iBook Production: how to enter new terrain
by: Mark PooleScreen Hub
Wednesday 29 January, 2014
|Lisa French and Screen Hub correspondent Mark Poole have turned their history of the AFI into an iBook just in time for the third AACTA Awards. He explains the process. “Shining a Light: 50 Years of the AFI” is a book first published in 2009 by ATOM. Since then, the AFI has morphed into AACTA, wrestled with its sponsorship issues and rebadged the awards. So we were delighted to be able to upgrade the book, and release it on Apple’s iTunes store just in time for the 3rd AACTA Awards.
The sheer accessibility is amazing. We have a defined audience focused on the combat of the awards, and for a pretty modest $5.99 they can read it on their iPhone, iPad, or Android device.
We are familiar with traditional publishing, and digital film production, but we could see that combining the two would be a challenging learning curve. This is some of what we learnt.
So why make an iBook?
Shining a Light was the ideal candidate for the digital realm, because it would bring the book alive with snippets of the interviews the authors have done with many of Australia’s iconic filmmakers they talked to for information about the book: people like John Flaus, Bob Weis, Denny Lawrence, Annette Blonksi and many others.
Putting the book onto the Apple store allows people to access it whenever they need information about Australia’s makers of film and television content. Because the AFI is such an integral part of the screen sector, the book is far more than a narrow account of the institution. Spanning 54 years, from 1958 to the present, It maps the progression of our industry, particularly since the revival in 1970 to today, and the interviews accumulate to an important oral record of our film history.
Barry Jones, speechwriter for Prime Minister Sir John Gorton, explains in the book how he and Phillip Adams sold the notion of supporting a film industry when Gorton unexpectedly became PM after Harold Holt went missing off Portsea. It was Gorton who began the revival with an initial capital investment of $1 million, in 1970. This enabled the AFI’s Experimental Film and Television Fund, the first film funding organisation, to support such iconic filmmakers as Bruce Beresford, Scott Hicks, Paul Cox, Yoram Gross and Peter Weir.
How is an iBook different?
The main thing is the accessibility to a global audience. These days everyone has a smartphone in their pockets, and many have other devices too such as iPads that are capable of downloading books in digital form. Even your 87-year old Dad can use an iPad and for many, the tablet is a more accessible way of reading books, in part because you don’t have to physically drag several weighty tomes around. As well it’s often easier to search an electronic version of a book than it is to sift through an index in the hope that what you’re seeking can be found there.
Ever since the AFI decided on a name change to the AFI/AACTA Awards, the authors knew they would have to update our history. This edition of Shining a Light includes a new chapter on the AFI’s initiative in establishing the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards in 2011, and its implications. As well, this new edition has updated its database of AFI/AACTA award winners and nominees spanning from 1958 to 2013. And since every year a new set of AFI/AACTA Award winners and nominees come out, an iBook makes it possible to update the database, and purchasers will be told that they can download the latest version as soon as it becomes available.
How much does it cost to make?
For the adventurous and digitally astute, you can make an iBook yourself using appropriate software. For Shining a Light, the authors chose to pay others to do the encoding, design work and uploading necessary. Peter Tapp, publisher of ATOM, is familiar with the process and sponsorship was raised to engage the appropriate technical support staff to make it happen. The fact that the book was already in digital format via Adobe InDesign software was a help.
That contract was signed a while ago, and prices have changed. He pointed out that it was a large project, with many pages, a lot of clips, and additions to the existing text. The price range depends very much on the number of interactive elements such as galleries and music clips. At the moment it will range from $3500 to $7000, depending on scale, and what the client can afford.
How long does it take?
As with the price, the time the process takes depends on how complex is your material, how much needs to change and the additional extras you include. Shining a Light has more than 60 video clips from our interviewees. The process of selecting the clips from the hundreds of hours of material we had at our disposal took a while, and the clips had to be encoded to Apple’s specs so they would play back via iOS devices. We were determined to include them for their oral history value.
So what are the takeaways?
Firstly, if you’re embarking on a book project in the 21st century, you should futureproof it. If you are recording interviews as you go, consider videoing them, using high quality gear. It’s not rocket science, but you do need to know the basics. Being filmmakers, we used broadcast quality equipment and one or two lights to light the interview subjects, and broadcast quality audio equipment to record pristine sound.
We also made sure interviewees signed the appropriate releases.
Secondly, consider getting the advice of a publisher as early as possible. Think ahead. If you are amassing stills to augment your work, consider digitising them at high quality and in colour.
Thirdly, who is your audience? Are they iPad savvy, or technophobic? Ipads are pretty easy to use but some people resist technology – yes, some people still don’t possess a mobile phone, and there are probably more in that category than you realise.
Was it worth it?
You be the judge. It will only cost you $5.99, the price of a latte and a muffin, to find out!
It has won over critics but this tasteless film teaches us nothing and merely indulges the unrepentant butchers of Indonesia.
The Act of Killing won the documentary prize at the Baftas last week and is the favourite to win the much-coveted Oscar. I watch many documentaries on behalf of the BBC each year and I go to festivals. I’m a doc obsessive. By my own, not quite reliable reckoning, I’ve been asked by fans to show The Act of Killing on the BBC at least five times. I’ve never encountered a film greeted by such extreme responses – both those who say it is among the best films and those who tell me how much they hate it. Much about the film puzzles me. I am still surprised by the fact that so many critics listed it among their favourite films of last year.
For those who haven’t seen the film, it investigates the circumstances in which half-a-million Indonesian leftists were murdered in the 1960s, at the instigation of a government that is still in power. You might think this is a recondite subject, worthy of a late-night screening for insomniacs or atrocity buffs on BBC4, but, no, the film-maker Joshua Oppenheimer has made the subject viewable by enlisting the participation of some of the murderers. He spent some years hanging out with them, to his credit luring them into confessions. But he also, more dubiously, enlisted their help in restaging their killings. Although one of them, the grandfatherly Anwar, shows mild symptoms of distress towards the end of the film, they live in a state of impunity and it is thus, coddled and celebrated in their old age, that we revisit them.
So let me be as upfront as I can. I dislike the aesthetic or moral premise of The Act of Killing. I find myself deeply opposed to the film. Getting killers to script and restage their murders for the benefit of a cinema or television audience seems a bad idea for a number of reasons. I find the scenes where the killers are encouraged to retell their exploits, often with lip-smacking expressions of satisfaction, upsetting not because they reveal so much, as many allege, but because they tell us so little of importance.
Of course murderers, flattered in their impunity, will behave vilely. Of course they will reliably supply enlightened folk with a degraded vision of humanity. But, sorry, I don’t feel we want to be doing this. It feels wrong and it certainly looks wrong to me.
Something has gone missing here. How badly do we want to hear from these people, after all? Wouldn’t it be better if we were told something about the individuals whose lives they took?
I’d feel the same if film-makers had gone to rural Argentina in the 1950s, rounding up a bunch of ageing Nazis and getting them to make a film entitled “We Love Killing Jews”. Think of other half-covered-up atrocities – in Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa, Israel, any place you like with secrets – and imagine similar films had been made.
Consider your response – and now consider whether such goings-on in Indonesia are not acceptable merely because the place is so far away, and so little known or talked about that the cruelty of such an act can pass uncriticised.
The film does not in any recognisable sense enhance our knowledge of the 1960s Indonesian killings, and its real merits – the curiosity when it comes to uncovering the Indonesian cult of anticommunism capable of masking atrocity, and the good and shocking scenes with characters from the Indonesian elite, still whitewashing the past – are obscured by tasteless devices. At the risk of being labelled a contemporary prude or dismissed as a stuffy upholder of middle-class taste, I feel that no one should be asked to sit through repeated demonstrations of the art of garrotting.
Instead of an investigation, or indeed a genuine recreation, we’ve ended somewhere else – in a high-minded snuff movie.
What I like most about documentary film is that anything can be made to work, given a chance. You can mix up fact and fiction, past and present. You can add to cold objectivity a degree of empathy. You will, of course, lie to reluctant or recalcitrant participants, in particular when they wish not to divulge important pieces of information. And trickery has its place, too. But documentary films have emerged from the not inconsiderable belief that it’s good to be literal as well as truthful. In a makeshift, fallible way, they tell us what the world is really like. Documentaries are the art of the journeyman. They can be undone by too much ambition. Too much ingenious construction and they cease to represent the world, becoming reflected images of their own excessively stated pretensions.
In his bizarrely eulogistic piece defending The Act of Killing (of which he is an executive producer), Errol Morris, the documentary maker, compares the film to Hamlet’s inspired use of theatre to reveal dirty deeds at the court of Denmark. But Hamlet doesn’t really believe that theatrical gestures can stand in for reality. Nor, we must assume, did his creator. A more apt analogy than Morris’s might come from Shakespeare’s darkest play, Macbeth. What would we think if Macbeth and his scheming wife were written out of the action, replaced by those low-level thugs paid to do bad business on their behalf? We might conclude that putting them centre stage, in the style of The Act of Killing, was indeed perverse and we’d be right.
There are still half-forgotten, heavily whitewashed atrocities from the last century, such as the Bengali famine allowed to occur during the second world war through the culpably racist inattention of British officials; the never wholly cleared-up question of Franco’s mass killings; or the death of so many millions in the 1950s as a consequence of Mao’s catastrophic utopianism. Those wondering how to record such events will no doubt watch The Act of Killing, but I hope they will also look at less hyped, more modestly conceived depictions of mass murder. In Enemies of the People(2010), the Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath goes after the murderers of the Khmer Rouge. He finds Pol Pot’s sidekick, but it is the earnest, touching quest of Sambath himself that lingers in the mind, rather than the empty encounters with evil-doers. Atrocity is both banal and ultimately impossible to comprehend.
Writing in 1944, Arthur Koestler was among the first to gain knowledge of the slaughter of eastern European Jews and he estimated that the effect of such revelations was strictly limited, lasting only minutes or days and swiftly overcome by indifference. Koestler suggested that there was only one way we could respond to the double atrocity of mass murder and contemporary indifference and that was by screaming.
I’m grateful to The Act of Killing not because it’s a good film, or because it deserves to win its Oscar (I don’t think it does), but because it reminds me of the truth of Koestler’s observation. What’s not to scream about?
Nick Fraser is editor of the BBC’s Storyville documentary series – The Observer, Sunday 23 February 2014
Mop-topped Edwina Waddy, a continuing face of ABC documentaries since 2006, lasted less than two months after becoming a full commissioning editor of ABC Factual. She has been snatched internally to become channel manager for ABC2.
Though the role is not as grand, she effectively steps into a hole created by the removal of Stuart Menzies as channel controller of ABC2. She started as a trainee agent with Hilary Linstead and Associates in 1995, went to London to become an agent`s assistant to Sue Latimer at the William Morris Agency, followed her to Curtis Brown Ltd, and eventually spent nearly four years as assistant editor, specialist factual at Channel 4.
Her appointment creates a gap at ABC factual – the job she had for less than two months. That will be occupied by Andrea Ulbrick. She comes in from outside, as cited in the announcement:
Andrea is an award-winning television director and producer whose career spans over 20 years and several continents. She comes to the ABC after working in the independent sector with companies such as Heiress Films, Serendipity Productions / Artemis International, Essential Media, Shine Australia, Screenworld and Fremantle Media, on programs including X Factor and Australia’s Got Talent. She has produced and directed a range of international science and history co-productions for ABC TV, SBS, CBC, Arte France, BBC, Channel 4, WNET, National Geographic and Discovery.
Or, to quote her bio as an ATOM judge,
Director Andrea Ulbrick is a science specialist who has been working in the media for twenty-four years. A series director, series producer and writer, she is series producer on a new William McInnes birdwatching series for the ABC. Previously she worked on Australia’s highest-rating show Australia’s Got Talent. Prior to this, Andrea produced a ten-hour observational documentary series exploring the intimate and personal face of public education in Class Of 2011 for Network Ten. In 2010, Andrea completed a two-part, long-running, award-winning observational science series investigating child development for the ABC: The Life Series.
She wrote and directed Nerves of Steel for the Film Australia NIP in 2006; was an associate producer on The Floating Brothel, was a producer on Outback House, and made four science documentaries for Discovery called Wild Tech.
Before this, she was a television current affairs producer and presenter for fifteen years.
Wednesday 15 January, 2014
Australian documentary makers today launched a campaign to boost the ailing numbers of single docs commissioned by the ABC and SBS and for more investment from Screen Australia.
Indiedoco is campaigning for four key changes to the current distribution of Australia’s public documentary subsidies, calling for:
- The ABC and SBS to follow the example of BBC2 by reinstating single documentary strands that ‘will allow the very best filmmakers to find and tell stories that will illuminate, provoke and reveal modern Australia in all its staggering variety.’
- Screen Australia to remove the requirement for a broadcaster pre-sale for the National Documentary Program and to set up a new panel to select projects for NDP funding based on creative, cultural and artistic criteria.
- Screen Australia to reinstate a slate development program for documentary filmmakers similar to the General Development Investment Program that was offered by the Australian Film Commission.
- Screen Australia to change the definition of ‘bona fide release’ for feature documentaries to accept the reality that feature documentaries can reach audiences in a myriad of different ways and to enable more feature documentaries to qualify for the 40% producer offset.
The campaign was launched at the Australian Directors Guild conference in Sydney and will culminate at the 2014 Australian International Documentary conference in March.
By Don Groves INSIDEFILM 07/11/2013
Melbourne filmmakers Don Parham and Warwick Vincent have raised $55,000 via a crowdfunding campaign for a feature-length documentary called Smithy: Something
In Every Hue. Before getting too excited about a new film on the pioneer aviator, this one is about John Smith, the Australian founder of Christian motorcycle club God’s Squad. His fans include Bono, who backed the Pozible campaign by describing Smith as a preacher who is ”a very eloquent speaker with a brilliant mind”.
For years the essay film has been a neglected form, but now its unorthodox approach to constructing reality is winning over a younger, tech-savvy crowd. Freedom and possibility…
For a brief, almost unreal couple of hours last July, in amid the kittens and One Direction-mania trending on Twitter, there appeared a very surprising name – that of semi-reclusive French film-maker Chris Marker, whose innovative short feature La Jetée (1962) was remade in 1995 as Twelve Monkeys by Terry Gilliam.
A few months earlier, art journal e-flux staged The Desperate Edge of Now, a retrospective of Adam Curtis’s TV films, to large audiences on New York’s Lower East Side. The previous summer, Handsworth Songs (1986), an experimental feature by the Black Audio Film Collective Salman Rushdie had once attacked as obscurantist and politically irrelevant, attracted a huge crowd at Tate Modern when it was screened shortly after the London riots.
Marker, Curtis, Black Audio: all have made significant contributions to the development of an increasingly powerful and popular kind of moving-image production: the essay film.
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)
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-
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.
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
IT IS a story full of complexity and trauma, and largely unknown to a wider audience who view its subject as merely a publisher of classified military intelligence. Yet the teenage years of Julian Assange – now the subject of a gripping film – will again stir vigorous debate.
Underground, the latest political thriller from writer-director Robert Connolly – which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday night – homes in on Assange’s troubled upbringing, in an effort to make sense of his present predicament. The embattled WikiLeaks founder, currently holed up behind the walls of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, remains fearful of being extradited to the US for publishing the leaks.
“I knew a lot about the current situation, but had very little knowledge of that period in history,” says Connolly, whose previous political thrillers include Balibo and The Bank (which also both screened in Toronto). “It was something of a revelation to me.”
An Open Letter to the Documentary Sector,
We note Dr Trevor Graham’s concerns in his article ‘Docos Slaughtered for Ratings Success’ and we appreciate his very thoughtful analysis of the current state of play and the subsequent debate around broadcaster licensing priorities.
In recent years there has been an increase in hours of documentary series and a subsequent decrease in one-off documentaries commissioned by the public broadcasters. Nevertheless, Screen Australia continues to have a demonstrated commitment to one-off documentaries. We recognise the important contribution of these films to a diverse and healthy documentary sector.
Currently we support one-off documentaries through a variety of programs and we are also engaged with the issues Trevor raises in a number of ways:
• Over the past three years we have consistently developed many more one-off documentaries than series. Approximately 65% of our development projects in 2011/12 were one-offs.
• Over the last three years the number of one-off documentaries to which we have contributed production investment has been steady at approximately 45 projects per year.
• Our Signature Program which supports one off documentaries with a strong authorial voice and does not require a broadcast presale in order to receive our support is unique. Last year it was increased from $700,000 to $1.4 million. We have split the funds into two rounds per year in response to feedback from filmmakers.
• Screen Australia recently announced a new intensive workshop to inspire Australian filmmakers to create feature documentaries – the Think Big Documentary Lab. The workshop will be led by Simon Chinn Academy Award®–winning producer of Man on Wire, Project Nim and Searching for Sugar Man. He will be supported by Australian filmmakers Gillian Armstrong, Matt Bate and Tony Krawitz.
• Developing new digital platforms and pathways for innovative documentaries through the NDP and more recently our Multiplatform Production Fund has been a particular focus. For example the award winning Big Stories Small Towns (IDFA, SXSW), Goa Hippy Tribe (IDFA, SXSW).
• Screen Australia continues the strong tradition of support for new and emerging Australian documentary filmmakers through the joint ABC-Screen Australia Initiative of one-off documentaries, Opening Shot. This Initiative advances the careers of a new generation of documentary filmmakers.
We want to engage with a wide audience where possible and we encourage filmmakers to access many types of distribution, broadcasting and on-line delivery. We work closely with both public broadcasters as well as subscription channels and acknowledge there is broadcaster demand for factual content which includes series. That said, our funding mix will continue reflect our commitment to a diverse documentary culture.
Chief Operating Officer
12 September 2012