the above, you are under 25 years old. Google 'Cluedo'.

Back to the murder, NO, it was none of these suspects.

The murderer is none other than....

...the studios!

Yes, that's right, the ones who actually make the films and TV shows.

Preposterous, you say! Why would they kill the very thing that has made them so much money?

It is very simple. They did it by accident.

You see, viewing preferences have changed. Once, people would watch a TV show ONE EPISODE at a time on television. This was the norm for a very long time.

And then, DVDs arrived. Suddenly, the idea of a DIY '(insert beloved TV show name here) marathon' was created. Audiences, alone or in groups, could watch entire series' of their favourite shows in mammoth, multi-hour sessions.

Marathons already existed, of course, but only at the whim of the television stations. Now, you could have a marathon of YOUR favourite show, when YOU wanted.

And believe it or not, people have now developed an appetite for watching their favourite programs on their terms.

Hence why audiences have become less patient waiting for new episodes. They want it now!

And so the studios, seeing this as a perfect opportunity to make MORE money, started producing countless DVDs of TV shows. Season after season of your favourites became available in a few small discs at your local DVD retailer.

And people bought them, in droves, to watch at their convenience in the comfort of their own homes.

But then, online video arrived. Suddenly, audiences didn't need to even go the DVD store anymore!

They could stay in, watch on their own terms, and stop filling up their shelves with DVD packages.

"But what about DVD's?", the studios said.

"We don't need DVD's anymore." the audience replied, "we have streaming via the internet."

And that is where we are now.

Yes, DVD's are on the way out.

Their sales have been steadily declining for a while now.

But don't take my word for it:




And no matter how much they blame everyone else, it was the studios that killed the DVD. In a quest for more money, they changed audience behaviour.

And now internet streaming is the next evolution of the convenience of DVD. Internet streaming is also a much better fit for the new audience behaviour/demand.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, by the way. It's just new.

And new is always scary, at first.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012


No matter what anyone says, you sometimes have to make sacrifices to pay the rent and keep food on your table.

This is especially true if you also have mouths to feed.

Filmmakers are no different, especially in Australia.

You may want to make nothing but idiosyncratic art films, but if it means you starve to death, you may have to make different choices.

The balancing act is avoiding making ALL of your choices purely on what will garner you a fee or increase your film's budget level. That can be soul destroying.

It is one of the reasons why I try and limit my attendance at industry events. There are always too many people there who have been forced to make too many choices against their creative desires.

It changes them. Their perspective becomes far too pragmatic, and it seriously saps your enthusiasm to be around them.

With that in mind, I recently attended a forum on how to put together an international film co-production (i.e. a film where it is officially considered the product of two or more countries). It was put on by the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA).

The workshop itself was actually very informative. It highlighted how complex these international co-productions are, given they are governed by international treaties.

One speaker in particular was a successful active producer who was very energetic about the opportunities international co-productions presented. He was very inspiring.

And then there was the excessive pragmatist. He spoke after the inspiring producer guy.

When asked why a filmmaker should consider utilising an international co-production, he said "to get more money into your budget".

No cultural aspects. No audience engagement.

Just money.

Interestingly, I had some insight on this topic from my experience at the Shanghai International Film Festival this year.

You see, everyone wants to get into China. Australian film producers, American film producers, European film producers and even other Asian film producers. The worst kept secret in the world is that China is evolving a HUGE middle class.

Middle class means you have disposable income above your basic necessities. What do people spend a large proportion of their disposable income on?


The Americans are the most assertive in this space. They even remade the Disney film 'High School Musical', with Chinese teenagers for a Chinese audience.

The only problem? The film tanked. No-one went to see it.

And herein lies the problem.

Films are supposed to find an audience. If you make a film and add a 'token cultural element', hoping that the local audience will adopt it as their own, you are setting yourself up for a catastrophic failure.

This was the overwhelming message from the discussion panels on international co-productions in Shanghai.

Audiences are so experienced with film and media now, that you can't hand them any old garbage and tell them it will 'speak to them'. It won't pass their radar.

It has to be organically theirs, with elements of their culture and/or experience woven into the very fabric of the story.

In a way, however, this is one of the big risks, but also big opportunities with an international co-production. To tell an interesting story, with a unique blended cultural perspective, that therefore garners support from the audiences of the co-production countries and becomes a critical and financial success.

Tough to do, certainly, but doesn't that tell you it could be great if you pull it off?

And so, back in the present day, I wanted to give the excessive pragmatist a chance to redeem himself. Surely, I thought, he couldn't have been serious when he said it was just about getting a bigger budget, so that he could charge a Producer fee and eke out a living? Surely, I thought, it is about storytelling?

So I asked: given the negative experience of the Chinese High School Musical, with their 'cookie cutter' approach to story and incorporating culture into the film, had he incorporated the idea of international co-productions as a way of better engaging with these diverse audiences and organically developing stories that speak to different cultures into his process for creating an international co-production?

This is it, I thought. A chance for him to say that he was being overly practical. A chance for him to say that, as well as a larger budget, that he really does want to use these co-production mechanisms to tell stories that genuinely engage with audiences, from different cultural perspectives, all over the world. A true cross-cultural storyteller.    

His answer?

"In a word, no."

As a producer he was not interested in exploring cultural aspects, but needed to make a living so his kids don't eat catfood.

That is not me taking creative license. That is what he said, verbatim.

And I realised, he has turned filmmaking into his day job.

For him, it was about putting food on the table first, with a passion for storytelling second.

Why? What had caused him to imbalance his perspective too far towards money?

I don't know.

Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge him for that choice. I even understand it on some level. He has kids after all.

But, my god, there are far easier and more lucrative ways to make a living.

If you aren't in this because of a passion for telling stories, and finding an audience who responds to them, then what's the point?

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Oh dear.

I remember when the only mobile phone anyone had was a Nokia. The Nokia 5110, now the equivalent of a telephone housebrick, was in everyone's pocket.

Then, phones started to get smaller.

And smarter.

Nokia fell behind.

First only a little, but then...

...the iphone. And the Android.

They changed everything.

Now Nokia, once THE telephone giant, is struggling to survive.

So Nokia went back to the drawing board. They came up with a new phone that they believed would launch their comeback. The Nokia Lumia 920.

The big selling point on this new Nokia is, believe it or not, the camera. Apparently, it has impressive image stabilisation, which has long been the weak point of the iphone camera.

So, to prove the point, Nokia shot a video. A demonstration video to show how good the images from the new Lumia 920 phone camera can be.

At their press conference, Nokia lauded the new phone's camera, playing their demonstration video proudly. The video wowed the assembled journalists with its image quality.

Nokia were so happy with it, they even put the Lumia 920 demonstration video online.

Big mistake.

You see, they faked it.

A keen eye online spotted a reflection in the video. The reflection clearly showed that the camera used to shoot the video was not the Nokia phone.



Nokia, now in damage control, released the following statement:

"In an effort to demonstrate the benefits of optical image stabilization (which eliminates blurry images and improves pictures shot in low light conditions), we produced a video that simulates what we will be able to deliver with OIS."


Rather than use your phone to shoot the video, you use a completely different camera (not even a phone camera!) to 'simulate' it?

Why haven't they learned? In the internet age, you will get caught out.

But that's not what actually amuses me about this story.

I find it more interesting that this is even a scandal.

Why does anyone care? It's a phone, not a video camera.

The reaction to this issue is an indicator of the future. There is a new wave coming.

Young people have no issue watching content on their relatively tiny phone screens.

It stands to logic then, that they will have a better tolerance to content that is shot on mobile phone cameras.

Currently, shooting on a phone camera is a poor man's way to shoot a film. That's the general attitude, anyway.

However, a phone screen is only 4 inches across, generally. Do you need to invest the same in shooting the film for a mobile screen as you would if it was going to be on a 22 foot cinema screen?

Keep in mind, that a cinema quality camera rental for a 6 week film shoot can cost in the vicinity of $50,000, including lenses.

$50,000 or $700, considering it will be watched on a VERY forgiving 4 inch screen?

There is even already a film festival for films shot on mobile phones.

That's why this is even a scandal. Because, in the future, a lot of content will be shot on mobile phones. The phone camera is becoming essential.

If only Nokia realised. Perhaps they would have been a little more honest.

Oh well.

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

OAFILMS NEWS - 'Part One: Love' screening in the Antenna Documentary Festival!

Feel like being informed AND entertained? Then check out our short doco, 'Part One: Love' in The Antenna Documentary Festival at 3pm this Sunday 14th October. It's screening at the Dendy in Newtown with the feature documentary 'Over My Dead Body'.


Or lay around on a Sunday and stay ignorant. Your choice.

OAFILMS NEWS - Opening Act Films is on Facebook...finally

That's right, Opening Act Films has finally joined the ranks of social media.

Check it out for an easy way to get updates about our films and other assorted goodness.

Monday, October 01, 2012


In any field, there are people that love to get buried in the details.

Ask an architect about the 'materiality' of a building, if you don't believe me. But be prepared to lose hours of your life that you will never get back.

In filmmaking, with so much technology around cameras, lighting, sound, editing, SFX, VFX, etc etc, there is an absolute plethora of 'techies' willing to speak about their given field of expertise.

Now, understanding certain elements of the technology is important. As a storyteller, you need to know what tools the technology gives you to actually tell your stories. 

You also need to know how to speak to the specialists who will help you achieve your vision. I believe it's called 'speaking techie'.

But keep in mind that technological knowledge can go too far.

Often, extreme levels of technical knowledge are simply a way to feel better about the fact that filmmaking is an ethereal business, where no-one really knows what will be a hit or not.

It's easier to memorise the technical specs of a new camera, rather than accept that, despite your best intentions and depthless technical knowledge, an audience might not connect with your work.

It is a powerful narcotic. A semblance of control in a frequently unpredictable industry.

The irony of course is that technical specs and cameras change quickly and frequently, but storytelling is timeless.

Keep in mind, however, that I am a writer and producer, not a camera person. I speak techie, but I am most certainly not a techie.

So, to all of you fellow non-techie people out there, I offer this advice. 

Respect the technical knowledge of your supporting experts, but don't be intimidated by it. Know your limitations and develop a process to mitigate them while harnessing the abilities of your experts.

For example, rather than memorising a camera spec sheet, you can do a camera test.

Just ask these experts in their annual 'Camera Wars' event.

They don't talk about camera specs. They talk about the final product as it appears on the screen. 

And these are camera people, so they would be even more tempted to obsess over camera technology details.

But they don't. 

So remember, the only thing that is really important when it comes to film technology is how the final product looks.  

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