Category Archives: old media

Star Trek Discovery Pilot = FAIL

star-trek-discoveryI caught the Star Trek Discovery pilot on CBS this past weekend.  …And I do mean caught because CBS allowed a highly anticipated series premiere of the biggest entertainment franchise in the world to be delayed by this week’s sports event.  Fortunately I anticipated their priorities and set my DVR to record the show after Discovery as well, and was able to see the second half of the show.

So here’s what a life long Star Trek fan and filmmaker thought of the Star Trek Discovery pilot.  (Obviously this is all a spoiler if you haven’t seen the show.)

It’s a Prequel

This is going to be the main problem with the show.  It has to fit in to a narrow slot a few years before The Original Series and that’s going to limit the stories that they can tell.  It will ultimately be their undoing as they make more and more episodes.  The continuity police are already having a field day.  The badges aren’t right.  The Klingons have a cloaking device before Kirk stole it from the Romulans.  Bla, bla, bla…  I’m not going to talk about any of that.  It’s a fatal flaw baked into the premise.  I’m only concerned with the characters and story of the pilot.  How well have they set up this new adventure?  Is it interesting?  How dramatic is it?

The Story

The story is slow, especially for something that seems like it’s trying to be a battle show.  What’s up with the first scene on the desert planet walking and talking with tons of exposition?  That’s how you start the pilot?  How about “Show Don’t Tell,” a basic rule of screenwriting?

Oh yea, and next time Star Fleet has to fix a water well, beam down right next to it so you don’t have to outrun a storm on foot.  Also, teach your first officers how to make a signal if you want to be rescued.  Who wrote this show?

In spite of the slow plot there still was very little character development on anyone other than the first officer and a little for the science officer.  That’s it.  The Captain is an enigma.  She’s an experienced officer who is not afraid walking in the desert, then she doesn’t want to explore the asteroid field.  No reason given for either.  Who the heck are these people on this ship?  What is their mission?  What is the show about?

The Klingons

OK.  So the Klingons look like the Drazi now.  I don’t care.  I care about the story and the characters.  There’s a lot of ceremony, posturing, and yelling – which is expected from Klingons – but what is going on?  One has a black face and one has a white face.  OK.  Who are these characters?  What do they care about?  We never really find out.  They’re just mysterious, angry, generic bad guys.  More chance for character development that was missed.

And who put the sub-titles in all caps?  Any graphic designer will tell you that all caps makes text much harder to read.  Subtitles should always be in sentence case because you have to read it fast.  Every filmmaker knows that.

Production design

Serviceable but meh.  The ship looks like every SciFi space ship we’ve seen in every modern video game we’ve ever played.  The same generic SciFi architecture, costumes, space suits, control panels, that we’ve seen a million times before.  The Original Series, The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Kahn, The Next Generation, and Enterprise, all went in bold new directions in regards to the production design.  The concepts were different form previous Star Trek and different form other SciFi design at the time.  Discovery looks like generic SciFi circa 2017.

Cinematography

Lots of eye candy, movement, flares etc. but is it really serving the drama?  I found it hard to focus on the people on the bridge.  We need to see their faces.  That’s where the drama is, not whipping around the back of their heads with the camera.  And what’s with the “Batman” tilt-o-vision every once in awhile?  Personally I LOVE tilt-o-vision, but it’s just thrown in for no reason in very brief shots.  It’s there and then it’s gone.  More eye candy for eye candy sake.  The bottom line is the cinematography is pretty but it ends up obscuring the very thin story even more.

Music

The intro music is nice.  Much better than that “modern” abomination from Enterprise.

The music in the body of the show is plain and unassuming, which is what Star Trek music has been for some time.  I would like to see the show dive back into the exciting adventure themes like in the Original Series but given the bland state of modern film music these days, I think that is unlikely.

Dialog Recording

Normally I wouldn’t even comment on this but the dialog recording seemed distant and echoey in some of the scenes on the ship.  That’s OK for a fan film but not for a professional production.  Intimate scenes recorded on a sound stage, especially on the standing sets, should be perfect.  The dialog should be immediate and present to powerfully deliver the actor’s performance.  I think the set walls are the problem, though I think Star Trek has been in production for long enough that they should know how to build the sets for sound.

The Ending

It seems like the pilot episode was constructed to simply be a prelude to the second episode where the real story begins.  It’s a contrived cliff hanger to convince everyone to purchase CBS All Access.  The problem is a cliff hanger doesn’t work if you don’t care about the characters.  There’s a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done story wise and the Star Trek Discovery pilot doesn’t do any of the work.  We’re left not really knowing the characters and not knowing at all what the show is about.  Yea, there might be a battle in the second episode, but who cares?  I don’t.

The Future of Star Trek Fan Films

charliexhd533I’m worried for the Star Trek fan films.  Reading between the lines of this preemptive defense of Star Trek Axanar, I’m not sure they understand the real issue.  It’s not about the IP.  It’s the amount of money these fan films are raising from fans that will trigger a crackdown.  The budgets are going through the roof and CBS will eventually see this as competition to a revenue stream that they previously had all to themselves.

It doesn’t help that there is a very vocal group online that spreads their hate for the “new-and-improved JJ Abrams reboot movies.”  Number five in this letter mentions this controversy as a defense for the continued existence of fan films but I don’t think CBS will see it that way if the new film doesn’t meet expectations at the box office.  CBS cares about the money the franchise can generate.  Eventually someone somewhere in that corporation will get tired of sharing it.   …and that will be a sad day.

Picture credit: The amazing Trek Core

Copying is not Stealing

Deviant Art - The Art Theft Discussion 640The art website Deviant Art has started a discussion on Art Theft with eight articles on Copyright infringement and related topics that effect digital artists on the internet.  Based on the comments, the articles are extremely controversial, especially the one on Stealing, where they separate the concept of stealing from copyright infringement.  I’m glad to see this.  Copying may be wrong or even illegal, but it’s not stealing.  Stealing is taking something away from someone.  When a copy is made the person still has the original.  If we’re going to build a future in our changing times where artists are paid and treated fairly, then we are going to have to start by being specific about what we are talking about.  Words have meanings.

About 15 years ago the music industry went bananas over Napster and started the incessant drumbeat claiming that copying and stealing are the same thing.  Now there is a generation of people who can’t tell the difference and I can see a lot of that in the angry comments on Deviant Art.  But the music companies didn’t want to build a future for artists.  They wanted everything to stay the same so they could keep their revenue streams.  They just wanted people to stop copying so they came up with a dramatic short cut to re-frame the discussion and shut it down.  Copying is stealing and that’s that.  Well it’s not, and the reality is much more complicated.

And change isn’t going to stop either.  As artists we need to take charge of this discussion because it’s up to us to build the future for ourselves.  Let’s say what we mean and mean what we say, and not fall into the trap of using language that was designed to stop the discussion and stop change.

Incident In New Baghdad gets Oscar nomination!

James Spione, a friend of mine from back in film school, has snagged an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject. Congratulations to him and to Ethan McCord the subject of the film. It took an awful lot of courage from both of them to speak out on this subject and as an American I am glad I was able to see this story. The film has won several awards already and I predict it will win the Oscar too. Hopefully all the recognition will lead to wider distribution so everyone will have a chance to see it.

Check out the film’s web page HERE.

Old Spice Guy records a get well video for Kevin Rose

This is social media marketing at it’s best! The Old Spice guy records a get well video for Kevin Rose creator of Digg.com, Revision3 and host of Diggnation.

This is brilliance in action.  A funny video directed at an unlikely person with a large social network.  Old Spice gets their brand to geeks everywhere.  (And it’s funny too.  This won’t work unless people want to talk about it.)  Old Spice has made scores of personalized message videos to invade other demographics too.  Check them all out in their YouTube channel.

There’s one directed at Alyssa Milano.

After her reaction, Old Spice Guy recorded and posted a response video.

Then Kevin Rose sees the video directed at him and replies on Twitter.  Then Old Spice Guy records and uploads another video to continue the conversation.

Then another video for Alyssa Milano.

This is how it’s done, people!  Old Spice is schooling us all on social media marketing!  Pay attention!

the emperor has no clothes

As someone who has been working very hard for four years to try and bring credibility to web video, I’m extremely disappointed in what I saw on the Streamy Awards Sunday night.

The Streamy Awards which is run by the newly formed International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) touts itself as the “…most prestigious awards ceremony devoted to honoring excellence in original web television programming and those who create it.”  That’s what it says on their website and that’s what everyone was expecting during the months of publicity that led up to the award show streamed live on the internet on April 11.  What we actually saw during the award presentation itself however was a different matter.

The tone of the entire ceremony was crude, vulgar, superficial, and unprofessional.  There were multiple masturbation jokes in the host’s monologue, a scripted bit with an actor playing a vulgar porn producer that goes on and on and on, presenters in nothing but underwear, not to mention unplanned events like two male streakers and people rushing the stage to molest the presenters.

@streamyawards This is insulting & not funny. Gay jokes & dick jokes are not funny when Vanity Fair called you the Oscars of the internet.

@Destini41 Destini

Sorry to any of our fans who watched and were offended by the raunchiness at the Streamys.The tone of humor was not honoring the evening IMO

@feliciaday Felicia Day

There was a point in the show that I was like “Is this really happening?” I can’t even imagine how the brands and sponsors felt being a big part of the event. This is one of the biggest hurdles in online video is getting brands to trust the content they are advertising against. Now, they can’t even trust a show ABOUT online video!

iJustine

Worse, the bulk of the prepared jokes played off the stereotype of Elitist Hollywood v. Web Show Wanabe.  From the host’s introductory monologue:

Tonight we have 35 awards to give out but let’s not forget the real winners, the 4 people who actually made money on the internet.

One or two of these types of jokes would be OK but it really seemed like this was the theme of the evening.  You can’t make money on the internet (not true, we do, and so do others) and nobody watches shows on the web (also not true.  We’ve had a thriving and growing community watching our show for years.)

About a third of the way through there was a pre-recorded “man on the street” video that I found particularly insulting. The host repeatedly asked random people on the street what their favorite web show was.  Of course no one they asked even knew such a thing existed, leaving the impression that the industry is a complete joke.  This meme went on and on through the evening…

My biggest personal issue with the show was that it disrespected the professional industry that I (and many others) have been working so hard to build over the past 5 years. The constant jokes about lack of funding in web series, lack of viewers, etc. cheapened our hard work, especially when a lot of the attendees ARE making money and have more viewers (and less publicists) than cable television shows.

Casey McKinnon

All of the technical problems were one thing but it seemed like the jokes were picking on the internet – not CELEBRATING what we do.

@buckhollywood Michael Buckley

The @streamyawards were a complete joke. I felt so bad for the people who make their living from the internet, to be ridiculed all evening.

@ConwayJamie Jamie Conway

To be fair, there were a few very positive moments, mostly by the award recipients themselves, like the Auto-Tune the News gang who sang their acceptance speech in four part harmony.  Amazing.  Or Felicia Day who, in spite of having to take the stage only moments after what happened in the picture above, managed to deliver an extremely uplifting, generous, and authentic acceptance speech.  Very classy.

The Streamy’s could have been about the pioneering spirit of the creators, the excitement of doing something different, the possibilities of the future, but no.  Instead it was about snarky, crude, superficial, mean spirited jokes.  They spent the evening making fun of what I’ve been successfully doing for the last four years of my life.  In short the newly minted IAWTV has brought the absolute worst of stereotypical Hollywood snobbery to my industry and frankly I resent it.

Telling a thousand people that their jobs, content, livelihoods, and dreams are a joke, and that the only way they’ll amount to anything is to beg their “betters” (read: “celebrities,” but the unstated implication was made very clear) to slum it in their crappy webseries…well, that’s not gonna go over well. Repeatedly joking that it’s subpar quality, or that there’s no money, future, or reason to get involved only hurts us all.

Barrett Garese

I can’t fathom what the producers of the show were thinking during the months preparing for this broadcast.  How could they get it so wrong, insult their own membership, and frankly tarnish their own brand on purpose like this.  The producers have posted an apology and have promised to do better next year.  Fine… I don’t think simply trying harder is going to resolve the issue though.   The problem goes to the basic core values of the IAWTV.  What kind of organization do they want to be?  Do they represent all types of web video?  …or only those that try to mimic broadcast television?  Do they truly support all web video creators?  …or are they only interested in getting the attention of a few large studios?  Are they going to be inclusive and truly international as their name suggests?  …or only cater to the worst superficial stereotype of LA based “Hollywood.”  Time will tell…

Which magazine cover should we use?

Today Consumer Reports asked me to do an online survey.  Normally I don’t do this type of thing but I’ve supported Consumer Reports for a long time and I was curious what was in their survey given the dire state of the magazine industry.  The “bait” in the e-mail was the opportunity to choose their next magazine cover.  These were the two choices.

Which magazine cover is better?

Really?  You couldn’t figure that one out? You don’t know which cover is going to attract more readers at the newsstand?

After filling out the rest of the survey I was actually surprised at how low I scored Consumer Reports.  I used to read the magazine every month and I used much of the information.  I don’t get the magazine anymore obviously, but I do subscribe to their website.  I used their ratings to buy a vacuum cleaner about six months ago but not for much else.  The internet now gives me access to lots of other product users and I can get information from them directly.  The product information available online is also so vast that any one company just can’t test and rate everything.  It’s too bad.  I think an organization like Consumers Union provides certain “watchdog” services that you can’t get anywhere else.  I don’t think they will survive though unless they figure out a way to add more value to their ratings.

Is YouTube search weighted in favor of big media companies?

Check out the related videos that are presented after watching an acoustic version of Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? on YouTube.

The big budget movie “Avatar” gets the top three spots. Why? The official music video version of Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? has almost the exact same title and also has WAY more views than any of the other three, yet it gets bumped to fourth position. The movie “Avatar” only matches one word in the title of the current video but it gets the top three spots. I sense something fishy. Are small independent producers getting pushed down in the rankings in favor of companies like 20th Century Fox? It looks like it to me.

We saw Diggnation episode #207 LIVE!

CAT won a contest on the revision3 website and we were able to attend the recording of diggnation episode #207 at the MSNBC.com digital cafe in Rockefeller Center. Rachel Maddow was a guest on the show and she made us cocktails!

We had a great time! Check out all the pix I uploaded to flickr.

How Battlestar Galactica ends (and begins)

With only two more episodes to go, Dave Winer posted his theory about how Battlestar Galactica will end. I think he’s got it wrong. I’ve had a different theory for several weeks now so I’m going to sandblast it into the internet right here so I can get the prestige if I’m right! (If I’m wrong, everyone just move along. Nothing to see here…)

The Galactica has one jump left and they all somehow go through a time warp. They end up back on Earth many thousands of years ago, long before the atomic war and either become the first humans or mix in with them. All except Starbuck who only goes back part of the way and crashes her viper on Earth and dies.

It turns out that Earth wasn’t the 13th colony it was the FIRST and some time before the atomic war on Earth ships leave to form the twelve colonies.

Everyone on Glactica throughout the series was actually part Cylon because of their distant past on Earth. That’s why Baltar could see Six in his mind without actually being a Cylon.

Why do I think this?

“All this has happened before. All this will happen again.” – Pythia

…or to be more old school about it,

There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. That they may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens…

..or not… Who the heck knows with this show?