articles

BLAST! is High School Friendly!

We would love to see BLAST! get into high schools!  And we are very happy to announce that a High School DVD version for classroom use is now available!

We think BLAST! is a great teaching tool for high schools. Here's an article from Funderstanding explaining why:

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Paul Devlin: Influencing a Generation of Future Scientists

When filmmaker Paul Devlin was invited to arctic Sweden with his brother, astrophysicist Mark Devlin, Ph.D., he didn’t realize he’d get a documentary out of the process.

Mark asked his brother to join him on the adventure of a lifetime—not only would they be traveling to Sweden, but Paul would be along for the ride as a team of talented scientists attempted to launch a sophisticated telescope above the Earth’s atmosphere.

The goal? Only to uncover the most powerful secrets of the universe.

No big deal, right?

What was initially intended as a one-week trip with his brother turned into an ambitious adventure, as Paul traveled with the team of scientists for six weeks in Sweden, and then for months as they went around the globe to discover new galaxies.

Paul, who earned accolades for documentary films such as Slam Nation, quickly saw the opportunity to tell the story of this team of scientists. The film later became known as Blast!

“We weren’t actually thinking about making a movie,” explained Paul. “While I was there I discovered what a fascinating project this was and what interesting lives the scientists had.”

Read the rest of the article here!

Filmmaker Magazine: "Look Your Customers in the Eye"

"Look Your Customers in the Eye" is an article by Paul Devlin, published in Filmmaker Magazine.

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Independent filmmaker Brian Paul is a man who lives his films. In that spirit, he has taken DIY film distribution to a whole new level. Street level, that is.

For the past two years, Paul has made a comfortable living by selling his hybrid fi lm Cure for the Crash…The Art of Train Hoppin’ directly from art market street stalls in New Orleans. His unique distribution strategy has proved remarkably successful. Paul claims to have sold thousands of DVDs of Cure for the Crash by personally engaging more than 100,000 people face-to-face.

“When I was a teenager in West Philly,” Paul explains, “I used to work in a pawn shop, where I learned how to help people make a decision.” Later, his aggressiveness evolved into charm as Paul took a job selling art at high-end galleries on Royal Street in New Orleans. Paul went on to use these sales skills to move DVDs of Cure for the Crash from his Vespa at historic Jackson Square in the Big Easy while simultaneously pushing hard with mailings and email blasts to attract a distribution deal.

Read the rest here!

Dox Magazine: 4:3 to 16:9 Transition

4:3 to 16:9 Transition

Paul wrote this article for DOX Magazine during the Power Trip era.  Check it out for some interesting information on the 4:3 to 16:9 conversion.  After all, you still come across 4:3 content stretched to fit a 16:9 screen, even now.  How do we make it all look good?

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"Versioning" has become an inevitable burden for non-fiction filmmakers as they adapt their work to fit various television time-slots in an effort to squeeze every drop of revenue from a project.

My film Power Trip now has four different length versions with another in progress, and I am approaching twenty distinct Masters, with iterations for NTSC, PAL, Texted and Textless. Tape stock expenses alone are burdensome.

Now comes a new dimension to versioning as TV transitions from the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9 - finally catching up to cinema, which went wide-screen decades ago, reacting to the perceived threat when television was new. There seems to be little consensus across borders about the best way to make this transition, so the process has become bewildering.

In Europe I've seen 16:9 TV's stretching out 4:3 sports broadcasts, making the athletes look ridiculously fat. Channel surfing on a sophisticated wide-screen TV produces a startling variety of shape contortions to fit the screen size. Broadcasts in 4:3 from the US, such as MTV, suffer most, blown up and cropped on top and bottom to fit 16:9...CONTINUE READING HERE!

Georgia’s President Concedes Defeat in Parliamentary Election


 

Posted by Valeri Odikadze:

(Valeri Odikadze is the Georgian co-producer of Power Trip.)

These elections were the most important in my life.  Bidzina Ivanishvili seems like a good choice to lead our country and I am really glad the Georgian Dream coalition won the election.  After all, almost all of Georgia wanted change.

For the last 4-5 years Mikheil Saakashvili lead Georgia in the wrong direction.  There were too many problems with free media, human rights, free law, and a huge high level elite corruption and business monopoly.  There wasn't any economic growth.  Ivanishvili promises a lot and Saakashvili is now in opposition. Saakashvili will try to come back in several years or even earlier and the USA and Europe consider him a very democratic President.

Last year I worked for Ivanishvili ever since he started his party.  I filmed all his pre-election actions and provided a live TV signal for his campaign.  I also had several ongoing contracts with TV9 and I provided them with consulting services and video production equipment & cameras since the government had damaged his equipment at customs.  Many people were afraid to work with him under the pressure of the KGB police revenue service.

At the beginning of last summer the Revenue Service started an urgent 2-phase audit of my company, Videoscope, as a result of my cooperation with Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream coalition. They initially fined Videoscope a penalty of GEL 120,000, rougly $72,154 USD - a huge and unjustified sum of money for my small company that nearly bankrupted us.  The fine was over allegedly unpaid taxes, but my company had paid several thousand GEL in advance tax payments so far.  The 2nd audit was concluded in August 2012 and I am still waiting for the results.

But I continued working with Ivanishvili and hope that I will someday get this money back. Even more importantly, I hope that Georgia will become a better country under the leadership of this fantastic new team!

Read some details about the election here!

Rejecting the College Rejection Letter

Posted by Paul Devlin:

When I was a senior in high school, I noticed that the rejection letter I received from Harvard had a grammatical error. So, I wrote a letter back, rejecting their rejection letter. Then I sent a version to all the colleges that had rejected me.

My mother, Nancy Devlin, sent a copy of this letter to the New York Times and it was published in the New Jersey section on May 31, 1981. Then in 1996 there was a cover story in the New York Times Magazine about the trauma students were experiencing getting rejected from colleges. As an education writer, my mom knows all too well that educational issues are cyclical. So she re-submitted the letter.

This time it was published on May 5th, 1996 in the Op-Ed section of the Sunday New York Times, a very prestigious, high-profile space. It turns out the letter had already become popular and was reprinted in newspapers, books etc. (without my knowledge, pre-internet). The New York Times accused me of plagiarism. When they discovered that I was the original author and they had unwittingly re-printed themselves, they were none too happy. But my mom insists that it was important to reprint the article because the issue was clearly still relevant. The letter remains popular on the internet even today.

Anyway, here it is:

Office of Admissions
Any College
Wherever U.S.A
Dear Any College:

Having reviewed the many rejection letters I have received in the last few weeks, it is with great regret that I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.

This year, after applying to a great many colleges and universities, I received an especially fine crop of rejection letters. Unfortunately, the number of rejections that I can accept is limited.

Each of my rejections was reviewed carefully and on an individual basis. Many factors were taken into account – the size of the institution, student-faculty ratio, location, reputation, costs and social atmosphere.

I am certain that most colleges I applied to are more than qualified to reject me. I am also sure that some mistakes were made in turning away some of these rejections. I can only hope they were few in number.

I am aware of the keen disappointment my decision may bring. Throughout my deliberations, I have kept in mind the time and effort it may have taken for you to reach your decision to reject me.

Keep in mind that at times it was necessary for me to reject even those letters of rejection that would normally have met my traditionally high standards.

I appreciate your having enough interest in me to reject my application. Let me take the opportunity to wish you well in what I am sure will be a successful academic year.

SEE YOU IN THE FALL!

Sincerely,
Paul Devlin
Applicant at Large

 

BLAST! - Theatrical Launch | Filmmaker Magazine

Posted by Paul Devlin:

I believe it is vitally important for filmmakers to share their experiences. Even failures and embarrassments. These happen to all of us, and it’s good to be reassured that we’re not alone. Whenever the opportunity arises, I like to speak up. And when I think I have enough to say for an article, I publish.

Releasing my science epic film BLAST! theatrically in the U.S. turned into its own epic story. When I wrote it out, I wasn’t sure how such an in-depth piece would work in a magazine. I structured it episodically with built-in cliffhangers, in case it had to be divided up into pieces. I fully expected to have to cut it way down for publication.

indieWire completely ignored my submission, but Scott Macaulay, Editor of Filmmaker, picked it up and published the article in its entirety in Winter 2010. The fact that it was the longest piece the magazine ever published became a selling point for the print edition of Filmmaker. I’m very happy to have contributed a comprehensive New Yorker-style story to our community of independent filmmakers.

Check out the article here!

"Schrödinger's Documentary" by Kurt Engfehr

This week we have a fantastic new article by Kurt Engfehr, "Schrödinger's Documentary".

Illustration by Orah Lemer.

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"Life wants to be messy, our job is to tidy it up"
                                                           - Mark Twain


There is a scientific law that goes something like this: The act of observing an object changes the actions of the observed object even if that object is unaware that it is being observed. 

Interestingly, this law has nothing to do with documentary filmmaking.  And yet, it has everything to do with it.  Originally, the law was formulated as a result of experiments in quantum physics.  But, it could just as easily be applied to the aforementioned documentary filmmaking process because a basic tenent of making a documentary is observation, and the subjects of the film?  Nothing more than human-sized petri dishes. 

   
There’s a thought experiment that’s used to illustrate some of the complexity of the observation law.  In a laboratory, a box sits on a table.  Inside the box is a cat.  However, due to bunch of factors that are just way too complicated to go into here, the cat may or may not be alive.  The whole live cat/dead cat thing is determined by the actions of an observer lifting the lid to the box and looking into it.  Until the observer looks into the box the cat exists in, for the cat, a very uncomfortable state, neither living nor dead.  Zombie-like, if you will.  But without the whole eating brains thing.


To some people, science-types I suppose you’d call them, the question of cat viability is the point of this experiment.  Countless books, unknown numbers of studies, thousands of manhours have gone into solving this question, with only the vaguely unsatisfying answer of, “Could go either way” being the result.

"Create A Time-Lapse Video" by Amon Focus

Check out this fantastic article by filmmaker Amon Focus on how-to create a time-lapse video on DPMag.com.

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Create A Time-Lapse Video
It’s easier than ever to do with the latest digital cameras and basic software

Using time-lapse photography, you can produce videos that are able to show the world in a way in which the human eye doesn't ordinarily see. Plants can grow in mere seconds, a sun can rise above a city in moments, and you can see a complete day unfold in less than a minute.

Because of one of the more extraordinary advancements in camera technology—the ever increasing speed of image burst rates—creating a time-lapse video can be as simple as holding down the shutter and editing the images into a short video. Making a skilled time-lapse project that's able to engage an audience and stand out above the crowd, however, can take some patience, some planning and a bit of know-how. But there has never been a better time to learn, especially since so many of the best time-lapse videos are ending up as popular viral videos that have been seen by thousands of viewers.


Creating a time-lapse video requires that you scout and plan, and then be ready to adapt. Focus says he has "learned to always have a Plan B," in case he finds that his chosen location won't work due to weather conditions or other circumstances beyond his control.


PREPARATION
I'm always looking for compositions that are full of action, color and visual drama. With experience, it becomes intuitive. If something moves me enough to pull out my phone and capture it, then I'll probably return to that spot for a time-lapse.

Sometimes I want to shoot places that are out of my reach. I may be at an event or restaurant that has a view that can be accessed only with the owner's permission. I've been known to chat up a waitress—not for her number, but to get a boss' name to look up. Or, I'll find a business card or brochure and email the company. In the email, I include links to examples of time-lapse photography and offer to provide HD copies of what I shoot at their site. I was ignored a lot in the beginning, but over time, I got more and more green lights. Pretty soon, I had enough time-lapses to create a promo that I now use as a skeleton key. It has opened many doors.

When preparing for a time-lapse, I format my memory cards, set my camera to manual, turn off the autofocus on the lens and set the image size to medium JPEG. There have been times when I've forgotten to do this and used up a sizable chunk of space because I shot the time-lapse in RAW. I shoot in medium JPEG because the image size is big enough to export a 1080p HD file without losing quality. If I were shooting for film or a high-end production, I'd choose RAW for a higher-quality video. Otherwise, RAW takes up too much space....

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE!

"Create A Time-Lapse Video" by Amon Focus

Check out this fantastic article by filmmaker Amon Focus on how-to create a time-lapse video on DPMag.com.

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Create A Time-Lapse Video
It’s easier than ever to do with the latest digital cameras and basic software

Using time-lapse photography, you can produce videos that are able to show the world in a way in which the human eye doesn't ordinarily see. Plants can grow in mere seconds, a sun can rise above a city in moments, and you can see a complete day unfold in less than a minute.

Because of one of the more extraordinary advancements in camera technology—the ever increasing speed of image burst rates—creating a time-lapse video can be as simple as holding down the shutter and editing the images into a short video. Making a skilled time-lapse project that's able to engage an audience and stand out above the crowd, however, can take some patience, some planning and a bit of know-how. But there has never been a better time to learn, especially since so many of the best time-lapse videos are ending up as popular viral videos that have been seen by thousands of viewers.


Creating a time-lapse video requires that you scout and plan, and then be ready to adapt. Focus says he has "learned to always have a Plan B," in case he finds that his chosen location won't work due to weather conditions or other circumstances beyond his control.


PREPARATION
I'm always looking for compositions that are full of action, color and visual drama. With experience, it becomes intuitive. If something moves me enough to pull out my phone and capture it, then I'll probably return to that spot for a time-lapse.

Sometimes I want to shoot places that are out of my reach. I may be at an event or restaurant that has a view that can be accessed only with the owner's permission. I've been known to chat up a waitress—not for her number, but to get a boss' name to look up. Or, I'll find a business card or brochure and email the company. In the email, I include links to examples of time-lapse photography and offer to provide HD copies of what I shoot at their site. I was ignored a lot in the beginning, but over time, I got more and more green lights. Pretty soon, I had enough time-lapses to create a promo that I now use as a skeleton key. It has opened many doors.

When preparing for a time-lapse, I format my memory cards, set my camera to manual, turn off the autofocus on the lens and set the image size to medium JPEG. There have been times when I've forgotten to do this and used up a sizable chunk of space because I shot the time-lapse in RAW. I shoot in medium JPEG because the image size is big enough to export a 1080p HD file without losing quality. If I were shooting for film or a high-end production, I'd choose RAW for a higher-quality video. Otherwise, RAW takes up too much space....

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE!

DOX - "A Pioneering Experience"

Paul Devlin talks about the BLAST! ArtistShare project - what worked, what didn't work, and the future of independent film financing.

Published in DOX Magazine.

Read the full article here!

"Although ArtistShare is a fan-based funding platform developed for the music industry, a documentary filmmaker decided to break new ground by trying it out to fund his latest documentary. He shares his experiences in the following."

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