David's Blog

Category: Books

An open Letter to Digital Filmmaker Magazine

Dear Digital Filmmaker magasine,

I am writing to you in this blog form as I have a few things I thick we can discuss. Firstly let me say that I have no problem with your presentation or how the articles where written. I should also say I have only read this one issue (issue 9), and as you do not do a .pdf of all back issues, say like Little White Lies, I am fully aware and open to be called uninformed on your general output, this I accept.

1) “Our Cover is empowering” I hear you cry. “She will be an important actress in Chile’s up and coming exploitation industry.” No it’s not, it’s a front page that screams BOOBIES. Between her and the picture of The Red Dragon directly below I’m not to sure which one I am meant to masturbate over first… probably the camera. The only other mention of a women in the whole magazine is a Q/A where one of your readers asks Is it sexist to put a calling out for a gorgeous actress. The answer, your cover and the complete lack of any talking women in the entire magazine would suggest that boys and their gadgets are meant to be left alone.

Lets leave casual misogyny  aside for a second and move onto number 2

2) Brevity. Ok, your cover storey is an article interviewing Ernesto Diaz Espinozo (or as I call him “The Chilean Robert Rodriguez”). You begin with a  rather breif introductory paragraph on chilean cinema, I would of liked a lot more information but your not Sight and Sound (or even Total Film) so that’s acceptable. What’s not acceptable is this

“his skills as an editor are undoubtable” (page 14)

ARE THEY? Now I won’t be a cynical bastard so I’ll agree with you and move on to where you show it… nothing. There is no mention of a his workflow, his editing style, how his editing improves his films. NOTHING. Heck we don’t even get the mandatory “I learned to edit for budgetary constraints.” Naught. What we do get is a shot of the machete gun girl wearing only a massive gun. Espinozo is undoubtedly very talented, but why not go further into why. Another line like this was spoken by producer Jonathan Scotticot who said on page 35 that Kickstarter has made

“Your short film problems potentially over.”

Now if I go onto page one of KIckstarter you get a list of lovingly funded films, same on page two and page three. But what about page ten? or 15, or even page 1,000? Just a long depressing list of rejections. Every indie filmmaker knows of mates with success stories, and knows a lot more with fails*. Yes I know he used the word potential but for you as a magazine, or him as producer not to follow it up with advice is just plain lazy.

I’m going to ignored lots of other problems and jump to my final complaint to keep this blog short.

3) Your definition of Digital Filmmaker. I classify myself as a digital filmmaker, I do not classify myself as a DP. For most of your magazine I was completely alienated by your pervy shots of Red Dragons and interviews with DPs and their kit. There are a minimal discussion (2 shoddy tutorials) on Editing, only one sentance about funding (kick-starter) and one about casting calls (the sexy actress comment discussed earlier) and nothing on scripting, storyboarding, colour correcting and finally releasing your digital film.

This in itself leads to another generalisation you seem to constantly print. When was filmmaking just about short films and straight to DVD exploration films? I have just finnished an advert, isn’t that still filmmaking? Your one article (and it is rather a good one) not about short films but instead how to shoot a live music gig has to open with “when not making his films.”

IT AS IF YOU WANT ME TO SERIOUSLY BELIEVE BEING GOOD AT DOCUMENTING AND CREATIVELY FILMING A LIVE EVENT ISN’T A TALENT, ISN’T ARTISTRY, ISN’T WORTH WHILE OR A SKILL WITHOUT MAKING YOUR SHITTY SHORT FILMS WITH GUNS AND BOOBS ON THE SIDE.

Breath.

With a name like Digital Filmmaker you could write about a whole spectrum of interests, it’s a shame then you’ve pigeonholed yourself into an over-stated advert for all things RED and EOS.

But I shall end on a happy note. I did learn that if you begin a sentence with “My film is not a sex film but…” (page 33) It probably is.

 

 

*However, after saying that if your a Board game designer I do know hover a rather strange man who will spend triple figures on boardgames, and does so constantly on kickstarter. 

 

 

 

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright

L Ron Hubbard was an interesting case. He was a prolific writer, (earning a Guinness world record for his excessive output) a navy man in WW2 and a great orator. He was also a drunk, drug addict and womaniser. in 1974 he died of poor health, he was astronomically wealthy. Perhaps this would of given him an interesting obituary in a science fiction magazine, or a modern collection of his shorts maybe with a bad cover and a non committal preface by Alan Moore or Brian Aldiss:

L Ron Hubbard, lived then, sadly forgotten now. No other writer before or since has dared try to bring us into their mind as he. It would have to be a brave soul to enter, but once in, what you’ll find is fascinating.

Or something as vague and forgettable. Of course his obituary doesn’t read like that because he tried (and to surprise of surely even himself) succeeded in becoming a prophet for a new religious movement. As the textual embodiment of Schroeder’s Cat, what it reads depending on where you stand. Almost everywhere it would read probably much like my first paragraph above, with the words “Creator of Scientology” right next to his name. If you where to read it in a Scientology stronghold it would read slightly different:

There are only two tests of a life well lived, L. Ron Hubbard once remarked: Did one do as one intended? And were people glad one lived? In testament to the first stands the full body of his life’s work, including the more than ten thousand authored works and three thousand tape-recorded lectures of Dianetics and Scientology. In evidence of the second are the hundreds of millions whose lives have been demonstrably bettered because he lived. They are the generations of students now reading superlatively, owing to L. Ron Hubbard’s educational discoveries; they are the millions more freed from the lure of substance abuse through L. Ron Hubbard’s breakthroughs in drug rehabilitation; still more touched by his common sense moral code; and many millions more again who hold his work as the spiritual cornerstone of their lives.” (taken from the official L Ron Hubbard site)

As an arm chair investigative journalist one could query hundreds of millions, his books I have never seen in a bookstore and are ranked very low on amazon. Ask anyone what Scientology is and they shall give you different answers revolving around a totem pole of Tom Cruise craziness. Scientology then is almost a mirage, everyone sees something while really seeing nothing. As an armchair reader reading this book by an actual investigate journalist you can see that Hubbard’s educational services area  sham- laughable if not for the damage it does to children- and his drug rehabilitation service non existent (he died a drug user). His moral code included women beating, philandering and one attempt of actual terrorism- which he blamed on his wife.

So Why do people follow something that is clearly so… phantasmagorical? This has always been an interest to me, and thus I asked my Dad to pick up this book when he was in America. It’s a chilling read, in fact I would put money on it being the scariest book I read this year. When reading I felt like Joseph K from The Trial, I saw myself as a monochrome Anthony Perkins (expertly cast in the excellent adaption by Orson Welles) seeing figures in every shadow. In fact the Kafka reference is acute as non of his characters where paranoids; you can break free of scientology or you can stay, either way you life is being watched.

If I sound to melodramatic (and I am sure I do), then think of a catholic confession without the promise of confidentiality and a tape recorder where you are asked questions such as “have you ever had a bad thought about L Ron Hubbard?” “Are you left Wing?” “Are you a homosexual?” Reading this you realise that this is McCarthyism on steroids. Almost everything is beefed up- their lawyers represent something that would come out of Mr Burns’s office, the wage Hubbard was on up to his death and now the current replacement is $millions weekly, even the abuse to the staff and the “blacklisters” are barmy. Everything is so extreme, so ridiculous, that it makes you doubt the credibility of the book itself. There where plenty of times I flicked through the copious amount of references, footnotes and bibliography to check something out just to find it had been reported or stated by several different eye witnesses.

The amount of money that comes in is staggering (from a mixture of blackmail, taxing passed members and bullying the US government in giving them tax-free status as a religion) and the amount waisted is more so. For anyone wondering why Tom Cruise ever wanted to be a Scientologist just has to read how they created a green park and lagoon for him…in the desert. It is a religion obsessed with celebrity, a humorous passage talks about a mission to convert Steven Spielberg while making War of The Worlds, another talks about the amount of celebrities they harass then idealise- or in the case of Penelope Cruise and Nicole Kidman, abandon. It is the philosophy of Max Webber mixed with that of Andy Warhol with a bit of bad sci-fi and 1950s homophobia and child abuse mixed in.

So why do people join who are not superstars? more so why do they stay. The book gives several reasons. One is they are born into it, another is they are blackmailed to stay, but there are more sympathetic reasons. It’s simple enough that those poor souls simply not wanting to see a consumerist and reductionist world find something in Scientology, they don’t pay much and are left alone. Some truly believe that L Ron Hubbard never died but simply reached “Level 10” where his mind left the body, while others see that as silly but the general message of “don’t take drugs, be nice and don’t ask too many questions” fits into their mindset. If you would want to still be a member if you had the chance of reading this book is another thing altogether. But you can’t, as it is blacklisted: websites, press, even television and non-scientoligists are no-nos. In fact a good Scientoligist should pledge a million years of service and jump on the first ship going to no mans land to work as a labourer.

For the rest of us I would say read the book but prepared to be very very scared…