Category Archives: Internet

TIFF 2013 in a Nut’s Hell

As everyone knows, I’m the guy that all the celebrities want to hang with every year during the Toronto International Film Festival. And then I tweet about it.

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Mila Kunis photo under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Celebrities’ Crowd-Sourcing Campaigns (NSFW)

<rant>

Let’s assume for a moment that you’re one of the many many people who have publicly criticized the producers of Veronica Mars, or Zach Braff, or James Franco, or Spike Lee, for starting a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign to generate a budget for their next work… YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. Likely because you don’t understand what these artists are bringing to the table and/or how the Internet functions.

“They’re taking money away from artists who deserve it.”

Well there are a number of things wrong with that statement.

First of all, they aren’t taking money away from anyone. They do not control the money being donated to their campaigns. They do not control the people donating that money. They have no access to anyone’s bank account or credit card. They are not taking anything. They are being GIVEN donations by people WHO WANT TO DONATE TO THEM.

Crowd-sourcing is not about the campaigns, it’s about the people contributing to the campaigns. Contributors are the heroes of this narrative. Crowd-sourcing does not exist for indie artists; it exists for contributors. And they get to contribute to whatever the fuck they want to contribute to.

You are not a shepherd. You do not get to decide what someone else wants to contribute to. You do not get to decide what they do contribute to, nor do you get to decide what they do not contribute to.

No one goes on to Kickstarter with a monthly budget to decide who they’re going to donate to this month. “Oh look Spike Lee has a campaign, I’m going to donate to him instead of Joe Schmoe because he’s a celebrity.” That does not happen. That person does not exist.

You also do not get to decide what anyone deserves. If you think you do, you’re an irrelvent asshole. And I wish you would leave this rant immediately because you don’t deserve the knowledge I’m about to impart. Seriously. If you think you get to decide what anyone else deserves, go away right now.

I’m going to assume those irrelevant assholes are gone now. Back to the subject at hand.

I can play the “deserve” game too. Try this on – none of these artists (celebrity or otherwise) deserve anything. Why not? Because there’s a fucking village in Africa that’s dying of thirst! But apparently Joe Schmoe’s TV pilot is more deserving of crowdsourced funding than Zach Braff’s Garden State sequel. If this is how you think, here’s some advice: grow a fucking soul.

Furthermore, YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW THE INTERNET WORKS.

Web traffic is a numbers and demographics game. It always has been, it always will be (unless someone completely restructures it, which would take years and quadrillions of dollars.) Web traffic is grouped down demographical lines. If you enjoy the works of Zach Braff, there is a great likelihood that you will enjoy the works of someone who makes things that are similar in theme, tone or genre, to Zach Braff. That’s how the web directory Yahoo became a powerhouse – thematic grouping. That’s how Amazon sells more products – “People who bought that also bought this.” That’s how the Web is organized.

They are called niches. And hey America, it’s pronounced “neesh”, not “nitch”.

When Veronica Mars is given a crowd-sourcing campaign, every other campaign that is in anyway similar to VM benefits from the presense of the VM campaign. Same with Braff. Same with Franco. Same with Spike.

Here’s a brick & mortar example:
I rent a store in a mall and I sell t-shirts. The guy renting the store beside mine sells DVDs. And he’s having a huge sale this weekend. Every Batman movie is 50% off. Now what am I going to do with all my Batman t-shirts? If I’m smart, I’m going to move my Batman t-shirts to the front of my store where they will be more visible to anyone attracted by my neighbor’s Batman sale. And guaranteed I will sell way more Batman t-shirts this weekend. I’ve taken advantage of the Batman-loving niche.

Web traffic works the exact same way.

Spike Lee is asking for $1.5M for his campaign. He’s bringing his target demographic to Kickstarter and that target demographic is, in all likelihood, worth well over $1.5M.

If I had a movie, TV pilot, graphic novel or web series that targeted the same demographic that Spike already has, I would get a crowd-sourcing campaign for it up on Kickstarter IMMEDIATELY. It’s the exact same function as moving my Batman t-shirts to the front of my store when my neighbor has a Batman sale.

As a result of the Braff and Veronica Mars campaigns, more than $400,000 was contributed to other campaigns that would not have been contributed had it not been for Braff and Mars. This didn’t surprise me because I know that’s how the Internet works. And that $400+K blows the other side of this particular argument out of the fucking water.

Done. Next!

“They’re rich! Why don’t they pay for their own movie!?”

If this is your argument, all you’re doing is showing your ignorance about how movies get made and the risk involved in making them. You’re also showing your ignorance about how someone else’s personal finances are organized. Which – it should be noted – is NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

If every artist we perceive as “rich” relied on their personal wealth to fund their art, art would only be made by the exceptionally wealthy. And THAT would stifle many a visionary. (With the exception of Kevin Smith who would still be making feature-length home videos for his friends, i.e. Clerks 3 through 18.)

Spike Lee is a great example. TheSmokingGun published this article criticizing Lee’s campaign in light of the fact that he’s got a mansion and estate in Martha’s Vineyard. Ah yes the entitlement of “the little people.” How easy it must be just to judge the entire structure of someone’s personal finances based solely off the number on the bottom line. Never mind that he’s a proven artist who has made great films that are socially relevant; never mind that he has opened doors for other filmmakers; never mind that with 52 director credits, he still has to fight tooth and nail to get anything made within the mainstream Hollywood system. He’s just a number, right?

In the mid-1970s, Francis Ford Coppola put his $6M home up as collateral so he could make Apocalypse Now. Do you know why he did that? Because there wasn’t any fucking Kickstarter! If you think he would do that same thing today rather than go with crowd-sourced funding, you are an idiot, wrapped inside a moron, dipped in stupidity, and baked at 350F in a confusion oven.

HOW RELEVANCY WORKS

Now, let me explain something to you about how web algorithms function. It’s real simple. Here’s the thing – the programming code that makes up every web algorithm does not know the difference between good context and bad context. Computers are not able to detect the subtlety of context. They are not sentient.

When you post a link to some article with the context that some asshole celebrity is stealing money from the little people, the only thing a web algorithm sees is that you are posting a link to a webpage. Again, algorithms do not know the difference between you saying “Do not contribute to this” and you saying “Yes go contribute to this”.

Google’s search algorithms count the number of links to a given page, they do not gauge the context in which you are putting those links. Every time you share a link, you are increasing the page rank of the page to which you are linking.

So if you really really really really really really don’t want anyone to contribute to celebrity crowd-sourcing campaigns, your ONLY recourse for ensuring that less people contribute to that campaign is this: SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.

That’s all you have to do – NOTHING. Don’t post a link about it. Don’t comment on it. Don’t criticize it. Don’t upvote it or downvote it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t even fucking think about it. Don’t do a goddamn thing.

The Internet is binary. There is either action (1) or no action (0). If you take ANY action – ANY FUCKING ACTION AT ALL – then you are contributing to their campaigns. If you take no action whatsoever, if you just keep your mouth shut and move the fuck along (preferably to something you do authentically care about), then you are not contributing to their campaigns.

That’s how the Internet works. Those are your choices. Decide well, or look like a fucking idiot to someone who knows better than you do how these things work.

Happy Saturday, everybody. 🙂

</rant>

Traditional Media Naivete

Excerpt from MTV News article, Bryan Singer’s ‘H+ The Digital Series’ Shuts Down Hardwired Humans

“An advantage of placing “H+” on YouTube is the audience’s ability to control their viewing experience and share it with others. Episodes can be watched in scripted order or chronological order, or based on storyline, character or location.

“People are going to be able to create their own curated playlists, out of as many or as few episodes as they want,” said Cabrera. “What we’re hoping that creates is a new form of what I like to call social distribution, where the actual audiences themselves become a part of the storytelling process.”

This shows some naivete regarding the platform, either on the part of John Cabrera (H+) or Tami Katzoff (MTV News) or both.

What Cabrera likes to call “social distribution” (i.e. user-generated playlists) has existed on YouTube for several years. YT audiences have been curating their own programming blocks for that long. It is only a new form of distribution if you’ve never administered a YT channel before.

The challenge is that the vast majority of Web audiences still retain a traditional media mindset. They either don’t know that they are their own Brandon Tartikoff and/or they simply don’t want to be their own Brandon Tartikoff. Traditional media audiences have been spoon-fed their A/V content for 117 years and that form of delivery has become habitual.

Many people use TV and Cinema as devices for relaxation and escapism; it allows them to turn off their own analytical thoughts and consume someone else’s thoughts for a little while. Our brains are wired for consumption OR analysis, not both at the same time. As soon as you start analyzing content, you’re no longer engaged in its consumption. Your brain contextualizes every frame differently.

For some, that activity spoils (for lack of a better word) future consumption, which is why many content creators cannot consume content without recognizing the content elements. It’s very rare that I will watch a movie without thinking, “ok there’s the inciting incident”, “there’s the departure from the familiar world, we’re now in Act 2”, etc, etc. That’s the same analytical part of the brain that is used to make playlists on YouTube in the way that Cabrera is describing.

The majority of user-generated playlists on YouTube are really no different than that user’s Favorites playlist. The videos are unrelated other than the fact that this user has bunched them all together and called the playlist “Funny Vids”. There’s very little thought – if any – given to narrative flow or thematic relationships.

I suspect Cabrera is going to be unsatisfied with the results of his “new form” of distribution. If H+’s producers were smart, they’d just take the extra few hours and create these theme-based H+ playlists themselves. Hoping audiences will do it is just plain naive and lazy. Audiences need to be retrained and rewired for Cabrera’s goal to be fulfilled.

Teenage Age

I’ve been on YouTube a lot recently, managing the user base for the Sexy Nerd Girl channel.

I’ve been monitoring who comments on videos and the SNG channel page. I go to their channel page, see if they’ve subscribed. If they haven’t, I’ll send them a friend request.

Judging by the content of their channel page – their favorites, their “about me” description – it is very obvious to me when a user is a teenager. I’ve been one myself. I know the score.

What I’m finding predominant is that when they lie about their age, they usually make themselves 20-years-old. I’ve seen hundreds of profiles in the past few weeks that list an age of 20, while it’s clear from all the signs that they are a teenager.

20 seems to be the magic age. Not so young that someone might think they’re lying about their age and not so old that they’d think they’re old.

It seems appropriate. When I was 13-17, I couldn’t imagine what 20 would look like. It was so far away.

Bocche Fresca

Web promo for the Bocche Fresche Comedy Show – August 6th, 2010 in Montreal.

Directed/edited by Simon Fraser; produced by Daniela Saioni; written by Sandra Battaglini and Daniela Saioni; cinematography by Emerson John; sound recording by Kathleen Shattock; hair/makeup by Maia Nicole Mitchell; music by Jim Clayton; starring Sandra Battaglini, Raffaella Diana, Daniela Saioni, Mark DeBonis, Marco Bernardi.

The 30-second spot plays on local Montreal TV in the weeks leading up to the event.