Why your website’s survey sucks.

segments of questions, what did you... first time, weekly, every mon... How would you descri... would you...website to a friend? On a scale of on to...ow would you rate the... over Ptara logoSo, as we’ve said last time, time is money.  Your readers might know this, and therefore be unwilling to give a survey after they found what they need, right?

Well, more and more, I’m being asked to answer surveys on almost every website I visit (especially media and government websites.)

These are usually put at the worst possible time, so I’m tempted to just tick “a” for each box without even reading it.  And, I bet most people do.

Now, if you want an honest answer to your questions, rather than the multiple choice options, here they are. Continue reading Why your website’s survey sucks.

Ben Franklin’s financial advice

Since the following quote is so long, I won’t put it in quote format.

TO MY FRIEND A.B.,

As you have desired it of me, I write the following hints, which have been of service to me and may if observed be so to you.

REMEMBER that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour and goes abroad or sits idle one half of that day though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness ought not to reckon that the only expense, he has really spent or rather thrown away five shillings besides.

Remember that credit is money. If a man lets his money lie in my hands after it is due, he gives me the interest or so much as I can make of it during that time. This amounts to a considerable sum where a man has good and large credit and makes good use of it. Continue reading Ben Franklin’s financial advice

Why I left Vimeo Pro (again)

I received the following email:

You’ve lost 15 of your videos.
Renew Vimeo PRO now to get them back online.
Hi Ptara Motion Pictures,

Because your membership has expired, your account has been downgraded to Basic, and you and your viewers have lost access to 15 of your videos.

Why? Your Vimeo PRO membership paid for the ongoing costs of video storage. Since you’ve downgraded to a Basic account, we can only store 10GB of the videos you uploaded as a paid member.

To get them back as soon as possible, renew your membership now.

Continue reading Why I left Vimeo Pro (again)

It takes more than 100 days

stone cylinder tower
Top of Wellington Monument, Pen Dinas, Penparcau

2 years ago, I witnessed the re-enactment of the battle of Waterloo.  Thousands of talented volunteers from around the world walked through the footsteps of Napoleon, Wellington, and Blücher, and their allies and armies.

Although we didn’t have the best seats on the field, it was wonderful that so many dedicated re-enactors, or living historians, brought history to life for us.  If you missed it, you should have been there. Continue reading It takes more than 100 days

Filmmaker admits awards are political

When The Hollywood Reporter asked producer Janine Jackowski if she was disappointed that Toni Erdmann didn’t win the foreign language Oscar, she said no. She expected it, when she heard the news of “Trump’s travel ban.”

“Two hours later I talked to Maren and we both said, ‘It’s gone.’ We knew the Academy would want to send a signal with the Iranian film. Up to that point, Toni Erdmann was one of the favorites.”

Continue reading Filmmaker admits awards are political

What is a Special Purpose Vehicle? (or SPV?)

wagons in a dreamlike state with ptara logoA Special Purpose Vehicle, or Single purpose vehicle, is a company that is created for a single project.

Single Purpose Vehicles are used in construction, public works and many other ventures.  While they are becoming less popular for other ventures, SPVs have become increasingly popular in film production.

Now, in the old days, film companies shied away from Special Purpose vehicles.  When film producers also owned the cinemas and actors were on contract, it made little sense to create more paperwork for each film.

But today, with changes in the way a film is financed and sold, a special purpose vehicle can be extremely useful.

Films can carry with them many long term obligations, from credits and percentage points for the actors to content agreements and more.  As most production companies don’t distribute their own films, it often makes little sense for them to continue dealing with a film after it’s made.

The “vehicle” keeps the film separate from the production company’s other activities. When the film is finished, the SPV can be sold to a distribution company, allowing the production company to focus on the next project. It also allows investors to benefit from tax breaks.

There’s a mention on the British Film Commission’s website.

http://www.britishfilmcommission.org.uk/film-production/uk-film-tax-relief/

So, while Ptara is the company that produces films, does a lot of paperwork and runs our office, another company, an SPV, may be the one that you invest in or sign a contract with.

When the SPV is taken over by a distributor, the distributor will take over the SPV’s obligations and Ptara will concentrate on new projects.

On occasion, an SPV continues as a company on its own and produce more films.

How to price your services

Ptara logo in front of currency clouds and old bank notes

When I started out, one of the things I had the most trouble with was pricing.  At first, I let the customers set the price.

This was odd, as I have spent a lot of time  writing budgets.  I earned a level 1 diploma in bookkeeping, which didn’t go into much depth, but later I budgeted films, information videos and other media projects in intricate detail.  I was writing up budgets for everyone else’s wages and freelance fees without considering the value of my own time. Continue reading How to price your services

3 ways to work with a writing partner

Ptara logo above wordcloud artwork

Or, “Three Ways to Collaborate on a Screenplay.”

A lot of people offer advice to screenwriters. We don’t. We write scripts in house, produce our own stories, and provide services to film production companies. So, screenwriters are not our target market.

So far, apart from a few student projects where working as part of a team was part of the grade, I tend to write alone.   I’m not looking for a writing partner, and unless I were hired to work as part of a team I don’t know if I’d work with one.

However, if you do write screenplays, and you have found your writing partner, I can tell you what seems to work for others.

1. Taking turns.
I found this one reading Joe Eszterhas’s autobiography. He did this with a friend and said it was a lot of fun. The resulting film wasn’t one of his biggest hits, but oh well. Taking turns is as simple as it sounds: One writer writes one draft, then sends it to the other writer for the next draft, bouncing it back and forth until they’re both happy with the final result.
2. Alternating scenes.
I also read a book by two comedy writers who’s movies I enjoy, called “writing movies for fun and profit.” I laughed at Ben Garrant and Thomas Lennon’s films (the Pacifier, Night at The Museum, even Balls of Fury), but their scripts were much better than that book. Some jokes just have to be performed to make sense, I suppose.

Anyway, since the book is mostly written tongue in cheek (their films grossed a billion worldwide perhaps, but they’ve only seen a tiny fraction of that), I can’t be sure that this is really their working method, but it might work. First, you sit together in a room, and rack your brains until you come up with an outline. Then, each writer writes a scene for part of that outline. They claim the outline is the hard part. After you’ve written the odd scenes and your partner the even scenes, you switch and polish off the other writer’s work.

3. Lyrics and rhythm.
I often hear teacher of music composition express doubt that creative collaboration is possible. When confronted with great collaborators, they assume one artist wrote the lyrics and the other composed the melody, or something like that.
This can work in musicals, as illustrated in Topsy Turvy, and sort of reflects the way the famous 1930s Wizard of Oz was written.With a non-musical script, it’s a little more tricky. But, it can be done. French films have two kinds of writing credits, one for the story line or treatment, and one for the writer who does the dialogue.

Now, before you approach me or anyone else with one of these, consider that all work best if you know your writing partner well, or if you have an existing working relationship with the writers. Do you share the same taste in films and stories? Do you have a story that you both want to tell in the same way? If you’re not on the same page, it probably won’t work.

Also, unless you’re both loaded, you’ll probably need some money to sustain yourselves while writing, or extra patience while your partner tries to find time to write. The reality is multitasking celebrities usually get ghost writers to write for them, and even a full time screenwriters would normally take 3 months, 6 months, even a year to complete a script. The mythical stories about someone writing a draft in three days leave out all the months that went into preparing that first draft and the additional months that went into writing the more careful second draft.

Design of audio-visual creative works.

Ptara logo over historical image of men working at Sevastopol.You might have a great graphic designer, an artist at your company, who can draw anything that you can imagine. You may have someone else who is handy with the camera, and creates videos that look and sound amazing. But, sometimes simply looking good is not enough. Sometimes, you need images that fit a strategic context, that make sense within a whole, and that tell the message you want to convey. Sometimes, you need something that is interesting to watch, and sometimes you need more than that.

You don’t always need to design an audio visual work.  Here’s a video that was unplanned, shot and edited within a day:

It works well enough for footage for a news story, but not much else.

Ptara can help you design a video that does what it’s supposed to do.

Giving constructive advice

Part of consulting, or teaching, or in some ways planning, is advising others on a course of action.

You may know someone who smokes, or have an employee who doesn’t follow the health and safety procedure.  Or, maybe you just want to motivate someone who’s not living up to their potential.

  1. People can change, have faith in that.  Prove that you know they can change for the better by reminding them of times when they did things right.  Provide a positive role model in the person themselves.
  2. Take time to observe and listen.  Find out why they are doing what they are doing.
  3. Act on what you can improve yourself.  Perhaps you could offer to run alongside a friend, or have a motivated team member take time out to work alongside one who needs motivation.  It’s usually easier to make a change when there’s support.
  4. Relate any stories, especially personal ones, that may inspire personal change.  You could talk about a time when you struggled with a similar issue and overcame that.  Or, you could talk about a time when you got hurt because someone else wasn’t watching where they were going.
  5. Assemble a plan of action.  This should take you from where you are now to where you want to be.

If there’s a message you want to get across to a large number of people, we at Ptara can help people visualize change with films and videos.   If you’d like help creating a plan of action, we can do that through our consulting services.

Hopefully, you can deal with most issues quickly without our help.  But, if you think we can help, please feel free to contact us.

Film and history