Category Archives: So called professionals

Good Video is changing the way we see businesses

Here are some FACTS which may affect your current thinking on visual media. It not a sales blurb they’re just honest facts:

  • The USA is about 4-5 years ahead of Europe in leveraging visual media for sales and training
  • If your company isn’t using video to sell to your clients, either online or in person, you are losing sales
  • If you have poor quality video material to sell your products you are damaging your brand
  • If you’re using videos in the old 4:3 format you are losing sales And damaging your brand
  • If you’re paying thousands of pounds to a film school graduate to produce your corporate material you are wasting money
  • Equally if you’re paying ‘Bill from down the road’ a ‘tenner’ to film your exhibition stand “’Cus we need some video for Facebook or Twitter” then you are only proving the maxim that “A fool and their money are easily parted.”

In short, if you’re looking at your video marketing or advertising material wandering “Is it good enough?”- You already know it is not good enough!


I know all this may sound harsh and I fully understand if you want to stop reading now. But…

Avengers_Age_Of_Ultron-poster1…Before you do, please answer me one question: Were you (the reader) any less harsh on the last movie or TV series you saw?
Didn’t you look at the ‘overpaid’ actors and wonder “How much did they get for this?” Maybe you liked the special effects “But they weren’t that great were they?” And the film is “Nothing like the book is it?”

Rightly or wrongly we all judge on what we see. If what we see on screen falls short of what we expect we react to it – usually negatively. It’s unlikely that we ever give the benefit of the doubt to the video maker, so the damage is done. And as we know, bad news travels fast.

Only last week I had to contact a colleague (he runs a cutting edge tech company) and let him know his social media ‘expert’ had posted a video of his company from 4 years ago. It was like Apple running an ad campaign, today, hailing the birth of the iPad. The worst part was it made the company’s brilliant new tech look like recycled old kit. The video gave the wrong impression of the company and its products. If that old video lost just one sale, it will have cost my colleague thousands.

For me it also highlighted the underlying fact that videos themselves have changed, becoming a more fluid medium. Today’s videos and advertisements are moderated and re-evaluated by our feedback (Likes, Retweets, Reblogs) to them.

Previously an advert would be shot like a small film – once complete it was cast in stone till the next one. Not so any more. Now it’s more likely that you’ll see an advert hit the web or TV, then within two weeks, you’ll see a re-edited version of the advert run for the duration of the ad campaign. This is because the advert has been split-tested with a variety of focus groups and audiences to see which version works best. Version 1 didn’t work out but Version 3 kept the attention of the demographic, so Versions 1, 2 and 4 went in the bin.

In today’s smartphone society there is no excuse for crappy looking video. It’s not a major financial investment anymore. You have a full HD camera on the back of your phone for one thing! The real investment is the time taken to create and split test something which will have a visual appeal and deliver the right message.

EATT-GTP-Banner

I have been talking about creating media for some time and recently, after a college speaking engagement, I began developing a course for students called Smartphone Film School. I realise that that the same changes that have occurred for film students, have also opened a very positive avenue for SME’s. Well the one’s looking to create their own media anyway.

With some thought and planning you can release your inner ‘Spielberg’ and make some very nice material for yourself or your company. All that’s needed is the framework within which to create the best possible story around your products.

The Smartphone Film Studio (Corporate version) will be available on the Education and Training TV (EATT) platform mid-February. It’s all being filmed on an iPhone and tablet so you can see just how far you can go with the free film studio you carry in your pocket.


To leave on a super positive note here are three facts to get you thinking:

1.8 Million Words – That’s the value of one minute of video, according to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research. That’s the equivalent of 3,600 typical web pages. If you write an average of one web page an hour, it would take you 150 days of writing to achieve the impact of one minute of video.

75% – That’s the percent of executives who told Forbes that they watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week. The results breakdown:
• 50% watch business-related videos on YouTube
• 65% visit the marketer’s website after viewing a video

90% – The percentage of online shoppers at a major retailer’s website who said they find video helpful in making shopping and buying decisions. Retailers who provide online video to show off their products report that the products with video sell a lot more than products with no video.

Thanks to Andrew Follett at Video Brewery for his facts.


Thanks for reading and as usual any comments to Mark Alexander Todd at Guvnor Media


Bad Reception Movie Reviews

DVDFullWrapCoverTemplateIt’s been over six years now since I took the plunge to go to LA and direct my first movie. Had I known at the time, the heartache and turmoil, the potential law suits and financial impact the film would bring…I still would have done it anyway. Wouldn’t we all?

Dante’s Criterion (later renamed to Bad Reception) was a film born out of mysterious circumstances. Having raised $18,000 to make a film, on the (then) new HD 1080i format, our over confident and under talented writer demanded $46,000 and a WGA contract for his script.

 

Oddly, we decided not to go this route which was, believe it or not, a shock to the ‘writer’. Bet he didn’t see that in his story arc?

So having a budget but no film, I was tasked with the job of writing a horror movie in 6 weeks. Horror is not my genre but 6 weeks later, script 5A was ready to roll.  I won’t delve into the production because it would be a very long posting and if you’ve made a movie you’ve heard it all before. The precis being “Oh woe is me, but we managed it anyway, huraah”

Since then my last wife and I had to endure the joys of delinquent producers, law suits, contract disputes, failed film screenings and numerous distribution let downs in order to get the film out on the market. Shami Media of New York (our distributor) seem like a decent bunch of people and have got the movie out there and getting noticed. Thank you to them. But, after all this time, money and a learning curve that would make Sisyphus weep, what impact has my hollywood movie made? Well, mixed.

sisyphus

In this one I am the next Roger Corman: http://roguecinema.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=3015

In this: The actors are meh, but we kill them well: http://www.triskaidekafiles.com/journal/2013/10/21/what-im-watching-bad-reception.html

But all this said, my sanity was saved by a few words of wisdom from a friend who isn’t in ‘the business’. He said he’d seen  Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull recently, he wasn’t impressed with that (and he spotted a few mistakes). So, what chance did my little movie stand against the critics?

He is right, but as a person I consider myself a creative. And as all us ‘creatives’ know, the worst critic in the room is always sitting in my chair.

So roll on the next film project,  lessons learnt, I guarantee it will turn a few critical heads and raise a smile.

MAT


Documentary, Social History, Fact or Folly?

The Public West BromwichI don’t consider myself a social commentator, I’ve always felt that my comprehensive education and working class background didn’t afford me the luxury of judging society’s flaws. But as I’ve wondered (not lonely as a cloud) through life, I’ve found illogical situations created by my elders and supposed betters.

One such situation revolves around an arts complex called The Public in my home town of West Bromwich. After years of controversy about whether or not the building should actually exist at all, The Public is now at the centre of a new row. The local Sandwell Council have announced, without any apparent consultation, to close the burgeoning arts and theatre venue and turn it into a sixth form college.

After moaning for many years that the 73 million pounds of ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) or anagram for someone else’s money) could have been better spent, this latest refit will cost a further 20 million pounds. Not a huge amount of cash by today’s standards but unusual as there are already two other empty schools within a 5 minute walk and….well….schools…..not…..art centres.

Now, I hope the people of West Bromwich will forgive me when I say, the town centre needs a lot of tlc. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the high street looks like it was tidied up by Darth Vader and a few blaster-happy storm troopers. I, and I believe most locals would agree that 20 million could be used to far better effect in renovating a town, which is now only getting a second look because of the very thing the Council wish to close down.

Ironically, a few years ago this same argument raged during the planning and building of The Public. I wonder what those people who opposed the project are saying now?

As a filmmaker, I felt I had to reach out to Linda Saunders and the dedicated team at The Public and offer to record some of the genuine feelings of the locals. I was forced to edit a lot of footage from the Tea Dance as some of the comments by the elderly attendees were…lets say ’18 rated’.

It’s a simple and honest video – well worth 5 minutes of your valuable time.


Independent Film: In this digital age, is the BFI my BFF?

tumblr_m4wmqiTPZG1qher3go1_500Six months ago, I returned home to the UK from Hollywood. Bank bail-outs, global crises, and an explosion in production technology aside, the landscape of the British film industry had changed in my time away. Screen West Midlands was no more, and many of the old filmmaker online hangouts (with the exception of Shooting People) had also gone by the wayside. Nevertheless, we hit the ground running and began production on our feature length documentary.

Short of Facebook friends, our next stop had to be the ever present British Film Institute. A quick browse around the site yielded an email address…10 minutes later my request for some professional updating was on its way.

Now, at this point, I should say I don’t usually ‘hang’ with institutes and such; I’ve always found, for them, red tape is thicker than water – like the time I was in Cannes celebrating the financing of a feature film project. In a flurry of champagne and French cuisine, I was invited to meet with The Film Council. The next day, I arrived at the spacious suite on the Croisette and was handed a form to request a meeting back in London. I was there, they were there….but the meeting was back in London?  #wtf

Anyway, I digress. Back to my BFF’s at the BFI. As the application deadline passed, thoughts of development funding retreated from my mind, replaced with schedules and logistics. Our promotional series, The Haunted Kingdom, began to attract the attention of the press, and with the failure of the Mayans to predict a simple end to the world, it was Christmas which finally brought an enforced halt to production.

The New Year brings fresh interviews, a fresh fall of snow and a reply from….the BFI/MEDA [sic] (MEDIA, methinks?). Two and a half months after my original email, I got the reply and the invitation I was waiting for “…Check out our webpages.” OMG. I presume the address is: http://www.wedontgiveacrap.com.

Ignoring the obvious points: a) I couldn’t have contacted them without getting the email address from the website, and b) timewise, my BFF’s email took longer to write than the New Testament, I have to ask myself:

Are entities like the BFI redundant in today’s digital film and media landscape?

Personal annoyance aside, I would genuinely like to pose the question and open the debate.  Let’s look at the areas these types of foundation/quango/whatever purport to support: #poetanddontknowit

Development
If you are a writer, you write. If you are a producer, you produce. Creativity is an itch which always needs to be scratched. It doesn’t stop when the money dries up. Giving development money to people who need encouragement to create is promoting the wrong sort of people to be “in the business.” Proactive writers and filmmakers are often penalised for getting on with it, so…tell me again how this is helping British filmmakers?

Funding

The BFI has announced its Vision Awards for 2013-2015, but the entry criteria for production funding is too high for anyone except established companies. Arguably, filmmakers are much better off spending their time and efforts raising money with Kickstarter or other crowd funding options.

Distribution

You will struggle to find anything on the Film Council/BFI or other websites that would help regular filmmakers to get their film out there. Most smaller filmmakers struggle to get any distribution and don’t have the tens of thousands of pounds to support their own P&A campaign. So, again, an online distribution or streaming solution is a clear winner.

SO?

Well, let’s take a moment to look at a few factors affecting filmmakers today:

So, a dedicated filmmaker can: raise money for a project via suitable crowd funding; produce a feature length project in an HD format; cut the project on a relatively inexpensive edit solution; then distribute it online. All without involving a funding body, studio or production company.

🙂

Now, aside from the issue of filmmaker’s objectivity and the quality control that comes with third party eyes viewing a creative project, there is that point again…Who are my BFF’s really helping?

The Vision Awards help companies with a “fiction, documentary or animation feature film that has been distributed theatrically in the UK.” That eliminates 99.9% of all filmmakers in the UK, for the reasons I mentioned above. So, this helping filmmakers guise is actually a none too subtle disguise to subsidise companies already in a position to make films. Unlike.

Banks are always criticised for only lending money to people who don’t really need a loan. But is this any different? This is government money used to subsidise film companies who already have the means to make films. If that’s the case, wouldn’t a more honest approach be to introduce better tax incentives for ALL companies making films, and re-allocate BFI/Lottery hard cash to prop up organisations like the CAB, who actually need help and are in a funding crisis? Like.

I don’t mean to sound like a rabble rouser, but it irks me when people claim they help but actually don’t. That’s why I love Ronseal — “It does exactly what is says on the tin.”

But back to my original point: why does this matter? Well, it doesn’t. If filmmakers can produce their own quality digital material and distribute it, then these types of elusive BFF’s aren’t needed.  Unfriend.

Talent floats, and realistically, there is no filmmakers’ lifeboat. But the digital age gives us literal safety in numbers, and these ones and zeros do help creative, informed people. All we need now is a way to connect all those disparate people…Oh hang on, isn’t that called the Interweb?

Mark Alexander Todd is a working writer/director located in the West Midlands.

More details about the projects he’s involved in can be found on his company

website, GuvnorMedia.co.uk.


Film Festivals – In the Cannes

Film Festivals come in all shapes and sizes: The AFM is all business, Edinburgh is wonderfully down to earth for such a great event, and the jewel in the crown has to be The Cannes Film Festival. I’m pretty sure that 50% of the film people reading this are preparing to head off to the south of France just as soon as they are finished with this post.

But is it worth it? Is the deal for your next film just an EasyJet flight away? Perhaps, but you will have to apply a few rules to your unbridled creative enthusiasm if you really want to get the most out of the trip. As usual, these are mi thoughts based on mi experience, they are not a complete guide or definitive. So accept them in the spirit they’re given, and hopefully you’ll avoid wasting your precious time and money.

At this point, I am going to assume you have your accreditation sorted; your flight, accommodation and car hire rental is printed and ready to go. If not, then your mini break in Cannes will be short lived. But don’t worry, Monaco is really nice at this time of year.

Now, lets get back those of you who have your business trip planned. If it’s your first time, this document by the Marche du Film people has some helpful tips. If it’s not your first time, then this page is also helpful.

Here are my 2 cents:

1)   Be Prepared.

Before you go make sure you have:

  • Laptop or iPad – So you can show off your budgets (top sheet/schedules and any other presentations if needed)
  • A mobile, which will work abroad. Tell your provider, or they can freeze your account if your bill suddenly sky-rockets. If your phone is unlocked, you can buy a Sim card locally, which can save money.
  • Business cards – No, these don’t go out of fashion.
  • A flash drive – you can always print items at one of the many business centres.

Don’t carry loads of scripts and DVDs, they generally get lost or binned by the people you give them to. Concentrate on making good contacts and you can email/post stuff to them later.

2)  It’s called the film ‘Business’.

Despite what it looks like, Cannes is business. Distribution companies are there to show and sell their films; they will also be taking meetings, but in mi experience buyers will always take precedence over sellers. So don’t be offended if your meeting gets pushed back or bumped completely. In reality, for most smaller and independent companies, the best meetings take place outside of work time anyway. I’ve spent hours shlepping up and down the Croisette, in useless meetings, then stopped by the Petite Majestic in the evening and connected with some really good people.

3)   Meeting people socially – The 3 strikes rule.

Cannes takes many facets of the film business and distills them down into a small town in the South of France. For almost two weeks the town is the most target rich film environment on the planet. Even here in LA, it’s noticeably quieter during the two weeks of the festival. But in addition to the actual film people, there will be many more “Producers,” “Directors,” “Movers and Shakers” – many of whom couldn’t give you the time if you gave them a watch.

From mi own experience:

  • A “Producer” who didn’t know what a completion bond was, OR why he needed one for the late (then 85 year old) Norman Wisdom
  • A “Director” who thought scripts were overrated, and “his vision” for a $20M film (“…A-list cast attached but I can’t say who”) was purely improvised
  • A “Mover and Shaker” at Fox “…working on the Simpsons,” who, after a little detective work, turned out to work in HR

These are but a few of many examples…

So you have to prepare yourself to weed out the imposters quickly and efficiently. To that end, let me introduce you to ‘The Three Questions’.

Me: Hello, I’m Mark A. Todd

Producer: Hi, I’m Seymour Clearly.

Q1.

Me: It’s busy here this year. Are you showing a film?

Producer: No, I’m looking for a deal on my project.

Q2.

Me: Nice. What type of film is it?

Producer: It’s not really a genre film; we’re pitching it as “Mrs. Doubtfire” (Rom/Com) meets “Alien” (horror). The budget’s $20 mil.

Q3.

Me: Fantastic, it sounds like a really interesting project. Any cast attached yet?

Producer: Bruce Willis is my wishlist lead. We’re pitching the idea to Troma tomorrow.

Now at this point you make your exit (or not, if you still fancy a laugh) because this person knows so little about the business they claim to be part of. If you don’t know what genre your film is, it’s impossible to target the right distributor, cast or budget. The big budget sounds enticing, but it’s time to move on…if you kiss enough frogs, eventually you’ll find a prince.

The Three Questions can be anything you want, but try and steer them towards topics you have some knowledge in, so you can tell if this person is talking horse s##t.

4)   Timing.

Finally, unless you need to, don’t plan to stay for the whole festival. I had to stay for 10 days (2001) and it nearly killed me. It’s why you can’t get anyone after the festival…they all take a break to recover! Keep your sanity and money by targeting the companies you want to meet and scheduling meetings in blocks.  Also, use Cannes to meet people you can’t get hold of normally. If you live in London, why go all the way to France to meet a company based out of London? David Garret at Summit told me this is a no no for him, and he generally won’t take the meeting.

So, there you have it. I hope you have a good and fruitful trip. Your Cannes experience will teach you a lot in a very short time. Then you can write a blog about it!

Stay creative.

The Guvnor


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