This blog covers the trials and tribulations of Polly Tikkle Productions: independent film making in general. Some assorted opinion pieces are thrown in for good measure!.

Independent Filmmaking Blog

January 2014

 

 

2013 has walked defiantly out door and I have to admit that it has been one of the most adventurous years of my life thanks to all the people who have helped and loved me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In April I travelled to Israel- Palestine from London to film and investigate more for Finger Pointing to the Earth, a film about the existential message of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Unsurprisingly I am finding this film very difficult to formulate but here is a draft of the trailer. Constructive criticism welcomed. Arabic interpreters desperately needed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I went to Malta for a few months, back to the UK and now I am visiting my mum and other family in Australia and will return to the UK on January 26th.

 

 

Its been a great year for travel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since my last blog in November, I have produced 4 pieces of video work as well as becoming more involved in the Occupy London website introducing separate pages for working groups. (see sidebar if interested)

 

Of the 4 pieces, 2 were Occupy related and the other two, one and two were professional endeavours for which I thankfully earned some much needed dosh.

 

Happy Days!

 

 

 

 

 

The activist related videos were firstly a short video piece advertising the forthcoming demonstration outside the BBC on Nov 16th 2013 as part of a global day of action called March Against the Mainstream Media which had been initiated in the US. Unsurprisingly after that I  made another video based on the actual demonstration. On that day people came up to the microphone to ask the BBC questions. I feel it was a very classy  and informative demo and in the end the security guards guarding Portland Place from us thanked us for having taught them things they did not know! I felt the same! Please take the time to have a look and spread.

 

Dim lights Embed Embed this video on your site

 

 

 

My initial motivation to help organize the demonstration was fuelled by my discovery that the BBC was not covering the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) at all.

 

The TTIP is the largest free trade agreement ever negotiated and it is being done so in secret, which although is not unusual in International Law, in this case we have good reason to be concerned. Thanks to Wiki Leaks there have been leaked documents which show us  that the premise that 'what is good for business is good for the public' is being taken to a whole new level that threatens workers’, consumers’ and environmental rights enormously and terrifyingly. It is hard to resolve how the BBC can justify their silence in regards to it amongst other issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you consider that the BBC is funded by a TV license of £130 paid per year by every household in Britain there really is no "corporate run" excuse that the BBC can hide behind. So why are they so slack on issues that involve the TTIP, sustainable energy, tax havens and alternative economic models to the austerity measures?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is embarrassing to admit but at the time of the demonstration I had no idea that the Public Accounts Committee had been conducting a hearing into the severance pay of the BBC's senior management. It was all over the Guardian. On December 16th PAC published its report. The following is a poignant excerpt from the summary:

 

"...We were therefore dismayed to find that many departing senior managers received 'sweetners' in their severance packages that far exceeded their contractual entitlements. Both the BBC Executive and the Trust have let down license fee payers by allowing this culture to develop. The unedifying spectacle of witnesses from the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust disputing each other's evidence on severance pay revealed a serious breakdown in governance, record-keeping and accountability"

 

An excerpt from the conclusion:

"In a report published in July, the National Audit Office found that the BBC had paid £25m in severance payments to 150 senior staff. Furthermore, it showed that the BBC had paid 14 staff more than it had been contractually obliged to"

My burning question is why is senior management given such vulgar pay outs when the BBC production is always crying poor?

 

Everyone's curiosity seems to be stunted at the acceptance that the money is given for money's sake. I am not so convinced.

 

Could the lack of coverage and investigation into the US-EU Free Trade Agreement, tax havens, alternative economic models, sustainable fuel, be connected to these large pay outs? It is frustrating to be locked in speculation. There is also something shoddy about asking questions that may be interpreted as sensationalist and ungrounded. But let us take Lord Chris Patton as an example.

 

Lord Chris Patton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The relationship between the 13 other jobs that Lord Patton, the Executive Chair of the BBC Trust, has which include:

1. Member of BP International Advisory Board.

2. Member of the EDF Stakeholder Advisory Panel.The UK's biggest producer of electricity provides power to 25 percent of the population (The Guardian)

and the lack of coverage of sustainable fuel science and its promoters is tough to ignore but even tougher to prove.

We are forced to accept that Lord Chris Patton must have the will of Jesus Christ, the foresight of Muhammad and the wisdom of Moses not to make corrupted decisions based on his connections.

I find it curious that PAC fails to recommend an introduction (or a massive re-haul) to the conflict of interest clauses in the contracts I presume people in his position are expected to sign, before embarking in their position as leaders of the most trusted global news new network in the world.

 

I have a personal first hand experience of the ABC in Australia accepting my one and only feature documentary to date and then 2 months before broadcast, (i.e. 10 months after acceptance) self censoring it off its scheduled time. This was the first time that this had occurred in ABC history. Of course there was quite a song and dance connected to all of it back in 2009 -10, but it showed, in a manner very difficult to prove but impossible to ignore, that the ABC was/is not free to make its own decisions.

 

Is the BBC shackled to the same ball and chain? Is it systematic, part of an unavoidable culture of journalist technique married to an audience with a microscopic attention span or are there specific gatekeepers who hold the key?

 

 

 

I don’t know the answer to that but I am convinced that various forms of activism can break the lock.

 

What is of concern to me however is how tightly the noose of cynicism is wound around the necks of the discerning, debilitating their motivation to write letters, form campaigns, engage politically, and maybe even join a protest. I see a connection between their cynicism (and believe me, I am not fully immune to this) and the shallowness of the media that breeds apathy by (in my opinion) not covering issues in a depth that satisfies our intellect and thus keeps us engaged.

 

For example, mainstream media, including the BBC, always covers a protest by giving its viewers details of the logistics of the protest, at times focusing holistically on any irrelevant violence that may have erupted on the day. The details of what the protest is actually about relative to the power structure of our economy or parliament or the community or the capitalism (etc) would be more engaging but they consistently fail to do so. That would be considered an 'opinion'.

 

A critical realist approach as is promoted in Jake Lynch's 2013 A Global Standard For Reporting Conflict. may point journalism in the right direction. The tragedy of journalism drowning in shallow waters is gruelling to experience first hand. Jake Lynch is a promoter of peace journalism and has recognised that the voice of peace in any warring situation is almost never given coverage . Take the Israeli - Palestinian saga for example. Journalists tend to cover what the Palestinian Authority says about an issue and what the Israeli Authorities say about it and almost never what the growing peace movement in the area has to say. This movement is not under one umbrella but there are respected factions within it and there is no hiding that the workers in these movements are activists. Unaffiliated to political parties with one thing in mind usually - to end the occupation.

 

I am the first to admit that activism has its fair share of unrealistic, uninformed, self appointed experts of nothing whose lack of humility is problematic to any serious campaign but nevertheless activism and grass roots movements are one of our only hopes for change. What all campaigns have always needed is more willing and respectful participants.

 

Activism and protest come in many forms other than chanting in a street with placards. We can no longer trust the BBC (UK) or the ABC (Australia) unfortunately to uphold its responsibility as the 4th estate in our current power structure. However as much as independent media is needed, there are times when we must leave the safe world of the relatively anonymous internet and put our bodies in the picture by fronting up to meetings, engaging in processes and demanding change. The more of us that do this the more likely our grandchildren will have clean, free, water, air, and food.

 

Happy 2014.

May it be the year of maturity for activism.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog November 2013 - Occupy and US/EU Free Trade Agreement

occupy logo 2

 

 

In September - October I  involved myself with Occupy again. I was bored and it was time for some straight forward no BS activism. Film making can be a bit too solo a mission for me.

 

 

 

 

toe in water

First I tested the water and found the temperature to be lovely and then I high dived headfirst deep! The water was not as deep as I had hoped. The thud on my head was significant. More on that later.

Read more...

September 2013

I have been back in London now for nearly one month.

My Sony FS100 took some getting used to and trying to find the controls while tear gas cannisters are flying everywhere was a tad more difficult than it needed to be and the result

I gotta say is a heck of a lot of out of focus, over exposed tears!

With a deep breath in I have to take responsibility for not being able to make up mind what camera to purchase until it was too late to practice, before heading off to the Middle East. Why is it called that? The globe is round right? How on earth (no pun intended) can you have a 'middle' on a spherical surface and then judge what is east of that middle? How about 'Top Left-ish' area? That would make just as much sense!

The Ninja 2 combo had its moments in the Top Left-ish. The unlockable HDMI cord slipped out on many occasions and I wondered if paying an extra £2000 to have it lockable was more worthy of the cash than the slow mo that everyone drools over in the FS700. Three HDMI's broke off on me during demos. Mind you I was not using it in the way recommended naturally! It was attached to my hip and for the most part it worked as the guys from Atomos, Melbourne (onja guys!) assured me it would. Its a great machine but I did have problems that hurt.

On the whole the instant Pro Res format recordings work flow (which I am still flowing along with as we speak, drenched to the bone actually) is much smoother than it would have been without it. However:

Crucuial Lesson 1 - the labeling of clips on the Ninja is not user friendly and one really needs to master this BEFORE heading off on a self shooting hell ride.

Crucial Lesson 2 - the Ninja does not allow you to delete clips on the fly which is totally uncool. Soldiers asking you to delete one shot requires you to delete an entire day. ABSOLUTELY UNCOOL NINJA 2. Not very 'NINJA' if you get what I am saying.

Now I am back in London raring to go with the edit of a new trailer and of course at all times interested in securing as much paid work as possible to help me get this feature, (which is ultimately about land ownership), in full flight.

Finally I will leave you with a photo of me with my tongue naturally outside of my mouth. Where else would it be? This was taken by the FS100-Ninja 2 combo tripoded into the passenger seat, snug as a bug and although framing shots while driving is not recommended, it's just one of those things that as a self shooter I needed to do.

Self shooter.... sounds a bit like shooting oneself doesn't it. At times it felt like that too!

 

 

 

Latest Blog Entry : February 2013

At a joint Occupy and DPAC meeting I discovered that 10,000 disabled people have died due to either their illness getting significantly worse or suicide and that all the deaths are linked to the 'fitness for work' test . DPAC asked for help from Occupy in a vigil action they have planned for the middle of this year, 2013. In an unofficial Occupy initiative the live streamers and I are going to help film and stream the DPAC meeting of the 9th of February.

At the moment Polly Tikkle Productions is still producing a short video promo for Polly Higgins' Wish 20 campaign.

Difficulties obtaining much of the footage have occurred. Greenpeace were the most prompt in their help. Resurgence and RSA are also willing to contribute footage as is independent film maker Leon Stuparic. The search for high quality footage of war, indigenous people and ecocide continues.

Read more...

March Blog

A few things had to be done this year for Polly Tikkle Productions to stay afloat and in the game.

Upgrading to a Second Hand Apple MacBookPro.

 

Why this is a good decision?

 


 

My 2007 darling finally died. As most things that leave me, it did so with an explosion. No melting away into oblivion. The battery blew up. It was a little poop, but still as far as laptops go I should not dismiss the event as anything but an extraordinary goodbye.

I was delighted to discover that Apple is cheaper in Australia due to Australian dollar being quite weak in comparison to the English pound.

The new MacBookPros cannot run older operating systems and the new operating system will not run FCP 7 smoothly, and I am not interested in learning FCP X from scratch. I would rather learn Premier. The fact that FCP X is an entirely different program to which an FCP 7 project file cannot be upgraded to is the deal breaker, or ball breaker if one possesses them. If Apple can do this to its consumers, than I no longer feel safe being professionally shackled to Apple.

In London, the Apple FCP experts at the mega store in Covent Garden, assured me that FCP 7 would run smoothly on the new 10.9 operating system, but after reading countless forums suggesting that it doesn’t, I wanted to test run it. In line with the general decline of customer services, that are relentlessly plummeting in unison, globally, no Apple store on the planet will allow you to test run the ancient hobbling obsolete (err not!) FCP 7 on their new operating systems. The mere suggestion of test running a product, before dishing out £2500 - £3000, is considered at best, a joke.

So I bought myself a second hand 2012 MacBookPro with 10.7.3 installed on it. It’s 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 with 8GB of RAM for $AU1400. So far so good.

In the next few months I must remember to do any small projects that come my way on Premier so I can increase my skill level in this application, the reputation of which has been steadily on the increase for years now. With two long form films in FCP 7, now is not the time to do any drastic changes to their work flow.

Transcribing

I was transcribing for 6 weeks from Jan 03 to Feb 15, pretty much full time. This is the work I did while in Oz. I had wasted so much time trying to find ways around transcribing systematically, to ‘save time’, that now that I have bitten the bullet so to speak, I am daunted by the long ride ahead and disappointed in myself that I did not take my need to make this film more seriously sooner.

For some years now I have used Excel. I divide the A4 vertical page into three columns. In the first column I write the timecode, the second the details and/or dialogue and the third I usually leave blank for me to write notes in while I read the work and formulate the film.

I am looking forward to that moment.

I would like to hear how you transcribe. What programs do you use? Have you discovered an automated way of doing it yet? Dragon Speech does not help us yet does it?

To transcribe I usually have two computers working at once. On one I have the Final Cut Pro project file open, the browser of which I use to open the clips by right clicking them and opening them up in Quicktime 7 so I can play them at half speed and record the true time code intermittently. If I could find a way to play clips in FCP at half speed I would not need to open them in Quicktime.

I struggled to think how I would collate the footage. Eventually I settled on transcribing it in time consecutiveness.

On the other computer I type like crazy. I now type at around 35 words a minute which is still pretty slow but I hope to get faster. It takes me about 4-5 hours to do one hour of interview.

Each worksheet is a full tape and labelled by date and key words. I amalgamate the worksheets into monthly workbooks. I have completed November 2011 and have started on December 2011. It is hard to admit that I do not have any footage from October 2011 when the Occupation started but I do not. Transcribing is gruelling work but it is imperative. To be honest I am going through it quicker than I thought. Making on the fly decisions can be problematic so I am very conservative with that although at times it is obvious that I will not use certain bits of footage so I skip out on transcribing that.

 

Atomos Ninja 2 troubleshoot

 

Visiting the Atomos headquarters in South Melbourne was a treat. The customer service was impeccable. I was taken into a meeting room where a technician David allowed me to speak at length about the issues I had with it.

My Ninja would stop recording quite randomly even when it was static on a table in a sit down interview,

Dave did numerous tests and discovered that the Ninja was getting confused due to the wrong Trigger option being activated. Seeing as I have a Sony NEX FS100 I figured (I may have also read it somewhere) that the correct HDMI trigger would be the one labeled Sony! Bad Buzzer Sound Effect. What I should have chosen in the Timecode/Camera Trigger/Options was the None/Timecode

GO figure trigger! There was an issue with double triggering. Apparently the Sony FS100 has a more advanced HDMI triggering mechanism these days and so it does not need to the Ninja to optimise itself for Sony's protocol. If it does in fact there are rather serious problems with reliability.

In a day and age where good customer service seems to be as rare as honest politicians, I really was quite blown away by the time David dedicated to my greviances. I was even given my 15 minutes (of fame) to relate to Atomos that I find the interface on the wrong side of the user friendly spectrum. I suggested that two battery icons instead of floating numerals 1 2, would help users know that touching the screen there would lead to battery usage. It may have been just mere politeness but he noted it admitting that as technicians they sometimes lose touch with the simplest approaches. Having worked on a few websites I empathised with how tricky generic user friendliness is to implement on most technologies. In what transpired to be a friendly banter about the Ninja 2 design journey I discovered that the inability to delete files on the Ninja 2 is NOT a cost cutting choice (like i had assumed)but a safety guard. I mentioned one or two circumstances I have been in where deleting footage (in front of soldiers and such like) would have been the infinitely easier option. Even in not so heated situations, it would be great to have that option with a three step "are you sure" procedure. Sometimes you take a few shots of one thing and you know which one you like the best there and then. It is time wasting to revisit multiple shots of the same thing to re figure out which one was better. Dave noted that too. It was just nice to be heard by the guys that make the machine. Very nice indeed!

 

Occupy

 

 

 

Wall Street Film

 

Watching capitalism gun down democracy

The 99% film from Occupy Wall Street is doing the film festival circuits and it is a fantastic overview of protest in the States.

The variety of folk interviewed in The 99% film, including a police officer who chose to get arrested, the unforgiving Naomi Wolfe, and the crisp gloriously colour graded footage of voluminous protests and significant violence against peaceful protest makes this film nothing less than bloody brilliant!

Ani Di Franco’s lyrics “Watching capitalism gun down democracy” came to mind as I watched this articulate fact driven documentary that confirmed the political journey of the modern world this song so poetically illustrates. The lyrics have inspired my activism at times when I feel totally lost about my life's choice to fight the good fight rather than cuddle up in the cosiness of the goodness that remains.

What's your next bold move? The thing you are going to have to prove to yourself.

My version of Occupy London's experience will be a lot more micro than the 99% film. The inner woes of Occupy London were unique on one level but ever so ordinary on another. Activism seems to come with staple characters and issues and it is my belief that activism is an integral part of the change we want to see. This is why I am driven to raise awareness of the pitfalls in activism. In many movements there is savagery, madness, disappointment, emptiness, incredible selfishness, arrogance, immaturity and thanklessness not to mention the idealistic idiotic divisions and when all this is coupled with the formative brilliance, conviction, heartfulness, education, empathy and hard work of any movement the moves forward are slower and less powerful than they could be. This is painfully obvious to most activists... and there seems to be so little we can do to address it.

OK that is all for now folks. I will show you my disastrous home made steadi-cams and a bits of archival footage of Occupy London next time....

Until then... if you are selling a house I have just moved into property video making. £300 a pop. Or maybe you could advise me on how to secure funding or pop a donation for the Occupy London long form film in the donation button below.. Go on... be the first!! :)

Its as easy as breathing for us all to participate.

 

Dim lights Embed Embed this video on your site

 

 

More Articles...

Page 1 of 2

Start
Prev
1