Two animations, a couple of vines, a prize, and a book tour.

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Two animations, a couple of vines, a prize, and a book tour.

I realise I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time, but I’ve been pretty busy.

Both personally and professionally!

So I thought I’d throw all the things I should have blogged about into one post.

Lets go to the animations first. This is a video for an online accounting company called Kashflow, produced by Ralph Cochrane @ The Creative Grid. Their style was really relaxed and I followed the quirkiness of their previous videos. I think it came out rather well.

New and improved KashFlow from KashFlow on Vimeo.

And then to something equally animatey but rather different. I was approached to create an animation for the first ever all-women team in the around the world Volvo Ocean Race (racing on the SCA boat). The brief was to create something feminine and interesting to detail their stops as they make their way around the world. I think it feels quite feminine, hopefully you agree. This was produced by Nick Hopkins @ Wing.

Now onto vines. I had the great opportunity thanks to The Creative Grid  to work on Pepsi Max’s latest UK videos as a ‘Viner’ and photographer. The vines have been put on outdoor display ads and one was even up in Canary Wharf, which is pretty cool. But I also got to take some great photographs, including this one, which Pepsi used on their Damien Walters loop the loop video

Then the prize! The Dementia Diaries, the lovely book I’ve had the privilege of producing with KCC, SILK and families who live with Dementia, was highly commended at this year’s NHS Innovation Awards. Not bad considering it’s a children’s book and most of the other award winners were Hospitals or commissioning units! Here’s two photos that just about sum up the experience:

We also took some great meetings to help build on this success and get the book rolled out across the planet!

Speaking of which, this week we went to the Midt region of Denmark on a book tour with the Dementia Diaries. It was myself and Emma from SILK and we were hosted by the Social Innovation Unit, MitdLab. It was great  to see how people in a completely different country respond to the stories and messages in the book. A local school even performed a Danish version of the Brain Cell Boogie for one of our Care Home visits. You can see that here:

Next steps are to translate the book into Danish and develop our expansion across the rest of the World. Watch this space! This little book is changing lives!

And that’s about all that’s been going on recently work wise. There’s a few other projects I can’t talk about right now that are incredibly awesome, and I hope to share them with you in a subsequent blog at the appropriate time. ;)

The Dementia Diaries Project

Just recently we had the launch of my book, The Dementia Diaries.

It’s a book for young people about dementia and what it is, in a language they can relate to.  It follows four young people: FRED, BREE, SAM and SARAH as they learn about their grandparents’ dementia, and chronicle it in their diaries. It’s filled with illustrations and drawings, each in a specific style depending on the different young person. It was a lot of fun to produce. I could talk ad-nauseum about the process, but why don’t you just watch this documentary I made instead:

Right in the feelings! This has been without a doubt, a labor of love for everyone involved. The goal of changing the way Dementia is perceived is a great one, and I hope that in our own little way we can spread some understanding of what dementia is, and how to act around it. We even put together this musical video (song by Tom Godfrey aka Busker Rhymes) to help publicize the book. It’s called The Braincell Boogie. You can watch it here:

It’s working too! As you can see from the coverage from the BBC!

So far the book has been really well received, and it’s spreading! By now it should be in almost every school in Kent and Surrey. And hopefully soon even further afield. I felt I needed to put down in words and images, so you can see the process. This has been the highlight of my career so far. I never thought I could do good for the world with my little videos and scribbles.

So here’s to doing more good!

Thanks to the SILK team at the Kent County Council for letting me do this, and to all the families we interviewed. This has been quite an adventure.

 

VFX tax breaks and incentives

So lets start with something very exciting and dare I say… sexy. That’s right! We’re going to talk about tax breaks. Keep your shirts on! This is a classy blog.

Right. That’s better. Let’s begin. The humble tax break has been a friend of the Studio and a close confidant to the Producer for many years. It’s a way to keep costs down, and boy do they need to keep costs down. Movies have never been so expensive, or had so much at stake. That’s why tax incentives are so damn tasty.

For those doing the tasting at least…
Say Québec decided to put out a pretty decent tax incentive. Oh you know something like,
– 25 % cash-back on all expenses
– 20 % bonus on all CGI and Green screen shots applicable on extended eligible labor.
– No minimum spend, no caps

Well if I was a studio or Producer I’d think that was pretty darn interesting. Tell me more Québec….

But do the VFX houses get any of that tax breaky goodness?

Well no, not really. It basically means Studios get cash back. Which in the scheme of things means they pay less for what they get out of the VFX house.

And if you’re some sort of of multiheaded VFX co-ordinating supercomputer reading this, and are currently in the position of bidding for a big budget VFX show… well it would really be rather clever of you to move over to Montreal, open up a facility and move some of your VFX team there before the other ones do… because then everyone will hire you, because if they hire you they get Canadian cash back. And this is why the VFX community is doomed to roam the wastes of corporately mandated geographical locationing, like a nerdy version of the Amazing Race.

But this is the way of the world you say! That’s why the communists lost! Long live the free market! Yeah well, you’re right. The rest of the world knows this. But then why are all the Californian VFXers complaining..?

Well they want a tax break/cash back too! And Eric Roth the Executive Director of the VES, (supposedly the global organisation for visual effects) is all about the Californians. Probably because he is one. But I quote, “We certainly recognize that we live in a global economy and in fact, VES has members in 30 countries around the world. Many of those countries – and many states elsewhere in the US – offer aggressive tax incentives – which seek to lure visual effects work to their communities and away from our state.”

Way to speak for everyone there Mr Executive Director.

So lets play a game shall we… Say Californian VFX artists get this tax incentive/relief/break and the Studios get Californian based VFX houses to do their shows. Well that can’t be your endgame, surely? Because those tax breaks/cash backs/incentives are still going back to the Studios! What would happen is that the Californian VFX artists would get to stay in California, and everyone else would have to come too! Never mind their families in London or Vancouver or Wellington. Same problem, different day.

And it’s a problem that won’t go away by petitioning or complaining. I doubt it would even go away by crowdsourcing a legal challenge against these tax incentives. Kudos for trying though.

There needs to be a more forward thinking approach. Lets not grasp at quick fixes. What the industry needs is wholesale change. It needs to climb above the line in the budget. It needs to become a gross participant, it needs to shed the shackles of indentured servitude, and it needs to realise its a global game. The stakes are high, and if your left hand is fighting with your right hand over who gets to hold the cards, then nobody is watching the Studios and Producers cheat the system. And yes, that is a very strange metaphor involving possessed hands. But I’m going to stick with it. All the VFX houses should be holding hands on this. Because they ultimately hold the power, in those hands… There are very few places that can make a Hollywood tentpole picture. They could Writers Strike this thing! I say that because a VFX facility (although filled to the gills with talented ninja magicians) is in the eyes of the world at large, the equivalent of a Writer or a DOP, even though they are legion.

I’m sorry to say it but the folks at the top of the VFX corporate bundle, the ones who’ve been making the bad deals, undercutting each other at every turn, and migrating their respective workforces, are ultimately the ones that need to solve this problem. The artists can strike and moan and scratch and unionise as much as they like, but none of the balls are in their court.

So petition your bosses to petition their bosses to hold hands, and then climb above the line in the budget… Together. Or you know, race to the bottom in a last man standing, free-for-all,
knock-down-drag-out-battle-over-ever-decreasing-returns to the death. Probably taking place this summer in Montreal, Quebec.

Your Movie without VFX, (my thoughts on the protest)

I woke up to a very strange thing this morning. Something completely odd. I switched on my Facebook and found a large number of my friends’ smiling faces were replaced by green squares. All of these people work in Visual Effects for the movies. It was a protest.

The ‘green screen’ is the blank canvas that all VFX (Visual Effects) start on. It’s what films like the Avengers or Life of Pi would look like without VFX. That was their protest. It’s the first of its kind I’ve seen on a social network. An act of global VFX solidarity. And I think it’s the beginning of something that will either end badly for a whole lot of people. Or it will change the face of the movie industry.

At the Academy Awards on Sunday, VFX was slighted. Three times. Once I think they would have been okay. Twice, maybe a little pissed. But three times? Oh boy.

When Actors deliver their usual on stage banter about a particular category, (in this case VFX) and then midway through, decide on a whim to talk about something else and make light of the nominees. Well that’s strike one. Samuel L Jackson, that one’s on you.

When both the DP and Director of Life of Pi choose not to thank the army of VFX artists and designers that painstakingly built the world they filmed… and instead thank their lawyers and mothers, you get strike two.

When you play the Jaws theme song to force off the VFX academy award winner Bill Westenhofer as he starts to talk about how making this movie has forced his company, Rhythm and Hues into bankruptcy… Well that’s strike three.

And that’s what’s led to the green boxes on Facebook  When I say strike three, it’s more like strike 57010485405042. The VFX community has long suffered at the hands of the studios. When the majority of the top 100 box office successes of all time are VFX reliant, you start to see a picture. There’s no share in their massive profits, just ongoing systematic undervaluation of the VFX community’s creative talents. The billions of dollars of pure profit made on the backs of VFX workers must be extraordinary. And yet VFX house after VFX house is going bankrupt. The ones left standing are either indentured to the 5 studios, or bending over backwards to facilitate their budget and time constraints. Like a beaten wife, the VFX houses keep coming back to the studios for more, for fear that they might look elsewhere for an alternative.

I know I paint a dire picture, but that’s the way I understand it. And in turn, your average movie-loving VFX artist, super creative and ingenious, bends over backwards for their respective effects house. Sure, they get paid for it, we live in a free market after all, but their talents far outweigh their treatment.

Big movies are no longer made on sets, in vast sound stages.  They’re made in computers, by some of the most spectacular artists our world has ever known. And yet they’re credited below the caterers and truck drivers on films! (Yes I know the form is to go pre, production and then post…) They have somehow turned into gears and screws, simplified into a commodity. Misunderstood by the world at large. And especially by Samuel L Jackson.

They’re forced to live nomadic, freelance lifestyles, following the tax incentives of their companies… driven by the studios. Tax incentives that basically go back to the studios anyway! And yet they do it because they love making films. Testament to this, is the huge number of VFX students and graduates desperate to get their foot into the door, desperate to join the VFX diaspora at any price. But it’s not sustainable. It can’t be.

And this is the bit where I give a solution… Except there isn’t one.

I see a future where studios run their own internal VFX houses. Where budgets are allocated, rather than bid on, and the majority of the VFX work is shipped overseas to low cost centers in India and China. Fewer high level VFX artists will be employed internally, and the ones that are, will act as mere overseers, supervising from afar. This is what would be financially prudent, and economically sensible, right?

In the end the dream machine will crush the dreamers.

But what if?

An ideal world would have VFX houses with percentage points on the gross profit of these big films. Profit they could funnel back into their own company. It would allow them to develop their own properties and content. Allow their VFX artists to have job security, benefits, and regular working hours.

Imagine a company like Rhythm and Hues or MPC or Weta, using the Google model and giving their amazing artists a day a week to create new content and ideas for the company. Imagine the worlds they could create, worlds the VFX houses could market and sell and build on. Content is king, right?

An ideal world would have a union of Animators like the WGA or or the DGA where guild members could be reassured that they’re not being unfairly driven into the ground in the quest for cheaper overheads.

An ideal world would create new methods of distribution and exhibition, that could bypass the studios wholesale to create VFX houses that could employ the thousands of new VFX graduates, attracted to the bright lights like moths to flame.

But most importantly, an ideal world would celebrate these amazing artists, and not play them off to the theme tune from Jaws.

 

If you want to read further about the protest, I suggest this wonderful piece by Drew McWeeny over at Hit Fix http://www.hitfix.com/motion-captured/the-visual-effects-community-sees-red-in-the-wake-of-oscar-protest-and-on-air-snub/1

or hop over to this marvelously angry letter: http://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/an-open-letter-to-ang-lee/#more-3389

Woohoo!!

Big news today! My feature screenplay “The Whaler’s Daughter” is in the final 3 in the Final Draft Big Break screenwriting competition

Super exciting! Feels like the beginning of a great adventure. They’re flying me to LA in February! Woohoo!

Speaking of LA, you can currently see my short film “Lord of the Eggs” at the Machinima Interactive Film Festival at Gallery 8bit. Or… Watch it here:

Good times :)

What’s the haps

Okay so what’s news in the world of Matt? What’s hip, what’s happening? Etc. etc.

I’ll start with the nearly recent and work my way towards the slightly future. If you’ve followed this blog at all, you’ll have read that I’ve been diligently waiting for a Black Magic Cinema camera…Well, i’m still waiting. They’re – still – having problems with sensor glass or China or some such, so I have not yet made my very epic film that I intend to make with it. However, the Dodo that will star in the very epic film is coming along in leaps and bounds:

Starting to look like a long extinct bird of myth, right? Looking forward to finishing him over the holidays and getting this film into gear! (pending camera arrival date)

 

Okay next. In other news, I didn’t win with that Little Big Planet video posted below! I know right, it’s awesome. Oh well. How do I like them apples? I really don’t. So skipping right ahead, and also landing at this rather fortuitous low point was the news that my script, “The Whaler’s Daughter” has placed in the TOP 5 in the Final Draft Big Break Screenplay competition. Which is awesome. There were over 4000 entries. That means I can write things good! It also means in the next week or so, I’ll find out whether I made the top 3 (yeah they really like to draw this out) which means a trip to LA in Feb to meet with Hollywood types. Which is good. Definitely good. Said Hollywood types are currently reading the script and deciding if i’m worth the plane fare. So watch this space!

Next up, if you scroll way down the page you’ll see a picture of an egg with two googly eyes.  Well that film is finally going to get seen. Here:

 

The Machinima Interactive Film Festival! In LA starting on Friday. Check it out if you’re around. It’s a fun little video with a great company and I look forward to adding it to my site in due course. One of my old favorites, “Blaze Fury Man of Fire” will also be playing at a film festival in Guayaquil, Ecuador:

Thanks to my buddy Enrico Martin for the hook up. That will start this weekend too! So if you’re in Guayaquil/Los Angeles this weekend, and have a weird urge to see a Matt film in some sort of semi-social viewing experience, you’ve never had a better chance!

 

So now I’m going to go and wait for things to happen. Either camera or script news. Perhaps I’ll do it on a chair. Who knows. The world is full of adventure.

 

Sack it to me!

 

Hey world, if you haven’t seen it yet, I’ve done a video for Little Big Planet Karting. Winner gets on American TV. You can vote on the link.  https://apps.facebook.com/llbpkvideo/contests/294277/voteable_entries/60092731

 

Thanks to the innumerable talents of  Jason Snyman, James Karinejad, Steve Snyman, Will Kenning and Tom Godfrey.

Using animation to help teach!

Today was a good day! My animation for TED Ed finally went live!

It is all about the history of Optics and is charmingly read by Educator Eva Timothy. I basically made moving pictures for her brain-moving words. You can find the results at http://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-story-behind-your-glasses-eva-timothy.

On the site you can also watch other animated lessons, and by the end of your internet-browsing-day, you may even have learnt something! TED Ed is a wonderful resource for parents, students, teachers and life-long-learners alike. It gives access to some great educators and some fab animation. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I am honored to have contributed a video to this great educational movement.

So what are you reading this for? Go learn something!

Matt

New camera please.

Today is the 14th of August 2012, this was the week my new camera was going to arrive. Alas, it has not arrived. But then, it hasn’t arrived anywhere yet. I like to think it’s sitting on a warehouse shelf somewhere Down Under, just waiting, nay wishing to get shipped my way. It’s like I’m 7 again, waiting for Christmas morning…

It goes by the name “Black Magic Cinema Camera” and I believe that it will be shipped to resellers sometime this week, after it gets the okay on some of its codec and thunderbolt permissions. I understand that if you’re reading this and are not a camera nerd, then this whole thing really reads like nonsense. Black Magic… thunderbolt permissions… Harry Potter? These are good things. Not quite magical, but definitely good.

And this camera is most definitely a good thing. 2.5k resolution, 12 bit RAW fileformat and a shiny form factor. You can make a feature on this for less than the cost of an affordable car. A cinematic feature that looks very good on a very large screen. Sure there are some negatives, but in this case those negatives are not really an issue (in my opinion). I was a very early adopter of the 5D mark2 when it came out, back when it was still auto exposure! And I made similar grandiose statements. That camera kept me going for four years. Or rather it took four years for it to be improved upon. But it’s happened, and now I can’t wait to see how far that improvement goes.

They sent it out to an Aussie DOP John Brawley (http://johnbrawley.wordpress.com/). He’s been the only source of footage for this camera:

And here: https://vimeo.com/46460980

It’s exciting to see. Now I just need to get my hands on it and shoot something!!!

Here are the specs:
http://blackmagicdesign.com/products/blackmagiccinemacamera/techspecs/

The Joy of making stuff

20120709-130737.jpg

Doing a new short short for fun rather than for profit is a great reminder of why I do this stuff. There’s freedom in them thar cameras. The trick is remembering that and then applying it to your other work.

This eggcelent egg is the star of the show. Yes, he’s a real egg with a bottlecap hat. Voiced by the brilliant Will Kenning. Which reminds me, I’ve also been using Valve’s new source filmmaker to do the lip sync for the characters. Phenomenal piece of kit. I think it’s the future of all film production. Seriously.

Anyways, hopefully I’ll be able to share this one soon. Just one fancy pants LA festival next month before it can come out to play! And play it shall.

Till next time!
Matt