Category: independent

march_of_the_penguins - Realtime webI remember reading the Premiere magazine article about Mark Gill buying March of the Penguins and wondering, marveling even, at the significance of taking a French documentary and repurposing it for an American audience. This was something of a revelation; understanding that the message, even of a universally adored nature film, isn’t necessarily universal but rather highly targeted; if Miramax’s iteration worked better on a global scale, it may be because an American perspective and sensibility has been so successfully exported internationally.

I recently wrote a paper for a marketing and distribution class at UCLA concerning the outlook shared by Gill and a year later James Stearn on the health of independent cinema and the movie industry as a whole.  Gill offered a sobering reality check having to do with the glut of films that flooded the increasingly frugal marketplace whereas Stearn saw opportunity for improving the quality of the films as the best would rise to the top.  What follows are my reaction to their positions.

While I appreciate Gill’s sober stance on the realities of the industry, one that became even more dire in the subsequent year when EndGame’s James Stearn took his place at the lectern, particularly due to the fact of the perfect storm that was the collapse of the global economy and the indie equivalent of the dot com bubble bursting, I feel Gill’s take on the music industry and why it collapsed is not only smug but fundamentally flawed and somewhat dangerous. It would behoove the movie industry to bear in mind that they had a ten-year grace period due to the fact that bandwidth for showing high quality video was ten times larger than that of music. The “Movie Industry” didn’t get things right where the “Music Industry” got it wrong – they just had more time to sit back and get a sense of what the massively disruptive technology that was the Internet was really going to mean to the bottom line.

Nonetheless, the music industry blew it in that they forgot that they were part of the Entertainment Industry and not singularly the Music Industry. The hubris and competition amongst these industries is often their Achilles heel. Rather than laud Sean Fanning, creator of Napster, as the solution to distribution in the new model, Fanning was sued right and left and ostracized like Alan Turing.

I found it astounding that Mark Gill points out the 5,000 entries to Sundance in 2007 versus the 500 it had fifteen years prior. Then only a year later, James Stearn submits that the number of entries in the subsequent year was closer to 9500. If this is correct, that means the number of entries to Sundance doubled in one year!

Not only are the good people of the world making more movies at home (and this during the economic meltdown) but they are becoming increasingly cognizant of marketing, distribution and monetization opportunities. Of course, this doesn’t mean there is more audience of more money, in fact it creates an even deeper glut of film, but it does mean that not only will quality matter in order to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, but so will how and where and why things are marketed and distributed as the competition in these areas becomes stiffer and more accessible.

James Stern is correct in highlighting the virtue of the short-form film and responding to the Millennial Boomers with the format. Attention Deficit Disorder is not a function of age but of the times. We are all real-time curators and tastemakers and should be targeted at the micro-niche level. A person I spoke with who works at Live Nation constantly expressed his chagrin at the fact that marketing to a general demographic (for example 18-24) is utterly myopic. Among those 18-24 year-olds are, to use Malcolm Gladwell’s terminology, Tastemakers, Mavericks and Connectors. They need to be isolated and the systems to delineate them must be supported, not battled in court. In fact, doing so openly, like Netflix does, is a far more rewarding effort, than doing it covertly through cookies and trackers and 3rd party data collection apps.

That film, as Gill puts it, allows us to target highly specific demographics in one part. Delivering high quality, thoughtful, engaging and memorable content is second, but making it bite sized and a la carte is paramount. We are waiting for the Kubrick of YouTube to arrive. Where is the Spielberg of Vimeo?

The app store effect is not a function of Apple but rather an effect of the widget economy. We are all master chefs in Kitchen Stadium [a reference to popular Japanese cook show Iron Chef] selecting the finest ingredients to concoct our tasty masterpieces on the fly.

From Netflix and E-Bay account piping into a sandbox aggregator like Squidoo, alongside Facebook’s status updates and Twitterstreams, we are irrevocably moving into the era of the real-time web; it is not the tomato we care about but whom the person will be that uses it most creatively. It is no less a tomato as a result, but it is merely a color with which the master will paint and, we will mash-up, mod and repurpose the content to ultimately render the portrait of our essence, personality, our souls. A portrait, whose real meaning will emerge when we cross our tired eyes slightly and gaze upon it like a magic eye.

NOTE: I originally wrote this draft in October.  At that time, I read a Tweet from Mashable that Google Wave is going live to 100,000 pre-registered users. The realtime web is not a theory or conjecture, it has literally arrived and nothing will ever be the same.

UPDATE 12-07-2009 – It’s a little strange that I am publishing this article after the one I posted earlier this morning about Google’s announcement of Realtime search.  GoogleWave now seems like an ancillary to the central eye-raising explosion of technologies that Google has innovated in bring all content to our eyeballs at near light speed.





TIFF 2009The second installment of my film picks for happy viewing at Toronto International Film Festival 2009. Hurry and get tickets now, these shows are all this week of Sept. 14th, 2009!

Videocracy

Director: Erik Gandini
Country: Sweden
Year: 2009
Language: English, Italian
Runtime: 85 minutes
Format: Color/35mm

videocracy-toronto-international-film-festival-2009

Disinformationist and cultural watchdog director Erik Gandini, whose previous films include Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers (2003) and Gitmo – The New Rules of War (2005) that won the best documentary award at the Seattle International Film Festival, (sounds like my kind of guy) now brings us a film that explores the strange and astonishing world and influence of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – owner of the country’s television empire. The following synopsis explains:

“In a late evening of 1976, a local Italian television broadcasts a quiz where viewers at home have to answer questions. For each correct answer, a housewife takes off a garment and does a brief dance. The format is simple and very successful.

Unaware viewers did not know that the show was the beginning of a complete change on the way of doing television. A revolution that would forever change the entire Italian political system, changing the values and becoming a powerful instrument of government for the nation.”

As if that isn’t enough to get any reader of the CulturePin.com to make a date for this screening, here is a trailer:

PUBLIC SCREENINGS
Tuesday September 15
10:00PM
VARSITY 3

Thursday September 17
8:00PM
VARSITY 1

Saturday September 19
2:30PM
VARSITY 4

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Valhalla Rising

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Country: Denmark/United Kingdom
Year: 2009
Language: English
Runtime: 90 minutes
Format: Color/35mm

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European director Nicolas Winding Refn is probably best known for the Pusher trilogy that migrated the gangster film genre to Copenhagen on an epic scale. His latest film Valhalla Rising tackles the Viking genre – typically heavy with mutton eating and battle axes gleaming in the reflection of the moon off of glaciers, he raises the roof high and takes us deeper inside the world of these powerful warriors who preceded Christopher Columbus arrival to North America by several hundred years.

From the programme:
“The film’s landscapes look so foreign and desolate that Valhalla Rising might as well have been shot on the moon.”

Looks like a lot of visual eye candy and excitement to me.

PUBLIC SCREENINGS
Tuesday September 15
4:00PM
WINTER GARDEN THEATRE

Saturday September 19
12:15PM
SCOTIABANK THEATRE 3

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Midnight Madness Programme 2009 – Pt. II

Solomon Kane

Director: Michael J. Bassett
Country: France/Czech Republic/United Kingdom
Year: 2009
Language: English
Runtime: 104 minutes
Format: Color/D-Cinema
Rating: 14A

solomon-kane-tiff-09
Continuing with our list of gory epic sagas started with Valhalla Rising, director Michael J. Bassett, whose previous films including Deathwatch (2002) and Wilderness (2006) – films that in hindsight appear to have prepared him for undertaking the famous pulp-fiction story of 16th century Puritan Solomon Kane, is shot in a gritty and irreverent manner invoking a return to high-spirited action and adventure. Interestingly enough it is part of the Midnight Madness programme which can only mean that the action and adventure quotient is high indeed.

PUBLIC SCREENINGS
Wednesday September 16
11:59PM
RYERSON

Thursday September 17
3:15PM
SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1

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Bitch Slap

Director: Rick Jacobson
Country: USA
Year: 2009
Language: English
Runtime: 104 minutes
Format: Color/35mm
Rating: 14A

bitch-slap-toronto-international-film-festival-2009-midnight-madness

Bitch Slap director Rick Jacobson has directed over 100 episodes of television including the series Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Baywatch. The movie is called Bitch Slap. If you are a fan of Russ Meyer’s big-boobie-desert-romps or Tarantino’s instatiable lust for grindhouse fare mixed with really really bad bluescreen, then what are you waiting for? It’s Midnight Madness, it’s happening now, get a ticket and get there. If any of the above sound offensive or abhorrent to you, then for goodness’ sake stay home and watch reruns of Friends.

PUBLIC SCREENINGS
Monday September 14
11:59PM
RYERSON

Wednesday September 16
3:15PM
SCOTIABANK THEATRE 3

Buy Tickets

If you get a chance to see any of these films, please let me know what you thought of it. Also I would love to hear any other film recommendations you may have by posting a comment on this article. Have a great TIFF 2009!