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.