Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's time.

Can you believe it? How quickly have the days and months evaporated.

But here we are again. Gathered around the hearth. A warm beverage in hand.

For the newcomers this year, I started our little 'Tales From the Opening Act' tradition in 2011. I noticed that many pundits were reviewing the year just past, with not a single neuron devoted to what lay ahead. Seemed like they were taking the easy road.

So I did it for them.

2012 was reviewed in 2011, and the tradition continued through 2012 and 2013. And now, without further adieu, I give you 'The 2015 Review'.

Or, as it shall be known, the battle royale'.

Yes, there will be a wave of bickering and sniping in 2015. Big companies. Big films. Big new business models.

The shells have well and truly been discarded, and industry players will be climbing over each other to get to the gold ring.

Take the 2015 major releases for a start.

In a normal year, you could genuinely separate the thoroughbreds from the pack. The films that would have the names, the brand and the marketing push to draw big audiences.

This year? Good luck.

There are hugely successful sequels slated for release in 2015, like 'Kung Fu Panda 3', and the final 'Hunger Games' of the franchise. Not to mention the big screen returns of Captain Jack Sparrow, Mad Max, in 'Fury Road', and killer dinosaurs in 'Jurassic World'.

But those films are, bizarrely, not even the top contenders.

Squaring off in an epic battle between two film titans, is the sequel to the $1.5 billion grossing original, 'Avengers 2: Age of Ultron', and the hugely anticipated first film under the new Disney regime 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens'.

Even 'Batman versus Superman' moved to a 2016 release to avoid these two blockbusters. Understandable, given I expect Star Wars VII, with its huge active fanbase, to rule the 2015 box office.

Interestingly, the jostling between 2015 mega-films has already begun, with bragging rights claimed over Youtube views on the respective teaser trailers. For the record, Star Wars VII won the moral victory, 'with 58.2 million views in its first week since its debut, surpassing Avengers: Age of Ultron with 50.6 million views and Jurassic World with 53.9 million views'.

That's a direct quote. Someone, somewhere, is taking this way too seriously.

But the pugilism doesn't stop there.

On the Awards circuit, there are a glut of films contending for the top prizes. The front runners for the Oscars are, allegedly, 'Boyhood', 'Birdman', 'The Imitation Game', 'Selma', and 'The Theory of Everything'.

Simple, right?

Except that the other expected nominees are similarly acclaimed films like 'The Grand Budapest Hotel', 'Whiplash', 'Gone Girl', 'Unbroken', and 'Foxcatcher'.

My very uncertain Oscar 'best film' pick, based purely on the strength of the reviews around direction and performance, is 'Birdman'. With this field, however, there will be an outcry no matter who wins. Someone's favourite will definitely miss out.

On the Australian awards front, the situation is no better.

There are a host of strong Australian films in contention for best picture at the Australian Academy Awards (the AACTAs)

The Spierig brothers have had a solid outing with 'Predestination'. Emile Sherman and Iain Canning have form as Oscar winners, and their latest film 'Tracks' is certainly in the mix. And let's not forget 'Charlie's Country', which won David Gulpilil a best actor nod at The Cannes Film Festival.

The real battle, however, seems to be forming between the critics' darling and the star turn. 'The Babadook', the little Australian horror film that has wowed critics around the world, and 'The Water Diviner', Russell Crowe's directorial debut.

Unfortunately, I'm a cynic, so I see the 'Water Diviner' dominating the 2015 AACTAs. I haven't seen the film, so I can't judge whether a 'Water Diviner' whitewash is appropriate, but I sense that recognising Australia's living film greats has become more of the motivation behind the AACTAs of late.

Either that, or the Australian Academy members just REALLY loved 'The Great Gatsby' last year.

Away from the films themselves, the clashes continue.

While there will be smaller skirmishes elsewhere, Australia will be THE subscription streaming video battle ground.

Netflix will arrive, albeit with a reduced content offering, in 2015. Their reward for Australian territory expansion?

An all out turf war with the combined forces of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and mining billionaire Gina Rineheart.

Yes, after years of very little development in the subscription streaming space in Australia, we suddenly have three proposed streaming services slated to launch: Presto (a Murdoch/Foxtel and Kerry Stokes/Channel 7 joint venture), Stan (a Nine and Rineheart/Fairfax Media joint venture), and Netflix.

If only we had the broadband infrastructure to support these services. Sigh.

There will at least be one winner amidst the collisions between streaming video providers: the paying audiences. Competition can only help the situation for used and abused Australian audiences. Having said that, just hope that Netflix plays a long term game with this Southern Hemisphere launch, otherwise Australia may be looking at a new media monopoly should Netflix decide to pull out.

On an international level, the first real challengers to Youtube will arise in 2015...and be crushed under Google's boot heel.

Unfortunately for these admirable upstarts, Youtube is free, funded by it's owner Google, and still owns 'first mover' advantage in the marketplace. The eventual usurper to Youtube will have to be offering something genuinely different for audiences. But how many 'Funny or Die' sites do we really need?

Meanwhile in 2015, while all of the focus has been on the content providers, the technology giants will suddenly stumble themselves into genuine relevancy again. Yes, Apple and others are dominating with the tablets and phones, but the largest growing space for technology leadership is, ironically, the humble television.


Because the content provision side is becoming so fragmented. The big content creators are all trying to launch, or refine, their own direct to audience streaming services (e.g. HBO-GO, AMC-TV, Disney's Hulu, Netflix, etc) which makes it more complicated for audiences to easily watch content from their different subscriptions. Who wants to connect a computer to your TV, then have to log into five different websites to watch content?

Into this breach steps Samsung, with more sophisticated smart televisions and, of course, Apple TV. The winner in the smart TV space is far from clear, but we do know that Apple sold at least 10 million Apple TV units in 2013. This amount of sales makes the device Apple's fastest-growing hardware product on offer.

People want content, need convenience and will pay for it, clearly. The user experience on smart TV's and smart TV enabling devices will become just as important in 2015 to the content makers, as it will be for audiences.

And finally, mark my words, someone, somewhere will trial flexible pricing in cinemas in 2015. This pioneer will push ahead despite all of the entrenched resistance from the traditional players. Films competing with other recreational activities, through improved audience experience, convenient access to content, and flexible pricing, is the future whether we like it or not. Adapt or perish.

So, there you have a glimpse into 2015.

While it is true, 2015 will be a battle royale', the reason is not because of animosity, but opportunity.

Opportunity, in fact, is the real theme of 2015.

The new film business models are becoming much clearer, bringing a measure of stability to an industry in flux. The DVD has stopped free-falling in sales and will continue to be one source of income, albeit much less than previously, from a diverse revenue stream for filmmakers. Traditional theatrical returns continue to grow at a reasonable rate, and the On-Demand Subscription video services are predicted to grow exponentially over the next 5 years.

Audiences. Revenues. Partnerships. Awards.

They are all on offer in 2015. You just have to please your masters.

And, like it or not, if you are making content for a living, the audience is now very firmly in charge.

2015 will be a year of opportunities, if you're willing to build and satisfy your audience.

But what are you going to do, to make it happen?

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Sunday, December 14, 2014


I'll say one thing for North Korea. They certainly know how to get revenge.

Who could have imagined, honestly, that releasing a Seth Rogen movie would lead to the biggest leak of internal emails, financial information, unfinished versions of films, and terabytes of confidential information, in movie studio history?

No one at Sony, that much is certain. Definitely not the primary targets, Amy Pascal, the Co-Chairman of Sony Entertainment and Academy Award winning producer, Scott Rudin.

Personally, I don't know how to feel about the situation. I believe it was wrong for the (allegedly) North Korean hackers to steal Pascal and Rudin's private email trail, amongst many other documents, and publish it. I really do.


I would be lying to suggest the insight their email discourse provides, into the filmmaking behemoth of the American studio system, didn't pique my interest.

And that ethical conundrum is the element of this saga which isn't getting significant traction in the press.

Yes, Rudin and Pascal traded offensive comments about Barack Obama liking Kevin Hart movies.

Yes, Rudin made less than flattering comments about Angelina Jolie, labeling her a "spoiled brat" that would ruin both his and Pascal's careers with the developing project 'Cleopatra'.

Even legendary Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, the inspiration for the hilarious Ari Gold character in 'Entourage', weighs in at one point.

But none of that interests me. Nor many other filmmakers. It's tabloid fodder.

What is of interest is the process by which alleged Hollywood experts developed, prepared, then bickered, and eventually parted ways over the 'Jobs' film. Ultimately Rudin was so dismayed at how Pascal and her Sony executives managed the project, that he took 'Jobs' to Universal, to studio-partner the film, instead.

Even in death, Steve Jobs manages to be a polarising figure, it seems.

The irony is that the ethos around Steve Jobs appears indirectly related to why his film biopic derailed at Sony.

Steve Jobs, you see, was famous for respecting the contribution of talented people. At Apple, Jobs was known to have an inner circle of trusted technologists. A cadre who had proved themselves against his high standards.

If you decide to read the leaked email trail, and I wouldn't be shocked if you didn't, you will notice none of this same respect within 'big Hollywood'.

They bicker like petulant children.

They speak about talent, like the excellent Michael Fassbender, as if he were cattle; consequently reducing their summary of him to a discussion on his genitalia.

The tone of the emails even inspired Hollywood star Zoe Saldana to comment:

'Being #hacked sucks but not as much as being an actress at the mercy of these producers tongues. Now everyone knows! #rudin #pascal #email'

So, taking a big picture view, what can anyone learn from this whole sorry mess?

Perhaps it is that you shouldn't mess with North Korea.

Or that, if you are a major media and technology company like Sony, you shouldn't short change the IT security department.

Various industry people, like Judd Apatow, are suggesting that this incident should teach us to respect people's privacy and not read the emails.

Others have stated that we should learn to be more civil in our electronic communications with each other, because nothing is private and EVERYTHING has the potential to be considered news.

I have a different take on it. There's two universal lessons on display here.

First, respect your peers, even if you don't like them.

I have written about this before, from my own experiences, but essentially the world is truly not a huge place. You will cross paths many times with the same people in a given vocation. Sometimes, a person will rub you the wrong way. That's life.

In the grand scheme, Rudin may not be tickled by the idea of working with (or even in the vicinity of) Jolie, but he was wrong to dismiss a fellow industry professional who has proven herself with critics, audiences, at the box office, and even with the Academy. She's not a Kardashian.

That lack of respect has now reverberated back to him. Karma is cruel.

Second, respect the work.

These people are supposed to be high ranking Hollywood experts. The very top of the filmmaking ecosystem. From the outside looking in, at least.

While Rudin at least appeared to be focused on making the best film possible, even tagging David Fincher to direct, neither he nor Pascal seemed to be able to get past themselves to make the project a reality. They had become two titans, locked in an endless battle of pride, will and ego.

The project bore the consequences.

So, never forget what Rudin and Pascal clearly have.

There are no gurus.

There are no definite smash hits.

There are no formulas to success.

There are only those who are willing to think harder, learn, respect others, and push the quality of their work.

Why can't that be you?

Monday, October 20, 2014


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Thursday, October 16, 2014


"I made my film!"

Such is the mating call of the early career filmmaker.

Their enthusiasm can be contagious, I'll admit. More experienced, and inevitably more jaded, filmmakers often linger around these bright faces, like nostalgic succubus'. The cynical filmmaker wants to be reminded of that feeling of pure creative joy. Lightning in a bottle.

Years later, however, these same exuberant, emerging creatives are often battle weary. The unicorn of their breakthrough success still as elusive as ever.

"I've made films, of better and better quality, but still am no closer to leaving (insert day job here), and living as a filmmaker".

As the frustration mounts, with the passing years and the seemingly dwindling probability of success, there are many who surrender.

Sometimes, that's not actually a bad thing. It takes a severely stubborn attitude to handle the cacophony of rejection you face as an aspiring creative.

It's not the life for everyone. You have to know what you're getting into. You will shed previous incarnations of yourself as a content creator, and have to toughen your hide again each time.

First, the goal will just be to make something. To take the ethereal concept of an idea, and make it tangible. Despite all the challenges, the doubts, the lack of resources, and the sleepless nights, your prize is to finish the film.

The problem I see, quite frequently, is that often a person's development stops here. Their mindset becomes fixed. The lack of recognition becomes an offense.

"But I made a film!"

Congratulations... what?

You MUST break through this plateau. It's debilitating. A self-imposed cage.

If you push through, you will find yourself in the second chapter for a creative: making something that engages with an audience.

This seems obvious, but there is a litany of walking cliches in the creative world. Filmmakers who consider the audience as an after-thought only. Visual storytelling is an expensive, public, masturbatory exercise for these people, sans trench coat.

Don't be that person. Build your audience. Think of them as you struggle and toil to execute your creative vision. You need them to engage with, to fulfil the greatest purpose of your art; and they need you, to challenge their perceptions and awaken their soul.

But be warned, this stage of your creative journey will be the longest and most arduous.

You will have successes and many failures. False starts and faux breakthroughs. There will be sycophants and saviours.

Most of all, you will consider, many times, giving up.

But take heart, if you haven't seriously considered quitting by this stage, you're either a billionaire's child or a lunatic.

And at your lowest ebb one lonely night, when you are lamenting (to your half-finished red wine) the sacrifices you have made for this gargantuan failure of a career, left only with a mindset and capability that has been honed through thousands of hours of work and learning, your phone rings.

It's your mother.

"Are you OK? We didn't see you at the party."

"I was working," you'll reply.

"On a Saturday night?"

And you'll explain that you were working on an important pitch, that you probably won't get it, but that you really believe in the story and the project regardless.

She'll say that's nice, you'll exchange some pleasantries, she just wanted to make sure you were alive after all, and the conversation will be over.

The red wine will taste slightly better, now that its had some air. Your phone will ring again.

"Yes, mum?"

But it's not your mother. It's the person you pitched your project to.

They love it.

They want it.

They want to be in business with you.

Because you have a perspective, and a way of storytelling, that is engaging and entertaining.

You hang up the phone. Your hand is shaking.

You have finally broken through. You'll be an "overnight success", apparently.

This moment is the final epoch for a creative: a period where you are creating stories, that delight audiences, and that are SO GOOD people feel compelled to pay for them.

'House of Cards'. 'Breaking Bad'. 'Frozen'. 'Game of Thrones'.

Can you make make visual stories of this quality? That engage millions, if not billions, of people around the world?

Thankfully, you don't have to.

You simply need to overwhelm your audience with work so impressive, that they would feel guilty not contributing to you as an artist.

But are you pushing yourself to reach this point?

Or are you still celebrating that you finished a film at all?

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Thursday, October 09, 2014


What does it mean to support an industry?

What is an industry anyway?

Buzz terms are thrown around like 'the film industry', 'the entertainment industry', and 'the dream factory'. Like secret societies that operate in the shadows.

Why do industries need support? Is it a purely economic argument? Is it social?

If they can't support themselves, shouldn't they be allowed to fail?

Ask a random sampling of people and you will get vastly different answers to the above questions. Save for one.

What is an industry?


An industry is the aggregation of the people within it. The practitioners.

People like you and I.

People who have a shared vocation. A congruent passion and goal.

For filmmakers, this goal is to tell visual stories, engage audiences, and make a living doing it. That's our industry, in a sentence.

And it's changing.

Technological disruption. Piracy. Global homogenisation. The changing habits of audiences.

All of these disruptions must be confronted by filmmakers to ensure we remain a relevant art form for our audiences.

But it's not a level playing field.

The United States has a heavy advantage, with huge existing financial resources to promote their industry's chance of success. We see these deep pockets in the marketing of American blockbusters, especially.

But Australian audiences want their own stories. We enjoy American films, certainly, but we like many others (the French, the British, the Indians, the Spanish, the Koreans, etc etc), want to see ourselves reflected on-screen.

And in this desire, this need to ensure that our screens are not totally dominated by American accents, the role of 'Screen Australia' is born.

To the uninitiated, 'Screen Australia' is the Australian Federal government screen industry agency. Their mission is to support the industry to grow and develop.

Why should the Australian screen industry receive government support, you might ask?

Because of the cultural desire to see Australian stories on screen. Because our industry is, relatively, very small and needs support to mature. Because the rewards of a successful 'dream factory' are lucrative, like the recent 'Marvel' films making over a billion dollars in revenue, each.

But I would ask you a similar question.

Why shouldn't the Australian screen industry receive government support?

The Australian mining industry receives AU$2billion (yes, with a 'B') a year via a Federal Government fuel tax credit. Government support for an already hugely profitable industry.

Shouldn't industry support go to an industry that actually needs it?

By comparison, how much did 'Screen Australia' receive in funding in 2013-2014?

AU$100.8million. With an 'M'

And, in the recent Federal Government budget, 'Screen Australia' received further funding cuts. It's a tough position to be in, certainly, and 'Screen Australia' has had to 'pass on' their funding cut to reductions in their industry support programs.

The 'flow on' decisions by 'Screen Australia', however, go right to the heart of this entire question: why support an industry?

In response to their reduced budget, 'Screen Australia' has levied the largest proportion, of the flow-on cuts they have to make, to their programs for new and emerging filmmakers. Kicking the little guys.

Of the roughly AU$5million in planned cuts to their programs, AU$2million has been cut from programs that will directly support early career filmmakers to get their start in an already tough industry.

Specifically, 'Screen Australia' cut money from their 'Talent Escalator' program, supporting emerging filmmakers to make high quality short films on their way to a feature film. They have also cut all of their funding to the state based 'Screen Network' organisations: Metro Screen (New South Wales), Media Resource Centre (South Australia), Wide Angle (Tasmania), Open Channel (Victoria), and The Film & Television Institute (Western Australia).

These 'Screen Network' organisations directly support emerging filmmakers with: small amounts of project funding; career and craft advice; cheap gear hire and facilities; networking and professional contacts; and accessible learning and development for their filmmaking capabilities.

And now, all of that support is under threat.

Yes, in a Government agency that is supposed to be about developing the Australian screen industry, they have decided to kill the future of our 'dream factory'.

And yet, the Federal Government is willing to offer Disney a AU$21.6million grant to shoot the next 'Pirates of The Caribbean' film in Australia. When 'Pirates 5' makes a huge profit for Disney, its creators and the Producers, how much of that will flow back in to the Australian industry?


So, I ask you, what is the point of supporting an industry?

Is it to give out taxpayer money to foreign companies, so that they can employ Australians for six months then leave?

Or is it about developing the current and future talent of this industry so that our filmmakers, and our films, can compete on an international level? To grow our industry both from the roots and the canopy?

I am lucky enough to make films and to support other filmmakers to make theirs. I still shake my head occasionally that I am fortunate enough to be in this position.

Through Opening Act Films, I get to tell stories that audiences all over the world have seen. I live two lives in film, however. I also work at Metro Screen, where I get to provide career planning and coaching to early career filmmakers.

Have you ever seen the look on a person's face when you help them get a tiny bit closer to their dreams?

It is, without a shred of doubt, magic.

I have sat across from a young guy in his early twenties, dumbstruck, as he cried at the possibility that he might actually make his dream to be a filmmaker a reality.

What am I supposed to tell him now?

That 'Screen Australia' doesn't think he deserves support? That the industry has shut the door on him?

I won't, because there are those of us who are going to fight for the future of emerging filmmakers in Australia. We are going to shout from the rooftops that supporting an industry is about creating opportunities for new and early career talent, not a cloistered elite hanging a 'NO VACANCY' sign.

This is about the priorities we elevate as a society via our government. Art or mining?

But it's about more than that. This is about the future of the Australian screen industry.

Will it be humbled with a whimper, or defended with a cacophony?

- - - - - - - - -


If you want to have your say on the abandonment of Australian emerging screen practitioners by 'Screen Australia', there will be a peaceful protest event at The Chavel Cinema in Sydney on Tuesday 2nd September, 6pm.

To register, check out:

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Thursday, October 02, 2014


Being the third, and final, part in this series, what follows will make infinitely more sense if you have read the previous Tales From the Opening Act: A View of the Future - Part 1  and  A View of the Future - Part 2

By now, what to expect from the future is either somewhat clearer to you, or even more clouded in impenetrable fog.

You may feel emboldened by your future prospects, or distraught at the fact that you can't comprehend where you fit.

Either is a natural reaction, to be truthful. Epochs of dramatic transition spawn many a mood swing. Navels worn from gazing.

Apparently, we are in an unprecedented, unheralded era of change and disruption. The old rules are either dead or dying. Even for the macro thinkers, there can be some anxiety at the idea of a complete paradigm shift.

But before you grab for the brown paper bag, there is a simple idea, worth considering, that should give you some peace of mind.

'Same as it ever was'.

Quality rises to the surface. People want something that is good and cheap, but will accept one or the other. A hit is a hit. Supply and demand.

Fundamental principles that are immovable, because the paradigm is, ultimately, built to service the whims and desires of people.

And, while the changes we face appear unprecedented, at their core they are simply a repeated variation of these fundamental principles.

Seem like a gross oversimplification?

Take the worldwide lament about the diminishing value of white collar jobs. It's a borderline wail from the suit and tie crowd.

"We can't get accounting jobs anymore!" 

There are many reasons thrown into the mix: an oversupply of people wanting white collar jobs; huge numbers of highly educated new workers constantly flooding the labour market; a growing number of white collar jobs being outsourced to cheap labour in developing countries; wail, wail, wail.
Meanwhile, as the ground turns to quicksand for white collar professions, the trades are having a renaissance. Booming wages, coupled with an undersupply of new tradespeople, has made blue collars desirable again.

Seems like a concerning fundamental shift in the orientation of our work force, right?

Except it has happened before. To the blue-collar professions. Squeezed by technological change and the volume of people entering the trades, the blue collars were once the jobs with diminishing returns. Until supply and demand kicked in, and people started moving towards white collar jobs.

And now, overbalanced to the white collar side, the pendulum is swinging the other way. Recalibrating the system.

'Same as it ever was'.

The filmmakers out there, in particular, might decry this simple idea.

"We filmmakers are facing a disruption to our industry, from technology and piracy, the likes of which has never been seen!" 

Well, someone should tell that to 20th Century Fox CEO, Jim Gianopulos, who, when recently interviewed, described another great technological disruption forty years ago:

'One of Fox’s long-ago studio chiefs, Spyros Skouras looms large in his mind. Though Skouras led Fox more than 40 years before Gianopulos took the reins, some of the challenges he faced were similar to the ones that threaten today’s movie business.

“This was a time when all the theaters were closing,” Gianopulos says, “when television had decimated the theatergoing audience numbers. There was a retrenchment across the entire industry. Before that, people had been going to the movies two or three times a week.”

The answer for Skouras was to go bigger. He invested in CinemaScope, an ultra-widescreen format that helped differentiate the theatrical experience from the home entertainment one. He introduced it to the masses in the 1950s.'

The movie business, faced with new technology that made it easier for people to watch content at home, had to innovate to survive.

'Same as it ever was'.

"What about social media?", you say.

"Social media has connected niche groups and fragmented the larger pool of audiences into many smaller ones. This fragmentation makes it harder to reach audiences with broad messages about our (insert thing here), a challenge we have NEVER seen before!"

Audience fragmentation is indeed true. We are all enamored with our weird little worlds. I can't argue with that.

But to understand how very little has actually changed, you simply need to read about how Facebook HQ is planning and launching advertising campaigns, for big companies, through Facebook:

'For a day and a half, brand managers, ad agency creative types and Facebook strategists had gathered in airy conference rooms and around cafeteria tables in Facebook’s Madison Avenue offices, filling up whiteboards and scratch pads with one heartfelt or clever tagline after another.

The idea was to come up with a big, sweeping campaign to market MegaRed, a premium alternative to fish oil pills, to users of the social network.'

Whiteboards. Notepads. Pitch meetings. Marketing campaigns.

This kind of approach is absolutely no different to how a campaign would be made for the traditional platform of television. The only difference is that Facebook can more specifically target niche audiences, based on their dossiers of 'likes' of every single user.
Yes, Facebook is now a marketing channel just like any other.

Does that shock you?

It shouldn't.

In the broad scheme of things, no matter how complicated the system, you should never forget that the constructs around you are part of a system built by people, for people. 
When you look to the past, you see that infrastructure, commerce, art and society existed for people.

When you look to the present, while startlingly different in tone, complexity and character, you see the same.

So, when you look to the future, whether it be the technology, or the economics, or the social construct, as long as there are people running it, you will be able to comprehend it on this fundamental level.

And it will be precisely your ability to let go of the minutia when you are forced to change, to see the bigger picture, that will determine whether you succeed or fail with the new opportunities that arise.

Your success, your ability to learn and evolve with the new system as you need to, will be in your hands.

'Same as it ever was'.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014


What follows will make a lot more sense if you have read the previous Tales From the Opening Act: 'A View of the Future - Part 1'

So, where were we?

Before we were so rudely interrupted by Australia's federal film support agency, drastically cutting funding to its support for emerging filmmakers, we were talking about the future.

Our collective future.

Terrifying. Opaque. Fraught with risk.

That horrible destination down the treacherous road.


...the apex. The synthesis of all of our mistakes into something better. The evolution spurred by change and knowledge.

An oasis.

Either option seems fairly wishy washy, to be honest. Personally, I want to get a sense of what to expect. Where are the trends taking us?

Are you even paying attention to them?

That's why I started with technology in 'part one'. Because, technology has become a magic wand to wave over consequences of poor behaviour. We don't need to be informed. We don't need to use the powers of reason. Future technology will fix any mistakes we make today.

And everywhere ignorance reigns.

Like in film and TV. The popular opinion is that all screen stories will eventually be delivered online. You may watch your content on a television, but it will be on-demand and delivered over an internet connection.

TVs. Tablets. Laptops. Smartphones. They'll all be connected to the big internet pipe.

But what happens when the pipe reaches maximum capacity?

Did you even know the internet has a limit?

Yes, we can lay more pipes. But then what? What happens when they fill, exponentially?

Thankfully, there are scientists developing ways to make the internet 'smarter'. To improve the way the information moves through the web, rather than simply building a bigger pipe. But why has the worldwide discourse around the entire future of content distribution simply ignored this point?

What kind of industry simply assumes that their critical infrastructure will be serviceable, while they simultaneously overload it?

Bad assumptions. Again and again.

We don't need to know the details. We don't need to delve into the minutia. We can safely assume that someone else will take care of it.

Until they don't.

Why, at a time when information is at it's most accessible in the history of humanity, is ignorance so pervasive?

While you ponder that idea, consider this. As the gap between those who remain deliberately ignorant, and those who don't, has widened, so too has the gap between rich and poor in our society.

The informed know that facts bequeath power. Have you seen the calculations on a Wall Street derivative? They look like a mathematics or physics genius wrote them.

Oh, because they did.

Meanwhile, the uneducated masses fight to be on reality TV shows and clamor for a mediocre celebrity. The winners and losers couldn't be clearer.

There are many memorials in the graveyard of bad assumptions. Kodak. LucasArts.James Cameron's former production company. The City of Detroit.

All of them assumed that their circumstances wouldn't change. That the challenges of a transforming world would fade, eventually.

And they did. One enormous bankruptcy at a time.

This is the future you will be a part of. The information and connection economy. Where everything, even the titans of old, must justify their existence.

Including you.

Stay informed, evolve, or sink into the sands.

Impossible? It's already happening.

When Netflix needed to determine whether their hit show 'House of Cards' should be green-lit, they didn't go to the 'gut feel' of some grey-haired Hollywood soothsayer on the lot.

They went to their data.

When a filmmaker wants to check in with their audience, the true believers, they don't put out a press release and hope some of their people will see it. They get on social media and speak with their tribe directly.

When TV Comedian John Oliver wants to demonstrate the absurdity around climate change skepticism, he simply uses the publicly accessible facts on the scientific consensus, and then turns it into a sight gag.

And yet, still, a conservative TV Producer makes 'The Great Global Warming Swindle', presenting "scientific evidence" that is debunked on its own Wikipedia page.

Why would someone engage in this deliberate ignorance?


Having to justify your place in the ecosystem is a scary idea, after all.

"What if I can't explain how I benefit the tribe?"

Or worse.

"What if I'm not needed at all?"

But rather than ask (and answer) these difficult questions, we close ourselves off. We pretend that change isn't happening all around us. This fear becomes the tether that holds us back from challenging ourselves and doing something remarkable with the little time we have on this planet.

We ride our blissful ignorance to our ultimate failure.


But, despite this perplexing survival of general ignorance, there is reason to hope. Why?

Because ignorance, thankfully, can be remedied.

That is the beauty of the age we live in, and the trend that will inform the future. Books, information, data, content, opinions, art music, movies and screen stories are more accessible than ever. This access is only improving, meaning that culture, enlightenment and art will only be a click away for the curious.

For those who are willing to move beyond their assumptions, to ask difficult questions of themselves, to demonstrate how they add to the lives of others in a meaningful way, and to embrace the 'information and connection age', the future will hold incredible opportunities.

It starts with a choice. Which would you rather be?

Blissful and doomed?

Or informed and prosperous?

- - - - - - - - -

Saturday, September 20, 2014

OA FILMS NEWS - 'Chip' selected for the Antenna International Documentary Festival 2014

Great news!

Our short animated documentary, 'Chip' has been selected for the esteemed Antenna International Documentary Festival 2014.

This is a wonderful compliment to our film from an excellent festival that is dedicated to bringing documentary to engaged audiences.

The film is screening at the Chauvel Cinema, in Sydney, at 9:30pm on Saturday 18th October.

We are screening with the acclaimed documentary 'The Dog', and tickets are on sale now at

Thursday, September 18, 2014


As I lay in bed one morning, my head throbbing, I wondered why I couldn't handle a big night out like I used to.

In my early twenties, I could drink for hours on an empty stomach, and finish only as the sun came up. Usually with some greasy food on the way home, for good measure.

A decade later, so much has changed. Too much indulgence and I lose two days until I feel human again.

And this wasn't the first time where I have felt the prolonged effects of poor, nostalgic, decision making. But with each extended recovery session, I feel like the lesson is sinking in.

There is something paralysing about fundamental change, that it always requires pain to spur adjustment.

These days, it seems like many of the fundamental assumptions we grew up with are failing. That the rule book is being shredded as we watch. But we aren't learning yet. Not until the pain sinks in.

Like the global financial crisis. Like what we see coming with climate change.

If only we were a more rapidly adaptive species. No-one wants to be in a burning house, wishing they had installed smoke detectors. Or lying in bed, wondering how many more debilitating headaches are needed before you start to avoid multiple-hour benders.

Is it because we are obstinate? Or arrogant? Or apathetic?

Or is it because, when the destination is unclear, it is easier to rely on what has come before?

We have always burned fossil fuels, and we can't see the world without them, so we don't heavily invest in renewables. We have always had printed books, so we begrudgingly adopt the efficient delivery of e-books. We have always had the cinema, so we try and force people to go to multiplexes to watch movies, whether they want to or not.

No pain, yet, so the archaic models hold on.

But what if, instead, we had an articulated vision of what the future could look like. Would that make the unknown less terrifying, and therefore easier to begin our evolution?

I think so.

So, this is part one of a three part exploration of that idea: 'What will the future look like?'

And, in keeping with our hard-wiring, I thought it was best to start with something familiar: 'technology'.

Dating back decades, there have been an enormous number of predictions about what a technology based future will look like. While most have centred on sci-fi, or armageddon, they all have a similar theme.

That the world will look very different, almost alien, to how it does now.

Bizarrely shaped structures. Vehicles that look more like 'The Jetsons' than anything practical. Oh, and who could forget that idea that we all wear some small variations of exactly the same outfit? Silver velour with a 'V' stripe sound appealing?

But what if the world didn't look, on the surface, all that different in 50 years? Would that disappoint you?

In fact, the growing discourse is that the future will look quite similar to now, in many ways. To the eye, of course.

What you won't be able to see, by design, will be the huge amount of surreptitious technology that will be integrated into pretty much everything. The idea is that technology will become conspicuous by it's absence, rather than it's presence.

"What exactly does that look like?", I hear you ask, exasperated.

It looks like this:

A motorcycle helmet with video, GPS navigation and standard smart-phone capability built into it. The screen is, of course, the visor.

And this:

Visual displays, like your phone or tablet, built into any glass surface conceivable. Kitchen bench tops. Windows. The fridge.

But the integration is even more dramatic when it comes to phones and mobile technology. Currently, we think of phones and tablets as 'screens' that we have to interact with in a particular way.

But what if I told you we could live in a 'post screen' world? What would that look like?

Like this:

Augmented reality. Contact lenses that allow you to look at a blank wall and see a television. Implants that allow you to make a phone call by simply making gestures and then speaking.

In short, technology that you don't have to make a concerted choice to interact with. The technology supports you on your terms, rather than requiring you to make a deliberate effort to use it.

How much excess brain capacity could you unlock by having your technology work with you, rather than because of you? How many more minutes in a day could you reclaim?

These are all just ideas, of course. Even the motorcycle helmet, which is a crowdfunding campaign, doesn't technically exist. Yet.

But how much less daunting does the future seem when we imagine it through this lens? Not some alien reality to survive, but a world, still built for and by people, with the opportunities of more advanced knowledge at our fingertips.

Opportunity, not survival.

Except when it comes to hangovers. You have to survive those.

So lets hope hangover cures improve too.

- - - - - - - - -

Thursday, September 11, 2014


One night, back before I essentially de-activated my Facebook account, I was at home drinking a beer.

Yes, I am a Facebook detractor now. I always knew they used my data for marketing, that was the the true price of the 'free' service, but then I read in horror about the secret psychology experiment they did on a million users.

That kind of insidious manipulation is something I want no part of.

But, once upon a time, I was addicted to this digital barbiturate, just like you.

So there I was, on the couch. Hugged by a mild humidity. Pleasantly warm, but on a knife edge between comfort and sweating. I'm not as skinny as my early twenties anymore, you see. We thirty-somethings have to waste brain capacity on personal climate control.

It's a formula. Tshirt, plus shorts, equals too warm. Add cold drinks to adjust.

Something was flickering across the television. I was mostly in my own head anyway, but I need the quiet background murmur. It's a pathos earned from a suburban upbringing. Suddenly, my phone called out to me, like it does. "Pay attention to me".

It was a Facebook notification. Narcotics for the social animal.

I was skeptical. Facebook had become a never ending advertisement carousel. I kept coming back though because, amongst the blatant product placement and self-promotion, there were still the seeds of community.

In the Facebook of not so long ago, it was still worth trawling though the weeds to get that joke, feeling or idea that gets your brain humming and makes you feel connected again. But there is a lot of scrolling required to find the gems.

This fragmentation in quality is to be expected. Anything driven by so many disparate people is bound to have a bubble and squeak of motives. Some people want to sell. Others to buy. Some, just to be seen.

The ones crying out for the most attention are creative's Facebook pages. Emerging and established artists, of varying quality, who will do anything for that thumbs up. They want to know you are there. That their efforts cause at least a ripple, if not a wave.

But waiting to earn this ripple?


And so, the wave does indeed arrive. A Facebook tsunami of unabashed expectation of recognition.

"You should pay attention to me! Like my page!"

Because nothing is more appealing than commanding that a crowd assemble.

I sipped my beer. The iphone thumbprint scanner rejected me. Twice. Sweaty thumb. Should I open a window?

Then, success. Swipe to the Facebook app. Visit 'planet notification'.

'(Filmmaker I know) has invited you to like (their new creative company) Facebook page'

I checked the person. An acquaintance rather than a friend.

Beige status on the friend chart. Because this is how we rank people these days. Would they help me move? Would a friendly phone call seem like breaching a personal boundary? Tally these answers to determine their place on the 'friend to well-wisher' scale.

A sudden thought struck me. I checked the 'likes' on my 'Opening Act Films' page.

Mr Beige was noticeably absent.

And now a dilemma. I pondered. Should it matter that he hasn't supported me?

I hadn't sent a request to like 'Opening Act Films', after all. I am a firm believer in 'Permission Marketing' you see. You earn attention, with your work, rather than demand it. Then, if your creative output is good enough and it breaks through the cacophony, you ensure you have a repository of your work somewhere, easily accessible, for anyone who wants it. The ultimate goal, of course, is that those who enjoy and believe in your work feel compelled to share it with others. Too good to be kept a secret.

Mr Biege, however, was nowhere near that subtle with his approach.

So, I had an internal debate.

Was not 'liking' someone's Facebook page, because they had not reciprocated, akin to forced marketing?

I sipped my beer.

I researched the concepts of 'Direct' and 'Permission Marketing' a little more.

I had a meal.

An idea crystallised.

I considered the pages of creatives I had 'liked', who have reciprocated with me. I contrasted that with the pages for those simply demanding an audience, like Mr Beige. Two things became instantly clear.

The people who engage with your creative work, and then ask you to engage with theirs ('the reciprocators'), also tend overwhelmingly to try and create a sense of community online.

They are the ones who share ideas, prompt discussion, and support other creatives that they interact with (including me). 'The reciprocators' realise that we are all in this together, and the more filmmakers thriving, the better off we all are.

They pay it forward.

Creatives like Mr Beige, who simply try to accumulate 'likes' for the sake of their own reputation, are the ones who add little value to your consciousness online. Mr Beige and his kin want to 'sell' themselves to you, not to interact with you. Bizarrely, they don't seem to understand the meaning of the words 'social' or 'networking'.

But they're on Facebook, none-the-less.

It's the growing tectonic problem with Facebook. What was once about a sense of online community has evolved into another channel for advertising and self-promotion.

Which is another reason why I am barely using the service anymore. The marketers have run away with the asylum keys, and Mr Beige is not the kind of person I want to be in a creative community with.

And I'm not alone, it seems.

Because what is the point of online social connection without community?

On this particular night, however, I still believed in Facebook.

I stared at the notifications list, full of neglected invitations for pages from 'reciprocators' and 'non-reciprocators' alike. I took up the challenge.

You can guess which pages I 'liked' and which I ignored.

After I finished my beer, of course.

- - - - - - - - -

Thursday, September 04, 2014


The world seems to be getting smaller.

I was speaking today with a colleague about a gentleman who has made it his prime directive to be a pain in the proverbial. My colleague recognised something in the behaviour and asked for some particulars.

It was a relative of his. Whoops.

But my colleague agreed. The subject in question IS a royal pain in the as*. Still, I had to blink twice at the coincidence.

It's a funny thing when the world is simultaneously huge and yet seems ironically close. When I lived in London, I randomly bumped into people on the street who I knew from Australia. Twice actually.

I, literally, laughed in their faces.

My brain couldn't comprehend the magnitude of time and space that had suddenly been shaken, beaten and realigned into this perfect moment of synchronicity between two people. So I chortled.

Not everyone has the same reaction when confronted with the universe's mischievousness. To some, the closing proximity of the huddled masses is a cause for concern. A symptom of the degradation of society. 'Paradise Lost' in a sense.

So we enact laws. We build fences. We force people into camps. We live in gated communities. We ban discourse and peaceful dissent. We find reasons, ways and means to keep each other at arms length. To keep 'them' away.


So you can't take what's mine. So I can preserve my lot.

Unfortunately, for people who think this way, life is temporal. Nothing lasts. By design as much as intent. You may be gripping the mast as tightly as you can, taking comfort in its solidity, but around you the sea is a changing multitude. A tempest.

Now, I'm not saying that you should completely let go and be washed away with the torrent. That would be idiotic. But to endure the storm, you have to accept that the world is always changing, for better or worse. There will be winners and losers of new paradigms.

Apple. Microsoft. Adobe. None of these giants are guaranteed to be on Olympus forever. And there is just as much opportunity to be shared as there is failure.

Glib, I'll grant you. Like a Tony Robbins generality.

You want proof!

That's the risk averse world we have developed into. So many of us have become turtles, peering out from the humid safety of our shells. Until I can show you that something is ABSOLUTELY true or possible, with positively no risk on your part, you won't take the leap.


I could tell you the story of Reed Hastings. Reed was teaching high school mathematics in Swaziland in the early 80's, and thinking of what he would do on his return to the United States. The Peace Corps had been the adventure he was promised, but he was twenty-five now, and needed to start thinking about what he would do with his life. Reed returned to the US, where he successfully applied to Stanford University and completed a Master's Degree in Computer Science in 1988. Travelling the world had a lasting impact on Reed, and he knew that ultimately he wanted to create his own business. After three years working for others, he founded his first company, Pure Software and began the American Dream of entrepreneurship. The software company boomed, growing annually, exponentially. Reed, with no management experience, was terrified. Over his head. He tried to fire himself as CEO, twice, only to have his attempts denied by the Board of Directors. In 1997, after the public listing of his company, it was acquired by Rational Software, and Reed finally departed his startup. He was extremely wealthy now, due to the buy-out, but with no new direction. Luckily, his new fortune would allow Reed to pay the extortionate late fee that he had incurred on his rented copy of 'Apollo 13'. How ridiculous, he thought, charging someone $40 in late fees for a two year-old film on VHS? Movie rental should be more like a gym, he thought. Pay your subscription fee and, if you never use it, so be it. You could get multiple movies, or one, and keep the movie as long as you like. Seems like something people would want. And so, in 1997, the ousted entrepreneur founded his new company.


Failure and opportunity in equal measure, you see.

And there is far more to the history of Netflix, the now uber-successful entertainment behemoth. The failing business model. The internet download speed issues. The content licensing problems. The fall of DVD's.

Uncertainty. Doubt. The hint of catastrophe.

But now even Hollywood studio executives lament 'I wish I worked at Netflix'. True story.

Because there is something on Mr Hastings' side that buffers him against the waves of tumult.

He is open minded to what can be built rather than lost.

When the DVD was finally ending, and the whole successful Netflix business model needed to change to online video streaming, the company could have roped themselves to the mast and hoped for the best. Like Kodak versus the digital camera.

Netflix dived into streaming and won. Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

Are you willing to change course, even when you're a success in the current model, because the tide has shifted?

For years I have heard filmmakers moan about not being able to monetise short films, except with festival prize money. If they were lucky, they said, they could aggregate them for a television broadcaster. I told them to launch a Netflix for short film.

No one would ever want that, they said.

People catch public transport, I said. They don't want to watch 15 minutes of a feature film, but an amazing 15 minute short piece of content. Shorts are much more suited to mobiles and tablets too.

Not a chance of success, the filmmakers said.

And then, yesterday, I saw this:

A short film app, like Netflix, which curates high quality short films into genres and, surprise, duration. Oh, and their promo starts with:

"Imagine you're on your daily commute, or you're in a long queue, or you're bored and waiting for your mates to show up..."


I don't know the 'Fliqio' founders, nor whether they will be a success. What I do know is that they saw the wave of short films and short filmmakers emerging, the fragmentation of audiences, and the growth in people watching content on mobiles as an opportunity; which so many others saw as the filmmaker's apocalypse.

Perhaps you share nothing in common with Reed Hastings. Or Richard Branson. Or Martin Scorcese. Or the founders of 'Fliqio'.

It doesn't matter.

The one thing that unites those who will be anointed the future winners is that they are open minded. They are the opportunists, not bemoaning the lost past but pursing the future.

You can come along for the ride, or you can keep clinging to that mast.

Praying for the world to go back to the way it was.

While the ship goes down.

- - - - - - - - -

Thursday, August 28, 2014


So, last week I wrote about that fact that Jimmy Fallon is now making jokes about how backward thinking the film business is.

What saddened me was not that a comedian would find humour in our pain, but more that a mediocre comedian would discover this joke. How bad can it be if a late night yuckster has figured it out?

In the week that followed, I wondered whether I had been too harsh in my final assessment: that the movie business had become a bad joke.

Well, more news has arrived. And no-one is laughing anymore.

'The (USA Summer Film) season is expected to finish down 15 to 20 percent compared with 2013, the worst year-over-year decline in three decades, and revenue will struggle to crack $4 billion, which hasn't happened in eight years.'

One part of the article is so adorably pathetic, however, you will struggle to stifle a chuckle.
Laments one studio executive, "I wish I worked at Netflix."


And this is what it has come to in the upper echelons of the industry. No innovation. Just 'grass is greener' pining.

3D was supposed to be the prodigal son. A returned sideshow that had matured to the point of respectability. Because nothing says respectable like seven foot tall, blue people with Australian accents.

Never-the-less, the modernising of 3D was going to be the talisman that made cinema an 'experience' again. And yes, the audiences would flock back in droves, heralding a new Eden of theatrical film prosperity.


All these years later, after we have overcharged people to sit through bad movies, with even more expensive overbuttered popcorn, we are still not thinking of our audiences. The flaw is in where most analysis starts: the golden age of cinema. When cinema was respected. When children watched quietly, rather than talking and texting through the second act climax.

The golden age.

Oh, how quickly we forget our history.

The golden age of cinema, used as the thoroughly outdated yardstick of success, was based on a FALSE scarcity. Audiences had to go to the cinemas because you couldn't see the film by any other means. That the cinemas were the glorious theaters of yesteryear, red curtains and all, was a throw back to the times rather than any decision about audience engagement. If cinema owners thought you would watch a film in a card board box, with yesterdays popcorn, and pay $24 for the privilege, they would usher you to your seat in row F of the Westinghouse refrigerator packaging without hesitation.

And, as the cinema owners of the past realised they had a captive audience, the prices of cinema tickets went up, while the cinema-going experience became more and more generic and low frills.

This is the audience we have inherited today. Abused. Exploited. Pillaged. Ready to take control of their experience via the new delivery platforms like Netflix.

There is no loyalty from these audiences. Nor should there be, based on their continued treatment. And so the box office crumbles.

Surely, all is lost.

Or is it?

What if someone began to truly think about how to make cinema more engaging? More immersive. Preferably without needing cranium accessories to make it work.
What could an unfettered mind create in the cinema experience, if only thinking about making it better for audiences? Making the act of going to the cinema mean something, aside from just seeing the film earlier than everyone else.

What if?

And into the breach, appears Screen X.

Screen X is what occurs when someone actually starts to contemplate why people might go to the cinema. 270 degrees of screen, along the walls of the cinema, making you feel immersed in the action on the traditional primary screen.

But don't take my word for it. See for yourself.


Before the cynics chime in, yes, this exists. It's not like the overstated hype of Asimo. Screen X premiered at a huge film festival called Busan, in Korea late last year.

And suddenly, there is a point to being in the darkened theater again. This is what an audience will respond to.

You can keep masticating the same old cinema distribution model, squeezing every last nutrient until its over. But do you really want to compete with Netflix the day 'simultaneous release' arrives?

Or, you can innovate and give cinema audiences a reason to walk into that hallowed ground again.

Yes, I know it will be painful to evolve. But the well-worn path is fading very quickly into oblivion. It's time to adapt or fail. Be the piper, or be the rats.

Is it about what you want, or your audience?

- - - - - - - - -

Thursday, August 21, 2014


"Here’s a little bad news for the movie studios. I saw that this year’s box office revenue is down 20 percent from last summer. I’m not sure why that is, but I bet you there’s a documentary on Netflix about it."
                                                                         - Jimmy Fallon, 'The Tonight Show', 8th July 2014

Then he gave a wry smile.

This was a part of Jimmy Fallon's opening comedy monologue on 'The Tonight Show'.

But he's not alone.

Louis CK, the now famous stand up comedian, was asked about the bizzaro world of the internet; where willing, paying audiences are geo-blocked from accessing content they can simply steal online.

Namely, Australia:

"The whole country pirates there. (In the US) weirdos pirate things, but in Australia, moms and dads pirate video, because we’re not letting them buy it. We’re keeping it from them. Everybody in the world is like "take my f**king credit card and just let me have the thing, and I’ll pay". But if you’re going to be a pain in the a*s, f**k you! I can steal all of it!"

Now, Louis CK is observant, intelligent and business savvy. I am not surprised he has a perspective on the piracy issue, nor that he has noticed the disparity in treatment of Australian audiences, in particular.

But Jimmy Fallon?

Jimmy Fallon is still doing jokes about Rob Ford. The "crack smoking Mayor of Toronto". Yes, Mr Fallon is still wringing this punchline for every drop he can get. Ironically, the first time Rob Ford was mentioned on the Tonight Show was in May 2013.

When Jay Leno still hosted it.

Since the Shakespearian days, comedians have been among the most insightful of players. Who can forget 'Feste' in 'Twelfth Night'? Cutting to the quick with razor observation; a mantle now taken up by Louis CK.

But late night talk show hosts?

They're the court jesters.

And that's when you know this whole piracy/access to content issue has become totally absurd.

The film industry is, officially, a bad joke.

- - - - - - - - -

Thursday, August 14, 2014


You have a fan.

Yes, you. Regardless of your vocation.

We all do. People who support us, in our professional lives, and believe that we can deliver. They believe in us.

This belief scales. The belief that a respectful colleague has in you to deliver is actually no different to a ‘Beliebers’ perception that simply touching Justin Bieber will make their life better. Sure, one is more based in logic, but there is no distinction, quantitatively, between the two levels of belief.

It’s akin to happiness. Over a drink in Shanghai, a Producer and I were sharing stories about people we had encountered making films. His work had taken him to Afghanistan quite a bit, and he had avoided the temptation to watch the Afghan life from a safe bubble. I had observed a myriad of people through my work as well. Our common point, was what we had seen first hand.

Happiness scales.

The joy that someone in Afghanistan feels when their child is able to be educated, is no different to the joy you feel when you get a promotion here. That your microcosms are different sizes, economically, has no bearing if you aren’t aware of it. Joy, is joy.

And these commonalities are more important than you think. When you think of delivering on your expectations at work, regardless of what you do, you share the same expectations as Bieber has to his audience. The audience size is different, of course, but neither one of you will have a job if you don’t perform.

We all cultivate these fans. When you go to a job interview, you put on your costume and you gambol and dance to the delight of the onlookers. If they enjoy your performance, you make fans, and money flows in. If not, hit the pavement.

We live through these routines and rituals for our entire lives, filled with uncertainty and doubt about our ultimate fate, without ever asking ourselves a simple question.

How many fans do you need to live comfortably from your work?

One million? Two hundred thousand?


I’ll grant you, it’s a more difficult question than it seems. But surely the peace that can come from understanding this point makes it worth asking?

For most people, it’s usually one audience member: your immediate boss.

But for an artist?

Scratch the surface and there are layers you have never considered.

The depth of the connection. How niche is this audience? How long will they be your audience member? How much access are you willing to give an adoring fan?

Will you be as cold and distant as Avril Lavigne? Or as inappropriately, hilariously, gropey as Rhianna?

A friend and colleague recently started experimenting with this very notion. He’s using a range of content to try and build and audience on Instagram. When the people are gathered then, in front of his soap box, he will test what level of engagement they show towards him and his work.

It’s a wild west, in this regard. Rules are being made on the fly. Some experts proclaim that building an audience must be a structured process of analysis, planning, and well executed strategy. Others suggest that good work will build your audience for you. Neither one is incorrect.

Realistically, the answer returns, inevitably, to you.

What level of income do you need? You would be surprised how you can make freelancing work when you are willing to scale back on your spending.

Most importantly, however, what kind of work are you producing? Lamborghini, prior to 2003 when they were bought by Audi, used to make only 250 cars per year. Justin Bieber, on the other hand, has 52 million followers.

Recently, a guy from Ohio created a Kickstarter campaign as a satire of crowdfunding. His ‘project’ that needed funding was to make a potato salad. That’s it. Just potato salad.

5,953 backed the project. It has reached $49,070 of a $10 original goal. That’s roughly $9 a person.

Could you live on $50,000 a year?

I could.

So, there is a starting point. That’s my tribe. In a world of roughly seven billion people, I need to find at least five thousand committed fans who are willing to give me a minimum of $10 a year for my work.

How many do you need?

This will be your base. As long as you keep your tribe happy, you are free to court more fans with the quality of your work. 52 million fans, at $10 a year…

But you have to perform. You have to maintain the integrity of your work, to keep your tribe happy rather than lose them while chasing a bigger audience.

Because you have dedicated fans now.

Your fans believe in you. Your responsibility as an artist is to them.

And so you have to deliver.

Even if it’s just potato salad.

- - - - - - - - -

Thursday, August 07, 2014


So, you're a Hollywood screenwriter.

You have worked many years and developed your craft.

You have some excellent PRODUCED credits, including 'Tropic Thunder' and 'Catch Me If You Can'.

You are at the top of your game, and you have been hired onto the latest installment of a Hollywood film franchise that has grossed US$1.3 billion worldwide.

Your time to shine, right?

And then, there's a delay.

The film's star, Will Smith, is not happy with the script.

There's a further delay. Still no agreement.

Time passes in multitudes. What is going on?

Suddenly, a shadowy figure emerges in the distance. He's not on the project. But he is. But he's not.


Who is this Soccio?

He worked with Will Smith as a writer on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air'? So?

And then, you realise. Will Smith has brought in this man. This Soccio.

A usurper! A new writer! What can he possibly contribute to the 'Men In Black' franchise?

Word reaches you. Soccio has worked with Smith for years in the shadows. Soccio is someone Will Smith brings onto projects to alter dialogue and make Smith's characters sound like 'Will Smith'.
Because, you sigh audibly, 'Will Smith' is a brand now. A brand that Will Smith, himself, protects.

And now, you have a question to answer.

Because, as the article says:

'But it's unlikely any of the other writers would care to make an issue of it. (After all, Koepp -- to give an example -- pulled down more than $250,000 a week for his services.)'

There's the line. You've worked hard for your craft. You are staring down a horribly delayed film, with a script in transit.

And you have been sideswiped, by Soccio.
But the money is SO good.

This is your trial as a screenwriter, perhaps as a human being. The question only you can answer.

Do you want to enrich yourself, or do you want to be the one with the real power?

The lame duck or the Screenwriter in Black?

That's your choice.

Welcome to Hollywood.

- - - - - - - - -

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Rejoice friends!

Netflix, our noble savior has arrived!

No more shall Australian audiences wait six months for the same TV shows as the rest of the world.

Never again shall a DVD be a more viable option than simply staying at home and using technology you already own.

The prices shall be lower. The entertainment plentiful.

And the convenience, oh the convenience, shall be the likes of which we have never seen.

A new golden age. Eden renewed. The cornucopia arrived at last.

And if you believe any of that, you are living in a fool's paradise.

I have two words for you. Rupert. Murdoch.

Yes, that Rupert Murdoch. The one who owns both a Hollywood major studio, 20th Century Fox, and an Australian cable television provider, Foxtel. Oh, and that same Australian cable television provider is trying to create a streaming service for its licensed content. In direct competition with Netflix's business model.

The same Rupert Murdoch who, in 1975, ordered his newspaper editors to 'Kill Whitlam', the Australian Prime Minister at the time. Of course, he meant politically, not literally.

The effect, however, was almost literal. Ten months later, Gough Whitlam was ousted as Australian Prime Minister.

When a man this powerful is lobbying against you, how easy do you think business becomes?

But Rupert's not alone. Did I mention the other Hollywood studios, complicit in denying Australian audiences convenient access to content? Those same Hollywood studios, who decry Australian piracy publicly, then resist easier online access to content for Australians because the current system means Hollywood can extort a higher price from antipodeans.

I wrote about this extortion, this 'dirty little secret', previously:

So, before you plan your 'Welcome Netflix' party, imagine this.

A group of Australians are stuck on a small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

There is a plane, flown by an independent pilot for a price, which airdrops supplies to the stranded Australians, at an inflated cost. Let's call this independent aviator, Rupert.

Meanwhile, on the distant mainland, a group of large organisations have built an enormous catapult. This catapult launches important perishables to the stranded Australians, again for a hugely inflated price. Let's call this group of organisations, Hollywood.

For many years, Rupert and Hollywood have been making a very, VERY comfortable living charging inflated prices to these marooned Australians.

But suddenly, a new structure appears on the mainland's shore. It's the foundations of a bridge. The construction trajectory is the island. At last, the Australians will be free again. Free to make choices. This bridge is called, Netflix.

Rupert and Hollywood soon realise what is happening.

Rupert diverts his flights to drop explosives on the expanding bridge construction.

Meanwhile, the catapult turns. Salvo after salvo rattles the bridge.

Still construction continues.

Rupert doubles his efforts. He calls in favours. The bridge has its building permit rescinded.

Relentlessly, the plane drops waves of bombs. The catapult seemingly never rests.

The bridge builders fight back. The permit is restored. The Netflix bridge continues to grow.

Frantic now. Attack after attack. Destruction. War.

But to no avail. Netflix arrives on the island.

The stranded Australians are free!!

But wait.

Enduring and perseverance came at a cost. The bridge toll, which was supposed to be affordable to the stranded Australians, is now more than what they would have paid for the airdrops and catapult deliveries.

And that bridge? After the campaign of punishment it received, the foundations are shaky, at best. The bridge is a mere shell of what was originally planned.

Because war takes a toll. And Rupert Murdoch, his Fox empire, and the studios know how to fight it.

So if you think, for one second, that the major studios will deign to lose money through a lower wholesale price for content in Australia, or that Rupert's 20th Century Fox will allow Netflix to open in Australia, without a fight of unholy armageddon proportions, you too are living on a fantasy island in the middle of the Pacific.

Yes, Netflix may arrive here. It will, however, be a shell of the American service.

But all is not lost.

The bridge will be shaky. The journey perilous. But we'll get off the stranded island.

A better future will come for Australian audiences.

And when it does, we won't forget. We'll never forget.

Who built the bridge to save us.

And who tried to tear it down.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014


You have two choices in life when it comes to dealing with people.

You can assume the worst in their intentions. Or you can believe that people are, on the whole, going to do right by you.

You can give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove that they deserve otherwise. Or, you can live always behind the turrets.

There are arguments for both approaches. Preparing for the lowest ebb in people allows you to protect yourself, it's true. Being open to the best in your peers creates opportunity.

But openness creates vulnerability. Vulnerability can be exploited. Shielding yourself, meanwhile, creates a closed mind. A closed mind shuns fortuitous timing, for fear of risk.

No-one gets to their perspective unassisted, I'll grant you. We all have our traumas and successes.

But it's how we respond to them that defines us.

There are some individual universes that can abide a closed perspective. A detective, by experience, training and necessity, has a mindset that must doubt the purity of human intention.

But yours?

Is your world improved or degraded by how you approach the people in it?

As a filmmaker, I may not be a font of knowledge, but I know this:

Without openness towards people, you cannot collaborate. You cannot share ideas if you think they will be stolen.

Without openness towards people, you cannot ask for help. The risk of being taken advantage of is too great.

Without openness towards people, you cannot empathise. It's impossible to see the perspective of someone you have already judged.

And it is herein that the tragedy lies, when you assume the worst in people: you lose the most.

Because without collaboration, timely assistance, and the power of empathy, a filmmaker (although I would argue most people as well) is doomed.

The walls you raise become the tomb of your dreams.


But don't despair. Because, through the grace of fortune, it's not too late. Your mindset belongs to you, its lord and master.

Your outlook can be resolved exactly where it began. With a choice.

What will yours be?

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