I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.
And now, you can follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp
The magazine graciously let me write another piece for their publication and I couldn’t be more thankful. This entry, off my last one which chronicled the hosts of Attack of the Show, explored the events of the documentarians who made the film Don’t You Forget About Me.
Chronicling the films of John Hughes and using a series of interviews with the players who helped bring the stories to life, the article in Geek Monthly delves into where John Went, what made his movies so enduring and why, oddly enough, his films were savaged in the press by critics when they came out.
The article really delves into the process of just making a documentary, much less one about John Hughes, and what you find out along the way to making a finished film. There are some surprises with who didn’t want to participate in the making of this movie but there is more than enough insight into John’s processes and picks of who would eventually become Long Duk Dong, Jake Ryan and The Princess from THE BREAKFAST CLUB.
If you happen to see the magazine at your local bookstore, grocery store, newsstand, wherever finer publications are sold, please feel free to give it a read and let me know what you think.
Hope you enjoy it…
I have some wonderful giveaways since leaving all of you for Comic-Con.
First on the list is Battlestar Galactica 4.5 on Blu-ray. I can’t purport to be knowledgeable about this series as I completely missed the boat on it. I had never seen an episode until people were in a frenzy around the time the finale aired and it feels like I’ve just failed at staying on top of the cultural zeitgeist.
That matters none as I’ve got many copies of 4.5 on Blu-ray to give away so if you want to experience the explosion of geekery that was the finale of this program please shoot me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and I’ll enter you to win a copy.
A product description from Amazon:
“All will be revealed as the thrilling final episodes of Battlestar Galactica 4.5 land on DVD. From their initial action-packed battles against the Cylons to their desperate attempts to find the fabled 13th colony, Earth, a determined band of human survivors has captivated audiences everywhere with their desperate quest to find a new home for their dwindling numbers. Join them now as the fleet journeys into the furthest reaches of unexplored space and faces a crucial decision that will change all of their lives irrevocably. Presented uninterrupted in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, this epic 4-disc set contains over 10 hours of intense, groundbreaking DVD features, including extended episodes that never aired - a must own addition to every fan’s collection. Relive the anticipation, the action and the excitement of this groundbreaking series that is destined to live on as “one of the best dramas on TV.””
Second on the list is FAST & FURIOUS.
Again, this movie = missed boat for me. I was a big fan of the silliness that was THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and could not have dug the loud and flashy film even more than I did. What had started as a curious indulgence has now come full circle as Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are back again to show how “teh” awesome their whips are.
If you have a jones to see these two back together again for the first time please e-mail me at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and I’ll enter you to win a copy of the movie on DVD.
A product description from Amazon:
“Vin Diesel and Paul Walker reteam with Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster for the ultimate chapter of the franchise built on speed! When fugitive Dominic Toretto (Diesel) returns to Los Angeles to avenge a loved one’s death, it reignites his feud with agent Brian O’Conner (Walker). But, as they race through crowded city streets and across international lines, they must test their loyalties by joining together to bring down a shared enemy. From big rig heists to precision tunnel crawls, Fast & Furious takes you back into the high-octane world, which lives for speed, drives for the rush and breaks all the rules!”
Honestly, if I have to explain this one you don’t deserve to have it in your collection.
This one is on Blu-ray so if you’re lacking this one in your collection you know what you need to do. I cannot explain how sharp and dramatic the experience is to see this in Blu-ray goodness so I hope if you have a player you angle to get this one on your shelf.
A product description from Amazon:
Celebrate the 70th anniversary of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio! The legendary masterpiece that inspired millions to believe in their dreams has reawakened with an all-new, state-of-the-art digital restoration that shines brilliantly on 2-disc DVD. Now, for the first time ever, the richly detailed animation, unforgettable award-winning music When You Wish Upon A Star and heartwarming adventure-filled story comes to life like never before. Plus, all-new dazzling bonus features transport you into Pinocchio’s fantastic world! Join Geppetto’s beloved puppet with Jiminy Cricket as his guide on a thrilling quest that tests Pinocchio’s bravery, loyalty and honesty, virtues he must learn to become a real boy. The one and only Pinocchio will live on forever in the heart of anyone who has wished upon a star.
Bonus Features include the Pinocchio Knows Trivia Challenge, an all-new Making Of Pinocchio, the Sweat Box, Walt Disney’s Artistic Review Process, Disney View, Expand Your Viewing Experience Beyond The Original Aspect Ratio Of The Film, Cine-Explore, Disney BD-Live: Connect, Explore And Interact, all-new When You Wish Upon A Star; Music Video Performed By Meaghan Jette Martin, Pinocchio’s Puzzles Game, 18 Puzzles In A Multi-Tiered Game, Pinocchio’s Matter Of Facts Discover More About Pinocchio’s World With Pop-Up Trivia, Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending”
I would harpoon anyone who has anything short of great praise for this film. Henry Selick really is one of those masters of his craft who has taken a style of animation like stop-motion and turned it into an art form of which he’s in a small group of those who can turn lifeless figures into breathing individuals that just happen not to be real. Toss on the fact that this edition includes glasses so you can enjoy the immerse experience at home and you’ve got yourself a sale. On that note, I have a few copies to give away to those who want to see the film that should have received more love at the box office this year. Send me an e-mail and I’ll enter you in the drawing.
A product description from Amazon:
“As covetous children are often warned: “Be careful what you wish for.” It’s this very cautionary wisdom that sets the stage for Henry Selick’s CORALINE, an eerily eye-popping stop-motion animation tale of fractured dreams and families made whole. As the films opens, Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) and her parents (Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman) have moved into the Pink Palace, a once-vibrant boarding house that’s turned drab and dilapidated. As her parents work feverishly on a new gardening catalog, the bored and belligerent Coraline is admonished to explore her new world’s possibilities. Along the way she meets her fellow tenants, including two aging English showgirls and a mouse-training Russian acrobat, as well as an outcast neighborhood boy named Wybie. But it is a mysterious hidden door that most piques Coraline’s interest–a gateway to a parallel world where her “other” parents and neighbors live only to see Coraline well fed and endlessly entertained. All is not cakes and carnivals for Coraline, though, and the black buttons that have replaced the eyes of these otherworldly imitations hint at darker intentions. When these intentions are revealed, Cora and a friendly magical cat use their wits and willpower to defeat Coraline’s wicked “other mother” and restore balance in the real world. Based on Neil Gaiman’s beloved children’s novel, director Selick (THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS) uses the stop-motion technique to bring CORALINE to life with amazing visual and emotional depth. The result is a frightfully magical adventure that will give the whole family plenty to shriek, cheer, and talk about.”
CHRIS ANDERSON - INTERVIEW
It’s not often when I talk to someone who reminds me of the professors I used to cower from when I was in graduate school.
The real smart, analytical kind that not only make you feel slightly unnerved as you speak to them, the computational thoughts that seem to be churning just behind their eyes as they espouse that which has garnered them a tenured position in the field of academia, but the ones that make you grateful if you’re able to synthesize what they’re saying and understand its implications. Talking to Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and whose new book FREE examines the relationship between consumer culture and the idea that downward prices for consumables like music, news, you name it, there is a very real sense that what he’s talking about is simply the logical progression of the adage that “information wants to be free.”
As Chris would say to Adam Carolla on Adam’s podcast there is an inverse afoot in the digital realm where before the Internet you would give a sample of your product and then expect the masses to come and consume it. Now, you’re seeing the opposite as marketers virtually give it all away and hope for a small minority which will subsidize the whole. It’s a brave new economy in that people have to embrace the idea that these counter-intuitive ideas now exist as the basic fundamentals for making it in the digital age.
Anderson, without question, was a sport in entertaining questions with a student like myself who is simply trying to wrap my feeble mind around his progressive observations that, if you believe it and I just happen to be a disciple of it, mean a dramatic shift in the economic landscape as we forge ahead, looking to understand how consumer habits are dictating the reality of the digital age. So don’t just take my word about free culture, go over to TechCrunch to see how you can get a copy of his book absolutely free for your Kindle. And, for those without a Kindle (namely, me) you can read it at no cost through their site.
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: I’m fascinated from top to bottom with your ideas and what you are thinking about where we are going with our free culture. Could you tell me how this book germinated for you? How it came about?
CHRIS ANDERSON: It kind of evolved from The Long Tail, my first book, which is explosion of choice and variety that happened once we broke past 20th century distribution models and that of infinite shelf space. That sort of cultural evolution was driven by the underlying economics of the Internet, which is it has room for everything. And, the only way you can have infinite shelf space or room for everything and therefore unlock the demand for the non-traditional non-blockbuster fare is to have it cost almost nothing. The only way you can be indiscriminate in how you use your shelf space is if shelf space is free. It was kind of an aside in The Long Tail but I’m thinking more about it and just observing that’s what virtual free distribution did - it changed our world and basically that everything online is free. Google is free and Yahoo! is free all these big companies are free. I realized it kind of created a country sized economy built on the price of zero dollars.
On one hand it’s obvious and on the other hand it’s sort of like, “OK, we built a country sized economy built on free - around free - surely there is an economic model for that.” So I did a little research because economics is what I turn to first and there was nothing. There is there’s no such thing as a free lunch, etc., and I was like, that seems buggy. That it doesn’t work in theory but it works in practice? What’s going on here? So I was doing more and more research on the economics of free and basically found that it was predicted 200 years earlier but no one thought it was really possible until we ended up with this economy, which is everything getting cheaper over time. That’s one of those economic complications that we don’t think about very often which is that in the Adams economy everything gets more expensive over time - people’s time and places and minerals and resources and things like that. As a result, free becomes inevitable. All the trend lines point down. And this struck me as being kind of important and the fact that no one else had written a book on it or really did much research on it whatsoever struck me exactly the permission to do it myself.
CS: Exactly. And I wanted to jump on that point - something you just brought up was one of my favorite books from last year was Freakonomics.
CS: I think it laid out practical application…the practical math of what is really happening out there. In your research of doing this book did you ever butt heads with theoretical practice versus what is really going on out there?
ANDERSON: Traditional economics is basically monetary economics. There is nothing wrong with economics. The problem with economics is it’s not a unified theory. It does not explain everything in the world. The great thing about [Steven] Levitt and [Stephen] Dubner is that they took the economic toolkit and looked at domains that economics doesn’t typically look at, like social behavior, drugs, gangs and things like that. Online, it’s not the monster economy by and large. We use the term economy as a metaphor. There are very few people out there who actually try to apply the tools of economics to quantify the intent and reputation of economies and figure out how they might transfer - exchange currency from one economy to the other. So the problem is not that there is anything wrong with economics but the economists are not bothering to apply their own tools to these domains. And in my own feeble way, that’s what I attempt to do is take these tried and true tools and apply them to worlds that basically academic economists loath to enter.
CS: As you were writing the book you obviously had thoughts in your own head - everyone talks about scientists who come up with a hypothesis and then go out to prove it and discover things along the way…Were there any big surprises as you were delving deeper in this as you were writing your book?
ANDERSON: Yes and this is not a theory and The Long Tail is not a theory. Obviously, The Long Tail existed before my book and the free economy existed before my book. It’s simply a framework to simply explain why it works and how it came to be and where it’s going. So there are no testable theories for free. There is the existence proof all around us. The book largely explains why the free economy came to be and it’s not based on somebody’s philosophical position, more based on the law of gravity in the digital market. And then it focuses on how to make money around that, the sort of paradox that people have a hard time getting their head around that you can make money around free, which those of us in the media business shouldn’t be surprised at all. Radio is free. Television is free. I’m standing here on a street corner looking at boxes of free weekly newspapers, so nothing new about making money around free in the media business but people beyond the media are sort of stunned that it might work, that it’s crazy and silly.
CS: Speaking of media companies…There’s been a lot of talk of how to move to a blend of paid content vs. free content on news serving sites. As the debate rages, where do you think, is there a healthy medium between paid content and free content online?
ANDERSON: There’s no one size fits all. The last chapter of the book talks about free in an economic crisis. Particularly from a full ad supported to what’s called freemium. I would not venture to give newspapers any advice on what they should do. In my day job as a magazine editor we are 100% free online and we charge a low highly subsidized price in print. So it’s mostly supported by our advertisers, but not entirely supported by advertisers in print and entirely supported by advertisers on line. So we put our practice what we preach. The online version is the free version which is the sampler of the superior print version because of the photography and design and all that.
And same for books.
The book will be free in digital form as a sampler for the superior, for many people, print version. And my start-up companies are all based on the free model where we give away something for free and sell something else. I think newspapers are going to have to figure out what people are willing to pay for. It’s not like they made a mistake. If only the newspaper industry had gotten together in a big room in 1995 or 1993 and said, “Let’s never, none of us give away free content.” It wouldn’t have changed the world, it would have just made them irrelevant even faster. So this is not bad policy, this is the animal forces of digital economics at work here. Newspapers were built on the scarcity model where they had the monopoly access to consumers because of their distribution channels - print newspaper, trucks, newsstands and things like that. Their problem is that they simply lost their monopoly. So have we in the magazine business. There are lots of people that can produce information, lots of other ways to distribute the information. We now have an explosion of competition and that’s the problem. You can try charging but it’s very hard to charge monopoly rent when you don’t have a monopoly.
CS: Pointing to some of the bigger issues tackling some print publications how is Wired weathering the storm of retrenchment of some advertisers who are shifting dollars? Are you seeing a shift from print to more on line spending from advertisers?
ANDERSON: We are Wired. We have one of the first digital media sites. We invented the banner ad and we have a big and popular site as well, so you can imagine our revenue balance is more equal than it might be for most publications. But we are still 1/3 web in terms of revenue.
CS: Are you finding more advertisers more receptive to online advertising insofar that there is something more tangible that people are getting, that there’s an ROI where you can at least prove people are seeing it, people are clicking and acting with it.
ANDERSON: I think we’ve been able to see integrated packages. Web plus print and create not just banner ads but creative making of ads that work in both those formats. That’s something we can do and something that is of value and people will pay more for. If people want absolute measurable, only pay for performance, they will go for dual action. I think people in our space tend to be brand advertising, taking advantage of the medium - sort of visually impactful ads in print. Online we tend to be creative in the ads we help them make.
CS: I’d like to shift a gear or two - since I also write in a movie space there was a big story months ago when a work-in-progress copy of Wolverine leaked out, it hit the Internet and people downloaded to their heart’s content. Looking at something like this, do things like this help or hinder a product’s eventual release, as Fox said it would, and I apologize if it seems like I’m mixing piracy with the free model.
ANDERSON: Piracy is solid. It’s a form of enforced free, right? The marketplace - placing the price of zero on your product whether you like it or not. To answer your question, does piracy help?
ANDERSON: Again, one size doesn’t fit all. There are some instances where piracy does help. In China, for example - there’s a chapter in my book about China and Brazil - in China where piracy is rampant musicians have largely stop fighting and use piracy as a way to create celebrity and they are not selling the product but are selling themselves as celebrity in things like endorsements and appearances and concerts and commercial gigs, i.e., commercial gigs and things like that. China has embraced piracy as a form of marketing. I do not think Microsoft has embraced piracy. But Microsoft has recognized that piracy in countries that don’t have a lot of money is probably creating a market for the future when that country develops - China being a good example. As for the Wolverine, I couldn’t possibly say. I don’t think anybody can. It’s mixed obviously.
CS: And in the same kind of artist realm, the idea of iTunes - I think you said it best by saying that they at least, regardless of their arbitrary $.99 model that they at least freed up the log jam with digital media. Did iTunes really help people to understand or help people be more comfortable in this sort of digital space?
ANDERSON: Actually, I think iTunes is like making the consumption of digital music online as simple and straightforward with predictable pricing and nicely integrated with hardware - that was a necessary first step in getting mainstream acceptance. I think they have now switched to dynamic pricing or variable pricing rather, is a very healthy second step because we now all get the concept and as you say, it’s time to move beyond the arbitrary pricing of one size fits all. So I think, I’m not a zealot about these things. When you shift from one model to the next, it’s kind of messy and you have to go step by step and have lots of compromises and “in the middle” solutions along the way. So iTunes version 1 was not economically optimal, but it was what the marketplace needed to get to make that shift. iTunes version 10 or 20 or whatever will be will be in a few years will be much more closer to what economists call the optimum - the right balance of choice and filters and pricing and free even, as you are starting to see with iPhone apps. That really touches all the opportunities in digital distribution.
CS: And I was actually going to bring that up regarding a lot of the free iPhone applications business model based on free isn’t a bad thing because if you allow someone to use it, it’s an example of the cream will rise to the top and if somebody likes your product enough, they will pay for it.
ANDERSON: I think iPhone apps are a great example. The most successful have now fallen into the premium model with things like Tap Tap Tap Revolution where you have two versions of the product. You have a free sampler, which is limited in some way, and for those who like it, you can upgrade to the paid version or you buy tracks or things like that. Because the apps are smaller and more modest in scope it’s easier for small teams to create them and create versions of them and to take chances with phrasing, etc. I think you will see a lot of innovation in the economics of digital content happening in the iPhone app because they are small and can take risks and are willing to do things and experiment that an EA or a Microsoft might not.
CS: It seems to be the bigger you are the less accepting you are of this model and I think here of some ideas of music corporations - you have big names like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails releasing free albums but if any Johnny Podunk who makes a living at this is less resistant to thinking that this is a good idea.
ANDERSON: Yes, that’s right. The blockbuster model worked for the blockbuster content. However, almost everybody failed that test. Fantastic. Go Rolling Stones but 99.9% of bands never had a chance in that model so they were not well served in the blockbuster model - only might be better served in the free model.
CS: And now, I think the free model fits well with some acts - you hear it more and more and people now are realizing that they don’t make any money off the music but where they do make it is on the ancillary streams - the touring and the merchandising.
ANDERSON: Precisely. I think Tim O’Reilly, the publisher, was one of the first to say that the enemy of the art is not the piracy it’s the obscurity. The reality is that people create stuff for whatever reason - attention, fun, expression…you name it - the first thing people want is to be heard. They want to be seen, they want to be read or they want to be appreciated in one way or another. In the old model where you had to be a commercial proposition and a very strong commercial proposition to get any distribution whatsoever, almost everybody failed that test and therefore they not only didn’t get money they didn’t get any of the non-monetary assets either - the attention and reputation. Now, by taking money off the table and saying “I’m willing to distribute for free” you can at least get those other things. You can at least get an audience. Once you get an audience then you have many more options in how to make money.
CS: The idea, and China, fascinates me so I’d love to get your thoughts on the country as a whole. It seems to be that they figured out, like you said, they basically created a free economy. Do you see if American could ever adopt - I wouldn’t say wholesale - they have no trademark laws so you see what have you - can any of that fly here do you think?
ANDERSON: Well, sure. It happens not because Congress changes the rules or a police force decides to stop enforcing the rules but because we as creators, opt out. That’s what open source is and creative commons are. We have decided not to exercise our creative copyrights. Everything I do outside of my day job and that work for publishers is given away without creative commons or gpl or some other open source license. I choose not to exercise my copyright. I choose to give it all away. As does everyone on Flicker, and Wikipedia, etc. You are seeing a phenomenon by which we as a culture are choosing to abandon these intellectual copyrights without any legislation whatsoever.
CS: Do you make a distinction, is it semantic - I’m just spittballing here - is it semantic when people talk about piracy vs. it being out there for people to consume - you should be in trouble if you think about touching that free product that’s out there? I don’t know how to put it in words, but is there a difference between piracy and let’s say an album is out there and I take it, is it bad and should I go to jail for it because it was out there to begin with? Who’s to blame?
ANDERSON: It comes down to intent, right? If the artist put the MP3 on BitTorrent with the hope that people would download it, then that’s not piracy. If the artist chose not to and very much hoped no one would put it on BitTorrent but someone did anyway, that is piracy. The problem is that unless you encode the content with something explicit like a creative commons license you can’t tell one from the other. You can’t tell which of those MP3’s the artist is delighted that you will listen to or which they are horrified by. So again, it’s a messy in-between state where the intent of the creator is hard to follow or know.
CS: Right, exactly. Where each copy - one that was legitimately paid for and one that wasn’t.
ANDERSON: Right. I am delighted to know that my book, The Long Tail, was the number one pirated book in June of last year in China. I was absolutely delighted, couldn’t have been more excited because that was authentic - authentic demand. The fact that pirates took it upon themselves to photocopy, print, bind and distribute - they don’t do it because someone made them, they do it because there is demand for it and that was real street credit. I need to apologize to my Chinese publisher for my attitude but the street kid in me, you just can’t buy that kind of credibility, that the pirates love my book. How much money was I losing? Effectively, zero. I hadn’t expected to make any money in China anyway. So that was kind of cool that it was heavily pirated in China. I felt that I struck a chord with an audience that is extremely discriminating. So you can’t tell that, you can’t look at the book and know that I was absolutely delighted to see it - the pirated book - all pirated books look the same, that is, pirated. From my perspective it wasn’t pirated. It was given to the people and distributed in their own way.
CS: Why do you think it struck a chord with them? Did you get a response back? Here were are - a big capitalist society, you wrote a book from this perspective, what resonated with them?
ANDERSON: I don’t know. I’d like to think that they are fascinated by everything digital these days. I think the translation was pretty good. I think it translated to Dragon’s Tail - really awesome title translation in Chinese that struck a chord - who knows? I’m just glad it did.
CS: I know I have to wrap it up and I don’t want to take too much more of your time but when you were finished with this book and looked at where you started and where you ended, did your opinions, thoughts, now that you have your finished product, are you seeing things in a different way, about where we are going digitally?
ANDERSON: When I started the book I thought it would be like The Long Tail basically - pretty hardcore economic theory - math and physics with a veneer of examples. Instead this one turned out to be more narrative - more storytelling - lots of history. The book goes back to Macedonia. It goes back a long way as we as a concept wrestle with the concept of zero and free. We were a non-monetary economy for a millennia before we became a monetary economy. It ended up being a much more interesting sweep through history with free as my lens, which was a lot of fun. But I didn’t do it in public all that much. I wasn’t doing a math analysis in real time. I was just studying history which is fascinating. That was a surprise that it was built on history and the other surprise was as I went through the objections to free - how many people feel real emotional and angry or a mixed feelings about free - how much there is negative baggage around that - with every book, something takes over the debate and I answer to it for the next two years so with The Long Tail, it was, “OK, smart guy, fix the music industry.” The music industry became the beast that threatened to overwhelm The Long Tail debates. It’s a lot more than music but people tend to reduce it down to the music industry is in decline, the long tail didn’t save it. So, that was kind of annoying. But that’s understandable. This one, Free, I’m afraid it’s going to be the decline of newspapers. They are going to be like “Free isn’t working for the newspapers therefore the theory can’t work” which is like, “Oh boy, where do I start?” I think 3 years ago it was “OK, smart guy, fix the music industry” and now it’s going to be “OK, smart guy, fix the newspaper industry” or more to the point with the decline of the newspaper industry or seen as a proxy for everything online mixed together. Which is just so wrong. As you know there’s a lot more to the media industry than newspapers and a lot more to the internet than the media industry, but so be it. Better be part of a debate than not.
CS: If I could ask just one more question it would be now that as you were writing it, did you ever find a good example of a cultural that has gone above and beyond, I mean almost a free society? You said you went back to Macedonia, was there something that came close to a true free society?
ANDERSON: There’s load of them. Again, free goes back to the Romans. In modern days, free is all around us. I am not charging you for this call. You are not charging me for your time. Almost all the interactions we have everyday with our family and friends and colleagues and co-workers is done without pay. They are done as part of the barter economy. I’m giving you some of my time because I am hoping you will do something useful with this and propagate my ideas in someway and you give me your time because you hope I will help you do your job or whatever. And the truth is that money is just one of the dimensions on which we work everyday and often not the most important one. People were stunned that Wikipedia could be created for free. People were stunned but they shouldn’t have been. The fact that people will not only work, but do great work, for no money if you incentify them properly is the true story of the history of the world and the only surprise is that it is a surprise.
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