Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Times They Are a Changing- Again

Bob Dylan is in Chicago this weekend and as always he has me thinking about the times we live in.

Not too many years ago if you were a Chicago based filmmaker and didn't have a production office in the 312 area code you were not a player. All of the major production houses, post-production facilities and recording studios were within a few blocks of each other. While many still are there, the film community has expanded and your physical location is nowhere nearly as important. These days an ftp server or secured website is as important as an office. More often than not we post rough cuts and let the client see them when and wherever they want to. This comes in very handy when a handful of people need to screen a cut.

At Flashpoint I am currently teaching a Creative Producing class where we spend a fair amount of class time discussing changes in the industry. Of late the conversation has turned to public art, giving away your work and new modes of distribution. It is very interesting and the students have lots of insights.

A few weeks ago the band Radiohead announced they would release their new record and let people pay whatever they wanted for it. We did a survey in class and the average price our students "paid" for the record was a little over seven dollars- some said they would pay nothing, others more than $20. Interestingly, after they first few hundred thousand downloads, the average price paid for the Radiohead record was just about eight bucks. Our un-scientific survey was pretty accurate.

From Radiohead we jumped to Wes Anderson and his short film The Hotel Chevalier which is a free download on iTunes. They are using it as a marketing tool for The Darjeeling Limited and it seems to be working. We don't have enough public art in this country and it is great that a successful filmmaker is putting his work out there for free.

From Wes Anderson we turn to Ed Burns, the actor and director whose film Purple Violets will be released not in theaters or on DVD but directly to iTunes. This will be the first film released on to iTunes and I believe it is a harbinger of things to come. Purple Violets was made for $4 million and received good reviews when it premiered earlier this year at the Tribecca Film Festival, yet it didn't get any great distribution offers so they decided to go straight to a digital release. The p.r. alone has probably helped recoup the investment.

Finally, we come to American Gangster the new Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott film. American Gangster opens in theaters next Friday, yet at least half of my students have it already on their computers thanks (no thanks?) to someone posting a screener copy. I looked at some of the film and it is a great copy and as of yesterday I heard that it had been viewed on-line at least 30,000 times. That's a lot of people not paying for American Gangster movie tickets or DVD rentals.

For the record I am completely against stealing works of art (or works of Crowe). But as I talked with my students they said, "Our generation takes it for granted that our work will be copied, shared and stolen." (BTW, thanks for making me feel old and categorizing me into that generation.) I don't like that but they thought nothing of passing a flash drive around the room and getting their own copies of American Gangster. It will be interesting to see how they feel in a few years when someone is stealing their works.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


...and we delivered a rough cut of the Teen Parent film to our client, and had four crews shooting across Chicago for this other top-secret project and time to go see Springsteen- another story for another day.


Monday, October 22, 2007


That Was The Week That Was was first broadcast in Britain in the early 196os and gave David Frost his first wide television exposure. A short time later an American version appeared giving TV audiences their first real glimpses of performers like Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Woody Allen, Alan Alda and Buck Henry. Both shows were satirical looks at the week's news, a precursor if you will to The Daily Show. I bring this up because last week at Flashpoint was both very typical and oh so atypical. Let me explain.

On Saturday the 13th the actor Jeffrey Wright and rapper/actor Mos Def came to school as part of The Chicago International Film Festival. Sometime around 10pm there was Mos Def pounding on the drums in one of our recording studios.

Tuesday, representatives from Morocco and the Chicago Sister Cities program came to school to explore cultural exchange opportunities. And that evening about 1/3 of our students went to a screening of The Darjeeling Limited where writer and director Wes Anderson and co-writer and star Jason Schwartzman answered our questions.

On Friday Mesh Flinders, creator of the Internet phenomenon Lonely Girl 15, was on campus speaking with students and high school counselors and administrators. Friday afternoon the first ever Flashpoint Academy Machinima Challenge took place. We divided students into eight groups and using the Team Fortress 2 game engine, created eight short films in the span of five hours. At 5pm we had a screening and later this week those films will be posted on the web.

All of this happened under the lens of Channel 11 (the local PBS affiliate) who came to do a piece on us for their program Chicago Tonight.

On Saturday Flashpoint had an open house and 180 perspective students and their parents attended looking to enroll in January or next fall.

On Sunday (some of us) rested.

That Was The Week That Was.