Charlie Rose

Given the role of American television globally, we often overlook the differences between the experience of television in the US and Europe.

Particularly when it comes to public television and the values and styles employed.

To an American, UK and Irish public broadcasters put out a lot of shows which look like they belong on a private network, shows with little or no merit, playing to the lowest common denominator. Even the shows with an obvious public remit, there’s a lot of gloss and packaging involved, they compete against private networks using public money, making the networks look impoverished and low-end.

It’s quite different in America. Often the best output of PBS is very plain and simple.

One of the mainstays in New York living is checking into Charlie Rose and who he’s interviewing each evening. He employs a simple relaxed style, a minimal studio, no audience, sofas or graphic overlays, this is a format which permits serious conversation with some of the most interesting people in the arts, politics, science and current issues.

The good news is a lot of the content is now available to a wider audience, they’ve put 3,600 hours of interviews online at his website Charlie Rose. It’s well worth a peruse, you only pay for a downloaded version and you can watch them for free on the site. It's going to be one of my favourite places to check in for informed commentary as the upcoming Presidential campaign unfolds.

I include a sample interview here with Fred Rogers, another mainstay of public television in the US. His show is the opposite of what you might expect from the likes of Barney, say. A show where he talks straight to camera, treating kids, very young kids, with a lot of honest respect. Europe would be too cynical for this, but it works a charm in the USA.

The man is a wonder and he’s done some pretty impressive work over the years not least of which was an influential address to the Senate commission on public broadcasting for children.

I’ve remembered this interview for one moment when Fred tells Charlie that he too is special and... well... it’s a moment.

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The future of film financing?

Cinematech recently did some interesting coverage of current projects out there seeking finance online, Howard Dean style.

It’s too easy to view these projects a little harshly, and no doubt some of them may be finding finance difficult for a reason. But generally I think that would be too simple. Film financing is such a complex problem, this approach has many benefits.

This could suit some documentaries really well. A lot of documentary makers have unique problems, their projects typically develop over years and they progress through actually shooting stuff, as opposed to pitching and refining scripts and creative packages. They go and gather material, often tons of it, offering them good opportunities for disseminating it in new ways.

I can see documentary makers building rich and illuminating web presences which track their projects, offering their individual backers an ongoing relationship and insight into it’s progress.

That would certainly work well with political or advocacy style projects which highlight issues and can attract an audience who care about the issue.

Drama Features
Even excellent drama projects face many hurdles. I remember during financing our first feature the Coen brother’s finance disintegrated. It happens all the time in film no matter where you are on the Hollywood food chain.

It’s because the chunks involved are just so big. The pressure is always on, you are exposed to the vagaries of that particular source of finance. If something goes awry, a whole side of your film’s finance falls away and the entire structure can collapse.

And as a result people enter it cautiously. The financiers are exposed to a high level and are cautious as a result, the film makers are exposed to their nervousness.

Even getting the initial finance is unpredictable. In the US, it’s usually the ‘guy’, whoever it is at the top of the food chain, and whether he ‘gets it’. ‘yeah, I get it’ can be a green light in the US of A. Over in the EU, it’s about panels and committees, equally unpredictable, their version of ‘I get it’ is usually an avalanche of required documentation, combined with panel members who aren’t exposed but nonetheless whose opinion is taken on board. Go figure that one out. Gimme the ‘I get it’ guy any day.

We had eight sources of finance in our film, the legal documentation totalled over 2000 pages. A part of me is wondering if I’d prefer 2000 sources of finance each with the same 1 page contract.

And if one or two go wobbly, would it all fall apart?

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Medieval helpdesk

Oh so good....


Medieval Helpdesk

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The Angelus

The Angelus
A short film parodying the Angelus as portrayed on RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster. Backed by The Irish Film Board's Short Shorts Scheme. A Janey Pictures production.
Formats available: Quicktime (.mov), Flash Video (.flv)
Tags:drama, parody, short, film, irish

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Come To

A short film by Marian Quinn

A story about Kathy Farrell, an Irishwoman living in New York. A series of stills trace out this woman’s life. A series of scenes trace out her stay in hospital. A stationary camera takes her point of view throughout. In a coma, she lies mute, fading in and out of consciousness as her inept and fussing family or drunken and concerned friends come in and visit, culminating with the visit of her abusive boyfriend.

Format: 16mm colour Sound: Optical Mono Duration: 15 minutes. Festivals include: New Irish Shorts - New York / Film Fleadh - Galway / Raindance - London / Kino Irish Festival - Manchester. A Janey Pictures Production
Formats available: Quicktime (.mov), Flash Video (.flv)
Tags:short, film, drama, woman, drama

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Look to the music industry for pointers

People often talk about business and it’s quick adoption of the IBM PC.  Depends on the business really, just as the Mac started to invent a whole industry around desktop publishing, one of the more interesting early computer platforms, the Atari ST, was quickly adopted by the burgeoning digital music industry.  CuBase and Logic originated on the platform and small studios were built around them.

People often talk about digital music, but the fact is All Music Is Digital now, from folk through classical and every which way in between.    Music is recorded digitally, created digitally, mixed and produced digitally, distributed and consumed digitally.

Other media have tracked music and it’s steady submergence in the digital realm by a couple of years.   The widespread adoption of the iPod, not the first digital music player, completed the circle.  Video is about to do the same.

We have had a steady progression away from film to ever better video formats, analog to DV and now HD.   Acquisition has made the transition, editing and mixing is already there.  Broadcasting is moving to digital, cinema transmission is too.

When we see video on the web, it is for me, digital production finding its home.

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