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Fighting a losing battle against copyright

Fighting a losing battle against copyright

Sarah Cameron not quite standing by her man, David Cameron

So… on the night when David Cameron finally became Prime Minister, HyperHam and I had the following conversation:

HH: “Why is Mrs Cameron standing at the back, pregnant and far away from her husband?”
AW: “Well, we’re living in Tory times now.”

To me, this was so amazingly funny and of-the-moment, that I immediately posted it on Twitter and Facebook. After all, what’s a joke if it’s not instantly shared to as many people as possible?

While a couple of friends graciously shared the joke with credit, another friend of mine reposted the joke without attributing it towards me. Indeed, when I pointed out that I wrote the joke, she deleted the comment, and then we had a slight disagreement before she decided to delete the joke to begin with. But she genuinely thought she was in the right to just copy a joke without any form of attribution.

Record companies and artists everywhere bemoan how we now live in an age where people copy works without even thinking of paying for it. But at least we all know a song by Lady GaGa is by Lady GaGa. How soon is it going to be before people can’t even be bothered to acknowledge that someone else wrote that song or book or joke?

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

I was recently given the opportunity to produce a short film for work about a new website, coming soon for internal workers. Since I hadn’t really made a short film since my student efforts with Stephen Fry in 1995 – when we were outputting to VHS! – I thought it’d be a great chance to learn what had changed in the last 15 years. A lot.

Whereas before we literally pointed and shot the camera at our interviewees, this time we also had a lighting kit to contend with. A huge lighting kit on a trolley that came in a flight case – and I was told this was the portable version. It did make a difference in terms of the visual image, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort of rigging everything up and blinding our interviewees. But if that’s the professional way to do it …

Of course, I was the one asking the questions, although it took me a while to master my brief, as they are wont to say in the civil service. But by the time I’d recorded and logged all the interviews, I had enough soundbites to put something together, although it then became a bit of a mad dash to try and find alternative footage to pep up the visuals – and amazingly, if you want to film at the place you work, you need a permit. Plus there’s so much footage in the archives that it’s actually very difficult to try and find the footage you want, that somebody else MUST have surely filmed.

All in all, we spent a day and a half filming, and got about 90 minutes of raw footage out of eight quick interviews, most of them lasting less than ten minutes. It took me a couple of hours to transcribe the interviews to create a rough “script” to take to the edit suite.

Having spent most of my working life vainly trying to get work computers to do basic video editing, it was a real blessing to walk into a properly maintained edit suite running Final Cut Pro, being run by an editor who knew what he was doing. Even if it didn’t seem that different from Adobe Premiere Pro. We even managed to add in a couple of graphical flourishes and a visual gag. I did miss the physicality of doing it myself though – of pressing the buttons, using the jog wheel etc.

So two meetings, 14 hours of filming, 2 hours of logging, a couple of spare tapes for extra shots, and 8 hours of editing later, I can say that I’ve managed to help produce a 4 minute internal film that five key stakeholders seem reasonably happy with. Which is an innovation in itself. But then, Geoff managed to make this video in 5 hours…

Now I’ve got a vague hunger to see what else I can film and edit. Of course, that would mean finding a subject, the time, the motivation – oh, and the equipment as well.

Why I don't (usually) ask celebrities for autographs or photographs

Why I don't (usually) ask celebrities for autographs or photographs

Ever since I started working properly in the media business, well-meaning friends and family will often ponder if I can get them an autograph for someone. This is a little tricky because:

  • I don’t generally meet celebrities any more in my line of work anyway!
  • Even if I did, it’d be very hard to interrupt an interview or a meeting with a “Oh by the way, can you sign this for my grandma?” or “Can we just pose for a photograph?”
  • I’m terrible at asking anything of strangers. Unless I have to.
  • How many journalists do you know who interrupt press conferences to ask for an autograph? It’s just not done.
  • Most importantly, I’m usually the only Chinese person in the room. Which means:
    • They’re far more likely to notice me – I tend to stick out like a sore form even when I don’t say anything – and thus, form an opinion, good or bad.
    • The last thing I want to do is enhance the racist assumption that Japanese/foreign journalists are idiotic and don’t know the ‘rules’

Having said all that, outside of work, it seems to be OK. During one birthday celebration in a Soho pub, June Whitfield came into the pub. Before you know it, my then evil scum of workmates had corralled her into posing for a pic next to me – I’m not too sure where that picture has gone, but it’s around here somewhere, with the odd sock. And somewhere in my archives, I also have Woody Allen’s autograph.

Of course, it seems to be just me who has a problem with asking celebrities for autographs where I work. My friend Shari in New York, who’s a radio engineer, had her pic taken with Hugh Jackman and was very proud of it. Stephen Fry, as ever, is the realist and has the do’s and don’ts of approaching a celebrity.

Do you work in the biz, as pretentious people like to call it? Do you collect autographs or photographs, or just get on with it and work with them as colleagues?

The day I met David Tennant…

The day I met David Tennant…

Geoff Marshall with some dude

Geoff Marshall with some dude

It was all Geoff‘s idea, Yer Honour…

Y’see, he’d recently come back to the BBC after two years in America fraternising with our American cousins – and even worse, American ACTORS. And it had all rubbed off a bit on him. The endless video posts, the sheer confidence in walking up to strangers – and yet still enthusing about Doctor Who, music and the Pet Shop Boys.

He then told me that he knew that David Tennant was going to be on BBC Breakfast on 31 December, and he was determined to get an autograph with him – by essentially lurking down the labyrinthe corridors of BBC Television Centre until he bumped into him. But he needed some help. A wingman, to help pass the time. Did I want to do it?

Strange as it may seem, I didn’t jump at the chance. Ever since I started working professionally within the media industry I’ve never asked for an autograph – mostly because you can’t interrupt an interview with Ben Elton, Alicia Silverstone or Glenn Close to ask for an autograph. That just wouldn’t do. Plus, I’m usually hyperaware that in the highly unlikely event of any problems, my face will be the ones that the security guards remember for reasons I’ll go into in another post … Although when I was younger, I’d hang around stage doors (well, it was double Physical Education on Wednesdays) and I managed to co-opt Stephen Fry into saving my University projects. Twice.

This time, I reasoned, I wouldn’t be there for work, and besides, it’s David Tennant. The night before he hands over the TARDIS keys. So I brushed up on the do’s and don’t of approaching a celebrity and waited…

The next morning, I arrived at the ye early time of 8am, and joined Geoff thereafter as we kept moving from point to point on the hear-out for a Scottish accent, while trying to avoid the cleaners who kept asking if we knew where we were going.

And then we went back into main reception – where usually only taxi drivers and runners are – and there he was. Already patiently signing autographs for a few kids, while a harassed BBC runner hovered behind him, eager to move him into his warm dressing room. But oh no, we were between him and the main doors. Geoff asked him whether he could stop now or on the way back, and David, being the understanding man he is, said he’d be a while in the studio and best to do it now.

Geoff managed to persuade him for a photograph. Unfortunately, it was an iPhone – and have you ever tried taking a pic on an iPhone in a hurry when you’ve never used one before? Your fingers are everywhere except where they need to be! So after three blurred shots of Geoff with David Tennant, he made his apologies and ran into the studio.

Throughout it all, David seemed slightly stressed – well, you would be if you’re dashing into a TV studio to address the nation – but a thoroughly decent chap nice enough to stop for autographs on a cold Thursday morning when he didn’t have to.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Watch Geoff’s video of this momentous occasion (via Facebook alas!)…

Fandoms combining…

Fandoms combining…

In an era where fanfic writers think nothing of plonking the Red Dwarf crew on the Starship Enterprise, or the cast of Spaced in the TARDIS, it shouldn’t really come as that much of a surprise when professional media creators do the same thing.

Thus today, where we discover that Richard Curtis (famed romantic comedy writer behind Love Actually, Four Weddings, Blackadder and the superb and under-rated The Tall Guy) is writing a script for Doctor Who. This has met with a little consternation.

Of course, their fear comes from the possibility that romance might rear its ugly head in Doctor Who. It should, of course, be pointed out that:
– Richard Curtis, for all his faults, is a master at creating characters you like. Albeit middle-class English ones, of various hues and abilities.
– Pretty much all of Steven Moffat‘s celebrated scripts for Doctor Who have had huge dollops of romance in them. Doctor Who fans and Hugo Award adjudicators have lapped them up in their droves.

The news that the Pet Shop Boys have written a song for Shirley Bassey‘s new album also sent my geek fandom radar into overdrive. The Pet Shop Boys write fantastic songs – but let’s face it, Shirley Bassey‘s got a much more powerful voice that deserves to be used.

Zombies! What are they good for?

Zombies! What are they good for?

Zombies only want you for your brains

Zombies only want you for your brains

A debate that HyperHam seems to be having with her mother (and defacto, me) …

What can you do with an untamed zombie?

So we’re leaving out the zombies at the end of Shaun of the Dead, Fido and Land of the Dead, ie the ones that have either been trained, or shown signs of doing things other than wanting to eat your brains out.

This does include zombies who can talk and reason – as in the ones in Tasty Flesh and Marvel Zombies – just as long as they still have an all-consuming desire to eat your brains and flesh.

Suggestions that we’ve had so far include:

  • Prostitutes/escorts – which wouldn’t work because prostitutes/escorts work for money. And what’s the good of money if it doesn’t get you brains? Plus, of course, would a zombified escort want their client’s money or their brain? Their brain, of course.
  • Loan shark heavies – ie a loan shark, or someone you owe money to, threatens to send zombies to your door. This wouldn’t work because a zombie let loose would end up chomping through the brains of the person you owed money to – or worse yet, turning them into zombies. And a zombie isn’t going to work hard to pay up your debt.

Surely, the whole reason that zombies are such a popular topic in culture is because they stand for the relentless, the indefinable. The thing that cannot be stopped, reasoned with or outnumbered.

Of course, I say all this without having seen a single zombie film (aside from the rather terrible Resident Evil: Apocalypse) because I’m rather scared of them in the movie world. Of course, this didn’t stop HyperHam buying me the surprisingly good The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead which is a great read. With a couple of good life lessons thrown in for good measure.

Note to future self: I’m scared of zombies. So stop looking for Flickr pics of zombies at midnight. Because it’s just going to scare you.

Why I don't do the dressing up thing…

Why I don't do the dressing up thing…

I have blogged before about why I just don’t go for the geek vogue thing of dressing up as your favourite character.

This picture (grabbed via sentience) is my example of why … although I did also once stumble upon a Chinese guy dressed as one of the Doctors…

Costume con…

Costume con…

A.J. Wu of San Jose goes old school as Sleeping Beauty character Fauna (via the LA Times)

A.J. Wu of San Jose goes old school as "Sleeping Beauty" character Fauna (via the LA Times)

One of the aspects of being a geek celebrating your love of a particular TV show seems to be all about the dressing up – posing as a character from your favourite TV show.

If it works for you then great, but it’s personally struck me as a very uncomfortable thing to do. Mostly because I’m a great believer in being comfortable – and surely it’s a lot easier and more comfortable, if you’re at a convention, to wear simple T-shirts and shorts/trousers rather than wake up dead early, strap on your costume, dye your hair, and wear some incredibly uncomfortable shoes before striking a pose for a couple of hours before succumbing to the utter pain and retreating back to your hotel room?

Then again, I’m the kind of chap who isn’t that comfortable¬†wearing a smart suit to a wedding.

Another main reason is that, well, most of these characters are white and a Chinese person dressed up might just look a bit stupid. I once had to dress up as Al Capone for a stag do, and for the entire evening, everyone thought I was Odd Job from the Goldfinger films. Plus, when was the last time you saw a black woman dressed up as, say Slave Princess Leia, who seems to be a bizarrely popular costume choice?

Then again, judging from the pic on the right, some people are perhaps more sensibly saying “To Hell with it”, and dressing as whoever they want to be.

You won’t see me voluntarily doing it for the joy, though. Well, probably.

To burlesque or not to burlesque…

To burlesque or not to burlesque…


Originally uploaded by Oh Lenna

So … I’ve been semi-invited to a Burlesque and Blues night this week – and a Burlesque birthday party in July.

Now, of course, I like seeing scantily-clad ladies disrobing as much as the next heterosexual male – the weekend’s soaring temperatures in London proved that as much as anything. But I still can’t decide if it’s the sort of thing I can go to myself and come out feeling, well, good about myself.

It is a world away from seedy stripclubs with strippers who only see you as walking wallets, but I can’t help wondering if I’d come out still feeling slightly seedy and unsure of myself, if only because I hate paying for things.

The Guardian suggests that it has itself become somewhat of an industry that is itself rife for exploitation. But all the railing by feminists against the porn industry hasn’t stopped today’s yoof exposing themselves to anyone and everyone for a bit of fun.

Expression or exploitation?

How the English/Scottish deal with Paris Hilton

How the English/Scottish deal with Paris Hilton

On one hand, ITV2 are running a reality TV show where you too (if you watch ITV2, either of you) can be Paris Hilton’s best British friend. Although it should be chum, of course.

On the other hand, this is how Sharleen Spiteri (easy-on-the-eye-and-ear lead singer of Texas, not exactly the wildest most outrageous band in the world) deals with her:

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