Alec Baldwin: ‘The movies are abandoning serious acting to television’

The actor has been at Cannes making a documentary, Seduced and Abandoned,
about the film festival. Here he talks about the state of his profession today

Where I’ve ended up, I’m pretty content. I see the people at the top of the movie
business today and I compare their careers with those at the top 40 years ago. I wouldn’t trade places with those that dominate today; I don’t necessarily want what they have. I want the choices they have but I look at some of the films they make and think: “You could get anybody to play those parts.”

They’ll roll out a film like Lincoln every now and again with Kushner and Spielberg and Day-Lewis – who is someone I worship. I saw him at the SAG awards and I said: “Do you realise what your career means to other actors? You give them hope that there is still some purity in acting.”

Those movies are exceptions to the rule. When I started out in the early 80s, twothirds of the movies made were very cast specific, meaning: “We need that woman to play the psychiatrist and that man to play the judge.” Now that’s down to one quarter. Now they have a line item in the budget that says: “Here’s how much money we’re going to spend for that part – get whoever you can that’s acceptable.”

Cable TV is the bastion of great acting now. This is why you have this riotous celebration of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland – all these really seminal dramas.

The motion-picture business is more and more abandoning serious acting to television. If they want a serious experience, people have been raised over the past 20 years to depend less and less on movies for that.

However, the apex of this business is still to make a great, great film. When Marty Scorsese said to me: “Come do The Aviator with Leo” – I adore Leo and I admire him, he’s probably my favourite young actor around today; and Ryan Gosling, I love Ryan – I was elated. I wept. To go and make great movies is still the ultimate. But it’s like musical chairs. They’re taking away more and more chairs but the number of people circling the table trying to sit down when the music stops is the same. And now people are fighting and fighting and fighting. Now my agent calls me and says: “I got a phone call from some famous director …” and I’ll get very excited and become so happy. “What did he say?” “Only five other guys have to die and you can have this part.” And I go: “Oh my God, thank you.”

As told to Catherine Shoard – The Guardian, Thursday 23 May 2013

Industry Reacts to the AACTA’s downgrading of Documentary

Media Release 23rd May 2013 – Oz Dox

Representatives of Australia’s documentary-making community have responded with concern to recent changes to the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, the nation’s leading film and television awards. The replacement of six documentary-specific craft awards with general TV categories, also open to drama and reality TV, has been interpreted as a downgrading of the documentary form. Spokespeople from OzDox, Australia’s organisation for documentary professionals, say they find the results of the AACTA’s consultation process and the changes to the AACTA Awards completely unacceptable.

In a media release, AACTA justified the move by saying … “we have created Awards which achieve greater inclusivity for more screen crafts than before.” OzDox believes that while these changes might appear to be more inclusive, it is to the detriment of documentary filmmaking which is, in itself, a discrete craft. What ‘TV’ gains, documentary loses.

The OzDox community asks: “If AACTA sees these changes as a way of reinvigorating an Awards night that should be about celebrating our work as an industry, they are misguided. We now find ourselves in the absurd position of comparing the craft of documentary with formal drama and reality TV.”

“The documentary community is a valuable, dynamic, creative and craft-driven part of the industry. Our work and that of our professional and talented crews is vital to the cultural landscape of Australia and the world. All too often the work of documentarians is sidelined as a lesser form – the poor cousins of drama. This is a case in point. The decision to remove the documentary craft categories from the AACTA Awards is belittling of our community’s significant contribution to the industry.” This statement is supported by the undersigned colleagues represented at the conclusion of this document.

The Documentary craft is responsive, creative and critical in capturing real Australian stories. We need to celebrate the successes of the Documentary craft at our national film awards.

● We ask that a representative from the Documentary community is at the table for all future negotiations regarding the AACTA Awards.

● We seek to have the lost Documentary Awards reinstated until a satisfactory consultation process has been undertaken.

This statement is supported by the following filmmakers, made up of Documentary Directors, Producers, Drama Producers and Directors, Editors, Cinematographers, Sound Recordists, Composers and Commissioning Editors:

Tom Zubyrki (ADG, AACTA, OzDox), Julia Overton (ADG), Ruth Cullen (ADG Board Member, AACTA), John Hughes (DG, AWG, AACTA), Rebecca Barry (ADG, AACTA, OzDox), Madeleine Hetherton (ADG, OzDox), Ester Harding (SPAA, AACTA), Ellenor Cox & Marcus Gillezeau (Winners AACTA Best Documentary Feature 2013 – SPAA, AACTA), Bob Connolly (ADG, AACTA), Jen Peedom (ADG, AACTA), Sylvia Wilcynski (SPAA), Kim Mordant (ADG), John Gray (AGSC), Randall Wood (ADG), Jessica Douglas Henry (ADG), Ruth Hessey, Simon Nasht (SPAA, AWG, ADG), Zoe Harvey, Jeni Thornley (OzDox), Ana Tiwary (ADG), Gillian Leahy (ADG, OzDox), Jane Jeffes, Nicolette Boaz (AGSC), David Rokach (Artistic Director Antenna Film Festival), Denise Haslem (ASE), David Doyle (ASC member), Liz Mcarthy, Hollie Fifer, Brendan Palmer (ASC member), Ruth Hessey (ADG, AACTA, MEAA), Jane Castle (ASC), Siobhan Costigan, Antonietta Morgillo (AACTA), Mel Flanagan, Kay Pavlou (ADG), Mark Gould (ADG), Juliette Weiss, Jennifer Crone (ADG), Ehran Edwards, Dr Cathy Henkel (SPAA, ADG, ACS), Walter McIntosh (ASE), Martha Ansara (ADG), Caitlin Yeo (AGSC), Loosie Craig (OzDox), Rod Freedman (ADG, AACTA, Ozdox), Lesley Seebold (AACTA), Pat Fiske (OzDox, ADG), Karen Johnson (ASE), Mitzi Goldman (ADG, OzDox), Susan McKinnon (ADG, AACTA), Anna Grieve, Rochelle Oshlack (ASE), Sandra Cook, Sharyn Prentice (SPAA, AACTA), Kim Moodie (ASE), Alejandra Canales, Enda Murray, Luke Walker (SPAA, ADG), Genevieve Bailey (ADG, ASE), Daniella Ortega, Gary Doust (AFI Byron Kennedy Award Winner), Natalie van den Dungen, Nadia Astari, Amadeo MarquezPerez, Trevor Graham (MEAA), Merran Lang, Kathryn Millis (ACS member), Jo Parker (ACS member), Simon Smith, Nick Torrens, Rami Fischler (SPAA), Sohail Dahdal, Rod Morris (AACTA, AFI, AWG), Darius Devas, Nora Niasari, Poppy Smith, Rebel Penfold- Russell (AACTA, MEAA), Libbie Doherty (SPAA), Poppy Walker (ADG), Tracey Savage, Trish FitzSImons (AACTA, ASPERA), Andrea Lang (ASE), Liz Burke, David Franken (SPAA, AWG), Rodrigo Vidal Dawson, Sophie Wiesner, Richard Baron, Ian Darling (ADG, AACTA), Tamzin Langsford, Jeni McMahon (Winner 2013 AACTA Best Documentary under one hour – SPAA, AACTA), Joseph Maxwell (SBS – Commissioning Editor), John Godfrey (SBS – Commissioning Editor)

Are we really in a ‘second golden age for television’?

Steven Soderbergh is the latest Hollywood director to praise TV over film, but this second coming of great drama, including The Sopranos, The Wire and Spooks, may already be over

Shows such as The Sopranos and Sherlock now feature in surveys of great TV Cinema has historically considered itself superior to television, with executives and critics frequently sneering that a movie or documentary has a “made-for-TV” feel.

But a number of significant Hollywood film-makers – including David Lynch, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone – have moved to the junior medium for mini-series or documentaries and now Steven Soderbergh has paid a compliment, if a slightly qualified one, to home entertainment. “In terms of cultural real estate,” Soderbergh said at the Cannes film festival, “TV has really taken control of the conversation that used to be the reserve of movies. It’s sort of a second golden age of television, which is great for the viewers. … If you like your stories to go narrow and deep, TV is exciting.”

Continue reading

TV Notes Decoder: What Those Baffling Executives Really Mean

TV writers weigh in on the things network execs are saying without saying when they dole out notes such as “It’s a little quiet” or “lots of great stuff here.”

Sit any TV writer down and they will tell you of wounds they got from a “notes session,” where TV suits mask cutting brutality with obtuse pleasantries. Any veteran scribe knows that “You cracked it!’ is not the same as “Job well done,” but what does it mean?

The Hollywood Reporter reached out to a collection of established writers who’ve explained what the network execs really mean when they say…

What they say: “This is the bad version of what we want, but you know what I mean.”

What they mean: This is what we want

What they say: “You CRACKED it!”

What they mean: You finally did exactly what we told you to do, after five drafts of you trying to make our dumb note not terrible.

What they say: “Maybe we can get into it faster.”

What they mean: It’s boooooo-ring.

What they say: “It’s a little quiet.”

What they mean: Where are all the penis jokes?

What they say: “This should feel more like a real family.”

What they mean: They should feel more like one of the fake families in one of our successful shows.

What they say: “I wish this was cable so we could do that sort of thing.”

What they mean: I don’t get it.

What they say: “Now let’s just do a comedy pass.”

What they mean: You are not funny.

What they say: “We sort of miss some of the fun stuff from the pitch.”

What they mean: We are going to fixate on one tiny improvised joke until you build the entire show around it.

What they say: “Maybe I’m just totally missing it.”

What they mean: You are fired.

What they say: “We’ve seen that before.”

What they mean: We’ve already tried ripping off that idea… and it didn’t work.

What they say: “Let’s put a pin in it.”

What they mean: Let’s stop talking about this until later, when you’ll do what we say.

What they say: “Lots of great stuff here.”

What they mean: I’m supposed to say something nice before I tear a script apart.

What they say: “Do we need that?”

What they mean: Get rid of it.

What they say: “It’s great. We have NO notes.”

What they mean: Your show is canceled.

21/5//2013 As told to Lacey Rose -The Hollywood Reporter

Smart Art Films Thrive at the Right Price

Certain helmers can attract financing, but balancing a bare-bones budget with auteur integrity can be tricky.

In the movie business, the label “art film” isn’t always a deal-breaker.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Cannes, where films that might seem obscure to your average Hollywood studio executive rack up worldwide presales and receive the kind of attention devoted to Brad Pitt strolling down the Croissette.

Consider some of the filmmakers in this year’s lineup: Sofia Coppola, James Gray, Alexander Payne, Roman Polanski, James Toback. They’re not exactly synonymous with blockbusters, but in the realm of global film financing, their names attract coin — at the right budget and with key cast attached.

Producers and financiers say the principal ingredients to getting these movies made are much the same as they were in the past: packages that yield foreign presales, securing locations that provide soft money and tax incentives, and foraging around for ways to cover the risk against the lack of domestic distribution. Continue reading

Australian Writers Guild launches new TV drama screenwriting competition

The Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG) is calling for entries to its inaugural writing for
television competition Think Inside the Box. Entries close on 3 June 2013.

Each week we see more quality and diverse Australian storytelling make its way to
our television screens. From Offspring to Puberty Blues, Wentworth to The Straits,
Redfern Now to Rake, this new wave of Australian drama series is bold and exciting,
and a move away from what we’ve seen in the past.

The AWG is presenting an opportunity for writers to be a part of this new era of
Australian TV by giving them the chance to have their original work read by
internationally renowned 2011 SPAA Producer of the Year, Australian production
house Matchbox Pictures.

Writers are invited to submit a 2-3-page treatment outlining their original idea for an
adult television drama series or mini-series. An industry panel of judges will select a
long-list by assessing the treatments for their ability to engage the reader in the
writer’s vision, the potential for the project to be produced for television and the
originality and excellence of the idea. The shortlisted entrants will be asked to submit
the pilot episode of their original show and the winner will be determined from this
group.

As well as being set up with meetings with the development team at Matchbox
Pictures, the shortlisted applicants will be invited to join the AWG’s Pathways
Program, an initiative that provides networking opportunities for writers and the
chance to showcase their ideas to industry professionals thereby giving those
industry professionals access to quality scripts.

For entry form and full guidelines go to www.awg.com.au

Revolutionary New Screenwriting Software Able to Write Screenplay on Its Own

In what the Writers Guild of America is calling the worst thing to happen to its
members since Starbucks banned screenwriters from all of its locations worldwide,
the soon-to-be released latest version of the revolutionary screenwriting software,
Easy Script, will produce a full-length screenplay without the need of a writer.

Many in Hollywood believe Easy Script 2.0 will be the final nail in the coffin of the
screenwriting profession, which is why dozens of studio executives and producers
have already sent their assistants to wait in line until Easy Script 2.0 goes on sale
Friday at midnight.

“Unlike Easy Script 1.0 which could only rewrite a screenplay enough to receive co-
writing credit and save the studio money on screenwriters’ production bonuses, Easy
Script 2.0 can write a completely original screenplay,” Easy Script CEO Miles Evans
told Hollywood & Swine. Easy Script 1.0 was launched in 2000, and became a vital
resource in the development of many of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. But the
software hasn’t been without critics, including “Spider-Man” director, Sam Raimi.

“When I was making my ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy, Sony opted for our screenwriters to
use Easy Script over the industry standard Final Draft to save time,” Raimi said.
“Unfortunately Easy Script made the third act of each film exactly the same, with the
villain kidnapping Kirsten Dunst and Spider-Man having to rescue her.”

But several technology pundits are advising consumers to wait until Easy Script 3.0
is released next year, when many of the flaws plaguing Easy Script 2.0 are fixed.
According to one tech analyst, one of the biggest flaws of Easy Script 2.0 is the
software’s inability to tell the difference between a good or idiotic script note from a
studio executive or producer.

Other notable flaws include the fact that Easy Script 2.0 has a tendency to look at
pornography on the Internet when it is supposed to be writing, turning in its drafts
weeks late, in addition to constantly wanting to direct.

Visit HollywoodandSwine.com for more.

Hollywood and Swine – MAY 3, 2013

Six Questions: Genevieve Bailey, film-maker, 31

WHEN did you discover your vocation?

When I was about eight. Pre-internet, pre-YouTube, pre-video cameras on phones,
we only had access to a video camera a couple of times a year, when we’d borrow a

massive old clunky VHS camera from school. It would be attached to my arm all
weekend. I became fascinated by capturing a point in time and sharing it with people
in the future.

Genevieve Bailey, filmmaker

Your documentary I Am Eleven has been a hit at film festivals around the
world. Where did you get the idea of a doco based on talking to 11-year-
olds?
I worked at the Herald Sun for a while after uni, saw bad news every day and became
disheartened. It made me think about kids today, seeing that constantly on the
internet and TV news. When I was 11 it was such a great time in life, I wondered
whether it was still the same.

Why did you opt for a global perspective, filming in 15 countries?
I’d decided to leave Australia for the first time – I had been in a serious car accident
and my Dad had passed away from cancer, and I wanted to turn that around. I
decided to shoot in every country I went to; I felt I could make something thought-
provoking, universal and hopeful. I didn’t want to make something depressing.

How long did it take?
From 2005 until 2011 I made a trip every year, and in between I’d work two or three
jobs at a time in Melbourne to save to go again. In 2005 in Prague I met my partner
Henrik Nordstrom and we worked on it together, funding it ourselves.

Were you afraid of failure?
Yes, it was risky, but I’m so glad I didn’t let that put me off. Our opening weekend at
Melbourne’s Cinema Nova was the highest-grossing for a local film in more than
three years. We screened there for 26 weeks – a dream come true – and ended up in
more than 40 cinemas nationwide.

What’s next?
We need to make some return on this film in order to fund more projects, so we want
to release it commercially overseas – and also, I hope, on TV.

I Am Eleven is out now on DVD and iTunes

JILL ROWBOTHAM – The Australian – May 04, 2013 12:00AM

More Here:
www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features

How TV turned itself into a big event

Reports of the death of the ‘watercooler effect’ are greatly exaggerated.

The strangest thing about The Voice and My Kitchen Rules was not Delta’s shoulder
pads, Joel Madden’s hair or watching wannabe chef Dan Mulheron say with a
straight face: “I get excited anytime there’s a mention of sausage.” It was not scat
music or the use of “confit” as a verb (as in “I had better start confitting that duck”).
Nor Ben Lee telling a singer to “get freaky in your own planet”. No, the strangest
thing is that we were watching at all, in such numbers.

Last Sunday night, an estimated 2.95 million people tuned in to see the MKR winner
crowned on Channel Seven, while 1.97 million watched musical battles on Nine’s The
Voice. It was the biggest night of television viewing this year.

Not so long ago, some pundits predicted the rise of digital TV and on-demand
devices would supplant such mass viewing events. The TV audience would fragment
via a multitude of channels and technologies. And yet, last Sunday night just under 5
million homes were tuned in to one of two commercial channels – which equates to
roughly half the households in Australia. Many viewers chatted about what they were
watching in real time via social media and the next day with friends and colleagues. Continue reading

Screenplay, novel, movie: Sony options The Rosie Project

By Matt Millikan | Monday April 29 2013

Screenplay, novel, movie: Sony options The Rosie Project

Author/screenwriter Graeme Simsion

Debut novelist Graeme Simsion can do no wrong. Not only has The Rosie Project been sold to over 30 countries, it’s also just had the screen rights optioned by Sony Pictures.

According to Deadline the screen adaptation will be produced by longtime colleagues and Sony executives Matt Tolmach and Michael Costigan, working together as producers for the first time. Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad and production president Hannah Minghella closed the deal with Simsion, who adapted the novel from a screenplay he started as a creative writing student in Melbourne. Now it has come full circle, with Simsion having written the screenplay of the novel that was based on his screenplay.

‘We love this story,’ Minghella stated. ‘Not only does it have tremendous commercial appeal, but a wonderfully interesting, groundbreaking lead character. There’s already been an incredible response to this novel in Australia and the UK and we think it will strike a similar chord in the States.’

It seems likely, with The Rosie Project a bonafide hit that has so far netted Simsion around $1.8 million AUD. In a sign of its continued success, one of America’s major publishing houses Simon & Schuster will publish in America in October.

While talking to Simsion earlier this month he mentioned shopping the script, not only the book rights, around Hollywood and already having interest from studios. If the screenplay is anything like his manuscript, Simsion would’ve had no shortage of suitors. Almost every major publishing house in Australia bid on the manuscript, with Simsion eventually deciding on Text Publishing.

The Rosie Project follows genetics professor Don Tilman as he undertakes The Wife Project, a curiously scientific approach to matrimony based on a questionnaire that hopefully uncovers his ideal partner. In traditional screwball style, Rosie is anything but perfect candidate, yet still might be the one.

Yet much of the success of Simsion’s book is based on the unique narrative voice of Tilman, who suffers from undiagnosed Asperger’s, with much of the charm coming from the protagonist’s inner world. We wondered how he might translate that from page to screen.

‘In The Rosie Project what Don thinks is a very big part of it,’ he said. ‘That’s why you get the buddy in film, rather than being what Don’s thoughts are, because Don describe them to us, Don will tell Gene.’

It’s not the first time that Simsion’s tried to have the film made. According to the writer, the script was with a producer for a year earlier in its existence but didn’t go anywhere. In order to get it off the ground, he wrote the novel. As he tells the Penguin Blog, one of the reasons to write the novel ‘was to get more attention for the script to help fund the making of the film’.

Matt Millikan | mattm@artshub.com.au

Matt Millikan is a writer and assistant editor at artsHub. You can follow him @MattMEsq