Business & Film Focus

As some of you may know, I have a YouTube channel where I try to talk mostly about my life and business ideas. But, I’m also working on my Masters in Film from Raindance. Right now I don’t really have a resource for that. Soon I’ll put something on here, but, for now to see the documentary I’m working on you can go to this page.

Finally, living in Japan, of course I need to have a YouTube channel under the username of SendaiPhil that addresses this country, in all of it’s beauty and bizarreness.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channels and/or my twitter account to stay up to date

Peter Thiel talk in London on business and politics – Business Insider

Thiel spoke on stage about a wide range of subjects.

Source: Peter Thiel talk in London on business and politics – Business Insider

Peter Thiel is a pretty amazing guy. Co-founder of PayPal, the first outside investor in Facebook… you get the idea.

So, when he speaks you should listen. Thiel talks at length about positioning your company and originality in this piece in the Business Insider.

A must-read

Play pinball like it’s 1978 with the new Kiss game | Ars Technica

Stern Pinball brings back the iconic band for another round with the silver ball.

Source: Play pinball like it’s 1978 with the new Kiss game | Ars Technica

I was never into games, or pinball, when I was a kid, but I was really into Kiss, and on my list of regrets is not buying the original Kiss pinball machine when I saw it in a junk shop in Richmond, VA in the early 90s.

Now new versions are coming out. Priced at a ridiculous level that only Gene Simmons could think of, they will milk the Kiss fans of the 70s who now populate Silicon Valley.

Still…WANT

Bow To Your Billionaire Drone Overlord: Frank Wang’s Quest To Put DJI Robots Into The Sky – Forbes

At 34, Frank Wang has turned his dream of flying robots into the world’s biggest drone company–and an expected $4.5 billion fortune. Now, as the market for his devices explodes, his old colleague is trying to take him down.

Fascinating article about Frank Wang Tao, how he grew DJI into an amazing company, and how he got wrapped up in the concerns over drones.

This is a business article – learn from the best!

Source: Bow To Your Billionaire Drone Overlord: Frank Wang’s Quest To Put DJI Robots Into The Sky – Forbes

Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits – 15 point to measure your business

common-stocks-and-uncommon-profits

I just finished reading Philip Fisher’s seminal investment book ‘Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits’. The book tells you how to truly evaluate a company that you want to invest in (or buy stock of).

The book is a little dated, first coming out in 1960. Some things certainly don’t apply to today’s world (I don’t think you or I could go and meet anyone in management of any listed company!), but a lot of the points are valid and can (and should) be done.

With books like this I like to turn them on their head and say “is my company worth investing in” or how to make it so.

Luckily, Fisher was kind enough to list the 15 criteria that a company should satisfy (or as many as possible). This is a perfect tool for measuring my business and I hope you’ll use it for your company too. Making ourselves and our companies outstanding and outstanding investment opportunities is a key goal!

Here’s his list

  1. Does the company have products or services with sufficient market potential to make possible a sizable increase in sales for at least several years?
  2. Does the management have a determination to continue to develop products or processes that will still further increase total sales potentials when the growth potentials of currently attractive product lines have largely been exploited?
  3. How effective are the company’s research-and-development efforts in relation to its size?
  4. Does the company have an above-average sales organization? (ouch!)
  5. Does the company have a worthwhile profit margin?
  6. What is the company doing to maintain or improve profit margins?
  7. Does the company have outstanding labor and personnel relations?
  8. Does the company have outstanding executive relations?
  9. Does the company have depth to its management?
  10. How good are the company’s cost analysis and accounting controls?
  11. Are there other aspects of the business, somewhat peculiar to the industry involved, which will give the investor important clues as to how outstanding the company may be in relation to its competition?
  12. Does the company have a short-range or long-range outlook in regard to profits?
  13. In the foreseeable future will the growth of the company require sufficient equity financing so that the larger number of shares then outstanding will largely cancel the existing stockholders’ benefit from this anticipated growth?
  14. Does management talk freely to investors about its affairs when things are going well but “clam up” when troubles and disappointments occur?
  15. Does the company have a management of unquestionable integrity?

How well did your company do? I can clearly see some areas where my company needs to improve.

The book is an amazing read. Pick it up if you can. I’m not going to include a link to it, I’m sure you know where to find it!

My Improvised Life – Toastmasters Speech #4

general-saxophone-love-jazz-music-wallpaper-1920x1080-hot-hd-wallpaper-saxophone-wallpaper
When I was 13 I entered high school. In my part of Canada we didn’t have junior high school, so we went from elementary school to high school. My high school had a fantastic music program and at 13 I was starting to get serious about music. On my first few days at the school I heard the incredible big band we had and I knew i had to be a part of it. I would need to audition to get in of course. So I spent 4 months locked in my bedroom immersing myself in a music that would change not just the way I played  but I believe it changed the way my brain is wired and how I look on life.
That music was Jazz.
When I say Jazz it frightens a lot of people. They often think they don’t like it. But most of all, I think they don’t understand it. I can’t possibly convince you in 5 minutes about the history and merits of Jazz as a music. But I can relate how Jazz has changed me.
The foundation of Jazz is improvisation. I believe this is the key difference between it and classical music. In classical music you have a ‘score’. It will tell you exactly how to reproduce that piece of music. In Jazz you don’t have a score. You have a ‘chart’. Like on a ship. The chart in Jazz is a guide to the basic features of the piece of music. It might detail the simplified version of the chords or melody. But just like sailing a ship, as a Jazz musician your goal is to find your own way, using that chart as a guide.
Of course, you can’t just jump in and start playing whatever you like.
I liken playing music to cooking.
Music is a broad term. Like ‘food’. Jazz music is also a broad term. Like ‘japanese food’. Is it ramen? Sushi? Is it Gyutan? Jazz also has as many flavours. But at the center of all of them – like cooking – is the understanding of the rules. The rules of combining certain flavours together. It’s the skill of being able to open the refrigerator and knowing how to combine whatever is there into a great meal.
You have to follow your own taste. Some like it spicy, some like it smooth.
And this idea of improvisation, of taking what life gives you as a chart to be interpreted and not a score to be strictly followed, that has affected me most. I took the skills that I learned as a musician, a software developer, a writer and a filmmaker and combined them and applied them in a way that suited my taste.
It led me around the world.
But perhaps a problem with Jazz is that, because it is so dependent on personal taste, measuring success is difficult. You can’t look outside, to the world at large and say “is this good music”. And I think the same is true of life. You should not measure the success of your life by outside metrics. When playing music, at the end of the night you have to look back and say “I played well” or “I could have done better”. I think life’s a little bit like that, whether you believe it now or not.
When I was 16 I started a jazz sextet with 5 of my fellow musicians from the big band. All of us loved Jazz. And all of us took to the concept of an improvised life.
30 years later, from those 5 people, one is a university music instructor, another is involved in Canadian wildlife conservation in British Columbia, another is an Engineer and another is the senior political editor of Canada’s largest national news magazine.
Jazz of course is not responsible for all of our career paths, but, I believe that this rewiring of our brains that a dedication to jazz at an early age accomplished let each of us see how to apply the rules we learned and to combine them and interpret them into a life that was made from our own tastes.
So, my fellow toastmasters, I cannot convince you to go home and listen to Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, but, I hope I can send you on your way with a fresh look at how to interpret the chart of your life.

Raindance MA in Film: Learning Contract

I’ve always said that I want to be as transparent – warts and all – about my progress through the Raindance MA in Film. This includes doing my bi-weekly or so video blog “I Wanna Be A Producer” (available on YouTube) and posting my assignments.

Below you will find my complete ‘Learning Contract’. We write this thing to say what it is we will be doing over the course of our masters. It is incredible painful to write, but at the same time incredibly helpful. I try to refer back to it often and when I do I go ‘oh yeah, THAT’S what I’m supposed to be doing’.

I’m putting this up here because there aren’t examples available from the school and of all the pain we have in this course finding the format of the Learning Contract shouldn’t be one!

— Phil Smy

THE PRODUCTION COMPANY v2.0

Raindance MA/MSc Film by Negotiated Learning

Learning Contract

1. Personal Information

omitted

2. Key Research Question

The Production Company v2.0

I hope to combine my Tech Startup Company experience and my interest and experience in film and film production. My personal background is nearly 20 years in the software, website and internet marketing and management business. I want to combine that with my lifelong creative pursuits of music and moviemaking.

To that end my Key Research Question is as follows:

How can the production company be re-imagined to take advantage of the latest thinking in ‘startup innovation’ and the changing landscape of distribution? In addition to creating a sustainable production company focused on low budget content, I want to evolve not only my understanding of the business side of film production but also increase my skills as a producer.

3. Research Methods (AM99995-7)

3.1 Title

How are some producers of low budget (films with an operating budget under $1,000,000) content distributing their product online? I’m investigating this in order to determine what the popular choices are amongst the filmmakers I talk to and if their experiences can help me in my choice of distribution method later.

3.2 Rationale

There are currently many options for the low budget producers as far as distribution is concerned. NoFilmSchool.com – a leading online independent film resource – enumerated top platforms in March 2014, and came up with 29 (Hove, M 2014). I feel that when it comes time – in NP2 – to start experimenting in the marketplace I will need a strong grasp of which platforms are currently being used by other low budget producers. Their experiences will help guide me in a choice of platform at that stage, based on ease of use and audience acceptance.

3.3 Methodology

  • Reading about creating and doing surveys.
  • Find filmmakers using personal connections and online communities I am active in and find some who will participate in a survey.
  • Survey as many film makers as possible with regard to a specific production they have distributed
    • Questions:
    • budget
    • number of previous productions, to get a sense of experience level
    • where did you distribute
    • what financial returns
    • what were the audience numbers

Combine filmmaker surveys with statistics from the platforms they reference to directly. Specifically audience numbers and views. By applying accepted norms for advertising click throughs, etc, I can attempt to determine if there was any financial success independently of the filmmakers response.
Do more in depth interviews with (at least) two filmmakers about the distribution process and their experience with it.

3.4 Theoretical Context

Filmmakers are struggling to get noticed in the shifting landscape for self and indie releasing. (Dargis M, 2014). By examining the efforts of other filmmakers, and also trying to confirm their success in attracting customers, I hope to spot some trends that can either be followed or avoided.
New models of distribution are available (Schreder S, 2014) but are production companies taking advantage of changing distribution models? If not, is it because of lack of awareness or understanding of the platforms or something more deep seated in the attitude and structure of the production company itself?
In a later module – NP2 – I will examine applying different business structure models to the production company, but a basis in existing actions with regard to distribution, will give me insight into what is and isn’t working for others.

3.5 Deliverables

4,000 word research paper; Appendices containing survey data

3.6 Bibliography

Carter, M, Media moving online: in search of profit, TheGuardian.com, Available At: http://www.theguardian.com/digital-tribes/media-moving-online

Smith, M & Telang, R (2012), Why Digital Media Require a Strategic Rethink, Harvard Business Review, Oct 2012

Friendman, A, 3 trends in media consumption you need to know, iMediaConnection, Available At: http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/35476.asp

Millward Brown, Digital Predictions 2014, Available At: http://www.millwardbrown.com/digitalpredictions/2013/index.html

3.7 Learning Outcomes

3.7.1 Knowledge & Understanding

By doing an overview survey of a few low-medium budget filmmakers, and two to three in depth interviews with a couple more, I hope to learn what options are currently in use by low-medium budget filmmakers, what their experiences are and filter out the marginal players.

3.7.2 Learning

I will learn more completely the research and referencing process needed for the rest of my masters

3.7.3 Reflection

I will reflect on the impact, benefits, drawbacks to filmmakers like myself using these platforms. By interviewing some active filmmakers I hope to further understand my direction

3.7.4 Problem Solving

I anticipate issues with getting ‘real data’ and believe I will have to make significant personal contacts to get access to personal data.

3.8 Time Allocation

Faculty Contact 10
Web Research 60
Literature Research 20
Conduct Interviews 15
Transcription 15
Writing 30

Total Hours 150

4. [updated] NEGOTIATED PROJECT 1 (AM99996-7)

4.1 Title

Proof of Concept Web series Development and Pre-Production

4.2 Rationale

With greater emphasis on online distribution, and shorter content, a web series seems the optimum format to develop for the later stages (NP2 and NMP) of this degree program. By developing a web series I will get more exposure to the hands on aspects of film production – from script development, through to budgeting, casting, scheduling and finding investment. In addition, at the end of this module, I will have some assets – concept art, script readings, storyboards, etc – that can be used as source material for NP2.

Update:
Initially the contents of this module were to be for my Negotiated Film Production module (AM99997-7) but I have advanced it for a few reasons.
First of all, I feel that I have underestimated the amount of time required to adequately develop this webseries. Finding talent in Japan is proving to be a significant challenge that I had not anticipated and is requiring a lot more time investment in networking and discovering communities that I had previously expected.
Second, my original NP1 – investigating consumer activity in finding online content – revolved around a similar process as my RM module. Namely, surveying. My attempts at surveying for my RM was not successful, and in that case I believed I had direct access to a community – other independent filmmakers – that would be helpful. This turned out to not materialise. In my previously proposed NP1 I suggested attempting the same strategy, but for the public at large, a significantly less motivated and less approachable group! Rather than position myself for more frustration and failure I thought it best to advance and extend my NFP module.
Thirdly, I am discovering that to attempt to perform the ‘experimentation’ that I lay out in NP2 I need more and more varied source material.

4.3 Methodology

  • Find scriptwriter to co-develop web series idea through local industry contacts. The script will be developed in English and Japanese, but if shot the dialogue will be entirely in Japanese.
  • Ensure script ideas developed to budget by keeping locations and number of onscreen actors in check.
  • Investigate finding talent and production staff and locations by getting involved with the local industry.
  • Secure talent for the filming of a pilot episode

4.4 Theoretical Context

In the NP2 module I will pursue audience testing and content development – making minor content and concept changes in through repeated rounds of audience acceptance testing. To adequately pursue these tests I first have to have a original concept developed to a clear enough point – i.e past the idea stage and into the script development and pre-production stages – to be able to place something before an audience.
In this module I will also develop the practical aspects of my production knowledge – that is the actual planning of a film (or content).
Because I intended to make a web series in Japanese I will work closely with a local writer to ensure that dialect and tone are appropriate, but similarly my personal goal is to develop something that draws on ‘western dramatic sensibilities’ as opposed to conventional Japanese serials.

4.5 Supporting Activities

Attend or review, either in person or online, the Raindance course Create & Market Your Web Series (http://www.raindance.org/course/create-market-your-web-series/)
Review the materials from the Raindance course Web Series Foundation Certificate (http://www.raindance.org/toronto/course/web-series-foundation-certificate/)
Review MakingWebShows.com, a leading website dedicated to the development of web series (http://makingwebshows.com/web-series-development-part-1/)

4.6 Deliverables

First draft of pilot episode; production and budget documents; reflective report outlining learned conclusions.

4.7 Bibliography

Morgan, Elize (2012) How to Make a Web Series

4.8 Learning Outcomes

4.8.1 Knowledge & Understanding

I will learn how to develop an idea from a basic high-level concept into an initial script, taking into account budget, location and casting limitations.

4.8.2 Learning

I will learn the techniques for budget analysis of a script, how to create a shooting schedule and how to approach outside investors.

4.8.3 Reflection

What did I learn about the process of idea to script to finalised pre-production schedules?

4.8.4 Problem Solving

Finding solutions to location desires versus available locations, and similar constraints with casting and equipment, will prove to be challenging. Especially given my location (Japan).

4.9 Time Allocation

Faculty Contact 5
Supporting Activities 80
Writing 80
Content Creation 60
Web Research 30
Literature Research 20
Reflective Report 25

Total Hours 300

5. [updated] NEGOTIATED FILM PRODUCTION (AM99997-7)

5.1 Title

Coordinate and produce a single episode of webseries content.

5.2 Rationale

Updated
In this updated module I will create basic elements for the web series developed in NP1.

After developing the webseries, and preparing for production, in NP1, in this module I will create basic webseries content for use in NP2. I believe that, in part due to my situation of living in Japan, the whole process of development and creation of my webseries will take significantly longer, and require significantly more effort, than I previously expected.
For the purposes of the experimentation outlined in NP2 I would like to have as much ‘base material’ as possible. That now extends to at least one episode ‘filmed’. With that completed things like live action trailers, music videos, etc, can be more easily created that fit into the overall theme and presentation of the webseries.

5.3 Methodology

  • Coordinate all on-set production aspects (equipment, location, talent, production staff)
  • Direct or supervise the directing of, principal photography for pilot episode
  • Perform or supervise initial post-production of pilot episode

5.4 Theoretical Context

5.5 Supporting Activities

Research and prepare paperwork for shooting permits and actor’s in Japan.

5.6 Deliverables

Raw footage of pilot episode, first edit of pilot episode, first trailer and music video based on pilot episode footage, shooting logs, production notes.

5.7 Bibliography

Morgan, Elize (2012) How to Make a Web Series

Kenworthy, Christopher (2012) Master Shots Series (Vol 1 – 3)

5.8 Learning Outcomes

5.8.1 Knowledge & Understanding

Come to a greater understanding of the legal and logistical aspects of independent filmmaking in Japan. This is not something that has been written about in any detail (that I can find) in English.

5.8.2 Learning

Learn specific production skills, from arranging personnel and catering to securing location permits.

5.8.3 Reflection

How will my actions on this short, low-budget production scale out to larger productions?

5.8.4 Problem Solving

I anticipate many issues to arise due to the unusual nature of what I am doing. Shooting a film in small town Japan, with a foreigner at the helm, will cause great consternation amongst the locals! Getting cooperation might be difficult. That coupled with the ‘usual’ production problems like last minute cancellations of people and equipment will test my abilities to succeed.

5.9 Time Allocation

Faculty Contact 5
Supporting Activities 30
Logistics & Organisation 50
Preparation & Shooting 60
Editing 30
Post production 20
Reflective Report 25

Total Hours 300

6. NEGOTIATED PROJECT 2 (AM99998-7)

6.1 Title

Marketplace experimentation – putting content through a series of audience tests

6.2 Rationale

Having developed a proof of concept outline, script and pre-production documents for a webseries (NFP), the next step is to perform ‘experiments’ in the marketplace. ‘Experiments’ in this case refers to the methodology of doing small, frequent ‘releases’ of content into the market and testing reaction (Ries, 2011). By doing this I should have more understanding as to whether this is a viable process for content creation.

6.3 Methodology

  • Develop some assets – storyboards, concept art, theme music – and variations
  • Release these into the marketplace via YouTube channel
  • Drive traffic to the experiments by using a combination of targeted social media postings and limited advertising.
  • Create a ‘Customer Avatar’ – model an ideal customer to give a foundation for marketing approaches.
  • Measure audience reaction – views, sharing, comments – to different variations

6.4 Theoretical Context

This concept of marketplace experimentation is becoming commonplace in the software industry, and it has been (arguably) proven that the methods of Minimum Viable Product, Continuous Development and Split Testing increase both quality and customer satisfaction. (Ries, 2014). See Section 9, Definitions, for an overview of these concepts.
These concepts are occasionally applied to content marketing – teaser and trailer variations for example – but rarely to the actual content development, and usually not at the low-budget level as it is incorrectly perceived to be expensive. (Bachmann, C 2009)
By performing these experiments and analysing not just the results but also the methods, I hope to determine how applicable the methods are in this situation.

6.5 Supporting Activities

Review the following web resources:
http://www.youtube.com/yt/creators/
http://tangledwebwewatch.com/original-content-producers/
https://creatorup.com
http://www.tomcruise.com/blog/2012/03/27/12551/

6.6 Deliverables

Detailed report on experiments performed and data acquired
Reflective report on the impact of the experiments and changes made to the content because of them

6.7 Bibliography

6.8 Learning Outcomes

6.8.1 Knowledge & Understanding

I will gain knowledge and understanding of how much relevant feedback can be retrieved from consumers and how the content can be tailored to that feedback.

6.8.2 Learning

I will learn how to measure feedback and promote new content to consumers. I will learn how to manage or do the creation of variations on content.

6.8.3 Reflection

Is it possible to use a build-measure-learn (Lean Startup) loop for something like content creation without losing site of the initial creative vision?

6.8.4 Problem Solving

Getting a large enough sample – and active participation – will be challenging. If necessary I can harness other websites I have influence in to drive traffic, or, run a paid advertising campaign.

6.9 Time Allocation

Faculty Contact 5
Web Research 100
Literature Research 40
Supporting Activities 55
Writing 100

Total Hours 300

7. NEGOTIATED MASTERS PROJECT (AM99999-7)

7.1 Title

Bringing it all together – Operating Principles and Formation of a Reimagined Production Company

7.2 Rationale

This masters has been a series of evolving projects. Having gone from market research to consumer research to proof of concept content development and finally on to content experimentation it is now time to brings these findings together and to outline the operating principles for a new production company, and to pursue it’s formation.

7.3 Methodology

  • evaluate and enumerate steps to company formation in Japan
  • define minimal roles needed for production company using industry standard roles compared with new business methods ideals
  • iterate through business model canvas to fine tune consumer and content focus
  • write business plan and SWOT analysis
  • draft mission and vision statements
  • approach industry peers for feedback
  • evaluate and approach potential financial investors
  • structure a board of directors

7.4 Theoretical Context

There are two significant growing trends in small business – the Lean Startup model and the Blue Ocean Strategy Model. (Blank S, 2014)
The Lean Startup – developed by software entrepreneur Eric Ries – deals with a different form of company structure to instill rapid, customer driven development, through experimentation phases (Ries, 2011) similar to those I will have attempted in NP2.
Blue Ocean Strategy is a complementary startup ethos aimed at creating a distinctive product and product space, thereby reducing competition, through an examination of the core values of any business. (Kim & Mauborgne, 2005)
I hope to follow these two complementary schools in structuring the internal and external workings of a new production company.
Existing production companies have an inherent structure with defined roles. How do these roles fit into a company structured on the aforementioned new principles?

7.5 Deliverables

  • Business plan
  • Business Model Canvas
  • SWOT Analysis of company position
  • Mission Statement
  • Reflective report covering peer and industry feedback

7.6 Bibliography

Ries, Eric (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

Kim, W.C., Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant

Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO)

7.7 Learning Outcomes

7.7.1 Knowledge & Understanding

By going through the steps of company formation I will gain a deeper understanding of the corporate aspects of running a company. I will gain understand of the business requirements for company operation in Japan. Gain knowledge of tax and other incentives for media companies and companies operating with the ‘disaster zone’.

7.7.2 Learning

I will learn the process for company registration in Japan. More formal learning of the business plan development process.

7.7.3 Reflection

How am I suited to the role of business person and how will this new company be situated in the marketplace.

7.7.4 Problem Solving

I anticipate great difficulty in finding all the requirements to form a company and to attract investors. I hope to overcome these by consulting with experienced business people here in Japan.

7.7.5 Communication

I will have to prepare and give presentations to potential investors and industry leaders. Also prepare documents in Japanese with the use of business partners and partnering agencies (eg Japanese External Trade Organisation) for governmental approval for incorporation.

APPENDIX A

Brachmann, C. (2009). Automatic Movie Trailer Generation Based on Semantic Video Patterns, In: Digital Tools in Media Studies, University of Siegen, Germany.

Blank S (2013). Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything, Harvard Business Review, (May 2013) p. 64

Dargis, M (2014), As Indies Explode, an Appeal for Sanity, New York Times, Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/movies/flooding-theaters-isnt-good-for-filmmakers-or-filmgoers.html, (Accessed 8 August 2014)

Hove, M (2014), Direct Distribution & Marketing Roundup: A Who’s Who of Today’s Digital Tools, NoFilmSchool, Available at: http://nofilmschool.com/2013/09/direct-distribution-roundup-whos-todays-digital-tools/, (Accessed 8 August 2014)

Kim, W.C., Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, Boston: Harvard Business School Press

Lockard, L (2012), Ask the Experts: Where do you find customers online?, LizLockard.com, Available at: http://www.lizlockard.com/where-to-find-your-customers-online/ (Accessed 8 August 2014)

Ries, Eric (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, New York: Crown Business

Schreder, S (2014), How to Save Indie Distribution in 5 Easy Steps, IndieWire.com, Available at: http://www.indiewire.com/article/how-to-save-indie-film-distribution-20140618, (Accessed 8 August 2014)

APPENDIX B

Minimum Viable Product – The term minimum viable product has been in use since at least 2000 as part of various approaches to product development. See “The Dynamic Balance Between Cost, Schedule, Features, and Quality in Software Development Projects”, Junk, W, 2000, Computer Science Department, University of Idaho.
The term refers to any product (initially any software) in a basic state that can be presented to consumers. As defined by Eric Ries in the Lean Startup, a Minimum Viable Product “is a learning vehicle. It allows you to test an idea by exposing an early version of your product to the target users and customers, to collect the relevant data, and to learn from it.”
See also: “Minimum Viable Product: a guide”, Eric Ries, 2009. http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2009/08/minimum-viable-product-guide.html

Continuous Development – The process whereby products are altered frequently and released to the marketplace in an aggressive – often weekly – schedule.

Split Testing – Simultaneously releasing 2 or more variations of the same product into the marketplace, obtaining some sort of metrics to test customer approval or interest, and comparing the results, choosing a ‘winner’.

APPENDIX C

This following are articles, blog entries and general reference materials that I feel will be beneficial during the course of my degree program

Adler, T (2006) The Producers: Money, Movies and Who Calls the Shots, Methuen Drama

Bernstein, P, Crowdfunding is a Full-Time Job, Indiewire.com, Available At: http://www.indiewire.com/article/crowdfunding-is-a-full-time-job-tips-from-the-directors-of-the-dog-20140811?utm_campaign=crowdfunding-is-a-full-time-job-tips-from-the-directors-of-the-dog-20140811

Fogelson, M, How to Identify an Online Community for Your Business, Moz.com, Available At: http://moz.com/blog/identifying-online-community

Grove, E (2013) Lo To No Budget Filmmaking, Focal Press

Hirschhorn, J, If Video is Booming, Why are Revenues Evaporating?, MediaRedefined.com, Available At: http://www.mediaredefined.com/a-redef-original-if-video-is-b-668292818.html

Jolliffe, G & Jones, C (2000) The Guerrilla Film Makers Handbook & Movie Blueprint, Cassel

Lynch, J, How Amazon built a TV studio that’s finally challenging Netflix, Quartz.com, Available At: http://qz.com/246925/how-amazon-built-a-tv-studio-thats-finally-challenging-netflix/

Puttnam, D (1997) The Undeclared War: Struggle for Control of the World’s Film Industry, HarperCollins

Munarriz, R. A., Why Your Local Redbox Kiosk Just Disappeared, DailyFinance.com, Available At: http://www.dailyfinance.com/on/redbox-kiosk-numbers-shrinking-outerwall/

Ng, D, How to Find Thriving Online Communities, Dummies.com, Available At: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-find-thriving-online-communities.html

Sillesen, L, Do documentary filmmakers need data about their audiences?, Columbia Journalism Review, Available At: http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/do_documentary_filmmakers_need_audience_data.php

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Every Story Ever Told – My take on the Hero’s Journey

[ What follows is the script for my Toastmasters Speech #2, given in Sendai, Japan]

Introduction

What if I told you that stories as diverse as the ancient Chinese fable ‘Journey to the West’, the life of Jesus as written in the New Testament, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the 12th Century Japanese work Heike Monogatari, the Harry Potter books and almost every action and fantasy work ever filmed or written all followed the same pattern?

I want to expose that pattern to you. It will give you insight into movies and stories, and quite possibly change the way you watch and read them for the rest of your life.

Back in 1949 a man named Joseph Campbell first published a book called ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, where he broke story characters down into a series of archetypes or character patterns. Campbell travelled the world, including a stay in Japan studying folklore and Noh theatre, and honed his theories into something called the Monomyth.

I want to cover archetypes in another speech, because today I want to focus on the Monomyth, or as we often call it – The Hero’s Journey.

 

My simplified Hero's Journey Diagram

Body

The Hero’s Journey is broken down into 12 basic stages.

Stage 1 – The Ordinary World Whether you are a carpenter or a spaceman or a boy who will be king of the wizards, you inhabit a world that is ordinary to you. Every story needs to show the ordinary world of the hero before it can explain the ‘extra-ordinary’ world he is about to enter.

Stage 2 – The Call To Adventure This is where our main character, our hero, has his world changed. Either externally or internally. Maybe an old wizard shows up and invites him to join a quest – as in Lord of the Rings, or a princess appears in a hologram as in Star Wars.

Stage 3 – Refusal of the Call Our hero says “no, I don’t think so” to the adventure before him. Indiana Jones thinks it’s impossible to find the Ark.

Stage 4 – Meeting with the Mentor Our hero meets someone who is well versed in the tools of the new world, who can guide or train our hero at the start of his journey into the unknown. Think that scene where James Bond meets Q, the person who gives him all those great weapons, or when Hagrid tells Harry Potter who his parents were.

Stage 5 – Crossing the Threshold Finally our hero is ready and can plunge headlong into the story and the world before him, one with different rules and values than his own. Frodo leaves the Shire, Luke Skywalker leaves Tatooine, Alice goes down the rabbit hole, Sherlock Holmes steps out onto the streets to solve a crime

Stage 6 – Tests, Allies and Enemies Our hero is tested, finds new friends, and finds new foes. Story is struggle – in his tests these cases our heroes find out who is friend and who is not. And we, the audience, learn what kind of skills and values our hero really has.

Stage 7 – Approach The hero and his allies prepare for the major challenge in this new world – to get the thing he came for. Usually this is physically a cave or enclosed space that the hero approaches. Dorothy and her friends finally get inside Oz.

Stage 8 – The Ordeal This is the darkest moment for our hero, where we, the audience, fear for his life and root for his success. Our hero enters battle and confronts death, maybe even dies. Out of the moment of death his reborn with greater strength.

Stage 9 – The Reward The hero gets the thing he wanted. Campbell called it ‘the elixir’, others call it ‘the sword’, but it is something that could be taken back with the hero. There is celebration, but still the risk of losing what he has won.

Stage 10 – The Road Back Now that he has what he came for our hero has to fight his way back. He is usually chased by those that protected the thing he came for.

Stage 11 – The Resurrection The ultimate fight as our hero breaks out of the special world. The hero returns home, bringing with him the treasure that can change his ordinary world.

Stage 12 – New Life Back to the same old life as stage 1. Sherlock Holmes goes back to 221b Baker Street, Frodo is back in the Shire, Dorothy is back in Kansas. But things are different. Life is never the same when you’re a hero.

It’s easy to apply this structure to action movies, as any good action movie made now uses this as it’s template. Any Role Playing video game, like the Final Fantasy series, also relies heavily on this theory.
New sensation the Hunger Games blatantly follows it. And so does famous anime like ‘One Piece’. Each ‘Voyage’ of ‘One Piece’ puts Monkey D Luffy through the Hero’s Journey.

Conclusion

I hope you’ll leave here tonight and start to see the Journey in books and movies.

But, it’s not just fiction that follows the Hero’s Journey. It is also in our own lives. We may not slay dragons or enter a magical world, but I bet that each of us needs to learn, overcome obstacles and return with a treasure that will make our lives better.

Joseph Campbell said

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Maybe this room is your cave, and speaking is your fear. But if you conquer it, you’re a kind of hero, don’t you think?

What I learned from writing my presentation

I just wanted to go through some points about doing my presentation of my learning contract.

  1. Doing the presentation clarified my mind! This is the most important, for me. Having to distill my learning contract down into a presentation really showed some holes in my learning contract. It got me thinking about the overall ‘arch’ of the masters.
  2. It’s show AND tell. I didn’t want my presentation to be just slides of what I was saying, so, I went to the other end of the spectrum – my slides have almost no words on them and are simply an accompaniment to my talking.
  3. Google Presentation tool rocks! For the first time I used the Presentation Tool in Google Apps. I knew that I would have to be showing this in Hangouts, so I hoped there was some simpatico between the two (there really isn’t). But, it is a very easy to use tool and certainly the lack of features (that I wouldn’t have used) made the learning curve easy.
  4. Write a script. Trying to remember all the salient points in each slide at the time of the presentation is going to be tough. Read: impossible. I wrote script notes.
  5. Read it. Then rewrite to what you actually said. I think like most people when I write it is not in the same ‘tone’ as when I talk. So, I went over my script reading it aloud (many times!) and then rewrote the script to match how I actually would say what I wrote.
  6. Clip art is a beautiful thing. My presentation is not ever going to be seen outside of my cohort/tutors, so, I can use any clip art I wanted. When searching for clip art I recommend
    1. use google image search
    2. if you are looking for illustrations (not photos) add ‘png’ to the search string (eg ‘house png’ or ‘arrow png’)
    3. Find the biggest possible pic so it will scale down better
    4. Don’t waste too much time. Pick the first thing that works.
  7. Your dog is not a person. Giving your presentation to your dog, or cat or gerbil, even a dozen times, does not prepare you for talking to a human. Giving it to a person is unnerving, so do it once before the big day.
  8. Don’t BS too much. This is more about the Learning Contract. Yes, I know we all have no real clue as to how it is going to play out, so to a certain extent of course the is a work of Fantasy (without the Unicorns and Elves) but don’t reach for the impossible. You are not going to interview Steve Spielberg. You’re going to have a difficult enough time interviewing Manny Spielberg who runs the Deli around the corner!
  9. Conversely, Dream Big. You’re spending a chunk of change on this masters and maybe this is your one shot to use the clout (?!) of Raindance, or of doing a Masters, to get something exciting done.  What have you always wanted to do in the film business. Try to do it.
  10. Dammit, Tiska is right. Your Masters is like making a movie. And so, like making a movie….
    1. You need to brainstorm.
    2. You need to approach things from different angles and get yourself out of your comfort zone.
    3. You need to be able to admit you are wrong and that other people are right.
    4. You need to keep the end in mind.
    5. You need to not get caught up in the technology.
    6. You need to get the help of others.
    7. You will learn that your ideas are not unique – but how you PRESENT your ideas can be.
    8. Your learning contract is the blueprint (the script). You can/will/must do rewrites based on changing situations.
    9. Hire a cinematographer. Preferably from Eastern Europe or Scandinavia, or with a name that sounds like it. (this means: look through someone else’s eyes at your plans)
    10. Sound is as important as picture.
    11. Zoom in on the gun. If something is going to make an impact, SHOW IT.

But…what do I know!? There is every possibility that my presentation and learning contract suck. These are just the things I think I learned.