Tuesday 31 December 2013

In memoriam - 2013

Here is a tribute, in two parts, to some of the people who passed in 2013. With thank to MemoryMan1964.

(I turn the sound off on one of the videos and play them both at the same time.) 

Patti Page, Robin Sachs, Ned Wertimer, Reeva Steenkamp, Bonnie Franklin, Marian Wantola, Bruce Reynolds, Huell Howser, Conrad Bain, David R. Ellis, Anna Litvinova, Aaron Swartz, Pauline Phillip, Earl Weaver, Chrissie Amphlett, Donald Byrd, Magic Slim, Lou Myers, Chris Kelly, Deanna Durbin, Jonathan Winters, Michael Winner, Barbara Werle, Tony Lip, Richie Havens, DJ Ajax, Sammy Johns, Mindy McCready, Daniel Darc, Don Payne, Jack Shea, Leroy 'Sugarfoot' Bonner, Asal Badiee, Alex Elisala, Dale Robertson, Milo O' Shea, Fran Warren, Barry Fey, Mike Gray, Christa Speck, Jason Molina, Kevin Gray, Johnny Lockwood, George Jones, and Ray Harryhausen.

August Schellenberg, Steve Forrest, Annette Funicello, Eileen Brennan, Stephenie McMillan, Lisa Robin Kelly, Dennis Farina, Karen Black, James Gandolfini, Cory Monteith, Lee Thompson Young, Jim Kelly, Dennis Burkley, Esther Williams, Elmore Leonard, Eydie Gormé, Jane Henson, Frank Bank, Gary David Weisberg, Henry Bromell, Bernadette Lafont, Allan Arbus, Elizabeth Alley, Jean Stapleton, Richard Griffiths, Henry Polic II, Jack Clement, Sid Bernstein, Ray Manzarek, J.J.Cale, Van Cliburn, Joey Covington, Julie Harris, Bryan Forbes, Cosmo Allegretti, Jeanne Cooper, Seamus Heaney, Joyce Brothers, Shain Gandee, Jiah Khan, Charles Lisanby, Tom Connors, Ron Weaver, Haji, Michael Hastings, Mary Thom, Douglas Engelbart, Cliff Morgan, Matt Osborne, Tommy Morrison, Deacon Jones, Dick Trickle, and Emile Griffith.

Thursday 26 December 2013

"Play the Devil"

My novel, Play the Devil, is now available at Amazon.com. I started writing it back in the late 1990s and it seems like it has taken forever for things to reach this stage. 

The story is about a kid named Wilfred Lever, whose parents are missionaries in India. A visiting preacher prophesies over him that he shall one day be like Elijah in Australia. Which, if you're not familiar with Elijah, means he will become irresistibly powerful and a force for good.

He is sent to Australia to complete his education, and it is there that the fun and games begin...

The title of the book comes from Shakespeare's Richard III:

But then I sigh; and with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the Devil.
Wilfred Lever: he seems like a saint, but...

My original intention in writing this book was so anyone who had escaped from any of the Pentecostal cults could give the book to their family and friends, and say, "Read that, and you'll know what it was like."

I can't tell if I even got close to the target. You be the judge.

Here's the long version of the book cover blurb:
Wilfred Lever, son of ambitious missionaries, is wrenched from his life in an Indian village by a prophecy: he shall be Elijah in his own country. Sent to Adelaide to stay with an embittered and perverted aunt, he is well into adolescence when his family joins him there. In the first manifestation of a burgeoning power complex, he forces himself upon his half-sister Mary, now a deeply desirable young woman. What follows is the beginning of a lifetime of burying secrets beneath the surface of church life. The prophecy seals Wilfred’s moral doom as he is given carte blanche to a lifetime of abuses within the auspices of the church.

The institutional nature of his life protects him from retribution. A character with no moral compass, he feels himself to be untouchable. He gets away with cheating at Bible College, an affair with his secretary, deeply suspect financial dealings, and eventually an act more disturbing than all of these combined. His wife, Lorna, the guiding hand behind the scenes, tolerates Wilfred’s corruption and hypocrisy, always with one eye to her social position. The church leadership is willing to prop him up too; church members have any number of skeletons in the closet that can be used to manipulate and silence them when necessary. Everyone, it seems, is onto a good thing, and they all know how to cover their backs.

But when Wilfred rapes Mary’s daughter, it seems his number is up. Despite his best efforts to hush things up, rumours are circulating about the girl’s convenient suicide and his involvement in a financial scandal. Mary plots to kill him. The board forces Wilfred’s resignation, but at his lowest point, it seems the prophecy really is true. The church hierarchy are priming him for politics: all his travails have led to this moment, where at last he is on the brink of true power.
Do me a favor and, whatever you think, write a brief review on Amazon.com.
Thank you.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

'Silent Night' - (in the style of Pink Floyd)

The December People pay tribute to a time of year that has a special magic for everyone throughout our lives. It is a magic that is passed on from generation to generation. Music and magic are two items, if handed down properly, can have an infinite life and unlimited power.

The song:
Silent Night (German: "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht") is a popular Christmas carol. The original lyrics of the song "Stille Nacht" were written in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria, by the priest Father Joseph Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz Xaver Gruber. In 1859, John Freeman Young (second Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Florida) published the English translation that is most frequently sung today. The version of the melody that is generally sung today differs slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber's original, which was a sprightly, dance-like tune in 6/8 time, as opposed to the slow, meditative lullaby version generally sung today. Today, the lyrics and melody are in the public domain. The carol was first performed in the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria, on December 24, 1818.

The movie: The Little Matchgirl

In 2006, Walt Disney Feature Animation finished production work on a new adaptation of The Little Match Girl. The short was originally intended to be a part of a Fantasia film, but this project was canceled. The Little Matchgirl is last of the four shorts from the aborted compilation to be developed as a stand alone film. It was subsequently released as a special feature on the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD of The Little Mermaid. "Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 in D Major" by Alexander Borodin.

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Tuesday 24 December 2013

"Twas The Night Before Christmas" - (in the style of Led Zeppelin)

Robert Berry formed The December People in order to play great music together and bring a contemporary sound to holiday music. As an experiment, they posed a musical question for all of us. If great groups such as The Who, Boston, U2, ZZ Top, Peter Gabriel, ELP, Led Zeppelin, Sting, Pink Floyd and Santana all recorded familiar Christmas songs, what would they sound like? The answer is pretty simple. They would sound like Christmas... with the unmistakable stamp of each of these timeless artists.The December People pay tribute to a time of year that has a special magic for everyone throughout our lives. It is a magic that is passed on from generation to generation. Music and magic are two items, if handed down properly, can have an infinite life and unlimited power.

Short movie: Momentos (a Portuguese short film for the world).

Numa noite normal com o passado largado da memória, um homem reencontra, no lugar a que chama casa, lembranças de um tempo que viveu. Fragmentos de pura felicidade e instantes de sublime partilha, surgem como apontamentos de esperança de um presente que não voltará a ser o mesmo.

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Monday 23 December 2013

"Joy To The World " - Pink Martini

Joy To The World is a festive, nondenominational holiday album with music from around the globe. 

“There are 14 songs on Joy to the World,” says Thomas Lauderdale, “including well-known traditional holiday songs like Irving Berlin’s White Christmas... sung by China Forbes in English and by the incredible Saori Yuki... the Barbra Streisand of Japan... in Japanese. 

With the Pacific Youth Choir and the handbell choir Bells of the Cascades, we recorded Shchedryk, known in English-speaking countries as “Carol of the Bells,” with the original Ukrainian text which tells of a lark flying into the house at the start of a new year, thus bringing good fortune. 

We recorded a Hebrew prayer Elohai N’tzor with Ida Rae Cahana and Ari Shapiro and Patricia Costa Kim. (Ida Rae Cahana was for many years the canter at Central Synagogue in New York City and now lives in Portland... Ari Shapiro is the NPR White House correspondent… and accordionist Patricia Costa Kim was just named director of education at Experience Music Project in Seattle, but is also known by millions on YouTube as the keyboardist bandleader of Sonseed and their Christian ska song “Jesus is a friend of mine”). 

There’s a Chinese New Year song from 1946, a Fela inspired version of We Three Kings, a song in Ladino (the intersection of Spanish and Hebrew), Silent Night in the original German, as well as a verse in Arabic and another in English. The album ends with a samba parade of Auld Lang Syne with choruses in English, Arabic and French over the incredible percussion of the Lions of Batucada.” 

Lauderdale notes, “I love the holidays and all the music that goes with it. We strove to make an inclusive and non-denominational album that could be played anywhere in the world.”

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Sunday 22 December 2013

"T'was the Night before Christmas..."

See if this short film can bring a smile to your face.

Saturday 21 December 2013

"Chop Socky Boom"

The Seattle-based web series, Final Zodiac Warrior, hosts auditions for twelve open roles: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
Chop Socky Boom is a misfortunate web comedy that follows the adventures of five misfit Seattle actors cast in an action kung fu how. The five traverse the challenges of the low budget film making process, all the while doing battle with their own individual demons, be it mistreatment from their fabulous and beautiful cast member counterparts, ambiguous direction from an often misunderstood director, or even the threat of looming unemployment at the day job, our demon fighters boldly... fight the demons.

Chop Socky Boom was created by Darlene Sellers and Heath Ward, and it stars: Khanh Doan, Andrew McMasters, Jen Page, Jay Irwin, Brandon Ryan, Darlene Sellers, Dan Humphrey, Eric Stevens, S Joe Downing, Terisa Greenan, Shawn Telford, and Bella, as herself.

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Friday 20 December 2013

Billy Ray: Tricks of the Trade

Here's a great little interview from Mike De Luca's The Dialogue series.

Billy Ray is the writer of Color of Night (1994), Volcano (1997), Hart's War (2002), Flightplan (2005), Breach (2007), State of Play (2009), The Hunger Games (2012), Captain Phillips (2013), and many others. When he talks about screenwriting, it's obvious he knows what he's taking about.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Movie Posters - 2013

Sam Smith has listed his 10 favorite movie posters designed this year in The Dissolve. The list appear after some unrelated material, so it's easy to miss. A few examples:

And for something completely different, her's a short film showing the designer of the Stoker poster (name not known) doing the work.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Finally, the truth about those moon landings...

Written and directed by Animator Alvise Avati and produced by Animation Director Eamonn Butler. Beans, a short film with an unexpected ending, showcases Cinesite's creature animation skills

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Sweethearts of the Galaxy

Here's a new web series written by Michael Premsrirat and directed by Dexter N. Adriano.
Sweethearts of the Galaxy is a comedy Web series about a girl (played by Kit Quinn) who dresses up as a superhero at comic book conventions. And then she starts to think she really is her favorite character Trinity Infinity.

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Monday 16 December 2013

Everything is a Remix

Kirby Ferguson is a New York-based filmmaker, and creator of dozens of comedic short films, which have received over four million views on the web.

Three years ago he put out a four-part documentary in which he argued that everything is a remix, and that all original material builds off of and remixes previously existing material.

The following video is all four parts of the documentary, and two supplements, glued together into a single video. Such a format may be better for a "lean and watch" mode as it does not require switching between videos and removes some duplicate content. It also removes Kirby's foreword from the end of parts one through three leaving only the one at the end.

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Sunday 15 December 2013

Busby Berkeley and the Coen Brothers

I've been watching Busby Berkeley movies lately and noticed something interesting. The Coen brothers must have been big fans. Take a look at some comparison shots from The Big Lebowski:

The Big Lebowski (1998)

The shot where the Dude floats between the dancers' legs was the subject of a practical joke during filming.
One or two of the dancers got the idea that we should all wear outrageous, over-the-top pubic hair coming out of our panties underneath our skirts, so they approached the hair/wardrobe department who obliged us with black curly wigs, which we tore apart and shoved in our panties, hanging out the sides like a jungle. So, there is Jeff, laying underneath the first girl in the line-up and he starts smiling, thinking to himself. 'Somebody's not taking care of business.' As he rolls past the first few girls and sees that we all weren't 'taking care of business', he is now laughing out loud, and the ladies are trying to stifle our laughter, which also makes it difficult for us to balance in heels with a wide straddle. One of the Coens cuts the take. No one knows what's going on except the dancers and Jeff. So the dancers flash the choreographers and they fall on the floor laughing. But the crew and the Coens still don't know what's going on. So we all turn to them and flash them. The crew laughed, but Joel and Ethan were not amused. One of them said something to the effect of, 'million-dollar-a-day set, people, let's get going.'
                                                                                          ~Dancer Jamie Green
42nd Street (1933)

No one floats between these girls' legs, but they didn't have the equipment to shoot that back in 1933.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Saddam's shoe tower...

42nd Street (1933)

... had a predecessor in 1933.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

A scene of dancers making patterns in a circle....

Dames (1934)

... has numerous counterparts in Busby Berkeley musicals. This one is from Dames, a film once listed as one of the Coen brother's seven favourite films.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Dude makes an entrance...

Gold Diggers of 1935

... much like another made in 1935.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
The young lady being tossed in the air from a circular blanket at a beach party...

Dames (1934)

... has a parallel in this shot in which another young lady appears to fly out of a circle of her peers.

Three women fly up to the camera, followed by a fourth who is carrying... wait for it...

Dames (1934)

... a bowling ball!

Believe it or not.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Screenwriter's Lecture - Scott Frank

In this lecture, Scott Frank (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Minority Report, The Wolverine) illustrates the importance of opening scenes, the challenges his craft encompasses and how, ultimately, "it's all about the words".

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Friday 13 December 2013

Filmography 2013

Another year hurtles by and... here it is already. Filmography 2013

Created by the anonymous film editor, Genrocks, who says: 
"Words are life," says Max in 2013's The Book Thief, and indeed they hold us together and to help us share that transcendent phenomenon that is life. This video takes 300 of this year's films and distills it into a 7-minute exploration of the ideas we keep coming back to: the purpose of life, the nature of evil, the mystery of death, the power of love, and the inevitability of time.

Or, it's just a pretty cool mashup of movies from 2013. Either way: I hope you enjoy.

Note: My film selection process was fairly open; anything that was either produced or distributed in 2013 was fair game.
The full list of films from which the mashup has been drawn can be seen here.

You can find the 2010, 2011 and 2012 versions below.

2010/2011    2012

Meanwhile, here's another version of the same thing, done by The Sleepy Skunk. It might be a better effort, see what you think.

The full list of films from which this mashup has been drawn can be seen here.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Linda Aronson’s masterclass

Good news. Linda Aronson has teamed up with AFTRS Open (the Australian Film Television and Radio School) to present a couple of two-day masterclasses (one in Melbourne and one in Sydney), early next year.

Linda is widely regarded as the world expert on nonlinear and complex film and TV structures. She is a multi-award-winning writer who’s spent more than thirty years writing for companies in Australia, UK, New Zealand and USA, with credits for TV drama series, serials, mini-series, children’s TV, drama documentary, feature film, stage plays, novels, short stories, radio drama, journalism and books on writing craft.

She has created TV drama series and storylines, been a script judge/selector in many contexts, including the Emmys, and now works all over the world as a consultant and teacher specializing in nonlinear and complex script structure.

Her screenwriting books The 21st Century Screenplay and Screenwriting Updated are required reading at many film schools. She has taught at NYU, Columbia, Berkeley, American Film Institute, The Great American Pitchfest, NFTS, Goldsmiths’, London Screenwriters’ Festival, The Script Factory (London), BBC TV Drama Writers’ Festival, FAMU (Prague), DFFB (Berlin), Netherland Film and TV Academy, CEEA (Paris), Swedish Film Institute, Sources 2 (Berlin), and many more.

Linda Aronson explodes the conventional screenwriting theory which assumes that structure means only one hero on a linear chronological journey. Instead she provides practical writing guidelines for writing flashback scripts, Pulp Fiction structures, multiple storyline films, and fractured forms like 21 Grams, Crash and The Hours. She shows how eighteen of these modern forms work to predictable patterns, and provides practical, down to earth templates for writing them.
SYDNEY:  February 22-23, 2014
MELBOURNE: March 1-2, 2014

Linda tells me these masterclasses will be her first time teaching in Australia in many years. In the last tax year she had eight international trips across three continents (Europe, USA, Africa) and still didn’t manage to get to all of the organisations that invited her. So this is a rare opportunity for Australians. Check it out.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

"The Wakefield Variation"

The Wakefield Variation is a webseries loosely inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Wakefield."
Wakefield has been hiding in a small apartment for years. He didn't leave any traces behind, and keeps spying on his former girlfriend Eleanor using bugs and hidden cameras, in a sort of twisted social experiment. Time goes by, in a flow of memories, thoughts, and loneliness. When the girl is about to make a step which would put her out of range for good, he starts thinking about getting back into her life.
It was produced by independent Italian production studio Effetto Espanso; shot on location in Pisa, Italy. It stars Canadian actors Michael Brian and Kelsey Gillis.

Here is the pilot episode.

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Tuesday 10 December 2013

A long career in film?

Most of us start out dreaming of long careers as elements in the world of filmmaking. And why not? Steven Spielberg has directed/produced some 150 feature films and, at the age of 67, is still going strong. William Goldman, now in his eighties, has written over 30 feature films (and worked uncredited on many others). Morgan Freeman, a mere 76, has appeared in over 100 films, five of those completed in the last twelve months. 

It seems that the sky is the limit, but the reality is most aspiring filmmakers fail to get started.  I've met so many wannabe screenwriters who have never completed a screenplay. And never will. Others have completed one, which failed to be picked up, and they will spend the rest of their lives licking that particular wound. 

And most of those who crack all the barriers and complete their first feature film, never make a second. Over the last fifty years, 70% of the people who directed a feature film in Australia have failed to make a second.

All of which brings me to the point of this post: British writer and producer Stephen Follows has published his analysis of the careers of British filmmakers. Here is a short extract from his article.

Thanks to the BFI, I’ve managed to build a list of all the UK films budgeted at over £500k since 2003 and all the UK films budgeted at under £500k since 2008. That’s 2,737 feature films in total.  I’m starting to crunch the numbers on this large dataset and in the coming weeks I’ll share what I discover.
All the data in this article relates to UK films, although the people aren’t all UK nationals. First up – let’s take a look at how many films each person has been involved with.  In summary…

  • Only 13% of producers of low budget films have subsequently produced a second film
  • Under 3% of directors who have directed a film have gone on to direct two more
  • 23% of writers who wrote a film wrote a second film
  • Directors are more likely to make a second film than producer, writers or actors
  • The vast majority of writers, producer, directors and actors stick within either low budget (<£500K) or higher budgets (>£500k). Only 15% have worked in both budget ranges.

You can read the entire article here. His blog is well worth reading, especially if you're interested in British filmmaking.
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Monday 9 December 2013


Here's an impressive short film, written and directed by Keir Burrows, called Donkey. Burrows  was born and grew up in Durban, South Africa. After spending time in France and New Zealand, he now lives in London. Donkey stars James Farrar.
A multiple award-winning short about a man whose life is going according to plan. A chance encounter with someone he bullied when they were both children forces a dramatic reassessment of his values.

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Sunday 8 December 2013

David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers are invited to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes.

Do you divide people into "creative" versus "practical" people? David M. Kelley suggests, creativity is not the domain of only a chosen few. Telling stories from his legendary design career and his own life, he offers ways to build the confidence to create.

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Saturday 7 December 2013

Screenwriter's Lecture - Mike Newell

In this video, director Mike Newell (Enchanted April, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) focuses on the relationship between the director and the screenplay.

He explains why 'a good man in a bad jam' is a better premise than it sounds, why the Four Weddings screenplay was 'director-proof', where his interest in character comes from, and why his directing style is determined entirely by his writers.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Flickerfest 2014

Renowned as Sydney's first beachside cinema, the Flickerfest short film festival kicks off the summer cinema season outdoors, under the stars, at Bondi Beach

Flickerfest is one of three Academy Award®-accredited short film competitions in Australia, alongside the Melbourne International Film Festival and the Sydney Film Festival.

Bondi Beach, where Heath Ledger lost the money in Two Hands.

Just a quick swim. What could possibly go wrong?
The Festival takes place from January 10-19, 2014.

Bondi Pavilion

After the Sydney festival, Flickerfest tours to 50 venues around Australia. Special showcases celebrate the latest in cutting edge shorts from around the world.

I got my Heads-up via Twitter.

And here's the trailer, with a star cameo from Dan Ackroyd. Thank you, Katharine.

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Wednesday 4 December 2013

"L.A. Girls"

L.A. Girls is a webseries written by Tiffany Ariany and Matt Blessing, produced by Kylie Sparks, and directed by Matt Blessin.
A spoof of the show Girls.
Here is episode one: Judaism, Nepotism, and Broken Dreams.

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Tuesday 3 December 2013

Waldemar Świerzy: 1931-2013

Waldemar Świerzy passed away on November 26. An award-winning poster designer, he graduated from the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts in 1952. He had subsequently been Professor in the University of Fine Arts in Poznań from 1965, and Professor in the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw from 1994.

Examples of his work are held in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Kunstbibliothek in Berlin, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the National Museum in Poznan, the Poster Museum, and many others.