Relocated to Belgium

Ptara is now in the Kingdom of Belgium

For 23 years, Ptara and Udigrudi were based in Aberystwyth Wales. Okay, so we only started using the name Ptara about half way through.

Now, we’ve moved to Belgium. Ptara has, anyway. Due to the complexity of business law in Belgium, Ptara is not currently trading here. However, we are open to working for other organisations. Stay tuned for updates.

5 films about the Holocaust

 

With Holocaust Memorial day coming up, schools might want to show a historical film.  Sometimes, parents complain that history films rated 15 are shown to kids too young to see them in the cinema, but there are great films on the Holocaust that are suitable for all ages.

Now, I’ve seen more than five films on this topic, a lot have been made. I have chosen the five that I think are most informative, from a teaching point of view and from a learner’s. These teach language, they teach history, most importantly, they help us understand why.

1. The music box. (1989)

So, this one is rated 15, partially because of the language.  However, it’s not for the same reasons that most Eszterhas scripts may not be suitable for children.  It has some harsh language, and some graphic retellings, but I think if it were made later, it would have had a 12 rating.

The screenwriter has his name behind some of the biggest stinkers of my teenage years.  But, according to his memoir, he didn’t like Jade or Showgirls. And The Music Box was different.

Music Box is among the films he’s most proud of. It’s based on his experiences among Hungarian refugees, some of which were anti-semitic, others who just seemed to be anti-communist.  He wrote it to condemn the criminals, to tell the world about a story that he grew up not even knowing himself as a Hungarian American.

The story behind the film, and what happened afterwards in Eszterhas’ life make the film even more interesting to watch.  In the film, the protagonist has to defend a father that she finds out is guilty.  Later, the screenwriter found out his own father was wanted for war crimes.

Jessica Lange points out that Costa Gavras doesn’t just do a master and coverage, but actually uses the camera to tell the story.  Costa Gavras’ masterful directing is apparent in the first half of the story, but as the plot moves along we can see that the production has been rushed somewhat. Eszterhas apparently wrote a script that was too long (he cheated the margins) and so they had to do a lot of last minute rewrites in order to stay on budget and schedule.

Despite this flaw, the film is still excellent, and very informative about how trials were conducted afterwards. We see a few points of view here, how people could cover things up, and Hungary’s part in the massacre.

4. The round up, or Le Raffle (2010)

Why did the Jews just seem to go without resisting? What about the population who sat there and did nothing?

This tells the story of France’s Jews, how they were rounded up, and the people who showed kindness to them on the way. Not everyone knew they were going to death camps, if they did, guns would not have contained them. People tried to help, but it didn’t work against an organised machine.

We hear anecdotes said by many different characters, hearing points of view and learning snippets of history.  Even though it’s hard to pick out a main character, it is easy to follow.  It’s also useful for learning French, if only you could turn off the subtitles.

3. Life is Beautiful, La vita è bella (1997)

This film is in italian. It’s a comedy, and as such, it doesn’t pretend to be an accurate depiction of history. However, this satire allows us to see the philosophy behind fascism, as it pokes fun at it.

I showed this to my own children, and it was a good starting point for teaching history.  Highly recommended.

2. Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

This is the first holocaust film I saw as a child. It shows the story from the point of view of a girl hiding away, who has the innocence of not knowing what will happen next.

I don’t remember it well, but I remember the power of the feeling, the way you could understand exactly what the characters were going through.  There have been other adaptations of the same events, but I think the one made 1959 is by far the most powerful.

1. Night and Fog (1956)

This is a short documentary, no actors, no physical presenter. We see the place it happened, and maybe a few old photographs. It’s as if we’re on location, being given a guided tour of where it happened. Our guide, we don’t even see our guide, narrates not only the events, but details the economics and actions behind it, like the fact that construction companies put in tenders to build the place.  This no doubt influenced other films on the Holocaust, which use such details to illuminate the story.

Armistice Day films

The 11th of November is known as Remembrance Sunday here in Britain, and Memorial Day in America.  What the day was originally celebrating was the armistice, the end of the first World War (then only known as the great war.)  With the end of hostilities, and the war officially over, there was an illusion of a time of peace.

Unfortunately, that war had a sequel.  Not only did it have a sequel, but three months after the armistice, Berlin was aflame.  The cold war had already begun, even before the armistice, as Lenin and his enemies plunged Russia into a bloody civil war (ironically started because Lenin didn’t want to waste lives on the war in Europe.)

In any case, to understand the past, there are a few films worth watching. Continue reading Armistice Day films

Vote Attila: Pitch

Logline: A debate shakes the colosseums. Who should take over the Roman Empire? Then, a new candidate emerges: Attila the Hun.

Fantasy

High Budget

Short Synopsis

Most people know Attila the Hun was a warrior, called the scourge of Rome. Attila has featured in novels as a villain or a hero.   but he’s sometimes confused with Genghis Khan, who was hundreds of years and thousands of miles away.

Very little information exists about the real Attila. So while we wish to portray an accurate portrait, this isn’t completely possible. Instead, we wish to spark the audience’s curiosity about history, by making the character come to life, the way big movies bring toys and books to life. For too long, characters like Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan were simply caricatures in films like Night at the Museum and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s time to give Attila centre stage in his own story.

While our script does not pretend to portray the real Attila, it creates enough context to help us understand him a little better. But more importantly, the film will be designed to maximize the appeal of the character and his time. In the way Lego Batman suggests that there is more to the superhero than what we see in that movie, we’ll hint that there’s more to the Hun.

May involves large mammals, crowds and stadiums.

Updates to the project will be available at: http://voteattila.com/

About Me

People who have worked on my films have gone on to acquire agents, get art commissions, and advance their careers in film and other industries.

I started out as an actor and poet, who was considering a career in hairdressing, among other things. Then, a friend of mine borrowed his father’s camcorder, and before I knew it I was asked to write screenplays.

In addition to screenplays, I’ve written poems, short stories, magazine articles, web copy, a novel, stage plays and screenplays, as well as speculative radio plays. I hope to add comic books to the list. Most of my writing is around history or is fiction.

I also do administrative work (including all the budgeting, transcribing, marketing and web design) and acting, and have had a hand at post production (including animation.)

I’ve acted in festival films and corporate films, post produced and crewed in corporate films, and done more on NGO and student films. More details of my experience may become available when I apply to work on your project.

A partial profile is here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/udigrudi/
bloggy company website:
http://ptara.com

What I Want

First choice would be for an executive producer or development executive to make this film happen. Or maybe an agent. Someone with access to funding, or who at least has the nerve to try to raise money.

Even if we can’t raise enough to make it into a film right away, maybe it could work as a comic (first).

I hope to add this film to the Vote Attila website: http://voteattila.com as perhaps a proof of concept. I’m also seeking money to make the website better. I’ve begun an Attila feature, and being commissioned to finish that would be fantastic.

We plan to move this project toward inclusion in schools, as an introduction to Classical history. Teachers, museums, and others can show this film as part of a lesson about barbarian invasions, the colosseum, the Roman senate, and other issues presented and alluded to in this film.

Do you think you could help me get: Commissions for other projects? A job as a staff writer for a cartoon series? Funding to do this professionally? If that sounds too difficult, then this project probably isn’t for you.

Even if you don’t have the money to get this film made, perhaps you can join our team, so I can mention you as a team member when I apply for funding. In that case, let me know what attracts you to this project, and what you feel you can add to it (and a link to your Viadeo, Linkedin, Xing or other professional profile.)

If you’re interested in helping Attila in another capacity, let me know.

Continue reading Vote Attila: Pitch

Are you an employee, freelancer or co-founder?

Okay, so there are also retired people, students, volunteers, homemakers and so on. However, when you’re considering recruiting, or trying to earn a living, there are three common kinds of contracts.

Most of the time, we assume that job adverts are looking for employees. When I was in my late teens, and I answered an ad that I thought looking for an employee, only to find out it was commission-only MLM.  I was a bit miffed.

Freelancer, commission only, subcontractor, all these differ from employee.   While a zero hour contract is technically an employee, sometimes you feel like a freelancer who accrues holiday pay.

However, sometimes job adverts aimed at subcontractors look similar to those aimed at employees, but I suppose it depends upon what is expected within the industry.

Employee

Now, as I’ve hinted, most of my job searches over the past 20 years or so have been for employee positions. That’s what I expect to find when I’m looking on a job board. Continue reading Are you an employee, freelancer or co-founder?

5 myths about film grads and film students

Film studies has gotten a lot of bad press recently. That might be because there are some second rate film schools, especially in Britain, where film is treated as a dumping ground for academics who’d rather be in the social sciences (and the social sciences are already a dumping ground.)

Well, just because film students don’t learn anything in a lecture on post-Soviet-mise-en-angst, which ends up being a rant about some political thing that has nothing to do with film whatsoever, that doesn’t mean the stereotypes of the actual students are true. Continue reading 5 myths about film grads and film students

How the masters dealt with disapproval

At first, i was going to call this “dealing with criticism.” Artists, writers, students, historians and jobseekers often get unsolicited feedback from friends, former colleagues and relatives, and it can seem like a lot to deal with.  When you write or create art for mass consumption, criticism can come from complete strangers.

But, criticism isn’t always disapproval, and criticism is not the only form of disapproval.

I think it’s easier to deal with if you know what it is.

I’ve decided to break down the most annoying forms of disapproval, to

  1. Condemnation
  2. Frustration
  3. Rating
  4. Advice
  5. Persuasion
  6. Pessimism
  7. Rivalry

Condemnation

We all have heard condemnation.  Usually, it’s reserved for killers and tyrants, or at least someone who has done something morally wrong, but some people seem to throw condemnation on people who use the wrong font, wear a wrinkled shirt, or who cross their arms instead of being akimbo.

When you condemn, you’re saying that their actions are not only inexcusable, but unredeemable.

People like Moliere dealt with condemnation by poking fun at those who condemn them.  Anyone, from critics and academics to clergy and nobility, even doctors and lawyers, were fair game.  If you condemned Moliere, you were asking to be parodied in his plays.

Of course, he did pay the price for his retaliation.  After his fell ill from his last play, neither doctor nor priest would see him until he was dead.  So, the playwright received neither medical treatment nor his “last rights.”

Frustration

Sometimes, people take their frustrations out on you.  Perhaps they wished they’d studied math while they were younger, and they think they see you slacking in your study of math.  Or, maybe it has nothing to do with your actions, maybe you’re just the closest person to them when they are feeling frustrated.

This is not as bad as condemnation, as you can get on the person’s good side again.  Here, if you can find out the source of the frustration, you might be able to help.

A lot of movies and books, from the old Ukrainian plays to Jazz Singer* to Billy Elliot, show familial disapproval for a career path.  Many artists play out this frustration, trying to understand the disapproval of others with their art, while others just dismiss it.

Rating

There are a brand of people, called critics, whose job it is to rate things.  In our day, not only artists are subject to these people, as freelance drivers and ebay sellers are subject to the same star system that filmmakers deal with.

How many stars was your delivery experience?  When I was selling books on eBay, sometimes, I found that if you rated another seller negatively, they’d buy from you just so they could get revenge.  They didn’t care if they deserved it and you didn’t, they just wanted to retaliate for ruining their ill deserved high rating.

Well, sometimes you might get a low rating when you don’t feel like you deserve it.  The English poet Byron was scathed by Scottish critics after his first book, and he replied with “English bards and Scottish critics”, in which he got revenge by criticising their criticisms.

Liberace had another way of dealing with his critics, by counting his blessings, or his money.  When they called his music kitch, he merely said “I’m crying all the way to the bank.”

Sometimes, however, you might just ask for more detailed feedback.  What was it about the work that you disapproved of?

Advice

Advice isn’t the same thing as criticism, but advice can seem like a form of disapproval.  If advice is given at the start of a venture, for instance during a university orientation or during employee training, it just seems standard, and not personal.  If, however, you get advice when you’re walking down the road, it’s easy to take the wrong way.

To understand advice, it’s good to understand the motive and the knowledge of the person giving it.  If the advice does not have a story attached, it might be best ignored.

When I worked in customer service, most of the warnings we were given were in the form of video re-enactments of poor customer service.  Some were imaginings, or exaggerations.  This advice was not pointed at anyone, but rather a warning that showed the consequences of sloppy action, as well as the rewards of good action.

Understand that some people will sometimes just give advice to make themselves feel important.

Persuasion

Sometimes, people aren’t trying to help you, to criticise you, or to get at you.  They want you to do something for them.

Most people know that persuasion works best if you play to a person’s strengths, but there are people who think that by showing disapproval, they can get you to do what they want.  They think that if they tear down your dreams, you’ll do menial work for them, that if they make you feel worthless, you’ll work for less money.

The main thing to understand is that these people who who dissatisfaction in order to get you to do what they want are idiots.  History has shown that people who feel like rubbish do rubbish work and are more likely to lash out at those who make them feel like rubbish.

Pessimism

Sometimes, however, they just don’t think you can do something.  People will tell you to give up your dreams because they don’t believe they are possible.

One such case is in the movie tooth fairy, where the main actor dissuades the kid from playing guitar because he has given up on his own dreams.

In the Disney film Chicken Little, the father says “Don’t get your hopes up too high.”  He seems to be more concerned with being embarrassed than with his son’s happiness.

Many pessimists have forgotten how much fun hope can be, how great it is to strive.  They don’t realize that when the journey is a challenge, that’s when getting there is half the fun (riding in an airplane through turbulence, or trapped in a the back of a windy bus, can be very boring, compared to tracking through the jungle, hitchhiking, or feeling the wind in your hair while riding on a dodgy motorcycle.)

The great stigma of failure is a disease in our society.  It’s only when you do something were failure is a possibility that you have any chance of achieving anything great.

Rivalry

Often, you’ll get a person telling you to give up because they see you as a threat.  In war, it’s often a technique to destroy the morale and confidence of the other side.

If you look at history, you’ll find plenty of classic writers who tried to knock down others.  Like boxers or “professional” wrestlers before a match, they’ll attack their opponent off the field before going on.  Mark Twain totally trashed the writer of Last of the Mohikans.

This kind of nasty rivalry is especially prevalent in entertainment.  As Joe Esterhaus said, quoting Guy McElwain, “in this business you don’t pray for your friends to fail, you pray for them to die.”

In addition to disapproval, many will give bad advice, in order to rid themselves of a rival.

Too many people seek feedback from their peers, but in a competitive industry, this might not be a good idea.  Instead, seek feedback from those who would actually pay you.  A writer’s best friends for feedback are those who have skin in the game, those who already paid a down payment on their work and who stand to gain more if the work is successful.  Your worst enemies are rival writers who stand to gain if you fail.

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.