Saturday, August 23, 2014

Film Commission frowns on Kiwi Ingenuity? The sky is falling!

 On 24 Apr 2014, Dave Gibson, new head of the NZ Film Commission, was interviewed by Simon Morris on the RadioNZ programme "At The Movies".

Summary of some discussion starting at 06:43
"The things that concern me .." ... "the democratisation of film-making" is "a bit scary". Can be a good thing and a bad thing. People with no skills and no abilities will be able to make (feature) films. (Morris: "no gatekeeper?").  With bad poetry you can put the book down quickly.  With bad films you have "paid $20 and get stuck in a cinema for an hour and a half with a terrible film".

Regardless of material costs, it is a major social organisation challenge to get people together make a 90 min movie.  And those people are all quality control gatekeepers. The project leaders need ideas, passion, credibility to win them over. On completion, distributors and film festival selectors are severe quality control gatekeepers.  The situation Dave dreads could only happen where the film-makers hire a venue as a rare one-off.  Also the democratisation of film-making is not a future event. It started with Super-8mm about 1980.  I first trapped a paying audience in the dark for 90 min in Dec 1982 with "Breaking Out Of Pattern".  The sky did not fall. OK it did get a bad review in the "Auckland Star" newspaper... gatekeeper!

I am concerned that we are heading for a downturn rather than a no-budget explosion. Dave's "equipment revolution" is up against a world of more work-pressure and time-pressure making co-op and community projects more difficult.

This reminds me of Robert Greene.  Who?  Robert was a playwright complaining about the democratisation of live theatre.  He was especially upset about writers without university degrees.  They should not be allowed!  And the worst offender was - ta da! - that awful "upstart crow" William Shakespeare! The year was 1592.  We have survived democratisation since then.  So do we have a Film Commission ready to discourage the next emerging William Shakespeare?

Which brings us to the latest Film Commission initiative and their call for comments.

NZFC proposes ramping up their "Escalator" scheme of $250000 low budget movies. But they insist on full professionalism, so that means as my writer friend Colin Rock says: "2 actors and a puppet in the back of a garage".  This follows the success of Escalator film "Housebound", a horror movie with a small cast and a house.  Huge congratulations to everyone involved in "Housebound" for making a great little movie.  I wonder if this is in spite of "Escalator" rather than because of it?  Can anyone else see that small scope horror movies are the only kind of success we can have out of this?

In my opinion projects need to be "EITHER-OR". As in either co-op no-budget ($5000 to $50000 production) or fully professional with a good scope of film visual language ($2 million plus). Anywhere in-between is awkward and a bad idea.  Hey Film Commission you got lucky with "Housebound" but you are now drawing the wrong conclusion from that.
Quoting NZFC:  "..genuinely lower-budget in scope and methodology to be candidates for funding. This wouldn’t be about making a bigger budget film for less money or cutting corners at the expense of cast, crew and industry partners."
Is this a ban on Kiwi Ingenuity? Does this mean a ban on the use of number-8 wire?!  Does this mean a ban on deals like deferrals or part-payments mixed with percentage shares?
Yet elsewhere on their website, NZFC does write about doing shares.  Ref:
"..repay any deferrals key creatives have made..",  "..percentage each individual cast or crew member allocated points will get..".
Anyone else see a contradiction here?
Aside: This NZFC "Guide For New Filmmakers" needs a lot of improvement. Film-makers who do not get grants are still supporting NZFC as taxpayers through their day jobs. The NZFC could fulfil its purpose with respect to them by giving more and better quality advice. Useful details would help eg supplying example forms such as releases and agreements.

Let us now consider the example of no-budget feature "Bad Taste"(1987) by the emerging Peter Jackson. Article with Trailer at:
This does everything "wrong"!  This is totally about the forbidden love of " making a bigger budget film for less money ..".  In 1987 the NZ Film Commission came on board and funded post-production and marketing.  I wonder if today's Film Commission is capable of that kind of vision?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Brave Love" post 01 - our indie feature length movie is in production

We are on the great indie adventure - living the dream - making our no-budget feature movie.

Shooting started 09 Oct 2013.  I have held back from public discussion until now when completion is looking good.  We have been taking on an ambitious mock epic. Time and time again we have faced impossible barriers then dramatically, ingeniously and heroically have rescued the production.  Or putting it another way, a normal indie no-budget collaborative experience!

Aimed initially at film festivals. Experimental in its extensive use of green screens to shoot most of the scenes in one borrowed classroom over our New Zealand(NZ) summer break.  Has "green screen" technology trickled down far enough that we can make it work for this? Let's do it to find out! [Later, Jan 2015, Yes! it is working.]

Working titles:

"Katherine Mansfield Retold: Brave Love"

"Brave Love"

"The Secret Desert of Your Mind"

IMO this story, written then lost 100 years ago, on rediscovery scores remarkable hits on issues that are relevant today. Katherine Mansfield (KM) is big on The Gap Between Rich and Poor. I also bring in the global warming debate as sparking conflict between the characters. This is mainly achieved by taking KM's banker villain and changing his occupation to oil company chief.

The script is my adaptation of classic literature into a present day setting. Inspired partly by the "Shakespeare Retold" TV Plays from the BBC a few years back. Includes material mainly from Katherine Mansfield (NZ, UK, Stories and notebooks, 91-107 years ago), also Jonathan Swift ("Gulliver's Travels", 300 years ago) and William Shakespeare (400 years ago). What emerges is a satirical big-business mock epic set in the imaginary oil boom city of Lagado, 300 years after its appearance in "Gulliver's Travels".

Why make a feature when it is so difficult?  Because it is so difficult?  Partly!  Also the democratisation of film-making is now giving us a flood of short films.  eg The Winterthur Short Film Festival recently had over 5000 entries chasing only 41 screening opportunities. Features need a big human organisational effort regardless of how accessible the tech gets, so there may yet be time to stand out from the smaller crowd going the feature way.  Also we have had some film festival successes with short films.  To us that means that growing and developing means taking on the monster challenge of the feature.

To creative enthusiasts in Auckland, NZ - we are now moving into "second unit" filming where we need supporting role actors and extras and more crew help.  We mostly hold day jobs and film at night so to all you enthusiasts with day jobs, here is your big opportunity.  For info, audition or interview, find me via

IMO most no-budget narrative movies are either 2-actor intense unusual-relationship dramas or horror-zombie-vampire attempts to repeat the breakthrough success of Peter Jackson in the late 1980s. Time for something different.  In The Guardian article "The Burning Question" -  Robert Macfarlane asks "where is the literature of climate change?"  OK so modern writers are not up to this challenge so let's bring in the power of classic literature - who you gonna call?  Katherine Mansfield!

TPPA Protest March - Auckland, NZ, Sat 28 March 2014

My placard photos below from the TPPA Protest March.  I found myself focussing on the placards as representative images.

My concerns come from following the "Electronic Frontier Foundation" website
eg proposed copyright restrictions that could make it even more risky for emerging film-makers to include elements of criticism, review and current events commentary on popular culture in their movies.  

EFF TPPA page is here:

The EFF article has, based on the TPPA leaks, some positive comment on the NZ negotiators.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is putting fair use at risk with restrictive language in the TPP's IP chapter. US and Australia have proposed very restrictive text, while other countries such as Chile, New Zealand, and Malaysia, have proposed more flexible, user-friendly terms.

The secrecy of the negotiations mean that we cannot give NZ more than a small pat on the back for this.  It is therefore good to keep the pressure on NZ to push for fairness, public interest and open democratic discussion of the TPPA.  I would like to see more criticism of the Australian Government, our near neighbour which seems to act too much like an unquestioning follower of US policy.

Good to see us marching.  IMO increasing apathy in NZ so far this century so it is reassuring that people can get out in enough numbers to make a good show down Queen St.

News website "" report here:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mumbai Monologues Are Universal Monologues

Excellent! Recommended! - Just seen "Mumbai Monologues" at TAPAC theatre, Western Springs, Auckland.  Only one more performance left as I write this: Sun 16 Feb 2014 at 4pm.  Directed by Ahi Karunaharan and Padma Akula who stage 8 stories with live music and song including original compositions.  

"Nisha" played by Monica Mahendru is a single woman trying to make sense of the dating scene.  Mirroring this is a male point of view performed by Raj Singh in "Mumbai Nights".  Both gave us a mix of poignancy and comedic observation. In "Tension Nehi Lene Ka", Tina Pan plays a tourist to Mumbai trying to cope on a crowded train well played by the ensemble.  In "The Pitch", Nona Shedde plays a professional woman handling a job interview with great bravado then afterwards sharing her vulnerability with us.  A universal theme here of the loss of job security for many - this could be any business professional anywhere with career and status hanging by a thread.  A different angle comes from "Wish You Were Here" where younger characters feel jaded rather than insecure with their bright "glitzy" life.

"Mumbai Monologues" is part of the Queer@TAPAC festival and offers 3 queer-themed pieces.  In "Adrift" we meet Natasha played by Anya Banerjee, a young woman now living in NZ who is coming to terms with her bisexuality.  In "Section 377", Faisal, a heterosexual character, played by Aman Bajaj, laments how his best friend who happens to be homosexual is effectively exiled by India's anti-homosexuality laws. In "Memories", Emma, played by Anita Crisinel tells the story of her wonderful childhood friend who turned against Emma out of intolerance when they grew up.

A universal journey through more than Mumbai.  Presented with passion, skill and craft.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Australia Travel - Internet Access - 3G works better than WiFi

Travelling in Australia 31 Dec 2013 to 13 Jan 2014.  I found WiFi facilities were expensive and often not working well. What worked well for me was a "Telstra" Australian SIM card for my cellphone.  AUD $30 bundled with a 1 month prepay package including 500Meg of data. I worked out how to connect my laptop to the cellphone so the laptop could feed off that 500Meg.  Internet was then all go for me and at a good speed.  I did take the precaution of switching "Windows Update" from automatic to manual to keep that usage under control.  Telstra had coverage in most of the places I went, including some remote areas.  The only place I was without coverage was the very remote "King's Canyon" west of Alice Springs.

  • You need to have ID with you to buy a SIM card.
  • Monitor usage by using the cellphone to visit website ""
  • My cellphone had an "Internet Sharing" setting which worked well.