Wednesday, 31 October 2012

"Halloween Prank"

Australians don't "celebrate" Halloween, if that's the right word for it. Once, a few years ago, some teenagers invested in several rolls of toilet paper and wrapped our front garden in white tissue.

That was really exciting.

My wife—ever an early riser— had it all gathered up long before the teens could admire their handiwork in daylight, so Halloween seemed more pointless than ever that year. The teens haven't bothered since, which points up a worrying lack of persistence in the rising generation.

All that aside, I have to admire the creative energy some people invest in the event. Here is one example.



Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Kogonada

All we know about Kogonada is that he/she calls themself Kogonada.

What Kogonada does is very specific editing of shots from a given director's films. Always making a particular point. Watch some:

Wes Anderson // From Above




Tarantino // From Below




Kubrick // One-Point Perspective




Sounds of Aronofsky



Monday, 29 October 2012

Video Review: 'Screenplays That Sell'

Allison Burnett is an L.A.-based novelist and screenwriter. He has written numerous Hollywood movies, involving people such as Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Joan Chen, Heather Graham, Josh Hartnett, Diane Lane, Samuel L. Jackson, Lara Flynn Boyle, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell, Kelsey Grammer, Kate Beckinsale, and former Adelaide boy Anthony LaPaglia, among many others.

I first noticed his name when I watched the romantic drama Autumn in New York on DVD, while undergoing chemotherapy back in 2007. When I heard he had released a video detailing the secrets of his amazing success, I wanted to see it.

Here's the point: Allison Burnett has written a dozen movies, including a run of seven consecutive spec scripts, every one of which sold to Hollywood. Well over 99% of all spec scripts written never sell. The odds of being in that less-than-one-per-cent that do sell, seven consecutive times, are beyond my memories of the Probability Theorem, but they would be astronomical. There has to be something more than luck at work here.

His background is that he was a theater-geek in high school, who then spent ten years writing plays, short stories and novels
in New York, while working as a high school tutor and proof-reading at a law firm. At the end of that first ten years he had earned just $100 from his writing.

He moved to L.A. in 1990 to write screenplays.

The first significant fact he tells us, in his video Screenplays That Sell, is that he didn't approach screenwriting while thinking romantically of himself as an artist; he was comparing screenwriting with proof-reading legal documents and tutoring high school kids. It was to be a business, a way of earning a living.

Soon after, he went bankrupt. Desperation brought a sharper focus. He was writing spec scripts that producers agreed were well-written, but that they refused to buy. Allison began to observe the patterns of his failures-to-sell.

In the struggle between you and the world, back the world. —Kafka
Allison Burnett and Alan Watt (LA Writers' Lab)
From there he recounts the process by which he learned the rules of How To Sell a Screenplay in Hollywood. It's a great story, well told.

Here are just a few of the pointers from the video.

  • Producers will not buy your script, if they cannot sell your script.
  • Even when a studio can make a movie for $5million, they still have to spend $35million around the world to market that film.
  • You have to write for movie stars.
  • There's no green light in the studio world without a movie star saying 'Yes.'
  • You want your lead actor to have speeches, you want them to have an Oscar clip, you want them to have big emotions, you want them to have set pieces where they can really act.
  • What's 'in' and what's 'out' changes over time, but the genre in which you choose to write is absolutely crucial. 
  • It's becoming harder to sell romantic comedy. 
  • Beware of writing anything about grownups. 
  • Spec scripts need to have a youth element.
  • Do not offend.
  • A lot of writers try to get approval and love way too early. Get the script right first.


This is a 90 minute video in which a successful spec script writer explains the things which moved him from consistent failure to consistent success. It is solid with information. I couldn't get through the entire video in a single sitting; there's too much to think about. Allison Burnett is easy to listen to: nice voice, clear diction, well organised.

The thing is, it's going to cost you US$10, give or take, depending on exchange rates, etc., to get hold of the video. I wondered why he didn't go the traditional route and turn it into a book, but that's becoming a crowded field. And there's the other question, of whether people learn better via their eyes or their ears. I do better if I can see the material written down, which is partly why I take notes. For some people, having someone tell you the information is more effective.

I recommend this video to anyone aiming to crack the Hollywood spec script market.

If it were a book, I'd say it was a steal at $10. The information is 2012 current. I was surprised by some of the things he shared on what genres are currently selling, what to avoid, how movie stars think, the difference between a star and a character actor, his theory of pitching, and (my favorite) how a writer can plunder a studio meeting.   I especially enjoyed the sense he gives of how things really unfold when writers negotiate with producers/agents/studios.

Screenplays That Sell is worthy of your time and money. Here's a short clip so you can see for yourself.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

"Movies That Come to the Rescue"

Here's an entertaining mashup of scenes from movies where someone comes to the rescue. If you like that sort of thing...

It was put together by The Sleepy Skunk, who considers himself the Roger Corman of YouTube editors.
 


Saturday, 27 October 2012

"The Power of Words"

The Power of Words is a short film which powerfully illustrates just that, the power of words to change lives. 

Directed by Seth Gardner, and starring Bill Thompson and Beth Miller.





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Friday, 26 October 2012

Interview with Joseph Matthew Garrett

Joseph Matthew Garrett is a screenwriter who set screenwriting aside to become an independent filmmaker. He wanted to do something different, something that made more sense to him. Se he created a reality TV-style webseries, in which seven strangers meet and get to know one another over the life of the series. 

The linking thread is that they all want to be in the circle of success in some area, like fashion, music, writing, or acting. This was a super-low budget series. The casting interviews were all done in a Starbucks on 23rd Street in Manhattan.

What set the series apart for me was the fact it was unscripted. I couldn't think of another example of a reality TV-style webseries and wanted to know more about it. So I asked Joseph some questions.
_______________________________________________________________________

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, and I grew up between there and East Orange, New Jersey.

Skyline of downtown Jersey City
What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I grew up with a great family. I wouldn't say they would of ever wanted me to be involved in entertainment, but other than that there was a lot of love in my family. My mom is pretty much my family.

Where did you go to school?

I went to school to qualify in computer networking. I thought I had to do something “practical" in my life, so I went to The Anthem Institute. What a waste.

What was your first paying job?

My first paying job was in retail. I worked for Best Buy for two years. I tell you, retail, for me, is like torture.

What do you do for a living today?

Right now I work for a cable company. This is how I pay my bills till I am able to work full time as a creator, producer, and writer.

You started as a screenwriter before deciding that there had to be a better way. Tell us how you progressed from the traditional Sell-A-Screenplay-To-Hollywood mindset to the independent filmmaker you are today.

It's all about liberation. Anytime you have to kiss ass and have someone tell you, You have to change your story to be like this or that, it takes away a certain amount of pride as an artist. I realized that I don't want someone to tell me what to create and how to create it. Money doesn't mean anything to me when it comes to this art. It's my joy. I'll work for the cable company forever, as long as I can tell stories the way I want. Agents want you to be a certain mold and so do studios. You will begin to hate it. I'll do this thing on my own terms.



How well did you know any of the cast of In The Circle: The Dreams of New York before you started filming?

I didn't know the cast at all before the casting interviews. Even back then it was all word-of-mouth. When doing a project that is 100% reality, it's good to keep a wall between you and them. They are supposed to feel like you and the cameras are not there. Eventually they do. Once I am looking through all the footage and doing the edits, then you start to really get to know them. 

*  How long did it take to film the first seven episodes?

We shot for over two months. It would usually be a weekend schedule, because we all worked and had responsibilities in everyday life. We just shot footage, we didn't know how many episodes it was going to be. The formatting of the story happens in editing.



New York is famous for being a film-friendly city. Did you have any problems shooting in public places?

It was great filming in New York. I didn't have a single problem. I would always get permission beforehand if we were filming in a particular establishment, but on the streets and subway, it was cool. People would ask what we were filming, and a lot of time, I would say we were shooting a project for school. They bought it, most of the time. When we were in one particular club, we told this drunk girl, straight up, we were filming a reality series, and she didn't believe us. New York is a great place. 



One of the problems I had with the first series was hearing everything: I was challenged by the ambient noise,  the speed at which some people speak, and the slang they employ. You used subtitles a few times. Do you plan to provide more of those next time?

That was a issue early on in production. We were new to this, so everything was trial by error. It wasn't until midway through we realized the importance of having great sound equipment. In regards to slang, there was nothing we could really do about it. That's the culture of the Five Boroughs. I used subtitles to the best of my ability. Sometimes, I would catch some things, and think to myself, I should have had more subtitles, but going forward, sound will be an important from the start. 

*  I’m looking forward to the next series. We know New Jersey as the home of Tony Soprano and friends. Do you plan to work anything associated with that show into the series, such as the drive from Manhattan or the house they filmed in or any aspects of New Jersey waste management?

You will see a whole lot of cool places in New Jersey. I think a lot of shows about New Jersey always want to work in the Italian theme all throughout the show. We want to show the diversity that exists out of New Jersey. There has been changes. We are no longer going to focus the show only on one particular city.  The show will be simply “IN THE CIRCLE” and for now we will be staying in the Tri-State Area (NY, NJ, CT) until we get the funding to go somewhere else.  However, our cast is 100% made up of New Jersey residents. A lot of the show will be shot in New Jersey, but there will be time in New York.  


*  Who has had the most influence on you as a screenwriter/filmmaker?

I grew up loving Kevin Williamson (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer). He made me want to write. I love teen slasher flicks and want to do some someday. He tells a youthful story in a very sophisticated way. I love stories geared towards young people. It's the teeny bopper in me.

*  What are three things you wish someone had told you about filmmaking when you were starting out?

I wish someone told me I could even do it. I never thought I would be capable of something like that. I also wish someone told me how important it is to have sound equipment. On-board sound is not always good. Some would say it is never good, but for a web series, it works in quieter atmospheres. New York is not very quiet. 

*  What one filmmaking advice book would you recommend to a young wannabe filmmaker in Adelaide?
 
*  Name ten of your all-time favorite movies.
_______________________________________________________________________

Thursday, 25 October 2012

"Little Man"

In this short film, a Danish schoolboy learns The Way Girls Are, and records his findings for posterity.

I couldn't find the details of who made the film.

With English subtitles...



Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Orson Welles in 'The Critic'

Orson Welles was one of the most interesting people to ever work in Hollywood. He was born in 1915. His mother was a concert pianist, who died when he was seven. He traveled the world with his father, a well-to-do inventor, who died when he was fifteen. After school, he tried unsuccessfully to enter the London and Broadway stages, traveling some more in Morocco and Spain (where he fought in the bullring).

In 1934, he appeared on radio for the first time. He began working with John Houseman and formed the Mercury Theatre with him in 1937. In 1938, he directed the Mercury Theatre On the Air in a dramatization of War of the Worlds, based on H.G. Wells' novel. Setting the events in then-contemporary locations and dramatizing it in the style of a musical program interrupted by news bulletins, complete with eye-witness accounts, it caused a nationwide panic, with many listeners fully convinced that the Earth was being invaded by Mars. Many lawsuits were filed against both Welles and the CBS radio network, but all were dismissed.


His first film to be seen by the public was Citizen Kane (1941), regarded by many as the best film ever made. Many of his films were commercial failures. He was married three times, to Virginia Nicholson, Rita Hayworth and Paola Mori, and had a child with each. Frank Sinatra was the godfather of he and Rita Hayworth's daughter, Rebecca Welles.

Welles was suggested as a possible suspect by author Mary Pacios, in Elizabeth Short's ("The Black Dahlia") mutilation murder in Los Angeles in 1947. Among other reasons, Pacios suggested Welles as a suspect because Welles' artwork for the surreal fun-house set in The Lady From Shanghai—although prepared three months before the murder—was similar in many ways to the mutilation and bisection of Elizabeth Short. Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia, ordered the footage cut before release because of its disturbing resemblance to the murder.

Orson Welles with the only painting not cut from The Lady From Shanghai.
Welles said of himself that he "started at the top and worked his way down." He ended his career doing TV commercials and voice overs. George Lucas refused to have him as the voice of Darth Vader, because he was too well known.

But some people can't leave well enough alone.

The Critic was an animated TV show that ran for 23 episodes, from 1994-1995. The series was resuscitated on the internet in 2000. Ten 5-minute episodes were broadcast during 2000-2001.

The main character, Jay Sherman—a critic who has to review films he doesn't like for a living—was voiced by Jon Lovitz. The show included skits about prominent people, including Orson Welles. The following is a compilation of those skits into one video.
Yes, Rosebud Frozen Peas
Full of country goodness and green pea-ness.


    The Critic   

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

"Running Machine"

You can't fight progress. Or, maybe you can, but it's always at a cost.

I don't know anything about this short animated story, other than I found it amusing. Others have found it funny and I thought you might as well.



Monday, 22 October 2012

"Donald Newman - Underachiever"

In a time of medieval wizards, and good kings, and bad kings, and secret plans to defeat the previously once-defeated evil upon its inevitable return to the land, and ordinary folk caught up in extraordinary events, and... Well, you know the drill. Adventure, and magic, and courage, and sword-fighting, and romance, and deeds of derring-do, and lots of chatting in odd places. Sound like a webseries for you?

It's full title is the memorable Donald Newman - Underachiever (Also Saviour of the Universe). Written and directed by Kristian Mitchell-Dolby.

Here's episode one, Rowan vs The Wizard. Huzzah!



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Sunday, 21 October 2012

Shane Black interview

You should know, but in case you don't, Shane Black is an L.A.-based screenwriter and director. He wrote Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, amongst others.

His influences as a screenwriter were Walter Hill, William Goldman and Raymond Chandler.

Here are a few Shane Black quotes:
 
  • Dialogue can be fun but most people don't study it.
  • The feeling of finishing the script, the first draft, was the high. Everything that followed—though of interest, and sometimes slightly exhilarating— could never match the idea of having just taken your story and racked your brain, finally having it on paper in a version you're willing to tolerate and ready to try to sell. I remember Joe Eszterhas calling me and saying, "Woo hoo! I just sold another one!" You know, there were fun times, but I didn't get into that whole money thing with Joe or the competition. It just seemed a little phony to me. Because ultimately, I like making money, but it's not exclusively what I'm trying to do. It won't make my life fulfilled. Directing comes closer than anything I've found yet to providing me with a good reason to get up in the morning that goes beyond just getting some money. Because all the money does is buy the bed. Getting out of it is the problem.
  • Books were my hiding place. The library was more comforting many times than going home after school. I would just go to the library instead. It's amazing to me that to this day, how many screenwriters or aspiring screenwriters you talk to and you say, "What do you like to read?" and they say, "Well I don't really read that much." I say, "You don't read, but you want to be a writer!?" They say, "I like movies, I just want to write movies." They don't read books. I think that's virtually an impossibility. Mostly it was being trapped in a library for any number of years finding tremendous comfort in books.
  • Unforgiven (1992) is seminal in so many ways. Whenever I write something, I'm always saying, "Oh, that's from Unforgiven. Or The Exorcist (1973). The other one that I find myself referencing—hopefully not copying, but certainly referencing—is All That Jazz (1979), which isn't even an action movie but it has such a power to it, such a melancholy. It's such a wild combination, a musical comedy about death.
  • I loved detective stories, and I devoured them. I've literally read hundreds of them. I wasn't allowed to read them when I was a kid because they were racy, so I would sneak them. I'd save my lunch money—I wouldn't eat for three days so I could buy the new Mike Shayne book, or the new Shell Scott, or Chester Drum. The racy scenes were great but I loved the mystery. There was a real kind of masculine, rough-hewn rhythm to those caper novels, and I acquired an even deeper sense of them that was emotional and powerful. If I hadn't read those stories, I wouldn't be writing movies.
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) sold for just a sinful amount of money. People were angry that I took the money. People offer you $4 million for a script - what are you going to say? "No, I'd rather sell it for $100,000? But it engendered so much anger, I lost friends over it. And no one talked about the creative content of anything I did any more. They all just assumed I was this guy with a formula, a hack formula. So the spotlight was on me. I pretended it wasn't, but it was, and for every wrong reason. It was all about money, it was all about my supposed competition with Joe Eszterhas over who'd be the highest paid screenwriter. I didn't care. I just wanted to to write stories, try to become a better writer, improve my style, change genres, even try new things. I didn't like action so much any more. But I wanted out of the spotlight, so I subtracted myself for a few years. I tried to do a couple producing projects. Of course, the problem is, in getting out of the spotlight to feel safe and invisible again, I overcompensated and went too far into the darkness. And now I come back and go, "Wait, I didn't mean to go that invisible. Hey, come on, I'm here, I want my voice to be heard.

In the video which follows, Shane Black talks about the relationship between private-eye movies and westerns, catharsis, torturing yourself, making choices, and some of his personal philosophy.



Saturday, 20 October 2012

"The Art of Awkward Conversation"

No one does social embarrassment as well as the British. John Marwood Cleese did a wonderful riff on the subject in A Fish Called Wanda, way back in 1988, but that has absolutely nothing to do with why we're all here today. And, no, it's not the underpants-on-the-head scene, either.

Though, if you speak to someone who has been caught in this position, they will tell you that it becomes surprisingly easy to steer the conversation in any direction that appeals. In fact, A Fish Called Wanda could have been called The Art of Awkward Conversation. But it wasn't. Possibly because of all the gelatine fish Kevin Kline consumed on his way to an Academy Award.

No, this version of The Art of Awkward Conversation is a web series, made by Tom Melia. It focuses on common situations, starting with Episode One, which takes place in a restaurant. 


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Friday, 19 October 2012

"The Truth"

The UK is where it's all happening... On 8 October 2012, Richard Neill posted the following text on Bodyform's Facebook page:
Hi, as a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years. As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things, I felt a little jealous. I mean bike riding, rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn't I get to enjoy this time of joy and 'blue water' and wings!! Dam my penis!! Then I got a girlfriend, was so happy and couldn't wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month to happen.....you lied!! There was no joy, no extreme sports, no blue water spilling over wings and no rocking soundtrack oh no no no. Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady changed from the loving, gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin. Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform, you crafty bugger
So, being right crafty buggers, Bodyform released a video response, addressed to Richard, explaining things a little more fully; not thinking for one moment that the rest of us might be watching. Oh, no, not for one tiny moment. 
"There is no such thing as a happy period."
"...the blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide."
Who knew?



Thursday, 18 October 2012

"In Descent Proposal"

In Descent Proposal is the video record of one man's marriage proposal.
She thought we were dying and ended up with a ring!
One day, all wedding proposals will be done like this.

Or maybe not...



Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Black List to host amateur screenplays... for a fee

Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List, Hollywood’s annual list of most-liked screenplays, has announced he will allow any screenwriter, amateur or professional, to upload their script to The Black List website.

Uploaded scripts will be evaluated by professional script readers and, depending on evaluation, be read by any of the 1,000 film industry members who choose to do so.

"For years people have been asking me how to get their scripts to Hollywood. Short of endless rounds of unanswered query letters and screenplay competitions that may, in the best case scenario, attract the notice of a few people, I never had a good answer. We built this to provide one. It’s essentially a screenplay competition with rolling admission, as many prizes as there are good scripts, and instead of a check, you may be rewarded with a career as a professional screenwriter. But it’s also more than that: we’re delivering the best scripts directly to the hundreds of people who can help get them bought and made."
Aspiring screenwriters will pay $25 a month to have their script hosted on The Black List’s website, where it can be accessed only by a closed community of Hollywood professionals.

The Black List will not claim a commission, finder’s fee, or producer credit on business generated by their service.

"Writers retain all rights to sell and produce their work and are free to negotiate the best deal they can get. All we ask is an email letting us know of their success.”
There is a second tier of access on offer: aspiring screenwriters who want more access to Hollywood insiders can pay $50 for an evaluation by one of Leonard's professional script readers. These are individuals who have previously read scripts professionally for major agencies, management companies, production companies or studios, essentially the people who have previously served as the first filter when a script lands at any of these places.
"All writers will be able to monitor the volume of traffic to their script — views of their script page, downloads of their script, numbers of ratings, etc. If their script gets reviewed poorly and is getting no traffic, we will encourage them to take it down."
The site also has a Do No Harm policy, whereby it's the writer's decision to make individual evaluations public to the industry membership. A script will only come to the attention of an industry professional if it gets high ratings on the site, either from one of the readers or from the other members who already subscribe.
"I think the industry is always desperate for good scripts, which is why the Black List became the thing it did. The sad reality is that good screenplays are rare, so if this initiative can find them, everyone will be quite happy about it.
For my part, I'm more than a little curious to see how the new service copes with the initial influx of screenplays for evaluation. A total of $75 for a Black List evaluation (written, I assume), seems unbelievably cheap.

Here's their comment on Twitter on Day Two.

That's over 200 a day. I'd be surprised if the early response doesn't turn out to be far greater than Black List staff can handle. Will people have to go on paying, month after month, until they receive their evaluation? Watch this space...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

"Hitchcock"

I love movies about movies. And so we come to Hitchcock. That's both Mister and Missus Hitchcock, though he retains centre stage. 

This is really the story of how Psycho (1960) came to be made, a story which falls firmly within the tradition of great movies that had to overcome enormous odds and studio objections to make it onto the screen. 

Anthony Hopkins does a superb job as Hitch, especially in capturing that voice.

Scarlett Johansson does an even better job as Janet Leigh.

Helen Mirren is wonderful as Alma Reville.

And Toni Collette continues her long-standing practice of popping up in unlikely places.

Here's the trailer.




Monday, 15 October 2012

"RCVR"

Here's an award-winning sci-fi web series that follows a member of a secret government agency that covers up UFO sightings in the 1970s while likewise searching for the next human “receiver.” 
RCVRs are humanity's greatest assets and it is the job of Agent Luke Weber to track them down. In doing so, Weber is also tasked with conducting one of the most important disinformation campaigns in American history. But the cover up is about to get even more difficult for Agent Weber.
Written by Brian Horiuchi and David Van Eyssen; produced and directed by David Van Eyssen.


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Sunday, 14 October 2012

"Nights in UltraViolet"

Described as Twin Peaks meets Seinfeld, Nights in UltraViolet is a ten-episode web series about a shut-in author of legal thrillers and a pizza-loving wanderer trying to answer the big question on everyone's mind: What Does It Mean?

The series was independently produced by creators of Cafe Bloodbath, The Cheap Thriller, and Brooklyn-based artist collective, Goddamn Cobras. It was shot over the course of seven months in twenty locations, and features nearly 100 NYC actors.

Here is Episode One, Young and stupid.
Still reeling from his broken engagement, Doug reluctantly joins Virgil and Marcy into the grueling world of the nightlife, baby.

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Saturday, 13 October 2012

"The Mirror"

Le Miroir is a short film from Switzerland. It provides an examination of life through a single frame, the bathroom mirror. 

Written and directed by Antoine Tinguely and Laurent Fauchère.

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Friday, 12 October 2012

Interview with Michelle Prak

Michelle Prak, enjoying
Farmers Union Iced Coffee,
a legal but addictive substance,
manufactured locally.
Michelle Prak is an Adelaide-based social media consultant, with over twenty years experience in communications spanning journalism, politics, government, and public relations. She produces content for the social media world, writes a regular blog on social media, Tweets compulsively, has a weekly segment on radio, lectures in Public Relations at the University of South Australia, and is a Board member of the South Australian Writers' Centre.
     I first came across Michelle
earlier this year when she was a newly-elected member of that Board. My initial reaction was that, as she appeared to be neither writer nor filmmaker, she was of no interest to me. Then—influenced perhaps by the ads she had running on Facebook at the time—I reconsidered. One of the demands now being placed on independent filmmakers is that they develop social media skills, and build audiences and online communities that will support their work into the future. And, by then, I'd thought of a few questions of my own I'd like to ask.
________________________________________________________________________

*  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?


Born in Perth, WA, but grew up in Whyalla, SA, from aged 6 until I left for university in Adelaide, aged 17.

*  What kind of a family did you grow up with?

It was an eclectic mix! I have a brother, four years younger. Our parents separated when we were young and our mother raised us until I entered high school. We then went to live with my father, his partner, and their children. There were seven children in the house at one point!

*  Can you tell us something about the origin of the surname, Prak. I could only find reference online to a minor character of that name in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It’s Dutch but just as uncommon there as it is here. The Dutch say the closest ‘meaning’ or translation for the name is ‘mashed babyfood’!

*  Where did you go to school?

Stuart High School, a public school in Whyalla; then did my BA and MA at the University of South Australia’s Magill campus.


*  What was your first paying job?


This depends on the definition of paying job! I was paid a few dollars to help edit a football column for the Whyalla News when I was fourteen or thereabouts. 

My most substantial first gig was a part time job with Coles supermarket, from year 10 to year 12. During year 12 I was working seven days a week: every day after school, 9-5 on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. I loved earning my own money and I was saving to move to Adelaide to study.

*  How did you come to be professionally involved with social media?  Was that part of a plan, or just something that happened?

My career in social media evolved, but it was as a result of me following my passion for it. I was digital content manager at the South Australian Tourism Commission, looking after our many websites, etc. I then started looking at TripAdvisor and what was happening with tourism content there. Our first forays into social media were for our major events—specifically, the Tour Down Under


I was very keen to get our events and campaigns into social media and, luckily for me, those were the days when one could experiment and didn’t have to leap through layers of permissions and hand-wringing, which can happen in large organisations today.
 

I found I enjoyed social media immensely and seemed to have a knack for it—though I do think that was assisted by my long career in communications before that.
 

My roles since then have all been social media-focused.

*  Crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Pozible, IndieGoGo, etc.) provides filmmakers with a way to raise money for their films that bypasses traditional funding sources. What advice, if any, do you have for filmmakers considering Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding isn’t a speciality of mine, but from what I have read and researched, social media platforms can be a great boost to any crowdfunding efforts. That is: if you have Facebook and Twitter networks, they’re great to help you get the word out about your project. It’s very difficult to draw visitors to your Crowdfunding site otherwise. And genuine social networks, as you’d know, are something you build up slowly over time. It’s a long term undertaking, so if filmmakers want to ‘self promote’ in the future, they should be active on social media platforms now.

*  You were mentioned in a local newspaper last March in an article about prolific Tweeters from Adelaide. You were ranked #20. Did that article, or the subsequent debate, alter your approach to Twitter (in even a small way)?

I was quoted in that piece too, reflecting on why more women were in the list than men.

The piece didn’t alter my behaviour at all. The subsequent debate about ‘quality versus quantity’ on Twitter was quite amusing, with many people criticising the high-volume, enthusiastic tweeting of the most prolific accounts. My philosophy is that you use Twitter as you like, you enjoy yourself, and others will choose to engage with you there or choose not to, according to the value they place on your tweets.

*  What do you think of retweeting services? Should we get involved with them?

If you’re alluding to auto retweeting services, I’m not in favour of much automation on social media at all. It is open to too much backfiring and spam-like activity. It’s tempting to use these if you have a large social media workload but there are other means to manage this, via social media dashboards for example, garnering genuine supporters, developing a popular hashtag and so on.

My favourite social media dashboard is Hootsuite. I’ve tried others like Tweetdeck, and even played with tweeting via Crowdbooster, Socialbro and a myriad of other tweet tools, but Hootsuite has served me the best for years now.

Before Twitter was taken over by the bots and corporations, genuine ‘hand crafted’ retweeting services were fantastic. I think Adelaide Tweet remains a good example of this—the owner hasn’t set up a program to retweet any old tweet that meets content parameters. 


Rather, Adelaide Tweet has a team of people reading and assessing #Adelaide marked tweets and trying to share genuine pieces of news interspersed with some local reflections. It means Adelaide Tweet has become an established part of many local organisations’ promotional strategies. 

I don’t enjoy job vacancy retweeting accounts, or the proliferation of city-based retweeting accounts that almost mirror what Adelaide Tweet is doing, but without the same care and quality.

*  What’s the point to “liking” something on Facebook? Isn’t that just another way of handing your life over to Zuckerberg, so he can make more money off you?

We ‘like’ things on Facebook for many reasons. Sometimes it’s to get discounts at a retail chain, sometimes to support a cause, sometimes to protest something, sometimes just for plain old fun. While Facebook may sell that data to the ads that show on the right hand side of your screen, that’s the price we pay for a social network that is free for individuals to use, that connects us to people around the world, that’s continually updating and improving its interface, that provides free emails, online space for our photographs, and so on. ☺

If anyone is truly anti Zuckerberg, they can of course stay away from Facebook.


*  Given that you’re not primarily a writer, why did you become involved with the SA Writers’ Centre?

I was a member about a decade ago, when I did want to be a writer. I was invited onto the board recently because I have some skillsets that are valuable to the Centre right now: not just my social media skills, but also my PR and media relations skills. I am very excited to be back there and in fact getting my passion for writing again.

*  What are three suggestions you would make to a writer or independent filmmaker trying to build an online support base?

1. Share yourself: give followers insights into your work, the process, your hopes and failures and successes! People just love a good story.


2. Don’t just broadcast: have a conversation. That means asking followers questions, reading their content and responding.


3. People love images, especially on Facebook, but you can do a lot via Twitter, or just use the free Instagram app for both. So share photos of yourself at work, at events, of your craft, what inspires you, and so on. 


*  What is the biggest mistake you see writers or independent filmmakers commit online?

I can’t say I’ve watched the field closely enough to comment. But the biggest mistake anyone makes online, regardless of industry, is not responding or replying to others. If you’re broadcasting only, you’re a very dull social connector indeed.

Another mistake is not having a professional-looking profile. Make sure you take advantage of all the available biographical and image fields that social networks provide you. Tell people who you are. Have your website address there. It sounds like commonsense, yet some accounts don’t do this. This means they look uninspiring and even frightening, because people may think the account isn’t real or it is spam.

*  What one social media advice book would you recommend to filmmakers in Adelaide?

I'm not really a socmedia book reader. I’ve read Brian Solis’s Engage, and also WikiBrands: Reinventing Your Company in a Customer-Driven Marketplace, by Sean Miller, Mike Dover and Don Tapscott, but other than that, I find that online sources serve all my needs as far as social media reference material. 

Even more importantly, I’m a member of Facebook Groups for online community managers where we share case studies and news of platform changes. 

I recommend that filmmakers scour the internet and connect to some of the many sensational blogs, online forums, networks and online magazines that may appeal to them.

*  Name ten of your all-time favourite movies.

I’m not an art house person!


Thursday, 11 October 2012

"On Empty"

Here is a mockumentary comedy webseries about two Los Angeles transplants, who have little knowledge on how the industry operates, and their efforts at making it as actors in Hollywood.
The Z-lister's guide to making it in Hollywood.
In 2009 Vince Foster and Tyler Haines met and began to video record their journey to superstardom in Hollywood, California. The result is On Empty.


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