Let’s Make Web TV

Love YouTube? Want to tell stories online? Then let our industry tutors help you develop and produce your own webseries over two amazing weeks!

Let’s Make WebTV! is an intensive, two week workshop run over the January summer holidays, targeted at 14 – 26 year olds.

Designed to simulate the ‘pressure-cooker’ environment of TV and web production you will be in charge of writing, directing and shooting your own webisode.

Aimed to kick-start your digital media career, the workshop uses a combination of case studies and practical production exercises which culminates in a week of filming.

People interested in attending Let’s Make WebTV! must first complete an Enrolment Form. This will help professional workshop facilitators understand the interests, skills and abilities of each student.

Participants will then be divided into respective production teams, before being taken through the stages involved in creating a webseries from conception to online broadcast.

Dates: 9th – 13th & 16th – 20th January
Venue: Media Resource Centre
13 Morphett St, Adelaide
Time: 10am – 4pm
Cost: $350 (includes lunch daily!)

Download the Course Enrollment Form

For more information or to enroll email info@mrc.org.au or phone 8410 0979

Digital Storytelling – Not for the faint hearted

Digital Storytelling (DS) has been around for quite a few years now. The MRC first started incorporating it into their programs around 4 years ago under the passionate command of Martin Potter. It is a form of audio-visual storytelling that is simple in form, short in length and for those who are not necessarily filmmakers but interested in the form.

The professional screen industry does not embrace this artform as a matter of course, placing it in the ‘community programs’ basket. While I was around the MRC when Martin was setting up our DS program, I had not engaged with it until I undertook a course in the 2010 Seniors on Screen program. I was young enough to be the grand daughter of some participants but that did not matter; I was there to learn. The film I made called Rain, a 2-minute piece for my son, explaining why we named him Rain.

It was by doing rather just observing I was able to experience the powerful force of DS. Not for the faint hearted, the tutors encouraged participants to share their story – a moment in their life – then peel away the layers to get to the heart of its emotion and core. There were tears and laughter as everyone openly shared their stories, with relative strangers, in what we call the ‘story circle’. The next phase was marrying those words with pictures and sounds to create short digital stories.

Using industry professionals and broadcast standard equipment the MRC delivers an intense yet comprehensive short course. With participants writing, recording and editing their stories in just 3 days (no mean feat).

Over the past few weeks, followers of MRC’s tweets would have heard rambling words of awe and inspiration from me as I conducted a series of DS workshops for our Mindshare website (to be launched during Mental Health Week). By stepping out of the course and overseeing it I was able to see the full force of what DS can do.

Most participants were mental health clients and embraced this opportunity to share with the world how they came to terms with their illness. They are not downbeat or unfortunate stories but ones of strength and hope. By the end of the course they were liberated and empowered.

The mental health clients and support workers we worked with stood strong with their stories. They shared their heartbreak, their hurdles and some even shared stories they have been trying to write for years.

My team and I are very proud with what we achieved over the past few weeks. It was a refreshing reality check on what we as filmmakers can really do.

– Louise, MRC Digital Media Officer

No Budget Filmmaking, Part One

Our entry level initiative, Got Genre?, gives up to three teams a $2,500 in-kind budget, and that’s it. No cash to splash out – the equipment is taken care of, and that’s it. It is No Budget filmmaking. For 2011, teams are working on heist comedy The Burger Joint, sci-fi thriller Isis, and cel animation The Dream Lodge. We’ve asked members of each team to tell us a bit about the experience.

“No budget” filmmaking is a challenging but rewarding process. After working on a feature film late last year with a large cast and crew, it has been extremely refreshing to take on a smaller-scale production outside the University environment. Thanks to the MRC and the wider availability of DSLR cameras now, it is becoming more and more affordable and practical to achieve a high-quality product on a little-to-no budget. Of course, you still have to be smart about you go about making a film with no budget and you must be able to pull people and resources together from all sorts of different places. Preparation really is the key and it is especially important to be efficient when cast and crew are donating their time to be there. Having said that, no-budget filmmaking would not be possible without their generosity, nor would it be possible without donations of equipment from the MRC and other production houses, as well as catering contributions from friends, family and small businesses. Whilst there are certainly still plenty of limitations imposed by working without a budget, I find no-budget filmmaking to ultimately be an inspiring and liberating way to make films.”

– Aaron Nash, producer Isis

MRC and SA Films Have Success Around The Country

South Australian filmmakers again had great success at the Sydney Film Festival, with a South Australian film winning the Dendy for Best Live Action Short for the second year in a row. This year, the award went to The Palace, written, directed and co-produced by former MRC Board Member Anthony Maras, with his co-prodcer Kate Croser, a current Board Member, former MRC staff member, and ex-Raw Nerve production supervisor.

The Palace

Dario Russo, creator of Italian Spiderman and the up-coming SBS series Danger 5, winner the Innovation Award, also has MRC connections, making the short film Voodoo and Lou with us in 2006, several films under our TradeFilms initiative and a former member of our Members Production Group.

The award for Best Australian Documentary went to Life In Movement. MRC member Bryan Mason, who directed the film about dancer and choreographer Tanja Ledke, is frequently involved as a mentor on MRC Initiatives, and fellow co-director and co-producer Sophie Hyde has shared her expertise as a SASA Judge. Life in Movement won Best Feature at the 2011 South Australian Screen Awards (SASAs).

Films developed through MRC Initiatives have also been experiencing great success on the national film festival circuit in recent months. The Dungog Film Festival screened 2010 Raw Nerve films Daddy Daddy and Murder Mouth, 2010 Animation Initiative film Top Dog, 2010 Tropfest film A Moment of Grace, and 2011 Tropfest Short Film Production Initiative film Sumo Lake, which has also had more than 130,000 hits on Vimeco.

Murder Mouth also screened at the St Kilda Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Documentary, screening alongside MRC Supported film Toot Toot, nominated for Best Original Score and Best Achievement in Cinematography. Top Dog will soon have its international premiere in the prestigious Palm Springs International Shortfest this week.

Congratulations to all MRC members involved in these films, and all South Australian filmmakers having their shorts screened and awarded across the country and around the world.

Genre, part one

Today, a fresh crop of Australian talent is shaking up the local film industry with stunts, suspense and serial killers. But are these filmmakers revolutionaries? Maybe not to the extent they’d like to believe.

Wolf Creek

Spend time rubbing shoulders with new and upcoming filmmakers and young film critics and one will soon realize that ‘genre’ is the new catchcry in Australian cinema. They say it with zeal, as though spruiking a new pyramid scheme — stunts, witty dialogue and three-act structures.

Understandable, given what they’re preaching against: gloomy, self-indulgent art-house cinema that doesn’t perform at the box office.

The kind of pretentious drivel that some Australian funding bodies seem to churn out year after year. The kind that soft-review-writing critics praise and ram down audiences’ throats. Or at least that’s how the battle lines are being drawn nowadays.

By contrast, the mavericks headlining this genre revolution are doing so with a slew of violent, low-budget action and horror flicks that borrow heavily from formulaic Hollywood and exploitation cinema’s raw thrills. There are no introspective characters on journeys of self-discovery, and no landscape panoramas without the threat of a monster lurking in them somewhere, waiting. Predominantly male, often working outside the framework of the funding bodies, these filmmakers are turning the conventional notions of Australian cinema on its head.

Recently, Australian audiences have witnessed Steven Kastrissio’s bruising revenge story The Horseman and Marc Gracie’s outback thriller The Tumbler. Meanwhile, Sean Byrne’s gruesome teen flick The Loved Ones and Michael Henry’s murder-gone-wrong nail biter Blame were also released late last year, fresh from screenings at international festivals.

Never heard of ‘em? That’s because theatrical release is often a secondary revenue stream to DVD release for these flicks. The fan base at the end of the market has always skewed towards home viewing, and DVD sales often constitute the lion’s share of revenue.

Nonetheless, this emerging talent comes hot on the heels of people you will have heard of, such as the Spierig ‘Daybreakers’ Brothers, whose well financed vampire movie followed their low-budget zombie flick Undead. Or James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the team responsible for the infamously grisly Saw and landing a lucrative multiplex franchise. There’s also Greg Mclean, who garnered international attention with Wolf Creek, and Shane Abbess, who landed a studio deal after re-imagining angels at war in Gabriel.

What they share is a common philosophy that, supposedly, puts entertainment before art, and audience satisfaction above the filmmaker’s self-expression. It is an age-old conundrum that plagues the industry. To appreciate why this might be regarded as a radical concept, it’s useful to remember how the previous surge of homegrown genre filmmaking was received in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.

Plainly, the Australian film establishment loathed it. Why? Because the nation’s cinematic renaissance was at its peak, with period pieces and gritty, naturalistic dramas winning accolades and respect worldwide. In stark contrast was a disparate group of movies lumped together under the banner of ‘Ozploitation’.

Mavericks like Anthony Ginnane and Brian Trenchard-Smith were in the business of making unapologetically commercial film, like the satirical splatter punk Turkey Shoot (1982) and teen flick BMX Bandits (1983), to the outback horror Razorback (1984) and the psycho-horror Patrick (1978). Their output flew in the face of the orthodoxy of the time, which encouraged ‘serious’ filmmakers to create art, or at least construct national myths. Anything that didn’t resemble Gallipoli (1981) or The Year My Voice Broke (1987) was scorned. You may as well have been making porn.

In reality, this tribal approach to filmmaking was ridiculous. It wasn’t just because some of the ‘serious’ films were rubbish and some of the genre films made no money. What was problematic was the idea that genre filmmaking was somehow different from every other type of filmmaking.

Genre is, and has always been, in the very DNA of our most highly regarded filmmakers, from George Miller to Phillip Noyce. Miller’s Mad Max (1979) is a science fiction western; Noyce’s Salt (2010) is a spy thriller. The simplistic categorisation of Australian films as either genre or non-genre didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. The two most critically acclaimed Australian debut features of the recent cycle – Animal Kingdom and Samson & Delilah – have strong genre credentials (though they aren’t tagged as such). The former has the bones of a gangster movie, while the later is essentially a romance.

By embracing genre, filmmakers acknowledge that cinema is a more codified art form than, say, literature – there are explicit conventions when it comes to storytelling on celluloid. And, of course, to know these rules is to subvert them.

The danger of pegging the ‘genre’ tag to the current wave of action and horror filmmakers is that we create a stylistic ghetto once again. The focus of this cluster of directors is too narrow – not enough laughs, not enough romance. They might be successful for their niche audiences, but isn’t a sustainable economic model for the whole industry.

Not to suggest Australian filmmakers should copy the full gamut of Hollywood’s output. Impossible. We simply don’t have a local audience and talent pool large enough to compete. But genre is a very broad church and it pays to be aware of the various conventions.

If genre-loving filmmakers widened their scope, audiences and tastemakers might lose their snobbery. Variety is the spice of life – and the multiplex. We need films that make us laugh, and want to fall in love, as well as those that make our hearts race with a blood-splattered axe.

– Bowen Ellames, Chair, MRC Members Production Group

MRC Launches Raw Nerve 2011

Last Friday at the Mercury Cinema, we hosted an information session for Raw Nerve.  Now in its ninth year, Raw Nerve is a joint initiative of Screen Australia and Screen Development Australia (SDA) to showcase the nation’s emerging filmmaking talent.

Raw Nerve provides entry-level filmmakers with the training, mentors, resources and financial assistance to make their first low budget short film in a real industry environment. The program spans the complete filmmaking process from concept and script development though to post-production and marketing.

2010 Raw Nerve film DADDY DADDY. Produced by Alexandra Blue, Written by Nikki Wieland, Directed by Amber McBride

If you couldn’t make the information session, here are some points you might want to catch up on:

A Script Development Workshop will be held on April 2/3 at the Media Resource Centre, at a cost of $150 for members and $200 for non-members.  It is being run by Kelly Shilling, an AFTRS graduate screenwriter and director who also works in script editing and lectures in screenwriting at AC Arts.  She will work with writers to develop their characters and story to strengthen their applications through round-table discussions and one-on-one sessions.  More information can be found here.  Places are extremely limited.

A Producing for Short Film workshop will be held May 21/22, also at the MRC, by the MRC’s Digital Media Officer Louise Pascale, who will be working with the producers of all teams selected for Raw Nerve.  Successful Raw Nerve teams will automatically be placed in the workshop, but places are extended to anyone interested in learning more about producing, and costs $150 members / $200 non-members.  More information can be found here.

Screen Australia has some useful references for emerging filmmakers.  For writers, you can download a Suggested Script Layout, detailing how to prepare a script to industry format.  All Raw Nerve submissions are expected to be in this layout.

For producers, an A-Z Budget, which all Producers will be expected to complete, can be downloaded here.

If you require paperwork, such as option agreements between Writer and Producer, the MRC is happy to provide a copy.  Producers must have optioned the rights from their screenwriter as part of their application in order to fulfil their obligations under the contract with the MRC and Screen Australia.

2010 Raw Nerve Film MURDER MOUTH. Producer Daniel Joyce, Writer/Director Madeleine Parry

The Supervising Producers for Raw Nerve will be Louise and Shane; Brad will be in charge of equipment hire and offer ongoing technical support; and Katie and Jane will be able to help with general inquires.  In addition, the selected teams will be paired with an industry mentor in the area we feel you need further assistance in, such as directing, producing, editing.

Guidelines and application forms are all available on the MRC website.

Good luck!  We look forward to receiving your applications!

– Jane and the MRC Production Team

At what cost?

The crew negotiations and subsequent fall out from Warner Brother’s production of The Hobbit has raised issues that reach over the Tasman to crews here in Australia. A dispute over an independent contractor’s right to sign a union based agreement resulted in an additional $20m in to the heavily subsidised budget and a diluting of worker’s rights rushed through parliament.

Not unlike here, the NZ government had already subsidised the $500 million budget by 15% (or $75 million). This investment of taxpayers dollars is reportedly generating an additional $640 million to the country’s gross domestic product. One could argue that is pretty good ‘bang for your buck’, however it has meant independent contractors can no longer negotiate with agreements that contain standardised union terms. In fact it could mean that there is no negotiation at all.

Negotiating your terms is something many independent contractors in our industry would take for granted. Many producers here in Australia use a standard MEAA agreement for their crews and some government agencies insist on it. These agreements cover all the basic rights any employee would expect from the workplace, such as holiday loading, superannuation and a duty of care.

So what happens when a government, who has spent time and money courting international productions, discovers the only way a foreign studio will come here is if the  local industry adopts their conditions?

Do they all do what happened in New Zealand and push through legislation to appease a foreign investor?

It is a double edge sword, as the industry they are trying to bolster must sacrifice working conditions in order to keep working.

The ACCC ruled earlier this year that freelancers can collectively bargain with employers over pay and conditions. While this does not make them a ‘micro union’ it does allow them to find strength in numbers. Yet if we look at what happened to our neighbours, this ruling is to no avail as when it comes to major movie productions the US studio policy rules.

– By Louise, MRC’s Digital Media Officer