Happy Fathers day, Glad Fars Dag

Happy Father’s Day!

I’ve never been to Sweden.  And no, I’m not half Swedish either.  So, why say Happy Father’s Day in Swedish? Well, we all have the same amount of days in a year, and we all have fathers, but the Swedish are allegedly the happiest people on earth. And, as our hobbies include history and geography, and as Napoleon was a father who spoke multiple languages (even though he wasn’t Swedish), I thought, why not say it in Swedish.

Sweden also has Waterloo. While Waterloo may be based in Belgium, and Napoleon might be a Frenchman from Corsica, and Waterloo might be a town in Canada and a tube stup in London, Abba, a Swedish band, sang about it.

They have Abba! Maybe that’s why the Swedes are so happy.  Or, are they?

If you ask people “are you happy?” who’s more likely to say yes, a free man, or a prisoner?  If you live under tyranny, you’re more likely to hide your unhappiness, for fear of retribution.  So, asking someone “are you happy” is nonsense.  It’s the worst possible way of gauging happiness.

Now, here’s some reasons I think Sweden is actually miserable.

1) Swedes are more likely to vote for extremist politicians than the average country.

2) Sweden has a higher suicide rate than the average country.

(Sweden’s suicide rate is higher than that of the United States.)  While some Buddhist and former Eastern bloc countries have higher suicide rates, Sweden has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed Western world.  (Belgium doesn’t really count because of the legal suicide.  Belgium has a phenomenon of suicide tourism, where people come from other countries to Belgium to die.)

3) Sweden has a high emigration rate.

That’s right, emigration, not immigration.  Sure, a lot of people from the developing world come to Sweden for opportunity, and we hear about the “immigration crisis”, but we don’t hear about all the people leaving.  Tens of thousands of Swedes leave every year, and you don’t normally leave your home country unless you’re unhappy in some way.  Considering the small size of Sweden’s population, the departure level is even more significant.

So, what’s all this mean?

Well, if you live in Sweden, you can continue to be happy that you have Abba.  If you don’t, you can be happy that you don’t live in Sweden!  Happy Father’s Day, Glad Fars Dag.

The BBC is worse than Trump

According to the Wiki people, “Studies show Latin American men understand masculinity to involve considerable childcare responsibilities, politeness, respect for women’s autonomy, and non-violent attitudes and behaviors.”

Masculinity with a latin accent, or machismo, is being used as a word to describe criminals by the BBC and others.  They are contending that traditional Spanish culture is very bad, making it violent and aggressive toward women.  It sounds like the things that Trump said about “Mexicans”, but at least Trump ended with “some of them are good people.”

Now, if a criminal gets away with something, that’s not the same as a bar full of smelly men being rude, and the rude men are not necessarily the same stereotypes as shown in The Three Amigos.  Machismo is not just a term to describe bad behaviour among men, it is a term to describe a certain view of masculinity.  And, that view is generally chivalrous, and not violent.  The macho is Zorro, not El Guapo.

It’s ironic how Killroy’s outburst got him fired, but similar attacks on hispanic culture seem not only tolerated, but published as official BBC “news.”  Sure, there was a news story in any injustice being done, but for an entire culture to be blamed for the acts of one judge and a few men, well, I thought that disappeared in the 1940s.  Trump’s tirade against Hispanics no longer seems shocking, now that the BBC has gotten into the act.

What your LinkedIn headline means to me

Montage of linkedin headlines that came up in search
mix of headlines and profile pictures

I like people who talk about themselves. It’s more interesting than politics, or academic philosophy. Let me know what you’re doing, what you’re struggling with, what your dreams are, and I can see whether we can help each other.

Now, increasingly, more and more LinkedIn titles are meaningless. They are philosophical sales pitches that tell me nothing other than ,”I waste too much time reading advice from life coaches.” Continue reading What your LinkedIn headline means to me

How do writers get paid?

There’s a common misconception that writers get paid per word.  But if you look carefully, only amateur writers, bloggers and diploma mills quote how much a writers should be paid “per word.”  But we’ll get back to that later.

“Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous.” – L Ron Hubbard, sci fi writer, 1948.

L Ron Hubbard supposedly bemoaned the low pay of science fiction writers in a conference in 1948, but he was quoted in an LA newspaper thirty years later.  So, even back in 1948, a penny a word was considered low pay for a writer.  Well, the average salary in 1948 was about 1/20 of what it is now.  So, perhaps today he would have said, “writing for 20 cents a word is ridiculous.”

Science fiction was one of the lowest paying genres in 1948, and it still is today.  But, L Ron Hubbard was misleading when he suggested that sci fi writers get paid per word.  They actually get paid by rights, and those rights are only occasionally priced per word.

By rights

I know what some of you are saying to the above, especially those who dream of writing sci-fi “this or that sci-fi magazine pays per word.”  Well, they don’t tend to commission per word, they buy a set of rights such as “first serial rights” or “first American/British serial rights.”  And then, they pay per word for those rights.

How is that different?  As a writer, you’re not writing what they ask you to write, they don’t give you a theme, and the stories aren’t time bound.  You write according to your own initiative, and therefore if the first magazine doesn’t want it, it’s still marketable elsewhere.  Even if the first magazines does pay for it, they only get the rights to publish it in one issue of their magazine. You can still get royalties for your work by publishing it in an anthology, or by selling secondary serial rights or rights in other countries.

By royalties

Okay, so you’ve sold the first American serial rights to your favourite sci fi (or should I say favorite, as it’s North American?)  Well, the story is still yours to put in an anthology, adapt into a play or a screenplay, or expand into a novel.  When you’re writing novels and anthologies, you often get paid royalties.  In physical books, where the publisher does the marketing, print and distribution, the author often gets 10 to 15 percent of the cover price or sales price.  So, the more people who buy your book, the more you get.

By advance

If you’re working on non-fiction, or are a well known author, or your story is so great that the publisher has confidence in it (and is afraid of losing you to the competition), then you’ll get an advance on these royalties.  In other words, you’ll get paid a certain amount up front, and get royalties in addition if the book sells better than expected.

This is a risk to the publisher, but the publisher is taking a risk printing and distributing your book anyway.  Advances used to be standard practice, it’s the amount of the advance that differs.

By commission

In screenplays, many works are commissioned.  That means the writer doesn’t write a word until hired.  The commission might be to write an outline, treatment and two drafts.  The writer is still working generally as a freelancer, and has sold many of the rights, depending upon the contract.  (If you’re adapting Wuthering Heights, good luck on negotiating the book rights.)

Even with commission, writers normally keep a few points in standard contracts.  However, when commissioned, the writer might not be the originator of the story, and in some cases may even lose copyright.

By time

Mean annual wage for writer or author (or average wage): $72,120.  Median annual wage (or wage for the average writer): $61,820  (Source, the US Bureau of labour and statistics.)

Instead of being commissioned to write a certain amount of stories, or selling the rights to certain territories, or getting royalties depending upon how popular your book is, many journalists are paid for their time.  They are employees.

These writers are the ones who churn out the most stuff, because they don’t have to spend time researching markets, only the storylines.  So, an in house journalist may write multiple stories per day.  However, the quality of these stories is generally lower, not only because they are churned out so quickly, but because they merely reiterate facts that are fed to them.

Writers who are paid by time may only write an occasional story, and spend most of their salaried time interviewing or researching (if they are working in a journalistic capacity), or even negotiating on behalf of the company (if, for instance, they are working for an ad company.)  Some writers have a weekly column that they work all week on.

Most salaried writers are paid an annual salary rather than an hourly one.  In fact, I never seen a proper writing job that pays for a unit of time as small as an hour, it’s always been by year or at least by month. I don’t think salaried actually clock in and out like I used to at directory enquiries, and when they are writing those big pieces, their hours probably increase closer to the deadline.


Why new technology should never be used to measure inflation

The UK government is cheating with inflation figures. For a while, camcorders were on the list of items in which prices were compared to overall inflation. Now, action cameras are.

Why do I call this cheating? New tech always starts off expensive and drops in price. The initial price is what funds development. Then, after ten or twenty years, the patents run out and the tech drops even more. Continue reading Why new technology should never be used to measure inflation

Is LinkedIn rubbish on purpose?

LinkedIN job post screenshot. See caption for description.
A job that has nothing to do with my skills (nor previous jobs nor education), in an industry I’ve never worked in. This is typical of what is recommended to me. Notice how at the bottom it says, “you have 1 of the top skills among applicants, find the 9 missing skills.”  The free upgrade is a trial of course, and it requires a credit card.

Ever since LI acquired Lynda.com, I’ve noticed that the job recommendations have gotten even worse. I’m told I have only one of the ten top skills for a job, or often none of the top skills, yet it is recommended to me anyway.  And no, these jobs do not match my previous job titles, and generally aren’t even in my industry. Continue reading Is LinkedIn rubbish on purpose?

How to run a successful film festival

With only two screens, Aberystwyth, may not seem like a logical home for a film festival, but in the 20 years since I’ve moved here, the town has hosted over 20 failed film festivals. And, I’m sure there have been many other failed festivals that I never heard about.

Over those twenty years, only three festivals have continued to this day, and only two of them are still in (or partially in) Aberystwyth.

Aberystwyth is not unique in being a home to failed film festivals.  In fact, film festivals are probably the riskiest part of the film business. At least with a film, you have a recorded document to show as a kind of proof of your hard work.

If you’re determined to run a festival anyway, make sure you do it right. Continue reading How to run a successful film festival

5 films shot in the director’s home

With recent scandals, we normally suspect a movie made in the director’s home. When the director is alone, it doesn’t matter whether the audition is in an office, an auditorium, or a hotel room, but hotel room usually seems suspect.

Let’s return to a more innocent time, when many directors didn’t have bad intentions, they just didn’t have large enough bank balances to rent a location.

1. The Brothers McMullen : Edward Burns (1995)

A few microbudget films really start the director’s career. You might say Brother’s McMullen was one of them, it shot Ed Burns through to the stratosphere as an actor.

Reportedly made for 40,000 in the director’s home, it was liked by Ebert, and one of the darlings of the microbudget scene in the 1990s.

Burns wrote, directed, acted in, and co-produced this film.  Others who share his surname were also involved.  Hey, when the budget is this low, you’ve got to save money somehow.

2. Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire (1999)

A similar budget to Brother’s McMullen, if not as famous.  Roger Ebert liked this film, even if you might not have heard of it.  He says that it received a standing ovation at the Toronto film festival, and gives it praise.  (He’s not normally a fan of films this low budget, or shot in the director’s home.)

The director co-wrote this film with the two stars, perhaps giving them credit for improvisation.

3. Going Shopping: Henry Jaglom (2005)

This film seems to have heavily influenced “He’s not That Into You”, with the interview style of non-characters and extras talking about shopping predating the other film’s interview style of non-characters speaking about relationships.  And, Going Shopping must have sold well on DVD, because it’s fairly easy to find second hand.

Okay, so this film doesn’t appear to be set in a house, when you have a mansion like this, you can make your shed look like a clothing store, and your garden look like a park.  But, watch the making of if you don’t believe me, this is all based on the director’s property.

The director co-wrote this film with the star.

4. Paranormal Activity: Oren Peli (2007)

One of the most famous microbudget films made by a nobody, this horror film inspires millennials to make their own movies.

The Oren Pei wrote, produced, directed, edited, and shot this film.   He’s uncredited with set design, because hey, I guess he decorates his own room.

5. Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon (2012)

The same year that Joss Whedon directed “Avengers Assemble”, he adapted Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. He said that the budget was so low, that it had to be shot in black and white.  This critically acclaimed, microbudget Shakespeare movie was shot in his house, and starred his friends and neighbours. Of course, he has a huge house, and has some pretty experienced friends and neighbours.

Should the director get a screenplay credit?  Well, he gets one, because he adapted Shakespeare’s original script for the screen.

Lesser known films

The films above seem to have been written by the director, or by the director and the stars, or the director wrote and starred in the film.  We don’t have as much information about these other films, but they seem to be similarly low-budget, with writer-directors.  Here are some lower profile films that seem to be shot in the director’s house.

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Is it in John Water’s apartment?   I’m not sure.   – weird movie though.  This guy went on to create Hairspray, but most of his films were for a cult (meaning small but loyal) audience.

Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996)

Not entirely shot in the director’s house, but partly there. A strange film from a Palestinian perspective.

Amateana (2012)

Short film, shot in the director’s house. The director’s names is Lud Mônaco

Four Twenty (2012)

The entire film was shot in the director’s house.  Or, so claims the IMDB page.  I’m not sure if you can see this film anywhere.

Rita Dove: An American Poet (2014)

Partially filmed at the director’s house. The readings at the end readings were recorded at the director’s house.

Dara Says (2014)

Most of this film was shot in the director’s and producer’s living room, in the course of a month.  A half day in the kitchen, and a couple of days in the dining room.  They played two of the film’s three characters and edited it along with the crew of two.  A stunt director arrived for a day and a half so the director could do his own stunts.

The entire house is probably smaller than one room of the other films, but oh well.  The budget of the crowdfunded feature film was tiny too, with the crew’s salaries paid for by a Jobs Growth Wales scheme.

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of this film, we might not have heard of it either if we didn’t create it ourselves.