Mark Versus

Blurring the line between self improvement and self punishment

Some Disruptive Thoughts on the DCMS Film Policy Review

Having read just a few short pages of the report before needing to start typing furiously (the typing, not the mood) this will only cover one principle of the report as I feared that if I waited until the end I may have no spirit left. I want to talk about this idea of the audience for British film.

I will state this up front and outright – THERE IS NO AUDIENCE FOR BRITISH FILM.

Why do I say this? Because ‘British’ or otherwise, the British film industry operates in the English language market. That market is very well stocked with films from all across the world (by which I mean America) and Britishness becomes as relevant as Australianess. It is relegated to a sub-genre. The report states research that says that people when surveyed overwhelmingly declared their support for British film. But was that only because they asked? And, being asked, who’s going to say “NO, I think the British film industry is a pointless waste of time”.

Without taking into account the fact that no English language British film operate in a market of its own there will never be a successful British film industry, because in order to survive it must compete. Not with itself but with  every other English language film available. And that means Hollywood.  And to do that, you have to compete with them on their terms too, with big box office grosses over there. That means (and I doubt you will hear it said in the halls of the BFI) the British film industry needs to make American films. In America.

There are people doing it. “Paul”, the 2011 film starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is not the most British Film in the world, but it certainly has more than a red, white and blue streak was made for $40million and grossed just under that in the US but with a worldwide gross of $90 odd million. “Shaun of the Dead” a very British success grossed $13million in the States. See, even their slightly worse films deal in bigger numbers.

Here is a conversation that NEVER happens:

Boy “Hey, do you want to go see a film?”

Girl “Yes, let’s. What would you like to see?”

Boy “A British film” 

Now, it may be the case that the boy may say ‘THAT British Film‘ but I would be willing to bet that it would be based on something other than its Britishness. Most likely that they heard it was a good film. So here is solution number one to growing the film industry – ONLY MAKE GOOD FILMS.

Well, if we knew which they were going to be we’d be doing that. So here comes solution number two – MAKE SO MANY FILMS THAT STATISTICALLY ENOUGH OF THEM WILL BE GOOD/SUCCESSFUL THAT THE BAD ONES CAN BE IGNORED BECAUSE THEIR COST WAS COVERED BY THE HUGE BOX OFFICE OF THE ONE THAT SUCCEEDS.

That’s how Hollywood does it and, guess what, it works. It costs more money that the British Film Industry has to spend and requires that UK production companies taking the benefit of US box office successes so that that money can go into making more terrible films in the hope of a gem or two.

But until the UK film bods stop talking about the British film industry and start talking about the English language market we will always remain a cottage industry. If the BFI want a truly British film industry then they should invest in the production of Welsh language and Gaelic or Cornish language films and develop a foreign language British Film industry*, because with the report reading like they are treating the UK as a distinct market, we are going to do as well with a  Welsh film in the English language market as a French or Italian film would. Subtitles are subtitles after all. And these films would be uniquely British.

If they want a successful industry then they need to support business looking to compete, and that means productions signing big stars and filming people talking in American accents and doing American things and letting the money come back. Because nobody cares that Braveheart was an Australian guy if he’s talking in English.

Pah! I’ve run out of steam now but would love some comments and further discussion on the subject.  I can;t wait for the inevitable chunk on piracy.

* I would personally love to see these industries developed more actively than they are and see the regional funds for these films as a way to marginalise them out from the British Film Industry. We should have a Foreign language Oscar contender annually.

My Tuppence on @HackneyAbbott

This is not a comment on the racial implications of Diane Abbott’s ‘divide and rule’ tweet. A lot of other people seem to be doing that and their comments are invariably agenda-ridden. What has infuriated me about this business is the business of context. As a clumsy example, the next, single sentence paragraph will be absurd, untrue and entirely contrary to my beliefs.

I hate black people and think they should all be shot.

If you wanted to quote only that sentence from this post you could. And the shallow, reactionary nature a lot of the internet would let that be the only thing they would take in on the subject.,

If the tweet is part of a wider conversation (as it is claimed) it should of course be taken a such. The current towards political point-scoring and calls for resignation, as opposed to addressing and having a (God-forbid contentious) debate on the issue is a time-wasting exercise that undermines the concept of government at its root. Those who deal in it should be ashamed of themselves, particularly when they themselves are in government. Your job is not to get/stay elected. Your job is to represent yourselves and the people having been so elected.

I hope that in the fullness of time those guilty of such clumsy manipulation will be outed as idiots before the impact of their idiocy is felt.

There are many people comfortable in saying that ‘Yes, Abbott should have been more judicious and not posted it in the first place.”. This is also a waste of time and serves only to blur both the original idea being expressed and the issue of the fuss that follows. It is not the responsibility of the writer, or poster or whomever to make sure that every single sentence, or post or tweet stand alone as an innocuous summary of the full argument being made. All they need be responsible for is the clarity of the argument and their own confidence to stand behind it. It is the responsibility of the reader and the subsequent user for how they choose to use it. If they misunderstand the point or, worse, are happy to corrupt the point then they should be judged.

The story does bring to mind the question of whether there is a separate requirement to explicitly direct a reader to context on Twitter. It takes place in conversations on Twitter in the form of the @ reply. Those tweets are linked and can be viewed as a thread. The # implies topic but is not entirely effective in ensuring context between connected tweets (though it could and should). Perhaps it is worth ensuring that a tweet that is a direct continuation of a former or part of a longer conversation begins or ends with ellipsis. That way there could be no doubt that the tweet cannot and should not be read without the former or the latter.

That way we can get down to the important business of being properly racist*. I welcome comments on this post.

*There used to be a punctuation mark denoting sarcasm. For now, take this footnote as the context.

This is not a Resolution.

This is me saying publicly that I have a job ahead of me.

I have a fair amount of my shit to get together. And it’s about time too.

Einstein rattled on about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results being the definition of insanity. Like he didn’t have better things to think about. He may have been right. Then again, he may not have considered the capacity for the observer to change.

So I shall continue repeating myself. And lets see what happens.

Weeknotes for 26/9/2011 (On Failure and Optimism)

Adrian Peterson

This week the NFL team I support, the Minnesota Vikings, continued their season-long losing streak making it 0-4. They are a pretty stinky team right now.

What has marked their previous defeats apart from this week is that for each of their first three matches they built up a lead by the end of the second quarter that suggested they may have been demonstrating some form. Each week the lead at the half increased and each week the team managed to let go of it and lose.

This week however they found themselves trailing by a few points at the half.

What interested me about this position was that far from taking such a position as further evidence of their lack of game I managed to transform it into an optimistic ‘Perhaps this will inspire the team to rally, and a win’. Alas, it did not.

My support of the Vikings was fairly arbitrary to begin with. Upon falling for the sport and deciding to follow NFL this season I looked for anything to inspire a sense of loyalty to a team and with Minneapolis the home-town of a very close friend I adopted purple and gold. I knew they were not very good last season, despite having two of (in my humble opinion) the greatest players in the League right now, Adrian ‘All Day’ Peterson and Jared Allen. But I was also aware that the coaching staff were new and the Quarterback would be new (and maybe even an untested rookie). They were a team built on optimism. And I have a lot of time for that.

So I will extend to the Vikings the same courtesy that I am trying to allow myself. That is, to frame these losses as something more valuable and useful.

I am currently applying for jobs. I am applying for jobs that will take me away

from the direction I have spent the last 5 years heading in. 5 years before that I did almost exactly the same thing though, then, with more optimism. This week I have been summarising my actions and achievements over these past 10 years, trying to frame them in a way that other people, potential employers, may see as valuable. In doing so I realised that I have not been viewing them as valuable. In viewing them from the perspective I have been able to enjoy and be proud of them for what they were and what they meant, and still mean, to me.

I may even have felt a little smug.

I am aware that I have a tendency to view these changes of direction as failure. I view the neglect of a few weeks’ Weeknotes as terminal. I try to remember that they are not. Otherwise I wouldn;t be able to be proud of them in the future, and I hope I will be.
I believe in the value of being transparent and accountable, hence the publicness of these Weeknotes (which are usually more self-critical);I am also aware that I am writing this post having publicised the site to a number of potential employers. I hope this doesn’t prove a misstep. But with that in mind I will point out two things:-

  1. This week I got more that 1200 pageviews for this post demonstrating a productivity tip I wrote. Which made me feel great.

My Evernotepad

EvernotepadI have been trying to include Evernote in my note-taking effectively across all platforms.  The paper based notes were always the weakest link.

With a bit of time free I have knocked up a printable that I can use to re-purpose scrap paper into an Evernotepad that will hopefully solve a few of my issues, namely:-

  1. Remembering to snap. Having a custom notepad will remind me to photograph and upload the notes either as I take them or as I dispose of the paper.
  2. Keeping it neat. As much as I try to keep them tidy my notes rarely are. The Evernotepad provides a boundary that matches the aspect ratio of my phone camera and a tags box that I can use to ensure that at least key words are legible.

It makes good use of wasted paper and I am hoping it will fit in easily with my processes and I will try and comment to let people know.

In the meantime, if it is useful to anyone, here it is –  Evernotepad.

If there is anything else out there similar to this (perhaps that caters to different paper sizes and phone cameras) let me know and I will update the post with links.

NFL Fantasy Football Challenge 2011-12

NFL logoSo even though this is not an official MarkVersus Challenge, I do want as many people as possible to join in.

The excellent NFL UK site have started up their fantasy football contest for this season and I will be taking part. For those of you who might want to join in I have set up a mini-league of my own to compete directly with anyone who wants to get involved.

To pick  our team, go to the NFL UK site and sign up. Pick and name your team and once you are set up go into the ‘Leagues’ menu and use the code KJQ-YWM to join my mini-league the MFFL (I will let you guess what the ‘MF’ stands for ;)). I can also send you an invite email with instructions if you let me know who you are.

The NFL UK and Sky Sports are giving away their own prizes weekly which you will be in line for but I will also be handing out my own prize (details TBC and probably from my house) for the winner of the league.

If you feel like joining in go for it. The site has a bunch of really great resources about the players and the game and  (as I have learned) fairly friendly to those of us with little or no prior experience of the game. The season has only just started and is well worth a watch.

Good luck, y’all.

My New Favourite Game

I have a new favourite game. Here are the instructions:-

  1. Get the song An Ending (Ascent) by Brian Eno and load it on to your media player of choice.
  2. Head out to a public place. Like a park or a train station.
  3. Find  a spot with a good view of the general public going about their business.
  4. Stick your headphones.
  5. Press play.
  6. Try and work out the plot of the film that this scene is the end of.

That’s all there is to it.  The ambient Eno magic of this song is such that no matter what surrounds you it is easy to imagine that the everyday goings on of he people in your field of vision are the protagonists in some drama. Or maybe they are just the public being shown to represent the smallness of the lives of our stars in among the human race And the best part is the plots will never be the same.

The piece is written to score a movie. The piece is so liquid that it will take the form of its container. That is to say it will morph from happy ending to sad purely by what surrounds it, and how you are feeling at the time.

I started playing this game as a tease, because I imagined it this piece of music as one of those that makes it onto the bed of numerous programs at an emotionally charged moment (a la Hoppipolla, grumble grumble), but it’s fun. If you go with it it can be quite affecting. All in the name of fun.

And of course the films are always masterpieces 😉

An Ending (Ascent) (on Youtube)
Wikipedia entry for where the song is used in other media