Friday, November 19, 2010

Oz Film Blog-A-Thon Update

A quite remarkable call to arms just hit the internet curtesy of an Australian film icon, one Margaret Pomeranz. The fairer half of ABC's At The Movies gave a powerful keynote speech to the Screen Producers Association Of Australia (SPAA) conference currently taking place in Sydney demanding support from both the Australia Government and cinema-going public for local talent. I can think of no better rallying cry for the Oz Film Blog-A-Thon, The Things We Think But Do Not Say, initiated on this blog a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately, life has rather a way of happening and delaying personal projects when they are dependent on spare time, something I've not had a lot of just lately. The juggling act of job hunting, freelancing and report writing for Play Now Act Now (the festival project I completed a couple of weeks back) proved a little overwhelming. The good news is I scored a job and finished my report.

Fear not, I want reassure you that the Blogathon will go ahead as planned, I simply want to push back the start date by one week to 6 DECEMBER in order give myself time to promote and write for this project.

Part of this reassurance comes in the form of a preview of a few articles I'm committing myself to writing over the next couple of weeks and some ideas I'd like share. Also I'd like to remind you of the purpose of this blogathon and how you can participate.

What's it all about?

Spurred on by the AFCA 2010 Film Writing Awards the Oz Film Blog-A-Thon is intended as an opportunity for all Australian film writers to make a insightful and constructive contribution to our industry beyond reviews of local films.

All you need to do is write something about the local industry and post it on your blog, submit the links to me (scott.journalist@gmail.com) or post them in the comments of this blog. I will aggregate all the articles here. Aim high, genuine pieces of journalism is what we're looking for. Articles on local and national industry issues are of highest value.

• Write (or record) something about Australian film industry that's been on your mind. Most of all be fearless with you opinion
• Contribute links to old articles that might be a little 'touchy feely'
• Participate by commenting or generally spreading the word

Here's four articles I aim to contribute to the marathon:

1) 'What's Up Sydney' – One of my biggest frustrations living in Sydney is the lack of choice and the limited range of programming by local exhibitors. As such I'm going to put together a compendium of what's on in Sydney and draw a side-by-side comparison with similar international cities. I'll offer my observations on what's missing and suggestions for what could make it better.

2) '15-Minute Friends' – A article taking a closer look at the publicity machine, how interviews are allocated and the journalistic limitations of the junket system. I'd also like to take a look at he embargo system and try to figure out how publicists and local content producers can better work together.

3) 'Reflections Of A Film Journalist' – Hard to believe, but it's over 10 years since I had my first article on film published. I'd like to reflect on this experience and offer some guidance for those new to the business: how to get started, good journalism practices, the pitfalls and the pleasures. I might also humbly offer some suggestions for the future of our practice.

4) 'Top 10 Game Changers' – Who are the 10 most inspirational figures in the local industry? This is a call to all those participating to help come up with a list of Australian film pioneers whose innovation and vision will propel us into the future. Submit to me your top 10 (or whatever you can muster) figures/organisations from the Australian film scene including: exhibitors, curators, journalists, producers, funders, festivals. NO film directors.

For this last article I'd like to compile an ultimate list of 10 Oz Film Inspirators (think of the Guardian recent and rather silly power list), with a view to interviewing these people about their perspectives on the future of the local film industry.

So that's it, slightly new date, same aspirations. Can't wait to get started.

UPDATE: here's what I'm getting at...

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oz Film Blog-A-Thon Announcement

The Things We Think And Do Not Say

It looks like I just jumped up on my soapbox and started shouting on Twitter: "let film journalism be done, though the heavens fall." Well, if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, a duck it must be. Just not a lame duck, that wouldn't be much use at all (see Democrat's White House as of tomorrow).

News just broke that the Australian Film Critics Association is seeking submissions for its 2010 Film Writing Awards, which is all fine and good, but wouldn't it be even better if we looked upon the 31 December deadline as an opportunity to light a fire under journalism and criticism in the Australian film industry? When I say on Twitter we don't have that much to be proud of, I didn't mean we don't have many writer's to be proud of, we do. From Luke Buckmaster's Cinetology to Tara Judah's Liminal Vision, Thomas Caldwell's Cinema Autopsy to Matt Ravier's A Life In Film – all homes to damn fine writing and, of course, not alone.

But let's face it, a lot of our actual debate takes place on Twitter, outside of which the most provocative discussion of late was Lyden Barber's rally against games as art (I'm sure he hates me bringing it up again, but it's certainly a conversational highlight of the year). As we all know 140 characters is hardly conducive to thorough conversation and the number of those exchanges cut short by the protagonists admitting 'too complicated for Twitter' is impossible to count.

So what am I proposing? Well, with a 31 December deadline plenty of time away, I suggest an Australian Film Commentary blog-a-thon. If you've never heard the term 'Blogathon' before Filmsquish offers an nice explanation here (also lists a number of past blogathons), but basically it is a marathon or a festival of writing on a particular subject, with all the works submitted and compiled on a host blog.

It is my contention that we Australian film writers, whilst creating many insightful reviews and providing spirited Twitter commentary have failed to raise our game to coincide with the increased quality local filmmakers have served up. We have failed to challenge distributors and exhibitors with provocative analysis of decisions that affect our community. Whilst busy serving up a great volume of movie reviews and regurgitated news from American productions, we've failed to engage with local issues.

Let's take the opportunity to write something about the local industry that contributes something genuinely constructive and insightful to our cinematic landscape. If you could change one thing about the Australian film industry in 2011, what would it be and why? Saw an Aussie film in 2010 that inspired you? Saw an Aussie film with controversial themes that were brushed over? Local picture house closing down? Failure of distributors to support local content producers against tidal wave of American websites? Embargoes drive you mental when US reviews already live? Making friends with directors on Twitter – what are the boundaries of film journalism? Scared to ask tough interview questions in case you don't get asked back? Sick of same five films playing at all your local cinemas every weekend?

And it doesn't have to just be gripes, what locally has inspired you but never gets press? How about the fact local magazines and websites favour American films first, Australian films second and local film culture somewhere around council meetings. Perhaps you want to create a compendium guide to alternative Australia film events. When was the last time YOU wrote about Australian short film? Maybe you want to write about the diversity of the Australian screen in 2010 and the lack there of come Awards time.

This is your chance to write those Things We Think And Do Not Say, this is the Oz Film Blog-A-Thon. I will post an article here myself 29 November, one I've been mulling over a while, and I'd ask anyone who cares to join me to aim for then too. I'll also aim to serve up a couple more pieces over the course of the week.

If you'd like to take part, all you need to do is email your links to scott.journalist@gmail.com or post them in the comments of this post and I'll update the site. Participation can take the form of ALL MEDIA (video, audio, written word). You can even send the links for old work and we'll repost the link. If you don't have somewhere to post your writing, email it to me and I'll host it here.

Most of all, be fearless.

Oz Film Blog-A-Thon
Start: 29 November – NOW 6 DECEMBER
End: 5 December – NOW 13 DEMCEMBER

To ape Culture Snob's contribution criteria:

• Write (or record) something about Australian film industry that's been on your mind
• Contribute links to old articles that might be a little 'touchy feely'
• Participate by commenting or generally spreading the word

With that, I hope you all take this in the spirit it's proposed. I value the film community I like to think I'm a part of here in Australia and I'd love for us to come together and create a debate and provoke change worth talking about.

Recommended reading
White Elephant Blog-a-thon
The Misunderstood Blog-a-thon
Short Film Blog-a-thon
Jim Emerson's Contrarianism Blog-a-thon

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