Crowdfunding’s lack of sophistication around risk: is staged-finance the answer?

“Staged financing must become the film business’s immediate goal.”
– Ted Hope, Producer & Head of Production, Amazon Studios, September 2013

Crowdfunding’s lack of sophistication around risk

Much, if not most, of investment strategy is about dealing with risk. A backer of a project – be that an equity or debt investor who is hoping to see some kind of profit, or a crowdfunding supporter who wants to get their perks and see the finished film – has to predict risk. Normally, the closer a project goes from idea to release – from pitch to screen – the lower that risk gets; it's reducing all the time. To reflect this, in the majority of business investments, the first ‘angel' investors will normally put in the least and get the most equity, and as subsequent funding rounds continue, new investors put in greater amounts and get less relative share, but more value as the business is now worth more. As risk decreases, the cost of participation increases, just as there are far more ideas that get turned into scripts than scripts that get made into movies, or movies that get a theatrical release.

But crowdfunding, not technically an investment, is flat and treats all types of backer the same. At the start backers have to decide if a project looks viable and convincing, pay their money and hope for the best. It’s an investment of faith and confidence when 75% of all crowdfunded projects arrive late and a quarter over six months late (according to a July 2013 study). Some end up cancelled (examples here or here), which damages the whole space as they will doubtless put some people off backing a crowdfunding project again.

The problem is arguably even more of a challenge with flexible crowdfunding where projects can miss their target and end up raising far less than they need but still cash in. On Indiegogo, 80% of projects raise less than a quarter of their target, meaning often there isn't the money to deliver the project or to do it to the standard promised. This is a problem both for the creative, on whose shoulder the stress and reputation rests, and the backer, whose money is at stake. Meanwhile, the crowdfunding space depends on people having a good experience, backing a project and doing it again.

Yet the money is almost never all needed at the very start. For a lot of creative projects, some money is needed to pay some wages and overheads over the many months or years it will take on an ongoing basis – so it could trickle in. Indeed, the bigger costs might be towards the end during post-production or when 1,000 DVDs & DCPs are needed or the soundtrack has to be cleared. By that time the risk is considerably lower – if a book is ready to print or a film fit to screen, there's less risk about delivery, while it’s easier to assess the quality at that stage.

Rolling with it

Is there space for a rolling or staged crowdfunding that dripfeeds money into the project throughout its creation much as development, production, completion & marketing finance are already separated? It seems to resonate with how Ted Hope has been arguing the indie film world needs to adopt staged investor financing to get more people investing in film.

It would support the kind of structure where, say, of 1,000 scripts or ideas that got funding, 200 might be supported to to do pre-production & shoot a promo, 100 get shot, 50 get full post-production and packaging for delivery and 10 get extra marketing and distribution support. Investors at each stage would be taking a smaller risk and would be putting in larger sums of money – while the backer who’d taken a risk and made a good choice at the initial idea stage could stand to make a bigger share of any profits.

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Film's monopoly problem

Not before time, the new year started with some promising news about selling films online. For the first time, the annual decline in DVD and Blu-ray sales in the US has been outstripped by the growth in digital sales, rentals and subscriptions. Home entertainment rose 0.7% in 2013 (PDF source). $6.5bn – over a third of total consumer spending – came from digital rental, retail and subscriptions, with download-to-own rising a hefty 48% on 2012. The figures don’t even include subscriptions bundled with other services (like a cable company’s deal with Netflix) or advertising-supported VOD like Hulu or YouTube.

Of course, a chunk of this growth has been for television and traditional film, and the biggest beneficiaries continue to be the studios and large rights owners. For independents – as Scott Harris detailed in his frank description of the struggles self-distributing Being Ginger – digital distribution is typically a lot of work for limited gains. Why is this?

Indeed, why – unlike many other industries online – does the small, agile film producer not have a bigger advantage online over the studio giants? If film behaved like publishing, software development or countless other industries, then being a small, low-overhead, low-budget independent outfit would offer a significant upside over being a major film studio. Standard network effects online have consistently empowered the garage-based agile and innovative players, who not only compete with, but out-sell ‘legacy’ businesses in their industry. 

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Understanding DRM: back to the days of Edison & the Motion Picture Patent Company

The monopoly that created the independents that created the studios

Imagine having to pay a license fee every time you filmed something or screened your work. At the start of the 20th century, the Motion Picture Patent Company (MPPC) in America controlled patents around cameras, film and projectors, and demanded fees for anyone screening or filming anything. The MPPC were able to dictate what could get filmed and screened, telling a young Alfred Zukor who had just bought the rights to a big French success: “The time is not ripe for features, if it ever will be” (as described in Timothy Wu’s excellent Master Switch).

Zukor, who would later head Paramount, became an early rebel who refused to play along, as was Carl Laemmle who declared himself ‘an independent’ – the first to use that name. Laemmle wasn’t independent for long, his company Universal became one of the biggest studios on the planet, as did those from other ‘rebels’ and ‘independents’ Willhelm Fuchs (20th Century Fox) and the Warner brothers Jack, Sam and Henry. When Laemmle started to make ‘independent films’ without paying a licence, he was sued 289 times in a three-year period by the Edison Trust, and eventually fled New York to the west coast with Fuchs, Zukor, the Warners and others, further from the MPPC ‘spies’ and lawyers, and closer to the Mexican border if a quick escape was needed.

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Lessons from TV: pirates compete on 'quality, price, and availability'

Perhaps no sector has been more involved in shifting the debate around video piracy than the TV industry. It perhaps began in late 2006, nine months after Steve Jobs had sold Pixar to Disney, joined their board and become more involved in their operations. Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney declared at a conference that piracy was not simply a threat, but a competitor – that pirates competed on quality, price and availability. On all of these levels, she recognised, Hollywood was losing: "We don't like the model but we realise it's competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward." Hulu launched five months later and competed on all three levels with free, ad-funded, flexible streams; the BBC’s iPlayer arrived not long after.

Piracy "better than an Emmy"

Then in August 2013, Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes appeared to jump the shark when he announced that piracy was "better than [winning] an Emmy." Time Warner/HBO’s Game of Thrones is one of the most-pirated TV shows of the last few years, and possibly one that has gained the most free marketing from piracy. "We’ve been dealing with this issue for literally 20-30 years," Bewkes said. "Our experience is, it all leads to more subs."

The difficulty with Bewkes’ argument, when related to independent feature films, is that he’s talking about episodic TV. A percentage of the people who got hooked on early episodes and seasons of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead through pirate copies will subscribe to channels and services offering the latest episodes so they can watch them first. Their fandom expressed on Twitter and Facebook also builds awareness and might convince their non-pirating followers and friends to tune into those channels.

But one-off dramas, documentaries and features can’t benefit from these effects; a pirate stream or download will rarely translate into further money for the filmmaker other than occasionally through a future crowdfunding campaign, or platforms like Vodo or BitTorrent that let people Donate-After-View (DAV).

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Subject of new doc Dead Donkeys jailed in Ethiopia on 'terrorism' charge

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas website screengrab

Last year I built the website for a new documentary due to premiere this year about the issue of land-grabbing in Africa. I'd first been introduced to the production team at an remarkable week as part of the Swim Lab, and been struck silent as the director, Joakim Demmer, explained in plain terms how while we are sending billions in aid to countries like Ethiopia, we are also, inadvertently, helping big foreign companies take people's land, throw them off it, and even imprison them if they complain. I still can't quite believe this happening, inadvertently with our help - and so can't wait to see the film which explains the process. At a time where economic migrants are coming from so many countries where the locals livelihoods have been ruined this issue would seem to be one of great relevance to anyone trying to offer a solution to the #migrantcrisis other than 'let them drown' or 'let them come here'.

Anyway, in clips from the film, Pastor Omot Agwa, explains his dreams of creating a safe national park after a million hectares of indigenous land was sold off to investors and the people who've lived there for generations, kicked off. Omot talks about not fearing death as much as fearing torture, but now he's now been imprisoned, facing both his own - and the filmmaker team from WG Films' - worst fears He was arrested while heading to a workshop about food security - he's never, as far as I know, had any link to anything other than peaceful campaigning. But he's now facing charges of terrorism simply because he dissented! How can that word be an acceptable label given to an activist in a country trying to be taken seriously in the world. In my simple understanding, because Ethiopia participates in world trade, whose coffee, music and culture I was drawn to, it is hard to reconcile. Lem Sissy's R4 Homecomings where he described traveling to Addis Ababa were brilliant - I sat in the audience for one rehearsal.

A million hectares of indigenous land has been sold off

But this is someone seemingly standing against a cruelly corrupt sector, driven with bribes, backhands and lots of foreign meddling. I'm very naive about these things, and perhaps I'm missing something, but clearly he shouldn't be in prison for trying to go to a workshop in Kenya. Is Ethiopia part of the wider world or not? He's an important voice in helping us in the west figure out how to treat developing, majority-world countries like Ethiopia better. The only people who can suffer from his free speech are the rich foreign businesses (or perhaps the officials so dependent on their bribes as to not be able to cope without).

Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas - TRAILER from WG Film on Vimeo.

Anyway, it's still a bit unclear to me what the best thing is to do other than bring your attention to an Indiegogo fundraising appeal for the families of him and the other defendants. The families are worried for their security, and each have lost their income. Once their safety is ensured I imagine the next priority is to petition the Ethiopian embassies and relevant ministries for the release of Omot, Ashinie, and Jamal but imagine Human Rights Watch and Front Line Defenders, who are working to raise awareness around the case will suggest the best approach.

Meanwhile there's a number of issues that I think are relevant to us (in documentary, human rights or just with a heart):

  • If the subject of your documentary is imprisoned and charged with terrorism, perhaps because they spoke in your film, what should you do? Ideally before this happens.
  • To anyone who cares about human rights, what can we do about campaigners being imprisoned under terrorist charges?
  • And to anyone concerned by the ongoing migration and refugee crisis, or just rising inequality in the world, what are our responsibilities as relatively wealthy westerners, when the (unintended) consequences of globalisation can lead to significant suffering and injustice, to the profit of companies whose tax revenues fund our own services.

Still from Dead Donkeys Fear No Hyenas

Support the families of Omot, Ashinie and Jamal here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-ethiopian-food-land-rights-activists#/

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What is open source? Five analogies.

Open source is one of those phrases that gets thrown around, from the Cabinet Office now asking for it in government ICT contracts, to cyber-libertarians saying it heralds the start of a post-capitalist age. But what does it actually mean? And given how much of the for-profit digital world depends on open source - from Android phones to the Safari browser, Facebook’s servers to YouTube’s interface - is it another example of an economy wanting something for nothing?

In simple terms, an Open Source License allows people to view, modify, copy and share computer code, usually without restriction. To understand what that means in practice, it’s helpful to use five analogies:

Transparency: a car. 

An open source license is like having the right to lift your car bonnet to view the engine. If you use software but can’t see what it’s doing behind the scenes, then it’s impossible to know what it’s doing with your data or even if it’s secure. By making code viewable by all, it’s much easier to spot and fix security flaws and bugs, which is why many cryptographic and encryption standards are open source.

Modification: a house

Open source is like buying a house and being free to decorate it however you want, to build extensions or demolish walls. Closed source software strictly limits what you can do with it.

Accumulative: DNA

Like a genome that keeps evolving, or the way academia builds upon prior knowledge, open source is a way of ‘standing on the shoulder of giants’, by building on what exists, rather than starting from scratch. This applies to everything from coding languages to design elements, which can develop in an accumulative way, with anyone free to improve on the work of those previously.

Collaborative: a coop 

Like a co-op, but without membership. While code authors may still own copyright on their code, by providing an open license, assets are kept public and the user community can offer improvements, fixes, language translations, design improvements, documentation and so on. Eric S Raymond describes open source development as “a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles”.

Democratic: a landslide 

Like a democracy where anyone can setup their own country if they don’t like the leader. Open Source projects have core maintainers who have final say over the suggestions and contributions from the user community but if they aren’t responsive, people can ‘fork’ the software and build their own ‘branch’. The content management system Joomla, for instance, was forked from Mambo, after its owners started charging developers big fees.

— 

For the non-profit, coop or social enterprise sectors these principles dovetail with many values, and offer advantages. For the profit-world however, open source’s freedom around IP has created much debate about its strengths and weaknesses, with critics - and some companies whose models are threatened - saying open source projects offer worse support and less-developed user interface and documentation. In reality there’s a huge range in quality and business models - from a content system like Wordpress that powers 23% of the world’s websites (and made $45m in 2012) - to Wikipedia, where the ability for anyone to contribute is perhaps both its great strength and weakness .

What needs to be remembered, as the creator of the main open source license Richard Stallman says, is that it’s freedom as in ‘free speech’, but not necessarily ‘free lunch’. Some open source companies turnover hundreds of millions a year, and charge thousands for a user-license and support, while others depend on donations and goodwill. The community has depended on new business models, from crowdfunding (which helped build Facebook alternative Diaspora) to licensing features in the way Mozilla Firefox sells their default search box to Google.

Perhaps the most interesting part about open source is the contradiction woven into it’s heart: where it can be viewed as the idealogical end-point of both communism and of liberalism: it’s both both anti-private-property and anti-centralisation - yet it powers the hugely profitable private,and monopolistic digital economy. Either because of swimming against the current of free market capitalism - or in spite of - it’s proven remarkably successful at getting disparate groups of people who’ve often never met to collaborate on building something that no-one fully owns, but that frequently solves technical and engineering problems better than either the market or the state. 

And for that alone it deserves some attention.

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Site back, upgraded

Netribution 1 was great in that it was all HTML and a bit of CSS – 15 years on not a single page has ever been hacked and most of them are still there.

Netribution 2.0 launched in 2006 on a CMS and unless CMSs get regularly upgraded they eventually get hacked or break. This just happened here, so as tempting as it has been to leave this space as an archive and change nothing, reality refused: I had to either take the site down and lose everything, or fix it. It's been rebuilt from scratch with an upgraded dbse (to the shiny joomla 3.3), and the user profiles & community section is now offline as it would cost $99 to upgrade it - but overall I've committed to a responsive redesign that risks looking a little like a rebirth, even if it isn't. To preserve a past I would sometimes rather forget, Netribution 2 continues in some form. Hopefully I'll re-theme it soon.

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Why Selma's not a 'challenging race biopic'; it's much more

SELMA: How Peaceful Protest WorksThere's a rather funny viral doing the rounds by UK blog the Shiznit about what if the 2015 Oscar nominations told the truth, following similar posts they've done in previous years. I didn't feel like sharing it however because their poster for Selma ('Challenging Race Biopic: if you don't like it then you basially hate black people') troubled me somewhat. I had to see it to be sure - and no longer on the press list for freebie previews, I got my chance when Pathé's advertising on the #MLK hashtag alerted me to UK previews for Martin Luther King day (a rare case of social media targeted advertising winning me). And I came home compelled to write, because it feels there's a risk people might think the film was a biopic or even specifically about race, as opposed to a story about the universal struggle for justice, and methods to achieve that.

SELMA Shiznit posterTo be clear - I'm not trying to pick the Shiznit up for what it created - it was part of a trio of jokes alongside 'challenging gay biopic' and 'challenging disability biopic' - and perhaps the authors hadn't even seen the film. And of course if we were fool enough to try PC-one-up-manship, well Netribution published Andrew Cousin's spoof about September 11: the Musical barely weeks after the tragedy, while some of the cartoons we ran such as the crucifixion of Lars von Trier cut somewhat crudely - not to mention much of the crap I must have spouted over the years. However, in this year when BAFTA voters refused to grant Selma even one nomination (despite a mostly British cast - from MLK and his wife to Lyndon Jonson and the Alabama governor), and where the Academy Award voters gave it only two - there seems a real danger that people think the Shiznit poster is accurate and don't get round to seeing the film. So for the avoidance of doubt:

  • Selma is not a Biopic. A biopic is the story of someone's life - true for Theory of Everything and Imitation Game - but not Selma. Selma covers one episode in Dr King's life - the attempts to peacefully march between the city of Selma and Montgomery in Alabama to change the law around all Americans' right to register to vote, creating a piece of legislation considered the most effective civil rights legislation in America's history.
  • It's not only about Race. As a white guy I don't  want to labour an "and it's also about us!" angle, but Dr King campaigned almost as hard on poverty as on race, pointing out in the film how the poor white person is encouraged to be racist by the super-rich whites in order to keep the poor in general disunity, a theme as relevent today as migrants get blamed for a financial crisis not of their creation (and a view well expressed by a rapping Warren Beaty in Bullworth).
  • And while it's certainly challenging to watch parts of this film, witnessing scenes of brutal and senseless violence, it's it's also un-apologetically inspiring, showing - at a time where our news is full of scenes of violence, and terrorism - [SPOILER] that non-violence works [/SPOILER]. Massively, and perhaps disarmingly, to some people in power.

And it's this last point - that the film is a genuinely inspiring examination of the power of non-violent resistance, of mass protest in the face of brutal state violence - that should make all of us who care, more sensitive to any efforts to belittle such an important film. Whether that's the backlash from Lyndon Johnson's people that the film didn't present him as faultless (he came off pretty well IMHO), or voters of the awards ceremonies using that as an excuse (as if accuracy stopped Braveheart getting five wins), or even just this casual cynical-but-comic putdown of the film as just another worthy race biopic, as if to say we all need to pay lip service to it only to offset some privilege guilt - rather than, 'here is an inspiring TRUE story of how people uniting and acting peacefully changed the world' - as relevant today as ever, perhaps even more urgently so, given how successful Dr King was back then. And doubtless as unnerving to some people in power as it was then.

Ava Du Vernay by Marie MayeThere is, of course, another reason why the film is inspiring - from the perspective of this website's traditional focus - and that's the story of writer/director Ava DuVernay. Indeed if Netribution was still a weekly magazine rather than an occasional echo chamber for my lingering thoughts, I'd be doing everything I could possibly do to get an interview with her for a future edition - as she seems to represent everything good and inspiring about the independent spirit of filmmaker. It was only in 2008 that she quit her job as a publicist, and taught herself filmmaking while directing a documentary on a micro-budget, before making her narrative film debut in 2011. She self-distributed this and then made another feature - winning Sundance Best Director award (the first time it was ever won by an African-American woman), and self-distributed that as well, creating a distribution network for African American films to find and connect with audiences, creating a network of cities to screen in and group of backers for future projects. In short she's part of a new generation of filmmaker who, using modern tools and technology, and of course considerable hard work and determination) floated straight up through the a number of traditional glass ceiling. She talks inspiringly about how exactly she did this at the Film Forum (video).

And of course, there's still the tiniest of chances that Selma could become the fifth film in Oscar history to win Best Picture without a best director nomination - after Argo, Driving Miss Daisy, Grand Hotel and Wings - the voting doesn't take place for almost another month.

So please see this film and talk about it if you want to believe that change is possible but aren't sure how to achieve it, or if you have any doubt about the power of non-violence. You could also see it if you want to get a little better understanding of someone as significant as Martin Luther King, or even simply to watch a brilliantly-made and gripping film. Failing that, please just see it if you want to witness evidence of how much one person can achieve when they put their mind, body and soul into doing something for all the right reasons, be that Dr King or Ava DuVernay.

 

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My life as a game: notes from the tenth Nordic Game Conference

Nordic Game Developers Conference at 10I arrived for once a little early, as the last gold balloons were being lifted into place. I decided to walk the block, attempting to hide my game industry noobiness with some assertive power walking. Ah a river. I will gaze across it with a sense of confidence, a metaphorical eye on the future. All is fine.

So as I was scribbling this blog in a cafe in Bristol, the guy opposite told me "I never play video games, not since Duke Nukem in university". And then a few miutes later he mentions playing something on his phone: Words with Friends. He's got four games on the go and plays all the time, but it's not a video game or a copmuter game in his mind, and suddenly it hits me that most of the world with smart phones are playing games - be it Solitaire or Suduko, but many might not even know it. It was a big wake up for me (and I recommend him Ruzzle - a kind of Scrabble meets Candy Crush that I played at the conference from a stand that gave me much needed free socks).

Anyway, back to Malmö, home to the Nordic Game Conference. I was not quite sure how I'd ended up with my pass. I'd been tipped off by a game developer about a free Unity for Storytellers session from Nordic Transmedia that afternoon and after sprinkling the signup form with a few words it had somehow grown into a conference badge, and here I was (thanks Hans and Cecilie!). With the gold balloons bobbing as I returned to the main hall I saw it was the conference's tenth year, just like it was ten years since I was last in Sweden, an experience I've still not quite got over.

Occulus, lucid dreams & the Zuck

So I wonder inside and the first big stand I see is for Oculus, and I watch a man inside what looks like a simulation of a living room with two kids playing a sword fight in front of him. It's a virtual family and in the middle of this slightly cold exhibition space, he's able to pretend he's in a nice home, surrounded by his virtual kids. The guy pulls his headset off looking flustered. 'Try it without headphones on' he's told, but he looks uncomfortable and pulls away. Something about the sight of it all puts me off wanting to have a play. I just want to find him and ask what it was like - but I never get a chance.

This game looked really interesting and moody - like an 8bit Wong Kar WaiI instead go and play with some nice big Wacom pads as I think about it all. Like many a nerd I've of course been following the Oculus Rift since the initial Kickstarter, and after reading about how players of Oculus were getting lucid and very vivid dreams - even in people who hadn't remembered a dream in years - I became fascinated how this insanely powerful and immersive piece of technology could impact our neurology.

I remember a short film I saw at IDFA a few years back about how virtual reality was being used to treat chronic pain with a form of mindfulness training using virtual environments that responded to breathing. As the 'player' wondered around a virtual space, trees would blow and blossom as their breath slowed, and they calmed down, helping to reinforce the neural pathways that associated being calm and mindful with the 'reward' of a pleasant, blissful environment. VR has also been used quite a lot with post-traumatic stress disorder apparently pretty successfully.

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Two Short Nights Film Festival 2014 Call for Entries

Two Short Nights Film Festival 2014 is calling for submissions.

Films of any genre, under 15 minutes are invited to enter the 12th Annual Short Film festival. Two Short Nights celebrates and promotes short film and the people who make them. Now in its 12th year, the festival is proud to nurture new and emerging talent and offers a platform for regional, national and international short films to be seen.

View the Two Short Nights 2013 trailer. https://vimeo.com/80476873

Two Short Nights 2014 will take place on 11 – 12th Decebmer 2014 at Exeter Phoenix, Exeter, UK.

DEADLINE: Entries close Friday 18 July 2014. Visit www.twoshortnights.co.uk for more information and to enter.

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"Don't make us feel small. Remind us to be larger."

"From another perspective, the news is not good at all. Everybody's miserable. Everybody's had about enough. People are sick to death of being valued only as potential buyers, as monetary grist for some modern-day satanic mill.

They're sick of working for organizations that treat them as if they didn't exist, then attempt to sell them the very stuff they themselves produced. Why is a medium that holds such promise — to connect, to inspire, to awaken, to enlist, to change — being used by companies as a conduit for the kind of tired lies that have characterized fifty years of television? Business has made a ventriloquist's trick of the humanity we take for granted. The sham is ludicrous. The corporation pretends to speak, but its voice is that of a third-rate actor in a fourth-rate play, uttering lines no one believes in a manner no one respects.

Oh well. That's OK. We'll get by. We've got each other.

I have to laugh as I write that. The Internet audience is a strange crew, to be sure. But we're not talking about some Woodstock lovefest here. We don't all need to drop acid and get naked. We don't need to pledge our undying troth to each other, or to the Revolution, or to the bloody Cluetrain Manifesto for that matter. And neither does business.

All we need to do is what most of us who've discovered this medium are already doing: using it to connect with each other, not as representatives of corporations or market segments, but simply as who we are... Tell us some good stories and capture our interest. Don't talk to us as if you've forgotten how to speak. Don't make us feel small. Remind us to be larger. Get a little of that human touch."

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LFF review: 12 Years A Slave

ejioforfassbenderThe third feature from artist-turned-director Steve McQueen needs little introduction.

It's a visceral, unpredictable tale of life as a slave in 1840s America, based on the true story of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who, as ever, disappears effortlessly into the demanding role), who was born a free man in New York.

 

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LFF review: Captain Phillips

held at gunpoint

 

The 57th BFI London Film Festival opened with this belter of a thriller, based on the real-life hijacking of a US container ship by Somali pirates in 2009.

Tom Hanks stars as Captain Richard Phillips, an American, whose job it is to steer the MV Maersk Alabama through the danger-filled Somali Basin to mombasa, Kenya.

(watch out for spoilers below)

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Creative colleges co-op collaborate on slate of features

Five new films made by members of the Co-operative British Youth Film Academy have been showcased to 500 students at a red carpet screening in Manchester. A co-operative of twenty colleges and universities, The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy combines professions from the worlds of film and education to give young people unique opportunities to gain hands-on experience of the thrills and challenges of a real film set.

It is backed by The Co-operative as part of its commitment to inspiring young people and, is designed to bridge the gap between education and professional employability, offering accessible opportunities for young talent to be nurtured and developed.

Last year, The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy (BYFA) movie "The Rochdale Pioneers" – co-directed by film-makers Adam Lee Hamilton and John Montegrande who came through BYFA's ranks – was screened on Film4 as part of the channel's British Connection Season. 

The new films, which were given a red carpet screening last month in city-centre Manchester, were filmed at movie making summer camps based at member colleges: Grimsby Institute; Kirklees College; Stoke on Trent College; Wigan and Leigh College and Yale College, Wrexham.

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"Dear lover cinema, forgive me"

When I look through my adult life so far there are a few constants - the love of family and some good friends - yet the most regular rhythm, the most dependable refrain is that of change and disruption, of uncertainty. One thing, though, holds true through all of that, and it’s odd that I only seem to recognise it now. When I enter the quiet dark hall of a cinema, arms laden with sugar or beer perhaps; when I find a seat as centrally as possible, ideally with no-one in front of me… as the lights dim, my heart pounds a little as if on a plane about to take off. And as the screen starts to glow, as another world emerges to seduce me, my day’s problems begin to fall from me like a man dropping his clothes before he jumps in the sea.

It is strange that it has taken me so long to articulate this - not just in web text - but in my mind too. The distractions of the day, the worries and anxieties and frustrations about this abuse of corporate or government power, or that slight from someone dear, may be eased a little through meditation, sometimes a lot through a great book, but none for me so totally as through a good film in a darkened space. Even a mediocre one. These last few days my worries have been transformed into something hopeful through the brilliant yet McBlockbuster Wreck It Ralph, the visceral if hackneyed Oblivion, and then the powerful epic Midnight’s Children. Imperfection is not a problem, I seek just a voyage to a convincing new world, and people I can pin my internal struggles to, and reason to think much bigger than my own worries for a while.

Cinema feels like a lover I’ve depended on for as long as I can remember, but too rarely stop to say thank you, to recognise its wisdom and power. And this in turn reminds me that although Netribution is mostly tumbleweed, dust and spam links now, it reflected my excitement at where cinema will travel to next, in a connected world of ever cheaper kit and decentralised distribution.

The last thing I wrote on this site was nearly two years ago. I was a keen digital cinema entrepreneur taking the lessons from Shooting People and self-distributing the funding book into ventures new. And then my sister died after a brutal battle with cancer - and as I started to get over that, a friend killed herself. And I couldn’t talk about it here, indeed I still don’t really feel skilled enough. So I said nothing, but begun to question almost everything, Our current media space helped neither of them, while the superfast hyperconnected ad-driven pervasive digital frenzy that’s replacing it seems even worse equipped. While overflowing with ideas and research projects and possible new businesses, I floundered, unsure what would kind of media world would have been better for them. And I still don’t really know how to get to that, save for the fact that a good film can be as healing as a medicine, a great story as powerful as a hug or good conversation. 

So, dear lover cinema, forgive me my unfaithfulness, my absence and neglect. You’ve been there for me when others haven’t. You’ve made me mad and struck me sane. You’ve shaped so many of my views - often misguidedly and with the values of one race, class and gender - but also most regularly with a reminder that what makes me human and hurt, makes everyone human and hurt - it’s shared by us all. Thank you. Let’s begin again.

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Oska Bright Film Festival 2013

 

Festival: The Corn Exchange, Brighton Dome

Sunday 17 – Tuesday 19 November 2013

The 6th international festival of short films made by people with learning disabilities is ready to roll.

Oska Bright is unique. It is the first and only festival managed and promoted by learning disabled artists as a showcase for their creativity and skill as film-makers. Submitted films are selected by a panel and there is a variety of categories for which awards are offered.  There are networking opportunities over the three day event, projections onto the outside of the venue and it culminates in a lively awards ceremony.

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Exeter Phoenix Digital Short Film Commissions

Exeter Phoenix Digital is launching three new Short Film Commission schemes for 2013. We are looking for proposals to shoot short, digital format films of 5-12 minutes duration. Films must be based on an original script or treatment but can be of any genre and are to be filmed by September 2013.

Exeter Phoenix Digital will award successful proposals a commission of £500, which can be used towards the film making process.

THE COMMISSIONS:

2013 DEVON SHORT FILM COMMISSIONS

Proposals are invited from individuals and groups who reside in Devon, UK and we actively encourage applications from students and first time filmmakers, as well as those with previous experience.

How to apply
Submissions are invited from Monday 3 December
Closing date – Friday 15 Feb 2013

All applications must be submitted using our online application process.
Download guidelines >>
Online application form >> 

2013 NATIONAL SHORT FILM COMMISSION

Proposals are invited from individuals and groups who reside in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and we actively encourage applications from students and first time filmmakers, as well as those with previous experience.

How to apply
Submissions are invited from Monday 3 December
Closing date – Friday 15 Feb 2013

All applications must be submitted using our online application process.
Download guidelines >>
Online application form >>
 

2013 CROWD FUNDED COMMISSION

The 2013 Crowd Funder Short film Commission will be a match fund award of £500 on the condition that the applicant can raise equal funds through Crowdfunder.co.uk. The applicant will be expected to create their own online campaign to raise funds of up to or exceeding £500.

How to apply

Submissions are invited from Monday 3 December.
Closing date – Friday 15 Feb 2013
All applications must be submitted using our online application process.

Download guidelines >>
Download tips to Crowd Funding >>
Online application form >>

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Cineworld’s indie selection

When you’re deciding what film releases you want to see this autumn, don’t forget to find out what indie films are being shown at your local cinema. Cineworld has always been a solid supporter of indie films and has several of them on offer over the next few months.

Showing this month in Cineworld theatres is the indie film Ruby Sparks. Written by actress Zoe Kazan, who also plays the character Ruby, this is a story about a struggling writer who brings his fantasy woman to life.

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Co-op Youth Film Academy Searches for Scripts from Budding Young Film Writers

Are you made of the ‘write’ stuff? a youth film academy has started its search for screenplays to be made into full length feature films next year.

The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy gives 14-25 year-olds unique experiences of the movie industry and is seeking new scripts or, screenplays of classics, for next summer’s filming schedule.

It is backed by The Co-operative Group as part of its commitment to inspiring young people and, this year, it shot four movies at film-making summer camps which combine professionals from film and education to mentor students and offer everything from acting to make-up and camera through to post-production.

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Archive

Netribution ran through two periods — a static site & weekly magazine/newsletter from the end of 1999 to early 2002; and as a user-generated, open cms-built site running between January 8th 2006 and 27 May, 2014 when the last user-submitted article was received. After this it became a more-traditional occasional blog. It is maintained here for archive purposes.