Author: maketh389

IGTV is a thing now but some creators still have a lot to learn

I have spent the last few days scanning videos from IGTV and I must say that on the whole I’m quite impressed by this attempt to bring portrait video as a form of mass entertainment to the public.

One thing that struck me earlier on was the compression that Instagram uses on the uploaded videos to allow for seamless playback. It is quite aggressive but I do believe that most viewers, strangely in this day and age of 4K video, will not complain as they have been using the stories function on Instagram for a while now and have come to expect this level of picture quality and bit rate. 

However, one thing that I feel won’t be tolerated is lazy editing. 

Yes, we want to get our videos out there as quickly as possible and yes, we do want a constant stream of content but not at the cost of a little pre-planning and forethought. 

It all comes down to three simple words from the legacy 4:3 ratio television days. Pan and scan.

The process was simple enough. In order to fit a cinemascope image from say a large Hollywood blockbuster movie for example to a square 4:3 television screen when the film was copied to video the machines they used to ‘video’ the film would move around the frame of the image to get the fit so you would see the actor who was talking at any given time or follow the action without it moving away from your field of view. 

Mainly, this worked and we were able to enjoy the movie without wondering why I am hearing someone speak but I cannot see them. 

I watched a segment from 5 News in the UK and whoever edited that video should know this. Throughout the piece, the two people being interviewed could not be seen but could be heard. This was an example of the very poor use of the IGTV platform. 

Most video editing programs have settings and functions for not only the screen ratio but also allow you to zoom and across the images, you are editing and in a fluid way that will follow the action on screen. 

Yes, it takes a little longer to edit but the results are worth it. 

If you want to win in the world of content creation just a small change such as panning and scanning your widescreen footage (if you have not filmed in portrait) will create far more engaging viewing experiences. 

The BUFF Awards 2018

Yesterday saw the start of the British Urban Film Festival 2018 which has been my go-to event in London for nearly a decade. It is always a pleasure to catch up with the great and the good of independent, diverse cinema.

This year saw the BUFF Awards 2018 being held at the Genesis Cinema in East London. A mecca for anyone who wants to bathe in its long and deep cinema history as well as catch movies way beyond most distributors reach.

It was a great way to start the festival as I assume once the glamour of the awards is out of the way then you can concentrate on showing great films for the rest of the week. And great films were mentions with my highlight from last year ‘Free In Deed’ starting David Harewood picking up a few awards including Best Actor. Best Actress for Edwina Finley in the same film as well as the Best Feature and ‘We Are Moses’ picking up the Best Short Film award as well as many others.

This year sees BUFF become film producers as well as its ‘BUFF Originals’ title ‘No Shade’. This puts BUFF in a similar vein to the work of Sundance to help encourage and nurture new talent on and off the screen and provide a creative well beyond the festivals screening program.

Amma Asante was also in attendance to receive the BUFF Honorary Recipient award.

So all in all talent new and established were awarded reminding us all that there is no time like the present to go out there and make your voice heard in the world of movies.

What was and ‘What Next?’ from the Sundance Film Festival London 2018

You know me (or maybe you don’t) but I do love a film festival. The chance to see films that would have no release or a limited run in cinemas as well as taking in short films from new talent is the main draw. Add to that the talks and networking opportunities plus the possibilities of a party or two and you have a great event to look forward to.

We start our journey from last Thursday to Sunday (31 May – 3 June) in the now familiar surroundings of the Picturehouse Central cinema in London’s West End where the stage was set for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival London and a second chance for those lucky enough to go to the main festival in Utah to either catch up on what they missed, see some films again for a second time or just to soak in the atmosphere of festival life for a few days in a warmer climate.

Day one style confusion and fuss in setting up a festival is underway as I go to collect my industry pass on Thursday but this is to be expected as the Picturehouse is a working cinema and quite non-stop when it comes to it normal screening schedule. The day for me started with a talk on short film strategies when submitting to Sundance and Mike Plante who programs for the festivals shorts screenings gave a lively if an honest account of not only the process he goes through but also the scale and the type of submissions he and his team receive.

In total there is a core team of 6 people that dig through the, on average, 9500 submissions with an extra 4 to 5 people Mike can call on once the submissions have been split into categories. With the quality of shorts ranging from home videos of kids doing talent stunts filmed by their parents for the sole purpose of hoping it will make their kids famous to fully realised cinematic mini-epics, it can take 7 plus months to whittle this number down to 350 ready to shortlist for the shorts strands in the festival.

The takeaways from this talk taught me that short impactful stories (try not to make a 20 min film) really grab the attention of the programmers. Not just punchy stories but films which will affect the audience emotionally either through thought or laughter. Better still if you have a 1-4 minute film that may put it in front of a feature which is great exposure for any new talent.

The other talks on short films were given by the Film London team where in the case of one of the filmmakers talking the point of his short was to try and promote a feature story, almost like a proof of concept.

The theme for the Sundance London this year is ‘What Next?’ relating to gender inequality and this played a big part in the festival not only in the talks but in the fact that 58% of the films presented at this festival were directed by women. No small feat even in this day and age. Inclusivity, as highlighted during the Film Hub London brunch and talks hosted by Film London reminded us that all areas of the media industry still have quite a way to go to bring real opportunities and real change to their gates. All of the causes of inequality must receive equal footing.

One thing that needs highlighting is that BAME audiences still rely on word of mouth recommendation when it comes to going to the movies. How that works in a digital marketing world is going to be key to building new and younger audiences for cinemas.

In my opinion, I feel the cinema space itself needs to change to reflect the ever-changing attention spans of not only the young but incorporate more of a community feel for more established cinema-goers. This in part came up during the Film Hub brunch as John Cooper the director of the festival explained the need for festivals to be more competitive in the current marketplace.

The actual ‘What Next’ talk gave insights into the production and acquisition process of movies from a female perspective with representatives from BBC Film, Film Four and Film London explaining as best possible that the film projects they choose are brave choices and have nothing to do with any quota system real or imagined. The talk became a bit awkward when two ladies in the audience asked about the thinking behind funding Idris Elba’s directorial debut ‘Yardie’ where the audience members accused BBC Film of continuing to highlight stereotypical images of black people. This was soon batted away by Eva Yates of BBC Films reminding us all as filmmakers that it is about the story first and nothing more.

Adobe, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Mayfair Hotel (who hosted the first party of the festival) and many others took up the mantle of festival sponsors and this made Sundance London for the filmmakers and visitors very comfortable indeed.

I only got a chance to see a few films with Yardie, The Tale, American Animals (Surprise Film) and Leave No Trace being the highlights for me. The UK Shorts and Sundance Shorts Tours were very eye-opening and entertaining.

At the end of it all and with one lively and sweaty party on Sunday night (I think the AC at the Picturehouse Central may have broken) I can say with confidence that Sundance London is one of the best ways to catch up on a great selection of films if you are unable to make the pilgrimage to Utah.

What does the Bank Of England base rate hold mean for overseas movie investment in the UK?

At the time of writing (10 May 2018 – 12:14 pm) the Bank of England announced that it will hold the base interest rate at 0.5% in a 7-2 vote. Only a few financial broadcasters and pundits predicted a rise of 0.25% but the UK’s cooling inflation picture did not correlate with such a move.

With news of the rate hold the rates and fx market flat-lined prior to trading in the US which could mean that fx traders will wait to see how much further the pound will fall against the dollar on the day before scooping up cheap pounds hoping for a rise in the GBP-USD to $1.40 to the pound.

How does this help or hinder studios and producers who want to make movies in the UK?

In the next few months, there will be a cheaper pound.  Studios and producers will have a small window to secure talent and facilities at a much cheaper price than by this time next year so even if you will not be on UK soil to film your next blockbuster until then if the expected rate rise happens in the next 14 months the fx market will be such that it will be almost impossible to get a cheaper pound. With the uncertainty of what Britain will look like once we leave the EU (this is dependent on any possible trade agreement) a panicked and random FX market could spoil any plans of making a saving in the UK whilst taking advantage of the UK technical and creative talent pool.

My recommendation. Spend the rest of the day tweaking and re-planning your spending again (yes, those film business plans you have may now hold even more savings) and resubmit your projects. What may not have looked like good business sense now could work well as a profit-making project. The UK now has a cheaper lending rate still so even holding on to money from investors or loans for at least the next 6 months could be cheaper than waiting to decide to secure your facilities and talent later.

With the BREXIT picture still uncertain I still feel that there are opportunities for braver investors to make great savings on making movies and television in the UK but this is a limited offer and after August of this year, if no trade agreement is more formed with the EU then any savings that could be made will be lost in my opinion.

To simplify the matter, a 0.25% saving on £30 million is still a lot of money that can be used elsewhere. I understand it is not a simple as that but with the changes in the fx rate today it could be that amount, if not more.

Did Apple miss a 4K trick? Maybe not.

Another day, another Apple presentation and while the world and his wife were marveling/drooling/despairing (delete as applicable) at the shiny new old things that Apple told the world it needed we may have missed a trick in the less sexy news surrounding the new Apple TV release.

Yes you can play games and use more apps than the current model. The software now gives you lovely fullscreen previews of movies and TV content information, multitasking and even weather information via the new remote which looks and acts nothing like an Amazon Fire TV remote in the slightest. Oh no. The ting that worries me a little was the lack of any mention of a 4K HDMI output.

The presentation went on with no hint of the Apple TV box being able to output 4K.

Now I am not saying that 4K (UltraHD for the people at home mainly) is the be all and end all of all television viewing. Sales in the UK are patchy at best but 4K currently is the sales pitch of the moment when it comes to visual products of all kinds including the new iPhone 6s.

Looking further at the specs put up on the Apple website after the presentation and the HDMI output is listed as 1.4 and being able to output Dolby Digital 7.1. With this in mind you could squeeze some UltraHD 4K video out which would keep Netflix happy at least. It still, at the moment, specifies the video output as 1080p. Are we to expect a software update in the near future? That aside the other item surrounding the Apple TV we as content creators should all keep an eye on is the new tvOS programing language running the show underneath the new taller box.

With all the recent talk of television viewing being treated as an app (it’s all BBC iPlayers fault), tvOS maybe more significant that we can first image.

It is clearly a case of watch this new TV space.

So what if I know? – A pointless rant about others views and attitudes

So the sun is shining as I write this but I find myself drifting toward some useless thought patterns.

I am not too sure what is going on at the moment but I sense a real atmosphere of angst and what could be described as hate in some cases. Luckily I living in the United Kingdom and there is one thing us UK dwellers do well. Being two faced.

There seems to be a real need for me to stop smiling or in fact stop doing anything, which of course in not going to happen any time soon. People who were friendly before are friendly no more. A real air of dark-hearted mood modification.

It is hard when things in your life are not going your way or that you are not getting the feedback, be it good or bad, that you wish to receive but trying to off-load and make others “feel your pain” is about as possible as being able to go into the crushing darkness and silence of death with a helping partner. Some things are solo missions. Even twins are born one at a time.

With this in mind I have a choice. Carry on giving energy to people who do not want it or move on in a massive way and reconnect with the rest of the planet and see how that works out.

Times are hard at the moment but the times are also “a changing…” and at a pace most cannot keep up with but now it is the time to redefine how the rest of my life will pan out and I would advise anyone in the same position to do the same.

Look around, review, revise, edit, cut, edit some more and then renew. Most importantly stick with the choice you make be it good or bad.

Because to be quite honest, me writing about such feelings is a complete waste of time and thinking about such matters an even bigger waste.

New Year…New Rules

(Part one of what I am sure will be a very short series)
So, this is 2015. Interesting no? Age is not the only thing that is nothing but a number. However change can be instantly achieved regardless of the date.
A prime example of this happened recently (I know….at the time of writing we are only seven days into the year). I received a friend request on Facebook.
No big deal I hear you cry. Get them all the time the vain people at the back are mumbling to themselves. This time however I had to think about it for a moment before deciding if this ‘association’ should be added.

You see I was at a course/function/gathering about three years ago when I was less cynical about a lot of professional pursuits and more in a tune with the real me. I met this person there and I gave a lot of time and energy making sure he did not feel left out in life. Being a person who loves connecting with and hearing the stories of those of us who are more experienced in life is the one thing I know feeds my intellect and my sprit. That is just the way I am wired. I thought we got on great.

Anyway, a few years go by and I see the person again but this time they are dismissive, un-engaged and full of themselves (it was their night to shine apparently) and in my customary way I left it right there where it belongs.
So, I fire up my newish grandad sized iPhone this week and opened Facebook only to see a request from the very same person. Had they forgotten who they ignored last time? Do they feel they will gain some career advantage by sending this request at this time? Do these questions matter?
The last one is very easy to answer. No. These questions and many more should not even figure in your minds and in truth do not matter at all.

We all have choice. We can surround ourselves with likeminded people who may not agree with you all the time but at least you both feed each other’s sprit in a way where some level of positivity will emerge. I no longer engage with energy vampires or professional destructive hate talkers .

So the request has been deleted. I hope they forget about the request in the same way they would forget about their behaviour. That way balance is restored to my universe which, hopefully, will spill into your universe.

The day my father died and the lesson he left me

It was a year ago today that I received a call that we all may come to expect but is still a shock. The voice down the line was my stepmother from America, crying and screaming. “He’s dead, he’s dead! Your father is dead”. “How?” I first asked without realising that how he died was of little consequence. I set about the task of telling the rest of my family here in the UK.

After the calls and with a good measure of rum in a glass I sat down and started to think about my father life. He had made a choice not to be with my mother when I was 15 and that had made me mad and bitter for quite a long while. Nobody could understand the choice at the time and we were not in an emotional and financial position to just pick up the pieces and start again. But over time I came to forgive my father and find peace with the situation. I had gone through worse and was still going to go through other times that would test me so holding a grudge was never an option and in life it never should be.

At the times that I met with my father he always seemed far more happy, adventurous and settled as a person. In fact far more than he had been in his time here in the UK.

And then the penny dropped. He was doing exactly what he want to do without fear or judgement. It had seemed as if he found the kind of freedom that we all crave. That balance we all talk about but do not quite reach because of our fears.

My stepbrother Mark summed it up perfectly when he said to me last year that my dad “…did it his way…” and that is the one lesson I strive to take from all of this.

At some point we all need to do it our way. Walk from the toxic if it cannot be silenced. Stand tall everywhere in everything you do. Make sure your voice is heard however you may express yourself and keep on keeping. Forward motion everyday no matter how small that movement seems.

One day we all will be stopped in our tracks. Never make that day the time you are enjoying on earth. And enjoy it, for all of its waves of happiness and hardship, we must. It is our duty.

Rest in peace dad. Here’s to doing it our way.

Beware the switchers

Just a short blog entry this time as there is a point where we all need to spend our energies elsewhere and for me this is the last time I will talk or even think about this subject.
I have experienced something twice now that calls in to question my role as an emotional advisor when the going gets tough for others and I have given the type of person who does this act a name. I call them switchers.

Here’s what happens. At some point in the past a person who would normally not seek your council approaches you for advice. Although you find this unusual you still allow them your time and hopefully help them. You now feel that whatever distance there was between you and the person you were advising has gone and you are able to talk freely in a more open and adult manner. Hold that thought for a moment.

What happens is that in the passage of time that person will normally return to the “me” economy we are all so comfortable with today and past deeds no longer count. A kind of social business as usual attitude when their world is fully intact. When they return to “me” world their memory of your past efforts are, in the least case, forgotten or in the worst case angered against.

This is worrisome. How are we meant to gauge who to help in the future if your help will be used against you later on down the road? We all know that it is human nature to take kindness for weakness but to do so for emotional gain must be a new low surely? Are we now at a point where material gain is not enough and we must now try and crush other peoples spirits or act in a grandiose way above our fellow man to feel better about ourselves?

What I can only predict and I am sure I will see a lot more of in the future is a greater distance between those who help for no reason or gain and those who abuse such help. There is an economy of scale with these matters meaning there are far more people who need help than there are helpers.

Those of us who are exploring our own sense of self are able to use the internal dialogue to reach out to the right type of help. Some will use the help of a guru of sort who must be good because I am spending money on their services. Others, will use certified practitioners to “off load” whatever ails them but if your moral compass is off course then you will interpret the help you receive incorrectly and feel that to raise yourself up you must do so on the shoulders of other. The problem with that. The shoulders you stand on will tire of your abuse.

In this fast acting Internet world it is very easy to react without thinking as long as you realise that the same thing will happen to you and it will not be the easiest of situations to deal with if you are unable to have the right internal conversation first.

The Festival Diary – it’s emotional

So onward the festival weekend went and with no screening at the Southbank it was once again off to Piccadilly to harvest the best that Raindance can offer. Luckily, due to a little festival burn out I had decided to take the easy route and commune with other wary soul journeying through the desert of creative thought.
So after a quick visit to the Raindance cafe it was back to the cinema to see ‘Hinterland’, a slow burning road movie it which not a lot happens but says more than most movies about our relationships and how they sometimes “devolve” over time. It has a real charm about it which makes the end note of the movie far more touching than a lot of movies which try to force an emotional response on you.
After another long gap the movie ‘Cesar Chavez’ dealt out a history lesson on the civil rights leader who changed the way in which migrant workers were paid and treated. It has some stand out moments but in the main the story is told in quite a straight forward fashion considering the stella cast assembled which goes to prove that, although this was not a bad movie, A big name cast does not guarantee a big emotional experience.
And talking of emotion the last film I saw on Saturday was meant to be shown as part of the Raindance MA short film program. ‘Beyond The Cage’ tells the story of two MMA fighters Alex Reid and Tony Giles as they prepare to fight each other in a match. The impression I had of the sport and of the individuals involved were shattered into pieces as they explained their prep method but also their highly emotional reason for their drive towards fighting. Tony spoke in a mini Q&A after and I really get now how personal struggle can work for and at time against you but his drive and determination plus his endless support he feel from his son to do better has left a deep emotional crater that will be hard to fill for a long time.
Sunday mornings shorts program offered some light and shade with the stand out film ‘Mr Invisible’ a bench mark of things to come from the film making team.
The feature ‘Fourever’ showed the darker side of long term friendships (a theme that has ran through the festival on and off screen as of late) with the main protagonist tricking his friends into a home party situation with disastrous consequences. A very slow starting moving at first and a technically difficult film to watch it eventually fumbled its way to some very “ah-ha!” moments later on down the line. Then after more networking and my second hot meal of the festival I took in the music documentary ‘Take Me To The River’ which open our eyes to the joy and pain of the Memphis music scene and it’s bi-directional effects on the wider community. A gala screening packaged with a Gig at the 100 Club made the night worth the headache the next day.

Bouncing back to the BFI on the Southbank Monday morning and the morning screening of ‘Kelly & Cal’ show the more surreal way in which love and infatuation knows no bounds. Even if the one of the would be lovers are physical bound through disability the story still wrapped us in a realistic but cute version of suburban hell.
Meanwhile after a quick Raindance cafe pitstop I sat through the UK Funds talk which still had some supprises even for me. The comedy ‘Down Dog’ with Nick Moran told the story of a man wrongly told he has a year to live who decides to try and turn his life around and reconnect with his son. Funny. Not laugh out loud funny in my view but the kind of comedy that I am sure Sky TV will lap up.
After a very short breather I was invited to the screening of the new Richwater film ‘We Still Kill The Old Way’, a comically at time dark tale of revenge and urban gangland style warfare with the older generation taking on a careless youth gang. For me it was a welcome break from the claustrophobia a festival environment can be. Also. They ran out of space at the ‘Boozin N Smoozin’ event so at least I was left completely out in the cold. Not that anyone would purposeful do such a thing……would they?

To round off this diary entry quickly both screening at BFI, ‘Queen and Country’ as well as ‘NAS -Time Is iLLmatic’ we’re both fresh and worthy of the bouncing around between the Sourhback and Piccadilly.
At Raindance and my film choices were not going well. Both ‘The Ninth Cloud’ with Michael Madsen and the later screening from Sadie Frost ‘Buttercup Bill’ were too out there for words. Luckily the Gala screening of the Manchester United mockumentary ‘United We Fall’ round the day off with at least one hit on planet Raindance.

It has been a weird few days during this festival time as the highs and lows of people energy can draw blood if we are not careful. Film can be a very emotional medium both on screen and especially off screen…..if you let it.