Part of a series of posts about great film, web, or design artists and their work abuzz online and in-person.
Always a fan of film websites that rock the boat. Shudder is one: a paid, online video platform that focuses collections of films into horror-specific genres, like “alien intruders,” “romantic bloodsuckers,” and “zombie jamboree.”
The site itself is actually a spin-off of Dramafever, a Korean-based site that focuses on Korean dramas and Latin American telenovelas — just with a little less creative copywriting involved.
The True Detective season 2 opening credits are pretty impressive visuals, crafted by Patrick Clair and the folks at Elastic. KPCC’s John Horn recently interviewed Clair for the radio program “The Frame,” which cites aerial photographer David Maisel as a key influence for some of the intro. Wired Magazine’s write-up also cites photographer Jake Sargeant.
Careful when you claim “first.” Jameson’s ad agency, 360i, got some press for a Facebook and Instagram “first” video ad that gives off a 3D look. But, as one astute commenter noted, they weren’t “first.” There’s already a whole Reddit for these things, which are coined split-depth GIFs. Here’s one that’s more well crafted for example made by a fan, ScottInLNK:
Since the jumpstart to crowdfunding — whether the platform of choice is Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon, Seed & Spark, or the old fashioned way with cash and check — asking for money to produce your project has only become harder. There’s more peer competition and funder fatigue from the market being so saturated. That means it’s make-or-break to pitch clearly, quickly, and convincingly, especially if it’s all sitting online. Even if you’re just passing the hat (or flooding the social feed?) with friends and family, it’s important to knock it out the park that what you’re working on creates value.
At FWD:labs, we have experienced projects that have successfully funded and completely failed. What’s clear is that ones with passion, professionalism, and persistence all have a much better chance of reaching or exceeding their goal. There’s even research that’s been done to show that netting a certain percentage right out of the gate ensures a likelihood of making the goal. This makes the pitch video all the more important.
Instead of putting everything in the video — like who’s attached and what equipment you want to use, which all could change by the way — here are some tips for starting short and sweet. Remember, you’ll want to send out reminders anyway with your updates, which is the best way to go into more detail and share incremental progress.
Start with the Kickstarter standard, e.g. who you are and what you do — in one sentence. Cut to the chase of what the fundraising is toward, e.g. what you’re making — like a logline framed with emotional specs or features. Give a little context to provide legitimacy, e.g. what you’ve done.
Highlight why you’re making this project and how it solves a problem. Mention a competitor or trend that people can relate to, then why the world need you instead (or in addition) to have your project, e.g. “these other kinds of films have X, but we will disrupt all that with Y.” Stress the simplicity to help or enjoy the project, e.g. “you don’t need to in the industry to help.” Provide some context (and visuals for cutaways), e.g. “we’re working on X, Y, Z now and A, B, C can start once we’re funded.”
Share what’s unique about the project’s values or features, e.g. “we believe in X, Y, and Z” or “we have A, B, and C.” Give an example of each of at least three points, which could be illustrated with b-roll.
Briefly discuss the budget in a clear and transparent way, suggesting elaboration on the website body copy. Consider sharing the total goal in an itemized way as to explain and justify the total dollar goal. Perhaps justify why you’re crowd-funding versus self-funding.
Incentivize the “give” and connect back to the big picture, e.g. “you’re going to get X, Y, Z from investing.” Perhaps put together a really cool starter kit, e.g. early bird special only available this time. Connect the reward of investing to a higher value — for people who don’t want to just see your project, e.g. “we’re setting the stage for [fill in the blank] with this effort.”
End with a vision for the future, e.g. “this isn’t ‘the end,’ we’re just beginning.” Tease the roadmap without dropping dates, e.g. “invest now, here’s where we’ll go.” Leave a sense of urgency and importance, e.g. “we’re laying the building blocks for X, Y, Z.” And don’t forget to tie in the supporter as much as possible to the language, e.g. “we are building….. and you can become a part of that vision” or “with your help, we will all build the future.”
Remember to rehearse or bullet point out your script. Give ample care to video and audio quality, perhaps with similar aesthetics to the final project. And aim for three minutes or less.
Once it’s published, get the word out. Consider thanking individual donors, either individually or via social media. And don’t forget to schedule out some progress to share and remind your fans with project updates that are not all about the Benjamins.
What works for you? Share it in the comments below.
Over the last three years, I’ve worked with a number of designers who have great ideas, but struggle to get colleagues or potential backers to see the power of their vision. So if you’re a designer, how do you talk about your work effectively without falling back on blueprints or drawings?
The answer, not surprisingly, is pretty straightforward: tell a story.
To help you share compelling design stories, here are “5 Steps for Telling a Design Story.” Follow these guidelines and you’ll have yet another tool for amazing potential clients or fellow designers.
Start with Your Values
As designers know, good design starts with values, or core principles. The first step to articulating your values is to answer the question: What is the experience you want your end user to have of the product? Are you trying to achieve efficiency of space or economy of motion? Is the goal to save time or increase the number of clicks on a particular page? Start with a big idea (i.e. efficiency) and then break it down into its component parts (look, feel, etc). The clearer you are in answering these questions, the clearer you’ll be in articulating the overall journey, or experience, you’d like a potential reader, listener or user to have of your design.
Identify a Moment of Vulnerability
Since there are no shortage of vulnerabilities in the design world, this part is pretty easy. The challenge here is to try to find a moment where the failure hit a nerve on a personal level. To do this, identify a moment or experience in which the value you want your design to demonstrate (i.e. efficiency) was absent, and the impact that absence had on you. For example, if the experience you want people to have is about spatial layout, think about a time when you were jammed against a wall and couldn’t escape, or a time you created a space that had that same effect on someone.
Once you pinpoint the moment, take time to highlight each of the design failings (be specific!), how you reacted (be honest!), and any feelings you experienced, either in the moment or afterwards (make it personal!).
Demonstrate a Shift
After you’ve clearly identified a moment of vulnerability, outline how you responded. What did you do? Did you have any conversations about this design failing? Again, be specific about these conversations and actions. For example, after seeing a cabinet that was placed improperly, did you research and discover any trends in cabinet design? Did you share your experiences with your team? These moments and conversations will provide context for your listeners about both your solution and the design process. Many designers gloss over important details out of fear of bogging the audience down, but a detailed description of your response will actually draw people in by making design comprehensible. Again, be specific!
Present Your Solution
After you’ve created context for both the design vulnerability and outlined your response, walk the audience through yoursolution. This doesn’t need to be a complex breakdown of the idea (unless you’re speaking to fellow designers who want to hear it), but it does need to address the vulnerability identified in section 2 and the shift in part 3. Describe how the solution speaksto the initial problem and realizes the design value laid out in part 1.
End with a Call to Action
The final part of a good design story is to end with a compelling call to action. Your call to action should articulate what’s possible in this new, well-designed world. If you’ve already implemented your design solution, tell people what happened afterwards. Did the industry embrace your ideas? Did anyone offer praise or feedback? What became possible for users and designers in this new world? Did your solution provide secondary benefits that you didn’t initially anticipate?
If you haven’t implemented the solution yet, get people excited about the future (no more ATM’s in the sky!), and you’ll be amazed at the response.
Today the film and television industry is changing rapidly and evolving faster than ever. With new digital distribution channels such as Netflix, Roku, Hulu and even Vimeo and YouTube, the once strictly-regulated streams of media have been fragmented hugely, allowing for a much wider range of work to be seen, from a much broader pool of talent. Combine that with new sources of financing such as crowdfunding sites Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Patreon, and the possibilities for independent media production multiply exponentially.
New generations of filmmakers and content creators are now faced with the growing opportunity of the new media landscape. Where once it was the norm for film students to aspire to join a large production studio, more often now we see new-comers making a name for themselves outside the studio system.
One such filmmaker is recent School of Visual Arts (SVA) grad Vivienne Medrano, who has been producing high-quality independent animated works and distributing them directly to her audience online. I had the chance to catch up with her recently and ask her a few questions about working in this new online indie frontier.
Tell us about your artistic education and background. How long have you been animating and illustrating?
Vivienne Medrano I graduated from SVA (School of Visual Arts) in New York City. I studied there for 4 years but I have been drawing, writing comics, and even practicing animation since before I can remember!
Tell us more about your passion for animation. Why have you been doing it forever?
VM When I was a kid I really adored animals and wanted to go into something dealing with animals. But when I watched some of the early Disney movies, I admired how they captured the movements of animals and combined that with the stylization of cartoony styles. I just was captivated by that. I already drew and made stories so, when I realized how animation worked, I just knew better what I wanted to do.
What are your influences? What inspires you to create the projects you create?
VM My biggest influence is music. It is my biggest source of creative inspiration. I also learn from other artists and styles of shows I grew up with, as well as films and comics!
You’re influenced by music, but how is that incorporated? Not everyone channels music, comics, television, and/or film, so how do you use other influences to help your creative process?
VM Music inspires me for stories, characters, and colors. I really adore musicals because they have stories and scenes in them and are fun to visualize. My musical tastes are as broad as my cast of characters because I like finding the uniqueness in different genres and using that as inspiration. I use music, lyrics, or singers voices to help develop how I see my own characters.
Now with Zoophobia, Die Young, Timber and various other music-projects on your YouTube channel, you’ve amassed a good amount of fans and subscribers, could you tell us about the process of managing your fan base, keeping your fan base engaged, and amassing steady attention on your YouTube channel.
VM I was lucky to have a fanbase that grew steadily over time. I like to produce a lot of work and engage with my fans as much as I can but, the more there are, the harder it gets to stay on top of things. So I just do my best to produce a lot of work for them and give them opportunities to showcase their support!
What are some of the challenges of doing this? How do you overcome it all?
VM Challenges of gaining a fanbase for original content are usually dealing with confidence in your ideas — or fear of what can happen when you put it out there. As I’ve grown up I just have learned it’s best to take the risks than to hide yourself away. It has done me worlds more good to share things then to keep them withdrawn.
You’re part of a generation of independent content creators, producing film and animation work directly for the public and your fans — without the use of a studio platform, agency, or paid distribution network. As someone who has both a YouTube channel and Patreon, could you talk a bit about the challenges of monetizing your work? How has that process changed and evolved over time? How difficult is it keeping up with the evolving indie support system?
VM YouTube can be tricky for people who don’t produce work on a regular basis. Most animators can’t create weekly content and, even for me, producing speed-draw videos weekly in-between films isn’t always the most financially set option for a growing channel. Patreon can be much more immediate and very helpful for creators, I certainly have found it to be an enormous help in the creation of my more ambitious personal projects! As long as you keep producing a lot, it is a very good system!
You have aspirations to get involved with studios, either in television or film. Though with the unpredictable nature of the rise and fall of animation studios, it’s maybe more important now than ever to be an independent artist as much as a studio artist. Could you share your thoughts on that?
VM I certainly have always dreamed of one day joining the industry. I would love to one day work on a film that goes into theaters. But I have always wanted to tell my own stories and make my own films and projects so, while I have the opportunity to do that, I want to make that my focus. I think it’s important and I want to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s given! I definitely think right now it’s very important for more unique stories to be told and more unique voices to be heard. Things like Patreon and YouTube allow that to be possible!
What advice would you give to kids who are in school now, studying to do what you do?
VM I would say, never be afraid to take risks! Reach out to people and take chances. You never know the connections or opportunities you might miss! Also keep practicing and don’t take rejection to heart!
While Facebook has been a valuable marketing tool for films and filmmakers since 2008 when they rolled out Facebook Film (since re-named), Facebook has still been considered a “walled garden” that’s painful to search and continues to play catch-up to many other video delivery networks.
At the first of two days of the F8 Conference, Facebook announced a few worthwhile upgrades that are relevant to filmmakers and, more specifically, anyone uploading video within Facebook instead of embedding or linking another video (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).
Until yesterday’s announcement, video uploaded to Facebook was not embeddable on other websites; now it is (documentation); it’s unclear if embed views count toward the view counter
You can now “set an expiration date for a video and retain insights after takedown (currently in beta),” which might be a creative tool for filmmakers and other video content providers (read: advertisers)
As of yesterday, you can “restrict the audience of a video by age, gender, and location,” which opens up a whole can of worms for why one might do that
Playing catch-up with YouTube (which allows only its verified users — a fairly easy process) to pick their own video’s poster frame, Facebook now allows you to “add custom thumbnails for videos” rather than getting stuck with a random frame grab
Here’s a punch-list to get up to speed on how video on Facebook can help filmmakers:
Facebook recently provided an optional “call to action” after a video ends, allowing some choice over what to do next (source); they also work for Facebook Pages and include “Book Now,” “Contact Us,” “Use App,” “Play Game,” “Shop Now,” “Sign Up,” and “Watch Video” — all of which allow for leaving Facebook (source)
As of December 2014, Facebook has a department called Facebook Media, which promotes the movers and shakers (or business partners?) using Facebook for video
As of December 2014, video began to auto-play while muted (source, 12/24/2014); this was followed soon after by 15-second auto-playing video advertisements (source, 3/13/2014)
As of December 2014, select Facebook Pages can feature a video front-and-center and also have YouTube-esque playlists (Source, 12/24/2014) but it’s a very slow roll-out for public, non-partner Facebook accounts; this may be fast-tracked in yesterday’s announcement, which says “manage featured videos and playlists for a Page” (source, 3/24/2015)
As of May 2014, Facebook began to roll out Video Insights, which show retention per second and other stats (source)
Finally, in rare circumstances, some filmmakers or film companies may be invited to participate in “Facebook Live,” which is essentially a comment box alongside a live-streamed video but isn’t a feature that’s available to the general public:
Back in 2008, Facebook featured a creative project by Spike Jonze
While there’s now a lot more competition in social viewing experiences (e.g. uStream, LiveStream, etc.), they’ve just recently had video-specific live events for the 2015 Academy Awards and Game of Thrones Season 4 and now Season 5 (aka watching the red carpet premiere), which essentially provided a mini-feed alongside the live-streaming video player
But what’s wrong with all of the above? Show me the money.
What’s still missing from Facebook is monetization. Facebook “likes” and “views” may appear to be good, but still not in the pocketbook.
“The new stuff looks great but at the moment it’s vaporware. There’s a huge ecosystem around YouTube,” notes Daniel Keywan Hollister, who works at RocketJump and is a co-founder of 5-second Films. (By ecosystem, that’s referencing the search, users, money, and services that YouTube provides.)
“If we got a ton of views on Facebook and then those people didn’t watch it on YouTube, we’ll have lost money and the view count. We may put stuff on Facebook if we can still monetize it the same and whatnot, but there’s still so much more than just that over the last few years, especially for bigger channels like RocketJump. There’s a lot of merit to the ‘long tail’ effect and having our stuff everywhere, but there’s also a huge value to being a juggernaut on YouTube even if we’re nowhere else.”
Any thoughts on Facebook’s move with video that may help or hurt filmmakers?
While one can appreciate to-the-point thank you speeches, reminding us to “call your parents” and “thank your agent,” here are some of the 2015 Academy Award highlights in the context of unconventional ways of rocking the boat. Way to go!
“Birdman,” which won four Oscars this year, also had the most stunning “for your consideration” website. While most of these kinds of sites provide screening information throughout award season, Birdman Backstage provides a great mise-en-scène of the film. Watson Design Group is behind the effort. Check out their social media “sharables” on Behance.
“Ida,” which won Best Foreign Film — and is currently streaming on Netflix and iTunes, had its director, Pawel Pawlikowski, ignore the sound of the Academy orchestra prompting him to wrap up, right in the middle of thanking his cinematographer, and he just kept going through the music queue giving up. On that note, don’t miss a feature on the American Society of Cinematographers website with a thorough breakdown of technical notes and diagrams for three scenes shot by Lukaz Zal.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which also won four Oscars this year, took Best Production Design. Part of their team was Simone de Salvatore, who did many matte paintings for the film at Moving Picture Company. See The Creators Project for an interview with the artist. Here’s one excerpt about using elements in balance, rather than over-doing it all one way or another:
“For this movie I think [director Wes Anderson] brings his style to the next level but always keeping its magic untouched. In my opinion neither the only use of miniatures nor the creation of matte paintings alone made the difference, but the combination of the two. In most of the shots you won’t find a matte painting without a miniature and vice versa. Most of the time, when I was working on single shots, it was not easy to understand how this bizarre combination would work in the end, simply because you can’t see the big picture at that early stage, but after I watched the movie I was completely blown away, the final result had gone far over my expectations. I think he didn’t simply decide to give it a try with matte paintings, he knew exactly what he was doing and he knew that this choice would have affected his style in a way that to me looks magical.”
Graham Moore, who won “Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Imitation Game,” ended his poignant speech with a pay-it-forward reminder for us all who think they don’t fit in:
“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself. Because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I’m standing here and so, I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there that feels like she’s weird or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”
Best Original Song went to “Glory” from the film “Selma,” where we heard from Lonnie Lynn and John Stephens — aka the real names for musicians Common and John Legend. They used their win as a platform for making a larger message on the current state of race relations:
“We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised now in this country today. Right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real.”
“Citizenfour,” directed by Laura Poitras, won Best Documentary. Her speech touched upon the challenge and allure of investigative journalism:
“The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself. When the most important decisions being made, affecting all of us, are made in secret, we lose our ability to check the powers that control. Thank you to Edward Snowden, for his courage, and for the many other whistleblowers. I share this with Glenn Greenwald and other journalists who are exposing truth.”
Right after the win, The New Yorker quickly published an opinion piece on “why “Citizenfour” deserved its Oscar,” which elaborates upon the two sides of the whistleblow / espionage debate that’s still going since the 2013 leak.
Did you have a favorite Oscar moment? Share your comment below.
The Super Bowl ads sucked so bad this year. All that angst and guilt and tender dad-child moments.
I mean, it’s the Super Bowl, people. The ultimate celebration of our national battle religion.
The Super Bowl is for simplemindedness, misogyny and gluttony. It is not the place for sentiment in advertising. It is the place for fart jokes.
You don’t advertise emo-drenched fatherhood moments. You show guys screaming at the TV, beer dribbling down their chins, spittle flying everywhere, and glow-in-the-dark Doritos turning their insides bright orange.
You know what my favorite Super Bowl spot was? The original Go Daddy spot with the puppy getting its ass sold off on eBay that the domain name advertiser had to pull.
Oh, my. Go Daddy so mean to puppies.
You know who’s to blame for the sappy sack of advertising shit that was the Super Bowl commercials?
All that tear-inducing nonsense during the Big Game’s commercial breaks was intended to lure your self-entitled eyeballs, because marketers believe what Millennials want to see and hear from their brands is to be genuine and good corporate citizens.
Of course, lost in all that advertiser angst about reaching you and your shiny purchasing power (actually probably, your parents purchasing power) is the reality that Millennials won’t sacrifice anything for anybody.
Ad Age ran a story recently about the emergence of specialized ad agencies that focus on Millennials. No doubt you think that’s just a swell idea (use of outdated slang term very definitely intended).
It’s not enough that you get a job and three months later wonder why you’re not the CEO yet.
It’s not enough that you demand companies show a social conscience and be “authentic,” whatever that means, but even a cursory review of your own lives reveals that what you all really want to do is get rich and be on TMZ.
It’s not enough that you are helpless without a digital crutch of some kind. (Watching a Millennial navigate physical space, or try to get information from a live phone operator, or figure out how to use a fax, or do anything that requires more than clicking on a keyboard is like watching shit-faced drunks singing at a karaoke bar.)
I am so glad my generational cohorts trashed the planet you’re going to inherit and spent all the money you’re going to need for retirement. That’s what you get for screwing up the Super Bowl.
Part of a series of posts about the FWD:labs web platform for cinema artists and their work.
FWD:labs is all about going super fast forward through the doldrums and onto your latest and greatest work. Logging in or registering to a site via Facebook is sometimes a love/hate relationship, but we wanted to see if it was a viable option for new users to our site.
For a few months now, we’ve had Facebook’s “Login” (previously called “Connect”) as an option to login to FWD:labs. This month we rolled out Facebook’s “Login” to allow new users to create a new account here, too.
Before getting started, we were curious to research and implement how to connect with Facebook. According to a recent press release, there are 864 million daily active users. Chances are, right now, you’re logged into Facebook.
What we unveiled in January for FWD:labs is a quicker — but just as secure — way for users to sign up or login here using Facebook’s incredibly popular platform. For logging in, sure, there’s a win-win for skipping the username/password across any device. But for signing up, a handful of data like your full name and your e-mail address can be filled out for you right away.
We want to share with you how we tailored this functionality, which is not an embed, does not use any third-party services, and had little help from Facebook’s own documentation to develop.
First, we needed to set up a few things on Facebook. Here’s what we need:
Save and upload one of the Facebook SDK libraries to your server
Add the Facebook app ID and its app secret in the SDK’s config
Review their developer documentation on the flow that Facebook needs (which lacks clear documentation for using Facebook Login with your own site)
Eventually, make the app public, aka flip the switch to “make this app and all its live features available to the general public”
Second, we needed front-end code on our own site. We found a relatively easy way to get Facebook’s authentication to work on our site, which they call Facebook Login. It has some unique markup and can be demoed in the most basic way at developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/login-button.
Our intent here is not here to force people to use Facebook. We’re just focused on saving a step to speed up a task, whether that’s the login process or bring a user on board for the first time with a few things filled out faster than if they did it by hand. (Don’t worry — we’ll still have our standard username/password option.)
Now, the way we’re using Facebook’s “login” doesn’t use the bleeding edge SDK release, which appears to change up frequently. We’re only asking for the base permissions (e.g. “email,public_profile,user_friends”), not “publishing” rights, which more people take issue with if done willy-nilly. We also hardly modified their front-end code because it works quite well.
When the user clicks on the “fb:login” button to connect via Facebook, the response that comes back from Facebook to our server shows three kinds of responses:
“Connected,” meaning the user clicked the dialogue box to approve data sharing via your Facebook application
“Not authorized,” meaning the user did not approve
No response means the user is not logged into Facebook, so we can’t check yay or nay
Third, we need to process the new information via our back-end code. When “connected,” we can see the user’s e-mail, name, and Facebook ID. Maybe we want to display it back to them or — in our case, with logging in or signing up — we can use that to continue the process. Here’s what we do when you authorize our app on Facebook to login or sign up:
We’re checking for the “accessToken” which verifies we’ve made the handshake on the previous page. This can also be remembered to allow for the page to refresh if need be, and it gets checked with Facebook so it can’t be spoofed.
We’re loking at the data that we could use to pre-fill some fields, along with one more layer of information just for us: a username and password for accessing FWD:labs beyond Facebook’s connect functionality
If registering for the first time, we prompt the user to come up with a username and password for FWD:labs. Now, they saved a step by not having to type in their name or e-mail address, which is great. Once everything checks out, we save to our database the “handshake,” meaning the user’s Facebook ID that now corresponds to the user’s FWD:labs username. This comes in handy later to safely bypass the username/password-based login system on return visits.
If logging in, we use the Facebook ID to check against a FWD:labs username / Facebook ID match, which also saved time for everyone.
Finally, we either want to redirect the user to the correct place, or display very friendly error messages to them about what exactly is amiss.
Last but not least, we wanted to cover the bases with error checking. You know the expression — “with great power comes great responsibility.” Rather than any user trying it out without us, here are some other scenarios we tested:
You’re signed up to FWD:labs without Facebook and you either want to login or re-register with Facebook
You are logged out of Facebook
You are logged into Facebook as a page, as opposed to a personal profile
Three Efforts for Defending Net Neutrality
This year’s debate in Washington affected filmmakers who use the web as their delivery platform, since large files and slow bandwidth (proposed by legislation to cap and charge extra) would change today’s open landscape.
When a Short Helps Make a Feature
We rounded up short films that directly led to a feature film counterpart being made. This highlights the few-and-far-between strategy of turning a short into a feature script, while also showcasing how it can be done with memorable results.
“Inspiring Advice” from Matthew Silver
What began as a meme online – a homeless man in New York City with a great take on life – proved after further investigation to be all an act — from a very creative fellow