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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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