Mark Versus

Blurring the line between self improvement and self punishment

Beyond Crowdsourced Funding

Movie CameraLooking at the statistics for this site over the last year or so it appears that there is a lot of interest in the subject of crowdsourced funding, and in particular crowdsourced funding of film. The most popular post on this blog is by some margin [The crowdsourcing post link]. I can only agree with the figures given that it is the subject that caused me to write the most. Obviously it holds interest for me. Due to this popularity and following a number of conversations I have been having on the subject I think that it is time to weigh back in.

I feel obliged to state from the outset that these are opinions based on zero practical experience of raising finance for a film. Some might think that should invalidate what follows. I say that if there is anything to add to a debate then let’s hear it irrespective of the source. I can choose to disregard it after the fact. There may, however be something worth hearing. I hope so here.

I would also add that the basis for my lack of experience in financing a film in this manner is, in part, that until something new is added to the formula, the process simply does not work well enough to be a viable course of action. This statement is meant as no disrespect to those people who have worked or are attempting to work in this manner. On the contrary, I would wish to see them held up as the pioneers of whatever comes out of the flux that independent film finance is currently (but seems always to be) in. It would nonetheless be foolish of me to wait in a queue behind them to pick at the same fruitless tree. Instead I have the luxury of watching how their experiments play out and learning fro their successes ad failures. What exists as fact at the moment is that the crowdfunding model for film finance does not work. It is not refined enough, it is not efficient enough and it is not effective enough. If it was, everyone would be doing it. The truth is that the act of building and maintaining a community is itself a challenging enough prospect (particularly in the company of scammers and social media ‘consultants’ and ‘experts’). The labour of doing such a thing is Herculean and does not suit being placed alongside the similarly epic task of developing a film. When both tasks are undertaken by the same person it is no surprise that the process takes so long or loses its momentum before it has really begun.

That is not to say that you cannot make a film that has been crowd funded. I could not claim that. But the question needs to be asked (as it should be always) “Is there a better way?”. Rather that an old world attitude of “If it ‘aint broke dont fix it” those looking to make films should be asking “If it never worked to begin with why not accept that it is probably broken?”.

Crowdfunding is, in the most part, a means to an end. The end is a film of whatever description you care for. I would doubt that there are many, of any, filmmakers who attempted to crowdfund a film purely to see if it could be done. Instead, they are looking for a workable way to meet the costs of producing a script. To these people it doesn’t matter how the money is raised, just that it is raised. I would add that these people are, intentionally or otherwise, looking to operate outside of the standard systems of film finance and that any alternative to the crowdfunding model needs to meet this accessibility criteria. The rise in crowdsourcing generally is a byproduct of (as good as) free access to an audience and it is this or other benefits of the information age from which we are likely to find what we are looking for.

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An open letter to @taigmcnab

Today, @taigmcnab,  you packed your life into the back of a transit van and headed back to the fires from which you were forged.  The North.  At your distance (rather than ‘in your absence’) I have been reflecting on the overwhelming benefits of the defection to South of the River/Watford Gap.

To whatever degree we were friends before you came down it has been my immense privilege getting to know you better.  More than better. If you will allow me, it feels like family.

You are a sparring partner,  a smoking partner, a business partner and a pal.  You say yes when other people say maybe and I will miss having that to hand the most.  You have been a very practical inspiration.  Cheers buddy.

See you on Skype.  I know I am speaking for a whole bunch of people in saying best of luck with the new job and keep a duvet and pillow under the sofa. You never know when someone might drop by.

London loves you.



How have I never seen this photo before?



It’s Alive!

Today I assembled the Recesky Twin Lens Reflex Camera that will act as my weapon of choice for the Mark Versus DIY Camera Contest.  It was a fairly straight forward process which I had intended on documenting fully. However, never seeing the point if duplicating effort, instead I shall link to this page and recommend you have it open should you attempt the build.  I would say the build took a couple of hours all-in.

There were a couple of moments that took some head scratching so, should it be of assistance, I shall list them here. I am aware that this may demonstrate a lack of skill on my part rather than any engineering errors on the part of whoever makes these kits.

  1. You will need a tiny screwdriver. The whole unit requires tightening up at the end (you need to keep the body loose in order to fit pieces in right up until the last minute) and access gets a little difficult once everything is in place.
  2. The Shutter: This was the most complex part of the process (as expected) and requires a bit of time spent tweaking and loosening and tightening and then re-loosening screws in order to get it working smoothly.  I found during this process that in order to keep the central part of the shutter mechanism in place I needed to fashion a small washer which I placed under it which did the job. For my washer I stripped a cable tie from some recent electronic gadget purchase and bent the wire into shape/width.
  3. The Viewfinder: attaching the viewfinder to the body felt like the point at which I was going to break some plastic and it would all end in tears.  Given that this is pretty far into the process it would have been a massive shame and I would be in a stinking mood for the rest of the day if I had muffed it up. So be careful.

Other that those bits, even the unintelligible Chinese instructions seemed to make sense. They are very well illustrated.

I have now loaded a roll of 35mm film I have had knocking around the flat and am about to head out for a test flight.  The film is nowhere near the recommended speed (ISO800 instead of the recommended 200) so I hold out little hope of any successful shots, but I will post anything that comes out OK.

As I imagined, holding the camera and looking down the viewfinder great fun. Focusing is a bit hit and miss (I blame my eyes as much as the camera) and it is a bit light, but I am really looking forward to mucking about with it.

And then, after August, perhaps I should try and mod it to be digital?

DIY Camera Photo Contest

I recently made a purchase of one of these bad boys:-

from here:-

It is an awesome, crappy plastic toy camera that you just happen to have to build yourself. While waiting for it to arrive (I still am) I was struck by the idea that this has the makings of an excellent MarkVersus challenge.  So, time to throw down. I am issuing the MarkVersus challenge to build your own camera and take a better picture than me.

The challenge shall work as follows:-

  1. Buy one of the camera kits from the site above (or the other stockists of the same/similar). It’s only £11 and if you know anyone else who wants to enter the competish there are literally pence to be saved if you buy them in bulk.
  2. Build the camera. Extra points if you document the construction.
  3. Buy some film. Remember film?
  4. Take photos. Get them developed. Get them scanned.
  5. Email them to They will be posted to
  6. The contest will run until 1 August 2011 (to give everyone a good bit of time and sunshine).
  7. I will come up with a way of picking the winner and a prize nearer then.

I understand if people are a little reserved about entering given my current winning form but I encourage everyone to join in and bring your friends. At worst we get some really awesome, crappy photographs.  See here for some examples.

In A New York Minute

I recently returned from a trip to New York with Lisa and our friends Amanda and Simon. It was one of the best the best times I have had in any country. Thanks to Amanda, Simon, Ben, Iain and, of course, Lisa for a cracking time.

Click on the link below for some Picasa Highlights

[Note: I am looking for a better way to display Picasa Albums in WordPress. If anyone has any favourites let me know.]

And the Oscar goes too…

Oscar StatuetteCongratulations to all of the winners of Sunday night’s Oscars, particularly to team ‘King’s Speech’.  A classy film exemplified by some great speeches.

Congratulations too to the winner of the Mark Versus Oscar Sweepstake 2011. Or rather winners as it was a tie.  The first of the winners was, and you may have your doubts, Mark Versus himself.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I get paid the bug bucks. Suck it, losers!

All of you except the wonderful and intelligent Karen R. who, with a score of 14 matched my, up till now, peerless intellect and ability to guess things about films that I haven’t seen.  She has earned my respect and, as promised, a prize from my flat.  I am going to contact Karen directly and offer her a choice of a few film related items and will update with a photo of Karen and the prize.

Special mentions go out to the 3 people who came in joint second guessing 13 correctly Taig M., Sky M. and Dave G. You get nothing.