When monster-loving, forward-thinking New Zealand director Peter Jackson decided to shoot The Hobbit at 48 frames per second – twice the standard frame rate – he elicited some mixed responses.

The Hobbit is being screened in 48 fps 3D in a selection of cinemas around the world. One week on from its release, Film Watch went to find out what the audience think of Jackson’s latest innovation:

“I’m torn between the 48FPS feature. I think the increased frame rate cheapens the look of the movie a little but it increases the clarity in the 3D. I’m unsure of what he’ll do for the next films and the home release but overall a very good, fun, action packed film. Can’t wait for the next”.
– Jay Emery, 33

“I watched the film on IMAX screen at BFI and thought it looked beautiful. 3D is slightly better quality there I think and loved the look. I liked the realistic feel. I went with my boyfriend and my flatmate and his girlfriend who liked it as well.”
– Raivo Kittus, 30

“The sense of being in the cinema wasn’t there for me. It makes it look very “digital” . The 3D is much better and more realistic.”
– Dimitrios Kapatsoris, 28

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Type “webdocs” into Google and you’ll get returns of “new website launching soon” and talk of “the next big thing”.

But webdocs are not simply documentaries published online: they are documentaries designed for publication on the web, allowing the audience to interact with the contents in a hypermediated environment. Such content is available in clusters of information through which the audience navigates their own way, with media such as photos and videos serving the more secondary purpose of illustration.

Studies devoted to this new form of media appear as early as 2004, but only recently have investigative journalists begun to think of it as a valuable tool for in-depth storytelling even as the medium’s popularity continues to increase.

French and French Canadian media outlets have led the way in commissioning these webdocs, many of which have attracted international recognition and awards such as the 2008 webdoc by Samuel Bollendorf and Abel Ségrétin, Journey to the End of Coal.

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Interactive documentary, journalistic tool, or the next big thing: webdocs are a hypermediated medium in a hypermediated environment, the product of an increasing tendency to mix different media – and the web is teeming with people looking for optimal ways to do so. Some are finding ways to adapt webdoc apps such as Klynt for use on tablet and android even as others are developing their own platforms.

For those who wish to stay ahead, the Centre for Investigative Journalism is organising a Webdocs Workshop for Investigative Journalists on 19 January at City University as part of the CIJ Investigative Film Week 2013.

The workshop will be taught by Matteo Scanni, author of the first ever Italian webdoc The Iron Curtain Diaries 1989-2009.

 
Do you remember the internet hype when filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (One Day In September, The Last King of Scotland) made a request for home-video footage from around the globe, to be combined and edited into a single film representing Life In A Day in 2010?

There were three basic concepts: the footage was to be shot on 24 July 2010, it had to be filmed by you, and it could be of anything you wanted – almost.

81,000 submissions and 192 countries later, the resulting 95 minute feature was presented at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and a few months afterwards was available on YouTube, back among the community from whence it came.

A similar project, Britain In A Day, was directed by Morgan Matthews (also produced by Ridley Scott and Kevin MacDonald) using footage from some of over 11,000 contributions received in November 2011 from UK residents, and broadcast on BBC2 in June 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Less than a year later Kevin Macdonald is back, and this time he wants your Christmas!
 

The Christmas In A Day website contains tips and guidelines on how to make and submit your video, as well as Appearance Release forms and any other technicalities that might be applicable. Essentially, if you’re a UK resident over 10 years of age (under-18s require parental consent) this call to filmmaking is intended for you!

The deadline for filming is 27 December 2012 at midnight.

“The most extraordinary discovery was that the film turned out to be rather good. In the strangest turnaround of my film-making career, what started as an experiment – a film for festivals and a few academics interested in the fusion of film and web – had become an accessible, laughter-filled, tear-tinged hit.”
(Kevin Macdonald on Life In A DayThe Guardian, 7 June 2011)

This week’s highlights:

  • Until 3rd January @ ICA: Chasing Ice

Jeff Orlowski’s 2012 documentary gives a visual narrative to the work of James Balog, once-climate sceptic and founder of the Extreme Ice Survey in 2007. If the shots below aren’t enticing enough in themselves, Philip French from The Observer calls them “sensational in their beauty, terror and the irrefutable evidence they provide of the rapidity with which age-old ice packs are melting away.” Book tickets here for the ICA or visit the Chasing Ice website for a full list of screenings between December and April throughout the UK.

  • 17th-20th December @ Curzon Renoir: Dead Europe

This Tony Krawitz (The Tall Man, Jewboy) adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ novel is not likely to get you in the Christmas spirit. However if what you’re after is “a bruising blast of intense drama” (Sydney Morning Herald) you’re likely to be enthralled by the story of Isaac (Ewen Leslie), an Australian photographer who travels to Greece to scatter his father’s ashes only to get caught in a political and preternatural inferno. Trailer and tickets available here.

  • 17th-20th December @ Curzon Mayfair: Babette’s Feast

Much more festive than the above, Gabriel Axel’s 1987 adaptation of Karen Blixen’s timeless classic will be a welcome Christmas treat to anyone for whom the holidays are first and foremost about culinary feasts. Book your tickets here.

Coming up:

  • 26th January @ DFG: A Short Guide to Short Docs – Saturday School

The folks at the Documentary Filmmakers Group share their passion and expertise during this one-day course, teaching you how to pitch your film and the “why, what, where and how” of what a successful “calling card” of a short doc should include. Price is £54 for non-members and £42 for members. Early booking is recommended.

 
“War is partly madness, mostly insanity, and the rest of it is schizophrenia.”
– Don McCullin
 
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                                         Don McCullin, Grieving woman with young boy, Cyprus 1964
 

There were a variety of reasons to attend this week’s screening of McCullin at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The ICA’s  preeminent reputation consistently draws in distinguished panels, in this case McCullin director Jacqui Smith and world-renowned photographer Rankin.

The film’s protagonist, Don McCullin, is hailed as one of the greatest war photographers of all time and the first photojournalist to ever be awarded a CBE – yet the subject’s credentials are only of secondary importance to the subject matter of this (undoubtedly soon to be award-winning) documentary.

For all the discomfort triggered by these photographs and their brutally vivid portrayal of humanity, the narrated montage delivers on the promise made by the beautiful and haunting opening credits: this is a film that will stay with you for a long time.

From his first time as war correspondent in 1964 Cyprus through to ravaged Vietnam and the Congo, via the Troubles and the fall of the Berlin Wall, McCullin has captured many moments that were to become seminal emblems of their time.

The exceptional editing skills of Andy McGraw and David Fairhead manage to tie together the abrupt rhythm of depicted events in a mellifluous fashion, and take us through history via McCullin’s own extraordinary history of being in the right place at the right time – an esoteric trick of the trade intrinsic to good photojournalism.

McCullin however never abuses this power: a video clip of his work in deprived areas of Britain (he himself was born in Finsbury Park in 1935) shows him tip-toeing around a man, making sure he’s not “bullying” him in any way before he snaps his photograph.

Throughout his career McCullin has shown the same sensitivity to the plight of the inner-city poor as to the victims of conflict and the soldiers ordered to carry it out. Representing atrocity is clearly as difficult a calling to him as it is one of tremendous importance.

His own on-camera musings, alongside an interview with Harold Evans (editor of the Sunday Times while McCullin worked for the broadsheet’s magazine), bear witness to this internal struggle and offer a first-hand account of war reporting amongst differently-minded peers and a changing landscape in journalism.

McCullin doesn’t come across as a comment on journalistic ethics, but if it were, McCullin’s own conclusion is that it is better to choose to be “on the side of humanity”.

The passion of the protagonist is reflected in the passion of the filmmakers. The incredible archive research – which took an entire year for only three days of shooting – results in a treasure trove of difficult-to-find photographs all available in the same place (for those photographs that didn’t make the final cut, they will be available on DVD upon its release in February 2013).

Such commitment may rightly be the product of McCullin’s own incredible dedication (which apparently outstripped his technical skills: he “couldn’t light his way out of a paper bag” according to Jacqui Smith) and his quest to “delegitimise war”, as described by Harold Evans.

Whatever the motivation the end result is the same: Rankin thinks McCullin is “the most anti-war film ever made” and his claim certainly holds weight. “I think we’re drawn to war as artists or communicators”, he says. “People forget that about photography: you need that element of humanity and empathy.”

It is perhaps lucky that the film was ever made at all, both on account of McCullin’s self-effaced privacy and his recent coming out of retirement to cover the conflict in Syria. All the more reason to watch it in cinemas while you can.
 

For news about ICA screenings and events visit their website. You can also follow @McCullin_Film on Twitter. 

This week’s highlights:

  • 10th December @ Goldsmiths: The Masterclass of Editor Nicolas Chaudeurge

Following last week’s “Producing in 50 Questions” with Fish Tank producer Kees Kasander, Fish Tank editor Nicolas Chaudeurge will be delivering a masterclass in editing at Goldsmiths University. This promises to be a rare treat from the man who worked alongside director Andrea Arnold on all of her Oscar- and BAFTA-winning films. Free registration.

  • 11th December @ Oval Space: The House I Live In + Panel Discussion

Eugene Jarecki’s 2012 film (Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance) offers a hard-hitting look at the effects and effectiveness of the war on drugs in America. A panel of experts from the Drug Policy Reform movement in the UK will take part in a debate following the screening at the Oval Space in Bethnal Green. Tickets are £7 or £5 concessions.

Coming up:

  • 18th December @ Phoenix Artists Club: London Screenwriters’ Festival Christmas Party

The London Screenwriters’ Festival are holding their annual networking Christmas party at the famed Phoenix Artists Club in Charing Cross Road. An excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people from the film industry in a festive atmosphere! Entry fee £3.

  • 10th-27th January @ Future Cinema: The Shawshank Redemption

Tickets for Future Cinema’s next live cinema experience are available now! Early booking is recommended for this highly popular cinematic event with a twist.

 

 

“All my life I have been fighting to get films on screen and now it’s more and more complicated.”
Kees Kasander on why it’s important to keep makeup artists happy and your location manager drunk.
 

Make no mistake: film production may involve numbers and budgeting but Kees Kasander is just as passionate about his vocation as the next art director. His Netherlands-based production house, Kasander Film, has released nearly 80 titles since 1981. Andrea Arnold’s 2009 Fish Tank won the Jury Prize in Cannes the same year and the 2010 BAFTA for Best British Film.

Speaking at a Goldsmiths University event “Producing in 50 Questions” in London on Wednesday, he delivered a string of no-bullshit sound bites and pearls of personal wisdom that provided a delighted audience with an insight into the idiosyncrasies of both master and craft.

Kees Kasander likes diligence. He likes music, editing, and working with the same team. He doesn’t like the sound guys. (“Maybe it’s because they think with their ears.”) He avoids spending time on set. The cutting room, on the other hand, he spends as much time in as possible: “I like to sit and see if it comes together, and maybe I can be useful. Every film is too long, that’s the first problem. Every director wants to put more into a film than the audience wants.”

So he enjoys problem solving? “No, it’s part of the job. It’s a stupid job, to be honest, film producer. If the film is good it’s because of the director, if it’s bad it’s my fault.” When asked how he likes to spend time off from this stupid job, he prompts a question of his own: “What is time off? Why should I take time off from something I enjoy?”

FilmsThree decades of allegedly continuous work notwithstanding, experience is not what Kasander values most: he even calls it “a dodgy business”. He has fired people when they insisted they had done things differently on a previous set. In Kasander’s eyes neither film school nor a five year stint as assistant are a guarantee of success; after all 99% of scripts never make it onto the screen.

As if to dispel any feelings of gloom or outrage his abrupt honesty might have caused, he meekly offers: “We made some films that were not very good, but interesting. You have to pick the right one, the one to your taste.” Kasander’s personal taste (and against a certain consensus in the business) favours writer-directors: “It seems it works better because it’s so personal.”

From a producer’s point of view, however, there is much more excitement to be found in the non-fiction arena of documentaries. Kasander draws no division between documentary and film, contending all a film needs to qualify as such is an interesting director and an interesting idea. In fact with documentaries “you are making a film while you are making a film. You have to use your brain: [fiction] film is more like bookkeeping.”

His passion for this particular art form is clear: “Documentaries are like one big contingency. You have so much money left, how are you going to use it? You start it and you don’t know how it’s going to end.”

One might surmise his partiality lies in a certain artistic licence that, ironically, is harder to exercise in the production of fiction. With the wild variety of constraints imposed by individual countries, one simply cannot make a film to be distributed around the world. In India, kissing is forbidden on screen. In Japan it’s pubic hair. “Silly idea, not even Japanese, it’s American. I can’t be bothered with that sort of nonsense.”

As an example of the challenges that can arise from cultural differences and filming abroad, he quotes a film crew that shortened a 10-week stay in Japan by a whole nine weeks because “they just didn’t know how things worked”. Hence the necessity of skillful management when it comes to leading crew members: “You don’t have a location contract, you have a location manager, so if he goes missing you suddenly have no location. You have to keep giving him alcohol.”

The location manager is not the only person Kasander covertly collaborates with. When something is wrong “the first person an actor will complain to is the makeup person, they never come to me, so I have to have a good relationship with everyone. It’s almost like football in a way. You have 11 people on the pitch. If they all do their job, it’s a dream job. If not it’s a nightmare.”

He acknowledges that very often “different people are shooting different films” and mostly with the best of intentions: “Everyone wants to make the best possible film. You just have to make sure they’re fighting for the right reason.”

It naturally follows that he should favour small teams. “I had 10 people once and I was working for those 10 people. Instead of making the best possible film I was working for an office.” An independent-minded man, Kasander professes that “the first thing I’ve learned is to control my own budget and control my own schedule.”

Controlling one’s budget seems the crucial element here: “You have to make sure there are many partners, otherwise they control your film and before you know it you are working for them. It’s the hardest thing, staying independent. Even if you are 32 years in the business they can still tell you what to do. And you need to be 100% financed before you get any money [to start shooting].”

In CannesSo when does the budgeting start? “When you read a script, you start financing a film I believe. I need to know by the end of it how I’m going to do it. Sometimes you read a script and you think it’s fantastic but I don’t know where to get the money.”

Other than issues related to budgeting, which nominally are the core aspect of a producer’s calling, in this day and age distribution presents a much bigger challenge. “The most problematic part of filmmaking is getting it out to the audience.” Festivals might remain the best remedy to anonymity but even in Cannes “you get a lot of attention but not a lot of sales. Everyone wants to talk to you, it’s nice.”

If such a remark is anything to go by, Kasander places a bigger stake in the audience’s verdict than his peers’. This is where the World Wide Web steps in. “How will you find out if a film is good? On the internet, I think. I don’t think it’s from Time Out anymore. There’s a different relationship now with audiences.”

Internet distribution may still be in its early days “but in five years’ time all my films will end up being distributed on the internet rather than in a cinema – we are thinking of putting our films for free on the internet because then at least people can see them – unless I’m making Batman 5 because that will always be released in the cinema.”

Does he bear a grudge against houses that favour blockbusters over independent productions? “If I were a cinema owner I would play Skyfall because there’s money in it, so I understand.” And there is an upside to the public taking distribution into its own hands: “I’m very famous in China because of The Pillow Book. They sold more than a million copies. Illegal copies.”

On the equivalent success of Fish Tank in Britain, he muses: “You never know who your audience is before you start. Was it the right film at the right time? Nobody knows.”

Kasander’s appraisal of his favoured directors – along with the Goldsmiths audience appraisal of Kasander – seem to suggest that the answer is to be found, quite simply, in talent, perseverance, and a flair for damn good filmmaking.
 

To attend the Masterclass of Editor Nicolas Chauderge, editor of Fish Tank, on Monday 10 December reserve your free ticket here. For information about more weekly events at Goldsmiths visit the university’s website.