Thursday, December 31, 2015


There's a red moon again tonight.

I know all the hype already happened about the main lunar eclipse, a week ago, but there it is. Hanging low, almost at the city skyline, a red-tinged oblong. When a whiff of cloud sweeps past, it looks like a gothic painting of modernity.

But the world has moved on. In the twenty-four hour news cycle, stories get churned and burned quickly. Nothing lasts, not even something cosmic or beautiful.

It's bizarre then, in this world where simultaneously everything and nothing is important, that there is so much coverage of the same events. So much repetition.

A simple Google 'News' search for 'lunar eclipse news stories October 2014' brings up 141,000 results. If you drop the 'News' requirement of the search, it records 27,300,000 results; and fifteen pages deep the search results are still about the 'blood red moon'.

I am sure there were small moments of nuance in each of these reports, but was there any perspective on the lunar event so radical that it differed markedly from the other 140,999?

Moon. Red. Eclipse. Rare event.

That's about it.

So why so much coverage of the same thing? How, in this world where we can all read the same news story instantly, from the same single source, do so many offshoots exist?

Because they're localised.

Where is the best place in Sydney, Mexico, Azerbaijan, view the lunar eclipse?

What is the cultural perspective of Spain, Qatar, Japan, etc...of a 'blood red moon'?

Each one, while essentially touching on the same thing, speaks to the audience in that region.

Yes, I know it's counter-intuitive, at first, but in a slowly homogenising world the local perspective is suddenly relevant again. It is the unexpected by-product of a world becoming more beige: there are huge, faceless, mass stories and stories that occur in the street outside your window.

Niche and mass. Tent-pole blockbuster films, and small films that are suited to you and people like you.

This was not planned. This was not strategic. The reinvention of local is part of a humanistic wave that few expected. It was a predictable return, we are still just people living in communities after all, and yet it has crept into the consciousness; like social media once did.

And there is some zealotry behind a movement like this. That underlying fear of being made 'expendable' by the globalised machine means any supposed panacea is heralded as a savior.

But it is not the messiah.

If your work is generic and derives no value from what you, personally, bring to it, then you will always be in the shadow of someone willing to replace you for pennies less.

The real question is, why would you subject yourself to doing that work in the first place?

No, your work needs to be LOCAL, LIVE, or GREAT.

That is the work that endures. The work that defines you. The work that is needed in this rapidly changing world.

Local, in that your work meets the needs of someone within a certain niche or locality. That locality can be as big or small as you like, a whole country or one town, but it will ultimately exclude a group much larger than itself; and in doing so will always be relevant to those within.


Live, in that your work can only be really experienced properly in a way you define as the creator. Of critical importance is that you are not using the delivery format to hold your work hostage, creating a false scarcity to raise the price, but that experiencing it the way you prescribe makes it the best it can be.


Great, in that your work is so unique, transcendent, and so absolutely incredible, that it rises above the cacophony of content and publicity in the system (usually via word of mouth) and reaches a huge audience. Of all three, this is the hardest to achieve by far.

There is a fourth option, of course.


Simply be the cheapest provider of your kind of work for as long as you can be.

But in a globalising world, where production and jobs can so quickly be moved to the lowest rung, how long can you stay in that free-fall before you hit bottom?

Who wants to live with the threat of being replaced looming, like a red moon hanging low in the sky, over your shoulder?

Local, live, great, or cheap.

What are you going to aim for?

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Last night, along with 4.6 million others, I watched the 2014 NRL Rugby League Grand Final.

While it's far shy of the 111 million viewers of the NFL's Superbowl, the Grand Final is our best effort to emulate the American sporting behemoth.

I always get a funny reaction in film circles when I talk about watching sports. There is either total indifference, or outright disdain.

I can understand the polarising reaction. Sports generally receive a vaunted status that can irritate many artistic types, as well as being direct competition for audience attention.

But I watched the Grand Final anyway. It was thrilling.

There is little by way of comparison for the tribalism that sport can engender. So many narratives. So many emotions.

And this Grand Final had a particularly storied air to it.

Two teams, the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs, that had a canon of history. The Bulldogs had fought their way back to the ultimate contest after losing the 2012 Grand Final. The Rabbitohs were the reformed under-performers, now with their hint of Hollywood glamour, owned by Oscar winner Russell Crowe.

The Bulldogs were playing as the heavy underdogs, known for their gritty style. The Rabbitohs were the fairytale, having been excommunicated from the competition in the early 2000s, won their way back via the courts, and were now in a position to end their forty-three year run without premierships.

But there was something else to all of this spectacle, for me.

I grew up in Western Sydney. Some of my fondest memories were Grand Final barbecues; huge social events that brought together different families to break bread, tell stories, and then cheer on the main event. The game was important, of course, but years later I realised what made these events special was community.

We had our tribe.

One of the families in our tribe are passionate Rabbitohs supporters. The sporting team has become a common thread through the lives of everyone in their family unit, from the father and mother, down through their children, and to their grandchildren.

A year ago the patriarch of this family passed away after a long battle with cancer. There were many heartbreaks that came from such a loss, but one in particular was that he would never see the Rabbitohs become champions alongside his children and grandchildren. The 43 year wait would never be ended.

I was with this family last night as the Rabbitohs fought their way to triumph. I saw what it meant to them. I could feel the catharsis of the victory, and the sadness that their father, husband and grandfather was not there to see it.

And today, they could join the larger community of Rabbitohs fans to celebrate their heroes. Their extended tribe, all experiencing this sporting event on a very personal level.

This emotional reaction to sports baffles many people. Fundamentally, sporting competitions are just an annual repetition of similar events, after all.

And yet, sporting teams can build communities of fervent supporters; tribes of interconnected fans and audiences who feel the successes and failures of their team, over generations.


The zeitgeist. Because there were 4.6 million other people who were experiencing it simultaneously. 83,000 were live at the event.

Because fundamentally we are social animals. Even the most introverted of people still exhibit a need for community.

This is the same intrinsic human trait that brings together fans of a particular TV show, or a musician. It created the 'Beliebers'.

So, whether you are a sports fan or not, the challenge for your work is the same.

Can you build a tribe?

Or, more importantly, can you create a community around your work and make them feel something?

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015


You've been lied to your whole life.

"Free to air", "Freeview", whichever pseudonym you prefer. They're all a fallacy.

We have all been raised with this artificial floor on our concept of the world. A foundation fit for a fool's paradise.

"The world just gives me free entertainment whenever I want!"

When put like that, does it seem too good to be true? If not, I have a bridge to sell you.

This blatant mislabeling wouldn't be an issue, if not for the fact that the customary idea of "free" has totally skewed any discussion around creative content. The concept of "free" content, free shows and films on broadcast television or free songs on traditional radio, creates a distortion in your perception of value.

The impact of this misconception is not hard to imagine.

How can any subscription service or ticket price seem of value against "free"?

How much more easily can traditional broadcasters maintain a faux moral high ground, particularly when trying to avoid their local content quota obligations, while they claim to offer a "free" service to the public?

And the most damaging of all, what intrinsic value do audiences place on screen content when it seems to be given away for "free"?

Is it any wonder people download content they find for "free" online without guilt? Paying for content is actually the anomaly. "Free" is the status quo.

But the wind has changed.

With the advent of Google and Facebook's "free" services, inadvertently, people have started to understand value propositions that don't involve traditional payment.

In a world where you can "pay" for your email, internet search, and social networking services with your personal details, what else can you pay for without cash?

The standard length of a traditional half-hour television show is twenty-two minutes, without advertising breaks.

Assuming you watch the entire show, you gave eight minutes of your life to advertisers.

Eight precious minutes of your existence. Never to be returned.

In the USA, the average person watches five hours of television a day. That equates to 1825 hours a year of television viewing.

In Australia, the average person watches thirteen hours a week of television. That equates to 676 hours a year of quality time spent with the tube.

Using those figures, and the accepted conventions for advertising to content ratio, the American gives away nineteen full days of their life to advertising. The Australian gives away seven full days.

But you wouldn't sit for seven, 24 hour, days watching advertising, right? That would be insane!

So let's say you approached the task like a standard work day. Eight hours a day of watching nothing but advertising.

That means the American gave the advertisers 57, eight-hour, work days. The Australian gave a less generous 21 days.

But wait, you wouldn't sit for seven straight days a week watching advertising, right? That would be insane!

So, amending the average viewing habits to match a five day, eight hours-a-day, working week, how does your schedule now look?

The American gives eleven working weeks, almost three months, to watching advertising. The Australian gives four working weeks, a full month, to the advertisers.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

To get your "free" content on traditional sources, whether American or Australian, you paid with at least a working month of your precious time.

Imagine if you instead took a second job with those hours.

"Free" has never been free. Ever.

Now that we can move beyond that absurd distraction, can we start the vastly more important discussion of what price is "fair" for content?

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Monday, December 28, 2015


How long until all screen content is delivered by an internet connection, even to televisions?

How long until a teenager is China is more important to Hollywood than you?

How long until cinemas can no longer raise their prices to maintain their profit margins?

How long until DVDs and Blu Rays stop being manufactured?

How long until teachers get paid more than sports stars?

How long until sports stadiums start shrinking to accommodate just enough people for atmosphere in the broadcast coverage?

How long until someone actually completes research on whether young people have dwindling attention spans?

How long until Google does something 'evil' with it's huge cache of user data?

How long until there is no longer a need for 'middle men', like Rupert Murdoch, in the screen entertainment industry?

How long until multiplex cinemas stop being built?

How long until you have to ask my permission to try and sell something to me?

How long until the arts is respected as a genuine career and genuine economic benefit?

How long until the arts is considered too expensive and all economic support infrastructure is

How long until major decisions for a country, like joining a war, are put to an electronic vote?

How long until the current 'Western' economies are forced to adapt to compete with the rising
economic powers?

How long until music albums are all free, except for the hit singles you have to pay for?

How long until your job fundamentally changes?

How long until our society is equal enough that race, gender, sexuality, nor any other unchosen characteristic, matters? 

How long until all media is engaged with via some form of subscription service?

How long until a new form of visual storytelling, replacing film and television altogether, is created?

How long until the death of long-form screen content?

How long until we no longer use fossil fuels?

How long until television content production reaches a peak where audiences are overwhelmed and the bubble bursts?

How long until cinema ticket prices start falling to resuscitate audience demand?

How long until we colonise nearby planets? 

How long until technology enables a lifestyle where you only have to work if you choose to? 

How long until a person can make an entire film, good enough for mass audiences, on an tablet?

How long until scripts aren't even written anymore, and producers expect a rough mock up of the film instead?

How long until visual effects and animation tools are cheap, accessible, and intuitive? 

How long until audiences expect to pay one price to go to the cinema, get the home version, and receive memorabilia from the film?

How long until crowdfunding isn't just a less embarrassing way to ask your friends and family for money?

How long until holograms become another tool for visual storytelling?

How long until Facebook is replaced with something else?

So many unknowns. Only one is more important.

If any of these could seriously disrupt your future, and the answer wasn't "never", how long until you begin to adjust?

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

OA FILMS NEWS - Our founder, Pete Ireland, in the press.

It's been a busy year, but there have been moments to stop and consider the landscape, perhaps even navel gaze.

Here are a couple of those musings which have ended up in the trades, from our very own Pete Ireland.