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I thought about these things yesterday while perusing The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's new iPad newspaper. As you all know Murdoch knows a thing or two about marketing content. (As for social media, well, that's another story. Remember MySpace?) However, when it comes to new ways of packaging and distributing content, he's just as much of a newbie as a first-time independent filmmaker. Like one of us comparing the cost of our film to the current MGs being offered in the acquisitions market, Murdoch has undoubtedly sensed that the numbers are daunting. (Of course, he's got deeper pockets to begin with - he's already announced that the $30 million spent developing The Daily is a write-off.) The Daily costs in the mid-six-figures a week to produce, and it's being sold for 14 cents a day (or a buck a week). By comparison, Wired, right now, is selling about 23,000 copies a month on the iPad. Vanity Fair about 8,700. You do the math. As for advertising, at the launch event yesterday, a journalist, echoing the meme of 2009, asked whether Murdoch had thought of making The Daily free. He replied that the pay-model attracts a better class of reader while he also discarded the idea that The Daily would advertise on a conventional CPM model.
But that's all the business, and doesn't it come down to content in the end? If you downloaded the first issue of The Daily yesterday, you could read about the snow in the Midwest and the situation in Egypt. A fluffy piece on Natalie Portman's pregnancy and another on a New York doggie disco. The movie column consisted entirely of blurbs, although I was happy to see the lead one being Aaron Katz's Cold Weather. (It got four of five stars.) There was a lead, unsigned editorial that said all the usual stuff about being new and different while also slipping in an incongruous sentence endorsing the idea of "American exceptionalism," the defense of which seems to some kind of right-wing code these days. But it all felt very USA Today-lite. The social functions seemed kind of half-hearted, but maybe that's because there wasn't anything I was tempted to share. I thought, if you were going to blow $30 million, wouldn't you put one swinging-for-the-bleachers piece in your first issue? One thing with a point-of-view, or depth of reporting, that you couldn't find elsewhere that day on the web?
Is The Daily, a new-model newspaper, really being served by serving the familiar? Maybe this stuff will appear over time, but I was surprised not to be surprised on the magazine's first day. The prime argument for subscribing seems to be the one noted by John Gruber -- it's only a buck.
Is that enough? I don't think so. In today's web economy, it's not about the monetary cost, it's about the cost of your time. Is The Daily something you need, something that fills an important news niche, or just a distraction? Is its curation better than the one created by your feeds in Reeder? For me, the answer so far is "no." But I'll continue checking it out over the course of the two-week free trial. And I, like you, should take a little bit of solace in the fact that big media moguls are still trying to figure it all out too.
IFP'S 2011 INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER LABS OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS IFP's Independent Filmmaker Labs are a year-long fellowship supporting independent filmmakers when they need it most: through the completion, marketing, and distribution of their first features. The Labs provide community, mentorship, and film-specific strategies to help filmmakers reach their artistic goals, support the film's launch, and maximize exposure in the global marketplace. Drawing from a national candidate pool, 20 projects (10 documentaries and 10 narratives) are selected. Recent Lab Project alumni did well this year in Park City, with Ron Eyal & Eleanor Burke's Stranger Things winning the Slamdance Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature, while at Sundance - Dee Rees' Pariah (acquired by Focus Features) won the Narrative Cinematography Award for DP Bradford Young, and Alrick Brown's Kinyarwanda won the World Cinema Audience Award. Upcoming - Victoria Mahoney's Yelling to the Sky will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival with a follow-up U.S. festival premiere at SXSW. Also premiering at SXSW is Sara Terry's documentary Fambul Tok. Lab submission is open to all first time documentary and narrative feature directors with films in post-production. As part of IFP's ongoing commitment to diversity, the Independent Filmmaker Labs seeks to ensure that at least half of the participating projects have an inclusive range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and physical abilities in key creative positions. Upcoming deadlines for the 2011 Labs are March 11 (Documentary) and April 8 (Narrative). Additional detailed information and online applications are available here
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Frankie and Alice
Aaron Katz, Cold Weather
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COLD WEATHER Cold Weather, written and directed by Aaron Katz (Dance Party USA, Quiet City), premiered to great critical success at last year's SXSW festival. One part mumbleclore, one part gumshoe detective thriller, the film follows a recent college grad named Doug (Cris Lankenau) who moves in with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn) in Portland, OR while pondering what to do next in his life. When his ex-girlfriend disappears, Doug, who has an affinity for the detective tales of Sherlock Holmes, decides to take on the case, aided by his sister and his best friend Carlos (Raul Castillo). Beautifully shot by Andrew Reed with a strong performance by Lankenau, Cold Weather continues the filmmaking evolution of Katz, which he touches on in this week's Director Interviews. "Things have changed a lot," he says. "Going into Dance Party USA, I really had no idea how to make a feature film and the performances are pretty close to the script. On Quiet City, even though it was fully scripted, which acted as a rough blueprint, the specific words are almost completely improvised. In terms of shooting Cold Weather -- and this is really weird -- I used to be afraid of the combination of handheld and static or zoom shots. It's not that I necessarily learned how to integrate the two, it's that I realized if you just shoot each scene how it feels appropriate and have an overall idea of the look of the movie, it's all going to work out." Read our interview with Katz below. FRANKIE AND ALICE Director Geoffrey Sax, best known for his BBC work Tipping the Velvet, Clocking Off and a modern-day version of Othello, directs the drama Frankie and Alice (based on a true story), starring Halle Berry as a woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder. She is split between two alternative identities: a seven-year old girl named Genius, and Alice, a Southern white racist woman. Her disorder was brought on from a tragic car accident that killed the man she loved, and she learns to manage her disorder through the help of her psychiatrist, Dr. Oz (Stellan Skarsgard). Berry's performance was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama at this year's Golden Globes. This week on the blog, Sundance '11 winners; Scott Macaulay shares with readers one of the most beautiful end title sequences you'll ever see; Jamie Stuart photographs the faces of Sundance '11 (pictured left) and DSLR-shot films win big at Sundance.
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AARON KATZ, COLD WEATHER By Damon Smith
If you pore over writings on the loose grouping of "mumblecore" or "New Talkies" films over the past few years, writer-director Aaron Katz (Dance Party USA, Quiet City) is the young American indie filmmaker most often singled out for unqualified praise, regardless of the commentator's assessment of this so-called movement as an artistic whole (or whether it constitutes a movement at all). And with good reason. A filmmaker attuned as much to the gestural nuances of his characters as he is to the expressive beauty of cityscapes and natural settings, Katz has a rigorous eye for the tiniest of details, bringing a sense of poetic concentration to his framing, lighting, and overall compositional sensibility. read more
Los Angeles International Film Festival
Extended Deadline: Feb. 14
Festival Dates: April 1-3
Santa Monica International Film Festival
Late Deadline: Feb. 15
Festival Dates: Aug. 5-7
New York International Latino Film Festival
Early Deadline: Feb. 15
Regular Deadline: Feb. 25
Festival Dates: July 27-Aug. 1