EMI to cut Buckets of Jobs but…

13 01 2008

Reuters reports today that music company EMI, will cut up to 2,000 jobs as part of a restructuring by their new owner, private equity slashmeister Guy Hands.

Interestingly, though, let’s take a look at where he’s hoping to cut those jobs:

Hands plans to cut the marketing budget to 12 percent of projected sales, from 20 percent, but raise spending on A&R (artist and repertoire), which looks for new talent, The Sunday Telegraph said.

Exactly the wrong move, Mr. Hands. As I’ve said a billion times before, the big labels have shown time and time again that they are much better at promoting the shit out of artists that they want to get behind, then they are at finding artists who will help them stay ahead of changing trends. The labels are, inherently, much better at dealing with what they already have, than thinking about new ways to go.

So wouldn’t it make more sense to increase the marketing budgets and to slash A&R? Of course, the conventional wisdom will be that, with the rise of the Internet and the fall of record sales, promotion takes less money. True, as far as it goes. But with the rise of the Internet, and the ease by which small unsigned bands can put their songs online and attempt to get notice, it gets harder and harder to raise the visibility of any given artist.

That smells like marketing to me. That’s what needed, not another bunch of bands who sound just like every other watered-down middle-class white quasi rap band that’s already out there.



ACE Editing Panel Videos

11 01 2008

A.C.E. has some interesting videos posted documenting a panel discussion about editing that was held at the LA Film School in early 2007. Panelists included editors Stuart Bass, A.C.E., Tchavdar Georgiev, and Stephen Rivkin, A.C.E. along with assistant editors Andrew Charlton, Meagan Keane, and Alan McCurdy. It was moderated by Harry Miller, A.C.E.

The videos of the panel are divided up into four parts. A breakdown is as follows (each line links to the mentioned video):

Part One is about getting started in the business.

Part Two discusses Collaboration in the Editing Rooms

Part Three discusses Creativity and the Use of Technology

Part Four contains audience Q&A with Career Advice

Worth the time investment, there is a great behind the scenes feel to these clips. Note that there are three assistant editors on this panel, as well as the editors. This is a great balance since, as Harry B. Miller (moderator) says up front — assistants make editing possible.  The assistants end up speaking to some of the issues closest to students’ hearts — how to get a job after school

One side note, two of the panelists were students of mine at USC (Meagan and Tchavdar).



A.C.E. Nominations Announced

11 01 2008

The nominations for the 2008 Eddie Awards (given by the American Cinema Editors, the honorary organization of professional editors), have been announced.

For years, I’ve been saying that these awards are a pretty good predictor of the Best Picture winner in the Oscars. In last week’s piece in the New York Times (see my blog entry about it), they made the same point, though they gave a much more intelligent set of reasons than I do. They talked about editing being a sum total of many of the filmic arts. Me? I think it’s because most of the Academy have the foggiest notion what it is we do, so when they get to the Best Editing category on their ballots they think to themselves: “Hmmm, I liked that film” and then check it off. As a result, the two categories rub off on each other.

Of course, this doesn’t work when the Best Edited Film is a flashy, many-edits, movie (or when Thelma Schoonmaker is nominated). But, when you’re filling out your Oscar pool form at the office, remember that most of the voters are actors.

Whatever that means.

However, to return to the subject I initially start with, ACE announced its awards yesterday. You can find them listed on the ACE nomination page. However, for those of you who are too busy to click on the link above and wait for a new page to load, here are the nominees. The awards will be presented in a black tie dinner/ceremony on February 17, 2008 (just be glad that you don’t have to see me waddle around in a tux; it’s not a pretty sight)

NOMINEES FOR 58TH ANNUAL ACE EDDIE AWARDS

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (DRAMATIC):

The Bourne Ultimatum (Christopher Rouse, A.C.E.)
Into the Wild (Jay Cassidy, A.C.E.)
Michael Clayton (John Gilroy, A.C.E.)
No Country for Old Men (Roderick Jaynes)
There Will Be Blood (Dylan Tichenor, A.C.E.)

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (COMEDY OR MUSICAL):

Hairspray (Michael Tronick, A.C.E.)
Juno (Dana E. Glauberman)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End (Craig Wood & Stephen Rivkin, A.C.E.)
Ratatouille (Darren Holmes, A.C.E.)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Chris Lebenzon, A.C.E.)

BEST EDITED HALF-HOUR SERIES FOR TELEVISION:

30 Rock: “The C Word” (Ken Eluto, A.C.E.)
Californication: “Hell-A Woman” (Shannon Mitchell)
Curb Your Enthusiasm: “The Bat Mitzvah” (Steven Rasch, A.C.E.)

BEST EDITED ONE-HOUR SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:

Chuck: “Pilot” (Norman Buckley, A.C.E.)
Damages: “Pilot” (Malcolm Jamieson)
Law & Order SVU: “Paternity” (Karen Stern, A.C.E.)

BEST EDITED ONE-HOUR SERIES FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:

Dexter: “It’s Alive” (Stewart Schill)
Rome: “De Patre Vostro” (David Siegel, A.C.E.)
The Sopranos: “Made in America” (Sidney Wolinsky, A.C.E.)

BEST EDITED MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Michael Ornstein, A.C.E. & Michael Brown, A.C.E.)
Life Support (Mary Jo Markey, A.C.E.)
PU-239 (Tatiana S. Riegel A.C.E. and Leo Trombetta, A.C.E.)

BEST EDITED MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:

The Company: Night 2 (Scott Vickery, A.C.E. and Robert Ferretti, A.C.E.)
Lost: Through the Looking Glass (Henk Van Eeghen, A.C.E., A.C.E. Mark J. Goldman, Stephen Semel, A.C.E., Christopher Nelson, A.C.E.)
Pictures of Hollis Woods (Paul Dixon, A.C.E.)

BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY:

Darfur Now (Edgar Burcksen, A.C.E. & Leonard Feinstein)
The Pixar Story (Leslie Iwerks & Stephen Myers, A.C.E.)
Sicko (Geoffrey Richman, Chris Seward & Dan Swietlik)

BEST EDITED REALITY SERIES:

Cops “Country Love” (Chuck Montgomery, A.C.E. & Michael Glickman)
Dancing With The Stars “404” (Pam Malouf, A.C.E., Hans Van Riet & David Timoner)
Man Vs. Wild “Everglades” (Ben Holder & Mike Denny)



I’ll Be At Sundance — Call Me, Write Me

11 01 2008

As I may have said before (well, actually, I know that I’ve mentioned it, but we’re trying to set up a smooth introductory sentence here) (and now I’ve screwed it all up).

Oh, hell, let me start again.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be at the Sundance Film Festival this year, doing a Friday afternoon (4:30pm) workshop on Storytelling and Low Budget Filmmaking With High-Budget Values. I’ll be at the festival from Thursday night, January 17th through Sunday afternoon, January 20th.

One of the things that I love about the festival is the possibility of meeting lots of new people. Another things that I like is beer. Combine the two of them, and you get a great film festival (there have actually been some Sundances where I didn’t see a single film and still had a great time).

If you are going to be there and want to try and get together, send me an email. I’d love to see you.

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Great Article on Editing Using FCP (Long Distance)

11 01 2008

Harry B. Miller III, editorHarry B. Miller III, ACE member and editor, wrote a great piece on the ACE Tech Web Discussion blog about editing BOOK OF BLOOD on a Final Cut system. He talks straighforwardly about what he likes and doesn’t like.

The project, is Viper-based and, therefore, completely tapeless. Even more interestingly, it was shot in Scotland and edited in Burbank, California, which made for some interesting issues, some of which I’m already dealing with on the documentary RIVERS that I’m starting to edit — in particular, file transfer.

The first stumbling block has been getting media from Scotland to Burbank. The first attempts through an ftp site were not encouraging. Although my edit room has 3 megabits per second down, the fastest download I could get was 120 kilobits per second. Attempts at three other sites had the same disappointing results. (I have heard there is a speed problem between the UK and the US, but don’t know the true situation. Anyone know?).

The first transfer that actually worked was ‘sneaker net’ – portable firewire drives were brought from Scotland to Burbank. The next option is from a company called SmartJog. It offers high speed media transfer at reasonable rates. More on this in a later post – presuming it works.

As we move further and further into a world of distance collaboration, we are going to find that our reliance on the Internet will be one of the restraining factors. We are all reliant on an increasingly overloaded and outdated backbone. It will get better, when Internet 2 and other pricier services come online. But for those of us making international films today, this is going to slow us down. Already, on RIVERS, we have shipped large files via FedEx Firewire drives, rather than online DigiDelivery. It’s all too damned slow, since we’re working in HD.

An interesting addition to this will come when they start to screen edits of the film. I don’t know if their producers are in the States or back in Scotland, but I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who have had to screen and gets notes and approvals long distance. On RIVERS I’m hoping to use Michael Buday’s Syncvue, and I’ll let you know how that works.



Internet Filtering

9 01 2008

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this but, on my initial scan, it gives me a warm very uncomfortable feeling.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times talks about how ATT&T, and other Internet Service Providers, are looking for ways to filter the content which flows through their pipes for copyrighted material.

In my mind, my reaction to this has to be based (with a large degree of cynicism and suspicion) on how the filtering is handled. As a content creator, I’d prefer that people not steal the material that I create unless I say that it’s okay. On the other hand, some of that feeling is coming from an old model about creative content and how it is marketed.

There are practical considerations. With what degree of certainty can we say that the system will not trap material that its owner would permit transmission of (yes, I know, I’m not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition). In other words, if I want to send you a clip of a film that I’ve edited (and more and more people are putting their sample reels online) will this system give me a way to permit its streaming or download? Or will it trap it or, perhaps even worse, force me to go to its copyright owners — places like Disney and NBC et al — and get permission for this?

And, though digital signatures are getting better, they still aren’t foolproof. This will allow people, in some cases, to send copyright material through without it being caught, as well as potentially trap material that is not DRM‘ed. Filmmakers constantly send sample cuts through the Net — FTP, Web Sites, E-mails, and more — to clients for approval. And while I’m sure that we wouldn’t register any of this preliminary material for capturing by Big Brother, it’s possible that it might be incorrectly identified and withheld. How cool would it be if someone sending a clip from an NBC/Universal film to an executive there, had it stopped because of a technology that NBC/Universal is surely pushing in the background.

So, I’m not at all happy about this.

I think.



Awards Redux

8 01 2008

After bemoaning the plethora of awards ceremonies yesterday, I have to admit that one thing that I like about the awards themselves is getting a chance to see who each guild or society feels is worthy of an award. I don’t always agree, but there’s no doubt that, 90% of the time, the nominees are deserving of something.

The Directors Guild of America came out with their nominations for Best Director of a Feature Film and they are all worthy, even if I didn’t like all of their movies. They are:

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Paul Thomas Anderson)
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Joel and Ethan Coen)
MICHAEL CLAYTON (Tony Gilroy)
INTO THE WILD (Sean Penn)
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (Julian Schnabel)

And while I had issues with Penn’s character interpretation of his lead character in his film, and with the Coen Brothers pacing and story structure in the last third of their film, there’s no doubt that each one of these films was a great example of strength of creators’ personalities — director’s, producer’s, writer’s, editor’s.



Variety talks about Editing

8 01 2008

I was talking with someone the other day about the devastating Writers’ Guild strike and we figured out that one good thing about the strike is that it seems to be cutting down on the number of the insipid awards shows that have proliferated to such a degree that I’m starting to feel badly that I haven’t gotten an award — as Best Viewer recently moved to Hollywood who also teaches. Or something like that. Not to make light of the strike — it’s effects have started to be noticeable all over the city (I’m told that Campanile, a high priced restaurant near my house, is offering $18 meals to people who show WGA cards).

I also shouldn’t make light of the awards shows, since one great thing about the upcoming awards — even if every single one of them gets cancelled — is that there are a few articles out there in which editors are interviewed talking about their craft. In my blog posting Sunday I mentioned the New York Times’ piece. Today I want to make note of a piece in yesterday’s Daily Variety, in which editors like Chris Rouse, John Gilroy, Paul Tothill, Jay Cassidy, and Juliette Welfling each give one (usually great) quote about their process. In the process, the piece (written by Peter DeBruge) manages to use the names Thlema Schoonmaker, Michael Kahn and Alan Heim in the same sentence as the word “innovators.” It’s a heady article and it makes for fascinating reading. You should all run over to their web site and read the article.

A few choice quotes help to reveal what goes on inside our heads. Chris Rouse talks about editing THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM and, rather than talking about the editing as a reflection of the story, he talks about it from a character point of view (most good action films pay attention to character — take a look at TERMINATOR 2, for instance):

What I’ve attempted to do, apart from being aggressive, is keep the rhythms much more off-balance than I would normally because he’s a guy who’s not in tune with his environment

John Gilroy edited his brother Tony’s MICHAEL CLAYTON. The director speaks of storytelling in a way that only an excerpted quote from a much longer and interesting interview can convey:

Storytelling is about coming in too late and getting out too early.
You’re always looking at what’s the last possible moment you can come
in on the scene and the first possible moment you can get out.

Of my adored THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, editor Juliette Welfling talks about character:

“It’s hard to be in a character’s head; it doesn’t happen so often,”
she says. “I had to ask myself, where would he blink, what images would
he have in mind, and things like this.”

And Jay Cassidy, who I’ve always found to be an inciteful, introspective and intelligent guy (hmmm, the “Three I’s”)

Screenplays are kind of inadequate blueprints that we all have to use,”
Cassidy says, expressing a philosophy shared among editors. “As soon as
you photograph it, it’s a new beast.

All in all, a great week for getting the word out about editors, and what we do. Thank you Disappearing Awards Shows.



Apple’s Board of Director Changes

7 01 2008

Andrea JungAccording to a CNet article, (and I’m going to refrain from talking about CNet’s problems in this article — it would be too much) Apple has named Avon Products CEO Andrea Jung to its Board of Directors. Ms. Jung is fluent in Chinese and has apparently helped Avon in that market.

But while it is tempting to think this is part of Apple’s strategy behind this, there are other interesting points to this appointment. For one, Jung has been on General Electric’s Board of Directors for ten years. For those of us who follow this stuff, remember that GE owns NBC/Universal which, last time I looked, was Apple’s biggest adversary in its attempt to dominate the video distribution business. NBC is the company that pulled most of its shows off of the iTunes store last year.

In addition, Jung has been one of Fortune’s 10 most powerful women in business for “the last several years” according to the piece. She has, they say, “turned around Avon’s fortunes by tacking to the high end and cutting costs.”

“Tacking to the high end” — that sounds like Apple.

For those of you who desperately need to know, here is a list of Apple’s Board of Directors, as listed on their web site:

Bill Campbell
Chairman and former CEO, Intuit Corp.

Millard Drexler
Chairman and CEO, J. Crew

Albert Gore Jr.
Former Vice President of the United States

Steve Jobs
CEO, Apple

Andrea Jung
Chairman and CEO, Avon Products

Arthur D. Levinson, Ph. D.
Chairman and CEO, Genentech

Dr. Eric Schmidt
CEO, Google

Jerry York
Chairman, President and CEO, Harwinton Capital

It looks to me like they desperately needed a woman on the Board as well.



New York Times on Editing

6 01 2008

There’s actually a pretty good article by Mark Harris in today’s New York Times in which a bunch of editors discuss the Editing Oscar and, by implication, editing in general. The piece, which is available from the NY Times website (you might need to register, I’m not sure since I’m already registered there) talks about how often the editing nominations mirror the Best Picture nominations. I’ve always assumed that’s because most Academy members aren’t really sure what the hell it is that we do, so when they get to Best Editing they say “Hmmm, I liked that picture so I’ll vote for it here.” Mark Goldblatt seems to agree with that:

“What we do is mysterious,” said Mark Goldblatt, an Oscar-nominated editor and member of the Academy’s board of governors. “We’ve got the artistic vision of the director to live up to, the integrity of the performances to maximize, and we have to serve the story.”

Of course, Mark probably had a loftier point in mind, rather than why the two categories bear such a close resemblance to each other.

Harris also talks about what it is that we do.

What exactly editors do in that dark room can vary greatly. At its most basic, editing — a job that can begin almost as soon as the director has shot enough footage to assemble a single scene — involves selecting the shots, angles and takes that will make up the completed movie; choosing when to cut away from one performer or one element of physical action to another; and deciding what should be reaching the viewer’s eye at any given moment. It can also entail eliminating or rearranging lines, exchanges and entire sequences in consultation with the director. But the hand of an experienced editor eventually affects everything in a movie, from its look to the pace of its story, to the shape and weight of each performance.

But two comments hit very close to home for me. I’ve always felt that it is really hard for me to tell how well a film has been editing by looking at the final film. In fact, I should probably have to see all of the dailies to make that determination (something that I’m glad I don’t have to do in many cases).

Thelmas Schoonmaker puts it this way:

“Part of your job is having to be pretty brutal, to let go of something, even if you love it, even if it feels like cutting off a limb, to make a film work better.” But the give and take between a director and editor, by definition, remains private. “You can’t discern what the contribution or ability of an editor is from a list of credits,” Mr. Winborne said. “You’d have to talk to the director and editor to discover what their collaboration was like.”

Chris Rouse puts it the best when he says:

You have to look at what’s there. The award is for best editing, not best editor.

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