Big-budget independent television is still a dream

This year, Louis C. K. debuted Horace and Pete, an original dramedy television show that he independently produced and released exclusively through his website. The show itself is apparently very good, but its production model caught much of the attention: C. K. financed the entire thing himself, something never attempted for a show with production … Continue reading “Big-budget independent television is still a dream”

http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/louis-c-k-millions-horace-pete-1201750625/

This year, Louis C. K. debuted Horace and Pete, an original dramedy television show that he independently produced and released exclusively through his website. The show itself is apparently very good, but its production model caught much of the attention: C. K. financed the entire thing himself, something never attempted for a show with production values like Horace and Pete. Has the media marketplace evolved to the point where it can support independent artistic larks like this?

Evidently – and unfortunately – no. Louis C. K. revealed this week that the first season of Horace and Pete left him several million dollars in debt. Each of the show’s ten episodes, with a star-studded cast including Alan Alda, Edie Falco, and Steve Buscemi, cost about $500,000 to produce (cheap for television), and C. K. never saw the return on investment he expected. The same strategy that helped the comedian sell stand-up specials doesn’t seem to scale to full television production.

Independent television shows are still possible on a much smaller scale; Broad City started as a no-budget web series. But Louis C. K.’s struggles with Horace and Pete serve as a reminder that, even in an age of television everywhere, somebody still foots the bill.

New infographics break down gender in screenplays… and it’s about what you’d expect

Late last week, Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels released a study on Polygraph breaking down the dialogue of over 2000 major screenplays by the gender and age of the actors. If you’ve followed any of the other news about representation in film for the last few years, the results should come as no surprise: it’s … Continue reading “New infographics break down gender in screenplays… and it’s about what you’d expect”

Late last week, Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels released a study on Polygraph breaking down the dialogue of over 2000 major screenplays by the gender and age of the actors. If you’ve followed any of the other news about representation in film for the last few years, the results should come as no surprise: it’s men all the way down, and older women are especially absent.

Polygraph bills the study as the largest demographic breakdown of film ever undertaken, and its scope certainly helps make the point. Among the 2000 screenplays dissected, over 75% give a strong majority of their dialogue to men. Only eight screeplays feature all-women speaking roles – a number even that’s more troubling in comparison to the 304 scripts with only men. Age breakdowns are similarly frustrating, with roles increasing for men as they age and decreasing for women.

To make the point, the authors included a separate list of statistics just for Disney movies. Even in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a movie noted for its progressive gender representation, men get 72% of the dialogue.

As with other tests and measurements, this isn’t an indication of whether a movie is a good or morally acceptable. It also isn’t wholly reflective of individual movies: men have a majority of the dialogue in Kill Bill, but the movie has an exceptional cast of women. But it’s statistical confirmation that, on the whole, women (and older women) are still disproportionately out of the spotlight.

After People v. O. J., a closer look at the Trial of the Century

The People v. O. J. Simpson, the first season of FX’s American Crime Story, ended last night to thunderous reviews. For a generation that didn’t live through the Simpson murder trial and never had to endure a year of Jay Leno monologue jokes, American Crime Story was a sensationalist look at a period of history … Continue reading “After People v. O. J., a closer look at the Trial of the Century”

The People v. O. J. Simpson, the first season of FX’s American Crime Story, ended last night to thunderous reviews. For a generation that didn’t live through the Simpson murder trial and never had to endure a year of Jay Leno monologue jokes, American Crime Story was a sensationalist look at a period of history that continues to explain so much about the current state of celebrity culture and race relations in America. Intrigue about O. J. and the trial are at their highest since 1995.

Viewers gripped to the show probably want to learn more; the obvious starting place is in the books written by the trial’s participants. We’d also like to offer up two documentaries in our collection, one about the trial itself and one that shows the effect of the verdict.

First, watch American Justice: Why O. J. Simpson Won (HU DVD 11111), an A&E documentary hosted by Bill Kurtis about the legal and cultural significance of the case. The hour-long documentary includes interviews with Johnnie Cochran and Fred Goldman. A&E claims this is “the definitive wrap-up” of the trial, and it may be able to solidify the themes – however exaggerated – that the show introduced.

If you want to see a first-hand example of how Cochran’s symbolic victory opened up discussions about police and race – if only on a cursory level – you can watch a streaming version of Racial Profiling and Law Enforcement: America in Black and White, ABC News’s special report on racially motivated police practices produced three years after the trial ended. Its messages should come as no surprise to anyone following police violence in the past few years, but the special is clear evidence of these issues’ heightened profile after the trial. The participation of prosecutor Christopher Darden is also telling evidence of trial’s long shadow.

Again, sadly, you don’t have to look far to see the same sort of racial discord. But if you want something more factual than the show, these two documentaries are a closer look at what happened in the trial, why it happened, and what it meant.

See horror’s John Carpenter in DC… at a concert?

Master horror filmmaker John Carpenter is beloved for directing Halloween, They Live, and The Thing. Many people don’t know that he scored many of this movies as well. Carpenter composed the famous Halloween theme song, and since largely setting aside his film career, he has continue to dabble in the minimalist, terrifying synthesizer music that … Continue reading “See horror’s John Carpenter in DC… at a concert?”

Master horror filmmaker John Carpenter is beloved for directing Halloween, They Live, and The Thing. Many people don’t know that he scored many of this movies as well. Carpenter composed the famous Halloween theme song, and since largely setting aside his film career, he has continue to dabble in the minimalist, terrifying synthesizer music that he has helped popularize as the soundtrack of horror.

Even so, we’re surprised that John Carpenter has launched a national concert tour where he’ll be performing horror themes and original music. His second album, Lost Themes II, debuts on April 15th. To support it, Carpenter will be visiting DC’s Lincoln Theater on July 12th for a retrospective night of his music, past and present. He’ll probably perform the Halloween theme – of course – but we’re curious about what else will “[inspire] people to create films that could be scored with this music.”

Tickets are pricey, starting at $55, but we can’t really think of another event this unusual. Horror fans especially should jump at the rare chance to see a famed auteur working his craft.

A new site can find movies by describing them… for the most part

Every once in a while, we get stumped trying to remember a certain movie starring a certain actor. Usually those questions can be answered with a quick search (or by asking your librarian!), but there are trickier ones too: how do you find a movie by the subject matter? Today, we stumbled across a new … Continue reading “A new site can find movies by describing them… for the most part”

Every once in a while, we get stumped trying to remember a certain movie starring a certain actor. Usually those questions can be answered with a quick search (or by asking your librarian!), but there are trickier ones too: how do you find a movie by the subject matter? Today, we stumbled across a new site attempting to make all movies searchable with natural language results.

What is My Movie? is a tech demo for technology by a video analysis company called Valossa, which aims to make videos machine-readable by their content in conjunction with transcripts. Valossa has so far parsed 40,000 movies for their content; you can search by year of release or director, like anywhere else, but you can also look for information about the content and themes of the movie.

Sometimes it works well: “Paul Newman movies from the 70s about hockey” brings up Slap Shot. Sometimes it doesn’t work well: “sad movies starring Brad Pitt” brings up Slap Shot.

What is My Movie? is definitely a work-in-progress, but using movie searching as a proof-of-concept for their engine is a clever, practical use of the technology. Take it for a spin and see if it turns up your favorite movie by a description. When there’s finally a comedy starring Daniel Day-Lewis about competitive eating, we’ll be able to track it down.