The Pros of Converting to Digital From a Business Operations Perspective

November 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

I attended a screening of the film “Side By Side” which documents the very heated topic of the film industry’s digital conversion. In it, a number of mainstream directors such as Robert Rodriguez, George Lucas and James Cameron discuss the advantages of digital. Their takeaways include real time re-shooting as opposed to filming then reviewing in a screening room. Instant playback with digital recording saves production time and improves work creativity on set. DI Colorists can manipulate color saturation in very specific areas of scenes. Production crews benefit from not having to transport film to remote locations. So the creatives benefit, but so does production on set. As a former film festival organizer I see a huge advantage to converting to digital.
Let’s say you’re a filmmaker in Spain with one original copy of your 35mm film–in just a metal canister to protect it during its transport to the United States. This one thinner than cardboard can holds your life’s work, maybe your first film; maybe your Oscar contender worthy film and you have no choice but to ship that one piece of your life internationally, not 100% sure the plane won’t crash in the ocean or catch fire or who knows–hit a mountain. Your work may be lost forever.

Another scenario: You’re the organizer of a festival in charge of budgets (like me). You have films coming in from five Latin American and European countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile or Spain. Shipment isn’t just costly but it’s risky so you have to spend on the shipment of large film canisters and secure insurance charges of 50 films (worst case scenario, but still). What if the plane goes down, what if the can is mishandled and let’s not mention the stress involved in the process. I’m exaggerating a little of course, but you get the point. Shipping a DVD instead is a much more secure, cost efficient and stress-free transaction for the organizer.

Screeners, the film previews, can and are being viewed online a lot now. During my last year at Cine+Mas I scouted a Chilean film by Nicolas Lopez titled “Que Pena Tu Vida” on Twitter of all places and asked the filmmaker to send a copy for consideration. He was super ahead of the game–sending me a link to the screener online. This might sound old school now but an entire seventeen months ago this seemed completely revolutionary. Just like a lot of technology, I mean we were barley introduced to the luxury of facetime on our iPhones way back then, remember?? It’s not that long ago, but so much has been upgraded in digital distribution since then. You can imagine how much more efficient the programming process is with this nifty upgrade. There is zero wait time to consider courting a filmmaker.

Day to day operations during the actual festival benefit immensely as well. Lugging around film canisters takes man power and skilled projectionists, which becomes a non-issue with feather-light, user-friendly DVDs. The new industry standard consolidates three parts of the budget. Costs for shipping/insurance, day-of transportation and projection–all almost eliminated–which is especially important for many non-profit film festivals that increasingly run the risk of closing their doors.

According to this LA Weekly article, the studios are helping finance the conversion of multi-screen theater houses but smaller theaters are in danger of not weathering the switch. Yes, improving technology is disruptive and it’s a shame. A ton of video stores didn’t survive the VHS/DVD conversion in the early 90s, like my very own family owned video store, but the smaller film houses can survive by becoming awesome repertory theaters! Cinespia for example makes a killing every summer at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, screening classic film. With the right programming and event planning, small theater houses can give 35mm classics a second life.

Ultimately, digital is a step forward. Sure the pixel capture doesn’t quite emulate film grain texture but this is constantly improving like all software technology does. Companies like Sony and Canon make a fortune off of it getting better every year. Cameron and Lucas touched on that fact in the film, so did Rodney Charters during the Q&A panel. It will all eventually improve as technology always does.


January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

ron galella

The 2010 documentary titled Smash His Camera is about Ron Galella, a “pioneer paparazzo” who is hated by some and praised by others. His work is debatable: is it art or newsworthy? Is it slanderous uninvited intrusion caught on film? You decide.

Ron Galella got his start in the early 60s as a curious art-driven photographer who then became fascinated with chasing celebrities — screen actors, political figures and musicians. His pursuit of Jackie Kennedy Onassis quickly developed into his life’s mission; in fact his fascination went so far it landed him in several court battles with the recovering widow of JFK.

From the eyes of an outsider looking in, the fascination seems unhealthy. His photographs were used without her permission and on a number of occasions she either told him to stop, or tried to avoid the snap of his lens—most times even running or quickly walking away from him. To Galella’s credit, he did help build Jackie O’s legacy, her pictures were sold to dozens of magazines, keeping her in the spotlight. After all–THAT IS what helps keep publicity alive, the constant mentioning and sharing of (most of the time pirated) images or works of art. Whether it was ultimately a positive or a negative thing for the widow is a mystery; however, this should be weighed in terms of right and wrong. I wouldn’t be happy about being in the spotlight without first giving my consent. She did not give her written consent, so it’s wrong as far as I’m concerned and she wasn’t doing anything newsworthy.

At some point you have to wonder: Is the paparazzi morally right or wrong for chasing screen workers who some say are “celebs by choice and love the cameras” and is it OK that the paps (in Galella’s case) make millions for invading personal space? I still think that there is a time and a place for photo snapping and most importantly, safety. Even those that choose a life in the public eye should at all times have the freedom to choose the images that are broadcast.

I picked an attorney-friend’s brain about it because I was uneasy about the film and the idea as a whole, as many others are. I asked “why can’t celebs sue the paps for profits of their photos?” Seems more than fair right? This would substantially reduce the occurrence of paparazzos chasing down their subjects, right? Why would they if their profits were eliminated as the dangling carrot? His stance was this:

They’re public figures and paps photos are considered newsworthy, same reason why news shows like Catch a Predator don’t need signed release forms.” In this case, I completely understand newsworthiness, exposing predators serves the good of public safety, but what makes a pretty face or a bike ride through a park or city street newsworthy? Who decides what is newsworthy? The people that are paying the big bucks for these images are ultimately magazine editorial teams, but WHY? Sure to each his own, but sometimes I just cannot understand the decision making process that chooses to publish a photo that was taken without the subject’s: 1. participation 2. consent and 3. desire to have the image broadcast to potentially millions of readers.

I question their interest-range and really their judgment of what they think is news worthy. Has this person cured cancer, is a famous person walking down the street really worth sharing and publicizing. Are they thinking: “Is this the kind of image I want to project onto sponge-like minds?” Do they realize they are in fact influencing the thought processes of their readers?

It made me think about what drives people to buy gossip mags. It surely keeps me from throwing any dough their way, but what about you–what are your thoughts? Would you like to see a shift in publishing? Would readers as a whole benefit from more thought-out publishing practices and standards?

A Look Back at J.C. Chávez

December 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

With the Margarito/Cotto fight on the horizon, I have my attention turned to fight news. I’m tuning in of course, but have another fighter on my mind: JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR., son to who is considered the epitome of Mexican boxing excellence — Julio César Chávez, Senior.

Some years ago Diego Luna, the young actor turned filmmaker, taped them for the documentary J.C. Chávez.  The film showcases footage from Chávez’s rise from street fighter to world class contender and one of the most respected fighters in boxing history. Commentaries from boxing majors like Mike Tyson, Bob Aram, Don King and former Mexican President Vicente Fox along with a slew of other mainstream notables openly talk about his early mismanagement, political entanglements and iron left hook.

Highlights from his most memorable beat-downs fused with key news footage and Junior’s first bouts are complimented with a perfectly choreographed score. I wouldn’t have guessed this was Diego Luna’s directorial debut; it appears to be put together with the eyes of a veteran filmmaker.  It’s in both English and Spanish (subtitled on DVD) and worth watching if you’re a fight fan. Chavez’s legacy lives on through Chavez Jr., an up and comer with his golden boy face and stronger than steel Chávez blood. He’s not his father of course — no one will ever be — but Junior is definitely one to watch.

Who is Banksy??

October 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Thierry Guetta's LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL piece on Highland in Hollywood

Cruising through Hollywood late Tuesday night, running errands, this mural pictured here catches my eye. What a great idea. Life is beautiful, really it is. The message rings true in more ways than one, and the symbol of it painted on the wall is expansive and beautiful in its own right.

Like all art, it’s subjective and meaningful to you, to me and to all of those who see it. So, who painted this? I did some investigating and found that this mural is by Thierry Guetta, a French filmmaker who is known for incorporating irony into his pop style graffiti.

Hm, interesting, his work sounds familiar no? Any connection to Banksy, the anonymous graffiti artist that has been underground for years? There is. The documentary film about Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop hints at Guetta being Banksy’s “biggest work of art” and Guetta’s street name is Mr. Brainwash – hint, hint!

In my humble opinion, their work is too similar for it not to come from the same artist.

Guetta is currently in Los Angeles, creating his murals throughout the greater Hollywood area and yes I’m looking-out for the next piece. If you are an art lover too, now is a great time to see the work of the most mysterious and creative artist of our time.

Harlequin the Romance Novel Empire Celebrates a 60 Year Milestone

June 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

The empire made of romance and dirty secrets celebrates its 60th anniversary and I can’t wait to investigate. The book series was a staple in my mother’s collection of must-haves.

In 1949 the romance novel series was born in Canada as a way to keep Winnipeg’s Advocate Printers presses running. Their first publication was The Manatee, by U.S. author Nancy Bruff. It was sold for only 50 cents a copy.

The publisher had its share of turbulence with tax issues in the 50’s but the publisher also reaped a great amount of milestone successes with book sales. Harlequin’s unconventional placement in supermarkets and drugstores proved to be one of their most profitable marketing strategies, reaching their target audience – women. Studies show that women read more than men, hence their target market still being mainly female.

Harlequin took off in the 80’s with the distribution of their “Temptation” line which was tailored for younger women. This was the era of seductive, sexually suggestive cover illustrations, “bodice-ripping book covers” – the hallmark of the Harlequin brand.

Harlequin Enterprises went global in the 1990’s, translating their books into 19 languages and distributing in more than 100 countries. “Harlequin’s operating profit rose to $64.4 million in 1990.” Soaring book sales were not affected by the U.S. recession of the 90’s.

Harlequin Romance Novels are now the leader in romance publishing. 2009 marks their 60th year in business and has taken to the web with Users of their online books are repeat visitors perhaps taking a mid day voyage to paradise with Fabio via their free ebook downloads.

For more information about their sixtieth year anniversary go to or go to your local Borders or Barnes & Noble.

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