AL on MF(A)

The Media Festival Arts which took place on 8-10 September at the Roundhouse, London had a bit of a scattered remit. If it had to do with new media technology and art, in was in. So while a lot of sessions were irrelevant to a lot of delegates (and a lot of delegate-pass swapping took place), there were some gems.

I could only attend half a day, but here’s what caught my attention:

Project Canvas.

  • Intriguing, even though a many organisations seem to have decided to un-like it, or at least are suspicious of its motives and methodology. Maybe it does all boil down to ‘show me the money’? Given that it is a whole new platform and not just a re-flowing of your website content, and given that views will expect a certain quality when they sit in front of their TV screens, who are arts organisations going to afford to create content? Content on this platform will have to be exciting, an ‘event’, something experiential to ‘pull’ people in. We can’t just view it as a form of internet in which just about everything is out there if you search hard enough. But for the like of independent film-makers it has the potential to change the distribution game significantly.
  • On the other hand, should Project Canvas be a place to talk about art – as TV currently is – or to be art?
  • On the other other hand, the Project Canvas set-top boxes will have geo-locators to spot where they are, so producers could tag their content as for local audiences only. Neat, huh? Although I hate to think what MI6 might do with the information!
  • In the first instance, according to new Project Canvas Chair Kip Meek, we should view it as ‘a way of getting your stuff out there to people who wouldn’t otherwise see it.’

Collaborations and partnerships session discussed NT Live, the launch of The Girl Who Played With Fire film and the Last Word Challenge books. What could they teach us?

  • That the NT Live pilot summer brought a 25% increase in audiences over those that attend the South Bank venue. They were rarely totally new to theatre-going, but used it as a way of accessing the National’s performances elsewhere in the country or of trying out new type of plays with relatively low risk. While the NT wanted the ‘sense of occasion’ to emulate that of attending a theatre performance, in fact audiences experienced it as almost a whole new artform; and many felt more emotionally engaged with the performance than those attending the actual live performance.
  • There was a lot that all the collaborators in NT Live learned about establishing which brand values it was important to hang on to in creating the experience, and where they had to adjust to collaborators’ ways of working. For example, the NT wanted to keep the emphasis on the showings being one-off and time-fixed, while deferring to the cinemas’ knowledge of marketing to cinema audiences and how they behave.
  • The collaboration behind the launch of The Girl Who Played With Fire film stressed that the key to success had been to create many ‘touch points’ between the potential audience and the film and to view the film micro-site not as an end in itself but as a springboard for activities such as Facebook campaigns or games through the FindAnyFilm website.
  • The team promoting the Last Word Challenge books stressed the importance of respecting brand values of the New Scientist Magazine, generators of the books and those of the Last Word column in the magazine, which has always been inherently interactive. That enabled them to produce quizzes and challenges that complement rather than replicate the books.

UK Film Council Statistical Yearbook 2010

News comes today that this has been a record year for cinema, with takings of £944 million. However, the number of independent, home-grown films has been on the decrease, thanks to a tough economic climate.

Check out the whole Yearbook here, or go straight to the ‘Audiences’ section here for some reallty interesting facts.

I love this city

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in London. My favourite film of all time, Barbarella (I know, I know…) will be screened at the Royal Observatory’s Peter Harrison Planetarium in Greenwich this weekend.

Where else in the world would you catch a retro 60’s cult film shown in such an important building? It’s little (and sad…) things like this that remind me just how important and unique London’s cultural offering is.

Barbarella is being shown as part of Create and the Greenwich Film Festival.

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The Art of Making Videos – Part 1 : The Basic Rules

Can you remember the last time you watched something on the internet? The chances are that you probably can, and that it was pretty recent. Thanks to websites like YouTube, it’s easier now more than ever to upload and watch videos online. I couple of weeks ago I went to a really interesting session on producing video content for online and mobile platforms, hosted by Openmute for the Art of Digital London programme.

By the end of the session, I realised just how important it was for arts organisations to make the most of the opportunities which video hosting can bring- whether to enhance a website experience, to market a certain performance or to just spread the word about something. I took down too many notes so I thought I would share some with you, and will host new topics on here through the next few days. Today, we will focus on the basic rules behind producing video content.

Before you begin embarking on a video project, ask yourselves:

– Who is the target audience, and where will they find your film?

– What are the objectives for the film? Is it to inform, is it to boost awareness of something, or to promote a production?

In trying to answer these questions, think about these tips:

– Length of your film- the general rule is not to exceed 5 minutes. If you think you have too much footage then produce two different versions – one can be 20 minutes long and one can be a condensed 3 minute version.

-Particularly for arts organisations, it is so important to convey the fact that downloading and watching a video is not the same as witnessing the experience in real life.

Explain your production rather than just showing the highlights. Film some audience feedback, or interviews with actors and directors. This grabs the viewer’s attention and arouses curiosity much more than having all the good bits served up on a plate! It’s important to mention here that there are always copyright issues when it comes to broadcasting artistic output (be it a performance, or even the music used as a background). Also be aware of the fact that even though a musician or actor may allow you consent to use their material in a video, this may at times still be unlawful, so always consult with the relevant unions prior to undertaking any sort of filming.

– And one last tip: avoid trying to intentionally create viral videos- these very rarely become star attractions, and your audience are savvy enough to realise if something has been staged.

A great example of an organisation demonstrating these guidelines are the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, who I have featured on this blog before. Check out their famous video below- I hope it inspires you!

That’s it for today. Next, we’ll be looking at all the different ways to distribute a film online.