Chronoslexia: new British indie sf movie in the works. Also: Nazis on the Moon are go!

Paul Raven @ 07-07-2010

Chronoslexia movie posterIn the Futurismic post-bag this week comes news of a new independent science fiction movie called Chronoslexia. It’s being made here in the UK by an outfit with the very Marxist moniker Opiate Of The People Films, and its plot is summed up as follows:

What if in your everyday life you experienced glimpses of your future, and for moments relived your past? Talking about a childhood pet could send you back to the times you had with it – meeting a potential partner could throw you forward to your eventual breakup. How do you live a life knowing what’s around the corner? This condition is called Chronoslexia – and our movie seeks to ask those questions.

Sarah suffers from Chronoslexia, and when offered a cure, she jumps at the chance to take it.  The solution may very well be worse than the condition itself – but what if the future doesn’t have to play out like she experiences? What if fate doesn’t have to be inevitable?

It’s an interesting if well-worn premise; one can only hope that the independent nature of the project means they haven’t felt the need to cave in to the crap Hollywood clichés that tend to hobble or maim high-concept science fiction films (“Wow – it turns out that this is how God wanted it to happen all along!”).

But decide for yourself – you can go here to watch the trailer (which I can’t seem to find a way to embed – a situation that makes the 20-second ad preceding the trailer that much more annoying. C’mon guys, use YouTube, Vimeo, whatever… d’you want people to watch this thing or not?)

Speaking of independent movies, Iron Sky – the Nazis-on-the-Moon project from the people who put together the low-budget Trek spoof Star Wreck – has rustled up 90% of its US$8.5 million budget through various participatory offerings and crowdfunding methods [via TechDirt]. With a premise that good (I mean, come on, Nazis on the friggin’ Moon – even a cinema cynic like me would struggle to resist that hook), it’ll be a shame if it ends up sucking, but even if it does, it’ll have served a higher purpose: namely to have demonstrated that crowdfunding can work for big projects like making a movie. If the film’s any good, I’ll consider it a bonus.


The Hollywood Stock Exchange, and bands with shareholders

Paul Raven @ 26-02-2010

If investment bankers can gamble on the success of big-money projects, why can’t the rest of us? Well, of course, we can – but those sort of big-money projects aren’t the sort of thing that get us normal folk excited, nor the sort of thing we understand (or think we understand) sufficiently to throw our money after.

But if you scratch a film buff, underneath you’ll find someone who thinks they can predict how well a movie will do once it gets released… and Hollywood reckons that’s an as-yet untapped source of funding for big-budget blockbusters. Hence HSX, the Hollywood Stock Exchange, is set to re-launch in April of this year as a real-money commodity exchange [via SlashDot]:

Since 1998, HSX has allowed just-for-fun traders to buy and sell valueless shares in Hollywood films based on forecasts of what the pics will ring up. Once launched, a new HSX site will list current and imminent movie releases with their projected four-week domestic grosses and allow exchange users to take long or short positions on the films.

A formal announcement about rules and guidelines for HSX users is expected closer to the launch. The exchange hopes to lure hobbyist investors as well as industry professionals, though the latter will be prohibited from improper insider activity.

For instance, distribution execs with access to early boxoffice data will be barred from making trades on the exchange after a film has opened. But film financiers will be allowed to invest in HSX an amount equal to a minority percentage of their total investment in a movie.

(Oh, man, you just know there’s gonna be some spectacular gaming of this system at some point, assuming it lasts long enough for gaming it to be worthwhile. It’s just too tempting, especially for such a historically desperate and greedy industry.)

Investors wishing to participate in the exchange will buy “contracts” priced at one one-millionth of a film’s projected boxoffice, with films to be listed on the exchange from the time productions are announced in the industry trade papers. Trading will begin six months before a movie’s anticipated wide release.

I make no claims to financial expertise of any kind, but I think I’d still assume that the safest way to gamble on the future of Hollywood properties would be to invest in something else entirely…

But a thought occurred to me while reading about HSX, namely that something like a stock purchasing model might act as a sort of bolt-on or extension to the crowdfunding models for creatives that we were discussing the other week. Say you’re in a band, you’ve done a few national tours, self-released an album, got some buzz going. How do you take things to the next step?

Systems like the newly-in-administration SellaBand are all well and good, but there’s still an intermediary middle-man involved, and the investment is conditional as well as project-specific; so why not just float your band (or your two-person animation studio, or yourself as a writer, or your guerrilla puppetry theatre mob or whatever) like a public company, offering shares to potential investors in exchange for their influence and input on what the band does? Product replaces dividends, tours and appearances are booked according to geographical distribution of fans, etc etc… it’s a bit like Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans idea, I guess, but much more formalised, with legally-binding obligations in both directions.

I’m pretty sure someone could knock up a software suite for managing all the paperwork necessary in order to make this happen, though I’ll confess that my knowledge of buisness law is sufficiently lacking that I have no idea whether or not it is legal (let alone practical, given the lack of a trusted and reliable micropayments platform and the morass if international business law). Can anyone in the audience shed a light on some of the details?

And more to the point, would anyone like to buy shares in Futurismic? We may not be profitable, but we’ve got a warehouse full of kudos… 😉


Avatar techniques could turn back the clock on ageing actors

Paul Raven @ 18-01-2010

Via SlashDot comes a brief soundbyte (or rather textbyte) from James Cameron, who posits that the pore-deep photorealistic CGI techniques that allowed him to create current box-office smash Avatar could be used to recreate the youthful looks of popular actors who’re getting on a bit…

… Cameron’s facial scanning process is so precise—zeroing in to the very pores of an actor’s skin—that virtually any manipulation is possible. You may not be able to totally replace an actor—“There’s no way to scan what’s underneath the surface to what the actor is feeling,” the director notes—but it is now theoretically possible to extend careers by digitally keeping stars young pretty much forever. “If Tom Cruise left instructions for his estate that it was okay to use his likeness in Mission Impossible movies for the next 500 years, I would say that would be fine,” says Cameron.

More Tom Cruise movies? After he dies? That’s about the strongest justification for banning this technology entirely, if you ask me…

Less fine, at least to Cameron, is bringing long dead stars back to life. “You could put Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart in a movie together, but it wouldn’t be them. You’d have to have somebody play them. And that’s where I think you cross an ethical boundary…”

Hmm… so what if you had Monroe and Bogart played by AI simulations of Monroe and Bogart, based on every second of footage available in the digital cultural corpus? Would that be crossing an ethical boundary? Would it be the same boundary as having someone else (made of meat) play them beneath the mask of CGI? And anyway, didn’t they threaten/promise [delete as appropriate] that CGI would mean the death of the overpaid “box office draw” Hollywood superstar? Answers on a postcard, please…

More seriously, though – how do we expect new and exciting actors to rise through the ranks if we just keep recycling the faces of the past? Or will the actors of the past become characters in their own right, adding another sort-of-meta layer to the cinema experience? “[Actor X] is currently wowing cinema-goers with his flawless performance as Clint Eastwood reprising the epochal Dirty Harry role…”


The Alternative Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Jonathan McCalmont @ 01-04-2009

This month in Blasphemous Geometries, Jonathan McCalmont presents his second attempt to produce an alternative shortlist for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form that looks a little further afield for the best examples of genre cinema of the last year.

Blasphemous Geometries by Jonathan McCalmont

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Every year, with merciless and unceasing regularity, hundreds of fans gather at Worldcon. After a few days of discussion, networking and having their pictures taken in beards and Hawaiian shirts for inclusion in Locus magazine, the fans attend the Hugo award ceremony. This award ceremony is the climax of a cycle of discussion during which science fiction fans across the globe begin handicapping, second-guessing and complaining about the Hugo awards with varying degrees of bitterness, enthusiasm, alienation and excitement. It is a cycle that starts with the announcement of the Hugo Awards shortlists. This year’s cycle began on the 19th of March.

Being the kind of person whose bitterness and alienation always outweigh his enthusiasm and excitement, I see one particular Hugo – that awarded for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form – as a wasted opportunity. Every year, instead of celebrating the rich tapestry of cinematic genre, the Hugo shortlist is dominated by heavily-marketed American blockbusters, more frequently than not based upon already well known pre-existing works such as books or comics. In fact, last year, the nominees were so spectacularly weak that I felt obliged to come up with an Alternative Hugo shortlist made up of good films that somehow failed to capture the attention of Hugo voters. This column is my second attempt at an Alternative Hugo shortlist for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Continue reading “The Alternative Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”


Vending machines

Sarah Ennals @ 08-03-2009

Vending machines - Does Not Equal

Does Not Equal is a webcomic by Sarah Ennalscheck out the pre-Futurismic archives, and the strips that have been published here previously.

[ Be sure to check out the Does Not Equal Cafepress store for webcomic merchandise featuring Canadians with geometrically-shaped heads! ]


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