Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm not jealous

Now this is what I call a working environment.

And this ain't bad either.

"I am a filmmaker and all of these help me edit," says timsamoff. I want that kind of help with my editing too, please.

More techno-lust here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Desassossego

Desassossego, by Claus-Dieter Schulz, is one of the most unsettling things I've seen in a long time.


Based on the "Book of Disquiet" (Livro do Desassossego) by Fernando Pessoa, this Machinima movie approaches the extraordinary work of the Portuguese poet (1888-1935). In a collage of voice, sounds and pictures we experience Pessoa's world, inner life and prose.

Goes to show what you can do with The Movies.

Cambridge Film Fest - submissions closed

The submission period for machinima entries for the Cambridge Film Festival is now over. Thanks to everyone who submitted.

Saint and I now have about 14 hours of machinima to watch, from which we'll be picking around 20-30 minutes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cambridge Film Fest machinima

Thanks to everyone who's submitted movies so far, and apologies for not responding individually. I've stacked all the Film Fest stuff on one side while we plough through the last few days of the upcoming Moviestorm release, and I'll be going through the lot in the middle of next week.

If you haven't submitted and still intend to, remember the deadline is Tuesday morning at 9.00 am my time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mornington Crescent

One of my roles in life is clearly to subvert any telecommunications system and turn it into a platform for playing games.

We've done twiku. Now it's Mornington Crescent on twitter.


You know it makes sense.

If you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, you should consult NF Stovold’s Mornington Crescent: Rules and Origins, which makes everything clear. Don't get the Graeme Garden edition, it's been substantially rewritten. Get hold of an earlier edition if you can.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cambridge Film Fest - call for submissions

We've finally got hold of almost all of the directors of machinima films we've selected for the Cambridge Film Festival, and asked them if we can show their work.

We do have some remaining slots, and we are now requesting submissions. If you have a machinima film which you would like us to consider, please email me at matt [dot] kelland [at] moviestorm [dot] co [dot] uk telling me where I can see your film and why you think we should show it. (Don't send me the film, just a URL!)

The 28th Cambridge Film Festival runs from 18-28 September 2008, and it's one of the three largest film events in the UK. The Guardian described Cambridge as “a match for the Edinburgh and London Film Festivals…” while The Times said that it “easily outclasses its metropolitan rivals”. The machinima stream will include four screenings, plus workshops and a debate.

Guidelines:
  1. Your film should be no more than ten minutes long
  2. Your film should be in English or have English subtitles (or silent)
  3. Any machinima engine or game is fine
  4. All submissions must be received by 9.00 am UK time, Tuesday 29th July
If you run a machinima Web site, blog, or similar service, please re-post this message.

The haiku of twitter

Twitter is addictive. Not because it's a way of babbling at all and sundry about the most banal and/or enigmatic things, but because it's a real challenge. Twitter messages, or tweets are limited to just 140 characters, and it becomes a game trying to fit as much as you can into such a short space. What I realised recently is that I find myself treating it like a game of blackjack, where the aim is to get as close as possible to the magic 140 without going over it, and these days, I do it almost without thinking. Sometimes I end up wasting, oooh, minutes trying to squeeze everything in. And it's obvious I'm not the only one. Warren Ellis is particularly good at it.

It's such a contrast to blogging, where I can just let the words pour out, and not have to worry about the page count. My early years were spent as a journalist and sub-editor, and word counts ruled my life. I would spend hours cutting articles down to size, and it was a point of pride with me that I always hit my exact word count when writing. (Which makes it much harder for an editor to change what you wrote originally, so you usually get your piece printed verbatim.)

Working within such a limited format is akin to writing haiku, the short Japanese poetry form. In the West, we usually think of a haiku as having 17 syllables, broken up as three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables each. It ain't actually strictly so in Japan, but what we developed over here was a game of working within those rules, usually . Like these.
A file that big?
It might be very useful.

But now it is gone.

A crash reduces
your expensive computer

to a simple stone.

Five men in a room.
Signing paper makes it so,
Never mind the facts.
(Plenty more here.)

Twitter offers some equally elegant models of succinct prose. Here's a selection of 140-character epigrams, some written by me, some by others.
Eat, sleep, edit movie, make bread, practice violin, play Final Fantasy, watch Assassination of Jesse James, not necessarily in that order.

"My war expertise is eating rats & getting cornholed by water snakes in a flooded paddy field for five years, but here's the plan, boys..."

Today I will make a movie showcasing new #moviestorm. I will. I will. Until my eyeballs bleed. Caffeine, chocolate and nicotine required.

When they started getting the middle-aged men to join in the bellydancing, we spotted our cue to make a hasty exit. The rest is silence.

There's nothing showing at the local cinema that I'd watch even if the only alternative was having Don Rickles' balls rubbed into my eyes.

Note to really pedantic pedants: Yes, the sun is always moving. And yes, it's not strictly "burning" my retina. And it's not slow. Happy now?

A proverb for our time. "Thou shalt not ninja thy guildie's loot." Or is that an aphorism? Who cares? It's beautifully eloquent.

The human spirit is diminished every time Coldplay release a record. Soon, we will all have the souls of slugs, and it will be their fault.

Please feel free to add your own examples of twitter haiku. Minimum 135 characters; fewer just doesn't cut it, I'm afraid.

You can follow me on twitter as MattMongoose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Paging Evilhoof and Flayed!

Does anyone in the machinima community know how I can get hold of Evilhoof and Flayed, who made the magnificent The Internet Is For Porn WoW movie?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Movie Mogul Mongoose

Waiting for me in the office today was my long-awaited Whisperer in Darkness T-shirt. Long-awaited, I should stress, not because of any fault on their part. No, I foolishly ordered a small one, which would have looked fine on Charlize Theron but not, alas, on me. So I sent it back to California and those good folks at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society replaced it, free, with a big one.

This is not me. Strictly speaking, it's not my T-shirt either. But I do now have one very much like it. And quite a similar beard. But less hair.

But it's not just a T-shirt. No-sirree. This is a gen-you-whine symbol of me investing in a movie. I gave them the princely sum of twenty bucks towards making Whisperer, and in return, they gave me a T-shirt. Which, I'm sure you agree, makes me a fully paid-up film financier, movie mogul, and all-around alliterative altruist. Seriously, though, their movie of Call of Cthulhu was so damn bloody brilliant (I may have mentioned this before?) that I'm really looking forward to Whisperer more than any other film I can think of, and I have absolutely no qualms about bunging Sean and his crew a few dollars towards it. (Trailer here.)

For thoroughly deranged Cthulhu clothing, though, there's this or this. Warning, looking at these may very well drive you insane. So don't.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Looking for cast & crew, Bristol, August

My mate Phil "Snouty" South, who teaches at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, is shooting a quick'n'dirty guerilla movie in and around Bristol this August, and is currently on the look-out for cast & crew. (RealFilm, not machinima.)

"The loose idea is to make a 10 minute video for YouTube which is kickass good and showcases big old me and of course anyone who helps. I'm thinking a sort of Hitchcock movie but with a 21st Century punk/goth flavour. You know, the kind of stuff I like. :) instead of Mount Rushmore it ends on the Suspension Bridge..."

Should be a 3-4 day shoot. If you're interested in taking part, drop by his blog, Snouty's Diary Creme, and scribble in the comments. I'll be there if it doesn't clash with Dragon*Con.

One, please

It's generally accepted that going to the cinema is a social occasion. It's not about just going to see a movie. It's about going out with your mates or your family, eating popcorn, and generally making a night of it. And, of course, going to the pub afterwards (or MacDonalds if you're with the kids) and chatting about how it was so much better/worse than you expected.

But it's not quite so, it seems.

People who buy more than six cinema tickets a year tend to go on their own, according to research from Edinburgh University. It's kinda logical when you think about it. People who go to the flicks that often aren't just going for the blockbusters that everyone wants to see on the big screen. They're the ones who want to see all sorts of things, usually the things their friends and family aren't into. So yeah, going to Indiana Jones or Harry Potter is probably a social occasion, but going to Persepolis or Mongol probably isn't.

I've always felt faintly awkward and embarrassed about going to the cinema on my own. I don't want to be the one guy at a movie who hasn't got anyone to go with. And particularly now that I'm in the process of getting used to being single again, putting myself in situations where that's exacerbated is something I try and avoid. If there's something I want to see, I try and find someone who wants to see it too, and if nobody else wants to go, I end up waiting for the DVD.

But all of a sudden the idea of going on my own doesn't feel nearly so odd. When it comes to the out of the ordinary films that I want to see at the cinema, it's reassuring to know that most of the rest of the audience will be like me, there for the pure pleasure of watching a movie on a big screen.

Picturehouse, here I come!

Friday, July 11, 2008

My time machine

A time machine would make life so much easier. So why, if they exist in the future, hasn't my future self brought one back for me?

1. The Laws of Physics. Time machines aren't actually possible. Dull, dull, dull.

2. Crossing the State Line. The The creation of a functional time machine causes a state change in the Universe. The first part of the Universe is temporally fixed, but the second part is temporally mutable. You cannot cross the temporal schism boundary without causing a rift in the space-time continuum, so you can only time travel within the period where time travel is possible.

3. The Teenage Asshole Paradox. It is inevitable that at some point after the invention of the time machine, some kids will think it's funny to nick their dad's kit, take it for a spin, and kill the inventor, which has the same effect as killing their grand-dad. So every time it gets invented, it gets uninvented.



And I want mine to look like this.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Machinima at the Cambridge Film Festival

Yet another of my side projects that's interfering with actually making movies is that I've somehow found myself co-opted into organising the machinima segment of the Cambridge Film Festival. (That's Cambridge, England, for you transatlantic folks.)

The 28th Cambridge Film Festival runs from 18-28 September, and it's one of the three largest film events in the UK. The Guardian described Cambridge as “a match for the Edinburgh and London Film Festivals…” while The Times said that it “easily outclasses its metropolitan rivals”. So, no pressure there, then.

The deadline for finalising the sessions and movies is approaching fast. The great news is that the organisers are really keen on machinima, so there will be a lot of it. The bad news, from the point of view of my social life and free time, is that my role has grown from "Matt, can you suggest a few movies we could show" to "Matt, will you organise a whole bunch of screenings and speakers, get the clearances, certificate the movies, and plan a whole series of machinima-related events". I'm not working alone, though. The guy who's making it all happen is the redoubtable Saint John Walker of Film & Digital Media Exchange, and I've now roped in the ever-reliable Tiffany, who makes things happen at Short Fuze.

What I've enjoyed most - other than the fact that Festival meetings are held in the bar of the Arts Picturehouse - is spending time watching loads of machinima again, and picking the very best, regardless of whether they're made in WoW, SL, Antics, iClone, Moviestorm, Motionbuilder, Sims, HL2, GTA, or any combination of tools. All competitive rivalry between any of us in the business can be completely put aside. It's not about who makes the best software, it's about who's made the best movies. Over the next few days, we'll be contacting directors to ask for permission to show movies, then we'll have a call for further submissions after we announce the line-up, so we can catch any last-minute movies.

I'm also looking forward to working with local tech guru Bill Thompson, who's not just a great bloke, major film fanatic, and one of the Festival organisers, but is also a great supporter of machinima and wants to get personally involved with the machinima stream. He's come up with some interesting ideas for things we could do, and it'll be a challenge seeing if we can make them happen.

(Aside to Overman and Ricky. I did take on board what you guys said in Overcast #32 about showing machinima alongside other films, and not in a ghetto of its own, but I think that was a little too radical for the organisers. Maybe next year. This year, we're still "special".)

Monday, July 7, 2008

The MEPs reply

So far, the following MEPs have said to me they'll vote against the Telecoms package.
  • Glyn Ford (LAB)
  • Graham Booth (UKIP)
  • Tom Wise (UKIP)
  • Roger Knapman (UKIP)
  • Jeffrey Titford (UKIP)
The following will be voting in favour
  • Robert Sturdy (CON)
  • Neil Parish (CON)
I'm reproducing in full the whole of the email Neil Parish sent me, since he was involved in creating the amendments. Make your own minds up. (The emboldenings are mine.)

Dear Matt Kelland

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Telecom Package.

My colleagues Malcolm Harbour MEP and Syed Kamall MEP have been involved with tabling some of the amendments involved in the Telecoms Package. Rather than reduce the rights of internet users and inhibit freedoms, the amendments are in fact intended to reinforce the openness of the Internet. Both have been responsible for making sure that consumers' rights are respected, with copyright issues being restricted to public service information only.

The amendments have been created to strike a balance between the need for monitoring of unlawful activity, thus protecting ordinary lawful users of the Internet, whilst ensuring "sweeping powers" are not handed down to authorities. It is evident that this protection should not extend to any unlawful content or applications. In fact, the question of lawfulness is outside the scope of this legislation and depends on the national laws of each country. It is to be decided by the relevant judicial authorities of each country, not by the ISPs. The intention is however not to turn ISPs into "copyright police". Whilst I appreciate that P2P and other filesharing devices are invaluable for businesses such as your own, the aim of this package is to clamp down on its illegal usage. I have no doubt that the Internet will move fast to fill the void left by their absence for legitimate, legal usage; already there is talk of a "legal P2P" alternative being created.

Amendment K1 refers to the free movement of goods and makes it clear that a country can not start requiring manufacturers to incorporate features that would allow detecting or preventing for example copyright infringement, as that would hinder the free movement of the computers and other terminal equipment concerned. Any such requirements would have to be agreed by all member states of the EU. We are not aware of any such proposals. Specifically, it states "in implementing the provisions of this Directive, Member States shall ensure, subject to paragraphs 2 and 3, that no mandatory requirements for specific technical features, including, without limitation, for the purpose of detecting,intercepting or preventing infringement of intellectual property rights by users, are imposed on terminal or other electronic communication equipment which could impede the placing of equipment on the market and the free circulation of such equipment in and between Member States".

Amendment H2 asks national regulatory authorities to promote - not force - cooperation, as appropriate, regarding protection and promotion of lawful content. It is entirely independent of "flexible response" and does not prescribe the outcome of any such cooperation. As opposed to the text proposed by the Commission, amendment H3 shifts the burden of explaining the law from the ISPs to the appropriate national authorities. It also broadens the concept so that any type of unlawful activities are covered, not only copyright infringement. Such other activities could be for example child pornography. This public interest information would be prepared by the relevant national authority and then simply distributed by the ISP to all their customers. It involves no monitoring of individual customer usage of the internet.

The package gives national regulatory authorities and the Commission the power to take appropriate action to prevent degradation and slowing of traffic and against unreasonable restrictions of users' possibilities to access or distribute lawful content or to run lawful applications and services of their choice. None of the amendments have been drafted by any outside lobbying organisation.

I hope this information helps. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any further queries.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Parish MEP

I've read the amendments as drafted, and, let's say, erm, his interpretation of them isn't the same as mine, whatever his original intent might have been.  I'll just make two comments.

First of all, I never told him what my business is, and used a private email address, so what does he mean by "businesses such as yours"? Was that a generic message, or do I hear the sound of black helicopters?

And second, look at that neat little reference to child porn. Of course. That's what it's all about. So only paedophiles and child pornographers could possibly want to oppose this bill. Standard FUD tactics.

Email your suggestions about how to make a "three strikes" law work without monitoring individual usage to politician@talkingbollocks.com

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Machinimators vs the EU

Third blog post of the day.

This afternoon, Strange Company made a machinima video in WoW to protest against the proposed EU legislation against file-sharing.

I love the fact that machinima can be used in this way.

So you think you're immune?

If you've heard about the proposed EU law against file-sharing, and haven't done anything about it because you think it doesn't apply to you, think again. You don't have to be one of those hardcore torrent junkies who downloads pirated movies or has gigabytes of mp3s to get caught by this one.

If any of the following apply to you, then you are at risk.
  1. You watch machinima
  2. You use YouTube
  3. You listen to podcasts or Internet radio
The way the legislation is worded, it covers downloading any content that infringes IP. So all those video clips, game-based machinima, and mashups, are officially Bad and could get you banned from the Net. Even cover versions of songs could be illegal.

Here's an exercise for the reader. Click here to see Hayseed Dixie performing Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls live in concert. Is that legal? Fact is, I don't know, and neither do you. Clicking that link may be illegal.

And it doesn't have to be you doing it. It's your IP address they track. So if you share a house, run a business, or have a wi-fi network that could be hacked, it's you that gets hit.

Still sitting around?

Get off your butt and write to your MEP. NOW.

OK, guys, this is serious. On Monday, the EU plans to introduce an anti-filesharing law that could see you banned from using the Net, even if you've never torrented a TV show or ripped an mp3 in your life. It's undemocratic, it's draconian, and quite frankly it's bloody terrifying.

Imagine not being able to stay in touch with your friends or family via Skype, MSN, or email; not being able to play games; not having access to news; not being able to fill in your tax return; not being able to do your homework; not being able to book a flight or check a train timetable; not being able to find out about the most basic things. If, like me, you're a parent, imagine having to tell your kids that they're the only kids in the class who can't go online. Just think for a moment about the things you've used the Net for in the last week, and imagine living without them. If you lose your phone connection, how long does it take you to start crawling walls? Two days? Three? Maybe a whole week? You get the picture.

So how does this law work?

If your ISP determines that you are filesharing (note, they decide, not a court, and they don't have to prove it), they are obliged to give you two warnings, and then on the third "offence" you are cut off from the Net. You will have no right of appeal.

This is not a joke. They plan to do this now as part of a huge telecoms reform package. See http://blogscript.blogspot.com/2008/07/three-strikes-and-youre-er-confused.html - it's by a specialist in cyber-law, and explains exactly why this is so scary, and how the EU is bringing it in by stealth.

Did you know about it? No? Convenient, huh? I wouldn't have known about it if Hugh hadn't called me an hour ago and told me.

And we have just under 48 hours to stop it.

Don't just sit there and moan about how terrible this is, and how it should be stopped. You can help stop it. Just do two things. If you're a European, write to your MEP, this weekend. If you're in the UK, use http://www.writetothem.com/ And tell all your friends to do the same. Monday will be too late.

(If you're a European from outside the UK, please let me know via the comments of any equivalent sites for your country. Thanks. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/public.do will at least tell you who your MEPs are, and may have a link to a Web site or email address.)

It can work - one of my MEPs, Graham Booth, has already replied and told me he will be voting against this law.

If you're not sure what to say, here's what I wrote.

I have just found out about the plan to include a "three strikes" directive in the new Telecoms legislation (la quadrature) which is scheduled for voting on Monday, July 7. This legislation means that anyone determined three times by their Internet Service Provider to be downloading copyrighted material would be disconnected from the Internet.

This is a dangerous piece of legislation for a number of reasons, but most importantly:

1. There is no legal safeguard. The sanction is at the sole discretion of a commercial company, and there is no burden of proof on their part or possibility of redress.

2. The punishment is unduly harsh. The Internet is now the dominant means of communication. Denying someone access to the Net denies them access to communication with friends an family; access to shops, goods and services; access to educational materials; access to news, support materials, and information. It may affect their ability to work by denying them the opportunity to work from home, or may close down their business. The Government itself is keen to try and encourage citizens to make more use of online services, such as online tax returns, tax credits, or training courses, and has recognised the importance of getting people to use the Net. Disconnecting people is draconian.

3. This is collective punishment. Disconnection would apply to all members of a household, regardless of who had committed the offence, or whether they even knew about it. The legislation makes it clear that sanctions would apply even if the "offender" were ignorant of the offence being committed.

4. The proposal is technically flawed. The ISP can only identify the computer involved (technically, its IP address), and not the individual. There are many circumstances in which this can be misleading. Without going into detail, your computer could appear to be involved in filesharing if someone breaks into your wireless network; if your computer is infected with malware; or if you allow a guest to access the Net using their laptop.

While I can appreciate the desire of rights holders to address the issue of copyright violations, this is not an appropriate way to deal with it. The issue needs to be carefully thought through and debated, and not sneaked through as part of a package containing some 800 amendments.

Please vote to strike down this legislation on Monday.

Yours sincerely,

Feel free to use this as a template.

Now tell your friends.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Metropolis found!

Possibly the most exciting piece of film news this century - hidden away in Buenos Aires for 80 years, the missing sections of Metropolis have come to light! Since 1928, over a quarter of this film have been thought lost for ever. Now Lang's full, original, 210-minute cut has been found and brought back to Berlin.