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The Joy Formidable is a Welsh alternative rock band formed in 2007 in North Wales and currently located in London, England. The band consists of Ritzy Bryan (lead vocals, guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass, backing vocals), and Matt Thomas (drums, percussion).

The original music video for “Whirring”, directed by Dain Bedford, was released in 2009 and was filmed in Northern Wales. A second music video, directed by Christopher Mills, was released on March 8, 2011 on MTV’s website. The 2011 version is a surrealist music video featuring the band exploring a house full of cats and them descending deeper and deeper through the house’s layers.
The 2011 music video was the first video the air on the premier episode of 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield.

Awesome video !!!

the-joy-formidable-whirring-friends-vs-records

 

The Collective  is a group of Mountain Bikers, filmmakers and photographers that shoot films, ride bikes and take photographs. In 2004 The Collective released it own self-titled film, “The Collective”. The film won many high-status awards and soon became known to mountain bikers world over. Since then they have released a second film, Roam, and a third film, Seasons.

The Collective is based in Whistler and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Locations

The movies were filmed in 8 major locations including; The Vancouver North Shore Rainforest; Moab, Utah; Whistler Bike Park, British Columbia; Prague, Czech Republic; Sun Valley, Idaho; Parksville, British Columbia; the Atlas Mountains, Morocco; Les Gets, France; and the Interior regions of British Columbia, namely Kamloops. The film took approximately ten months to film.

Riders

High profile riders including Darren Berrecloth, Geoff Gulevich, Wade Simmons, Tyler Morland, Nathan Rennie, Ryan Leech, Steve Romaniuk, Adam Billinghurst, Sam Hill, Kenny Smith, Steve Peat, Stevie Smith, Andrew Shandro, Ryder Kasprick, Jordie Lunn, Cam McCaul, Matt Hunter, Thomas Vanderham, Gee Atherton, Ben Boyko, Brendan Fairclough, Kurt Sorge, Brandon Semenuk.

Concept

The concept with the movie Roam was to create a journey for the viewer that motivates and inspires them to push himself/herself outside their comfort zone. This is achieved through several techniques including voice overlay.

The Cinematography used in Roam and The Collective is highly sophisticated and ensures the best viewing experience. Notable filming techniques include crane cams, cable cams, shooting from vehicles, and slow motion photography.

The Making Of  Roam

The Making Of Seasons

The Collective Vision

The Collective was born out of a desire to assemble the world’s best freeride mountain bikers with the most talented photographers and cinematographers. The result is a high-quality 16mm bike film that blows all previous films away.

Here’s what the boys at The Collective have to say about their vision for the film:

“The Collective is a group of filmmakers, photographers and mountain bikers. By drawing on the experience, expertise and creative energy of every member of the team, The Collective hasa created a film that portrays the newest, cutting-edge images of the Freeride progression, while exploring the thoughts and personalities of the riders leading that progression.”

“We believe that the collective approach to producing this film has resulted in an end product that truly reflects the depth of the sport and those who are pushing its boundaries.” thecollectivefilm.com

About The Collective Bike Film

We were lucky enough to produce the premiere of The Collective in Salt Lake City, UT. As is typical of the Teton Gravity Research and Radical Films we’ve premiered in the area, we were equally stoked for The Collective–and so were the locals. We have a reputation to uphold as bringing the most progressive mountain bike and ski films to the area and I was confident this film wouldn’t disappoint. 

After many conversations with Darcy and Jamie, I was so stoked on the film I could hardly wait. They are genuine guys with a serious bug for meticulous editing and creative filmmaking.

Due to some delays in the production process, we received our copy of the DVD the day of the show–phew! I was sweating bullets, but it all worked out in the end. Actually, this worked out for the best because I was seeing the film for the first time with the audience. I didn’t know how awesome the film would be–it would be judged by the smile on my face and the reaction of the crowd.

Well, my smile couldn’t be bigger and the packed house at Brewvies couldn’t agree more. The Collective delivered the goods with a flair far above any previous mountain bike films.

To boot, the boys from the Element Roadtrip stopped by for the premiere. Matt Hunter, Specialized rider and star of the film showed up to woo the crowd along with Mitchell Scott, roaming editor for BIKE Magazine. We were glad to have the crew there to represent this awesome film.

The Bottom Line

Honestly, The Collective film is my favorite mountain bike film to date. The innovative cinematography and gutsy shots really set this film apart from the many others out there. You’ll be amazed at the quality of shots they get from helicopters and from zip lines strewn through the forest. No other film to date has captured the soul of biking like The Collective.

Do yourself a favor and hook yourself up with a copy of The Collective film and watch it over and over again.

Articles by Wiki, theCollective, FreeHabbit

 

The Fall is a 2006 adventure fantasy film directed by Tarsem Singh, starring Lee PaceCatinca Untaru, and Justine Waddell. It is based on the screenplay of the 1981 Bulgarian film Yo Ho Ho by Valeri Petrov. The film earned $3.2 million worldwide. The film was released to theaters in 2008.

 

Plot

Los Angeles,1915: stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is hospitalized, as he is bedridden and possibly paralyzed after a jump he took in his first film. He meets Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a young Romanian-born patient in the hospital who is recovering from a broken arm, and begins to tell her a story about her namesake. Alexandria is told she has to leave, but Roy promises to tell her an epic tale if she returns the next day.

The next morning, as Roy spins his tale of fantasy, Alexandria’s imagination brings his characters to life. Roy’s tale is about five heroes: a silent Indian warrior (Jeetu Verma), a muscular ex-slave named Otta Benga (Marcus Wesley), an Italian explosives expert called Luigi (Robin Smith), a surreal version of Darwin (Leo Bill) with a pet monkey, and a masked swashbuckling bandit. An evil ruler named Odious (Daniel Caltagirone) has committed an offense against each of the five, who all seek revenge. The heroes are later joined by a sixth hero, a mystic.

Alexandria vividly imagines her friends and people around her appearing as the characters in Roy’s story. Although Roy develops affection for Alexandria, he also has an ulterior motive: by gaining her trust, he tricks her into stealing morphine from the hospital pharmacy so that he can attempt suicide; a choice driven by his love leaving him for the actor for whom he provided the stunt footage. However, Alexandria returns with only three pills, having mistaken the “E” on the piece of paper Roy gave her for a “3″. The stories become a collaborative tale to which Alexandria also contributes. Alexandria herself becomes a character: while Roy is the masked bandit, she is his daughter. Roy talks Alexandria into stealing a bottle of morphine tablets locked in a fellow patient’s cabinet, and then downs it all. The next morning, Roy awakens from his sleep and realizes he is only alive because his neighboring patient is receiving a placebo rather than actual morphine. Alexandria, desperate to help Roy, sneaks out of bed to the pharmacy. She climbs onto the cabinet but loses her footing and falls. After surgery, she is visited by the bewheeled Roy, where he confesses his deception. He encourages Alexandria to ask someone else to end the story, but she insists on hearing Roy’s ending. Roy reluctantly begins the rest of the story.

The heroes die one by one, and it seems that Odious will be triumphant. Alexandria becomes upset, and Roy insists, “It’s my story.” She declares that it is hers too and exerts some influence on the course of the tale. Finally, the epic tale comes to an end with only the Bandit and his daughter remaining alive and Odious dying. Roy and Alexandria, along with the patients and staff of the hospital, watch a viewing of the finished ‘flicker’ that Roy appeared in. With everyone laughing, only Roy’s smile is broken in confusion when he sees that his life-threatening jump has been edited out of the film as another stuntman jumps instead.

Alexandria’s arm heals and she returns to the orange orchard where her family works. Her voice-over reveals that Roy had recovered and was now back at work again. As she talks, a montage of cuts from several of silent films’ greatest and most dangerous stunts plays; she imagines all the stuntmen to be Roy.

Production

According to the director’s remarks on the DVD release of the film, Tarsem Singh largely financed the film with his own funds, determined to make the film according to his own vision, and paid members of the cast and crew on an equal basis rather than in more typical Hollywood fashion.

Singh’s commentary indicates the film was made over a period of four years and incorporates footage shot in over 20 countries, including India, Indonesia (Bali), Italy, France, Spain, Namibia, China (PRC), and numerous others, a few of which are not listed in the credits. The contemporary South African mental hospital which substitutes as an early 20th century Los Angeles hospital and the principal setting throughout the film remained operational (in a separate wing) during filming, according to the DVD commentaries.

The DVD supplementary features reveal that actor Lee Pace remained in a bed for most of the early filming at the director’s suggestion, convincing most of the crew that he was in fact unable to walk. The intention, Tarsem and Pace noted, was to maximize the realism of Roy’s physical limitations in the eyes of Catinca Untaru, whose lines and reactions as the character Alexandria were largely unscripted, and so were young Catinca’s spontaneous interactions with Pace’s character. For example, Alexandria’s misinterpreting the letter E as the number 3 in a note written by Roy—came about from an accidental misreading by the 6-year-old actress during filming, which the director then realized he could adapt into a clever twist in the story.

To further the realism of young Catinca’s performance, Tarsem had portions of the hospital scenes between Pace and his young costar filmed through small holes in the hospital bed curtains, maximizing the youngster’s spontaneous interactions with Pace despite the presence of the film crew surrounding them.

 

The first time I ever came to this city was a few years ago, when I filmed interviews in New Paltz for my first feature documentary.  On that trip, I had just turned 24 and was driving a Rent-a-Wreck down a NY highway when…BAM!  The hood flew straight up into the windshield.  By comparison, this trip was off to a much better start.  Now I was in New York with the same nearly finished documentary  in time for Week 1 of the 2012 IFP Independent Documentary Lab.

After a week of workshops with 9 other amazing projects, I came out with this list of what you should avoid during Post-Production.  I know, because I did them all!  Don’t do what I did, do what I say.

1.  Don’t edit the film yourself, you crazy clod

Documentary is the medium that involves the most frightening ratio of material shot to material used, so if you are mad enough to do it by yourself, it can take years, and you can lose your way.  For example, I waded through 40 interviews with 1960s/1970s rock climbers conducted over 30 days while living out of a 1976 VW van with my other 3 crew from LA to New York (that would be the 2nd time I made it to this city).   I thought I was crazy, until of course I met our friends & labmates For Thousands of Miles – for their intriguing genre-bending doc, they spent 3 months on a van filming one man on a bicycle!

The bottom line is that, after awhile, it becomes incredibly hard to see the forest for the trees.  If you feel you HAVE to edit it yourself, or if you can’t afford to do otherwise, I’d suggest what we’re doing: edit yourself, and then hand it over to a professional with fresh eyes to get you the last of the way.

2.  If you must edit it yourself, don’t skip vital information in lieu of Memento-styled twists and turns.

“You’ve spent 800 hours with your subject matter.  Your audience only has 90 minutes.  They’ll never know the nuanced story you know,” said Cindy Lee (Editor Hot Coffee) during the editing session with the striking Bronx-set Lab doc Lucky.  Cindy was speaking generally, but I took it specifically for our film.  Holy heck, I thought, that’s the bottom line – take out the extraneous attempts to encompass the meaning of life, and look at only your 90-minute slot.  A little simplification can go a long way.

3. Don’t forget what you learned in High School English.

Speaking of coherency, remember when you had to write an essay about “Julius Cesar” and your teacher insisted you write a thesis sentence at the end of your first paragraph?  Well that can be incredibly useful in a film, too.  If you start off clearly articulating a thesis, you can save yourself the painful revisions and cuts where you completely throw out segments of your story after realizing, in an editing session with Penelope Falk (Editor Joan Rivers: Piece of Work) on Day 2 of the Doc Lab, that one part of your film really has nothing to do with anything else.  This isn’t to say that you can’t make a great doc that does not follow conventional structure, but if you start off with a clear thesis, you will never unintentionally go astray.

4.  Don’t fall off the face of the planet while you edit.

Because believe me its going to take you longer than you think, and you can’t afford to lose all the work you’ve done connecting with your audience through social media channels.  (And stop rolling your eyes when people say ‘social media’).  So send out your newsletters.  Remind your Kickstarter backers that you haven’t taken their donations and run off the to Cayman Islands.  Update your blog.  You don’t need to post about your editing process because, frankly, no one cares.  In fact, it may be better not to post about your film at all!  As Gary Hustwit of Helveticasaid when he came to speak to the Labs, “the idea of your film is often much better than the film itself.”  It’s better to find interesting stuff loosely related to your subject matter, like the national progress of East Timor if you’re spy-thriller-love-story Lab doc Alias Ruby Blade or quirky pre-Beat poetry if you’re Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton.  That way your supporters will be engaged, your friends will stop asking you if you’re still working on “that film” and your mother will know you’re alive.

5. Don’t wait until the very end to get all your formal releases and/or a Lawyer.

Sounds obvious, but sometimes you can’t afford to license material until you know for sure you will be using it (like at Picture Lock, or beyond if you’re waiting to get into a Festival to get Fest rights).  Frustratingly, the licensor may change his/her mind, or may up the rates you thought you were going to get.  One suggestion in the Labs was to get a written agreement about the rate and/or conditions of your license beforehand as an assurance if you can’t license from the beginning.  And as entertainment law specialist Roz Lichter pointed out in the Labs legal session, don’t forget about crew memos too!  (Crew memos?  You mean I have to have a signed agreement with my cousin that by holding the boom mic he does not own any of my movie? Yes.)

Of course, don’t even start to edit without releases for your interview subjects. People change their minds and sometimes catastrophe strikes.  In my film, one of our subjects died in a tragic climbing accident a month after our interview; it was difficult enough to figure out what this meant for the film without having to worry about rights.  Be straightforward about your legal matters, and save yourself complications later.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

One of the Lab leaders, Susan Motamed (Producer, Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room) said something like this, “Don’t spend money on something you can’t afford just because someone else said you had to.”  Especially when you’re making your first professional feature, it’s hard to tell what you really need to be competitive.  The truth is that each film needs different things.  Consider the post costs of eccentric Lab doc Our Nixon which is entirely archival (entirely!) featuring the first EVER transfers of 8mm reels confiscated from White House aides during Watergate.  Compare the needs of their telecine to the needs of the gripping Lab doc These Birds Walk which has  no archives but was exquisitely shot on multiple trips to Pakistan. Both may spend the same amount in Post, but on completely different things.

On day 2, we took a field trip to Final Frame Post, which was kind of like taking a group of Tiny Tims window-shopping for Christmas Dinner.  The talented people at Final Frame showed us samples of current docs they were working on (drool) but also pointed out that some projects could succeed having a freelancer do color correction in a living room and exporting uncompressed.  No two projects require the same treatments, and if you don’t need something you can’t afford to get, don’t go broke for it.

7.  Don’t obsess about how the people in the film will like the movie.

Ethics of representing your subjects is a salient topic in documentary.  Lab doc Where God Likes to Be had to first win over the elders on the Montana Blackfeet Reservation for their story.  Focusing on something completely different than previous docs about Reservation life, 3 young Blackfeet kids deciding their future, won over the Elders and comprised the core of their film.

There are other instances however when personal relationships work against the needs of the film.  In particular, you will eventually have to let go of something (or someone) for the good of the story.  Just remember that at the end of the day, the people who participated in your film will be prouder to have had a small role in a great film rather than a big roll in a film that wasn’t as compelling.  And, if you can’t bear to cut someone’s interesting tidbit, as Lab leader Maureen Ryan (Producer, Man on Wire) mentioned – though not a tritely as I am saying in this context — there’s always DVD bonus features!

8.  Don’t forget to look around.  

Between your editing cave, obsessive devotion to your film, and “film, film, film” tweets, you may start to feel isolated from the other creative people in the world.  Of everything we were exposed to in the first week of the doc labs, one of the best aspects was sharing experiences with the 9 other promising films at the Lab.  As IFP Senior Programmer Milton Tabbot mentioned on the first day, this year’s IFP Lab featured one of the most diverse collections of docs, and maybe this was why there was much interest and fraternity between our teams.  On the networking night with the general membership of IFP, the doc teams could be found excitedly swapping stories over beers one room over from the networking fray.  From braving Border Town outlaws in  Purgatorio or poetically preserving the ritualized traditions of the remote Haida in Survival Prayer, each of us had taken a long, bold journey with our films.  You could put together the most comprehensive “What-Not-To-Do” list from us, and somehow we had still made the films we’d set out to make.  So don’t forget to look up from your laptop once in a while to see what other people like you are doing, because it can be greatly rewarding.  And when you find them, consider buying the first round.

Article by IFM

 

Euvrard Loubser
Procure  Multimedia
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  1. Every business is a multi-channel publisher now                      Whether they want to be or not, every business is in the content business now and the need for content is constant and growing. You may have thought you worked in a trucking business or a drug company, but you have additional responsibilities now that define the business in substantial ways. A whole new industry has grown up to feed the content monster in all its forms – emails, site content, interactive tools, games, video, and apps – the list is endless and it needs to be refreshed constantly with quality content. That’s a huge problem for many businesses, as evidenced by all the dumb or outdated content on the web. Marketers are charged with identifying those content needs, assessing the appropriate format, scope, and tone, supplying the content on a regular basis, measuring the impact of that content, looking for syndication partners and links, etc. The need for content adds a whole new layer of responsibility to the marketing role, and the resulting content assets are often referred to as “owned assets.”
  2. User-generated content (UGC).                                                                                  Advice and reviews, even rants, from both strangers and friends, often has more credibility and power than the message that the brand carefully crafts and places. Eliciting, tracking, and responding appropriately to that UGC may be a task shared by other departments within the organization (e.g., customer service), but it has deep marketing impact. It’s another take on the content challenge with the additional twist that the marketers don’t control the message. They can hope to “earn” good mentions by providing opportunity for dialogue, and listening and responding appropriately. That direct connection to the end user and the power shift to the consumer creates an entirely new set of challenges for marketers.
  3. Brand accountability is heightened.                                                             The consumer’s experience is defined by other consumers as well as the brand or company, and that consumer has a megaphone through social media. In fact, just one user’s experience can immediately and directly impact businesses that might have thought they were insulated. Today’s marketers have to be ever-vigilant on all fronts and switch their focus away from pushing out brand messaging. The new marketing role is about understanding the consumers’ needs, creating a good customer experience, enabling conversations and dialogue to further cement brand bonds, and learning useful tidbits that help companies meet those needs even better as they continue to evolve. Marketers have to cope with the idea that they are not in charge – not in charge of their brand message, not in charge of the conversations, not even, in some cases, in charge of their pricing models.
  4. Redefined competitive sets.                                                                      Information is freely available for research or comparison shopping and geography has less control over where you buy. This move to a less friction-prone environment redefines the competitive set for many marketers. In a very real sense, marketers now compete with businesses around the globe, that sell to different groups, or provide different services or products sometimes simply because they share some common language for consumer queries on search engines.
  5. Paid media opportunities are much more finely segmented and targeted.                                                                                                               Marketers now can personalize ads, offers, and site experiences based on all kinds of targeting parameters or captured information that qualifies prospects. That degree of precision increases relevancy and optimizes the efficiency of media spend. New technology platforms like ad exchanges and DSPs have brought down the cost of those buys as the universe of publishers offering ad space and users performing search queries has increased to provide an even richer potential field of advertising opportunities online. These media buys are also more fluid, providing better budget management as optimization pushes dollars to the most effective placements and lenient out-clauses remove a huge sunk cost from the picture.
  6. It’s all about the metrics.                                                                                 Digital marketing is very data-driven and most of the activity is highly traceable. It’s one of the reasons that budgets have swarmed to online marketing, because there is far less guessing about what is working. Even the softer measures of earned/social media get translated into KPIs and optimized mostly because we can, but also because those metrics can provide illumination and insight when used correctly. Direct marketing pros in all eras have always applied analytics to their marketing. Successful marketers in this environment should be well-prepared to collect, manipulate, analyze, and translate data as an everyday part of their world, regardless of their marketing specialty or industry.
  7. Businesses that will thrive are nimble.  They are forced to respond quickly with rapid iteration of everything from their business model or offerings to audience segments, targeting technology, new channels, and much more. Google is the classic example. Large, ponderous organizations face a tremendous challenge in adapting to this new environment that hits them in all kinds of ways from budgeting to hiring to planning on a completely new time horizon and with a pace many executives are not used to. It’s very difficult to balance that need to be nimble and iterate quickly with the need to plan. Because the opportunities are so vast now – critical and analytical thinking that leads to a sound strategy is crucially important for marketers and throughout the organization.
  8. Powerful devices and always-on access Wireless broadband access all over the world combined with powerful devices – smartphones and tablets have enabled locally relevant content as well as targeting and new “lean back” entertainment and browsing experiences, which in turn have spawned new businesses and tools to support those behaviors. Again, more work for marketers to translate and tailor content for all those experiences and to create new ways to communicate and segment across more channels, at more times, and in more modes. The always-on expectation has changed consumer attitudes regarding frequent touchpoints and given them tools to help define and control how they choose to be contacted.
  9. Marketing is bleeding into other functional areas.                                The marketing lines have blurred with other functional areas as more operational job titles interact directly with consumers through the Internet or social media. Twitter responses may be handled by customer service: some Internet channels are worked as a means to eliminate traditional costs; employees of all experience levels and from different departments may be blogging. Each touchpoint can have a marketing impact.
  10. Privacy issues Government intrusion and lobbyist efforts reflect and pour accelerant on consumer concerns about identity privacy and security attached to behaviorally-targeted and other ads including those that connect to third-party data. People who likely understand very little of the technology or the potential impact of the proposals they push may determine the future course of online advertising. Marketers now need to understand the technologies they use at a deep level in order to make good decisions about the level of targeting that is appropriate and safe, and to be a vocal advocate for the technologies that they use.

 

 

Article by Clixkz

Social media continues to move forward toward business integration, a trend that I identified last year.

In a joint study  from Booz Allen and social platform developer Buddy Media, 57 percent of businesses surveyed plan to increase social media spending, while 38 percent of CEO’s label social as a high priority.

I was also partially accurate in predicting that Google would “strike back” in 2011. They did, with Google Plus, a formidable initiative that acts as Google’s “social layer” to the Web. Part social network and part social search, Google Plus has industry observers scratching their heads, wondering if Facebook will be given a run for their money or if the service evolves into something complimentary in a highly social Web.

I had one big swing-and-miss on Facebook’s intrusion in the location-based services war. While Facebook still supports location tracking in a number of ways, it has not put Foursquare out of business. Foursquare still enjoys a niche audience of highly active participants who enjoy telling the world where they are and post pictures to prove it. It is however worth noting that Facebook recently acquired location based network Gowalla, so continue to watch this space.

So what can we expect in 2012 in a world that seems to grow ever connected by the hour? Here are six predictions to ponder, in no particular order:

Convergence Emergence. For a glimpse into how social will further integrate with “real life,” we can look at what Coca Cola experimented with all the way back in 2010. Coke created an amusement park where participants could “swipe” their RFID-equipped wristbands at kiosks, which posted to their Facebook account what they were doing and where. Also, as part of a marketing campaign, Domino’s Pizza posted feedback — unfiltered feedback — on a large billboard in Times Square, bringing together real opinions from real people pulled from a digital source and displayed in the real world. These types of “trans-media” experiences are likely to define “social” in the year to come.

The Cult of Influence.

In much the same way that Google has defined a system that rewards those who produce findable content, there is a race on to develop a system that will reward those who wield the most social influence. One particular player has emerged, Klout, determined to establish their platform as the authority of digital influence. Klout’s attempt to convert digital influence into business value underscores a much bigger movement which we’ll continue to see play out in the next year. To some degree everyone now has some digital influence (not just celebrities, academics, policy makers or those who sway public opinion). But for the next year, the cult of influence becomes less about consumer plays like Klout and more about the tools and techniques professionals use to “score” digital influence and actually harness, scale and measure the results of it.

Gamification Nation.

No we’re not taking about video games. Rather, game-like qualities are emerging within a number of social apps in your browser or mobile device. From levels, to leaderboards, to badges or points, rewards for participation abound. It’s likely that the trend will have to evolve given how competition for our time and attention this gaming creates. Primarily, gamification has been used in consumer settings, but look for it in other areas from HR, to government, healthcare and even business management. Perhaps negotiating your next raise will be tied to your position on the company’s digital leaderboard.

Social Sharing.

Ideas, opinions, media, status updates are all part of what makes social media a powerful and often disruptive force. The media industry was one of the first to understand this, adding sharing options to content, which led to more page views and better status in search results. What comes next in social sharing is more closely aligned with e-commerce or web transactions. For example, Sears allows a user to share a product or review with their networks directly from the site. Sharing that vacation you just booked, or recommending a product, or service from any site to a social network is where sharing goes next. We probably don’t know what we are willing to share until we see the option to do it.

Social Television.

For many of us, watching television is already a social act, whether it’s talking to the person next to you, or texting, tweeting, and calling friends about what you’re watching. But television is about to become a social experience in a bigger and broader sense. The X Factor nowallows voting via Twitter and highlights other social promotions, which encourages viewers to tap social networks while they watch. Another way media consumption is becoming social comes from a network called Get Glue which acts as something of a Foursquare for media. Participants can “check-in” to their favorite shows (or other forms of media) and collect stickers to tell the world what programs they love. Watch for more of this this year as ratings rise for socially integrated shows.

The Micro Economy.

Lastly as we roll into 2012, watch for a more social approach to solving business problems through a sort of micro-economy. Kickstarter gives anyone with a project, the opportunity to get that initiative funded by those who choose to (and patrons receive something in return). A crowdsourcing platform for would be inventors called Quirky lets the best product ideas rise to the top and then helps them get produced and sold while the “inventor” takes a cut. Air BnB turns homes into hotels and travelers into guests, providing both parties with an opportunity to make and save money. These examples may point to a new future reality where economic value is directly negotiated and exchanged between individuals over institutions.

Article by:

David Armano

DAVID ARMANO

David Armano is EVP, Global Innovation & Integration, at Edelman Digital, the interactive arm of global communications firm Edelman. You can follow him on Twitter at @armano.

James Maury “Jim” Henson (September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990) was an American puppeteer, best known as the creator of The Muppets. As a puppeteer, Henson performed in various television programs, such as Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, films such as The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, and created advanced puppets for projects like Fraggle RockThe Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. He was also an Oscar-nominated film director, Emmy Award-winning television producer, and the founder of The Jim Henson Company, the Jim Henson Foundation, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. He died on May 16, 1990 of organ failure resulting from a Group A streptococcal infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes.

Henson, who was born in Greenville, Mississippi and educated at University of Maryland, College Park, is one of the most widely known puppeteers ever. He created Sam and Friends as a freshman in College Park. After suffering struggles with programs that he created, he eventually was selected to participate in Sesame Street. During this time, he also contributed to Saturday Night Live. The success of Sesame Street spawned The Muppet Show, which featured Muppets created by Henson. He also co-created with Michael Jacobs the television show Dinosaurs during his final years. On June 16, 2011, he posthumously received the Disney Legends Award.

Early life

Jim Henson was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the younger of two boys. His parents were Betty Marcella (née Brown) and Paul Ransom Henson, an agronomist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture . He was raised as a Christian Scientist and spent his early childhood in Leland, Mississippi, moving with his family to HyattsvilleMaryland, near Washington, DC, in the late 1940s. He later remembered the arrival of the family’s first television as “the biggest event of his adolescence,” having been heavily influenced by radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the early television puppets of Burr Tillstrom (onKukla, Fran, and Ollie) and Bil and Cora Baird.[4]

In 1954 while attending Northwestern High School, he began working for WTOP-TV, creating puppets for a Saturday morning children’s show called The Junior Morning Show. After graduating from high school, Henson enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park, as a studio arts major, thinking he might become a commercial artist.  A puppetry class offered in the applied arts department introduced him to the craft and textiles courses in the College of Home Economics, and he graduated in 1960 with a B.S. in home economics. As a freshman, he had been asked to create Sam and Friends, a five-minute puppet show for WRC-TV. The characters on Sam and Friends were forerunners of Muppets, and the show included a prototype of Henson’s most famous character: Kermit the Frog. Henson would remain at WRC for seven years from 1954 – 1961. “Among the first of his assignments at WRC was Afternoon, a magazine show aimed at housewives. This marked his first collaboration with Jane Nebel – the woman who later became his wife”

In the show he began experimenting with techniques that would change the way puppetry had been used on television, including using the frame defined by the camera shot to allow the puppeteer to work from off-camera. Believing that television puppets needed to have “life and sensitivity,”  Henson began making characters from flexible, fabric-covered foam rubber, allowing them to express a wider array of emotions at a time when many puppets were made of carved wood. marionette‘s arms are manipulated by strings, but Henson used rods to move his Muppets’ arms, allowing greater control of expression. Additionally, Henson wanted the Muppet characters to “speak” more creatively than was possible for previous puppets – which had seemed to have random mouth movements – so he used precise mouth movements to match the dialogue.

When Henson began work on Sam and Friends, he asked fellow University of Maryland freshman Jane Nebel to assist him. The show was a financial success, but after graduating from college, Jim began to have doubts about going into a career as a puppeteer. He wandered off to Europe for several months, where he was inspired by European puppeteers who look on their work as an art form. Upon Henson’s return to the United States, he and Jane began dating. They were married in 1959 and had five children, Lisa (b. 1960), Cheryl (b. 1961), Brian (b. 1962), John (b. 1965), and Heather (b. 1970).

Projects in the 1960s

Despite the success of Sam and Friends, which ran for six years, Henson spent much of the next two decades working in commercials, talk shows, and children’s projects before being able to realize his dream of the Muppets as “entertainment for everybody”.  The popularity of his work on Sam and Friends in the late fifties led to a series of guest appearances on network talk and variety shows. Henson himself appeared as a guest on many shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show (although on his appearance on the Sept. 11, 1966 episode of the show – released to DVD on 2011 as part of a collection of episodes featuring the Rolling Stones - Sullivan mis-introduces Henson as “Jim Newsom and his Puppets”). This greatly increased exposure led to hundreds of commercial appearances by Henson characters throughout the sixties.

Among the most popular of Henson’s commercials was a series for the local Wilkins Coffee company in Washington, D.C., in which his Muppets were able to get away with a greater level of slapstick violence than might have been acceptable with human actors and would later find its way into many acts on The Muppet Show. In the first Wilkins ad, a Muppet named Wilkins is poised behind a cannon seen in profile. Another Muppet named Wontkins (with Rowlf’s voice) is in front of its barrel. Wilkins asks, “What do you think of Wilkins Coffee?” and Wontkins responds gruffly, “Never tasted it!” Wilkins fires the cannon and blows Wontkins away, then turns the cannon directly toward the viewer and ends the ad with, “Now, what do youthink of Wilkins?” Henson later explained, “Till then, [advertising] agencies believed that the hard sell was the only way to get their message over on television. We took a very different approach. We tried to sell things by making people laugh.”  The first seven-second commercial for Wilkins was an immediate hit and was syndicated and re-shot by Henson for local coffee companies across the United States;  he ultimately produced more than 300 coffee ads. The same setup was used to pitch Kraml Milk in the Chicago, Il., area and Red Diamond coffee.

In 1963 Henson and his wife moved to New York City, where the newly formed Muppets, Inc., would reside for some time. Jane quit muppeteering to raise their children. Henson hired writer Jerry Juhl in 1961 and puppeteer Frank Oz in 1963 to replace her. Henson later credited both writers with developing much of the humor and character of his Muppets. Henson and Oz developed a close friendship and a performing partnership that lasted 27 years; their teamwork is particularly evident in their portrayals of the characters of Bert and Ernie and Kermit and Fozzie Bear. 

Henson’s sixties’ talk show appearances culminated when he devised Rowlf, a piano-playing anthropomorphic dog. Rowlf became the first Muppet to make regular appearances on a network show, The Jimmy Dean Show. Henson was so grateful for this break that he offered Jimmy Dean a 40% interest in his production company, but Dean declined stating that Henson deserved all the rewards for his own work, a decision of conscience Dean never regretted.[15] From 1963 to 1966, Henson began exploring film-making and produced a series of experimental films. His nine-minute Time Piece was nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an Oscar for Short Film in 1966. The year 1969 saw the production of the NBC-TV movie The Cube – another Henson-produced experimental film.

Also around this time, the first drafts of a live-action experimental film script were written with Jerry Juhl, which would eventually become Henson’s last unproduced full-length screenplay, Tale of Sand. The script remained in the Henson Company archives until the screenplay was adapted in the 2012 graphic novel, Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand.

Sesame Street

In 1969, Joan Ganz Cooney and the team at the Children’s Television Workshop asked Henson to work on Sesame Street, a visionary children’s program for public television. Part of the show was set aside for a series of funny, colorful puppet characters living on the titular street. These included Oscar the GrouchBert and ErnieCookie Monster and Big Bird. Henson performed the characters of Ernie, game-show host Guy Smiley, and Kermit, who appeared as a roving television news reporter. It was around this time that a frill was added around Kermit’s neck to make him more frog-like. The collar was functional as well: it covered the joint where the Muppet’s neck and body met.

At first Henson’s Muppets appeared separately from the realistic segments on the Street, but after a poor test-screening in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania, the show was revamped to integrate the two, placing much greater emphasis on Henson’s work. Though Henson would often downplay his role in Sesame Street’s success, Cooney frequently praised Jim’s work and, in 1990, the Public Broadcasting Service called him “the spark that ignited our fledgling broadcast service.The success of Sesame Street also allowed Henson to stop producing commercials. He later remembered that “it was a pleasure to get out of that world”.

In addition to creating and performing Muppet characters, Henson was involved in producing various film and animation insets during the first two seasons. During the first, Henson produced a series of counting films for the numbers 1 through 10, which always ended with a baker (voiced by Henson) falling down the stairs while carrying the featured number of desserts. For seasons two to seven, Henson worked on a variety of inserts for the numbers 2 through 12, in a number of different styles – including film (“Dollhouse”, “Number Three Ball Film”), stop-motion (“King of Eight”, “Queen of Six”), cut-out animation (“Eleven Cheer”), and computer animation (“Nobody Counts To 10″).

Concurrently with the first years of Sesame Street, Henson directed Tales From Muppetland, a short series of TV movie specials – in the form of comedic tellings of classic fairy tales – aimed at a young audience and hosted by Kermit the Frog. The series included Hey, Cinderella!The Frog Prince, and The Muppet Musicians of Bremen.

Expansion of audience

Concerned that the company was becoming typecast as a purveyor of solely children’s entertainment, Henson, Frank Oz, and his team targeted an adult audience with a series of sketches on the first season of the groundbreaking comedy series Saturday Night Live (SNL). Eleven “Dregs and Vestiges” sketches, set mostly in the Land of Gorch, aired between October 1975 and January 1976, with four additional appearances in March, April, May, and September. Henson recalled that “I saw what [creator Lorne Michaels] was going for and I really liked it and wanted to be a part of it, but somehow what we were trying to do and what his writers could write for it never gelled.”  The SNL writers never got comfortable writing for the characters, and frequently disparaged Henson’s creations; one, Michael O’Donoghue, memorably quipped, “I won’t write for felt.”

Around the time of Henson’s characters’ final appearances on SNL, he began developing two projects featuring the Muppets: a Broadway show and a weekly television series. In 1976 the series was initially rejected by the American networks who believed that Muppets would appeal to only a child audience. Henson was finally able to convince British impresario Lew Grade to finance the show, which would be shot in the United Kingdom and syndicated worldwide. That same year, he abandoned work on his Broadway show and moved his creative team to England, where The Muppet Show began filming. The Muppet Showfeatured Kermit as host, and a variety of other memorable characters, notably Miss PiggyGonzo the Great, and Fozzie Bear. Kermit’s role on The Muppet Show was often compared by his co-workers to Henson’s role in Muppet Productions: a shy, gentle boss with “a whim of steel” who “[ran] things as firmly as it is possible to run an explosion in a mattress factory.” Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, remembered that Henson “would never say he didn’t like something. He would just go ‘Hmm.’ That was famous. And if he liked it, he would say, ‘Lovely!’ “Henson himself recognized Kermit as an alter-ego, though he thought that Kermit was bolder than his creator; he once said of Kermit, “He can say things I hold back.”

Jim Henson was the performer for several well known characters, including Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, the  Swedish Chef, Waldorf, Link Hogthrob, and the Muppet Newsman.

Transition to the big screen

Three years after the start of The Muppet Show, the Muppets appeared in their first theatrical feature film, 1979′s The Muppet Movie. The film was both a critical and financial success;it made US$ 65.2 million domestically and (at the time) was the 61st highest-grossing film ever made.

A song from the film, ” he Rainbow Connection“, sung by Henson as Kermit, hit No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1981, a Henson-directed sequel, The Great Muppet Caper, followed, and Henson decided to end the still-popular Muppet Show to concentrate on making films. From time to time, the Muppet characters continued to appear in made-for-TV-movies and television specials.

In addition to his own puppetry projects, Henson also aided others in their work. In 1979, he was asked by the producers of the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back to aid make-up artist Stuart Freeborn in the creation and articulation of enigmatic Jedi Master Yoda. Henson suggested to Star Wars creator George Lucas that he use Frank Oz as the puppeteer and voice of Yoda. Oz voiced Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and each of the four subsequent Star Wars films, and the naturalistic, lifelike Yoda became one of the most popular characters of the Star Wars franchise. Lucas even lobbied unsuccessfully to have Oz nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.

In 1982, Henson founded the Jim Henson Foundation to promote and develop the art of puppetry in the United States. Around that time, he also began creating darker and more realistic fantasy films that did not feature the Muppets and displayed “a growing, brooding interest in mortality. ” With 1982′s The Dark Crystal, which he co-directed with Frank Oz and also co-wrote, Henson said he was “trying to go toward a sense of realism—toward a reality of creatures that are actually alive [where] it’s not so much a symbol of the thing, but you’re trying to [present] the thing itself. ” To provide a visual style distinct from the Muppets, the puppets in The Dark Crystal were based on conceptual artwork by Brian Froud.

The Dark Crystal was a financial and critical success, and, a year later, the Muppet-starring The Muppets Take Manhattan (directed by Frank Oz) did fair box-office business, grossing $25.5 million domestically and ranking as one of the top 40 films of 1984.  However, 1986′s Labyrinth, a Crystal-like fantasy that Henson directed by himself, was considered (in part due to its cost) a commercial disappointment. Despite some positive reviews (The New York Times called it “a fabulous film”), the commercial failure of Labyrinth demoralized Henson to the point that son Brian Henson remembered the time of its release as being “the closest I’ve seen him to turning in on himself and getting quite depressed.”  The film later became a cult classic. Henson and his wife also separated the same year, although they remained close for the rest of his life. Jane later said that Jim was so involved with his work that he had very little time to spend with her or their children.  All five of his children began working with Muppets at an early age, partly because, as Cheryl Henson remembered, “one of the best ways of being around him was to work with him”.

Later career

Though he was still engaged in creating children’s television, such as the successful eighties shows Fraggle Rock and the animated Muppet Babies, Henson continued to explore darker, mature themes with the folk tale and mythology-oriented show The Storyteller (1988). The Storyteller won an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program. The next year, Henson returned to television with The Jim Henson Hour, which mixed lighthearted Muppet fare with riskier material. The show was critically well-received and won Henson another Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Variety or Music Program, but was canceled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. Henson blamed its failure on NBC‘s constant rescheduling.

In late 1989, Henson entered into negotiations to sell his company to The Walt Disney Company for almost $150 million, hoping that, with Disney handling business matters, he would “be able to spend a lot more of my time on the creative side of things.” By 1990, he had completed production on a television special, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and a Disney World  (Later Disney California Adventure Park as well) attraction, Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D , and was developing film ideas and a television series titled Muppet High.

Natural History Project and Dinosaurs

In the late 1980s, Henson worked with illustrator/designer William Stout on a feature film starring animatronic dinosaurs with the working title of The Natural History Project. In 1991, news stories written around the premiere of T he Jim Henson Company- produced Dinosaurs sitcom highlighted the show’s connection to Henson. “Jim Henson dreamed up the show’s basic concept about three years ago,” said a New York Timesarticle in April 1991. “‘He wanted it to be a sitcom with a pretty standard structure, with the biggest differences being that it’s a family of dinosaurs and their society has this strange toxic life style,’ said [his son] Brian Henson. But until The Simpsons took off, said Alex Rockwell, a vice president of the Henson organization, ‘people thought it was a crazy idea.’” A New Yorker article said that Henson continued to work on a dinosaur project (presumably the Dinosaurs concept) until the “last months of his life.”

Illness and death

During production of his later projects, Henson began to experience flu-like symptoms. On May 4, 1990, Henson made an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, one of his last television appearances. At the time, he mentioned to his publicist that he was tired and had a sore throat, but felt that it would go away.

On May 12, 1990, Henson traveled to Ahoskie, North Carolina, with his daughter Cheryl to visit his father and stepmother. The next day, feeling tired and ill, he consulted a physician in North Carolina, who could find no evidence of pneumonia by physical examination and prescribed no treatment except aspirin. Henson returned to New York on an earlier flight and cancelled a Muppet recording session scheduled for May 14.

Henson’s wife Jane, from whom he was separated, came to visit and sat with him talking throughout the evening. At 2 am on May 15, Henson was having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He suggested to his wife that he might be dying, but did not want to bother going to the hospital which would have gone against his religion. She later told People Magazine that it was likely due to his desire not to be a bother to people.

Two hours later, Henson finally agreed to go to New York Hospital. By the time he was admitted at 4:58 am, he could no longer breathe on his own and had abscesses in his lungs. He was placed on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe, but his condition deteriorated rapidly into septic shock, despite aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics. After two cardiac arrests over 20 hours after he was admitted, Jim Henson died on the morning of May 16, 1990, at the age of 53.

The official cause of death was first reported as Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterial infection. Bacterial pneumonia is usually caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, an alpha-hemolytic species of Streptococcus. Henson’s cause of death, however, was organ failure resulting from Streptococcus pyogenes, a severeGroup A streptococcal infectionS. pyogenes is the bacterial species that causes strep throatscarlet fever, and rheumatic fever. It can also cause other infections.

On May 21, a public memorial service was held in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Another one was held on July 2 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As per Henson’s wishes, no one in attendance wore black, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band finished the service by performing “When the Saints Go Marching In“. Harry Belafonte sang “Turn the World Around,” a song he had debuted on The Muppet Show, as each member of the congregation waved, with a puppeteer’s rod, an individual, brightly-colored foam butterfly. Later, Big Bird (performed by Caroll Spinney) walked out onto the stage and sang Kermit the Frog’s signature song, “Bein’ Green“.[33] Henson was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery. His ashes were scattered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at his ranch.[34]

In the final minutes of the two-and-a-half hour service, six of the core Muppet performers sang, in their characters’ voices, a medley of Jim Henson’s favorite songs, culminating in a performance of “Just One Person” that began with Richard Hunt singing alone, as Scooter. “As each verse progressed,” Henson employee Chris Barry recalled, “each Muppeteer joined in with their own Muppets until the stage was filled with all the Muppet performers and their beloved characters.” The funeral was later described by LIFE as “an epic and almost unbearably moving event.” The image of a growing number of performers singing “Just One Person” was recreated for the 1990 television special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson and inspired screenwriter Richard Curtis, who attended the London service, to write the growing-orchestra wedding scene of his 2003 film Love Actually.

Henson’s sudden death resulted in an outpouring of public and professional affection. There have since been numerous tributes and dedications in his memory. Henson’s companies, which are now run by his children, continue to produce films and television shows.

Legacy

The Jim Henson Company and the Jim Henson Foundation continued after his death, producing new series and specials. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, founded by Henson, also continues to build creatures for a large number of other films and series (e.g. the science-fiction production Farscape, the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the movie MirrorMask) and is considered one of the most advanced and well respected creators of film creatures. His son Brian and daughter Lisa are currently the co-chairs and co-CEOs of the company; his daughter Cheryl is the president of the foundation. Steve Whitmire, a veteran member of the Muppet puppeteering crew, has assumed the roles of Kermit the Frog and Ernie, the most famous characters formerly played by Jim Henson.

On February 17, 2004, it was announced that the Muppets (excluding the Sesame Street characters, which are separately owned by Sesame Workshop) and the Bear in the Big Blue House properties had been sold by Henson’s heirs to The Walt Disney Company. However, as a result, Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children’s Television Workshop), also lost the rights to Kermit the Frog, and he could no longer appear on any new material on Sesame Street, although Kermit did later appear on the premiere of the show’s 40th season on November 10, 2009.

One of Henson’s last projects is a show attraction in Walt Disney World and Disneyland featuring the Muppets, called Muppet*Vision 3D, which opened in 1991, shortly after his death.

The Jim Henson Company retains the Creature Shop, as well as the rest of its film and television library including Fraggle RockFarscapeThe Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth.

In 2010 it was announced that the first major biography of Henson, sanctioned by the family and the Jim Henson Legacy, A true Legend.

Article by Wiki

David Leitner examines the latest crop of large-sensor HD cameras.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you know that a wave of exciting new large-sensor cameras is upon us, each more affordable than the next. You’re wondering, should I buy one of these things? Is now the time? The convenience of camera ownership, after all, is what drove low budget filmmakers into the hands of DV a decade ago, followed by HDV, P2 and the ubiquitous HDSLR. Before digital wizardry, choices were simpler: Super 8mm, 16mm or 35mm? Let’s briefly invoke this classic taxonomy to better understand the latest developments. Super 8, with its toy cameras, easy cartridges and endless depth of field, always spelled fun. Super 8 corresponds to today’s HD-enabled cell phones and Flip cameras — any device with a 1/4-inch sensor or smaller. (Go here to see an iPad 2 music video shot by “iPad-ographers”).

16mm meant business: news-gathering, documentary, industrials. 16mm is tantamount to today’s camcorders with 1/3-inch to 2/3-inch sensors. (New and improved 1/3-inch and 2/3-inch camcorders will arrive this April at the National Association of Broadcasters’ trade show in Las Vegas, although I’m not going to cover these economical workhorses in this large-sensor overview. Ditto 3D cameras.)

 

35mm was, and is, pure cinema. Its invention gave rise to motion pictures on the big screen. It directly inspires the new digital cameras described here, with large single sensors the size of standard Academy Aperture 35mm or Super 35.

While Kodak took 30 years to scale 35mm down to 16mm, CCD camcorders evolved in the opposite direction, starting with 1/3-inch and 2/3-inch sensors in the 1980s and culminating a quarter century later in Panavision’s Genesis and Sony’s F35, each boasting a Super 35-size CCD from Sony.

The imposing costs of these and other pioneering $100K+ large-sensor cameras provided an opening for the $17K RED One, with its game-changing Super 35-sized CMOS sensor, 4K image capture and PL mount lenses.

RED’s success — nay, celebrity — in turn set the stage for the viral popularity of $2.5K HDSLRs, whose images are often indistinguishable from their high-end antecedents. The modest theatrical success of indie films such as Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, shot with a Canon 7D HDSLR by the talented d.p. Jody Lee Lipes, is a case in point. On the big screen, it looks every inch a work of cinema.

Back where we started, at long last?

Not so fast. This is what Lipes had to say in a recent IFC interview about shooting Tiny Furniture with a Canon 7D: “The toughest thing about Tiny Furniture was the camera we were using. It’s not very forgiving, and it’s painful to operate. My longtime friend and AC quit the first day because it was so difficult to work with. In the end, the movie got a lot of attention because we were one of the first couple of features to work with that technology, but it’s not something I’m planning on doing again.”

In Filmmaker’s own coverage, focus puller Joe Anderson said, “Our fears about horizontal movement, however, were realized. When panning left or right too quickly, the camera displayed the very distracting ‘Jell-O Effect,’ a result of the camera’s CMOS sensor not scanning quickly enough.” And Technicolor colorist Sam Daley noted, “…beware of moiré, not just in clothing but in hair as well.”

What gives?

You may have heard, correctly, that digital SLRs acquired HD capability after large news organizations pressed Japanese manufacturers on the issue. Why shouldn’t photojournalists in faraway war zones, they insisted, double as videographers when needed?

It’s important to understand that HDSLRs are first and foremost still cameras. Design, ergonomics and functionality answer to the needs of still photographers. In order to use cine PL lenses, for instance, HDSLRs such as Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D must have their movable mirror extracted and a custom PL mount attached, the machining of which is expensive and voids warranties.

Viewfinder? Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D provide live view from a small, rear-facing LCD that can’t be angled or repositioned. You can attach an independent HD monitor or viewfinder by HDMI, but the live image doesn’t entirely fill the screen due to conflicts between HD’s 16:9 aspect ratio and the HDSLR’s native 3:2 aspect ratio. Only upon playback is a full 1920 x 1080 image available.

More troublesome is the fact that the 12-, 16-, 18- or 21-megapixel sensors in these HDSLRs must somehow contrive a 1920 x 1080 HD image made up of only two megapixels. But isn’t oversampling the original image a good thing, you ask? Yes, but that’s not what happens here. Instead of using an excess of active pixels to create a super-detailed subsample for HD use, HDSLRs do the opposite. They simply throw away every two or three horizontal lines of picture, which results in the 1080 horizontal lines needed for HD but also picture sampling at a reduced vertical frequency.

Is this a problem?

Video camera manufacturers such as Sony and Panasonic have recently awakened to a growing hue and cry for 35mm-size sensors in true video products: camcorders with real viewfinders, XLR audio inputs, traditional controls like gain and white balance and most critically, an item most people are hardly aware of: an effective optical low-pass filter (OLPF).

An OLPF is a glass filter inside every digital video camera, mounted just in front of its sensor (or sensors), which is why you never see it. Its job is to blur the very finest bits of image, only those details smaller than the gaps between the sensor’s individual photo sites — detail that can’t be resolved anyway. This technique curbs moiré and “false color” flickering in moving shots.

To prevent moiré in stills, the OLPF in an HDSLR is calibrated to blur image detail too fine for, say, its 21-megapixel sensor to resolve. But what filters out image detail too fine for the coarser 2-megapixel scan created for HD output? In HD images containing high-contrast horizontal lines or grids, the sad outcome is often ugly stair-step aliasing or a patch of strobing moiré that ruins the shot, as there is no fix in post. Brick buildings in daylight, anyone?

As I said, HDSLRs remain, at heart, still cameras.

The following, in order of street price (New York’s B&H), were mostly announced or sneak-peeked last year and are, or will be, widely available this year. Which is why 2011 is truly the year of the affordable large-sensor digital motion picture camera. Or, as Steve Jobs might say, the cinema camera for the rest of us.

 

These notes are introductory, not comprehensive. There’s plenty of info and opinion about these products on the Internet.

 

1) Sony NEX-VG10

$2,000 with 18-200mm zoom

Last May Sony announced the “world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens digital camera,” the NEX-5. It’s the size of a pack of cards, with a Super 35-size CMOS sensor (called APS-C size in the DSLR world), a new bayonet-style mount called E-mount and Full HD 1920 x 1080/60i (no 24p) capture to AVCHD using either Memory Stick PRO Duo or SDHC cards.

Primarily a still camera, the NEX-5 ($700 with 18-55mm zoom) looks like a tiny point-and-shoot with a big lens on it. Technically it shouldn’t be called an HDSLR because it lacks an optical reflex viewing system, but losing the movable mirror allowed Sony to reduce the E-mount’s flange focal distance (sensor surface to face of mount) to a shallow 18mm, which translates into a minimal camera body.

A few months later, in July, Sony announced the NEX-VG10, a compact palm-held camcorder — viewfinder in handle, LCD on side — with an oversize lens. Apart from the shape of the body, every specification is identical to the NEX-5 because on the inside it’s the very same camera.

In addition to the lightweight E-mount zoom bundled with each camera, Sony introduced a wide-angle 16mm E-mount lens and promised more lenses to come — all featuring auto focus, auto exposure and optical stabilization. Sony also released an Alpha-to-E-mount adaptor to permit use of Sony’s growing line of Alpha DSLR lenses, many made by Zeiss.

 

Because of E-mount’s shallow flange focal distance, conjuring third-party adapters for other SLR lens families is duck soup. Novoflex of Germany, for instance, already markets E-mount adapters for Canon FD, Contax/Yashica, Lexica, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Hasselblad and more.

I mentioned NEX-5 first for a reason. Both cameras share a big CMOS sensor that boasts 14.2 megapixels. How do they fashion a 2-megapixel HD image?

I found out the hard way filming an interview of Picasso biographer John Richardson in a Seattle auditorium in front of 2,000 people. In addition to a main camera, I placed an NEX-5 on stage right and a VG10 at the foot of the stage to capture additional angles. I just aimed them and let them run by themselves the entire time. Richardson wasn’t exactly wearing seersucker, but you’d never know it judging from the rainbow moiré that danced across his jacket.

The VG10 produced this result. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was the same camera as the NEX-5. Same OLPF optimized for stills, not HD.

All of the following large-sensor cameras incorporate OLPFs appropriate to their intended image formats. Overt moiré is not an issue with them.

2) Panasonic AG-AF100

 

$4,800, no lens

 

PANASONIC AG-AF100. PHOTO BY DAVID LEITNER.

 

At NAB in April 2010 Panasonic intriguedpassersby with a diminutive prototype under glass resembling an HVX200 with the lens sawed off. The glass box came off late last fall and AG-AF100s began to filter into real hands.

 

In a nutshell, the AF100 combines a CMOS sensor a tad smaller than Academy Aperture 35mm (known as the Olympus/Kodak Four Thirds standard in the DSLR world) with a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) bayonet mount that specifies a short 20mm flange focal distance akin to Sony’s E-mount.

 

Effective pixel count for 16:9 is 12.4 megapixels, similar to the 4:3 16.05 megapixel density of Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GH2 HDSLR. Again, I ask, why does a 2-megapixel HD image require such pixel density? A BBC crit of the AF100 explores the math here.

 

Panasonic’s 14-42mm and 14-140mm kit zooms for the GH2 provide auto iris, auto focus and optical image stabilization when used with the AF100. Novoflex makes MFT adapters for the same SLR lens groups as their E-mount adapters, while Micro Four Thirds-to-PL mount adapters are available from Hot Rod Cameras and Solid Camera.

 

The AF100 records to AVCCAM, Panasonic’s pro nickname for AVCHD (technically known as MPEG-4 AVC/H.264), using SDHC and greater-capacity SDXC cards. There are two slots for relay recording. All HD frame rates are supported including 24p, with variable frame rates up to 60p for slo-mo effects.

 

Nice touches include a generous pixel-free LCoS color viewfinder, ND filter dial, simultaneous HDMI and HD-SDI outputs (both 8-bit uncompressed) and, for on-location flexibility, a removable handle and side grip with three ¼-20 threaded holes for attaching stuff.

3) Sony NEX-FS100

$5,850, no lens

Announced March 23, Sony again combines E-mount and AVCHD—here called NXCAM, Sony’s pro nickname for AVCHD—into an odd-duck camera the size — and what feels like weight — of a short stack of CD jewel cases piled eight high.

SONY NEX-FS100 NXCAM. PHOTO BY DAVID LEITNER.

Yes, picking up the FS100, the first thing that strikes you is how light it is: a skin of high-impact plastic over a rigid magnesium skeleton, a mere 2lbs., 4 oz. There is no built-in viewfinder. The FS100 steals a page from Sony’s EX3 and latches a light viewing tube to its top-mounted LCD. Long-lasting batteries are the same used in Sony’s Z1, Z5, Z7 series and contribute but a smidgen to the scales.

The sensor is a Super 35-size CMOS with 1920 x 1080 pixels, which Sony rates at ISO 800. All HD frame rates are supported, including variable 1-60 fps in 60p mode. The FS100’s 1080/60p mode, incidentally, cracks AVCHD’s 24mbps ceiling, reaching for 28mbps as needed. I don’t know the secret sauce in the FS100’s digital signal processing, but when I shoot at 18db, I don’t see noise.

Recording is to Memory Stick or SDHC card (single slot accepts either) and/or a 128GB flash-memory solid-state drive called FMU, which captures over 10 hours at the highest AVCHD rate. What’s more, the FS100 can dual-record, sending identical, redundant files to both Memory Stick/SDHC and FMU at the same time for instant back-up. Although the FS100 lacks HD-SDI output, 8-bit uncompressed HD is nevertheless available via HDMI, and Sony has stretched the HDMI standard to enable either RGB 4:4:4 or component 4:2:2, both with timecode (an HDMI first).

The FMU, the size of a Mini DV jewel box, slots into FS100’s side beneath the handgrip. Like Panasonic’s AF100, the handgrip can come off, as well as the top handle and mic holder, revealing useful 1/4-20 threaded holes. Turn the FS100 over and you find a riot of additional holes, six 1/4-20s and two 3/8-inch.

Having used Nikon, Sony E-mount and Alpha lenses on this camera, I’m partial to Zeiss Alpha lenses and Picture Profiles 5 & 6, which mimic telecine transfers of color negative and color print respectively.

 

4) Sony PMW-F3

$13,300, no lens

$19K with Sony PL mount 35mm, 50mm & 85mm lenses

Sneak-peeked à la Panasonic’s AF100 a year ago at NAB, this beefy camcorder (like a Handycam on steroids) finally showed up in February and has since taken off like a rocket. Featuring the same Super 35 CMOS sensor as the NEX-FS100 (true), it incorporates signal processing from its CineAlta big sisters, the F23 and F35, and 35mbps MPEG-2 recording to SxS cards from little sister, XDCAM EX. Uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 HD, up to 60p, is available from Dual Link HD-SDI connectors at the rear.

Physically, the F3 is a welterweight, with a body slightly more than 5 pounds. It takes the same small batteries as the EX1 and EX3 and can operate three hours on a charge. PL and other mounts are attached using the wide breech-lock mount borrowed from Sony’s EX3 (larger throat than BNCR or Panavision). Interestingly, Sony’s F3 kit lenses, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm — all T/2.0 — despite wide barrels (see photo of me holding camera) are similarly light, making for an unexpectedly light combination, one that can be handheld in front of the body, eye to the viewfinder, like a Handycam longer than expected.

These three Sony PL mount primes (more are planned) communicate with the F3 in sending f/stop and focus information to the viewfinder like a smaller camcorder would. Hosting two sets of gold contacts in its PL mount, the F3 also supports Cooke’s /i Technology and ARRI’s similar LDS technology for displaying and recording lens metadata.

 

SONY F3. PHOTO BY STEVEN ROBINSON.

The F3 is intended as a platform for future developments. At present it can send uncompressed 4:2:2 via HD-SDI to a Sony HDCAM SR recorder; soon Sony will introduce an onboard 1TB solid-state drive the size on an iPhone that can replace the HDCAM SR recorder. F3 firmware upgrades obtained via the Internet will extend the F3’s value, for instance, soon adding 10-bit RGB 4:4:4 and S-LOG output (at a price north of $3K). And the F3’s unique 3D-LINK option, when activated, will permit two F3s connected by a 10-pin cable to be operated in exact synchrony by a single remote control.

 

5) RED Epic-M

$58K, pre-production build

Like the coming of the messiah, predicted each year. At least since first announced at NAB 2008. Without revisiting the sordid details, including boasts, technical woes, and long silences, suffice it to say, at long last, that hand-assembled 5K Epics, reportedly thirty of them, are on hand in New Zealand for Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema’s $500 million, two-film 3D production of The Hobbit, which began March 20th.

For us mere mortals, RED’s website says “coming soon,” with no pricing or availability. However it’s been reported that a hundred pre-production Epic-M kits are being made available to early adopters, a $58K package that includes a titanium PL mount, small new RED Bomb viewfinder, 5-in. LCD touchscreen monitor, REDMOTE wireless controller, and four 128GB REDMAG solid-state drives (about 30 minutes each of compressed 5K).

If you’re not a RED fanboy, you’re likely unaware that Epic is the size and shape of a Mamiya medium-format camera, a virtual Transformer toy with countless modular attachments, which RED intends as a future platform for larger sensor sizes and resolutions. The first iteration, the one Jackson is using, contains a 30mm x 15mm “14 Megapixel Mysterium-X” CMOS sensor with native 2:1 aspect ratio and frame rate up to 120 fps. Did I mention Epic was conceived both as a still and motion picture camera?

Not to worry. RED, which trail-blazed 4K capture, will not be throwing away lines of detail. In fact Epic introduces a High Dynamic Range trick found also in ARRI’s Alexa (below), in which a second, very fast exposure is captured after each ordinary frame. Due to the brevity of exposure, 2-6 six stops of additional highlight detail are restored when the normal and fast-exposure frames are joined later in post.

RED EPIC. PHOTO BY DAVID LEITNER.

I suspect Jackson will use a Super 35-sized portion of Epic’s sensor for basic 4K production and the full sensor for plates and effects. Come to think of it, that could turn out to be the whole movie.

 

6) ARRI Alexa

$80K MSRP, with electronic viewfinder, five 32GB SxS cards, batteries not included

OK, a bit more expensive than the 45K euros I reported from NAB 2010, but as I said in my detailed profile of Alexa in the Fall 2010 issue of Filmmaker, “A radically new [digital] era calls for nothing less than the reinvention of the motion picture camera, and who better than the oldest extant [motion picture] camera manufacturer…?”

I stand by this insight. The past six months have borne out the superiority of ARRI’s third-generation digital cinema camera, which ingeniously combines an ALEV III Super 35 CMOS sensor for true 3.5K oversampling of 2K, direct recording of Apple ProRes 422 or 4444 to Sony SxS cards and single or dual-link HD-SDI output of uncompressed HD or RAW.

Scorsese liked Alexa’s look so much, he used two of them in last year’s London production of Hugo Cabret, shot in 3D by Robert Richardson.

 

7) Aaton Delta-Penelope

Similar in cost to ARRI Alexa, per Aaton

Like Epic, Aaton’s digital debut is years in the making. But with a storied history of genius camera design, never count out Aaton. They think differently.

At NAB this year Aaton unveils a production model of Delta-Penelope — a Penelope 35mm film camera with its cassette-style film magazine replaced by a Delta “digital back.” Built into the digital back are a Super 35 Dalsa CCD for “beyond 4K” picture detail and a slide-in DeltaPack (four solid-state drives joined together) for storing uncompressed 16-bit RAW. Uncompressed 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 HD are on tap via HD-SDI, while QuickTime HD proxies for editing are written to an SDHC card.

Unique to this design are retention of Penelope’s optical viewfinder and famous ergonomics, a four-second boot up, 3-6 hours power on twin Li-ion batteries and a body that can be switched between 35mm color negative and RAW DPX files.

One more thing: no menu trees. For some owner-operators, justification alone for the high lust factor.

 

8) Sony 8K Cineaste camera

Not a product, not yet.

Perhaps this camera doesn’t belong here — not widely available this year — but I have seen a functioning version in Sony’s R&D labs in Atsugi, Japan, and it loudly signals the future. No line skipping here either, just real-time de-Bayering and subsampling to enable instantaneous 4K output and display. Something to redeem those thousands of Sony 4K SXRD projectors already installed in U.S. commercial theaters?

A 4K image is 4096 x 2160 pixels, about four times as detailed as a 1920 x 1080 image. The 8K camera’s 20.4 megapixel CMOS sensor is Super 35 in size, with diamond-shaped pixels arranged in an 8K x 2K grid. Oversampling by design — no 8K image is possible — the camera captures 16-bit RAW images at frame rates up to 120 fps. (A Zeiss Ultra Prime never looked so good.)

Sony will soon market an 8K CineAlta camera along with HDCAM SR decks, large-capacity solid-state drives and 4K LCD monitors as “Sony Digital Cinema 4K.” Consumer 4K cameras will inevitably follow. You heard it here first.

 

The take-away from this imminent flood of large-sensor cameras?

1) Super 35 is the common image size.

2) A combined universe of cine and SLR lenses awaits us.

3) Low noise and vastly superior low-light performance is the norm, regardless of price.

4) F-stops of 11, 16, 22 are no longer illegal. No longer pinholes to be avoided when using 2/3-inch or smaller sensors. Lens iris openings for the Super 35 format are wider in diameter, all but eliminating softening from diffraction.

Exciting developments that will surely transform the look of independent films to come.

 

Article by Filmmakermagazine

 

 

 

 Last year at a summit meeting of the independent film community called “The Conversation,” Ira Deutchman was compelled to propose, “Filmmaking has never been a business…it’s a hobby.” Sentiments like this are not uncommon after the hardships filmmakers have faced in recent years, the multiple threats to our business models that accompanied both technological change and the global economic crisis. In fact, many filmmakers have been forced to re-evaluate the economic viability of their entire enterprises.

Soul-searching in tough times is important, but our community must be extremely careful with our language and avoid using words like “hobby.” Why? Because the IRS is listening! If you are deducting filmmaking expenses from other sources of income on your tax returns, then you must identify your filmmaking as a profit business and not a hobby.

Documentary filmmakers have become especially vulnerable to the perception that they are engaged in a hobby rather than an activity for profit. Because development takes so long and revenue sources are so difficult to sustain, filmmakers often endure losses over many years. They persevere because they become so passionate about their subject matter and the need to spread their message to the world that generating a profit may not seem primary.

Unfortunately the unfair and incorrect perception that documentary filmmakers are not interested in profit has resulted in unsettling scrutiny of our industry by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. In a case now in U.S Tax Court in Arizona, the IRS has been asked to demonstrate whether or not the primary purpose of documentary filmmaking in general is “to educate and to expose” and is thus “an activity not engaged in for profit.”

This may sound absurd, but it is very serious. If the IRS wins their case against Arizona filmmaker Lee Storey (Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story), documentary filmmakers may no longer be permitted to deduct expenses associated with making their films from other sources of income. Furthermore, filmmakers who have already deducted these expenses may be faced with potentially ruinous audits.

Storey is a practicing attorney in Arizona who made her debut feature after she learned that her husband was secretly a former member of the singing phenomenon Up With People. According toLA Weekly, Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story “is a withering critique of the organization’s religious cult roots [and] right-wing political subtext” while still being respectful of the fact that members found “a way to affect positive, even progressive, change in the world.” The award-winning movie screened to enthusiastic reviews at Docuweeks, Slamdance, Full Frame, Big Sky, Michael Moore’s Traverse City fest and the Florida Film Festival, among others.

In 2010, the IRS audited Storey. She had set up an LLC for her filmmaking, but the IRS determined that her filmmaking activity was not engaged in a profit-making enterprise. As a result, business deductions associated with her film over three years were disallowed. The IRS determined that she owed the government more than $300,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest. She has appealed and is now in an expensive, drawn-out battle to demonstrate the profit motive, not only of her own filmmaking activity, but that of all documentary filmmakers.

In recent weeks, the documentary community has mobilized, realizing the devastating potential of Storey’s case. My own experience with a recent IRS audit makes me know that this threat is all too real.

The business of nonfiction filmmaking in the U.S. has become ever more competitive, speculative and entrepreneurial. Often even veteran filmmakers are expected to have significant portions of their films completed to demonstrate merit before funders will participate. As a result many filmmakers are investing substantial amounts of their own money to get their films off the ground.

This investment can stretch over many years as the project develops. During this time costs absorb revenue so there is little opportunity to profit until the project is complete and sales can be made. Deducting losses during the development period from other sources of income to reduce personal income tax can help ease the financial burden facing independent filmmakers.

The IRS has no problem with a taxpayer deducting expenses for an activity from the income of that activity, even when the activity is considered a “hobby.” However, when expenses from that activity create losses that offset other sources of income (such as income from a “day job”), the IRS requires that the taxpayer be able to demonstrate that it is “an activity engaged in for profit.”

Last year, the IRS audited my 2007 and 2008 tax returns. After conducting two arduous interviews lasting many hours each and combing through my meticulously well-documented financial records, the IRS revenue agent determined that my own documentary film business was “an activity not engaged in for profit.” This is the euphemism the IRS uses for “hobby.” Although he cited several factors, many years of losses provided the primary basis for his determination.

The agent’s report disallowed all deductions that resulted in losses for 2007 and 2008. I was going to owe up to $80,000 in back taxes and penalties to the U.S. and New York State governments. Moreover, this meant I would not be able to deduct most of my business expenses for 2009 and 2010. I was not only being put out of business, my personal financial well-being was threatened.

I was outraged. Filmmaking was my pasttime? Clearly, the agent had no idea how much work goes into making an independent film. I did my best to describe the grueling shoots in far away places, the all-night edits, the endless fundraising and marketing, and the constant efforts to sell, sell, sell. Did he really think I had no interest in making money?

My entreaties had no effect. The agent had made up his mind. He insisted that my filmmaking was an activity not engaged in for profit and my tax deductions over the years were, therefore, not legitimate. I owed the IRS big-time.

As a matter of survival, I had to become an expert on the IRS “hobby loss rule,” consulting with lawyers and accountants and doing my own research to challenge the revenue agent’s determination. Otherwise I would not be making independent films again.

Stuart Wolff, a tax preparer who works with many independent artists in New York, advised me that I needed to better separate my filmmaking income from my personal income. Years ago, I had moved away from a Sole Proprietorship, which provides almost no separation. A C-Corporation is designed for large companies and does not allow the flow-through of losses and profits to a personal tax return. The best choice for independent filmmakers is either a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or an S-Corporation.

Wolff recommended that I dissolve my Limited Liability Company (LLC) and set up an S-Corporation. “Technically, an LLC is a separate entity, but it gets filed under your personal tax return using a Schedule C. So you risk the perception that the business is not separate from your personal activity.” He explained that an S-Corporation requires a completely separate tax return. Of course, filing an additional return costs more money if you are paying a tax preparer, and there are no guarantees that the IRS will not also audit an S-Corporation. But the S-Corporation has the advantage that you can still carry over business losses and profits to your personal tax return, while more clearly delineating your business activity with a separate filing.

Creating a more defined separate business entity with an S-Corporation might help me for the future, but not for the returns I filed as an LLC that were now being audited. For more help, I turned to Richard C. Antonelli, a tax lawyer with offices in New Jersey and New York. Now in private practice, Antonelli spent 15 years working for the IRS as a revenue agent, appeals officer and then as an attorney litigating cases in tax court.

“It’s a common misperception that multiple years of losses automatically indicate that your activity is a hobby rather than a business,” Antonelli told me. “In fact, the IRS guidelines focus on the inverse: if your business is profitable three out of five years, then you have what’s called “safe harbor,” a presumption by the IRS that your business is an activity engaged in for profit, even though you may have had some years of losses.”

But what if I can’t demonstrate even that much profitability, just losses in the past five years? Is my case hopeless?

“Not at all,” Antonelli assured me. “In fact the IRS guidelines for revenue agents specifically state that not meeting the presumption rule cannot be the sole basis for disallowing losses. Determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis using nine factors.”

I searched online for the IRS guidelines and became an expert on the nine factors used to decide “whether a taxpayer operates an activity with an actual and honest profit motive”:

• the manner in which the taxpayer carried on the activity,

• the expertise of the taxpayer or his or her advisers,

• the time and effort expended by the taxpayer in carrying on the activity,

• the expectation that the assets used in the activity may appreciate in value,

• the success of the taxpayer in carrying on other similar or dissimilar activities,

• the taxpayer’s history of income or loss with respect to the activity,

• the amount of occasional profits, if any, which are earned,

• the financial status of the taxpayer, and

elements of personal pleasure or recreation

 

As I researched, I became reassured. When applied to my filmmaking, these factors clearly indicated that mine was “an activity engaged in for profit.” I kept careful records, had expert advisors, spent more time making my own films than at my day job, etc. Also reassuring was the fact that no single factor or combination of factors was conclusive. The IRS guidelines gave the example that “if five factors say the activity is not for profit, but four are on the profit side, the activity still could be determined to be engaged in for profit.” Although based on facts, a determination was essentially subjective.

Antonelli pointed out that the IRS gives much recourse to taxpayers not in agreement with a revenue agent’s report: “The first step is to set up a meeting with the agent’s supervisor. If the supervisor doesn’t see it your way, then we appeal. The appeal may take up to a year. And if an appeal is not successful, we take the case to tax court. But hopefully it doesn’t go that far.”

No kidding! That would be an expensive, exhausting ordeal. My goal was to win right out of the gate and convince our revenue agent’s supervisor.

Armed with my new understanding of the law, I sat down with my office to make our case. We created an exhaustively documented report of more than 50 pages, using the nine factors as guidelines to substantiate with facts why our business was an activity engaged in for profit. I read the opening summary out loud at the meeting with the revenue agent’s supervisor and my tax preparer, Stuart Wolff.

The supervisor was sympathetic and our report was hard to refute. However, she was not completely convinced. After an impressive presentation of all the accoutrements of our profession, with an emphasis on the moneymaking efforts, she smiled and commented casually, “This is great. You like making films don’t you?” “Of course I do,” I responded, relieved at making a more personal connection. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Wolff gave me a sharp look and I realized with dread that I had made a potentially fatal error. The last of the factors is “elements of personal pleasure or recreation.” I changed tone immediately, “But sometimes I hate how difficult it can be — shoots that go on indefinitely, wading through hundreds of hours of footage can be sheer drudgery, the pressure of 20-hour editing sessions to make a deadline has adverse effects on my health and the travel can be wearing, weeks away from friends and family. It’s a really tough job.”

I had regained my footing and shifted direction. “But the sacrifice is worth it because the potential pay off is huge. My friends Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern just grossed close to $3 million with their movie about Joan Rivers, A Piece of Work. Morgan Spurlock had no idea Super Size Me was going to be such a huge hit when he started making films. And look at Michael Moore! His documentaries have earned close to $200 million at the box office. I’ve leaned my lesson. My next film is my most commercial project yet.  It could be the next documentary blockbuster!”

Phew — that was more what she wanted to hear. I was indirectly referencing what I nicknamed the “wildcat oil well principle,” based on an example the IRS uses to illustrate this guideline: “…an opportunity to earn a substantial ultimate profit in a highly speculative venture is ordinarily sufficient to indicate that the activity is engaged in for profit even though losses or only occasional small profits are actually generated.”

What better description of the film industry? Even for the major studios, it’s the occasional blockbuster that earns “substantial ultimate profit” and sustains the vast majority of films, which are financial failures. My model was similar except that as an independent, I could make only one film at a time, over the course of several years. When that blockbuster arrives, however, it will justify all the money losers in my “highly speculative venture.”

The supervisor was still concerned about the many years of losses. However, our report, the description of the film industry business model and my honest interest in making a profit appeared to be convincing. Several weeks later, I received notification that the original revenue agent’s determination had been overturned. I was, in fact, engaged in an activity for profit. My business expenses would be allowed and I owed only a minor amount in back taxes. I had dodged a devastating bullet.

Like any filmmaker, I was called upon by the IRS to prove the profit motive of my individual film practice. Storey’s case in Arizona, however, has much broader implications for all documentary filmmakers.

In Storey’s case, the U.S Tax Court in Arizona is ruling not just on whether an individual filmmaker is engaged in an activity for profit. Judge Diane Kroupa has decided to rule on whether documentary filmmaking in general can be compatible with a profit motive when its primary purpose is “to educate and to expose.”

Certainly many of us can think of enterprises in which the main mission is “to educate and to expose,” while still making a profit. Regardless, the U.S Tax Court in Arizona seems determined to target aggressively all documentary filmmaking as an activity not engaged in for profit. If this opinion is memorialized in a ruling against Storey, documentary filmmakers may no longer be able to deduct business expenses associated with filmmaking from other sources of income. It is very likely I would have lost my case if this precedent had been set prior to my audit.

Even more disturbing, if Storey loses her case, is the possibility that documentary filmmaking in general could become a “red flag” for IRS agents. The precedent could provide incentive for individual IRS agents to audit any documentary filmmaker who has ever reported losses going back three years (or more, depending on the circumstances). This could produce a profoundly destabilizing outcome for the documentary community. Even a successful defense is costly, distracting and intimidating.

Storey insists that she was very motivated by potential profit from the project’s inception:  “The movie has a built-in target of 20,000 Up With People alumni, performing to 3,600 worldwide communities, 20 million viewers, and staying in 450,000 host families, not to mention annual hoopla over their four Super Bowl halftime shows. There is a huge, clearly defined core audience that any filmmaker would envy.” Still the IRS is claiming there was no profit motive in the making of Smile ’Til It Hurts.

Like mine, Storey’s case is strong for most of the nine criteria. So the IRS has focused on the final one, “elements of personal pleasure or recreation.” Regarding her filmmaking, Storey admits, “Yep, I love it and the IRS is using clips of me on You Tube saying how much I enjoy making films. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work or that I love every aspect of documentary filmmaking. I told them at trial that I also love my law job, which I do! Why can’t you like what you are doing and make money too?”

The sad irony is that the IRS’s case against Storey may make it impossible for her to profit from her movie. In fact, it could force her into personal bankruptcy. “I’ve spent a fortune because the IRS made me go to trial. And it isn’t over. There may be appeals, and the IRS may come after me for 2009 and 2010 also even if I win. Why? The IRS attorney here in Arizona said: ‘Because we can.’”

Aware of the broad implications of Storey’s case, The International Documentary Association (IDA) has assembled a coalition of organizations and prominent individual filmmakers to provide advocacy. Michael Lumpkin, executive director of the IDA, recently posted on the IDA website:

To support Storey, IDA has filed an amicus brief in the case urging the U.S. Tax Court to recognize that the production of a documentary film is, at its core, a “for profit” business such that business expenses are deductible for tax purposes.

 

By doing so we hope to ensure that all filmmakers receive the respect they deserve, and that the many sacrifices they make in the pursuit of their art and livelihood will not be made in vain.”

Entertainment attorney Michael Donaldson works on a pro bono basis with the IDA on its many advocacy efforts and filed the brief on their behalf. According to Donaldson, “The Storey case is one that could have ripple effects across the entire independent film community, which is why we stepped in.”

A glimmer of good news is that if Storey wins her case, it could set a precedent that works in favor of our industry. This has made Storey a de-facto defender of all documentary filmmakers. To support her cause, you can visit smiletilithurts.com and contribute to Storey’s legal defense fund or buy a DVD of her film.

So why is the IRS targeting documentary filmmakers so aggressively, while huge corporations seem to get a pass? It’s not like we have a whole pile of money to hand over. Conspiracy theorists might look with raised eyebrows at this issue alongside other legal controversies coming out of Arizona. Perhaps documentary filmmaking is being targeted precisely because the primary mission assigned to it by Judge Kroupa, “to educate and to expose,” is threatening to those in power.

But Antonelli offers a more mundane explanation. “When the IRS becomes aware of possible tax abuses in certain industries, whether it’s through their own audits or from third party information, they will focus on that industry to generate revenue and to encourage compliance.” The problem is that taxpayers who do not abuse the system get caught in this web. Moreover, those with limited resources who cannot afford proper representation may become easy targets. As Antonelli points out, “Unfortunately, there are some in the IRS who will take advantage of the pro se [without an attorney] taxpayer.”

On the other hand, there may be an upside to all of this. My audit focused my office’s attention on how we run our business. As a result, our bookkeeping improved and we became more aware of how we spend our time. We streamlined communication, implemented more professional practices, such as making revenue projections, and we examined expenditures more carefully and made efforts to reduce them. New projects are now evaluated on their likelihood to profit, not only on how passionate we feel about them. The IRS ordeal may force documentary business models like mine to mature.

Perhaps it is even possible that we, as a community, will look back on this moment and decide that the IRS has done documentary filmmaking a major service. The industry expectation that documentary filmmakers are willing, even happy, to accept major, ongoing financial losses to get our films made and seen has become institutionalized in recent years. The IRS has now given us all official notice that this model is not sustainable and will be challenged aggressively. In order to maintain a steady stream of high-quality content, our industry will be forced to create a new paradigm that compensates filmmakers fairly so that we have reasonable expectations of profiting from our work. With the IRS looking over our shoulders, filmmakers will need to insist on this.

The alternative is that many of these valuable films will cease being made. It will no longer be viable for independent documentary filmmakers to initiate and sustain them speculatively with personal finances. And if that is the outcome, we will all be the poorer for it.

At the very least, never again should any of us refer to our filmmaking as a hobby.

Paul Devlin’s next film is a romantic music-comedy titled Super Star Dumb. Details at devlinpix.com

Article by FILMMAKER 

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