Monthly Archives: July 2014

Piracy crackdown misses the real crime

Hollywood demands government help so it can keep ripping us off.

Advice from Google and others that piracy is primarily a “pricing and availability” problem has fallen on deaf ears, the government would rather listen to the likes of The leaked Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper, obtained last Friday by news website Crikey, is pretty much what we expected from Australia’s federal government. The opening statement pays lip service to ensuring that “content is accessed easily and at a reasonable price”. The rest is dedicated to outlining harsher penalties and technical countermeasures which are doomed to fail.

It would be great to see Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull jump to the defence of Australian consumers – whom they supposedly represent – as quickly as they jump to the defence of the powerful copyright lobby group. Advice from Google and others that piracy is primarily a “pricing and availability” issue has fallen on deaf ears, the government would rather listen to the likes of Village Roadshow.

The Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper feels like the work of a government which wants to be seen to be acting, rather than a government which actually wants to address the underlying problem. Where’s the discussion paper considering the impact of this year’s Foxtel Game of Thrones deal on consumer choice, or what might happen if Murdoch gains control over both HBO and Foxtel?

While we’re at it, where’s the discussion paper considering the role of parallel import laws in the digital age and the impact of geoblocking on consumer price gouging when it comes to entertainment? Last year’s IT pricing enquiry had a lot to say about Microsoft and Adobe but very little to say about Hollywood.

Just like region-coding on discs, geoblocking exists so movie studios can get away with offering Australians less and charging us more simply because we’re Australian. Village Roadshow.

Rather than addressing this issue, it seems the government is happy to support a ban on circumventing “technological measures” – which might include geoblocking – as part of the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

It’s been explained time and again how easy it is to bypass any technological countermeasures put forward to thwart piracy and geo-dodging. You don’t need to be a geek to master the use of proxies and Virtual Private Networks in order to side-step the internet service provider-level site blocking proposed in the discussion paper.

There are even browser plugins which let you beat site filtering with a single click.

Most people are prepared to do the right thing given the chance, unless they feel like they’re being ripped off. Content providers have been screwing Australians for years.

Now that consumers have finally found a way to fight back, the industry is demanding government help so it can continue to screw us.

Rather than put up laughably ineffective roadblocks to appease its powerful friends, the government would better serve the people by addressing the reasons why we break the law. Until it does, people won’t respect rules which are designed to ensure that Australians are treated as second-class citizens.

Adam Turner – SMH – July 28, 2014 – 10:37AM

TV’s Revolution in Story

Called “the best script doctor in the movie industry,” John Truby serves as a story consultant for major studios and production companies worldwide, and has been a script doctor on more than 1,800 movies, sitcoms and television dramas for the likes of Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, FOX, HBO, Alliance Atlantis, Paramount, BBC, MTV and more.

When I travel the world teaching story classes, writers and producers don’t ask me how to write a Hollywood superhero movie. They want to know how to write shows that come close to the incredible quality of the drama they see on American television in shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, House of Cards and Game of Thrones.

Indeed, a revolution in story has been unfolding in American TV drama for the past ten years. It is as significant as the rise of the novel in the mid-1700s, the shift in theater to psychological realism in the late1800s, the development of film in the early 1900s and the emergence of the video game as a story medium in the 1980s and ‘90s.

What do the best-written shows on television have in common? Well, the first thing you notice is that every one is a serial. And that makes all the difference. Every revolutionary move in character and plot stems from the emergence of the serial form.

In the old days, TV consisted almost entirely of stand-alone episodes. Writers told a complete dramatic story in forty-four minutes. For example, the criminal committed a murder in the first scene, and the cops caught him in the last. The following week, they told the same story with slightly different circumstances. This guaranteed that the medium as a whole could be nothing more than a factory of generic story product.

With the introduction of the remote and cable, the serial form was born on television.

Now shows had multiple main characters, with their own weaknesses and desires, and they didn’t solve their problems at the end of one episode, or even fifteen. In story terms, this meant, above all, interweaving multiple story lines over many episodes. No longer confined to a forty-four-minute straightjacket, a writer could get to a deeper truth by using film’s unique crosscutting ability to compare and contrast characters and storylines.

This had a huge structural effect on the TV story, because it meant that the unit of measure of the TV show was no longer the episode — it was the season. The canvas on which the writer worked became ten times as long as a feature film, and ten times as complex.

So, it’s no coincidence that the revolution in story occurred hand in hand with TV coming into its own as an art form. But how precisely did the serial form revolutionize the TV story in both character and plot? Let’s begin with the main character of the show, since the first principle of great storytelling is that plot comes from character.

Much has been made of the fact that serials sparked a fundamental shift from hero to anti-hero. Anti-hero, as it is commonly used, is a bit of a misnomer, and it obscures the revolutionary nature of these characters. Technically, an anti-hero is simply the opposite of the classic hero in some way. He, or she, may be a bumbler, a holy fool or a rebel.

But the way most critics define the term when talking about the leads in the great TV shows since The Sopranos is that anti-heroes are bad guys. Not evil, but bad, and therefore unlikable in some way. He may be a killer like Tony Soprano (The Sopranos), a liar and philanderer like Don Draper (Mad Men), a meth dealer and a killer like Walter White (Breaking Bad) or a Machiavellian schemer and killer like Frank Underwood (House of Cards).

But these characters are not just bad — that’s simplistic and could not produce great stories for long. They are complex, which produces far better stories.

Now, the word complex is often thrown around in writing circles, and no one bothers to define it structurally. Most people think it refers to psychological contradictions, which all these characters certainly possess. But what it really means is that these characters have moral contradictions. So they all have a highly compartmentalized moral code that constantly tests them to the depths of their being.

Still, these complex lead characters, though crucial to the revolution in story, could not produce shows of such high quality over so many episodes and seasons. That comes from the character web of the story, probably the single-most important factor in creating a great show. Simply stated, the character web has to do with how all the characters in a story weave together as a single fabric, both connecting and contrasting. A show with a unique character web — in which each character is set in proper structural opposition to the others — is the only way writers can create great stories for several years.

When serials replaced stand-alone shows as the standard of television drama, they didn’t just deepen the main character. They radically increased the number of characters who could drive storylines, in effect showing the audience a mini-society.

Emmy-nominated shows like Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey can track upwards of thirty or more important characters. This places a tremendous burden on the show’s creators and calls up another critical point: the audience will become completely lost unless the character web is highly organized.

The necessity of organizing the characters increases the quality of serials because it means that each mini-society is determined by some kind of system that controls people under the surface and even enslaves them. In The Sopranos it was the Mafia. In Mad Men it’s a consumer culture that glorifies a false American Dream. In Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey it’s a rigid patriarchal class structure.

In many of the best serials, writers use another critical technique in designing the character web: they highlight and explore the moral element in life, both within and among characters. Starting with the central moral problem of the hero, they make all other characters some variation of that problem. They construct a field of fire where all the characters must traverse morally dangerous ground.

This gives a show two additional strengths. First, even the minor characters have complexity, so each is individually compelling, while collectively they produce knockout power. Second, each episode is packed with plot: the writers tease the audience with a moral challenge in the opening and then relentlessly turn the screws until the final scene.

Shows like Breaking Bad, Homeland and CBS’s The Good Wife (nominated in 2011 and 2012 for Outstanding Drama Series and, in my view, the best-written show on broadcast television) have put a unique twist on the moral character web, one that has consistently generated great stories, episode after episode, season after season.

The story world is, in some form, a Darwinian state of nature in which the characters are forced to make nearly impossible moral decisions. The fundamental question each week is: Can these characters remain human, and decent, while they struggle to survive?

Shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards flip this technique. They are not about how to live a good life in a morally challenging world. They are about winning the game. In fact, the most revolutionary aspect of Game of Thrones has been its willingness to kill off its heroes — most notably in the shocking “Rains of Castamere” episode — largely because, in acting morally, they were also being stupid.

The move to the serial also expanded and deepened the plot of the TV story. Many observers have commented that this is a case of back to the future, to the serials of Charles Dickens and the tremendous plot density of the nineteenth-century French novel.

But the serials of TV drama have a fundamental difference from their predecessors: they are long-form narratives married to single event drama. The viewer enjoys both dense and surprising plot over the season as well as heart-stopping dramatic punch in each individual episode. The power of this combination to seduce and stimulate the viewer cannot be overestimated.

With the rise of the serial, the single biggest plot challenge for showrunners and their writing staffs became exponentially more difficult — and more compelling. It was no longer: How do you construct a tight and surprising episode? It was: How do you segment the plot and sequence the episodes over an entire season?

Again, the moral construct of the character web has often shown the way. The main technique top TV dramas like Breaking Bad and The Good Wife use to structure their episodes and seasons is to sequence the difficult moral challenges their heroes face. Breaking Bad’s creator–executive producer Vince Gilligan and writers like George Mastras and Thomas Schnauz are geniuses at this technique. By introducing Walt (Bryan Cranston) as a moral everyman, they were able to sequence the plot not just on the increased opposition he faced, but on his heightened moral challenges.

Each episode tracked both an escalation of trouble for Walt and a moral decision that was more complicated than the one that came before.

As this revolution in story plays out in television — and television takes over from film as the most influential and far-reaching entertainment medium in the world — we may see the revolution affect film as well. For years, Hollywood has made superhero movies for eleven months of the year, while releasing a handful of Oscar-worthy dramas in December. But no one is fooled anymore. Ten years of TV dramas telling the best stories in the world has the top acting, writing and directing talent clamoring to join the party.

Now it just so happens that in television, writers control the medium, and they are acknowledged to be the authors of their shows. So the astounding quality of writer-driven serials has quietly been exposing the absurdity of the auteur theory, which maintains that the director, not the writer, is the author of a film.

The best TV series — both within an episode and throughout a season — are all about story. The more a film or TV show is based on a well told story, as opposed to visual spectacle and detail, the more its authorship is based on the writer, not the director.

In the days of stand-alone TV, it was easy to distinguish the boring visuals of the small screen from the grandiose spectacle of film epics and thus depreciate television.

But again, things have changed. Television serials, in just one season, are far more epic than any movie, and they are filmed with just as much visual flair. With such great storytelling, no one would dream of claiming that the director is the author of a top TV drama. We can only hope that one day movies will see the light.

If you love story as much as I do, living through this revolution in TV drama has been an incredible ride. The lone drawback, of course, is finding time to watch all those great shows. – July Newsletter

Leaked Paper Reveals Aussie Anti-Piracy Crackdown Musings

A leaked discussion paper has revealed Australian government musings surrounding a potential online piracy crackdown. Among them, changing the law to undermine a landmark 2012 court ruling which protected ISP iiNet from the infringements of its users, and new legislation to allow for ISP-level blocking of ‘pirate’ sites.

In common with all countries heavily involved with the distribution of U.S.-sourced entertainment products, Australia us under continuous pressure to do something about the online piracy phenomenon. Much of the negotiations have Attorney-General George Brandis at their core, with the Senator regularly being accused of lacking transparency. This week Aussie news outlet Crikey obtained (subscription) a leaked copy of a discussion paper in which Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull seek industry feedback on new anti-piracy proposals.

The discussion paper

Dated July 2014, the paper begins by outlining the Government’s perception of the piracy threat, noting that all players – from content creators to ISPs and consumers – have a role to play in reducing the illegal consumption of content.

It continues with details of schemes operating in the United States (Six-Strikes), UK (VCAP) and New Zealand which aim to develop consumer attitudes through education and mitigation. Inevitably, however, the paper turns to legislation, specifically what can be tweaked in order to give movie studios and record labels the tools they need to reduce infringement

ISP liability

The 2012 High Court ruling in the iiNet case signaled the end of movie and TV studio litigation against service providers. With their dream of holding ISPs responsible for the actions of their pirating users in tatters, copyright holders would need new tools to pursue their aims. It’s clear that Brandis now wants to provide those via a change in the law.

“The Government believes that even when an ISP does not have a direct power to prevent a person from doing a particular infringing act, there still may be reasonable steps that can be taken by the ISP to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement,” the paper reads. “Extending authorization liability is essential to ensuring the existence of an effective legal framework that encourages industry cooperation and functions as originally intended, and is consistent with Australia’s international obligations.”


“The Government is looking to industry to reach agreement on appropriate industry schemes or commercial arrangements on what would constitute ‘reasonable steps’ to be taken by ISPs,” the paper notes.

Website blocking

Given several signals on the topic earlier this year, it comes as no surprise that website blocking is under serious consideration. The paper outlines blocking mechanisms in Europe, particularly the UK and Ireland, which allow for court injunctions to be issued against ISPs.


The Irish model, which has already blocked sites including The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents, is of special interest to the Australian Government, since proving that an ISP had knowledge of infringing conduct is not required to obtain an injunction. “A similar provision in Australian law could enable rights holders to take action to block access to a website offering infringing material, without the need to establish that a particular ISP authorized an infringement,” the paper notes, adding that such provisions would only apply to websites outside Aussie jurisdiction.

It’s likely that most copyright holders will be largely in favor of the Government’s proposals on the points detailed above, but whether ISPs will share their enthusiasm remains to be seen.

Stakeholders are expected to return their submissions by Monday 25th August.

By Andy – TorrentFreak – July 25, 2014

Box-Office Slump: Hollywood Facing Worst Summer in Eight Years

Less than six weeks before Labor Day, hopes for recovery at the North American summer box office have evaporated. The season is expected to finish down 15 to 20 percent compared with 2013, the worst year-over-year decline in three decades, and revenue will struggle to crack $4 billion, which hasn’t happened in eight years. As a result, analysts predict that the full year is facing a deficit of 4 to 5 percent.

Comparisons in North America are tough, considering revenue hit a record $4.75 billion in summer 2013. It didn’t help that Fast & Furious 7 was pushed from July to April 2015 following the death ofPaul Walker or that Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened in early April. But even bullish observers are grim. “Moviegoing begets moviegoing, and we have lost our momentum,” says Rentrak’s Paul Dergarabedian. “People aren’t seeing trailers and marketing materials. They still want to go to the movies — they just want to go to really good movies.”

Although there have been no Lone Ranger-size debacles, for the first time since 2001 no summer pic will cross $300 million domestically (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent and Transformers: Age of Extinction hover near $230 million).

May kicked off with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 earning $200 million less domestically than 2013’s Iron Man 3; by July 20, the divide had swelled to nearly $690 million as revenue topped out at $2.71 billion, down 20 percent compared with the same period last year.

International returns remain strong, making up for some of the damage, but in certain cases they aren’t enough. Spider-Man 2 topped out at $706.2 million globally, notably behind the $757.9 million earned by The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. “I would have liked Amazing Spider-Man 2 to make a lot more money for us than it did, but it made a lot of money for us anyway,” Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

X-Men is the only tentpole that has earned more than its predecessor domestically (X-Men: First Class grossed $146.4 million in 2011), contributing to Fox’s best summer in years (it is No. 1 in market share). But Paramount’s Age of Extinction has grossed far less than previous Transformersmovies domestically, though it will be the first 2014 film to hit $1 billion worldwide thanks to $300 million in China.

“Young men haven’t been as enthusiastic as usual,” says analyst Phil Contrino.

“Maybe [studios] shouldn’t just go after this demo when building their summer tentpoles.” Female-fueled properties, including Maleficent and The Fault in Our Stars, have produced some of the summer’s biggest success stories.

Also contributing to the malaise is a lack of family product (including no Pixar movie), the allure of TV and myriad ways consumers can view entertainment in their homes. (Laments one studio executive, “I wish I worked at Netflix.”)

Filmmaker Jon Favreau agrees that the popularity of television and new technologies are altering viewing habits. “I think times are changing. We have to acknowledge that and not try to chase what used to be,” says Favreau, who is currently prepping Jungle Book for Disney. At the same time, he said there will continue to be a worldwide appetite for big spectacle movies based on known brands.

But the Iron Man director is in theaters this summer not with a studio tentpole but with indie hit Chef, which has grossed north of $26 million to date, a coup for Favreau and independent distributor Open Road Films. With Chef, Favreau didn’t have to worry about making a film that needed to have the widest possible appeal. “It didn’t need to capture every person in every country,” he says.

Many medium-size studio movies have underperformed this summer, including Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West and Sony’s Cameron Diaz comedy Sex Tape, which opened July 18 to a meager $14.6 million.

For the summer to hit $4 billion and finish down only 15 percent, revenue needs to match last year’s through August. That puts pressure on Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules (July 25), Scarlett Johansson’sLucy (July 25), Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1) and Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Aug. 8). But it’s a tall order, considering last summer ended with a bang. “I don’t know if we have a major sleeper left this year, other than Guardians,” says Dergarabedian.

Still, many believe summer 2015 will restore order with a lineup that includes Avengers: Age of Ultron,Minions and Jurassic World. “I think it’s cyclical,” says X-Men producer Simon Kinberg. “Next summer will be the biggest box-office summer in history, and nobody will be worrying about the business.”

Pamela McClintock – The Hollywood Reporter – 23/7/2014

Screen Australia to axe 12 staff and support for industry training programs after budget cuts

Screen Australia has announced how it will save more than $5m this year with measures including lowering its maximum investment in films to $2m, cutting 12 full time staff members and shedding $500,000 from marketing support. The publicly-funded body which provides grants to Australian film and drama producers was handed a $25m cut to its budget by the Federal Government over four years in May’s budget, and has undertaken a review of its processes to find where it could make the savings.

Training funds are also set to be cut with $400,000 stripped from the Talent Escalator program, whilst there will be a “transition away” from direct funding for screen resource organisations, with a move to commission them to do professional development activities handled in house.

Staff cuts will see the body reduced to effectively half of its 2008 size, with 100 full time employees as opposed to 190. CEO Graeme Mason said the review had led to a “renewed focus on the core business of the agency”.

In a posting on the Screen Australia website today Mason wrote: “We are streamlining our operations and making processes simpler and easier for industry, and to the greatest extent possible we have tried to maintain funding for on-screen production. We have also had to make difficult decisions, including a further 10 per cent reduction in staff, cuts to professional development and marketing initiatives, transitioning away from funding industry training organisations, and a relatively small reduction in production investment and project development.

“There are challenges before us, but I also see great potential. We will back our creative talent to capitalise on opportunities and take more Australian stories out to the world. We will grow the pie for Australian production by facilitating international collaborations, using advantages such as our talent and our world class production reputation.

“We will reduce process as much as possible and step out of the way of industry, providing more funding as grants, with no copyright interest, so that producers keep more revenue from their productions. We will encourage new models of digital production and distribution that ensure our industry continues to evolve with its audiences.”

AS well as the cuts the review has changed some processes of the organisation, including making all funding up to $500,000 a grant and relinquishing copyright on projects with that level of funding, with a new online application system to be introduced.

The marketing and state of industry departments will be abolished and replaced with a business and audience department to place more emphasis on business development, whilst funding to send talent and producers to international festivals to support their films, which drew criticism last year, have also been revised.

From the Screen Australia announcement:

Key changes 2014/15

In the context of reduced funding, Screen Australia has reviewed its programs to sharpen the focus on where we add the most value. We have also reviewed how these programs are delivered to find greater efficiencies, reduce overheads and simplify processes. Resulting changes are outlined below.


New terms, effective for applications received from 24 July 2014, will benefit producers:

• All funding up to $500,000 (except P&A loans) will be a grant. This will provide more equity for the producer as well as simplify the contracting process (previously the grant threshold was $200,000, and limited to documentary and some other programs).

• Screen Australia will also relinquish copyright in favour of the producer for all projects up to $500,000, retaining a 1 per cent share only in projects for which we provide recoupable investment.

• These policies will be reflected in revised Terms of Trade, and in program guidelines going forward.

Funding management processes will continue to be streamlined:

• Turnaround times shortened wherever possible

• Feature film Letters of Interest now approved by the CEO

• Applications to be submitted in two stages where possible, requiring fewer initial application materials to limit the burden on applicants

• An online application system to be introduced to make it easier for applicants as well as improve the efficiency of application processing.


Sharpened program focus is reflected across the agency:

• Greater emphasis on business development through the establishment of a Business and Audience department (replacing the previous Marketing department and the State and Industry programs)

• Enterprise funding to target industry attachments, high-level screenwriting development and industry capacities through new business models and ambitious business plans

• Production funding to sharpen its focus on stories that matter: innovative risk-taking projects that identify and build talent; culturally significant, intrinsically Australian stories that resonate with local audiences; and high-end ambitious projects that reflect Australia to the world

• International festival and market support programs revised to consolidate travel and materials funding, allowing producers to better leverage success at international events as part of release strategies

• Guidelines for the International Co-production program to be revised to better facilitate international partnerships.


Overall, funds will be retained on screen as much as possible, with the following adjustments:

• a further 10 per cent reduction in staff to 100 FTE personnel (112 at 30 June 2014, down from 190 in 2008), saving approximately $1 million • a $2–3 million reduction across production investment and project development programs, with the cap on Screen Australia investment in an individual feature project lowered from $2.5 million to $2 million in order to spread funds further

• a decrease in funding for traditional prints and advertising (P&A), saving approximately $500,000

• savings of around $400,000 in Talent Escalator professional development programs, avoiding duplication with the new Enterprise: People program, and from consolidation of short film programs

• transition away from direct funding of screen resource organisations, while exploring the potential to commission them to deliver professional development activities currently managed inhouse, creating savings of approximately $1–1.6 million

• small savings across other programs.

Aaddendum: The executive director of Screen Producers Australia, Matthew Deaner, said Screen Australia had done everything possible to minimise the budget’s impact on production levels, reports the SMH. ‘‘They’ve spread those changes across both their programs and internal operations, which was critical,” he said. “And they’ve done their best to minimise the impact on production output.’’

Alex Hayes – mumbrella blog – July 24th, 2014

International flavour for Scroz development funding

Screen Australia today announced nearly $535,000 in development funding for 18 features including projects set in Canada, inner-city Berlin, Mexico City, Vietnam, the Middle East and medieval England.

The genres range from family and musical to comedy, drama, thriller, sci-fi and action. The funding will support eight new projects as well as further assistance for 10 titles.

Through its Talent Escalator programs, the agency is placing three producers in professional posts to improve their direct industry experience and supporting short film director Nicholas Verso in the next stage of his professional development.

Screen Australia’s Head of Production Sally Caplan said, “In this round it is encouraging to see such a great range of Australian stories receive support from filmmakers at different levels, some with international creative partners and several with international focus.

“We are also pleased to be able to support emerging local talent with international placements that will increase our industry’s experience in the marketplace and further reinforce the great reputation of Australian talent on a global stage.”

By Don Groves. IF Magazine. Tue 22/07/2014


Genre Comedy, Drama
Producers Louise Smith, Kevin Loader, Rachel Griffiths
Writer/Director Rachel Griffiths
Genre Thriller
Producer Polly Staniford
Executive Producer Angie Fielder
Director Cate Shortland
Writer Shaun Grant
Synopsis A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.
Genre Family
Producers Melanie Coombs, Mish Armstrong, Alicia Brown
Executive Producer Jonathan Page
Writer Sofya Gollan
Synopsis The Bunyip emerges from a waterhole not knowing who he is, what he is or how he came to be. “Who am I?” he asks the Platypus, Kangaroo and Emu. Only little Spinifex Hopping Mouse Poppy is brave enough to journey with him to find out. Based on the classic children’s book.
Genre Comedy, Musical
Producer Lee Matthews
Executive Producer Shaun Miller
Writer Neil Triffett
Synopsis Ethan, an Emo kid who hates almost everything, falls in love with Trinity, a good Christian girl with a passion for life and her Lord Jesus Christ.
Genre Comedy, Drama
Producers Julie Ryan, Lisa Hoppe
Director Martha Goddard
Writer Lisa Hoppe
Synopsis Married for 40 years, conservative Mary and Ray Podger find themselves in Mexico on the biggest adventure of their lives, struggling to renegotiate the terms of their love in a distant land.
Genre Thriller
Producer Kristian Moliere
Writer Andy Cox
Synopsis When Lizzie’s best friend, Evie, disappears, Lizzie takes up her own pursuit of the truth pushing herself into the dark centre of Evie’s teenage world, uncovering secret after secret until she begins to wonder whether she really knew her friend at all.
Genre Comedy, Drama
Producer Linda Micsko
Director Hannah Hilliard
Writer Glen Dolman
Synopsis Sixteen-year-old competitive swimmer, Paris, attempts to break away from the all-consuming control of his winning-obsessed mother, Laura, in the lead up to the national championships.
Genre Coming of Age
Producers Vincent Sheehan, David Jowsey
Executive Producers Liz Watts, Rebecca O’Brien
Director Rachel Perkins
Writer Shaun Grant
Synopsis Based on the best-selling novel by Craig Silvey.
Genre Comedy, Science Fiction
Producer Raquelle David
Executive Producer Su Armstrong
Writer Philip Tarl Denson
Synopsis When an introverted dream programmer discovers he is trapped in a client’s dream, he must find a way out and save the woman he secretly loves.
Genre Drama
Producers Tim Maddocks, Liz Burton, Serhat Caradee
Executive Producer David Jowsey
Writer/Director Serhat Caradee
Synopsis A group of young Middle Eastern men kidnap the daughter of a wealthy Sydney family, intent on using her as a bargaining tool in a global political game.
Genre Biopic
Producers Todd Fellman, Lance Kelleher
Director Kim Mordaunt
Writer Andy Cox
Genre Dramatic Comedy
Producers Bryan Brown, Deb Balderstone
Writer Joanna Murray-Smith
Genre Action Adventure
Producers David Taft, Michael Harvey
Writer Michael Harvey
Synopsis Four C14th knights are resurrected in C21st UK, on a quest to protect the Holy Grail from international criminals led by a medieval enchantress.
Genre Drama
Producer Heather Ogilvie
Director Megan Simpson-Huberman
Writer Ross Grayson Bell
Synopsis A high-flying magazine editor thinks she’s coping brilliantly with grief until the day she can’t get out of bed. Sometimes salvation turns out to be a place of unexpected beauty.
Genre Comedy
Producer Matthew Dabner
Writer Heath Davis
Synopsis The carefree lifestyle of a party-loving Aussie ski instructor is challenged when he arrives in Canada ready for the new snow season only to be confronted by the son he never knew he had.
Genre Biopic
Producer Nicole O’Donohue
Writer Kate Mulvany
Synopsis Based on a real-life story, a young Australian woman accompanies her Vietnam veteran father on an overseas trip to meet her grandfather, only to discover a garden of long-buried familial secrets. Based on the stage play by Kate Mulvany.
Genre Crime
Producer Jodi Matterson
Writer John Doyle
Synopsis Through a series of comic adventures, two orphaned criminal brothers rescue their dream girl’s kidnapped child.
Genre Horror, Thriller
Producer Kristina Ceyton
Director Jonathan auf der Heide
Writer Tom Holloway
Synopsis Recovering from the loss of their child, a young couple move to remote Tasmania to discover that the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease has jumped species and threatens the survival of the human race.


Director Nicholas Verso (The Last Time I Saw Richard – 2014 AACTA Award winner for Best Short Film) will be supported for professional development through the Director’s Acclaim fund.

Producer Alexandra Blue will spend six months in London working with the development and acquisitions team at Element Pictures (The Guard, Shadow Dancer, Omagh).

Producer Leah James will spend six months in London at Working Title Films (Les Misérables, About a Boy, Senna) working across their development and production slate.
Producer Jennifer Jones will spend four months at Melbourne-based Matchbox Pictures (The Slap, Cut Snake, Underground: The Julian Assange Story) across their development and production slate.

‘The Shield’ Creator Shawn Ryan: Industry Consolidation Hurts Writers, Consumers

The showrunner for “The Unit” will tell a Senate committee that the Comcast-TWC merger should be blocked and net neutrality should not allow priority access.

Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield, The Unit, Lie to Me and other shows, will blast the trend toward media consolidation next Wednesday in testimony before the U.S.

Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, speaking on behalf of the Writer’s Guild of America West.

Ryan, who is a writer, producer and showrunner, says that while there are more ways to distribute shows than ever before, the “disturbing truth about American media” is that it “is controlled by only a handful of companies through monopoly power,” he says.

“These large corporations profit by underpaying those who are actually responsible for content creation and by overcharging consumers who have few alternative video choices.”

Ryan recalls the era before the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules were repealed in the early 1990s, when in 1989, he says 76 percent of the fall primetime schedule on broadcast was independently produced. Today, according to a WGA survey, only 10 percent is independently produced, and almost all of that is lower-cost reality TV shows.

“This excessive concentration has benefited the bottom lines of Fortune 500 companies at the expense of actual content creators,” Ryan will tell the senators.

“With tight control over both production and distribution, the vertically integrated media companies possess all the power as employers of talent.”

Yet, adds Ryan, “the writers who are the R & D of this industry bear all the risk of developing new creative works while the media companies, through their control of distribution, reap the rewards. If a television series creator and a network experience creative differences, it is the writer who is replaced, not the network.”

Ryan says it is not just the writers who suffer: “Consumers fare no better in this equation, as monopoly power restricts creative expression, limits content choices and drives up prices.”

Now online content is being consolidated as well, warns Ryan. “The promise of vibrant video competition is threatened by incumbent control of distribution. Our nation’s largest ISPs [content creators] are also MVPDs [operators of cable systems and other distribution platforms].

“These companies,” says Ryan, “which include Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T, have both the means and incentive to stifle emerging online video alternatives.”

Ryan calls on Congress and the government to stop the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as that of AT&T and DirecTV. He also calls for an open Internet with no priority access because no matter how the rules are written, it will ultimately lead to independent voices being squeezed out.

“What is good for these [big media] companies is not necessarily good for society,” says Ryan. “We need a video marketplace that more closely embodies the American values of free speech, fair competition and the rewarding of creativity and innovation.”

In calling on the Justice Department to block the Comcast-TWC and AT&T-DirecTV mergers, Ryan says, “There is a fundamental political and economic question raised by mergers, concentration and the resulting monopoly power. Are they good for society or not? The answer in economic theory is a resounding no. Every economic textbook makes clear that the result is a misallocation of resources and an unfair distribution of income.

“What will the result be of further mergers and market concentration?” asks Ryan rhetorically. “Writers will be paid less to create and innovate, even though our national political rhetoric exalts the importance of creators and innovators. And consumers will pay more, just as economic theory and history have made clear they will.”

18/07/2014 by Alex Ben Block – THR

Hollywood director: piracy is necessary, and doesn’t hurt revenues

Lexi Alexander has called out the industry for ‘bullshit’ claims about the cost of piracy, and says Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde should be released from prison

Hollywood director Lexi Alexander slams MPAA anti-piracy war and demands Hollywood director Lexi Alexander has criticised the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its war on piracy claiming that kids hacking film security is more entertaining than most Hollywood movies.

Alexander said she thinks piracy is necessary because of country content restrictions, and that while the wealth piracy begets for the pirates isn’t right, the freedom of access to content is.

Sweden free Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde “For every IP block, DRM and who-knows-what security feature Hollywood spends thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on, some piracy kid will undo it for free and within a couple of minutes,” says Alexander on her blog.

“And this is my favourite part: I am 100% certain that the hacking of entertainment industry’s security features provides better entertainment for these kids than the entertainment we’re trying to prevent them from stealing. Let that sink in for a second, then try not to bust up laughing,” she said.

Region-locking content forces piracy

Alexander explains that as a German living in the US it’s difficult to get German news, and while in Germany it’s difficult to get US shows – so she resorts to piracy, and says many people in the film and TV industries rely on it to get content.

“Like many people in the film and TV industry, sometimes I find myself in pirate waters,” said Alexander. “As an expat household, with three paid Amazon Prime memberships for three different countries, a paid Netflix membership, a paid ACORN membership, a ridiculously high DISH [pay TV] bill and an Apple TV box, we still can’t watch most programs from back home, even though we’re willing to pay good money for it.”

“I’ll go on the website of a German public TV channel in hopes of catching up on some (objective) news and up pops the message: ‘Sorry, the copyright for this program does not extend to the country of your current location’,” Alexander explains. “Of course when I’m over there, trying to catch up with a US show sets off even more alarms.”

Hollywood piracy loss statistics ‘are bullshit’

Alexander also hits out at Hollywood’s insistence that piracy is causing massive losses within the industry.

“You know what statistics are bullshit? The ones stated by the MPAA about losses due to piracy,” she said emphatically. “Piracy has NOT been proven to hurt box-office numbers – on the contrary, several studies say it may have boosted the bottom line.”

Large sums are spent combating piracy, according to Alexander: “Money spent by Hollywood to fight piracy: Hundreds of Millions of dollars. (It’s almost impossible to find out the exact numbers, but given they spent $91m lobbying for Sopa [Stop Online Piracy Act] in one year alone, we can all assume what the total comes out to.)”

Alexander concludes that she isn’t endorsing piracy, because she sees people like Kimdotcom lining his own pockets rather than being Robin Hoods. But she says that she is willing to “at least reach out to the other side” and demands that Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde is freed from prison in Sweden.

Sunde was confined for his role in “assisting in making copyright content available” through the Pirate Bayby a Stockholm district court in 2009 after two years on the run.

Samuel Gibbs –, Friday 11 July 2014

Movie piracy: threat to the future of films intensifies

Almost 30% of Britons are now watching movies illegally online or buying counterfeit DVDs, costing the industry £500m a year

‘There’s a perception it’s a victimless crime, but it’s not,’ says Mark Batey of the FDA. The movie industry excels in selling dreams. But since the dawn of the digital revolution, there is one narrative they’ve consistently and conspicuously failed to sell: that piracy is theft and consumers who indulge ought to feel guilty about it. Recent research by Ipsos suggests that almost 30% of the UK population is active in some form of piracy, either through streaming content online or buying counterfeit DVDs.

Such theft costs the UK audiovisual industries about £500m a year.

Given such scale, why has that the message failed to sink in? “There’s a perception that it’s a victimless crime,” says Mark Batey, chief executive of trade body the Film Distributors’ Association. “But it’s not. There are just a handful of super successes every year among hundreds of movies that are brought to market. And when a film is copied or made available online, it reduces the value of that film around the world.”

This, says Batey, can be particularly detrimental to the independent film-maker who may have spent years raising money for the film and may have had to remortgage their house.

Former lobbyist and US senior government official Jean Prewitt agrees. “The impact of piracy tends to play out differently and arguably more immediately on the independent sector than it does on the studios,” she says. “The indies are totally dependent on local distributors in all countries to take risk and invest in the making of a film before it is made. This is how these films get financed.”

Prewitt, who now heads the Independent Film and Television Alliance, points to its members who go to markets at festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and the American Film Market in Los Angeles (which is produced by IFTA) to present their project to buyers, who pre-commit to the film and then take it when it is finished, guaranteeing a minimum level of royalties to the film-maker.

These pre-sales are then taken to a bank and used as collateral to finance the film. If the pre-sales aren’t secured, the bank won’t loan the money and the film doesn’t get off the ground.

“Distributors are not able to take the risks they used to. What this means to the consumer is not that some producers don’t get rich, it means the product doesn’t get made.”

Each year, a huge number of these independent films are lauded at the Oscars: Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street all went to market to seek independent financing.

This reduction of revenue caused in part by piracy has also resulted in studios and production houses making less adventurous choices when it comes to films – just think of the prequels, sequels and remakes hitting screens this summer. Similarly, streaming television content illegally has a huge effect on the business, says Gareth Neame, executive producer of Downton Abbey.

“Broadcasters will pay us money upfront, but it’s not sufficient to cover the cost of the whole production, so we look at the long-term value of our product and, based on all the ways we can exploit this, we cashflow against anticipated revenues,” he says.

“If it comes to pass that the show doesn’t make those revenues because of illegal downloads, we don’t recoup the money, and we have to be more cautious.

“Long term, movies and TV and other content simply won’t be created in the first place. One may think an individual act of piracy doesn’t matter, but if that becomes a way of life then the value of intellectual property becomes eroded, shows like Downton Abbey won’t get made.”

Phil Clapp, chief executive of trade organisation the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, says that cinemas are losing about £220m a year at the UK box office due to piracy, representing about two months’ income in an average year.

“We recognise that the vast majority of illegal content starts its life in the cinema, and because we remain the key source we have put a huge amount of effort into making our sites more secure and training staff and giving them the ability to take action,” he says.

Clapp adds that the financial impact is felt most acutely by the long list of people you see on the credits of a film. “Makeup artists, costume designers,, studios and facilities, even box office staff – they are the ones who are greatly affected by this loss of revenue.”

According to a 2010 TERA report, up to a quarter of a million jobs will be at risk if nothing is done about copyright infringement in the UK by 2015.

Alex Hamilton, managing director of eOne Films UK, which has brought films such as the Twilight saga and 12 Years a Slave to British theatres, agrees with that assessment.

“The audiovisual industry supports hundreds of thousands of people’s livelihoods and if the industry has trouble supporting itself, it’s going to put people out of work,” he says. “People aren’t pirating to make themselves better or put food on the table; they are doing it for recreational purposes. An individual has to acknowledge that their actions don’t exist in isolation.”

There are a number of ways to consume content legally, says Hamilton, from cinema to video on demand subscriptions such as Amazon Primeand Netflix, and the cost is relatively low. Another crucial point pirates should understand is that nothing is free.

When a consumer streams illegal content, these sites are making money, either through advertising or subscription costs.

“It’s straightforward plagiarism for profit,” says Prewitt. “Every consumer click is driving legitimate dollars out of the legal industry and into the pockets of these criminals.”

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) works with law enforcement agencies to prosecute piracy but also works to educate the public on the consequences of copyright infringement.

“One message that is key is that, whether you’re pirating physical copy or streaming, you are putting money into the hands of a criminal,” says Kieron Sharp, director general of Fact.

Many pirates who produce counterfeit DVDs on a large scale can be traced to organised crime rings in the far east, he says, who then reinvest that money in other strands of criminal activity, such as prostitution, drugs and dog-fighting. “Our view is that most of these people [who stream illegally] are film and TV fans and we want them on our side, not on the side of criminals, who will profit from their consumption.”

Fact general counsel Byron Jacobson says the organisation has also been working hard to prevent companies from advertising on infringing websites. There seems to be evidence, he says, of a significant decrease in the number of high-street brands doing so.

And while Fact has proved to be a strong backbone for the entertainment industry when it comes to copyright infringement, support from outside the business has waned.

The UK coalition government has moved slowly in implementing the Digital Economy Act, which addresses policy issues related to digital media, including copyright infringement, and it has been an uphill struggle to get internet service providers to help combat the issue.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the UK, BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk have reached a deal with the Motion Picture Association and the BPI, which represents the British music industry to send “educational” letters to customers who have downloaded illegal content. The process is expected to come into effect in 2015.

“The difficulty is there is no end point,” says one industry insider. “It’s not really going to divert or stop even medium-level or hardcore pirates. Maybe it will quash the nervous teenager, but that’s about it.”

And it’s not just the entertainment industry that will suffer if the value of copyright is not respected, says Neame. “IP businesses and learning-based business industries are hugely increasing in the west,” he says. “The erosion of IP will have an increasingly large impact on the global economies and economies in Europe. It’s important that we try to educate people to behave like responsible citizens and to be honest and understand why copyright matters.”

Diana Lodderhose –, Thursday 17 July 2014

Why ‘Apes’ Won’t Be Enough to Turn Around the Summer Box Office

Where have all the blockbusters gone?

That’s the question on Hollywood’s lips as the summer box office pants its way past midpoint. With less than two months to go, this season’s crop of tentpole films look shaky, despite a gorilla-sized $73 million opening weekend for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

Overall, there have been more raunchy comedies and fewer family films — and, in fact, fewer tentpoles packed the season vs. last year. China’s box office is surging, while the domestic market shrinks. And the endless stream of sequels and reboots has failed to lure away crowds from the World Cup, barbecues and the beach.

Box office revenue from the first week of May through the most recent weekend is down nearly 20%, as “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” failed to match the massive grosses of such 2013 popcorn films as “Iron Man 3,” “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters University.”

This summer almost certainly will fall short of last year’s record-breaking $4.76 billion haul.

“Product is a big part of the equation,” said Jeffrey Logsdon, an analyst with Hudson Square Research. “When the product’s not there, you don’t see the big audiences.”

Films have been opening big, but flaming out quickly, with pictures such as the “Spider-Man” sequel and “Godzilla” debuting to nearly $100 million, then dropping more than 60% in their second weekends. Both have struggled to clear $200 million domestically. The lack of stickiness is evident across the digital watercooler.

“As the box office has fallen, social media has had a strong correlation,” said Ben Carlson, prexy of social-media tracking service Fizziology. “There’s been less social engagement for a lot of these films.”

Leaving a huge void in the calendar, two major movies vacated the summer season: Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” due to production delays, and “Fast & Furious 7,” owing to the death of star Paul Walker.

The loss of “Good Dinosaur” deprived the season of a major family film in a year packed with R-rated comedies. Some of these laffers, such as “Neighbors” and “22 Jump Street,” were successes, but a dearth of films that appealed to children, save for “Maleficent,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” has robbed the B.O. of some of its demographic dimensionality.

“It’s the vagaries of production schedules,” said Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. “Last year, we had too many family films; this year there are too few.”

When summer 2014 ends, there will be a few happy chapters, perhaps none more encouraging than the breakout success of “The Fault in Our Stars.” Produced for $12 million, the film, based on John Green’s bestselling novel, has taken in north of $225 million worldwide. In place of giant robots and costumed heroes, its selling point is the story of two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group. Yet, Fox made the bold decision to release the movie in the heart of popcorn season.

“We knew who the audience was, and we felt strongly that we knew how to get to them,” said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox. “We knew if we timed it just right, it would hit as the kids were getting out of school — post-prom and post-finals. This wasn’t a comicbook movie. It wasn’t about action and explosions. It was just a movie about people and life.”

With the U.S. theatrical business in a rut, China continues to be a dominant force internationally. For the first half of 2014, the Chinese box office grew 22%, to $2.2 billion. The power of the country and its population of 1.3 billion was on display as it pushed movies such as “Edge of Tomorrow” toward solvency, goosed the international grosses of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” to new highs for the mutant franchise, and outpaced domestic ticket sales on “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

One kernel of good news for Stateside exhibitors was that after experiencing historic lows in 2013, 3D rebounded, contributing a more than 40% share of ticket sales for films such as “Godzilla” and “Edge of Tomorrow.”

“It’s obvious 3D is here to stay,” said Rolando Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theatres. “It bodes well for the industry, because it is an amenity that separates the theatrical experience from the home experience.”

An even more promising reason theater owners aren’t entering into mass suicide pacts is that salvation appears to be just around the corner. The next two years bring new installments of such Tiffany franchises as James Bond, “The Avengers,” “Star Wars” and “Batman.”

“Like everyone else, we’re looking at 2015 and 2016, and the incredible lineup of films,” said Bud Mayo, chairman and CEO of Digiplex Destinations.

Tomorrow is a brighter day.

Brent Lang – Variety – July 16, 2014