Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Future of Entertainment Commerce

There is an interesting post made the other day on Chutry about the future of entertainment commerce.

I've actually touched upon this briefly before, but this article raises some interesting questions.  The one I want to focus on is about television being 'freed' from cable providers... but in essence our choices would become more limited because individuals would be less likely to watch an episode of a new show if they had to pay for it. 

I don't see why this is where television is going.  I find this to be a rather simple solution still.  I think the problem lies in the fact that the cable providers, Comcast/Time Warner/etc..., can't get out of their own way.  They need to see the forest through the trees. 

Pretty soon every home will have broadband, and eventually that will be connected to our televisions.  It is already happening. I have a Roku box at my house that enables me to watch certain channels, Amazon On-Demand and Netflix whenever I want.

Here is my solution.  Cable providers currently charge subscribers a monthly fee.  This fee will vanish and become a straight broadband fee.  They need to accept that and shift their model.  Currently, in that fee, you are paying for all the channels that you receive.  The cable providers negotiate with each network on a licensing fee that it will pay out to them each month. 

You are actually paying a lot of money each month for channels you do not watch, nor will ever watch. It would make more sense for individual users, rather than pay for each show they download, to 'subscribe' to that network. This 'subscription' or 'licensing' fee would be set by the networks and, in a free market, would ideally wind up at the correct price point.

I don't see why this is such a hard concept to wrap their heads around.  They are hesitant to adjust the current system because companies with more than one channel (such as Disney with all of the Disney channels, ABC, all of the ESPNs, etc...) can use that leverage to eek out more for their underperformers.  If Comcast doesn't pay more for Disney Family, then they will hold out on ESPN. In this model, the big losers are the actual subscribers.

It'll force these studios to trim the fat, put out better product, have a more focused offering (which is the case with a lot of these new cable networks anyway) and price their networks at a reasonable rate - offering subscribers the ability to order the ESPN's without the Disney Family, and vice versa. Will it be hard for a new network to emerge? Yes. Very hard. But that is why capitalism is great - because they will find a way to get their name out there. Free subscriptions for a month. The ability to back-order months, if say, one of their shows is a hit and the appetite for it begins to pick up. Networks joining forces, if their products have the same audience, to promote each other - and possible bundle themselves together for a better deal. 

I think the one-off business model is the beginning of the end.  Unless the price point for each episode is so low that it makes sense. TV is a comfort item. It shouldn't be hard work. Every time you want to watch something you shouldn't have to work at it.  We don't sit at our computer and download songs on iTunes at random. The typical user is searching for something specific, downloading it and then moving on to another task as they listen.  TV is different... sometimes you just want to turn it on and tune out... and setting up 'subscriptions' for relatively low sums for your favorite networks seems like a pain free way to move forward.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Confession of an Addict

I have a confession to make.  I am addicted to my projects.  Rather, I am addicted to creating artwork for my projects.

Covers.  Title design.  Character design.

Films.  Graphic novels.  Novels.  It doesn't matter.  And all of this artwork costs money.  I am inpatient.  I have a vision of all of this in my head and I do not like waiting around to see that vision take shape. 

Patience is supposedly a virtue.  But I'm not getting any younger and I love seeing this stuff come to life.
One day it will all pay off.  One day...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shopping a Project

Taking a project out to buyers is always a nerve-wracking experience.  Whether it is a script, a full package, a book or a graphic novel - you just never know.  There are so many factors that go into a decision it is too hard to try and guess the marketplace.
  • Are the studios spending on development right now? 
  • Is there an appetite for this particular story (war, werewolves, vampires, horror, etc...)?
  • Are you going to the right executive at the production company?
  • If you get a producer onboard are they going to the right executive at the studio?
  • Are those executives having a good day or a bad day?  Better yet, are their assistants?
  • Are you going out too wide?
  • Are you going to enough companies to create 'heat' or 'buzz' around the project?
You need to put all your effort into making sure that the material you are taking out is the best it can possibly be, and then hope and trust yourself or your reps in taking it out.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Movie Review: Green Zone

I went into this much aligned movie with somewhat low expectations.  Even though it was something I was excited about when I first heard of it - teaming Greengrass with Damon again - it was shot down by the critics and fans alike.  So when I walked out loving it, it was a nice surprise.

I understand the backlash... A war movie when war movies are financial disasters (The Hurt Locker was the lowest grossing Best Picture winner of all time).  A movie about something we all know - so how can it be worthwhile?  I heard critics say it was heavy handed in its portrayal of WMD's.  This was a movie the right hated, and the left hated equally it seems.

I don't really care about all of that.  I loved this movie.  I am a right leaning individual.  I am more Libertarian than Republican - but definitely right leaning.  But this movie wasn't anti-America - which I've heard some people call it.  It was anti-politics.  It was, in my opinion, actually very pro-soldier.  I hate politics - right, left, middle - so I found myself rooting against these ass clowns. 

I think it goes without saying that it is made at an extremely high level.  Every aspect of the film is done with the skill of master talent.  We feel entrenched in this desert, surrounded by chaos and absurdity.  When the soldiers walk into the military base fresh off the battle field and into this spring break-like pool scene, where the journalists and bureaucrats linger, it sums the movie up for me.  A complete divide between reality and 'Washington'. 

Of course Greengrass cut some corners in order to speed the story along.  He cut out middle-men and made his villains larger than life and a bit on the nose.  But the story never stopped moving forward.  And in that final scene, when Greg Kinnear walks into the room of hand-picked leaders he put together and it is chaos - the look on his face is priceless.  He has a sense of humanity, that what he is doing may be wrong but he can't even stop it or control it... probably never could.  It is and always has been bigger than him.

The real highlight of this film is Matt Damon.  Never before have I seen him perform so well.  Even in Good Will Hunting he may have been overshadowed a bit by Ben Affleck or even Casey, just because their characters were funnier.  And in the Bourne movies he's reserved, a coil ready to spring.  In this, he just commanded so much attention every time he was onscreen it blew me away.  He played the part of soldier on a mission to perfection.  He was no-nonsense, an asshole even.  And when he had to show his softer side he didn't let it border on melodrama.  He was awesome.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I find my inspiration from many different places.  I don't look to one thing and say that I draw inspiration strictly from that.  I have a few sides to me, but as a recent post said there are three things that drive my life:  Movies.  Lacrosse.  Fighting.

I draw my most inspiration from the most cliche' of places - my parents. My father, with my brother at 5, me at 4 and my sister at 2 quit his job and started his own company. A company he built from scratch into quite a success.  He is and always will be my hero.  He was a great athlete and I've always looked up to him. From him I am inspired to take chances on myself (even though he is the one I fear most when taking those chances).  Admiration for your father is a double-edged sword sometimes... My whole life I have bet on myself.  Always. There are moments of despair and when you feel like things can't get any worse, but for me, those are the greatest moments. Those are the moments that I cherish, because they are what make a man. How you respond to them. And I have always been confident in myself enough to, even when everything is stacked against me, say 'screw it' and move forward. And move with a purpose. From quitting baseball to focus on lacrosse (probably the most colossal decision I have ever had to make in my life, especially when you consider I was eleven). To dropping out of Villanova (having just returned from Cambridge), where I was on the Dean's List for Accounting, to focus on film. To applying to the one and only grad school I wanted to go to even though they take 24 out of a few thousand applicants and everyone told me I had no shot. I will always bet on myself and my dad inspires me to do that on a daily basis.

My mother, the most selfless woman I know, inspires me with the generosity she has bestowed upon my siblings and I.  She has dedicated her life to making sure ours are great.  You don't realize this sort of thing until it is gone or in jeopardy, and I am grateful that my time in Los Angeles and with my ruptured kidney has helped me respect what my mother has done for me.  And the truly generous people her and my father are.  Not just to me, but to our extended family and to anyone who has ever needed my family's help.

Everything I wish I could be in a human being they embody in one way or another.

In the creative side of the film world, I draw inspiration from other filmmakers - but more from the films themselves.  I am drawn to a term that gets tossed around way too often nowadays - 'greatness'.  The human beings that chase it and those that even capture it or pursue it so rigorously it shakes the foundations of their life move me.  They push me in the hopes that one day I can move people with the stories I tell. People like Orson Welles, John Ford, David Fincher, Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, Paul Thomas Anderson and the other perfectionists out there that fight for their films and their ideas down to the font on the movie posters.  I know I have a long way to go, but I am dedicated. When times are tough and money is tight, and it is very tight even with the moderate success I've had at a fairly young age - there are just no other options. There is no fall back plan. This is what I was meant to do. Telling stories that I love is what gets me up in the morning. And the only thing I need to remind me of that is a screening of a movie I love.

The same sort of perfectionist approach is what inspires me in sports as well. Athletes that dedicate themselves so fully to what they are doing in the pursuit of greatness that nothing else matters. I admire that. I respect that. I've been so divided in my brain since I left Villanova to focus on film.  It was always like there were two things pulling me apart - lacrosse and film.  And lacrosse, because it was so much more immediate of a fix always won out.  Now that I tore my achilles and the dream is fading - film is winning out.  I have been throwing myself almost completely into it... until fighting came along (but I digress)... These are the athletes and people who inspire me.  People that love their sport so much they will fight through anything to win. People that find that last bit of fight somewhere deep down in their soul for one last effort.  That last round or fourth quarter. Because it isn't so much about winning, as it is about playing the game. You fight for that last quarter because you love the game. I've never been the best.  I've never been the strongest. I've never been the fastest. But I've always been the last person standing. I will out run you. I will out lift you. I will out train you. I will take a bigger beating and keep coming back.

And now I will tell you why I am writing this post.  Because recently a person came into my life who inspires me.  This person isn't famous. They aren't rich. They aren't a professional athlete. They haven't figured out how to create energy through fusion. And yet I look at this person and my blood seems to run faster, my head seems to clear and my posture seems to straighten out... Because I look at this person and am struck with inspiration. They inspire me to take better care of myself.  They inspire me to treat others better. They inspire me to treat myself better. They are someone that when I first met could feel this positive energy just radiating off them. They have recently taken a big chance to follow a dream that will make them happy and in the short term it will be very hard. And they get out of bed every morning and they just do it. They aren't very big, and it is like all the chips have been stacked against them - and yet, I find myself in awe of their strength. And with that I find myself training harder, working harder and living better because of this person. You may not know it, but you are out there... and the people you inspire could move mountains. Lead nations. Forge bridges that will connect worlds.

And for anyone who is reading this and going through their own daily struggles or tough decisions, remember that your goals, dreams and convictions shape who you are.  Not your current job or situation. We are all on a path and how we get there is up to us.

And do not be afraid to be let others inspire you. No matter how big. Or small.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crap weather - Great day

The Jets are having a pretty ridiculous off-season.  First they sign Antonio Cromartie, putting him opposite Revis in what could be the best secondary ever.  

Then they go and sign Landanian Tomlinson.  The other LT.  Greene, Leon Washington and LT in the backfield.  That is just absurd.  

If they can get a speed rusher on the outside - maybe in the draft (the kid from TCU if he's still around? Please God be around)... and with Kris Jenkins back - this team is Super Bowl bound.  

And to top it off - Villanova landed the #2 seed in the easiest bracket.  Duke, a team they can topple, is running out of the #1 spot.  Final Four here we come.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Apple's iBookstore designates 'Comics & Graphic Novels' as top-tier category

This is very exciting news for those in the comic and graphic novel world - as I think, just like the ipod, the ipad and Apple's iBookstore will become the place users go to purchase the bulk of their reading material.

I want to credit Kevin Melrose at Robot 6 for this post. 

When Apple's much-anticipated iPad launches in the United States on April 3, the media slate's highly organized e-book application will feature "Comics & Graphic Novels" among its top-tier categories, reports.

Citing findings by the Busted Loop mobile media research firm, the website states that Apple's iBookstore will designate about 20 main categories, including "Fiction & Literature," "Reference" and "Cookbooks." Below those will be more than 150 sub-categories; "Manga" will fall under the comics section.

The iBookstore content sales and delivery system is viewed as a major selling point of the iPad, but until today it had been unclear how much an emphasis might be placed on comic books.

When the iPad was unveiled in January, Apple announced it had partnered with five publishers to produce content for the iBookstore: HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. All of those houses have imprints that publish graphic novels or manga (for instance, Hachette's Yen Press imprint publishes Twilight: The Graphic Novel and Yotsuba&!, while Penguin's Puffin division produces a line of literary adaptations). Macmillan and Simon & Schuster are also major book-market distributors of graphic novels by other publishers but there's been no mention of whether those agreements could extend to the iBookstore.

More publishing partners are expected to be added after next month's launch.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Under the Weather

Haven't been feeling so hot the past few days, rebounding a bit today.  This is my first change of season (winter to spring) in 8 years.  Chalking it up to that.  Or it could be that I don't ever stop working/training.

I'm blaming the weather.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My 3 Favorite Things




This list doesn't include people. Today, I fought in the morning, watched a good lacrosse game (not the same as playing but I will take it) and will watch at least two movies tonight (Unbearable Lightness of Being and Corpse Bride).  Somehow I was also able to fit in a trip to the park with Lauren and Vanessa.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Transmedia - Not That Fast

A lot is being made these days about transmedia, and how that is the way the film industry is and should be going.  And there are a lot of debates as to how to best engage your audience - which, in an era where there are so many choices and mediums is the whole point of transmedia.  To create something that audiences can access across multiple mediums/platforms.

Easily the best example of a project that used this idea of transmedia to catapult it into a franchise, a universe, of its own is Star Wars.  There are dozens of novels written in that world.  Six feature films.  Television specials.  A Clone Wars animated show.  Numerous comic books.  Multiple video games.  All telling different stories, or adding to existing stories. 

Filmmakers today, and 'consultants', are all about figuring out this transmedia approach before a project even goes into production.  With Star Wars, while Lucas may have had all of this in his head 30 years ago - he had to hook his audience with that first story.  And I think this is what a lot of these people are failing to realize.  If you can't one good story, how do you expect to capture an audience for a multitude of mediocre stories?  Just because there are more of them doesn't mean they are better.  Or more accessible.  Everything today is easily accessible.  You need to stand out.  And that always begins with the story. 

It is all well and grand to push your project, and the universe of your project, on multiple platforms. It is definitely the way the industry should be thinking.  You need to engage your audience.  But you can't engage an audience that is not there... and you get an audience by first and foremost telling a good story. 

It's hard enough to tell one good story - as you can see by looking at all of the films that were made in a year and their box office grosses (thousands of them if you include indies).  Telling that story well over a variety of mediums?  Not that is the challenge.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Television. Are We in the Golden Age?

After all that is going on with my projects and the news about A Game of Thrones, I've been thinking about TV a lot lately... and how I never thought I really wanted to be in television - maybe dabble here and there... but there is a lot of interesting programming on the tube these days.  With networks other than HBO starting to create great shows (Showtime, FX, USA, Starz, A&E, etc...) the line is really starting to blur between the film and tv worlds.  I have been sitting on an idea for a cop/undercover show that would was somewhat inspired by Infernal Affairs (which later became The Departed).  I have a lot on my plate right now, but when the time is right I really want to sit down and map out the first season and characters.

So, with that, I put together a top 10 list of my favorite shows currently on the air (or with another season going to air).  Classics like The Wire and The Shield could not contend.  Live broadcasts, such as Monday Night Football, were also off-limits.

1. Sportscenter

Just because live broadcasts did not meet the criteria doesn't mean a news program such as this does as well.  I watch it everyday and this alone is the reason ESPN is the 'Worldwide Leader in Sports'.

2. Dexter

The best narrative show on television.  Hands down.  Best written, with the best acting.  It constantly keeps you on your toes.  You are rooting for a serial killer.  Wrap your head around that.

3. P.T.I.

Along with Sportscenter, I also watch this everyday.  Kornheiser and Wilbon have become such a part of my daily routine.  Clever, opinionated... and informative.

4. Weeds

The show is awesome, and I don't even smoke pot.  She's funny, tragic and hot all at the same time.  The supporting cast has really grown with the show.  The first season was the best, but it keeps getting interesting.

5. Modern Family

The best comedy on TV right now.  I love the style they shoot it in. 

6. The Ultimate Fighter

It's not the most exciting programming on television anymore, but I watch it without fail.  I have fallen in love with MMA and it gives me an opportunity to see up-and-coming fighters and try and compare my game to theirs.  And gives me hope.

7. Eastbound & Down

In six short episodes it became, to me, one of the funniest shows ever made.  It started off stronger than it ended, because the character was growing a heart and all that... and I'm looking forward to seeing where they take it in Season 2.

8. Intervention

Every parent or parent-to-be should be forced to watch an entire season - or every episode ever made - of Intervention.  Not just to learn how to deal with drugs and those addicted to drugs, but what not to do when raising your children.  And these stories/people are all real.

9. Community

If you like Joel McHale, then you will love Community.  I like Joel McHale.  Chevy Chase is funny again too.

10. Friday Night Lights

The move off of NBC really hurt this show in my standings.  I have to wait until way after the season to even see it anymore... I really like some of the characters on the show, but I hate some of the others - so it may be in jeopardy of getting axed from my viewing (like Heroes after Season 2).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

HBO greenlights 'Game of Thrones' to series

George R.R. Martin's best-selling fantasy series 'Game of Thrones' has been greenlit by HBO.  

They shot the pilot in October and ordered a full season today.  The show will debut next spring and consist of ten episodes.  Production will begin in Belfast this June.

From the moment the project was first announced, the news generated enormous - perhaps unprecedented - online interest.

The sprawling tale set in the mythical land of Westeros tells the story of the noble Stark family who become caught up in high court intrigue when patriarch Eddard (played by Sean Bean) becomes the king's new right-hand man. The four-and-counting books in the series would each be used as on season of the series.

Unlike many fantasy novels, the 'Thrones' series largely avoids relying on magical elements and instead goes for brutal realism - think 'Sopranos' with swords. Martin writes each chapter as a cliffhanger, which should lend itself well to series translation. David Benioff and Dan Weiss are the series creators.

This should all bode well for The Skin Trade.

R.E.M. draft locked

Locked a final draft for the feature R.E.M.. As in, 'going out' draft. It's clocking in at a crisp 92 pages. It'll be slightly different from the graphic novel, which I see as a good thing.

Excited to let this baby out into the ether.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Harbor Moon Release Date Set

We've finally figured out a release date for the graphic novel Harbor Moon.  It will be coming out in August of this year, with an advanced released at Comic-con in July. 

Comic-con attracts over 200,000 comic book fans and is the biggest convention of its kind in the world.  And it keeps growing.  So, it was a natural fit for the release of the book - as much as I want it out asap.

I will be doing a pre-order on the book at a discounted rate for all the supporters... so stay tuned. 

Also, things are happening on the film front with the project and I'll update its status in that regard here as it shapes up...