Sunday, December 27, 2009

1 article and 3 books to read...

Autumn of the Republic? article by: Kirk Nielsen | Miller-McCune

Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges. "The techniques of theater have leeched into politics, religion, education, literature, news, commerce, warfare, and crime." 2.0, Cass Sunstein

Threshold: Crisis of Western Civilization, Thom Hartmann

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Making an Amazon author video

A short "author video" is a great way to introduce yourself to your readers.

Amazon just announced that authors can upload video to their Amazon Author Page. Here's a sample from writer Maria Murnane.

After shooting a test, and watching several successful YouTube videos, I have a few thoughts on the process:

1. Find a talented amateur or a professional to shoot your video. (Don't try to shoot your own.)
2. Ask your camera person to shoot hand-held.
3. Make sure your video has *really* good sound quality.
4. Don't make the video too polished. Go for an informal "home-video" look.
5. Two to three minutes, max.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar 2D

I just saw Avatar 2D, and thought it was a pretty good film.

In 3D it would be more than that. It would be an Event.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No one is going to save you fools

This extraordinary post is copied here verbatim from the Daily Kos


No One Is Going To Save You Fools

Share this on Twitter - No One Is Going To Save You Fools

Wed Dec 16, 2009 at 04:28:17 PM PST

Before I explain the generic insult, let me first make something perfectly clear: I am your enemy. That you don't know this is understandable: after all, people like me prefer it that way. But until you understand just what you're up against and why, you're going to continue to lose, and look like fools in the process.

Barack Obama has indeed sold you out. He and many of his Democratic colleagues have sold you out on healthcare, and they've sold you out on financial reform. You were looking for a savior, and you've been had--not an altogether atypical result for those looking for a strong leader to "save" them.

He hasn't done this because he's a bad guy. In fact, he's a great guy. I think he's doing pretty much the best job he can. He's sold you out because he's not afraid of you. And really, if I may be so bold, he shouldn't be afraid of you. You don't know who really runs the show, and you're far too fickle and manipulable to count on.

The first thing you need to understand about healthcare reform is what Jane Hamsher identified long ago: nothing--absolutely nothing--is going to trump the White House's deal with PhRMA and the insurance industry. The question you need to ask yourselves is: why? If you're intellectually mature enough to get past "personal betrayal" as your best answer, you'll be on the right track.

While you ponder that one, you might want to also consider why nothing has been done--nor will anything serious actually be done--about financial industry reform. Standing up to the financial industry in the current political environment should be a no-brainer. So what in the heck is going on here? If you can think past shadowy conspiracy theories and possible personal enrichment for the Obama family, you'll be doing the kind of thinking that will help actually solve the problem.

The problem is people like me, and the people I work for. I'm what they call a Qualitative Research Consultant, or QRC for short. Here's my website. There's even a whole association of us who meet regularly to discuss ideas and tactics. Together with the AAPC, the MRA, the AMA, ESOMAR, and a whole host of other organizations you've never heard of, we have more power and control than you know. We're extremely good at what we do, and we do it all behind the scenes, appealing to and manipulating your subconscious brain in ways that your conscious brain has little to no control over.

Give us a little money to test some things out, and we can work magic. Our business is persuasion, and we're very good at it. Just watch PBS Frontline's series, The Persuaders to get just a small inkling of what you're up against. We can make a company that earns a 38% gross profit margin manufacturing purely propriety products seem hip, cool and progressive. We can take sugar water and sell it back to you as a health drink, and even Whole Foods shoppers will believe it. We can take 30 different brands of vodka with almost exactly the same ingredients, and make you understand instantly just what kind of person drinks which brand, and how much you should expect to pay for each, without a moment's thought. For any given category of products, I can show you a bunch of different brands, and you'll be able to tell me a wealth of information about each one, despite the near absolute similarity of their actual products to one another. One exercise we QRC's like to conduct involves actually turning a brand into a person in a group discussion; it's called personification. And you wouldn't believe how effectively and universally we can tailor a brand's image, right down to what kind of car that "person" would drive, and what music he/she would listen to. So much attention has been paid to Naomi Klein's outstanding Shock Doctrine, that few pay much attention anymore to her far more provocative and important work No Logo. If all Americans truly internalized the message of No Logo, people like me would be out of work, and we could really reform this country.

For a little coin, we can even make poor people hate inheritance taxes, just by using a few little words that work. The biggest difference between Obama and FDR/LBJ is that people like me weren't really around back then. As the TV show Mad Men can show you, our industry was just getting off the ground in the mid-1960's. And while it's true that the Democratic ad consultants of the 1980's and 1990's and early Aughts were wildly ineffective, that says far more about the prevailing consultant class in the Democratic Party than about the power of ad consulting in general.

So here's what you have to understand. If the health insurance and financial industries really felt scared by any particular politician or political party, or their lobbying efforts were inadequate, they could throw them out of power in a heartbeat. With a wave of their hand and a few billion dollars or so in our direction, the pharma companies and Goldman Sachs could absolutely destroy the Democratic Party in 2010 and beyond. The only reason they don't do so is that it's cheaper and easier to buy a few key Democrats off instead, and intimidate the rest. Plus, they don't have to run the risk of a right-wing populist backlash, either.

That's why Barack Obama can't renege on his deal with PhRMA: PhRMA almost singlehandedly destroyed Hillarycare in 1993, and spent the money to tip the balance of the elections in 1994. They can easily do it again. So could Goldman Sachs and the rest of the financial vampires. Rahm Emmanuel knows this, too: the deals are in place in return for their holding their fire.

And each and every one of you is being taken for fools. You work for an election or two to put chosen leaders in place, and expect those leaders to work their "leadership" magic to ram reforms down the throats of the corporate sector, failing to understand just how fully the corporate sector holds the cards. It's not the campaign contributions: it's the persuasion money.

You're looking for a savior. And like that Savior of biblical fame, s/he isn't coming, as long as there are people like me out there. I personally won't work for a company or organization that goes against my personal convictions. But 99% of us certainly will.

If you want to win, you will ORGANIZE. You will organize in the same way the Right has done for the last 40 years, and you will spend money on persuasion, where it really matters. You will, in short, make the politicians as afraid of you as they are of them. The Right has built vast networks of think tanks, newspapers, periodicals, cable news channels, and political advocacy organizations to spread their finely tuned, well-honed messages. Their politicians may fail them, and their actual policies may be deeply unpopular, but their message machine nearly always works its magic to get them what they want, even when Democrats are in power.

That's partly because the American political Right never quits and never gives up. They know that organization is the key to their success, and they don't trust politicians to do their work for them. Democrats, on the other hand, get disappointed and quit when our politicians don't pan out the way we wanted. That's why we lose.

As the healthcare debacle went on month after month, I didn't ask myself why the Democratic politicians weren't pushing single-payer or Medicare for all. I wanted to know where the Left-leaning organizations were. Where were the think tanks, the message machine, the newspapers, the whole infrastructure? Where were the national, well-tested ad campaigns pushing Medicare for All? Where were the free screenings of Sicko at major movie theaters across the nation, complete with sponsored food & drink for those who attended and signed up to take action? Where were the mid-cycle ads done by Madison Avenue professionals targeting specific Senators and making them deeply uncomfortable? Where, in effect, was the message campaign?

It didn't exist. What we had were labor unions and the AARP delivering generic hopeful messages without an ounce of the power or creativity that one might find in a random Budweiser ad.

If you want to win, ORGANIZE. Develop parallel organizations willing to persuade with the power and intensity of a corporation. As long as people like me are out there, and most of them are willing to work for the highest bidder, you'll need to stop looking for saviors, and instead learn to fight fire with fire.

The upcoming battles won't wait for us, and there won't be anyone coming to save us but ourselves.

Sony Vegas Pro installation problems

Original post (see updates below):

Just spent two frustrating days installing Sony Vegas Pro on a machine running Windows 7.

After several failed attempts, during which Vegas installer quit abruptly with the message "requirements not met" I finally found a comment on an obscure forum that pointed me to something called the Microsoft Windows installer cleanup utility...

Microsoft says of this utility:

"Warning The Windows Installer CleanUp Utility is provided "as is" to help resolve installation problems for programs that use Microsoft Windows Installer. If you use this utility, you may have to reinstall other programs. Caution is advised."

I downloaded and ran the utility. It removed old C++ redistributables and remnants of a trial version of Office 2007. Afterwards, Vegas Pro installed smoothly. I couldn't find this documented anywhere on the web except in blogs and user forums.

UPDATE 1: When I ran the installer cleanup utility described in this post, it uninstalled Microsoft Office 2007. I'm thinking of wiping the disk completely now, and starting over. Grrrrrrr....

UPDATE: 2 My uber conservative advice, for what it is worth...
If you are seriously into video editing then i recommend:
1. First choice: buy a mac and final cut pro
2. Second choice: dedicate a windows machine to video editing ONLY. No MS Office, no email, no internet (other than the initial connect to register the product)... nothing but video editing.
3. Test the complete system: shoot some video, capture it, edit it, render it, write a 3 minute sample of rendered footage to your intended media (YouTube, DVD, tape, whatever...)
4. Shrink wrap the system. When you have the complete system working, from camera to output, "shrink-wrap" the entire system and NEVER CHANGE IT. No updates, no improvements, just editing.

Update 3:
1. (Re) Install Windows 7.
When prompted in early stages of install, reformat and wipe the disk clean.
2. Install Vegas Pro.
3. Stop.
Particularly, do not install MS Office 2007. My experience (your mileage may vary) is that Office 2007 and Vegas Pro do not play nicely together. It's got something to do with the 2005 and 2008 C++ distributables required by the two programs, and *possibly* something to do with the Windows 7 User Access Control setting.
Double Grrrrr....

Update 4:
I have the entire system running. Just captured and edited a short HDV movie, and rendered the movie to a "high quality internet" Sony Mpeg 4 file. Note: Before I could capture video, I had to dig through the Sony HDV camera's menus to a) enable HDV and b) disable automatic HDV to DV conversion. (It's a 2 year old HDV camera.)
Triple Grrrrrr......

Friday, December 18, 2009

small print from thestorydepartment

I like this "small print" statement on website for it's conciseness and 'no bullshit-ness.'

"As almost all professional consultants, my lawyers won’t let me look at your script unless you sign a release form that will protect me once your movie or a similar one gets made. This shit happens all the time, ask me about it by just mentioning the magic words ‘TIN CAN HEART’ (or you could equally try “WALL-E”. I’ll tell you the story if you don’t already know."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Amazon Author videos

Amazon just announced that authors can upload video to their Amazon Author Page.

"Your video will display on the Author Page after uploading and approving it on the new Video tab in Author Central.

"Why Video? Video is a rich way to provide customers with information about an author and their books, and is in-line with our efforts to make authors more visible to Amazon customers. Many of you have also asked for video via our feedback form.

"Video will display under your profile photo, biography and “related authors” links. A sample video from writer Maria Murnane is already uploaded and live on the Maria Murnane Author Page:"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

top websites for film and video

My goal is to assemble a list of useful websites where independent filmmakers and authors can promote their works. Promotion might include things like sending review copies, writing articles, or posting trailers or sample chapters.

This list in process. I will add sites as I find them. Please add yours in the comments.

Tony Levelle
Author of Digital Video Secrets
Co-author of Producing With Passion

Boston area: Harvard Square Scriptwriters. Click on LINKS.

San Francisco: (Bay Area Video Coalition) (resource) (SF Film Society)
SF360 (Excellent indie filmmaker magazine, published by SF Film Society.)

Oregon Media Producers Assoc.

Australia (Blog about film)

Elsewhere on the web... Comprehensive directory of film schools all over the world. Publishes book reviews.
Digital Video forums at (absolute best place to get technical questions answered)
Videomaker magazine
DV magazine
Microfilmmaker magazine
MovieGeeksUnited radio show, rapidly going big time.
American Cinematographer magazine
Movie Maker magazine

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tortilla Soup (2001) opening

The movie Tortilla Soup has one of the best opening sequences I've ever seen. Here's the trailer for the film. Many of the shots of food preparation were taken from the opening sequence.

Plot, Character, Setting and Style

Long ago I took a series of screenwriting classes. The teacher drilled into us the four ways to analyze a movie: plot, character, setting and style. When making a short film, you ideally want the audience to "get" these four things immediately. I thought of this when I saw this "Mr Bean" clip.

Within 5 seconds of the opening we know the plot (Mr. Bean 'fixes' the salvation army fund raising) character (Mr. Bean) setting (town center) and style (comedy). Brilliant.

sixth sense gadget

This 8 minute TED speech shows how radically the world is going to change in the next few years. This thing is right out of "the minority report" and it's working... now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Digital Video Secrets... best book... just chose my book Digital Video Secrets as "One of the best digtial video production books."

I have read all the books that chose for this category and many in other categories. I agree with all their choices. I am delighted to be in such good company!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2010 Oscars Short Films -- shortlist

The Academy announced 10 films on the short list for this year's nomination for best short film.

The Alternative Film Guide lists the films in alphabetical order. The 10 films are:

The Door, Juanita Wilson, director, and James Flynn, producer (Octagon Films Ltd.)
The Ground Beneath, Rene Hernandez, director, and Kristina Ceyton, producer (Passion Pictures)
Hotel, Tim Conrad, director-producer (Oyster Films)
Instead of Abracadabra, Patrik Eklund, director, and Mathias Fjellstrom, producer (Direktorn & Fabrikorn)
Kavi, Gregg Helvey, director-producer (Gregg Helvey)
Miracle Fish, Luke Doolan, director, and Drew Bailey, producer (Druid Films)
The New Tenants, Joachim Back, director, and Tivi Magnusson, producer (Park Pictures)
The Response, Adam Rodgers, director, and Sig Libowitz, producer (Look at the Moon Productions)
Short Term 12, Destin Cretton.
Sidney Turtlebaum, Tristan Shapeero.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Local food in Lake County

Article in the Lake County News lists many local food producers.

Blurb and Lulu -- print your own books

Individual one-off books are great for all kinds of things including portfolios, wedding albums, family albums and cookbooks.

Blurb and Lulu are excellent tools for high-quality individual book printing. I've used to turn early drafts of manuscripts into paper-back books. The process was easy, quick, and inexpensive.

Kevin Kelly has an excellent review of Blurb, Lulu and others on his Cool Tools site.

How big is your audience? (Universal authorship)

When everyone publishes--books, articles, blogs, tweets, videos, photos--what defines 'authorship'? Maybe it is the size of your audience. Got 1000 readers? Then you are an author...

So says Seed Magazine in an article about Universal Authorship.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2010 Oscar Feature Documentary Shortlist lists the 15 films on the shortlist:
* The Beaches of Agnes, Agnès Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)
* Burma VJ, Anders Østergaard, director (Magic Hour Films)
* The Cove, Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)
* Every Little Step, James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, directors (Endgame Entertainment)
* Facing Ali, Pete McCormack, director (Network Films Inc.)
* Food, Inc., Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)
* Garbage Dreams, Mai Iskander, director (Iskander Films, Inc.)
* Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)
* The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)
* Mugabe and the White African, Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, directors (Arturi Films Limited)
* Sergio, Greg Barker, director (Passion Pictures and Silverbridge Productions)
* Soundtrack for a Revolution, Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, directors (Freedom Song Productions)
* Under Our Skin, Andy Abrahams Wilson, director (Open Eye Pictures)
* Valentino The Last Emperor, Matt Tyrnauer, director (Acolyte Films)
* Which Way Home, Rebecca Cammisa, director (Mr. Mudd)

Friday, December 4, 2009

History of Paris in Painting

HISTORY OF PARIS IN PAINTING shows the city of Paris as it evolves over 250 years, as seen through paintings. (Now I know what I want for Christmas!)

Seminar notes #5: Building an audience

When you build an audience for your creative work, do it in such a way that you can carry them with you from project to project.

1. A writer builds an email list of all the people who buy his books. When he writes a new book, he emails the audience to let them know, and give them a chance to buy a pre-release copy.

2. A filmmaker collects email addresses from all the people who attend his screening. When the final film is released on DVD he emails them and offers a signed DVD.

3. An artist collects emails from people who visit her website. When she has a new painting, she displays it on the website and emails her audience. She gives them a chance to buy the painting.

What all these things have in common is that the artist communicates directly with the audience. Unlike the old model where a middleman--publisher, film distributor or gallery owner--communicates with the audience.

In the old model, the artist has no choice but to communicate with the middleman. In the old model the artist is at the mercy of the middleman. In the new model, the artist talks directly to his or her audience.

(Taken from notes made during Scott Kirsner's Building an Audience Seminar at Bay Area Video Coalition, on Dec. 1 2009.)

Free online outliner -- with collaboration capability!

A few years ago I co-authored a book. Collaborating on the table of contents is a critical part writing a book with a parnter. After several futile attempts to exchange and revise Word outlines, my co-author and I ended up going to a cabin in the mountains, and working around the clock to hash out the outline.

Had it been available then, Thinklinkr is a free online outliner that we could have used instead. Highly recommended.

Seminar notes #4: Building an Audience

When communicating with your audience choose the simplest, least complex channel to reach your audience.

Once you decide on the channel, decide how often you will use it.

For example, a simple scheme with four 'channels' might be something like this:

Channel 1 -- personal blog.
Frequency -- three to five blog posts a week. Each post 130-150 words or less.

Channel 2 -- email.
Frequency once a month. NO SPAM, fan must ASK for and WANT email.

Channel 3 -- facebook.
Frequency once a day. Less than 25 words. About half of the time, use a picture.

Channel 4 -- personal appearances.
Frequency: four times a year. Book signings, workshops, speaking.

(Taken from notes made during Scott Kirsner's Building an Audience Seminar at Bay Area Video Coalition, on Dec. 1 2009.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The future of the magazine

Here's Time's version of what Sports Ilustrated might look like on the new (unannounced) Apple Tablet.

Free tools for audience building

Scott Kirsner is assembling a free collection of digital tools for audience building, distribution and commerce at

Tool Categories:

1. Advertising
2. Artist Management
3. Audio
4. Blogging & Micro-blogging
5. Commerce & Distribution
6. E-mail & Text Messaging
7. Funding & Donations
8.Social Networks
10. Traffic & Analytics
11. Venues, Booking & Tours
12. Video
13. Design & Site Development
14. Wikis & Collaboration

Seminar notes #3: Building an Audience

"8 'big' ideas about the new relationship between creator and audience" (taken from Scott Kirsner December 1, 2009 seminar at BAVC)...

1. Power of participation and engagement.
The Internet is about the audience participating with the artist. This is a huge shift from the way artists normally worked in past.

2. Go where your audience is.
Instead of building your own website, go where there is already a huge audience… where people who might like (what you do) already hang out. Story of filmmaker Robert Greenwald going to…

3. The power of links (and the right title)
Google is most important link you can have… get on the first page of a google search, somehow… “Titles are something people have never thought about strategically before.”

4. Ask for the review/rating.
It’s really important to ask for ratings online… “What the Buck” creator asked his viewers to "Rate it if you hate it."

5. Embed and spread. (concept from Lance Weiler)
Whatever you do should not be anchored to your website. Readers should be able to put it on their facebook page or bed it on their website.

6. The right channel, the right frequency, and the least complexity…
For a lot of people the best channel is the least complex thing.
Posterous” is an easy way to blog…
Twitter” easy way to send news about your project…
YouTube is an easy way to build your own video channel.
Use what feels right to you and feels like a good way to communicate with people…

7. Leverage the power of an (existing) audience database. gave Robert Greenwald access to their database to find supporters for his films.

8. The disappearance of physical media.
When physical media disappears, what does the artist have to 'sell'? How does an audience support the artist when digital duplicates of his or her books, songs, writings, and paintings are dowloadable for free? This is a big deal, and there are no clear answers. Seth Godin says that books, for example, are souvenirs. You can read all of Godin's blog posts online, and yet his readers regularly buy thousands of Godin's books which contain only these posts.

ONE BIG CAVEAT about audience building...
Start early! Start thinking about how you are going to market the film the day you begin working on the film. Many people are so busy writing the book that they don’t think about building the audience until they are done… start early instead. Makers of King Corn were open to finding the audience from the beginning. Making the film taught them who their audience was. It was part of their research.

30 top blogs for social media updates

30 top blogs for social media updates at

iPod Touch--skype is here!

You can now make Skype calls over the iPod Touch.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Social-Media-network-computer convergence

A fun 4.4 minute video that shows what's happening to us... whether we like it or not.

Kindle 2 text-to-voice -- As good as an audio CD?

I just spent 5 hours listening to a how-to book on my Kindle 2.0 while driving to San Francisco and back.

The Kindle 2.0  'text to voice' feature is excellent for how-to and nonfiction books.

I was quite surprised by how good "the voice" is for nonfiction. The kindle text-to-voice feature is a great way to get through your nonfiction reading while driving or flying.

The text-to-voice feature is less useful for fiction. It misses the emotional context.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seminar notes #2: building and audience

i am blogging while sitting in seminar... using wireless service of next-door Starbuck's.

we are in a conference room at BAVC. About 30 people in the room: filmmakers, fund raisers, multimedia artists, marketing professionals, writers...

Kirsner puts on a good show. People energized, commenting...

We stand up and introduce ourselves... I find myself pitching my book Digital Video Secrets to the room. Several writers come up afterward and ask to buy a copy.

Key questions Scott Kirsner is working on... what he is trying to figure out...

1. How do you build a fan base and take it from one project to other.
2. How do you make a living.

While driving to this seminar listened to Kirsner's book Fans Friends and Followers using the Kindle 2 'text to speech' feature.

I am slowly getting an idea of what is going on with social media...

SK spent the last 2 years talking to people who are successfully building fan bases on line, taking the fan base from one project to another, and making a living at their art.

Seminar notes #1: Building an Audience

Sitting in a room at Bay Area Video Coalition for a seminar with Scott Kirsner on building an audience in the digital age. We are asked to introduce themselves... i was startled when asked to intro myself first (sitting in front near the power outlets) And then more startled when I heard myself launch into a shameless pitch for my book...

Room filled with filmmakers, fund raisers, multimedia artists, graphic artists, animators...

I barely made it here on time. Left Lake County and drove 3 hours to get here. Delayed in traffic on 101 north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Lucky to find a parking place next to BVAC.

Moral: leave 1 hour sooner than I think I have to when commuting from Lake County to Bay Area.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Public Radio -- is devoted to creating a "new public radio."

No one knows what form journalism is going to take in the future. The only thing that seems certain is that the huge-behemoth-corporate-entity newspapers are going away. might be a new model of journalism.

Excellent interviews, journalism tips, and reviews of tools.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Going Where Your Audience is…

If you know exactly who your core audience is, you can go to them and start a conversation.

If you can start a conversation, you can build a fan base.

If you have a fan base, you can survive as an artist.

Here are seven steps to "Going where your audience is."


Go where your audience is...

A key idea in "digital media distribution" for artists is "Go where your audience is."

This idea applies to artists of all kinds... writers, architects, filmmakers, sculptors, painters... in short, anyone creating intellectual works.

There are seven steps involved in "going where your audience is."

1. Know your who your core audience is...
2. Go where they are...
3. Have conversations with them...
4. Gain their trust...
5. Gain permission to share your work...
6. Share your work...
7. Slowly build a core audience of fans by continuing the conversations, and helping them achieve their goals.

When you have a core audience of fans, you can survive as an artist. True fans will support and promote you as long as you don't violate their trust.

When to put your book online

If I can get people to open my books and read them, my book sales go up. Every time.

If your book is facing a crowded field, why not try putting your books online--or at least sample chapters--and see what happens. It is one way to get people to "open your book" and read it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A fourth way to finance your film

Finding money for a first-time independent film is always a problem. People generally use one of three options.

  1. Borrowed money. Lately, borrowed money is generally impossible to get, and when you can get it, the terms are awful. Banks don't want to lend to first-time filmmakers, and credit cards generally have interest rates and collection policies that would make a loan shark blush. Borrowing from friends and relatives is a good way to destroy relationships.
  2. Selling your interest in the film. You might sell the film (or script) to a studio. Or you might be able to form a corporation dedicated to producing the film and sell shares in the corporation.
  3. Outright donations. The policy of "everything for free." Actors and crew work for free, location owners donate locations for free, supporters donate spaghetti dinners to the crew, and no one expects to ever see anything beyond a credit on the finished film.

Seth Godin has an idea for another way to raise money.

He writes…

"…I'd like you to consider the idea of selling part of your income.

"It works like this: you have an idea, a fledgling business or a new market to enter. You find an amateur investor (a wealthy dentist, a retired executive) and raise the money to bring it to market. And in return? The investor gets $xx for every unit you sell. From the first one until forever." You can read the whole post, here.

One option would be to offer $XX for every ticket, DVD and download sold.

Where this scheme gets tricky is rights sales... things like cable, broadcast, video on demand and foreign rights. I will write more about rights in another post.

Preparing for the second edition of your book

After a year or more of writing and researching you attach the Word file of your final manuscript to an email, and press SEND. The book is finally on its way to the publisher.

In the next few weeks and months you may be working with the publisher's editors and beginning book promotion.

There's a tendency now to forget about the original Word file. Don't do it!

Instead, save the file to CD. Put one copy in a safe place offsite. Keep a second CD on file in your office. A third copy of the file goes on your computer. Rename the file "Second Edition." Over the next year or so, you will inevitably find things in the manuscript that you want to correct, rewrite, or delete. As you find these things, make the changes in the "Second Edition" file you just saved.

When the publisher comes back to you in 18 or 24 months and asks you to prepare the second edition, you will be ready.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Use a book blog to promote your book

A book blog is one of the simplest, cheapest, most powerful ways you can promote your book. (The master of the book blog is Seth Godin.) Here are a few tips for creating your own successful book blog:

1. When you sign up for the blog, use the book name (or your name) for the email and blog address.
This makes it easier for readers to remember your name and your address. For example, my main blog address is

2. Use your book title and subtitle as the title of the blog.
Thus, the ideal blog title for my book Digital Video Secrets would be: Digital Video Secrets: What the pros know and the manuals don't tell you. This makes it easier for readers to find the blog when they do a Google search on the book title.

3. Make it easy for your reader to buy the book.
Put an image of the book cover and a spiffy yellow "BUY NOW" button in the upper left side near the top of the blog. Perceptual studies show that is the "hottest" spot on a web page. People will look there and click there before any other spot on the page. For an example of how to use this "hot corner." Here's a good example of how to use the upper left-hand corner of the web page.

4. Write short posts, and post frequently.
Instead of posting one 800 word entry once a week, write five 150 word posts and post them five times a week. When writing for the web, serve your meal a bite at a time instead of a plate at a time.

5. Start your book blog as early as possible.
Start a book blog the day you start researching your book. During the months before the book is published, write about your research. In the months after the book is published, write about new things you learn, answer reader questions, and announce events like book signings and house parties.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Filmmaking for money or for love?

Are you making your film for money or for love?

High quality, inexpensive tools like the HD cameras, digital recorders and compact sound studios mean that almost anyone can make a film.

A feature-length independent film made for money, and intended for theatrical release, can easily take a year or two to complete, involve dozens of skilled professionals, and cost several hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars.

A feature-length independent film made for love and intended only to go on Vimeo or YouTube can be made in a month for less than a thousand dollars. For airfare, car rentals, and lunch for the cast, you can have the footage for a 90 minute film "in the can." Everyone involved knows that the likelihood of a financial return is zero. All anyone really expects in return is an adventure, some great stories and maybe their names in the credits at the end of the film.

If the film is being made for money, however, expectations change. The expectation of return on investment may tempt the filmmaker to do expensive and risky things… things like mortgage the house, max out credit cards, or take a loan on mom and dad's 401K. The risk is justified in everyone's mind because of the expected return. If the film earns money, everyone is delighted. If it returns zero, lives are changed and relationships may be destroyed.

A labor of love is one thing. An investment is something else.

Always be very clear about money. Especially with yourself.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three good reasons to work for free

There are times when it makes good sense to work for free.

1. You are out of work. Working as a volunteer will give you experience, contacts, and possibly a new career.

2. You want to make a film about something you truly believe in. In the digital age, media and distribution are essentially free. If you don't expect any money in return, you can make just about any film you'd like.

3. The economy sucks. The economy always sucks, someplace. If you happen to be in one of those places why not work as a volunteer for a while? Find something interesting and do it. When the economy picks up in one or two or five years you will have new skills, a portfolio and a list of accomplishments.

The trick to making this all work is to truly understand that you are working for free. Expect nothing in return. Just do the job, joyfully.

Friday, November 13, 2009

When your name becomes a brand

Over the past two years I have been promoting my digital filmmaking books by speaking, writing, and showing up at events like trade shows. Yesterday someone pointed out that along the way my name has become my "brand."

Everything you do in the Internet age builds your "brand". When you write an Amazon review, post on FaceBook or write a blog entry, you are building your "brand."

So, what kind of brand are you? Knowledgeable, trustworthy and honest? Or something else? Whether you like it or not, your name is your brand.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Digital media creators and their audiences

Scott Kirsner lists four key ideas about the relationship between digital media creators and their audience in the Internet age:

1. The Internet is an engine for participation and engagement.
A good way to create involvement is to blog and post videos regularly. When you blog, remember that the Internet is not about creating content it's about creating community.

2. If you invite people to help you, they will help you.
This is the amazing thing about the Internet. People will actually help you, if you are doing something interesting and if you ask.

3.Go where your audience is.
Figure out who your core audience is and where they are on the Internet. Go to them and build relationships.

4. Leverage the power of an audience database.
For example, filmmaker Robert Greenwald went to and built an audience by leveraging the mailing list.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Crash course in film distribution

Just back from a Peter Broderick and Scott Kirsner's one-day crash course in film distribution at USC.

The Internet has changed everything. Now, the filmmaker can--and must--have an ongoing conversation with fans, friends and followers. *Huge* implications for anyone who needs to find and connect with fans--including writers, artists, social entrepreneurs and filmmakers.

Much to process. Mind chock full of new information.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hofstadter's Law

Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law. —Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid[1]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When to get a legal review of your book contract

There's a simple rule for when you need a legal review of your book contract.

"If the other side in the negotiations has a lawyer, you need a lawyer."

Authors Guild members can get a free Book Contract Evaluation from the legal staff of the Author's Guild. The evaluations take about 10 days, and they are concise, accurate and easy to understand.

If you are not a member of the Author's Guild, you might consider joining.

If you hire a lawyer, make sure he or she has extensive experience in book contracts.

Google docs for writing

A couple useful things you can do with Google Documents:
  • Organize a book.
    1. Open a Google documents file, and add main topics as they occur to you.
    2. Assign each main topic and sub-topic a HEADER value.
    3. Add content to topics and sub topics as it occurs to you.

    USING GOOGLE DOCS (Header 1)
    Easy to access from anywhere. (Expand this. Social impact?)
    Talk about Google?

    Access at work.
    Multiple computers (access from any computer)
    Access from wireless at coffee shop. List wireless issues.

    COFFEE SHOPS (Header 3)
    types of coffee shops.
    at the local coffee shop, observations and pictures.
  • Keep track of revisions
    Google docs keeps track of all your revisions.

    Open a google documnt and select: File>See Revision History.

    Google Documents will display a long list showing every revision you ever made to the doc. You can even compare versions by checking two revisions and selecting the 'Compare Checked' button.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bowen therapy for animals?

Feral cats are almost impossible to domesticate. Their "attack" responses are on a hair trigger. A cat with such hair-trigger responses may be lying in your lap, purring one moment and the next moment explode into a windmill of teeth and claws.

The attack may be triggered by a movement in the cat's visual field (a plant waving in the breeze) or touching the cat's fur unexpectedly with your hand. Anything that startles the cat sets off an attack.

A friend tells me that she successfully used Bowen Technique therapy for a feral ferret. As best I can tell it looks like cat-acupressure.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Author's Guild

The Authors Guild has been the published writer's advocate for effective copyright, fair contracts, and free expression since 1912.

Highly recommended for all published writers.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

OReilly Tools For Change in Publishing

The O'Reilly Tools for Change in Publishing conference has some of the best minds in the industry talking about the monumental changes in publishing and information distribution.

I wonder how one gets an invitation to a Tools for Change conference?

I really need to write a book for O'Reilly.

Seth Godin's new media (book) marketing rules

Rules? We have rules!

1. Books are souvenirs.
2. Permission is your only asset.
3. Conversations are marketing.
4. Words for readers, not readers for words.
5. Blogs work.
6. It's not about selling books.
7. As an author, you are an idea merchant. (Not really rule 7, but I like it.)

Godin's presentation
"10 Bestsellers: Using New Media, New Marketing, and New Thinking to Create 10 Bestselling Books" is the single best thing I've seen or read on new media marketing.

Seth Godin on book marketing

Seth Godin, author of 10 bestsellers, on how to market a book using new media in this presentation at the OReilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference.

The title of the presentation is: "10 Bestsellers: Using New Media, New Marketing, and New Thinking to Create 10 Bestselling Books"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Apple tablet

Apple Tablet with a 10.5 inch screen looks like a winner. I want one, unless it uses the same obscenely expensive wireless scheme as the iPhone. If it does, then I'll pass.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michael Moore interviewed at the Commonwealth Club. 30 min. video, followed by 30 min Q/A.

Recommended for doc filmmakers, and anyone concerned about the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arts Journal -- publishing

Arts Journal publishing page. Very good.

Building your own audience 3

The Adderall Diaries. The author sent out copies of his book to readers as a "lending library."

Building your own audience 2

100 Skulls began as a blog. It was hugely popular.

1. build a media channel (blog)
2. build an audience
3. publish a book

A good example of an author building his own audience.

Building your own audience 1

Another brilliant post by Seth Godin. The relevant paragraph for authors is:

Authors have traditionally relied on publishers to bring them readers. The author gives up the majority of the income and the publisher brings them the readers. But then you see someone like Frank at Post Secret who builds his own audience for his (sometimes nsfw) content. He owns a platform, it's not something he rents. Now, using a publisher is a choice, not a necessity. Just about every successful author going forward (except for the lucky exceptions like Dan Brown) will own her own media channel. Not just authors, of course...

Again, Godin has nailed it. Absolutely. Nailed. It.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

e-book formats

Good article in the New York Times about e-book formats, and the problems that authors and publishers face when selling e-books.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In search of the perfect office

I have been searching for the perfect writing office--or work space--for decades. I've created work spaces in RV's, coffee shops, rented rooms, spare bedrooms, corporate cubicles, VW vans, sailboats, small sheds in the back yard, and remote cottages. I have never found the perfect office. But here are some of the things that worked.
- A North facing window, plenty of natural light and a way to control the light.
- Privacy.
- Quiet.
- Music.
- Long blocks of uninterrupted time.
- Anonymity. (Starbucks coffee shops are good for this.)
- Cleanliness.
- An absence of clutter. Nothing in the room except things related to the book I'm working on.
- Ability to control temperature.
- A blank 8x10 foot wall upon which I can paste post-it notes and index cards.
- A 2x3 foot white board.
- A coffee shop within 20 minutes walking distance.
- Temperate weather.
- High speed wireless.
- A walkable neighborhood, in which I don't need a car.
- Exercise built-in to the lifestyle. Yoga studio nearby, or failing that, interesting destinations to walk to, like a ferry, coffee shop, or bookstore...
- Self contained dwelling, like a small cruising sailboat, hotel room, cottage, or empty house.
- Parcel delivery to front door... like UPS, USPS, or FedEX.
- A small bookshelf (4 feet maximum.)
- A large flat surface to work on. A standard 2' x 5' table seems to work.
- A comfortable chair like a recliner or a decent futon couch.
- Task lighting.
- A dog.

Basically, it looks like I'm a hermit.

Small House Society -- builders/designers

The Small House Society has a long list of designers and builders of tiny houses.

Mobile Hermitage

This looks like it has real possibilities as a small writing office. At one point in my life I spent several years living on a 29 foot sailboat. I found that I really liked the simplicity and efficiency of living in a small well-designed space. This image is from

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Publishing is free

" media is largely free. So why teach it in school as if it were a scary theory? Why encourage people to be afraid? Just do it. Build your own platform. Appear in the places that seem productive or interesting or challenging or fun. Experiment quietly, figure out what works, do it more." So says Seth Godin.

Write articles for "free" eZines. Write your novel, one page a day, in your blog.

As Godin says, "spread yourself thin, don't be afraid of failure." And quietly figure out what works.

Monday, September 14, 2009

pre-release book reviews by true fans

Stephen Elliott sends advance copies of his book to readers. He writes:

"A few months ago, sitting on a bunch of advance copies of my new book, The Adderall Diaries, copies that were supposed to go to well placed media outlets, I decided to start The Adderall Diaries Lending Library. My plan was to allow anyone who wanted to read an advance copy of the book the opportunity to do so, provided they forwarded the book within a week to the next reader...."

Next he plans to follow up with a book tour in which he speaks in people's homes.

A brilliant plan.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What is facebook, really?

I've been experimenting on Facebook lately.

I've decided that Facebook is like a meeting of friends on a front porch.

- All your friends can hear what you say, but not everyone will

- Occasionally people will get up and leave, and occasionally new
people will arrive.

- People won't share *everything* on the front porch, but they may
share surprisingly intimate things.

- Using the front porch as a forum to sell one's wares is in very bad

Over and out.

Curriculum guide for Digital Video Secrets

Here's a 15 week curriculum guide which draws upon the exercises in my book, Digital Video Secrets.

This guide is intended for a class in introductory digital video production in a two or four-year course that culminates in a film degree.

Use it as you wish in your classes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Morrie Warshawski on "crowd funding"

Morrie Warshawski, author of Shaking the Money Tree comments on something I wrote about

"There's definitely a new paradigm, and "crowd funding" is one part of that.

"A more egalitatiran site for this for film is I believe that kickstart is by invitation only.

"I'm seeing more and more indie filmmakers try this type of fundraising. Unfortunately, the downside is that it doesn't normally raise "big" bucks, so it can only be part of the strategy used for raising support - unless you are doing a film of modest budget where $30 - $50K is considered major.

"When I did research for my new 3rd edition of SHAKING THE MONEY TREE (due out in January) I ran across Robert Greenwald's success in raising large amounts from thousands of small donations nationally for his work.

"The key to his success was his luck in being able to partner early with, which has a huge email list.

As I say in my book, one important "shift" in thinking is to forget about chasing an "audience" and concetrate on creating a "community."

(Shaking the Money Tree is the classic among fund raising books for filmmakers.--TL)

Thursday, August 27, 2009 -- DIWO for filmmakers is a Do It With Others site for filmmakers who are looking for resources for their films.

"Whether you're a filmmaker trying to get your project started, finished, marketed or distributed or a fan eager for more personally relevant and interesting films, IndieGoGo is where both can take action and influence what projects are brought to life."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 -- micropatronage for the arts is a micropatronage site, where people can give a few dollars to aspiring artists and filmmakers.

This is one of the most exciting funding ideas for filmmakers and artists that I've seen. In the immortal words of Mel Brooks, "It. Could. Work."

New York Times article.

Monday, August 24, 2009

1000 true fans

Kevin Kelly contends that an artist--any creative artist--needs only 1000 true fans to make a living and thus to be able to spend his or her life making art.

An interesting idea, because it means that the artist need not strive for a "hit" to faceless millions.

And it's an achievable goal. One fan a day for three years...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

6 publicity tools every new author needs

I recently asked book publicist Lorna Garano "What are the basic publicity tools every new  nonfiction book author needs?"  She quickly listed six things:

1. A press kit. 
And it should be good. Good writing, good photography, good graphic design and good printing. Have hard copies for mailing and handing out, and a soft-copy PDF on your website for downloads. 

The press kit should include, at a minimum: 
    a. Your "story" and bullet points about you
    b. Your bio and a head-shot (photograph) taken by a professional or talented amateur
    c. A list of suggested interview questions. Write the list in the form of a Q and A, and include full answers. Some interviewers will read the questions verbatim during interviews.
    d. Raves about you and about your book

2. A web site for your book or a dedicated page for the book on your existing web site
3. At least 3 targeted press releases to niche media

4. A blog 

5. An e-marketing piece (either a regular e-newsletter or some other regular email)

6. Video (on your web site) 

Note: This list is for nonfiction books, and not for fiction. Fiction books have different publicity and promotion needs.

Rick Steves tells how he built his empire

Rick Steves interviewed on Bloomberg: 20 minutes. In this interview Steves explains how he wrote his first book and went on to turn the book into a $140,000,000.00 empire of books, tours, radio and television shows. He ends by explaining his current expansion into iTunes audio. The key to his success is his passion and honesty. The interview is also a brilliant example of publicizing his latest book: Travel as a political act.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"As the world's largest, 100% free directory of author events, makes finding when a favorite author is coming to your town as easy as checking the weather.

"In just a few minutes any author can create a page showcasing their biography, books, and upcoming engagements."

The BookTour Blog.

Independent Filmmakers distribute their own films

"When “The Age of Stupid,” aclimate change movie, “opens” across the United States in September, it will play on some 400 screens in a one-night event, with a video performance by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, all paid for by the filmmakers themselves and their backers. In Britain, meanwhile, the film has been showing via an Internet service that lets anyone pay to license a copy, set up a screening and keep the profit..." More... in the New York Times, August 13 2009.

Monday, August 10, 2009

HD Video Camera for documentaries

The new HM100 HD camcorder from JVC is a winner. 

In the past I've shied away from JVC products because of lingering quality control problems. With the HM100, JVC has overcome these problems. The camera is well-built, balanced in the hand, and easy to use. The image is great, the controls are well placed, and the included microphone captures good quality sound. 

The camera records native FinalCut Pro files on inexpensive SD cards. After shooting, just plug the SD card into a laptop running FinalCut Pro 6.04 or above and start editing. 

If you are not using FinalCut Pro, the HM100 also records in standard MPEG4 format.

While I was in New Orleans, I used the HM100 to shoot some sample footage: low-light, bright daylight, soft daylight and interview.  As soon as I get back to my FinalCut Pro editing system,  I'll post a few samples.

digital recorder / pen

Digital recorders are essential for good interviews, as are comprehensive notes. 

I usually take notes and record interviews. But, after the interview, I often want to go back and find out exactly what someone said at a certain point. In the past I've noted the time (approx. 20 minutes).  The LiveScribe recorder has a camera in the tip of the pen/recorder which allows you to point the pen at a note--written in a special LiveScribe notebook--and replay that part of the interview.  

Monday, July 13, 2009

Organizing tools for writers

Organizing tools that I've found useful for organizing and writing books.

Microsoft Word outliner
Create topic headings for your book. Collapse the headers to see a high-level 'table of contents.' Expand individual headers to add detailed information as you work on individual sections or paragraphs.

Google documents
Lately I've been using Google documents to collect information for a book I'm working on.
The advantages of Google documents are many. The two major ones:
1) All my files reside 'in the cloud' instead of on an individual laptop, netbook or computer, so I can use any computer to access my files.
2) Simplicity. Google documents is simple and easy to use.
The only real drawback I've found so far with Google documents is that it doesn't have an outliner function.

Inspiration visual organizing software
Inspiration is a 'hyper outliner' that allows you to arrange your ideas visually. You can then expand and collapse the headings and subheadings. The interface is designed for grade-school use, so it is simple and easy to use. (Buy the 3-pack if you have more than one computer. I've found transferring registration between computers to be a pain in the ass.)

Post-its on a wall
Clear a large space (a blank wall works) and stick 3x5 post it's to the wall. Rearrange the topics as needed. This is an extremely effective and low cost method of seeing the overall structure of a book.

How to keep a journal

Collecting ideas and notes is an ongoing challenge for writers. An idea for a book may flit through your mind and--unless it is recorded--disappear within minutes.

One solution is to keep a journal of your life. On his Cool Tools blog, Kevin Kelly reviews a book that tells how to keep such a journal.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Digital economics (writing)

Dan Cook writes clearly and lucidly about the realities of digital economics.

Again: how do writers get paid?

(Cook wrote this article for Flash Game developers, but the concepts apply equally to authors and artists.)

Innovative publishing model (writing)

No one quite knows quite what the new publishing model is going to be. How do writers get paid for their work? What is the role of the publisher? No one knows. The Internet has up-ended everything.

Here's one innovative publishing model, via Kevin Kelly.

Sell 200 copies online at $9.95 and thereafter distribute the book as a PDF, for free.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Becoming "Bullet proof" (Yoga)

"Bikram yoga is designed to make you "bullet proof." You are learning the valuable lesson and honing the valuable skill of not allowing others to steal your peace and power. Bikram himself doesn't have faith that your fellow yogis will annoy or offend you adequately; he takes it upon himself to do so! Bullet-proof, my friend.

"Think of a life where your mean boss, your annoying co-worker, your needy friend, your petulant teen-ager DOESNT BOTHER YOU. And remember, return on investment in changing others is much much lower than in changing the way you tolerate others."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When will people pay for content? (writing)

Seth Godin understands what the Internet and blogs mean to the business of publishing and writing.

He writes:

"We're always going to need writers, but the business model of their platform is going to change.

"People will pay for content if it is so unique they can't get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people. We'll always be willing to pay for souvenirs of news, as well, things to go on a shelf or badges of honor to share.

"People will not pay for by-the-book rewrites of news that belongs to all of us. People will not pay for yesterday's news, driven to our house, delivered a day late, static, without connection or comments or relevance. Why should we? A good book review on Amazon is more reliable and easier to find than a paid-for professional review that used to run in your local newspaper, isn't it?"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Using the domino effect

Today, Seth Godin wrote an extremely important blog entry. He said:

"Envision the events that might happen to a brand (shelf space at Walmart, an appearance on Oprah, a bestseller, worldwide recognition, a new edition, worldwide rights, chosen by the Queen, whatever) as a series of dominos.

"It turns out that if you start with all of them at once, you'll fail.

"And if you start with the big one, you'll fail.

"But if you line up all the dominos one by one, in the right order, you may just have enough energy to push over the first one. That one, of course, adds momentum so that when you crash into the second one, that one goes too. All the way to the Queen."

This is a monumentally important post for anyone who has to promote a nonfiction or how-to book. In this post, Godin essentially tells how to plan and implement a successful marketing plan for your book.

1. Envision all the events that might happen (for Digital Video Secrets it might be something like... David Pogue recommends, reviewed in DV magazine, shelf space at B&H Photo, book review on Cool Tools.)

2. Line the events up from small to large (reviewed in DV magazine, book review on Cool Tools, shelf space at B&H Photo, David Pogue recommends)

3. Start pushing on the smallest domino (reviewed in DV magazine) and don't put your effort into anything else until you push that domino over. Once that domino begins to fall, you use it's momentum to help you crash into the second one (book review in Cool Tools) and so on, all the way up to David Pogue.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Writing about cameras

When I wrote Digital Video Secrets, I decided that I would buy everything I wrote about. If I reviewed a camera, it would be one I personally owned.

As my books begin to sell and I gain credibility, I'm faced with the decision of whether to accept cameras from manufacturers on loan, and to then review them.

The advantage of accepting cameras on loan is that I get my hands on a wide range of equipment and do a better job writing about cameras.

The disadvantage is that I could conceivably write about a camera that I, myself, would not buy.

Lately, I'm favoring the idea of sticking with my original approach. Write only about cameras that I own.

New cameras

Digital Video cameras change so rapidly that I sometimes tell people "'if you've opened the box, it's obsolete' ".

This is one reason why I wrote Digital Video Secrets so it applies to *any* camera, new or old. I didn't want to see the book become obsolete the day after it was printed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writers notebooks and journals

Links to notebooks that I have tried and can recommend.

Weather-proof reporters notebook.
Write in the rain. Great way to take notes in the rain, on a boat, or in a sweaty gymnasium or practice hall.

Ampad reporters notebook.
Excellent, but I find the 8-inch notebook a bit awkward for carrying in a pants pocket.

Moleskine 5.3 x 3.5 inch pocket notebook
The classic. Expensive, but they work. The one that I use.

Writersblok notebook
About the same size as a US passport. Soft covers, easy to carry with you everywhere. Good quality writing paper.

Friday, June 12, 2009

TitleZ is back online

TitleZ, the most excellent Amazon sales-tracking tool, is back on line.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

25 days in Paris

A charming, nostalgic account of 25 days in Paris.

Note to self: get the film Zazie dans le metro.

Not on Netflix... So, where to get it?

getting good sound in an interview

I just finished my first podcast. It is here.

The main technical challenge in a podcast is getting good sound in the original interview. Once you have good sound, you can do whatever you want... edit it, add music, add an introduction...

But if you don't have good sound, you are lost. No amount of tweaking, filtering, or noise removal will help... much. You simply can't fix things like reverberation, white noise, and distortion caused by low quality microphones... no matter how much you try.

When I did the interview for the podcast, I just followed the instructions outlined in Digital Video Secrets for capturing good sound. And, know what?

It worked great. We got excellent quality sound.

(What a relief! Sound has always been--and continues to be--a huge challenge for me.)

TitleZ offline?

The TitleZ web page no longer now appears online. It looks like this excellent book sales tracking service is... dead... back!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

DV video to MP3 audio

A couple days ago, I taped an interview using my Panasonic DVX 100 (DV) camera.

I chose the camera rather than an audio recorder because I wanted to have both video and audio of the interview.

Here's what I did to convert the audio track of the interview to an MP3 that I could turn into a podcast. (This is a little cryptic. More details later.)

PS: This procedure is for a mac.

PPS: There's gotta be a simpler way to do this... but this is what I had to do to go from DV audio track to good quality MP3 file.

1. Record the interview using DVX 100 and good microphones.
2. Capture the movie onto a mac using iMovieHD.
3. Use the iMovie HD Export function to export the audio track.
4. Find the movie's 'package' on the Mac hard disk.
5. Cntl-click the package to open it and view the contents. Voila! There's my audio file.
6. Copy the exported audio file (aiff, 512K) and paste the copy in my Documents folder.
7. Download and install the free audio editor 'Audacity'. Good for audio editing.
8. Open Audacity, and then open the Audacity preferences control panel.
9. Change the Audacity recording quality preference to 48,000 hz.
(48,000 is what the DVX 100, and many DV cameras use to record audio. The default for Audacity and many other audio editing programs is CD quality, or 44,100 hz. If the preference is not set to 48,000 in Audacity, it will not process the file properly.)
10. Import the aiff audio file into Audacity.
11. Edit the file using Audacity. Take out ums, ah's, repeated words and off-topic discussions.
12. Save the edited file.
13. Export the edited file as a WAV file.
14. Download and installed the format converter program SWITCH (great program, BTW).
15. Convert the WAV (512 MB) file to MP3 (21 MB) using SWITCH.

Note: I later used the LAME encoder in step 13 to export the file directly from Audacity as an MP3. I still like Switch, however, and plan to keep it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book publicist for first-time authors

Book publicists for first-time authors are hard to find.

One publicist who works with first-time authors is Lorna Garano of Lorna Garano Book Publicity. I interviewed Lorna while researching the 15 Do It Yourself Tools article. She is easy to talk to, and knows the publishing business intimately.

Lorna Garano

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Plug your book online

The author's enemy is anonymity.

Without marketing, your new book has a good chance of remaining forever anonymous and unread.

Steve Weber's Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors, Book Publicity through Social Networking is a well-written explanation of how you might market your book.

What makes Weber's book vauable is his up-to-date knowledge of online promotion. He uses the techniques that he describes in Plug Your Book! to sell his own books.

The Amazon information alone is worth the price of the book. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Advice for authors, by Seth Godin

If you are writing or publicizing a book, *please* read Seth Godin's two extraordinary blog posts: Advice for authors (2007) and Advice for authors (2006).

Godin seems to be 15 minutes ahead of everyone else in the world when it comes to the Internet, social trends, and changes in the book publishing model.

Essential reading for authors.

15 Do It Yourself Tools To Promote Your Book

The Writers Store just published my article, 15 Do It Yourself Tools To Promote Your Book.

In the next couple weeks I will write more about each tool, on this blog.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who the hell is Tony Levelle?

Here's the bio from the back cover of my co-authored book Producing With Passion:

"Inspired by such available light and low budget films as Robert Rodriguez's 'El Mariachi' and Jon Jost's 'Frameup', filmmaker Tony Levelle set out on a mission learn how to do the same.

"He had the good fortune to attend a seminar by Dorothy Fadiman who not only finished every film she started and got them into distribution, but kept them there!

"He eventually worked with Fadiman and his new co-authored book, 'Producing With Passion: Making films that change the world' is the result of their collaboration to share these techniques with others.

"The quality of this book so impressed the publisher that even before it was finished they signed Tony to solo author a second book, 'Digital Video Secrets: What the pros know and the manuals don't tell you.'

"Tony exemplifies the qualities all filmmakers need to survive: passion, persistence and vision."

When not writing books or making films I teach Bikram yoga for Lynn Whitlow at Bikram Yoga Lake County.

Going "radio silent"

I'm going "radio silent" for a while. No blogging, Twittering, or Facebooking.

During the "silent" period, I'm going to be looking critically at my website, social networking in general, and what it means to promote oneself and one's books and films.

If you bought one of my books, and have a question or comment, please email or send me a message via Facebook and I'll get back to you promptly.

Email address here.
Facebook contact here.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The 2009 Michael Wiese Productions Catalog is out.

Digital Video Secrets is front and center on the front page!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Encounters at the end of the world -- What camera?

I've been trying to find out what camera Werner Herzog and his cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger used to shoot the stunning images in the new documentary Encounters at the End Of The World.

The cinematography in this movie is wonderful.

According to IMDB the format was HDV. On the commentary track Zeitlinger says only that the camera was one of the first Sony Blu Ray camcorders. Will keep checking...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's Your Story

The odds-on favorite for Best Feature Documentary at the 81st Oscars awards is the wonderful film, "Man On Wire."

All five of the Oscar nominees for this category are great films, but Man On Wire's story makes the film unique.

In the film, 24 year old Philippe Petit and a youthful band of conspirators sneak into the World Trade Center in 1974. They then string a wire between the towers, and Petit then walks the wire between the towers. Not once but 8 times.

The director chose to tell the story as a caper film. The story of Petit overcoming obstacles, and ultimately succeeding, is absolutely riveting.

The lesson for filmmakers and writers is clear: if you want to capture an audience, tell a compelling story with a fascinating hero.

(Cross posted at my Amazon Connect blog for Digital Video Secrets.)