Archive for the ‘media’ Category

The Future of Cinema as envisioned by Martin Scorsese

This open letter to his daughter was published in the Italian press at the turn of the year by Martin Scorsese. Coming from someone so steeped in the cinematic tradition it is particularly striking, not least in the way it perceives hope in digital technology. To drive home this Janus-like ability to appreciate past and future with equanimity, yesterday Scorsese unveiled a blue plaque for Powell & Pressburger on Dorset House in London with Michael Powell’s widow and his own editor, Thelma Schoonmaker. I had a memorable encounter with Michael Powell in 1985 when I set up the Cambridge University Film Society – he had been brought back into prominence then by Scorsese and other champions like Ian Christie.

English Heritage blue plaque for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Dearest Francesca,

I’m writing this letter to you about the future. I’m looking at it through the lens of my world. Through the lens of cinema, which has been at the center of that world.

For the last few years, I’ve realized that the idea of cinema that I grew up with, that’s there in the movies I’ve been showing you since you were a child, and that was thriving when I started making pictures, is coming to a close. I’m not referring to the films that have already been made. I’m referring to the ones that are to come.

I don’t mean to be despairing. I’m not writing these words in a spirit of defeat. On the contrary, I think the future is bright.

We always knew that the movies were a business, and that the art of cinema was made possible because it aligned with business conditions. None of us who started in the 60s and 70s had any illusions on that front. We knew that we would have to work hard to protect what we loved. We also knew that we might have to go through some rough periods. And I suppose we realized, on some level, that we might face a time when every inconvenient or unpredictable element in the moviemaking process would be minimized, maybe even eliminated. The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.

I don’t want to repeat what has been said and written by so many others before me, about all the changes in the business, and I’m heartened by the exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking – Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray and Paul Thomas Anderson are all managing to get pictures made, and Paul not only got The Master made in 70mm, he even got it shown that way in a few cities. Anyone who cares about cinema should be thankful.

And I’m also moved by the artists who are continuing to get their pictures made all over the world, in France, in South Korea, in England, in Japan, in Africa. It’s getting harder all the time, but they’re getting the films done.

But I don’t think I’m being pessimistic when I say that the art of cinema and the movie business are now at a crossroads. Audio-visual entertainment and what we know as cinema – moving pictures conceived by individuals – appear to be headed in different directions. In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict.

So why is the future so bright? Because for the very first time in the history of the art form, movies really can be made for very little money. This was unheard of when I was growing up, and extremely low budget movies have always been the exception rather than the rule. Now, it’s the reverse. You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras. You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color-correct at home. This has all come to pass.

But with all the attention paid to the machinery of making movies and to the advances in technology that have led to this revolution in moviemaking, there is one important thing to remember: the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie. It’s freeing to pick up a camera and start shooting and then put it together with Final Cut Pro. Making a movie – the one you need to make – is something else. There are no shortcuts.

If John Cassavetes, my friend and mentor, were alive today, he would certainly be using all the equipment that’s available. But he would be saying the same things he always said – you have to be absolutely dedicated to the work, you have to give everything of yourself, and you have to protect the spark of connection that drove you to make the picture in the first place. You have to protect it with your life. In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away.

This isn’t just a matter of cinema. There are no shortcuts to anything. I’m not saying that everything has to be difficult. I’m saying that the voice that sparks you is your voice – that’s the inner light, as the Quakers put it.

That’s you. That’s the truth.

All my love,

Dad

For Adam - Michael Powell Nov.17.1985

For Adam – Michael Powell Nov.17.1985

{Scorsese’s letter reproduced courtesy of L’Espresso}

Advertisements

Reading between the lines

Today’s editorial in the Daily Mail [and some commentary]

Be careful of buying what Jewish intellectuals like Miliband and Hobsbawn are trying to peddle!

Be careful of buying those degenerate ideas Jewish intellectuals like Miliband and Hobsbawm are trying to peddle!

An evil legacy [“evil”: that familiar touch of religious irrationality] and why we won’t apologise [welcome to the angry world where apology, change of mind,  compromise and growth of understanding are not on the agenda]

By DAILY MAIL COMMENT [and Adam Gee Comment]

PUBLISHED: 00:11, 1 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:48, 1 October 2013

Red Ed’s [an improvement on Red Ken but still childish] in a strop with the Mail. Doubtless, [aren’t these the Lynn Truss school of zero-tolerance language fascists? if so, why the comma?] he’s miffed that his conference was overshadowed by the revelations of his former friend, the spin doctor Damian McBride, serialised in this paper, which exposed the poisonous heart of the Labour Party.

Nor did he see the funny side when we ridiculed the yucky, lovey-dovey [boarding school sexual hang-ups emerging] photographs of him and his wife, behaving like a pair of hormonal teenagers in need of a private room.

But what has made him vent his spleen — indeed, he has stamped his feet and demanded a right of reply — is a Mail article by Geoffrey Levy on Saturday about the Labour leader’s late father, Ralph, under the arresting headline ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’. [for “arresting” read ‘bears little connection to the substance of the article’ / ‘attention grabbing’ without the need to substantiate its meaning]

Of course, it was not the Mail that first drew the prominent Marxist sociologist Professor Ralph Miliband — a man who was not averse to publicity — into the public arena. This was the decision of his son who, for two years running, has told Labour conferences how his refugee father fled Nazi persecution to Britain. [we wouldn’t want our politician’s showing any humanity would we?]

More pertinent still, McBride argues that Miliband Jnr is obsessed with maintaining Ralph’s legacy.

Winning the leadership, he writes, was Ed’s ‘ultimate tribute’ to his father — an attempt to ‘achieve his father’s vision’. [The son has made it clear the father did not agree with his politics or have any love for New Labour.]

With this testimony before us, [undue weight on the testimony of a  proven unscrupulous spin-merchant and a flimsy hook to hang a whole article like this on] from a former Labour spin doctor who knew Mr Miliband inside out, the Mail felt a duty [dishonourable behaviour dressed in fake duty and unmerited honour] to lay before our readers the father’s vision that is said to have inspired our would-be next Prime Minister.

How can Ralph Miliband’s vision be declared out of bounds for public discussion [no-one said that, it is the lie of the headline which is the problem – Ed Miliband explicitly stated in The Times (2/10/13): “It’s legitimate for the Mail to talk about my father’s politics”]  — particularly since he spent his entire life attempting to convert the impressionable young to his poisonous creed? [nobody mention Viscount Rothermere here or his treacherous attempts to “convert the impressionable young to his poisonous creed”]

Today, we stand by every word we published on Saturday, from the headline to our assertion that the beliefs of Miliband Snr ‘should disturb everyone who loves this country’.

In his tetchy and menacing response, which we publish in full on these pages, the Labour leader expresses just pride in his father’s war record as a volunteer in the Royal Navy.

But he cites this, and his father’s affection for his shipmates (which, as shown on these pages, was riven by class hatred), as if it were conclusive proof that he loved this country.

So how is it that shortly after his arrival in Britain, the 17-year-old Miliband senior had confided to his diary [the evidence of a teenage diary not in the child’s mother tongue, a bit low and flimsy?]: ‘The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. [The likes of Viscount Rothermere bear this out to a reasonable degree] They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world . . . you sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are’?
 Isn’t it permissible to surmise that a man who had expressed such views joined the Royal Navy not so much to fight for Britain as to fight, like the Soviet Union, against the Nazis? [It’s permissible to surmise but surmising isn’t worth a hill of beans.]

Yes, as his son argues, Mr Miliband Snr may have felt gratitude for the security, freedom and comfort he enjoyed in Britain.

But what is blindingly clear from everything he wrote throughout his life is that he had nothing but hatred [strong word – where do they get that from? Isn’t it permissible for an academic in a democracy to question its institutions? We are talking about a country in a period where the Police have been proven to have lied on a mass scale over Hillsborough; the Journalists have been proven to have breached the privacy of all manner of citizens; the Members of Parliament have been proven to feather their own nests with public money; etc. etc.]  for the values, traditions and institutions — including our great schools [that must mean the private ones e.g. ‘One in four boys is labelled as having special educational needs as state schools rake in funds’ (Mail headline 31 July 2013)], the Church [oh, is that this Church? ‘Church of England to admit ‘deep grief and shame’ in an historic apology for child sex abuse’ (Mail headline 6 July 2013)], the Army and even the Sunday papers [like The News of the World?] — that made Britain the safe and free nation in which he and his family flourished.

The constitutional monarchy, the bicameral legislature, property rights, common law . . . even ‘respectability’ and ‘good taste’ — all were anathema to this lifelong, unreconstructed Marxist who craved a workers’ revolution.

Significantly, when he defended students for silencing a visiting speaker with whom they disagreed, he wrote: ‘Freedom of speech is not always the overriding criterion.’

As for the Falklands war, our defence of British sovereignty so appalled him that it moved him to four-letter words of disgust.

At the London School of Economics, he was taught and heavily influenced by the extremist Left-winger Harold Laski, who said the use of violence was legitimate in British elections. One of his closest friends was Eric Hobsbawm (though, as we reported, at least Miliband wouldn’t join his fellow Marxist in refusing to condemn Stalinism’s mass murders or the brutal Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956). [According to Ralph Miliband’s obituary in that known hothouse of left-wing views, The Times of London: “he was in no sense a rigid Marxist, never a member of the Communist Party and a strong anti-authoritarian”]

It is all too easy today to forget that Marxism supplied the philosophical underpinning to a monstrously evil regime.

Under Stalin’s Communism, countless millions were murdered, tortured, starved to death, executed or sent to endure a sub-human existence in the gulags.

Religion, the family and the very spirit of the individual were brutally crushed. The arts, newspapers — justice itself — were ruthlessly controlled by the commissars.

Freedom of expression was purged. Even as late as the Seventies, dissidents were locked in mental asylums, while the Press was controlled by the State for another two decades.

Truly, Ralph Miliband and Hobsbawm were, in the withering phrase often attributed to Lenin, the ‘useful idiots’ who validated this most pernicious doctrine, which has spread poverty and misery wherever it has triumphed.

That’s why the Mail — which is not Pravda — said that readers who love this country would be truly disturbed if they understood about Miliband’s father’s views.

We do not maintain, like the jealous God of Deuteronomy, [not so subtle Jewish reference] that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons. But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father’s teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done [no evidence, in fact signs to the contrary], the case is different.

Indeed, his son’s own Marxist values can be seen all too clearly in his plans for state seizures of private land held by builders and for fixing energy prices by government diktat. [better to let them get fixed by fakely competitive semi-monopolies and cartel-like behaviour, with a bit of mis-selling and deliberate obfuscation of pricing thrown in for good measure?]

More chillingly, the father’s disdain for freedom of expression can be seen in his son’s determination to place the British Press under statutory control. [ah, so that’s what this is all really about…]

Next week the Privy Council, itself an arm of the state, will meet to discuss plans — following a stitch-up with Hacked Off over late-night pizzas [the Mail must be miffed they didn’t have the obligatory Byron burgers] in Mr Miliband’s office — for what will ultimately be a politically controlled body to oversee what papers are allowed to publish.

Put to one side that Mr Miliband’s close involvement with degenerates [the degenerate  whose testimony is the rationale for this whole article? “degenerate” “entartet” a good Nazi word]  such as Damian McBride gives him scant right to claim the moral high ground on anything.

If he crushes the freedom of the Press, no doubt his father will be proud of him from beyond the grave, where he lies 12 yards from the remains of Karl Marx.

But he will have driven a hammer [a bit too blunt?] and sickle through the heart of the nation so many of us [“us” – now there’s a poser] genuinely love. [hate masquerading as love – the essence of the Mail]

The Daily Mail for Dummies – a disturbing new low in British Life

It knows which side its bread is buttered

It knows which side its bread is buttered

Daily Mail anti-semitism

It’s been nothing if not consistent in its hate-mongering for 80 years

But it's not been as consistent in its preaching - April 2013

But it’s not been as consistent in its preaching – April 2013

Lack of respect for the dead - September 2013

Lack of respect for the dead – September 2013

Fear & Sex – an analysis of the Daily Mail

Alpha Mails – Daily Mail journos V its readers

 

Dodgy Facebook advertising

Dodgy Facebook advertising

Devaluing the already dubious Like (no connection between the question and liking the brand)

I wonder how long this will last?

I wonder how long this will last?

The ‘question’ here was “Hit like if you’re getting FIFA 14 today?”

BTW I think Spurs can beat Chelsea today – not too long to wait before the Portuguese Men of War go at it…

AspirationNation: Work Hard and Die

One of these is from a real Conservatives leaflet published in the wake of yesterday’s budget, I kid you not (guess which one)

Tory poster

Tory poster Responsible

Tory poster Drop

36DD-Day

36DD-Day

2nd edition of today’s historic currant bun

4 things that are bothering me about Google

Google Christmas message

Don't be evil

‘My Google Team’ sent me (and zillions of other punters like me) this message over the holidays [to which I’ve added my own thoughts in square brackets]:

“Merry Christmas from Google

Hello,

As we near the end of the year, we wanted to take a moment to thank you for the time, energy, commitment, and trust [and personal information] you’ve shared with us in 2009.
With sharing in mind, this year we’ve decided to do something a little different. We hope you’ll find it fits the spirit of the Christmas season.
We’re looking forward to working with [working on?] you to build lasting success [for our corporation/international quasi-monopoly] in 2010.

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
Your Google Team”

Call me a cynic if you like but international near-monopolies bother me for this kind of reason…

1.

According to the recently published accounts for Google UK for 2008 on £1.6 Billion of ad revenue from this country Google UK paid £141,519 in corporation tax. Our Google Team avoided £450M of UK corporation tax by channeling all its advertising earnings from UK customers through its Irish subsidiary. Now Ireland’s got problems of its own of course but all signs are that Google doesn’t give a monkey’s about them either – Google’s Dublin operation’s latest accounts show that only €7.5m of  tax was paid in the Emerald Isle in 2008, even though the lion’s share of Google’s €6.7 billion  European earnings went through Ireland.

2.

In that same year of £1.6 Billion UK revenue Google UK donated £5,662 to charity.

3.

The fact Google can’t spell “reggae” has been bothering me all Christmas. (It makes this link from the above message feel rather thrown together, and it already felt as calculated and American-centric as the corporation itself.)

4.

Google is putting back graphic design by years with its second-rate illustrations, not least over these holidays.

I’m being a bit silly of course but there is a fundamental issue here – it’s a fundamentally parasitical entity, sucking ad revenue off to the US (some 13% of Google’s global revenues now come from the UK) without putting much back into this country and not really caring about it. Which is why a message like the above rings so hollow, more balls than (jingle) bells. And on that metallic theme, why I won’t be embracing Chrome at the expense of much less evil Firefox.

Google graphics

Don't look evil

Dreaming the Dream

the dream by jaume plensa

The Dream Realised (courtesy of me)

Some great news just in at Channel 4 HQ – the Big 4 sculpture on the doorstep of the Richard Rogers designed home of C4 has been given an extension of 5 years by the planning department of Westminster City Council.

The public artwork – a 50-foot-high metal ‘4’ – was originally constructed in 2007 to celebrate both the Channel’s 25th anniversary year and the launch of the Big Art Project and was granted planning permission for one year, during which 4 artists were to decorate it. The installation is based on the Channel’s on-air identity, with metal bars forming the logo only when viewed from a particular angle and distance. It is basically a framework over which to date photographer Nick Knight, Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner, Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui and recent art graduate Stephanie Imbeau have added a skin.

Nick Knight, known for his work with Kate Moss and Bjork among many others in the realm of fashion & music, covered it with bare chest skin of various hues, adding the sound of a beating heart at its core. I recently did an Amazonimpulse and bought Knight’s new book, imaginatively entitled ‘Nick Knight’ – at £32.50 one of the most expensive tomes I’ve ever shelled out on. From an Allen Jones-like Suede album cover to exquisite nude shots of Kate Moss, it’s a lively spectacle.

Mark Titchner skinned the Big 4 with panels inspired by trade union banners and advertising, the slogans questioning the on-going role of television: Find Your World in Ours, Find Our World in Yours. He came in one lunch time to talk to C4folk about his work, shades of The Waterboys’ Mike Scott about him. My second encounter with him was a great rum cocktail-fueled chat with at the Tate Summer Party this year. Guardian photographer Vicki Couchman took a top class photo of me in front of Mark’s Big 4 for a Guardian piece on the inaugural Media Guardian Innovation Awards in 2007 (which Big Art Mob won).

El Anatsui paneled the 4 with metallic newspaper colour printing plates. What I remember most about when El (as he’s known to his friends) came in to chat about his career in The Drum, the basement space beneath the Big 4, was his generous championing of young, emerging artistic talent from Africa like Nnenne Okore.

Stephanie Imbeau won a competition to provide what was to have been the final iteration. Her Shelter saw the Big 4 fleshed out with umbrellas of a myriad colours. This is the version currently in place – it’s best viewed at night when it is illuminated from within [see below]. The umbrellas all come from London Transport Lost Property Office so no pissing away of public money there then.

The Big Art Project from which the Big 4 sprang started life as a regular, if very ambitious, TV documentary series. In the original visually rich proposal for the project from Carbon Media a space was left for the cross-platform treatment. Into that space went the Big Art Mob and a bunch of interactive ideas I put together inspired by the wonderful public art works that punctuated the proposal. The Big Art Mob was born of my messing about for 18 months with Moblog‘s mobile picture blogging software after an initial encounter with Alfie Dennen in the basement of Zero-One in Soho. I was on the look-out for the right project to which to apply Moblog and Paint Britain which evolved into the Big Art Project proved the one – the first use of moblogging by a broadcaster and one of the first uses of Creative Commons licensing by a UK broadcaster (the first use was PixNMix, a VJ project I commissioned in 2004).

Besides the TV, web and mobile stuff, at the core of the Big Art Project was the creation of six actual works of public art, seed funded by Channel 4 and the partners we gathered. One of these was Dream by renowned Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, located high up on the site of the old Sutton Manor colliery overlooking St Helens, a 20-metre-high north-western rival to Gormley’s Angel on the opposite side of the country. It is the head of a nine year old Catalan girl with her eyes closed (I found that out by asking Plensa directly at the capping off ceremony, he was very cagey about who she was and reluctant to reveal much in that particular respect). Dream was Plensa’s response to a brief developed through conversations with ex-miners and other members of the local community. Initially he came up with a huge miner’s lamp but the miners themselves pushed him out of his comfort zone or at least nearer his true self

Dream most deservedly has recently picked up a couple of major prizes. Last month it won the prestigious annual Marsh Award for Public Sculpture which is given to a work of permanent public sculpture erected in the UK or Ireland. The definition of public sculpture is loose, but the location must be openly visible to the public without having to enter a building or gain prior permission. The award was presented at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Plensa also picked up the British Creativity in Concrete Award for 2009 for Dream at a special ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. This award is presented each year to an architect, designer or artist in recognition of a particular achievement for the creative use of precast concrete. It’s difficult to convey the photograph-like subtlety of the face, no more than a pale reflection in photos like above.

The moment I walked round the corner of a forest path and first saw Dream in April was one of the high points of this year and indeed of my career at Channel 4, and made every second spent on the Big Art Project over the 5 year lead up worth it. It was a moment shared with my former colleague Jan Younghusband (ex-Commissioning Editor of Arts at C4, now Head of Music at BBC) who proved so open to the multiplatform dimension. It was indeed a dream come true.

stephanie imbeau

Night Shelter (courtesy of Tom Powell)

More on Big Art:

The launch

The mobile dimension

Mark Titchner’s iteration

Channel 4 and Digital Participation

One of my current projects is Alone in the Wild. Cameraman Ed Wardle has gone into the wilderness of the Yukon to film himself and how he copes with 12 weeks of total isolation. Each morning, as part of the safety protocol, he has to send an “I’m OK” message. He does this by sending, from a semi-disabled sat phone (can do outgoing SMSs only), a short message which is posted on Twitter www.twitter.com/aloneinthewild . He’s just started his third week out there – you can see some of the early rushes here and here, more to follow tomorrow [he leaves off his tapes in a dead letter box-type drop-off from where they are later collected by helicopter or float-plane once Ed has moved on, so no human contact] – and already after this opening period, it is clear that Alone in the Wild is bringing new people to Twitter/microblogging as these screenshots illustrate:

Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 1Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 2Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 3Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 4Aitw TwitterAlone in the Wild twitterAlone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 5This is a good, clear illustration of how Channel 4 inspires Digital Participation aka Digital Media Literacy aka Being Digital [Digital Britain report] by providing a purpose or mission or story. “Inspires” is the key word – it is what is sometimes lacking from social networks and platforms, and it is what Channel 4 consistently offers – Inspiration is a rare commodity. Even Twitter is basically a tool in need of a task or purpose, it is only as good as the things people find to do with it. Alone in the Wild provides clear guidance on how to join in the conversation on Twitter, part of Channel 4’s commitment to helping drive Digital Participation. But Ed’s “awesome adventure”, his inspiring story of courage and endurance and an unquenchable desire to do the extraordinary (he has been up Everest twice, been to the North Pole, every year he tries to do a new extraordinary thing, but never has he done one in isolation like this, a whole new challenge, as much psychological as physical) his inspiring story is the real energy which is motivating people to have a first go at digital social media.

MindGym

Hooked up the other day, after a dog’s age, with designmeister Jason Loader (who has just set up on his own as Yeah Love). We made MindGym together way back when – a game about creative thinking. Jason has been kind (and patient) enough over the weekend to dig out some of the old design assets from a moribund machine…

MindGym: The Changing Room

MindGym: The Changing Room

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas - Deep End

MindGym: The Pool of Ideas - Deep End

MindGym: The Think Tank

MindGym: The Think Tank

MindGym: The Games Room

MindGym: The Games Room

MindGym: Spy sim

MindGym: Spy sim

There are some more here

All these 3D environments were designed by Jason Loader (at a time when they typically took over 18 hours to render, so a bit on the frustrating side if you didn’t get it right first time).  MindGym was a concept I came up with at Melrose Film Productions in the wake of making a series of films about Creativity.  I nicked the title from Lenin or one of those Ruskies, who used the term with reference to chess. So Jason and I started work on it, then the pair of us hooked up with NoHo Digital to realise a bastard creation of great energy. Rob Bevan (now at XPT) did the interface design and programming, skilfully combining this kind of rich 3D with elegant 2D inspired by You Don’t Know Jack. His creative partner Tim Wright led the writing team – him, Ben Miller and me – it was a comic script with serious stuff underlying the gags. I couldn’t help chuckling recently when I heard someone refer to Rob & Tim as the Jagger & Richards of new media. Talking of which, Nigel Harris did the music and sound design – excellent audio was one of our explicit creative goals, again inspired by YDK Jack. And talking of Jack the lads, Paul Canty (now of Preloaded) and Mike Saunders (Kew Digital), who were just starting out, were also among the production team. The studio was infested with red ants (possibly flesh-eating), but it didn’t distract us from the task at hand…

%d bloggers like this: