Tag Archives: media

Why I left Vimeo Pro (again)

I received the following email:

You’ve lost 15 of your videos.
Renew Vimeo PRO now to get them back online.
Hi Ptara Motion Pictures,

Because your membership has expired, your account has been downgraded to Basic, and you and your viewers have lost access to 15 of your videos.

Why? Your Vimeo PRO membership paid for the ongoing costs of video storage. Since you’ve downgraded to a Basic account, we can only store 10GB of the videos you uploaded as a paid member.

To get them back as soon as possible, renew your membership now.

Continue reading Why I left Vimeo Pro (again)

Design of audio-visual creative works.

Ptara logo over historical image of men working at Sevastopol.You might have a great graphic designer, an artist at your company, who can draw anything that you can imagine. You may have someone else who is handy with the camera, and creates videos that look and sound amazing. But, sometimes simply looking good is not enough. Sometimes, you need images that fit a strategic context, that make sense within a whole, and that tell the message you want to convey. Sometimes, you need something that is interesting to watch, and sometimes you need more than that.

You don’t always need to design an audio visual work.  Here’s a video that was unplanned, shot and edited within a day:

It works well enough for footage for a news story, but not much else.

Ptara can help you design a video that does what it’s supposed to do.

Mountains Out of Molehills

Mountains out of molehills

 

Mountains out of molehills
First published on Social Media: Mar 1, 2016


I had many titles for this post. The ass-u-mers, The Bore Who Cried Adolf, A Pipe is just a Pipe, but most of them were, well, a bit hyperbolic.

Anyway, take a look at the image above for a few seconds, and register in your head what it is.

Done that? Good, now scroll down so you can’t see it.

Done that too? Good, now get out a piece of paper and a pencil and see if you can draw the image from memory. This isn’t a test of artistic skills, just see if you remember what the image was of.

Have you finished with that? How well did you remember the image? Continue reading Mountains Out of Molehills

Hey Stupid!!

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“Hi, I’m stupid.”

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I’m with stupid.

We’ve seen it again and again. Workplace “scandals” that involve public spats, arguments over bad management that end in someone getting fired.

Some “gurus” claim this shows a lack of “emotional intelligence.”  I think it’s more to do with economic intelligence.  But, if you need a primer in emotional intelligence, here you go.

Emotional Intelligence primer

Continue reading Hey Stupid!!

Above the line or below the line

Above the Line: In a film budget, departments whose key members are traditionally recruited before the film’s financing is in place and before the budget is written.  These include development (costs and investment recoupment), story and screenplay, direction, production, cast, and any associated fringes. – Ptara’s guidebook.

Michael Wohl may the the world’s foremost expert on Final Cut Pro, but when it comes to film accounting, the guy gives out false information.

As you can guess, I’m a fan of Wohl’s, but I’m disappointed in what he said is the difference between “above the line” and “below the line.”  His blunder prompted me to write this, because if someone of Wohl’s calibre can get it wrong, so can thousands of others.

Michael Wohl, in his film on film production, defined above the line as “craftspersons essential for making a movie.”  He included in this editors, composers, cinematographers, and production designers.  While I concur that these craftspeople are essential for most films, as essential as any above the line talent, I have no idea where he got the idea that they are above the line.  Most of the “craftspersons essential for making a movie” are in fact BELOW the line.

Below the line does not mean beneath the line.  The line does not differential people by creativity, pay scale, importance, level of talent, or break people into any other kind of value judgement.  Above the line is basically a section of a spreadsheet, nothing more.

Yes, the imaginary line existed in the days of accounting books before spreadsheets, but the difference was just as arbitrary.  The line exists not for moviegoers or moviemakers, it is there simply for accountants and others who deal in film budgets and film finance.

So, why are most craftspeople below this line?  Is it because accountants only like actors, directors, producers and writers?  No, it’s simply because it’s simpler to write a budget if you break it down into pieces.

If you watch the credits to a feature film, you can see hundreds of names of people.  While on Dara Says we only tended to have five people on set most days (and two or three on some days), on most feature films or even music videos you’d be hard pressed to see a set with fewer than twenty people on it.

When the principal photography is complete, a lot of other people are involved.  Michael Bay has five editing assistants in his editing room, and they hold video conferences with another team at ILM who do the CGI, and then there is a huge team who deal with the music.

Then there’s all the equipment, from computers and software to cameras and lenses to batteries and storage devices to real and virtual instruments, headphones and microphones and recording boxes, not even mentioning all the costumes and makeup and props.  Most of these devices and materials don\’t even show up in the credits.  But, all of it costs money, and all costs need to be accounted for.

It’s easier to deal with massive amounts of information if you can summarise it.  So, accountants will separate the information into departments.  These departments are broken down so that there are fewer than 50 numbers to deal with on a top sheet, this way the budget can be easily presented to people who are not accountants.

In the script department, you’ll have the screenwriter’s pay for the screenplay, but you’ll also have any costs involved in copying and distributing the screenplay.  (This may include print-outs, photocopies, and even a runner who goes between the screenwriter and the director.)  If the screenwriter has a typist, that will be here too.

In the editing department, the editor may have an assistant, a runner, and some money put aside for editing equipment and a room to work in.

The camera department will include not only the people who handle the camera (and the cinematographer and/or director of photography), but also the equipment including cameras, lenses, and perhaps storage drives.

Now, even with all the small numbers being compiled into these departments, the budget is simplified further still into sections.  (There are also sections within departments, but there’s a lot involved in writing a budget.)  Some departments are called “post production” because their jobs can’t really start until the first scene has been shot.  An editor could start editing stock-footage before the first day of principal photography, and will usually start work before photography is completed, but will tend to start work at least a day later than a cinematographer.

A cinematographer can start testing out cameras and locations before a line of dialogue is written, but normally won’t start work until the screenplay is done.

If you’re seeing a trend emerge, you might be on to it.  Look at a film budget, and you’ll see it generally broken down into when people become involved in a project.

Above the line talent are those who tend to be involved from start to finish.  The actor or director may be called upon to give interviews on talk shows to promote a film, and that’s likely to be part of their contract.  The writer might write what they say in those interviews.  The producer will be there from start to finish, buying the rights to the story and finally making sure the finished film gets sold on cable TV five years later.

Below the line tends to be separated into three main sections, those involved mainly in principal photography, and those involved primarily in post production, as well as a third section which involves expenses that are indirectly involved but still essential (like insurance and legal fees).

Above the line tend to be involved before the money is in place, and stay involved after the money is all gone.  Their personal lives are more likely to be in the tabloids, and they’ll be able to sell a film even if they don’t have talent (in the case especially of models or sports stars turned stars.)

Foreign markets might buy the rights to a film that hasn’t even been made yet because there are name brands in the above the line talent.  They may also avoid the film because there are scandals involving those people.  Therefore, you might say that above the line tend to be more famous, but not all are (some of my favourite writers are people who no one has heard of.)

Tax credit awarding governments and academics sometimes determine the nationality of a film based upon its above-the-line talent.  If the crew and editors of a film are all Eastern European, but the cast, director, writer and producer are British, it may count as a British film.  Anyone who was actually involved in film production might find this silly, but that’s just how the money people (and some academics and critics) see things.

These differences are more important to the money people than those making the film.  I think it’s essential to have the best below-the-line people you can get, and I sometimes don’t like the term below-the-line because of the connotations it sends out.

Above the line is before the deal.  Before the studio gives the green light to a project, they want a great leads, a great director, a good screenplay in place, and it will all be packaged by a producer.  This is your before-the-deal team, some of whom may be retained with deposits like options or pay-or-play deals.  And, while below the line talent may occasionally be involved, it’s usually the above the line team that brings in the money.

It’s important to note that the entire department of an “above the line” role will occur above the line in a budget.  So, the producer’s and director’s assistants, though they might not become involved in a production until the heads of other departments have already begun work, will still be “above the line.”  The line exists for simplicity sake.

So, it all has to do with money, not importance, talent, skill, or anything else.  The terms above-the-line and below-the-line existed before the film business, and both have different meanings in other industries.  However, if you look at the meanings in business and advertising, their film meanings might start making more sense.  Above the line in marketing is the big-media advertisements, and marketing below the line is the grunt-work like the door-to-door sales reps.

Interview of a job hunt: from Pizza Hut to the Ben Franklin of the 21st century

A waiter, labelled republicans, serves a tariff bill to Uncle Sam
“Some of the moments were surreal”

In the past Ptara interviewed documentarians and historians, those who have been published and won awards. We’ve had some interesting viewpoints from those who’ve studied history and used it for work.

This time, we published an entrepreneur, and the Employee for the 21st century, a man who’s career includes coding Javascript, sharing statistics, and serving pizza: Mr. Joseph Ohler Junior. Continue reading Interview of a job hunt: from Pizza Hut to the Ben Franklin of the 21st century

Lesson from history: only a madman would write for a living

It started as a story on the Hokusai Manga, for the 1812 timeline, and it turned to the study of an inconvenient truth.

A horned demon holding a severed head and pointing to it with long nails, laughing
Want to be a writer? Hokusai’s demon is laughing at you!

Okay, some writers are billionaires. I’m ready for your list of best selling authors and other freaks. A lot of Hollywood’s top producers started as writers, or at least a few of the top CEOs have degrees in subjects like literature and English.

But history tells us that these successes are freak. And that’s where 1812 comes into all this.

You know Manga? No, not the fruit from India, the art from Japan. Yeah, out East somewhere. Well, apparently the “Mangas”, or Hokusai Manga, a series of historic cartoons, were started in 1812. They weren’t published until two years later, but hey.

The artist needed money, and so he taught. This involved travel, and seeing a lot of interesting things (which had more inspiration). He also published some books of his work. And this is where we get to writers. Continue reading Lesson from history: only a madman would write for a living

Baltimore Democrats attack Republican Newspaper, kill 2

Tombston of James mcCubbin Lingan an officer of the Maryland line in the war of the American Revolution, a captive on the prison ship "Jersey", "An original member of the society of the Cincinnati", Born May 15, 1751, Died July 28 1812, and his beloved wife Janet HENDERSON born September 2 1765, died July 5 1832
Lingan’s tombstone. Photo courtesy of Monumental Thoughts

Baltimore: July 27 1812.  The war of 1812 is a done deal.  Most of the surrounding “Democrats” support war with Britain, over stained honor from an attack of the USS Chesapeake.  They want to fight because Britain is supporting guerrilla warfare.  But, one old Revolutionary war veteran, doesn’t agree with the mob.  General James MacCubban Lingan wishes for peace.  And he defends the home of the publisher of a pro-peace newspaper, the home of the editor of the Federalist Republican.

To the Federalist Republican, war with Britain is merely helping Napoleon.  The United States has nothing to gain and everything to lose.

The mob of “Democrats” didn’t see things that way.  Continue reading Baltimore Democrats attack Republican Newspaper, kill 2

Why screenwriters should grow spines

Harry Longabaugh aka Sundance Kid by De Young Photography Studio three quarter body shot
The Sundance Kid doesn’t think much of spineless screenwriters

William Goldman shares two important lessons in Adventures of the Screen Trade.  First, he claims that Nobody Knows Anything.  Then, he contradicts himself with his strongest piece of advice : Protect Your Story’s Spine To The Death.

Yes, Goldman whines and whinges melodramatically about how screenwriters are on the bottom of the power ladder, how you have to collaborate to the bosses, how stars have too much power, and about how if all you do is write screenplays your life will be unfulfilling.

But, just when he appears to give up all hope of influencing anyone else, Goldman shows how he actually fights to defend the integrity of his films.  We see how a certain number of projects were sunk by the writer, and most importantly, how having the courage to protect the integrity of his screenplay produced the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (yes, the film with Robert Redford which inspired the famous film festival). Continue reading Why screenwriters should grow spines

Why watching movies can teach us history.

President Richard Nixon smiling, facing front
Richard Nixon inspired a lot of screenwriters

Did you know that both Chinatown and Shawshank Redemption were inspired by President Nixon?  That’s what the “making of” documentation said.  I didn’t get that the first time I watched either of those films, and I wonder if the cinema audience did.  Perhaps I should ask some of my older relatives about it.

What I did get, after watching “Avatar” was one older-than-me man saying “that’s about Iraq.”  Yes, I “knew” that too.  But, the youngest school kids in the audience didn’t have that impression.  To them, it was only about blue people.

I don’t know why some people totally loved or others totally hated Avengers AssembleContinue reading Why watching movies can teach us history.