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Each year London’s Royal College of Art uses a secret sale to raise money and make a point about fame and the business of art.

From today for a week, Londoners are invited to visit their gallery for the opportunity to view 2,700 pieces of art drawn on postcards. At the end of the week the postcards are made available in a sale where each postcard can be bought for £40.

For the right piece of art, not a huge sum.

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What exactly is ‘the right piece of art?’ Unlike most sales, each artwork is not labelled with who created it. You only discover the artist once you have bought your postcard. The majority of the authors are RCA students, but some are internationally famous established artists and designers such as Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin, Manolo Blahnik, Nick Park and Anish Kapoor.

Some would say paying only £40 for a unique piece by such artists makes this an exciting lottery. On the other hand, that only matters if you plan to make money from selling the piece you’ve bought. This is one of the few art sales where aesthetics are the only consideration: buy if you think it is worth £40 to you. Just because it was made by someone famous doesn’t make it any better as art.

Imagine buying a number of cards and never turning them over to see who created them. That would be a statement about making the experience of the art solely about aesthetics

After weeks of fund-raising producers do well to get all the money together to make their short films. There are so many little expenses that mount up. No day arrives without an invoice from some unexpected place. Suddenly the shoot starts, and everyone works for 24 hours a day until all the footage is in the can. In the following weeks producers work with directors and editors to get a rough cut…

Then a new set of problems arise. The film cannot be submitted to festivals unless it is finished. What about those effects that can’t be done on the editor’s home rig? Does anyone have a £8,000 grading-quality broadcast monitor and the grading suite with the 50% grey walls and expensive kit to do the grading in. How about doing a proper audio mix? What about doing a film out to 35mm?

If you’ve run out of funds, maybe the UK Film Council Short Film Completion Fund may be able to help. They take submissions from film makers who have got to the rough cut stage. Many producers have problems raising the next thousands of pounds to get the film to a releasable stage. The Completion fund has been set up to get them over that hurdle.

Twice a year the call goes out to producers who need that extra help. Each round up to seven shorts are supported. The current deadline is January 5th 2009. To find out more, go to The UK Film Council (the web page shows the wrong date for the deadline for applications).

The fund is administered MayaVision International, a TV documentary production company. It must be a tough call on which films to support. They need to assess the potential of the film based on the rough cut and the people who want to finish it. Is the film any good, and will the money available improve its prospects? I would say that based on the London Premiere of the six most recently completed films I went to last night, the current crop of films succeeded in both counts.

Ralph – 13 mins (dir. Alex Winckler, prd. Olivier Kaempfer) is the tale of a boy taking a chance on love in France. It started slowly and finished a little too quickly, but showed a sunny aspect missing in many recent shorts I’ve seen. Although the story was small, I ended up caring a lot for the characters.

Hatemail – 12 mins (dir. Frazer Churchill, prd. Mark Murrell) shows how childhood trauma can people do the strangest things. This story was brave enough not to paint its protagonist in too strong a positive or negative light. The tale is told in an exciting way, but we are left to make our own conclusions.

Unborn – 13 mins (dir. Justin Trefgarne, prd. Francine Heywood, Laura Giles, Ernest Riera, Sarah Parfitt) is a horror mystery: a couple can’t conceive, so who is that crying in the attic? This film is still mysterious to me, I’m not sure what the resolution was. However the tension was built up very effectively. It is said that one of the most frightening shots in film happens when the camera creeps up on a closed door. This film proves that adage.

Domestics – 7 mins (dir. Rob Curry, prd. Colin McKeown) is a time jumping impressionistic illustration of how far a domestic argument can go. There’s a lot of style supporting an interesting idea, and the intrigue doesn’t overpower the excitement.

The Hero’s Journey – 6 mins (dir. Jack Herbert, prd. Barrington Paul Robinson) We go on a journey of discovery as a little boy records his Star Wars fantasy. A deceptively ‘low-tech’ film that fits a lot into six minutes in real time.

Dead Dog – 6 mins (dir. Edward Jeffreys, prd. Loren Slater, Kerry Kolbe) An impressionistic tale of a young man seeking justice. The most avant garde of the six, yet it has clear compelling story.

The film that stays in my thoughts the strongest is Hatemail because it tells a story that doesn’t make a clear moral judgement on the anti-hero. The audience is left to make up their own mind.

The reason why the UK Film Council supports short films isn’t only to produce entertaining films that stand on their own. They want to support films that demonstrate a specific way of telling a story, an original story, professional production ability and post-production quality. This makes these films calling cards for directors, writers, producers and post-production facilities. Which will support more British Film industry activity in the future. I would say that the films I saw last night succeed at least three out of four of those criteria.

Watch for these names, you saw them here first!

I think it’s a good use of my tax funds and lottery ticket proceeds.

To mark the 100th anniversary of London Transport’s roundel, Art on the Underground have commissioned 100 contemporary artists to come up with a piece incorporating London’s logo.

They are on display in London, and available on an eBay auction. Bid here for more.

What would you do with the logo?

If you want to have a go putting your own text in the roundel, see page 95. Careful though, Transport for London don’t allow any modification of their trademarked logo without permission.

Harriet weaned me off puns in my daily life, but I couldn’t resist that one.

Went to The London Frieze Art Fair today. It’s the first time I’ve been near Frieze since working with Tony Arefin back in 1988 on a Yoko Ono poster.

Although the ‘Fair’ name might tempt you to think that this is a place where the general public might be able to buy art, this event is more like a instant teleport device between the top 150 art galleries of the world.

Although I bought my debit card with me, I’m not in the market for £20,000 pieces yet – and those prices are for the up and coming artists.

As well as the galleries, Frieze also commissioned a few art pieces themselves. Some were more obvious than others:

The show inspired me to come up with the following ideas (from my notes taken at the event):

Art La Ronde
Blonde survey
Containers
Odder research
Crutch ski-ing
Bedroom tag
Curtains for Bill
Famous Welsh
Straps close up
Archaeological layers
Hoods
My map
Sync clocks?
Location icosaheadron

The fair runs until Sunday 19th October. If you go, I hope you are as inspired as I was.

This evening I attended a session of Non-Multiplex Cinema‘s ‘Write to Shoot’ course. A ten session course to help writers with a concept, synopsis or initial pages of a script who need the encouragement of a writers group to get that first draft done. As well as a structured course, sessions include scene reviews with writers and actors reading scenes aloud.

Unluckily for me, the usual tutor couldn’t attend this time, so we got a talk about pitching.

1. Sell yourself…
2. then sell the idea

The tutor then said that in the two or three minutes of your pitch, you need to make sure that those you are pitching to know

    Who the characters are (mention two or three, but their names are not important: “Policeman, Student, Shark hunter”).
    Where the story takes place (“In a mining operation on one of the moons of Jupiter”)
    When the events are set (“The week before New Year’s Eve in 1999″)
    What the protagonist wants (“To leave the farm and see the galaxy like his father did”)
    Why the protagonist wants it (“To make up for not helping a boy who grew up to be a disturbed man who commits suicide”)
    How the protagonist plans to get it (“By going on a perilous journey to a far off city to ask a wizard for help”)

You should also establish the stakes (“Winning most important legal case of his life, making sure his son doesn’t move to the other side of the country”).

Going back to item 1 in the list above, “selling yourself”… If you have 5 minutes in all, spend the first 1-2 minutes pitching yourself, who you are. You need to keep it short, clear and therefore memorable.

The tutor in the session asked for use to pitch. None of us volunteered.

He asked us to do a couple of exercises. We were divided into pairs. The first exercise took four minutes. In the first two minutes person A explains who they are to person B. In the second two minutes, person B explains who they are to person A. The tutor then asked each of the ‘person A’s’ to explain who their ‘person B’ was. The second exercise involved each person A telling person B a story. Person B was then asked to recount who their ‘person A’ was and also to re-tell their story.

We all found it easier to tell a larger group of strangers about someone else. It was also easier to be pitching what we remembered of someone else’s tale than our own special projects. It also acted as a reminder: we have to make our pitches clear and simple enough for other people to be able to (and want to) pitch to others further up the chain of command.

After 40 minutes on pitching we spent the rest of the session reading out and commenting on scenes written by attendees. There were four scripts: scenes from a stoner comedy, a political thriller, a horror movie and a sex comedy. All the scenes were a lot better than scene I’ve written in the last year, and it was interesting to hear the other writers, actors and producers give their feedback. I’m sure it was useful for those who submitted their work.

George Blackstone and I made The Things We Do for Love, a documentary on dating and relationships. It is made up of interviews with many people of all ages. A recent task I had was to make a DVD so that the contributors who couldn’t reach a screening would have a chance to see the film. I also planned to put alternative edits and bonus footage on the disc.

As I was putting it together, I realised that it might be better to make all the content I was generating available online. That is the modern way. So instead of building my menu system, I’m uploading the files to Vimeo.

Vimeo is a site where all the content is generated by the people who post it. As well as standard definition video, they host HD (be in 720p24, 720p25 or 720p30). They have an upload quota of 500MB a week. The great thing about this quota is that it encourages you to use it. Those camera tests and technology demos can now be hosted on a free site with minimal advertising.

Videos and pictures that you upload can be grouped into albums, where content on a specific theme can be gathered together. I’ve grouped the videos associated with our documentary in an album called The Things We Do for Love:

http://www.vimeo.com/album/11274

In the coming days I’ll upload more bonus footage. The videos are smaller than SD for now because Vimeo sees 1024 by 576 PAL widescreen videos as being less than 1280 by 720 HD, so encodes them at a smaller size (for now). We shot at SD and I couldn’t fit a scaled up HD version into my weekly 500MB quota.

Another feature of Vimeo is ‘Channels’ – this is where users curate a channel of videos on a chosen subject. As well as their own videos, they can choose to include other people’s videos. This feature is more about community building – people can post messages that appear on the home page of the channel, and there is an option to include a forum for people to discuss the content of the channel – or anything else they fancy.

Mine is called ‘Our London‘ – it’s a collection of videos featuring London.

A screenshot showing a channel in Vimeo

I imagine many companies are trying to create the ‘Super YouTube’ – this one will do for me for now.

Here’s a new design for a future London tube map.

As accessibility information must be included on the map (for political reasons), I’ve come up with light blue markers for interchanges and station ticks. This means that the disability logos no longer overpower the map.

Many think it would be useful to show distances between stations that are physically close but are not connected directly. The new official map is starting to to this, my solution is different. I’ve also shown more links than the current map does.

I’ve found a reason for Beck’s inclusion of the Thames on map – river services are now included on the map – not a serious suggestion.

I’ve also shown the proposed service changes for the Circle and Northern lines. I’ve called the new separated service “Edgington” in the tradition of the Bakerloo. Maybe “Kennware” would be an easier name for tourists to pronounce.

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