Monthly Archives: April 2013

How Social Networking Kills the Creative Spirit

You want to hear some hard truth? Do you promise not to get mad at me? Promise?

Okay then. Here it is. Your social networking habit? It might be hurting you.

Yes, I know it’s fun. Meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, discussing
the price of tea in china with strangers, staffing up your mafia, finding out your
Princess personality, etcetera, etcetera. But every minute you spend on Facebook and
Twitter (I’m not even going to try and list the gajillion other social networking sites
available) is another minute you aren’t writing, or reading. Nurturing your creative

The Muse is a delicate flower, a fickle Goddess. She must be treated with respect and
dignity. She must be nurtured, given the proper nutrients: water, sunlight, fertilizer,
a touch of love. If properly taken care of, she will reward you with great things: a
bountiful garden of words, a cornucopia of ideas. But if you neglect her, she will
forsake you. Continue reading How Social Networking Kills the Creative Spirit

The China Clusterf–k: Is Hollywood Fed Up?

Erratic decisions, murky agendas: Frustrated studios are up against a not-so-secret agenda of the world’s second-biggest box office market as they try to build their own entertainment studio system.

At a time when securing film financing is harder than ever, Hollywood desperately is searching for a pot of gold. And there it sits in China — if only the studios can figure out how to get their hands on it.

But increasingly, whether seeking a big investment in a slate of movies or a far
smaller commitment to an individual film, they are meeting with frustration. “A lot
of people in China talk about wanting to invest, and ultimately, for whatever reason,
it doesn’t seem to happen,” says the head of one entertainment company. “It’s
unclear to me what they think they’re getting going in and, when it doesn’t happen,
what’s caused them to change their minds.”

By now, many studio executives have given up on the idea that authorities will ever
permit a Chinese company to invest broadly in a studio whose films might not suit
the state-run China Film Group. Many have actively pursued deals including,
recently, Sony Pictures and Universal. (Some are said to be under pressure from
parent companies in this respect.) Financier-producer Legendary Pictures also is said
to be in pursuit of Chinese money.

Among contenders, perhaps DreamWorks Animation, with its family films, has fared
best. It has released more than a dozen films in China without a hitch and has
announced plans to team with Chinese partners to build a production facility in
Shanghai. Kung Fu Panda 3 is set to be the first animated co-production in China.

Others have learned that even a partnership with a Chinese company on a film
doesn’t ensure their movie will be designated an official co-production, which allows
studios to get a bigger cut of the box-office gross.

In fact, even if studios expect nothing more than the chance to play a movie in
Chinese theaters and believe all hurdles have been cleared, sudden obstacles can arise. Such was Sony’s experience withQuentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, pulled from theaters in China on April 11 literally moments after it began to play.

Still, the lure of China is strong. The country has become the world’s No. 2 movie
market (behind the U.S.), on track to become No. 1 by 2020. (China generated box
office of $2.7 billion in 2012, up more than 30 percent from the previous year, and
the country is still adding screens fast.) Although China typically returns only 20 to
25 percent of box-office grosses to U.S. studios on films allowed in — less than other
foreign markets — a smaller cut of a bigger pot is well worth pursuing, especially in
these hungry times.

But some say the climate in China seems to be getting worse, despite the easing of its
quota system to allow into the market 34 foreign films a year instead of 20. There
have been frequent censorship issues to contend with, as well as the Chinese desire to
tilt the board in favor of homegrown product. In August, when The Amazing Spider-
Man was forced to open opposite The Dark Knight Rises, MPAA head Christopher
Dodd called the Chinese embassy in Washington to ask why.

There’s growing awareness that the Chinese agenda in dealing with American studios
is largely about creating China’s own version of Hollywood. “I think they have a real
ambition to build up a film industry, a real studio business,” says Sony
Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. “They hope to learn a lot about how movies are
made and marketed.” Such thinking is said to have been behind Dalian Wanda
Group’s $2.6 billion acquisition of U.S. theater circuit AMC Entertainment in 2012.

A top U.S. executive says he believes China’s primary intent is not to make money but
“to create an industry equal to Hollywood, but in a way that reflects Chinese culture
and sensibility and history.” And the goal is for those films to play globally, as
American movies do.

Given all this, plus a shifting political landscape that is opaque to most Westerners,
one Hollywood exec sums up the situation bluntly: “China is way too big to ignore
and way too f–ed up to expect anything.”

For studios, the immediate question is: What do the Chinese really want? When it
comes to co-productions, U.S. studios have learned that injecting a few Chinese
elements into a film does not suffice. DMG Entertainment, the Chinese company that
partnered with Disney’s Marvel on Iron Man 3, had touted the movie as a co-
production, but questions arose as to whether the film would meet China’s ill-defined
criteria. (One problem: Ben Kingsley plays a villain called The Mandarin.) Marvel
ultimately decided not to seek co-production status; instead it will release a tailored
version of the film in China.

Even if a studio is not dreaming of getting co-production status but simply wants the
best chance for a release in China, there may be unforeseen issues, as Sony found
with Django. No reasons were given for pulling the film, but several American
executives are surprised that its extreme violence and nudity had made it past

Chinese censors in the first place. (Several doubt the film will ever be released in

Last year, Tarantino lent his name as a “presenter” on the martial arts film The Man
with the Iron Fistsstarring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. Chinese authorities reviewed
the script for the $15 million movie and allowed the entire picture to be filmed in
China. The only issue raised was an oblique objection to a Chinese actor who
apparently was out of favor. (The actor was not cast.)

But producer Marc Abraham says Chinese authorities ultimately declined to allow
the film to play there for reasons that were never explained. “Filming in China was a
great experience but it was beyond my skill set to understand or fathom the inner
workings of the Chinese government,” Abraham says.

In light of the challenges, some studios have adjusted their thinking. Paramount will
partner with two Chinese entities on Transformers 4 and cast four roles with
Chinese actors selected through a reality television show whose panel of judges
includes producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, casting directorDenise Chamian,
Paramount executive Megan Colligan and former Academy head Sid Ganis.

Nonetheless, Paramount is not counting on Transformers 4 to be a co-production,
says studio vice chairman Rob Moore. Doing that would be a mistake. “We’re taking
a different approach,” he says. “We are only counting on the fact that we have
identified partners that we believe will help us make the best, most playable movie
for China. If we have a more playable movie in China, we’re going to be happy with

24/4/2013 by Kim Masters –THR

The crest is history

Actors Sam Worthington and Myles Pollard made the part-surf, part-drama flick Drift over a packed 32 days in Western Australia.

He is a bone fide Hollywood star, the face of the Avatar and Clash of the Titans
franchises and an emerging producer, but Sam Worthington knows he is still

Take the incident outside an Atlanta bar late last year, when he was handcuffed and
pepper-sprayed after an altercation with a bouncer.

”I was an idiot,” Worthington says. ”If I show you the photo, you’ll understand why.”

The former NIDA student, who now lives in Hawaii when he is not making films
around the world, scrolls through his phone to show a scary-looking shot of him as a
character called Monster in the coming Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie Ten.

”I learnt not to go out in Atlanta, which is primarily a black town, looking like that –
with swastikas on me and ‘world Aryan race’,” he says. ”I forgot that I was looking
like that. So as I was going up to a bouncer, it kind of got out of hand.

”You suddenly realise the thing I have to learn from this is to take my tattoos off and
take my earrings out and I’ve got a bald head and I look quite intimidating.”

Once a promising but limited tough-guy actor, Worthington showed he could really
act in Somersault, opening himself up as a farmer’s son struggling with his sexuality.
When he graduated to bigger movies in Hollywood, he showed his action chops in
Terminator Salvation, Avatar and Clash of the Titans.

”The whole world went a bit upside down when Avatar hit,” he says. ”I call it running
with the bulls. Jason Clarke [the Australian actor from Zero Dark Thirty] and Chris
[Hemsworth from Thor] are doing it at the moment. You run with the bulls. You take

all the movies that come your way because of the fear you’re never going to work

”I’ve got to the point now where I can put the brakes on. I can do movies that are
smaller. I don’t have to be the pretty boy running ’round with the short skirt and the
rubber sword any more.”

And one of those smaller movies shows that even if Worthington is still learning at
36, he is prepared to pass on his Hollywood experience to Australian friends.

When one of those friends, former McLeod’s Daughters star Myles Pollard, asked if
he wanted to be in the surfing action-drama Drift, Worthington was only partly

The two surfing buddies, who auditioned for NIDA together in Western Australia
then went through the country’s leading acting school in the same year, had long
talked about making the definitive Australian surf film.

While Worthington liked the sound of Drift, which Pollard was producing and acting
in, he had no intention of starring alongside him in the film.

”It could have been quite easy to phone up his mate who does Hollywood movies,
have his mate sign on and you get your money,” Worthington says. ”I refused that. I
said, ‘No dude, you’ve got to build a base around you. Go find a bigger producer, go
get yourself directors, develop the script.’

”It would have been too easy to do that and we don’t work that way as mates.
Amongst us boys, we forge our own way.”

It was a tough-love decision that Pollard now calls ”the biggest favour he could do
me”, encouraging him to learn the business of producing.

Shot around the rugged south-west of Western Australia, Drift is that rare thing: an
Australian surf film with not just spectacular wave action but an engaging story. It
centres on two brothers, Andy (Pollard) and Jimmy (Xavier Samuel from
Anonymous, A Few Best Men and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), who launch a
backyard surfwear business in the 1970s. It’s a fictionalised version of the origins of
labels such as Billabong, Quiksilver and Rip Curl before they became international
brands, with a story of a family’s struggle to survive after moving to a new town and
facing conflict from a local bikie gang. Worthington plays a surf photographer who
arrives in town in a hippie-style bus.

”It happened here in our backyard,” Pollard says of the rise of the big surf brands.
”These backyard companies became world-beaters on the world stage. I don’t think
that’s been told in a feature film.”

While Drift suggests Pollard has the looks and talent to have his own international
career, he admits to lacking confidence when he tried the Los Angeles audition
circuit after McLeod’s Daughters.

”Myles has got a son,” Worthington says. ”He goes, ‘The primary thing is, I want to
do a movie that my son can watch down the track and be proud of something that his
father did.’ That sold me.

”Then you look at the story and it’s about family who are struggling and get their
dreams come true. Not to embarrass my mate but this is Myles’ dream coming true –
almost parallel with the guy in the movie’s dreams coming true.

”Him and his character had that great crossover, which makes Myles’ acting way
more honest and believable because he’s feeling it for real. That was something I
wanted to help endorse.”

Another former NIDA student from the same year, Morgan O’Neill, wrote the script
and co-directed Drift with Ben Nott.

Pollard says producing Drift was like a university degree, especially when the shoot
ran up against time constraints for lack of finance.

”We had a 38-day schedule,” he says. ”We had to reduce that to 32 because of the
lack of finance. Ripping six days out of the schedule was pretty rough. We were
shooting quicker than telly. So to be in the water as an actor, freezing, I had little
escape from that because I knew just how valuable the time was and how long we had
Sam for.

”It was stressful but pressure makes diamonds.”

Worthington is also moving into producing, starting with a TV series on the
journalists covering the Gallipoli World War I campaign to commemorate the 100th
anniversary next year, and two movies too early to announce – ”but they’re big” – in
the US.

”We’re doing a thing with [director] Phil Noyce as well, which I’m in because I liked
it that much. But the rest of them aren’t vanity. ”That’s what I think is the key: you’re
doing it from a place where you’re paying it forward almost;

it’s much more interesting to produce it.”

The surfing movie is a tough genre to crack, Worthington says. ”I said what you
should do – and Morgs and Myles agreed – was get proper professional surf
photographers who have shot Taj Burrow’s movies and actually been out in Grajagan
in Indonesia and places like that. Get those guys because the cinematography in a lot
of surf films is a land [director of photography] in the ocean trying to prove himself.

”But if you get the guys who live in the ocean, who know how to photograph the
waves and photograph surfing, that really helps.”

Being around so much surf sounds an ideal film shoot for two surfing buddies but
Worthington says six-metre to nine-metre swells in the middle of winter were often
perilous. ”We know we can hold our own but there were waves where you were
nervous,” he says.

”Even bobbing around in a 20-foot swell in the horizon, I’ve never been that scared
in my life. But I understand the ocean – I know that I’m not going to die. I have
enough trust in myself being able to read where the swells are coming.

”I said to Myles, ‘Let’s just go out there and take it on. It’ll seem more real for an

Drift  opens in cinemas on May 2.

Garry Maddox – SMH – April 21, 2013


ABC rules with chattering class

THE ABC has stolen a march on the commercial networks when it comes to getting social media users talking about its programs, with several of its shows topping the first results of a new monthly survey that aims to measure programs’ “talkability”.

Monday night discussion show Q&A, a pioneer in Australia in encouraging viewers to
use Twitter to comment live on a TV program, was easily the most talked about on
social media in March, according to the survey, ahead of big sports events and
commercial “watercooler” shows such as The Block and My Kitchen Rules.

Richard Corones, managing director of strategic media firm Magna Global, said the
weakness of the TV ratings system was that it measured the size of audiences but not
how engaged they were and therefore how receptive they might be to advertising
messages. Social Audience Rating Points data is calculated using an algorithm taking
into account factors such as the volume of conversation about a show on Facebook,
Twitter and online forums, whether the sentiments expressed are positive or negative
and if the amount of chatter is increasing or declining.

The SARPS system also reflected how viewers felt about the actors and storylines of a
show, Mr Corones said. By overlaying SARPS data with other measures, media
planners would be able to recommend investment in programming that might not
rate highly in audience numbers but scored well in terms of interest in other aspects
of a program.

Sally Jackson – The Australian – April 22, 2013

Adios, my clingy virtual companions

Never can say goodbye? Azadeh Ensha looks at what you can do when friends are no longer electric – New York Times – April 22, 2013

Ah, those online relationships. First you’re smitten by a social network or web
service and can’t stop spending time on it. Then it starts asking how you’re feeling,
what you like, where you are, with whom, and why you don’t share as much any

Pretty soon, you’re ready to call it quits.

But trying to end your relationship with some prominent online services can be like
breaking up with an overly attached romantic partner – they make it pretty hard to
say goodbye.

And with good reason – more users are beneficial to a company’s bottom line, which
often depends on generating revenue by selling you targeted advertisements.
Arguably no social network understands this better than Facebook, whose chief
executive, Mark Zuckerberg, proudly announced last October that his site had
surpassed a billion active users.

“Their business model is about getting users to create content,” said Jeremiah
Owyang, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group. “It’s users who are creating
content, liking things, and, ultimately, a brand sees this and comes to deploy
advertising dollars. The product is us.”

Still, not every site takes the “Never Gonna Give You Up” approach. Alexis Ohanian,
the co-founder of the social news site Reddit, said that if users wanted to delete an
account, “they should be able to do that as easily as they signed up.”

“It puts the onus on us to keep delivering a great product and not retaining users
simply because they can’t find the exit,” he said.

And remember, even if you say goodbye, like Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca, you’ll
always have Paris.


Given Facebook’s history of privacy controversies – and its general tendency to
occupy vast amounts of your time – you might eventually feel the need to leave or at
least take a break from the service.

To quit entirely, log on to your account and go to account. After hitting the Delete
My Account box, you’ll be asked to enter your password.

If you want to download a copy of your photos, posts and messages before leaving the
service, you can do that from the settings page, which can be quickly reached by
clicking on that little round gear icon at the top right of the Facebook home page.

Unlike many sites, Facebook gives you 14 days to change your mind before your
account is permanently deleted. The company knows it has hooked hundreds of

millions of users, many of whom won’t be able to stay away and will come crawling

The site will also let you take a temporary break from the relationship by letting you
deactivate your account. Unlike deleting, deactivating will merely disable your
profile, although some features, including sent messages, might remain visible to
others. You can return at any time, with your information intact.

But Facebook makes it harder to put the relationship on hiatus than to leave
permanently. Before you can deactivate your account, Facebook asks you to provide a
reason for quitting. Choices range from “I spend too much time using Facebook” to “I
don’t understand how to use Facebook.” For nearly all selections, the company
pleads with you to stay. Don’t find Facebook useful? It responds by advising you to
connect with more friends.

According to a Facebook spokeswoman, this is less about being clingy and more
about being consumer-driven by giving users “the power to decide what action is
right for them.”

After selecting your reason for leaving, hit Confirm. You’ll have to re-enter your
password, then hit the Deactivate Now box.

Not surprisingly, Facebook ends things by saying, “We hope you come back soon.”
Which, let’s face it, you probably will.

Google Plus

Another co-dependent network is Google, which tries to entangle you in multiple,
distinct services such as Google Plus, Gmail and YouTube – all connected so it can
track your activity across all of them and show you ads.

Luckily, the company doesn’t hassle you before letting you leave. To delete your
Google Plus social network profile, log in and hit the gear icon, which is to the right
of the View Profile As tab. From there, choose Settings and scroll all the way down
the page, where you should see a Disable Google(PLUS) tab that gives you the option
to delete just Google Plus content or your entire Google profile.

It’s important to note what is and is not deleted if you drop Google Plus alone.
Circles, Plus 1’s, posts, comments and third-party app activity will all be gone. Photos
won’t be deleted; you have to remove them through Picasa Web Albums if you want
them gone. Your chat buddies and communities are also kept intact.

Alternatively, you can hide elements of your profile. Go to the About tab on your
profile and hit the blue Edit link to change what others can see.


Amazon has created one of the most difficult opt-out procedures of the major sites.
Under the Your Account section are countless blue links, continuing as you scroll
down. There is no sign of a “close account” option anywhere.

Turns out, there isn’t one.

To close shop, you have to go to
assistance.html. Then you have to select Something Else in Section 1, and Account
Settings, then Close My Account from the drop-down choices in Section 2. In Section
3, you’ll see email, phone and chat contact options. Before going through all that
rigmarole, it’s best to first remove your credit card information to guard your privacy.
Go to the Your Account Page, click Manage Payment Options located under Payment
Methods and delete the information on file.


Although LinkedIn makes it easy to close your account, the company reserves the
right to use your data for marketing and other purposes — closed account or not.

To terminate, log in to the home page and select the Settings tab located in the drop-
down menu under your name in the upper right of the screen. Next hit Account,
followed by the Close Your Account link.

For privacy reasons, it’s a good idea to remove all third-party applications first. To do
that, click on Groups, Companies & Applications located above the Account box, hit
the View Your Applications link, check the apps you want removed and hit Remove.


Like many people, you might have had a youthful dalliance with this once-popular
social network. But even if you moved on long ago, Myspace didn’t. It never forgot

To cut ties once and for all, it’s easiest if you remember your password and have
access to the email address that you used when signing up. If so, head over to the My
Stuff tab, choose Account Settings from the drop-down menu and select Cancel
Account under

Account Settings & Privacy. You will receive an email from Myspace asking you to
confirm your request.

If you can’t log in to that old email account, don’t worry: Myspace will let you close
the account after you prove your identity by completing a declaration form. When
filling it out, move on if you can’t remember a detail because the company might be
able to process the form anyway. But be patient — the company says it is dealing with
a backlog of requests.


Twitter likes to communicate. A lot. By default, it will email you constantly.

To cut those back, hit the gear button on the home page, scroll down to Settings, then
hit the Email Notifications tab and choose which of the 16 or more types of email
from Twitter that you no longer want to receive.

If you want to leave the social network altogether, go back to the Settings page, scroll
all the way to the bottom and click on the tiny Deactivate My Account link on the

Twitter gets a tad emotional at this juncture: “Is this goodbye? Are you sure you don’t
want to reconsider? Was it something we said?”

Assuming that you really want to quit, hit the blue Deactivate box and enter your

If you want to hang on to the memories – like those tweets from the top of the Eiffel
Tower – before deleting your account, you can Request Your Archive from the same
Settings page, just above the link to deactivate.

Other sites

If your dysfunctional relationship wasn’t included above, the websites Delete Your
Account and AccountKiller have compiled extensive deletion information for many

Major US Film Studios Prosper on the Margins

Nomura Equity Research analyst Michael Nathanson goes deep on changes in new report on film economics

Shrinking release slates, a focus on tentpoles and the emergence of a ‘new normal’ in the homevid market has allowed the largest media congloms to boost the financial performance of their movie divisions. Nomura Equity Research analyst Michael Nathanson goes deep on the changes in a new report on film economics.

Even with all the B.O. statistics that are churned out on a daily basis, the profitability
picture for films at the major studio congloms is often opaque at best. Michael
Nathanson, a respected biz analyst for Nomura Equity Research, did forensic work
on studio financials over the past decade to better understand the composition of
revenue and earnings that the majors derive from film these days. It’s especially hard
to get a handle on the numbers for congloms such as Time Warner and News Corp., since each studio lumps TV content revenues together with pics for financial reporting.

Perhaps the biggest revelation from Nathanson’s probe was the degree to which the Big Six studios (Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.) have successfully reined in costs in order to improve profitability. Part of that has come from the steady trimming of annual release slates at the majors, and part has come from hawkish management of overhead costs (and the jettisoning of so many pricey producer housekeeping deals).

In the report “Studio Revenue Never a Sure Thing,” Nathanson focused on three
encouraging trends for the film biz that solidified in 2012:

The reversal in the long-term slide of annual admissions, which grew in 2012  for the first time since 2009.

The leveling off of declines in the homevideo marketplace.

The continued growth of international box office as a share of total B.O.

The focus on tentpoles and franchise releases also has improved the overall
performance of film divisions, even with the eye-popping production budgets and
marketing expenditures those pics require. In success, they drive more worldwide
B.O. and downstream revenue than a midsized movie. And tentpoles tend to travel
the globe better than midrange pics — a crucial calculation because of the rising
proportion of B.O. returns that come from outside the U.S.

But doesn’t Wall Street frown on the idea of studios routinely making $200 million-
plus commitments to a single movie, especially when it turns out to be a flop, a la
“John Carter” or “Battleship?” Not as much as you’d think, Nathanson argues,
because film in general remains a small part of the picture for the largest
conglomerates. The contribution by films to a Big Six conglom’s budget is highest at
Viacom, with 30.2% estimated for 2013, followed by Time Warner (25.3%), Disney
(12.7%) and News Corp. (11.7%).

“It’d be an issue if movies were a bigger factor as a percentage of a company’s
profitability, and if there (was) a greater occurrence of blowups on tentpoles,”
Nathanson told Variety.

“If it becomes more of a habitual thing, there may be greater scrutiny. For the time
being, having that opaqueness hasn’t really hurt anybody,” he said. “The stocks are
all at 52-week highs, and companies like Lionsgate have doubled (share price) in the
past year. If you see a greater occurrence of bombs, there will be more time spent on
understanding how the studios account for them.”

Looking deeper into film activity at Time Warner, News Corp., Disney and Viacom,
Nathanson found that film revenues dropped $3.7 billion from 2007 to 2012, while
operating costs fell $3.4 billion, including a $400 million drop between 2011 and
2012. For studios, film profit margins in 2012 were higher than 2007 levels (around
the 11% range) and costs are down 18% from 2007. That’s mostly because studios are
releasing far fewer films than they did six years ago.

Between 2006 and 2012, the aggregate number of annual releases by the Big Six
dropped by 69 titles, a decline of 34%, according to Nomura. The 2012 figure stood at
134 releases, down from 145 in 2011. The focus of studio resources on tentpoles and
franchise releases, of course, has come at the expense of other types of movies. As
Hollywood’s creative community can attest, the midrange budget studio pic is fast
becoming an endangered species.

The year-to-year volatility of film revenue for the majors remains a concern for
investors because of the huge fiscal difference between hits and misses at the plexes.
Nathanson estimated film revenue for the Big Six studios was down 4.5% in 2012, to
$21 billion, compared to 2011, which saw a solid 5.8% gain.

The rebound in admissions last year was a good sign to Wall Street that moviegoers
will turn at the plexes if Hollywood’s product is strong enough. From 2000 to 2012,
the compound annual growth rate of admissions eased 0.2%. Admissions hit 1.3 6
billion in 2012, up from 1.2 9 billion in 2011, which reversed a two-year trend of declines. But continued declines among moviegoers in the 12-24 age range is cause for concern.

The stabilizing of homevid activity is also a big plus for Hollywood in the eyes of
investors. After seven years of declines, homevid appears to have found a “new
normal.” Spending on home entertainment products was essentially flat (up 0.2%) at
around $18 billion in 2012 compared with the previous year — the first sign that new
VOD and SVOD streaming platforms are starting to offset the drop in physical disc
sales. Revenue from VOD platforms gained 10.8% in 2012 vs. the previous year to $2
billion, while streaming revenues spiked 45.8% to $2.3 billion.

Nathanson argues that the shuttering of 750-plus Blockbuster stores by Dish
Network, and Netflix’s “forced obsolescence” of its physical disc subscription model
has pushed consumers to check out new alternatives. If revenue from streaming
options is subtracted from last year’s home entertainment spending tally, revenue
would have declined 4.2%.

On the international front, Nathanson’s number-crunching reinforces just how
reliant Hollywood studios have become on overseas B.O. to improve margins. After
calculating the B.O. splits with domestic exhibs, he estimates that domestic B.O.
revenue for Time Warner, News Corp., Viacom and Disney in 2012 has dropped $550
million since 2007, while the international haul has climbed $350 million over the
same period.

Still, even in a fast-changing marketplace for film, the significance of a pic’s domestic
B.O. perf can’t be overlooked. “Film studios still need to maintain a stable
relationship with U.S. theater owners, given this fi rst window sets the vast majority
of value for downstream windows,” Nathanson wrote.


Global: $34.7 billion
Domestic: $10.8 billion
Int’l: $23.9 billion
Domestic admissions: 1.36 billion
Avg. domestic ticket price: $7.96
Films released domestically: 677

Cynthia Littleton – VARIETY – 18.04.13

Cannes Unveils Official Selection Lineup

Steven Spielberg’s jury will have no shortage of Hollywood talent to sift through on
the Croisette this year. Heralding a strong showing for American auteurs, Palme d’Or
laureates Steven Soderbergh and Joel and Ethan Coen will square off with Alexander

Payne and James Gray at the star-packed 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival,
announced by delegate general Thierry Fremaux and president Gilles Jacob at a Paris
press conference on Thursday.

In light of earlier announcements – that Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” would
open the festival, that Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” would kick off Un Certain
Regard, and that Spielberg would serve as president of the main competition jury – it
comes as little surprise that this year’s lineup is so top-heavy with U.S. and English-
language fare, even as it reflects healthy strains of international filmmaking,
especially from Europe and Asia.

The Coen brothers, previously in competition with 2007’s “No Country for Old Men,”
will make a return appearance with “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a look at New York’s ’60s
folk-music scene starring Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake. Payne, last in
Cannes with “About Schmidt,” will return with another road-trip comedy,
“Nebraska,” starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte and set in the writer-director’s native
Omaha. Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard star in Gray’s 1920s-
set drama “The Immigrant,” which previously went by the titles “Lowlife” and

Soderbergh, who recently competed for Berlin’s Golden Bear with his final theatrical
picture, “Side Effects,” will get another sendoff on the Croisette with his made-for-
HBO miniseries “Behind the Candelabra,” starring Michael Douglas and Matt
Damon as Liberace and his younger lover, Scott Thorson, respectively. Although
Olivier Assayas’ six-hour telepic “Carlos” was barred from competing at the festival in
2010, there’s a precedent for HBO fare screening in competition, as “The Life and
Death of Peter Sellers” did just that in 2004.

Fremaux said that while Soderbergh had initially wanted to present “Candelabra” out
of competition, he begged the director via email to “say yes” to a competition slot,
and Soderbergh agreed. “His first film, ‘sex, lies and videotape,’ played at Cannes and
won the Palme d’Or, and we wish him the same fortune with (his last) film,” Fremaux

Also vying for festival prizes are Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”) with
his latest Ryan Gosling starrer, “Only God Forgives,” and Roman Polanski’s French-
language adaptation of David Ives’ Broadway play, “Venus in Fur,” with Mathieu
Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner. Another Polanski-helmed pic, auto-racing docu
“Weekend of a Champion,” will receive a special screening.

Polanski, who hasn’t been in competition since “The Pianist” won the top prize in
2002, isn’t the only past Palme winner back in contention; the others are Soderbergh
and the Coen brothers (who won the Palme for 1991′s “Barton Fink”).

While Warner Bros.’ DiCaprio starrer “Gatsby” will get things off to a splashy start on
May 15, what this year’s festival so far doesn’t have is the sort of big-budget
Hollywood entertainment that typically generates red-carpet wattage at the midway

point (a la “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” last year and “Pirates of the
Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” the year before). Rumors had circulated that Warners’
“Man of Steel” or Paramount’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” might nab an out-of-
competition berth, but they didn’t pan out. U.S. studios repped on the Croisette
include CBS Films (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), the Weinstein Co. (“The Immigrant”) and
Paramount (“Nebraska”).

Along with his selection committee, Fremaux said he sifted through 1,858 films
submitted from June to just two days before the press conference – an increase over
selection pools from previous years. Fremaux also pointed out the numerous
international co-productions in the festival, with numerous helmers working outside
their native tongue and country. “Films can’t be reduced to their nationalities any
longer,” he said.

Cases in point: Iran’s Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”) will appear in competition for
the first time with “The Past,” a Paris-set romantic drama starring Berenice Bejo
(“The Artist”) and Tahar Rahim. Gallic auteur Arnaud Desplechin will have his fifth
film in competition, “Jimmy P.,” an English-lingo drama set in Kansas at the end of
WWII, starring Benicio Del Toro and Amalric. As for “Only God Forgives,” the
violent revenge thriller was directed by a Dane, stars an American as a British
gangster, is set in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, and was funded by Paris-based
powerhouses Wild Bunch and Gaumont.

Out of competition, France’s Guillaume Canet (“Tell No One”) will make his English-
language directing debut with “Blood Ties,” a thriller starring Clive Owen, Billy
Crudup, Cotillard and Mila Kunis. Another high-profile picture slotted outside the
Palme race is “All Is Lost,” J.C. Chandor’s follow-up to “Margin Call,” a one-man
survival-at-sea drama that, per star Robert Redford, has no dialogue.

Of the 19 films slated for competition, 13 are directed by filmmakers who have
previously been up for the Palme. These include France’s Francois Ozon, back with
“Jeune et jolie,” a sexually charged portrait of a 17-year-old girl; Italy’s Paolo
Sorrentino with “The Great Beauty,” which reteams the helmer with “Il Divo” star
Toni Servillo; and Chad’s Mahamet Saleh-Haroun with “Grigris,” the story of a 25-
year-old man who yearns to be a dancer, despite a paralyzed leg.

The three Asian helmers in competition are also veterans: China’s Jia Zhangke with
“A Touch of Sin”; Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, bringing paternity-switch drama “Like
Father, Like Son”; and his compatriot Takashi Miike, whose thriller “Straw Shield”
looks to challenge “Only God Forgives” as the fest’s bloodiest contender.

“Japanese cinema is making a comeback. It used to nurture the Cannes selection 15,
20 or 30 years ago, and it hadn’t been as present in a long time,” Fremaux said. “We
could have selected many more.”

Aside from Farhadi, the six Cannes competish first-timers are Tunisia’s Abdellatif
Kechiche with Lea Seydoux starrer “La Vie d’Adele,” the helmer’s first film since

2010’s “Black Venus”; Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam with “Borgman,” in
which a middle-class family receives a visit from the devil; France’s Arnaud des
Pallieres with “Michael Kohlhaas,” adapted from the 16th-century novel of the same
name; Mexico’s Amat Escalante (whose “Sangre” premiered in Un Certain Regard)
with crime-and-corruption drama “Heli”; and Italian-French actress-helmer Valeria
Bruni-Tedeschi with “Un chateau en Italie.”

Fremaux said that Ozon’s “Jeune et jolie” and Kechiche’s “La Vie d’Adele,” both of
which explore teenage sexuality, were likely to generate interest and heated
conversation about “the way in which a filmmaker depicts sexuality in 2013, and how
far he can go.” He also noted that both “Adele” and “Candelabra” are same-sex love

Bruni-Tedeschi is the sole female filmmaker in competition, a small improvement
over last year’s widely criticized dearth of distaff directors. Interestingly, the two
best-known femme helmers in the official selection will screen their latest work in Un
Certain Regard: Coppola with the aforementioned “Bling Ring,” a Los Angeles-set
look at teenage misbehavior starring Emma Watson, and France’s Claire Denis with
“The Bastards,” toplining Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni. There are seven
female directors in Un Certain Regard total.

“As a citizen, I’m obviously concerned about the place of women in society … but I
don’t think gender should come into play when you’re looking at an auteur and what
he or she has created,” Fremaux said. “It’s clear that men tend to dominate the film
world and Cannes is a reflection of that trend. How to increase the presence of
women in film is a question that should be raised not only once a year after the
Cannes press conference, but every day, everywhere, in film schools, at production
companies, etc.”

Fremaux has gone out of his way to raise Un Certain Regard’s profile during his
tenure, often slotting established auteurs in the noncompetitive sidebar; this year’s
batch includes Rithy Panh’s “L’image manquante”; Alain Guiraudie’s “L’inconnu du
lac”; Filipino helmer Lav Diaz’s latest four-hour-plus opus, “Norte, hangganan ng
kasaysayan”; and “Omar,” from Palestinian helmer Hany Abu-Assad (“Paradise

Imprisoned Iranian helmer Mohammad Rasoulof, whose feature “Good Bye” played
alongside Jafar Panahi’s “This Is Not a Film” at the 2011 fest, received an Un Certain
Regard berth for his latest pic, “Anonymous,” which was shot secretly and smuggled
out of Iran. Another UCR title likely to attract considerable attention is James
Franco’s latest directorial effort, “As I Lay Dying,” which Fremaux singled out as “a
very original attempt to bring the singular universe of Faulkner to the bigscreen.”

Over the years, the sidebar has served as an international launchpad for Sundance
hits, as with “Beasts of the Southern Wild” last year. This year’s beneficiary is Ryan

Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station,” which premiered to much acclaim at Park City under its
simpler original title, “Fruitvale.”

Rounding out Un Certain Regard are Flora Lau’s “Bends”; Adolfo Alix Jr.’s “Death
March”; Rebecca Zlotwoski’s “Grand Central,” also starring Seydoux; Diego
Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro”; Valeria Golino’s “Miele”; and Chloe Robichaud’s
“Sarah prefere la course.”

The festival will host a special tribute to Indian cinema with a screening of “Bombay
Talkies,” an omnibus featuring the work of four Indian directors. Elsewhere in the
selection, Amit Kumar’s cop thriller “Monsoon Shootout” will receive a midnight

Other special screenings at Cannes include Daniel Noah’s comedy “Max Rose,”
featuring Jerry Lewis’ first filmed performance in more than 20 years and screening
in homage to the French fave; James Toback’s meta-docu “Seduced and Abandoned,”
which he shot at last year’s Cannes fest; Stephen Frears’ HBO telepic “Muhammad
Ali’s Greatest Fight,” focusing on a crucial moment of the fighter’s career; Taisia
Igumentseva’s “Bite the Dust”; and Roberto Minervi’s “Stop the Pounding Heart.”

Fremaux noted the possibility that a few more films might be added to the lineup in
the coming weeks. The festival runs May 15-26.

Justin Chang- VARIETY – 18.4.13

Mystery Road beckons – Ivan Sen’s murder mystery

Writer-director Ivan Sen reckons he learned a valuable lesson after he
shot Dreamland, an experimental movie about an obsessive UFO hunter who roams
the Nevada desert and discovers a deeper mystery, in 2009.

He showed a print to a French-based international sales agent who said she loved the
film but admitted, “I can’t sell it.” So when Sen and producer David Jowsey
subsequently set up Bunya Productions, they resolved that every film would have a
defined target audience.

That strategy paid off with the director’s Toomelah and looks like continuing the

wave of successful Indigenous films with Sen’s Mystery Road. Jowsey showed a 10-
minute clip of the murder mystery at a function at the Australian Film Television and
Radio School on Wednesday night to launch the new edition of the school’s quarterly
journal LUMINA.

The issue celebrates the rise of Indigenous filmmaking including interviews with Sen,
director/cinematographer Warwick Thornton and his producer Kath Shelper,
director Tony Krawitz and The Sapphires scriptwriters Tony Briggs and Keith

The Mystery Road clip caused a palpable buzz among the audience, not least for
Sen’s stunning cinematography in and around the outback towns of Moree and
Winton. Aaron Pedersen plays an Aboriginal cop, Detective Jay Swan, who’s called
on to investigate the murder of a young Indigenous girl and realises a serial killer is
at work. The cast includes Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson and Tony

Jowsey told SBS Film the film is still in post and he hasn’t set a launch date yet. He
envisions a release of 15-30 screens. The $2 million film was financed by Screen
Australia, Screen Queensland and the ABC. Gary Hamilton’s Arclight Films has
world sales rights outside Australia, and an international premiere at the Toronto
International Film Festival in September is on the cards.

In the LUMINA interview, Sen said the film is aimed primarily at art house
audiences while also “pushing hard at the fringes of the multiplexes… It will have
commercial bones but it will also have an Aboriginal and a cultural perspective.”

Sen said Bunya‘s approach is to “target an audience and then create something for
them, with an idea of the budget in mind. It makes everything achievable in a smaller
amount of time.”

The Bunya-produced Satellite Boy, writer-director Catriona McKenzie’s drama about
a 12-year-old Aboriginal lad who sets out for the big city with his best mate after his
grandfather’s house is threatened with demolition, opens in Australia via eOne
Hopscotch on May 16.

The AFTRS has played a pivotal role in nurturing Indigenous screen culture since
CEO Sandra Levy allocated more resources to that sector in 2009, including
appointing Pauline Clague as the institution’s first Indigenous training officer. Since
then more than 600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have attended AFTRS

Also shown at the function was an extended clip of The Gods of Wheat Street, a six-
part ABC-TV drama about the challenges facing a modern Aboriginal family, directed
by Wayne Blair, Catriona McKenzie and Adrian Wills.


Gambling On Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is the only Australian film selected to screen at
this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it will be the opening film.

Aside from a talent for spending money and throwing parties, Baz Luhrmann and
Jay Gatsby, the tragic hero of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, have little in
common. But after a customary six-month release delay, this May we finally get to
see the flamboyant Australian’s $125 million Warner Brothers adaptation of the
classic novel. So while, in the novel, Gatsby’s guests waft dreamily about his blue
gardens, Baz says: ‘Great parties are like chemical equations that explode.’

The film’s fusing of American lyricism and Lurhmann’s visual fireworks has already
inspired both controversy and expectation. Nobody but Luhrmann’s circle and a
handful of studio executives has yet seen the film, but that hasn’t stopped the media
from weighing in (the Daily News: ‘How Baz Luhrmann will ruin The Great Gatsby’;
the New York Times: ‘A Pre-defense of Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby’).

While the sceptics flag up the expensive six-month delay in the film’s release and the
fact that the hip-hop star Jay-Z is scoring much of the film’s -soundtrack, Luhrmann
optimists savour the prospect of the director’s creative spectacle meeting the book’s
‘epic grandeur’ (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description). The bigger question is whether
Luhrmann’s version, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as
Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire as narrator Nick Carraway, can improve upon
Jack Clayton’s 1974 take starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Although it was
neither a critical nor commercial success, it remains a cultural and style reference.

When I met Luhrmann in a stylishly subterranean basement in the Ace Hotel in
downtown Manhattan, he was keen to stress that he was drawn to the project
because of an appreciation for the book. ‘Universally, Gatsby’s a bit like Gone With
The Wind and like Titanic. People vaguely know it and some people who are
Fitzgerald nuts know it very well. It’s amazing how many people know the Redford
film but therefore don’t know the book because they’re poles apart… The novel is
exquisite. You learn the history of Gatsby, everything about his life during the
journey and telling. You know where he’s come from, you know who he was and you
know what he is.’

It could end up being the role of a lifetime for Leonardo DiCaprio, whose more recent
screen outings have not always matched the subtlety of his performances in early cult
classics (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries and, of course,
Luhrmann’s own 1997 Romeo+Juliet opposite Claire Danes). DiCaprio was 22 when
he first teamed up with Luhrmann. ‘Leo was a prince when we madeRomeo+Juliet.
Now he’s a king. Any time I’ve spent with him, he’s only ever had one focus in his life
and that’s acting and the quality of it.’

For his own part, the director divides critics with films that include Moulin
Rougeand Australia. He has a reputation within the industry as a perfectionist who
haemorrhages money in pursuit of the ideal. In a navy-blue suit and with salt-and-
pepper hair, on the surface Luhrmann resembles another commuter leaving Grand
Central Station. In person, he sweeps you into his world with a gale force of charm —
he is among the most charismatic men I’ve ever encountered. His powers of
persuasion are legendary — whether it’s persuading the Fitzgerald estate to buy the
rights to The Great Gatsby, or schmoozing the biggest musical artists of our time
to let him use their songs in Moulin Rouge.

While blazing a trail in the Australian theatre scene, hich included directing La
Bohème at the Sydney Opera House in 1990, Luhrmann acquired the nickname of
Count Von Groovy. These days the world is his fiefdom. ‘I have a philosophy — I
dream in Paris, I have fun in London, I like to live in New York and I like to dance in
Brazil. LA for work and Sydney is home.’

‘I love to affect culture,’ he says with typical understatement. Luhrmann may not be
shy in highlighting his role as a trendsetter, but his esoteric cinematic recipes have
resulted in mainstream cultural menus being transformed. ‘When I started
withStrictly Ballroom, everybody kept saying ballroom dancing will not be popular
in America. Strictly Come Dancing came directly from Strictly Ballroom. The
graphics and clothes from Moulin Rouge have been absorbed by other cultures.
They’re still doing bordello clips in pop. Every week there’s a new nightclub opening
saying it’s Moulin Rouge-ish.’

Romeo+Juliet was loathed by many critics but won him powerful friends in Britain:
‘Some people said it was MTV Shakespeare. But Lord Puttnam said it’s done more for
Shakespeare education [than anything else].’ And while Fitzgerald purists may flinch,

as Shakespeare purists did with Romeo+Juliet, it’s hard to begrudge a new
generation the chance to fall in love with another classic. There’s talk among his
creative team that Luhrmann’s plans include another Shakespeare movie mash-up.
‘My problem is death. I have more things in my cupboard I want to make. There’s the
Shakespeare canon, there are cinematic musicals, there are edgy psychological
works.’ He even hints he’d like a shot at directing 007. ‘Sometimes having a brand is
a burden,’ he says, ‘because sometimes I’d like to be a shooter and knock off a movie
just for the fun of making someone else’s script or a Bond film.’

Should his colourful depiction of 1920s Long Island find favour with audiences and
critics, Luhrmann will be able to do whatever project he chooses. But whatever the
outcome of the Gatsby gamble, the celebrations promoting the film will be legendary.
‘Gatsby was someone who liked parties. So look out for that!’

Aaddendum: Leonardo DiCaprio will join his Great Gatsby co-stars Tobey
Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Elizabeth Debicki at the Australian
premiere of the film in Sydney on May 22. The cast, along with director Baz
Luhrmann, will walk the red carpet at Hoyts at Fox Studios after the world premiere
of the film in New York on May 1, and after attending the Cannes Film Festival,
where it is the festival opener, on May 15.

The Great Gatsby is released in Australia on May 30.

Tom Teodorczuk – THE SPECTATOR – 30 March 2013

The director’s cut: Oliver Stone’s move from silver screen to small screen

The Nixon director’s new American history series sees him follow in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch and Steven Spielberg

The title of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, the 10-part documentary series that starts its UK run this Friday (Sky Atlantic, 9pm), is carefully calculated to maximise on the celebrity of the film director, possibly surprising viewers at finding such a big-screen name in the small-screen listings.

Stone’s attempt to correct what he sees as US-centric teaching of 20th-century
history in American schools is full of arresting connections – sauerkraut was
renamed liberty cabbage in the US during the first world war and french fries became
freedom fries during the “war on terror” – and the British screening of his series is
subject to its own intriguing connection: this week’s announcement that the
American drama Bates Motel has been bought for broadcast in the UK by the
Universal Channel.

The A&E network series, a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror movie Psycho,
may look like TV cashing on a celluloid classic, but Hitchcock himself was a pioneer
of easy traffic between the screen media – and Stone can be seen as following his

Either side of making Psycho, Hitchcock was working in television, directing a half-
hour drama and fronting the series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-61) and The
Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962). This ecumenical attitude was not entirely artistic: as
depicted in the recent film Hitchcock, about the making of the horror movie, the
director had financial problems caused by having, due to studio scepticism, to part-
fund the film himself. But Hitchcock, as a populist and a self-advertiser (he had long
made cameo appearances in his movies), was also drawn to the possibility that the
younger art form offered of bringing his work and himself to simultaneous audiences
of millions.

In appearing as a presenter and host, Oliver Stone is directly following Hitchcock,
although his participation in Untold History is only vocal, consisting of almost hour-
long monologues on voice-over. But, in common with his cinematic near-
contemporary, Martin Scorsese, Stone has seen TV as an opportunity for
documentary rather than fiction.

Before his current factual project, the director of Nixon and JFK had presented
America Undercover, a show devoted to exposé documentaries, while the director of
Taxi Driver and Goodfellas has regularly contributed small-screen documentaries,
usually on the subject of music, including The Blues and Living in the Material
World. True, Scorsese directed the opening episode of Boardwalk Empire but he
withdrew to the production side afterwards.

But the movie director who has done most to suggest an artistic equality between TV
and cinema is David Lynch. His Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990-91) challenged two powerful
beliefs: that TV drama was most suited to realism – Lynch worked within a police
procedural structure but introduced weirdness and surrealism – and that good
directors only worked in television as an apprenticeship for Hollywood. Twin Peaks
significantly reduced cinematic snobbery against broadcasting, not least because its
picture-house spin-off – Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Come Fire Walk With Me (1992) – was
a flop, while the first series of the TV drama, in which Agent Cooper investigates the
disappearance of Laura Palmer, remains a recognised classic which had huge
influence in freeing TV drama from the tyranny of linear narrative. Eventually, Lynch
himself proved too far ahead of executive taste with his next intended TV project,
Mulholland Drive, which was rejected when the network saw pilot material and
Lynch was forced to turn it into a feature film.

It may be significant that Lynch is also an artist: a profession in which there is less of
a hierarchy between different sizes and styles of art: the movie theatre and the living
room were simply different canvases to him. In the cases of two other directors with
substantial credits in both sizes of image, there was also a strong element of
gratitude. Steven Spielberg and Anthony Minghella had both begun in television, the
former learning his craft on episodes of Marcus Welby MD and Columbo, while the
latter was script editor on Phil Redmond’s children’s show Grange Hill and wrote for
Inspector Morse before making his debut as a writer-director with Truly Madly
Deeply, made by the BBC as a cinema-TV hybrid.

Partly as a result of these CVs – and also because they belonged to the first
generation to grow up with TV as a standard part of life – neither directed ever
succumbed to the disdain for the goggle-box that is common in Hollywood. Both
returned there even after winning Oscars, attracted by the greater space that TV
offers for storytelling. Poignantly, Minghella’s final directing work, screened after his
death in 2008, was on the BBC1 Sunday night drama The No 1 Ladies Detective
Agency. Spielberg’s work for the medium includes the impressive war epics Band of
Brothers and The Pacific, although he has risked lowering the value of his name in
TV credits with looser executive-producer attachments to trash such as Smash.

So, while some movie purists may regard Bates Motel as a vulgarisation of a classic
film, it follows a model of cross-pollination established by Hitchcock and which
sensible directors, including Spielberg and Stone, now follow.

Mark Lawson – Wednesday 17 April 2013 –