The End of a Piracy Era – Kickass Torrents’ Big Take Down

An incredible story is emerging about the take down of arguably the Internet’s biggest torrent listing site, Kickass  Torrents. On July 19th the site went offline as alleged KAT mastermind Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland under orders from the United States.

Full coverage of this is happening over at TorrentFreak, but I wanted to chime in on this as piracy is something that I’ve written about over the years.

I am not 100% against piracy, as I have said many times. In my opinion one of the driving factors behind movie piracy is the inflexibility of the movie industry to serve it’s customers. I live in Japan. Sometimes our release window is months (in the case of Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix film ‘Her’ it was more than a year) after domestic North American release dates. This often comes down to local distributors and the fact that movie distribution runs much as it did in the days of sending prints by steamship.

When I raised the question at an industry forum about why we can’t abolish these windows I was told ‘it’s not logistically possible’. To which I replied that the pirates seem to be able to do it for free, so telling me that billion dollar corporations can’t do it seems a bit silly. Some filmmakers agree.

But I’m also a filmmaker (I recently received my MA in Film – yeah me!) and I appreciate that piracy is damaging to the financial outlook of a film, especially an indie film that is already running the risk of losing wide swaths of money. But I still argue that piracy stems from desire to consume. If we offer a better, easier, more instant way of consumers getting product then a large chunk of piracy will disappear.

Yes, there are people who pirate for pirate’s sake. And piracy has become incredibly easy….which is another point to the failings of the entertainment industry. NetFlix understands this: the goal is to make it easier to buy than pirate. People want easy. But people also want fast.

Finally, the fact that companies like Apple and Facebook cooperated in the bringing down of Artem Vaulin is concerning. Apple refused to assist in a case of domestic terrorism, but when it comes to jeopardizing their bottom line of movie and music sales via itunes, they’re all over it! As a shareholder in both Apple and Facebook, I see this as a worrying trend that will erode the public confidence in both of these brands. Vaulin’s ‘crimes’ are most definitely economic in nature, as opposed to violent. He also was a Ukrainian citizen living in Poland. That he was arrested under a US extradition order is also worrying. America seems to have no problem with banks foreclosing the homes of veterans, or indeed Wall Street types walking away with billions of government money. But don’t threaten the profit statement of corporations.

It is another case of imposing a rule without a solution. I don’t support piracy, but, I also think that equal, economic, assess to entertainment should be the goal of these companies, not simply clamping down and doing nothing.

Why this AI-written film is amazing

Over on Ars Technica they have an article about this very interesting short film that was written by an AI. Of course, that in and of itself is pretty amazing, but, for me, the impact of the film is different.

1. It’s all about the performance

The film shows that good actors can make anything interesting. Here they have assembled 3 highly watchable, emotive people. They are literally reading nonsense but you somehow get drawn in and involved.

2. Music moves people

The score of this short film seems to be overlooked. With different music the feel would have (could have) been ruined.

3. We make our own assumptions

I don’t think the text of this film is any more unusual than a Coldplay song. We, as living, breathing people, strive to make connections. We want to see patterns in the noise. You think you know what this film is about – even though we know it is about nothing.

As a filmmaker this short hits home certain points – like, my idea for the story is not as important as the three points above. It is a brave filmmaker that can turn over the core of his film to a machine, but the proof is here – with skills you can make an amazing film. So don’t get so hung up on the script.

Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense

Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that’s not entirely what it seems. It’s about three people living in a weird future, possibly on a space station, probably in a love triangle.


Pulpix – great looking way to enhance content

Rarely does something just seem to hit my sweet spot (apart from chocolate and a great red wine). Pulpix is such a thing.

I’ve seen other enhanced video content services, but I am loving the way Pulpix looks and it’s ease of use (and price! It seems to be free!). I’ve installed it over on So we’ll see what happens.

I think that easy to use enhanced content will dramatically change the way we see and use videos – both as publishers and consumers. Not just to monetize, but to link to other sites, videos and resources that go further into the topics I discuss. I can really see how something like this could help my online courses that I want to deliver.

Way cool.

Very exciting piece of equipment – M4/3 lens on your smartphone

Olympus have released the Olympus Air which is basically a fancy blue tooth transmitter that hooks onto the back of ANY Micro 4/3 lens. It transmits the photo or video to your smart phone where you can use a suite of apps to capture it.

There are some exciting possibilities here.

First, the lens is not physically attached to the phone, meaning that it can be placed (almost) anywhere and controlled from the app. This opens up an exciting array of camera positions (especially for those of us shooting in small spaces like Japanese apartments!)

Secondly, it allows you to use any M4/3 lens, or, with adapters basically any lens out there! I can use my vintage Canon FD lens with a M43 adapter and take video using my iphone.

We truly live in exciting times.

Article and video below. Sorry, Charlie, this is only available in Japan right now (but I’m taking orders!)

Disrupting Hollywood

This article on LinkedIn delves into whether Hollywood will be disrupted, like almost every other industry, by technology and changes in public tastes.

Author Norman Hartmann starts with the utterly preposterous idea that scripts could be generated and moves on to auto-generating ‘blockbusters’ (i.e. crappy movies) in real time using some sort of game engine.

It is an interesting concept (that will, in my opinion, never happen) but, the real value here is opening up the box and seeing what you can do with all the stuff inside it.

The battle is on for the very small screen

Exciting (for me) article over at Fortune magazine. Delving into the success of sites such as BuzzFeed that are fast-establishing dominance in the internet video world – over broadcast TV competitors.

It comes down – in part – to gathering metrics and paying attention to those metrics!

Some of this has been explored in books such as Contagious, by Jonah Berger, but it’s handy for those of us in this space to have an article specifically about online video.

Great reading for any content maker / filmmaker in these times.

BTW if you skip it because you think you’re a ‘creator’ and not a businessman, please proceed to your nearest government agency for a handout. Filmmakers have to be businessmen. Sorry.

Great Collection of Videos from the Film4 Innovation Forum

I haven’t heard much being said about this, so, even though it’s a bit late I think it’s worth mentioning.

Back in 2014 Film4 hosted an Innovation Forum which did an indepth look into the films ‘Frank’ (which I love!!!!) and ‘20,000 Days on Earth’. There is a page about the event here, but, I want to hilight the below-linked article which summarizes the day and gives you a series of amazing video links to talks from the event.

This kind of insight into real-world experiences is hard to come by in this business.

A great look at social medium from an actual teenager

As independent filmmakers it is VITAL that we understand social media. And, if you are not in your target demographic, you may not have a full understanding of how the various social media elements are being used. Or worse, you may have a ‘professional’ social media consultant ‘helping’ you – and they also have no clue.

On Medium (increasingly becoming a valuable longer form news service) is an article about how teenagers use social media. The reason it’s a valuable article? It’s written by an actual teen.

If you are looking to capture any of the under-25 market in North America then you should be ingesting this info asap!

NoBudge’s 2014 winning films

I’ll hold my hands up and say I’d never heard of ‘NoBudge’ until this posting on NoFilmSchool (as an aside, I now see that using a negative title for your site or domain is in vogue).

I am going to assume that NoBudge focusing on films made without a budget? Or a budgie? Or are immovable? Their ‘about’ page doesn’t give much away. All they say is

NoBudge is an online screening venue for new indie films.

Anyway, they’ve released their awards and it is a good showcase to see ultra indie films to get a feel for the ‘market’. I think it’s important to get an understanding of what people are doing. With the democratizing factor of low camera prices we see all kinds of people expressing all kinds of things on film.

Below is the link to the NoFilmSchool article, but you can also go to NoBudge’s ‘Awards Page’ here (NoFilmSchool has a better looking version of the page!)


FilmRiot’s 10 Online Resources

Ryan Connolly is one lazy bastard. For the FilmRiot Christmas Day episode, instead of making an amazing tutorial video like he usually does he decided to give us a top 10 list and spend the rest of the time with his family. I’m personally offended.

The good news is that the Top 10 Online Resources list is pretty amazing. Some of these things I knew (eg I’m a member of the Shane Hulbert Insider site) but some I didn’t. All of them are sites you should be visiting often, as most of them contain great tutorials. Of course, you should also be subscribed to the FilmRiot YouTube channel. Ryan is probably one of the most inspiring filmmaking YouTubers out there.

It’s a great video.

Ryan’s list is this:

Kiana Jones SFX:…


Cinematographer Style Documentary:…

Indie Filmmaker: Lighting Tutorial and Samples:…

Video Copilot:


The Art of Color Correction:

SoundWorks Collection:

Hurlbut Visuals:

Virtual Lighting Studio: