Monthly Archives: October 2015

Anderson at Computer (with puppets)

Five Reasons Movie Audiences Are Smart

Have we really come to the point where a film that’s suitable for all ages, genders, viewpoints and tastes, a simple, charming and spellbinding fable about how the earth might have gotten its start, is “too smart for the audience”?

Anderson at Computer (with puppets)

While it wins “audience favorite” and “best visual effects” at dozens of film festivals, some experts say that The Looking Planet is “too smart for the audience.”

Here is the teaser:

One of the reasons I enjoyed this short film so much — in addition to its visual excellence, engaging story and characters (even though they have only eyes and mouth, no nose), and charming way of explaining how the earth is such a paradise for life, thanks to our special relationship with our moon — was that it was about life.

It features a family: an irascible father, an attentive mother, a wayward, daydreaming son named Lufo, and numerous other brothers/sisters. The Looking Planet’s story covers a pretty big engineering project: the whole galaxy. Lufo’s family was working on one tiny part: our solar system.

In my humble opinion, The Looking Planet took a huge subject and made it into playful, joyful learning. I would definitely qualify it for a “common core” lesson on cosmology. Heaven knows that students need to learn about the universe and they might as well have their spirits uplifted and imaginations engaged while doing so.

Having just watched the PBS documentary about Walt Disney, I was reminded that somebody else took that approach as well.

I tell everyone, “we can only do something about books, we know nothing about film or television.”


I am far from “normal.” Nobody should do market research off me. But I’m so, so tired of films where everyone is blown up, shot to bits, women are portrayed poorly, or what passes for a story is simply a reboot of an old TV show, old movie, or old comic book.

I think people might have gotten tired of horses and buggies too.

I really think this is where we are. When people stopped saying “Man wasn’t made to go faster than 20 miles an hour!” and “Man can’t fly!”

There are only seven different stories?

Why, men can’t watch movies about women unless they are sex objects. A white person can’t enjoy a movie with brown actors (as if they make a whole lot of those …). It not only has to be one of these seven stories, it’s best if the people who are dumb enough to pay $8 for a bucket of stale popcorn recognize the “brand name” from a toy or a movie their parents enjoyed.

Lufo is a speckled light gray color. He doesn’t even have a nose. His body bears resemblance to the characters in the “leaky pipe people” ad. He wears little brass wings that look like 19th century protractor parts.

This one of the seven stories! It really isn’t one of them, any more than you could shoehorn 2001: A Space Odyssey into that mold. They don’t call it “mold” for no reason.

moldy cheese

So, since we know that posts that list reasons are far more read than others, here’s your five reasons movie audiences are smart — and ticket sales are stagnant — and the schemes like computerized script analysis and endless remakes of films made only half a decade ago are driving customers away, not bringing them in:

  1. They are human beings who want to be entertained and uplifted
  2. They have hearts and minds
  3. Even though anybody can make a movie these days, not everyone desires to do so — they expect something better than they could do on their own — not worse
  4. Just because Pew-Die-Pie is the #1 YouTube celebrity doesn’t mean people want to pay $12 to see a movie about him
  5. Just like cheese, ideas can go beyond “aged” to stale … moldy and inedible.


lufo and the looking glass

If This Film Does Not Spark Your Imagination …

maybe you don’t have one!

That was courtesy of the Los Angeles Film Review and I agree with them. The Looking Planet is an incredible short science fiction film by USC film school grad Eric Law Anderson that is real, honest-to-goodness science fiction.

lufo and the looking glass

Bruce and I were part of the audience at the Laguna Film Festival yesterday and of all the short films by talented filmmakers that we saw, The Looking Planet was …

Well, ya don’t see stuff like that every day! Fantastic! Amazing! More uplifting and enjoyable than pretty much anything that I’ve subjected myself to in a theatre for a long, long time.

I’d like to say that maybe this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego would be notable for showcasing panels about things that are mind-blowingly excellent: The Looking Planet had a panel there (in addition to Is SHE Available?).

Wonderful and entertaining need not be mutually exclusive. And I find it hard to imagine anyone, of any age, not being enthralled and entertained by The Looking Planet.

Did I mention, “It’s real sci fi”?

The Looking Planet [trailer] from Eric Law Anderson on Vimeo.

I’m not going to sit around like a slug myself, but there are fewer “likes” on this unbelievable film’s Facebook page than on my piece-of-you-know-what FSFW page.

Quit gazing at your own navel, quit complaining and grow some imagination. Somebody else already did: Eric Law Anderson. I guarantee you if you ever enjoyed one minute of an actual real, good sci-fi film or liked a real sci fi short story you will adore this. If you have a heart and are breathing you will enjoy this!

Lufo! Time to go! Better luck next universe!

(The Looking Planet is in some ways a meditation on the special relationship between the earth and moon and where that may have come from).


Will Authors Hang Separately?

At the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin famously said, “We must all hang together, or we most assuredly will all hang separately.”

benfranklinjohnadamsgifIt’s like that for writers these days.

In nearly every area, people have figured out how to make money off the creativity of others. I just reviewed the education app Nearpod this morning. It is primarily aimed at K-12 teachers and classrooms. While very interesting in terms of providing a tool for interactive classroom content (especially for tablet-enabled classrooms – it is mobile oriented), I was little surprised to learn that the “App” requests teachers who have made their own Common Core-friendly lessons to apply to be “authors” who will be able to sell their lessons to other teachers at prices ranging from $2.99 for a single lesson to $40 and $50 for “bundled lessons.”

The time and effort to make a decent Nearpad interactive lesson (the app’s beauty is it allows teachers to pace the lesson and break it up with assessments – quizzes, questions, etc.) is far in excess of being paid a few dollars here and there, most certainly what the Nearpad people would offer for the “lucky” teachers “selected” to be “Nearpad Authors.” There are a few such authors featured on the service. There are many more professional “educational content” companies listed. These in turn pay the people who make their lessons as little as possible, usually piece rates for “work for hire,” while making huge amounts of money from it.

We turn to “self-publishing” where authors are encouraged to make their own money and told it’s the “new frontier” enabling them to have creative and financial freedom.

The reality is, there is less freedom than ever. As to financial freedom, the small numbers who are making good money right now … or at least purported “experts” like Jane Friedman (who make money from aspiring writers and conferences and fees) … appear blissfully unaware of the writing on the wall.

writing on the wall

Search engines are going local. Mobile advertising and customer contact is going local and device-specific. Because retail stores aren’t going away. People will probably *never* buy everything online and after more than a decade of every algorithm known to man developed in the absence of direct human contact …

What any real salesperson will tell you is: you can guess about the customer but you won’t know until you talk to them in person.

Which authors other than James Patterson and J.K. Rowling are going to be able to afford targeted mobile ads? Everyone who was previously successful in self-publishing has gone for a traditional publishing contract if possible.

Why would that be so?

Because if we do not hang together, we will most assuredly, hang separately. They have some type of partnership with their publishers.

Yes, that is the future. It was the past – it was exploitive. It broke down. Now authors are being exploited individually.

Of course there’s a better way. But it sure as he** is not going to come from “subject matter experts,” “book formatting experts” or “author assistants.”

I have been a professional writer since 1996. I have worked in nearly every aspect of the publishing industry, from educational to trade fiction to magazines, and every conceivable type of online “content.” I’ve also worked as an executive in the nonprofit world, with government, foundation and private funders and a huge range of projects, and as a business development professional, with over 160 businesses. And, I’m a college teacher.

Writers, by far, have the least ability to work together to benefit each other of any group I have ever worked with. They are at present, hanging on every word of gurus that promise riches and hanging separately.

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Uparshin.

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