No One Sets Out to Make a Bad Film?

No One Sets Out to Make a Bad Film?

Bad films are gauged on a critical spectrum all their own. Whether you have films that are high concept failures (The Last Airbender), low budget schlock (Silent Night Deadly Night: Part 2, Street Trash, and numerous other 80’s horror films), so bad they’re good (Tammy and the T-Rex is a personal favorite of mine), movies that set out to be prestige pictures only to fail miserably (United Passions), and the rare film that transcends it’s terrible reputation to become a cultural milestone (The Room, Troll 2) there is no limit to the long list of bad films. We’re often told with multiple misfires that no one sets out to make a bad film. Ed Wood wanted to craft an important film with Glen or Glenda and 20th Century Fox wanted to reboot a superhero franchise with Fant4stic. Neither of these got the reception their creators had hoped, but what about other films? Have we entered a time where the market for terrible films is now being targeted by opportunistic directors, producers, and studios? Let’s take a look at some of the recent trends in bad filmmaking and how they’re contributing bad films in a bad way.

-The Mockbuster Market-

This is something that truly bothers me. The term “mockbuster” came into the filmmaking lexicon around the mid 2000’s. Basically when a large tentpole film gets released in theatres (Thor) a company will release a low-budget knock-off with a similar title direct to video in hopes of exploiting consumer ignorance (Almighty Thor). The most notable example of this is the production company The Asylum. While they originally made low budget films with original concepts (and still do occasionally) all that changed when their version War of the Worlds was released to coincide with the big budget Cruise/Spielberg remake. With a hit on their hands multiple films got released in this vein (Snakes on a Train, Sunday School Musical, Transmorphers, and numerous more) continuing the trend to this day. While this is by no means a current trend as these kinds of films have been around for ages. In fact: if you look back to the late 70’s early 80’s there were numerous films that tried to capitalize on the success of Star Wars. Some of these films have gone onto be classics in a somewhat odd fashion. Piranha rode the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, but in turn launched the career of Joe Dante. Who coincidentally went on to direct the Spielberg produced Gremlins. The difference is now it has become a legitimate industry instead of a one off film from a producer looking to make a quick buck to finance their next project.

-Content for Cable-

My family got cable for the first time when I was a kid and it was exciting. I now had channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network at my disposal. Along the way I branched into other major networks. USA was where I initially saw films like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Critters, but along with them I saw films like Mosquito and the previously mentioned Tammy and the T-Rex. USA created the spin-off Sci-Fi channel (now known as SyFy) and this is where things got interesting. Many numerous bad films found their way onto this channel and developed a niche following. Then came 2013, there was an abnormal amount of buzz surrounding one of these films. Sharknado (a film from the previously mentioned The Asylum) hit Internet forums like an atom bomb propelling the film to a limited theatrical release and became a multi-film franchise. While the original film may have been an attempt at taking a kooky idea and make something from it the three sequels upped the ridiculous factor just to get more from this insanity. So much so that Sharknado 5: Global Meltdown debuted last night and the possibility of a sixth film not out of the question.

-Critics of the Bad-

Oh boy, here is the big factor that for me has shifted bad filmmaking into the norm. Looking back the kickstarter of this trend was the classic (and thankfully still going strong) series Mystery Science Theater 3000. What makes this show so endearing is how relatable it has always been. Who hasn’t sat around with friends and cracked jokes at a film they’re watching? With the rise of Youtube many people flocked to the platform to critique media. I’ve talked previously about a handful of these channels, but I’d like to shift my focus towards Youtuber I Hate Everything. He has a series titled “The Search for the Worst” where he berates some of lowest rent films made. One of his reviews was for the film “The Amazing Bulk”. In typical fashion he ripped the film to shreds. Surprisingly Wide Eye Releasing the company who distributed the film got in contact with him. They thanked him for raising the profile of the film and even sent him a gift. Along side the gift was a copy of their film “Shark Exorcist”. Yep, this is where things have gone. A studio now relishes the attention a bad review can give that they will go out of their way to make similar situation occur with another film. This to me is proof that some bad films are no longer a fluke. And this is what bugs me the most. What’s the point of putting forth any effort if you can film mediocrity and bank on notoriety to sell it?

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do people now set out with the intention of making a bad film? Do you think an industry of terrible films is a problem? Or does it just give people more options for their entertainment? Let me know. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts and Instagram. As always, thanks for reading.

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What is Pocket.watch and Will it Become a Dominating Force in Kids Entertainment?

What is Pocket.watch and Will it Become a Dominating Force in Kids Entertainment?

I recently read an article online about a new digital start up company called Pocket.watch. As I started to look further into the company I realized there is a lot to unpack and discuss. And while I’m nearly 30 I always find kid’s media intriguing. What makes kids enjoy certain stories and do kids know when they’re being pandered to? We’ll dig into that topic down the line, but today lets look at this new company, where it came from, what it might mean for the industry, and where it could go.

-Who and What?-

Pocket.watch intends to be a new online outlet for media geared towards children between 2-11 years of age. It comes to us from the mind of Chris M. Williams who has a background in both online distribution and children’s entertainment. Previously he worked as the chief audience officer of Maker Studios and GM of Disney Online Originals. As the CEO of Pocket.watch he has already taken major steps in recruiting talented people into the fold. This includes former head of Nickelodeon and HLN Albie Hecht as chief content officer and well known entertainment lawyer Jon Moonves as chief strategy officer. What we see here is a trio who are not only seasoned professionals, but have a their fingers on the pulse of kid’s entertainment. One coming from the Mouse House and the other coming from Viacom’s green slime producing subsidiary. The group has already raised six million dollars in funding from high profile Hollywood talent including (but not limited to) Robert Downey Jr., Jon Landau, and Leslie Moonves (brother of Jon Moonves). Their goal is to start creating, acquiring, and distributing online entertainment both short and long form to compete with Disney and Nickelodeon. Ambitious but not out of the realm of possibility.

-Changing Viewer Habits-

This is a major factor working in Pocket.watch’s favor. It’s a fact that over the past few years how kids consume content has changed greatly. The Internet has made accessing media in all forms easier and offered a wider variety. Kids no longer have to sit down at a television between the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to watch a block of programming geared towards them. Mobile devices and streaming have made it possible to watch in the viewer’s timeframe rather than what some suit assumes are the peak hours of watching. More consumers are cancelling their cable and satellite subscriptions and swapping in ‘skinny bundle’ packages from companies like Netflix and Amazon. People are looking for cheaper options that are available to them 24/7. With Pocket.watch tapping into this trend they’re stepping into the forefront of new media from the get go rather than being dragged into it. When you cater to the desires of customers they’ll be happy and willing to use your product. Smart move.

-Talent and their Treatment-

Just a few days ago it was announced that Pocket.watch had signed popular Youtube creators HobbyKidsTV as one of their first creative partners. HobbyKidsTV currently has nearly 2.4 million subscribers and gets around 200 million views monthly over ten separate channels. This built in fanbase will be a big coup for the company as they begin. Odds are people who come to Pocket.watch to see HobbyKidsTV will explore the other videos on the site. And looking at the state of Youtube it’s good for creators. In the past few months there have been problems brewing. Youtubers have seen profits shrinking from ad revenue as advertisers begin to dictate where they want ads placed and avoiding ‘controversial’ subjects and videos. This in turn has led to a lot of creators upset and looking at other options to make money. Some are getting video sponsorship, selling merchandise, or going to other websites to host their content. Pocket.watch has offered HobbyKidsTV an equity stake in the company. This is big for three reasons: 1. Creators will have a voice in the company and be part of the decision making process. 2. Having a share in the company means creators will get a larger cut of profits. 3. Stake in the company means the creators will have a deeper investment in it’s success. In a time when the collaborative spirit of online content is diminishing it’s surprising that a company wants vested interest from it’s employees.

-Issues in the Past-

As I stated previously, Williams and Hecht have previous experience with the major giants of kids entertainment. Williams with Disney/Maker Studios and Hecht at Viacom/Nickelodeon. And in the meantime issues have been brewing at both of those companies. Many former partners of Maker Studios have expressed displeasure with the tactics the company used. Whether it be taking a surprisingly large portion ad revenue or claiming a large slice of intellectual ownership over videos. And Viacom has been in turmoil since Sumner Redstone resigned as executive chairman of CBS and Viacom. With all this there has been lay-offs and talk of potential lay-offs at both companies. With their knowledge of whats going on, Williams and Hecht have insight into who they can woo over to Pocket.watch in more lucrative and stable positions. And with people uncertain about their futures at a company they’d be more willing to jump ship and join up with Pocket.watch.

-My One Fear-

While everything is sounding innovative and optimistic about where Pocket.watch will go there is something that still worries me. A while back I wrote an article on the up and coming website Vessel. I concluded that my major fear was that the company would end up getting bought out and absorbed into Youtube. While Youtube wasn’t the one to acquire Vessel (that was Verizon) it did end up getting shut down mere months after I wrote the article. In said article I stressed that it’s important to have healthy competition in the marketplace. But in the end if the people in charge of Pocket.watch get offered a large sum of money from another company they’d be foolish to turn it down. For the sake of the consumer and creators I hope Williams, Hecht, and Moonves are in this to change the market rather than building something only to make money selling it off to the highest bidder. Fingers crossed.

These are my thoughts on Pocket.watch, but as usual what are yours? Do you think this company is taking a major step in launching an entertainment empire built on innovation? Is kids entertainment in need of more variety? Are there any parents reading who have an opinion? If you’re interested you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts for more. And as always, thanks for reading!

Holy Crap, Foamy the Squirrel is 13 Years Old!

Holy Crap, Foamy the Squirrel is 13 Years Old!

It seems so weird to think of a time when I watched videos online pre- Youtube or Vimeo. I still remember once upon a time how blown away I was by the fact that I could download the trailer for Jurassic Park III (I was thirteen at the time and expected the movie to be amazing) and watch it as many times as I wanted. There are a few other videos I remember from this era including Homestar Runner (TROGDOR!!!!) and Neurotically Yours. I have great memories of watching “Squirrel Songs”, “5 More Minutes”, and so many others in my computer class over doing work. Today I wanted to look back at Foamy the Squirrel and what’s going on with him, Germaine, and the other squirrel cohorts nowadays.

-The Origins-

Originally starting out as a comic book created by Jonathan Ian Mathers (I had no clue about that) Neurotically Yours became a webtoon that mainly focused on Germaine’s dark outlook while Foamy would occasionally pop in from time to time to make a witty comment and leave. Slowly but surely more Foamy made it’s way into the series and this was for me the driving force that got it noticed. As a teenager I loved the angry diatribes of this furry little maniac and was a card carrying member of the “Cult of Foamy”. It was fun in between classes or at lunch to catch a friend in the halls and say, “You can’t handle my Squirrely Wrath!” only for people to look at us like we were crazy. Once I got into college I tried to stay caught up, but between me being busy and storylines becoming increasingly darker I kind of stop watching. Slowly I began to think less about Germaine and Foamy (and Pilz-E, one of my favorites) until I just assumed Jonathan Ian Mathers had stopped making episodes. That is until August of 2011.

-New Look, Same Old Foamy-

Out of nowhere I remember reading that Neurotically Yours was getting a reboot to take the story back to a less overtly sexual place and debut a new look for the show. Jonathan Ian Mathers (in the form of a Foamy rant) even told fans to calm down and not worry about the show becoming more kid friendly. I really liked how the original series actually set up the reboot. As Germaine continued to make more and more questionable life choices Foamy presented her with a “reboot button” saying that she’d get a second chance if she pressed the button. What we got was a new storyline where Germaine is forced to move out of New York into a Connecticut suburb. Foamy begrudgingly goes along and all of our favorite characters follow. It was fun to see a series free of so many years of baggage heading in a new direction.

-What’s Going On Now?-

Now five years into the rebooted series Neurotically Yours continues to stay consistently entertaining. After taking a break from the sexual content Mathers brought it back and fans called foul. But what he intended was very interesting. It turned out that Germaine had been suffering from severe hallucinations these past few years and all the sexual content was in her head. Mathers stated that this idea was to show how constant sexual idolization in today’s society can warp a person’s perception. With that we’re beginning to see Germaine once again be a more light-hearted character. I guess that’s what being highly medicated will do. On the flip side, thankfully Foamy is still his angry ranting self. And even as I wrap this article up I can not believe that Neurotically Yours has been around for nearly half my life.

As usual, what are your thoughts? Are you still watching the adventures of Foamy and Germaine? Now that I’ve brought back memories of the series are you going to get caught up on the show? Can anyone handle your Squirrely Wrath?

Why We Need to Fight for Fair Use.

Why We Need to Fight for Fair Use.

The past few months a movement dubbed Where’s the Fair Use? (or #WTFU) has been circling the Internet and most notably Youtube. Spearheaded by Doug Walker of Nostalgia Critic fame Where’s the Fair Use? was originally created to take aim Youtube’s strikes and claims policy and how it can be abused by unscrupulous people looking to cash in on a content creator’s hard work. Since then it has grown into a larger debate about what is copyright infringement. So today I wanted to discuss why fair use needs to be protected and how some people are trying to frame this fight in a negative light.

-Like it or Not, Media is Changing-

I’ve talked about this before on here, but it needs to be said again. Traditional media has been left scratching their head when it comes to how Youtube works. I’ve read articles and seen newscasts that act as though it’s some fluke that Youtubers are actually making money off the “little videos” they post. How could some random person point a camera at their face, upload it to this site, and get people to watch it? This right here is the problem. The old guard can not fathom why someone would watch online videos when their products are made with more money and better resources. What they fail to see is that these creators keep a more watchful eye on their audience and know what they want. Studios are still using antiquated market research to greenlight films and TV shows with no exact certainty of how they’ll pan out. This gives online creators a much stronger connection to fans and makes for more entertainment people want.

-How is Fair Use Suppose Work?-

Before we dig into the recent problems let’s talk about what Fair Use entails and how it’s suppose to work. In a nutshell Fair Use states that a person can use snippets of copyrighted material for news segments, parody, criticism, research, and academic purposes without having to pay to use said material. This means someone could take clips from a film and use them in their videos so long as you’re not uploading the entire film.

-In “The Grey” Area-

This where things get tricky. Studios are beginning to say that because Youtubers can monetize videos where they use copyrighted material they’re reaping the benefits of other people’s hard work. In turn, they claim that this affects the sales of the original product in a negative way. Apparently, if you see a person online making fun of a film or playing a video game you yourself are not going to see the film or play the game. While I can only speak for myself this has been quite the contrary. I’ve watched numerous films that I never would have regularly based on how someone online spoke about it. I remember seeing the trailer for The Grey and thinking, “This looks like another bland Liam Neeson action film.” In spite of that I watched a review online where the critic spoke of how the trailer misrepresented what the actual film was about. I decided to give it rent and to my amazement it was a stellar film. What looked like another bland action film about men being chased by wolves turned out to be a harrowing story of man vs. nature.

-Why is This an Issue Now?-

I guess this would be the main point of my article. There have always been people who have operated under Fair Use in the past and it’s been perfectly fine. Without Fair Use we never would’ve seen “Weird Al” Yankovic’s career take off as it has over all these decades. We also would’ve never been able to hear Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel debate the merits of the films that would playing in our local theaters every weekend. So why after all these years are studios getting up in arms about now? My only guess is because the Internet is so readily available that once something gets posted they know more people would see it now than they would have in the past. This in turn makes them assume that if bad news travels faster then less people will get suckered into their mediocre products.

No matter what you may think about online content creators this is a very serious issue. If it keeps going the way it has who knows how many artists will be forced to quit creating. Or even how many will never get their chance because they’re too afraid of being told, “No, you can not say that because we’ll make sure your video gets taken down.” Let your voice be heard in this debate at the link below. And if you want more information and first hand accounts of how Fair Use is being trampled check out Walker’s video, “Where’s the Fair Use?”

https://www.takedownabuse.org/

Will Slated.com Become the Future of Indie Filmmaking?

Will Slated.com Become the Future of Indie Filmmaking?

Anyone who has tried to make a film knows that finding money is the biggest issue that can plague a production. Like seeing a mirage a in a desert, the closer you get to funding the less likely it is to be real. This has lead to people using alternate revenue streams for financing. Sam Raimi asked Michigan dentists to pay for The Evil Dead. Kevin Smith sold comic books, maxed out credit cards, and used FEMA money he was awarded to make Clerks. In recent years websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been havens for up and comers. But a recent beast to emerge is Slated.com. What is this and why is it so important? Let’s take a look.

-Background-

Stephan Paternot was once upon a time (the late 90’s to be exact) a co-creator of the website theglobe.com. Never heard of it? Neither had I until researching for this article. What was one of the original social networking websites (we’re talking pre Friendster or Myspace) went from booming success to plummeting failure in the span of a year. When the smoke cleared Paternot went on two separate paths. While investing in angel funds  for tech start ups he also built his own film production company PalmStar Entertainment. It was only a matter of time before these paths merge back together.

-A New Site-

Around 2012 Paternot started slated.com with the goal of taking the very closed off filmmaking community and positioning it to be more friendly to outsiders. While Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made it possible for people to get budgets Slated goes a step further. Paternot’s idea meant taking the interactions of social media and using that to connect directors, writers, actors, producers, financiers, and sales agents in the hopes of getting films made. Right now the site boasts over 50,000 members from all facets of film. The great thing, membership is completely free

-Has This Been a Success?-

Slated has evaluated thousands of projects basing their viability off the script and talent involved, but has it been working? Thankfully yes, a large pool of major Hollywood talent (including Oscar winning producer Lawrence Bender, writer/director Nia Vardalos, and actors like Ashton Kutcher, Ron Perlman, and Heather Graham) are already part of the Slated community. And films are in fact getting made. Off the top of my head, I think of two films that I’ve seen in recent years. The Kristen Bell dramedy The Lifeguard and the Emily Browning musical God Help the Girl both got made with the help of Slated. And according to Slated’s website 68 percent of the films that were at the Sundance Film Festival this year were made by members of their community.

-What Does the Future Hold?-

This is the multi-million dollar question of the day. Four years running Slated has been building a momentum and getting projects that odds are wouldn’t get traditionally financed off the ground. What can we hope to see from Stephan Paternot’s glorious creation? Indie films that will breakthrough and become huge financial hits and award winners. I think it’s only a matter of time. We need these smaller films to get a light shined on them. Otherwise we’ll only be seeing movies that studio execs think we want to watch. But the major problem is the what if. When Kickstarter got raided by Zach Braff and Spike Lee it trumpeted the beginning of the end. I cross my fingers that they keep the evaluation process unbiased and not let bigger names get preference.

As usual, what are your thoughts? Do you think Slated is the future of indie filmmaking or is it going to get co-opted by famous people? Will we see a competitor site pop up? Are you going to look closer into Slated as a way to make your next film?

PS: I need to leave some shameless self-promotion. Follow me on Twitter @SDFilmThoughts.

Why I Like Chris Stuckmann’s Criticism

Why I Like Chris Stuckmann’s Criticism

The Internet has become a vast oasis (or wasteland depending on your point of view) where any average joe with a computer and opinion can speak their mind. While this has been a great in allowing the unheard voice get a podium it’s also meant a lot of obnoxious people get louder. With that being said I have found a collection of Youtubers I enjoy watching. One of those is film critic Chris Stuckmann. Today I’m going to talk about why I value his opinions in regards to film.

-The Roger Ebert Gauge-

The great Roger Ebert once spoke about how his ratings system is relative in terms of genre. It’s hard to compare films like Fan4stic to The Revenant, so you need to compare something like Fan4stic to Ant-Man. Stuckmann seems to carry a very similar approach in his reviews. With his recent re-review of The Amazing Spider-Man he pointed out how the film faltered in relation to the Sam Raimi films. Why is this important? Because you need a specific tool to measure something in relation it’s own worth. You wouldn’t use a yard stick to find out how much water is in a jar. So why would you use Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to decide if Crank: High Voltage is a good film?

-Clearly Making His Point-

I don’t think there is a single critic that I’ve ever agreed with 100 percent of the time. I remember seeing Chris’ review for the remake of The Thing and being at odds with him. He gave the film an A- and I utterly despised it. But, with his review he clearly conveyed the reasons for his grade and backed it up with clear points. On the other hand I loved Crimson Peak while he gave it a C. He points out that the film does have a great visual palette, but it’s story wasn’t up to par. If any good critic is going to take an opinion contrarian to the majority they need to be prepared to defend said opinion. Stuckmann does this eloquently and intelligently with every review.

-Not Just an Angry Rant Reviewer-

One of the biggest problems that has swept the Internet is how people tend to put on these over the top personalities to stand out. Rant Reviewing has been a big thing online and sometimes it works. Point of fact: The Nostalgia Critic (Doug Walker) has been around for nearly a decade and made some hilarious rant reviews. At the same time Doug Walker has done videos (usually with his brother) where he gives an honest opinion on a film. My problem is that as time went on you can feel his Nostalgia Critic persona bleed into his regular reviews. Stuckmann thankfully draws a strong line between his regular reviews and his “Hilariocity”reviews. I appreciate that because it shows he knows that in spite of how much he may dislike a film like Fan4stic he doesn’t just scream into a camera and act like it’s an actual review.

So what are your thoughts on this article? Is there any specific online critic you watch on a regular basis? Are you subscribed to Chris Stuckmann? Talk about it down below.

PS: If you’re interested you can follow me on Twitter @SDFilmThoughts. Aside from posting these articles I often leave dumb jokes and comments on upcoming films.

Could Vessel be the Video Site the Internet Needs?

Could Vessel be the Video Site the Internet Needs?

Just over a year ago former Hulu execs Jason Kilar and Richard Tom launched the new video hosting website Vessel. Since then little to no real news has been reported on the site. After my previous article on Markiplier’s “Youtube Has Changed” video I wanted to take a closer look at Vessel. In this article I’ll dig into the possibilities of what Vessel could mean for the future of the Internet and why it’s important that it continue to grow.

-Healthy Competition in a Good Thing-

In the past few years Youtube has positioned itself as the biggest website for video hosting and at the moment there are no real competitors. Sure, Vimeo is working hard to be a bigger and better site, but as of now it’s more for filmmakers than the general public. Vessel is cutting deals with online creators who have become fed up with Youtube’s ways. Doug Walker (aka The Nostalgia Critic) recently spoke out against Yotube’s strikes and claims system and how it’s stifling an artist’s right to fair use. He’s now signed up with Vessel and is part of their early access program. Many creators including Epic Meal Time and Linus Tech Tips are also getting on board for an additional revenue stream. If Vessel can position itself as a safe haven for these people you could see a mass migration of creators from Youtube.

-Being an Ally to Creators-

As I spoke about in the previous paragraph there’s a battle being fought on Youtube. Studios are abusing Youtube’s copyright system as a way to not only delete videos and channels, but also take take ad revenue from Youtubers. Youtube seems to take a slow time in dealing with claims and strikes brought against channels. Often there’s not even an actual person from the company involved in the process. If Vessel could step up and declare that they’d be more hands on with these issues and act as mediators more people would be willing to put their work out there. Creators could breathe and not fear a system being abused to their disadvantage.

-A Merging of Worlds-

It’s interesting to see that people who were once part of Hulu and worked with major studios are building a website that is partnering with online creators. They see the value in these people and what they mean to the future of entertainment. Vessel could act as the bridge between traditional media and self made filmmakers. Kilar and Tom might use their former Hulu connections to get online creators the meetings they’ve been denied due to the stigma currently associated with being an Internet celebrity. And in turn lead to these people getting pulled into Hollywood productions.

-What I Fear-

With only about fifteen months under their belt Vessel still has yet to make a real impact in the online community. Going forward I hope they begin to market themselves a little better. While they’re using the creators who sign up to help promote the website that can only go so far. Show that you’re a stronger alternative to Youtube with both a cheaper premium subscription rate and getting a larger slice of the profits into the filmmaker’s hands. If they don’t become bigger over the next year or two I fear their only other option will be absorption. And the very last thing I’d want to see is Vessel being bought out by Youtube. We can not live in a world where a monopoly reigns over online video hosting.

As always, what are your thoughts? Can Vessel become the website we need it to be? Or is it destined to a future as a second rate site? Could this loosen Youtube’s hold on videos?