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The Future Of Film

This is a talk that I gave at The Temple of Art and Music, Smithfield, on Thursday April 6th, 2023

I’m going to tell you about Dreambird, our revolutionary new online platform for film production. But first I’d like to give you a potted history of the film business to show you how we got here today.

Around the year 1900 films began to be made in Britain, France and the US. In the states, penny arcades or nickelodeons were stores where customers paid a penny or a nickel to look into a peep machine that showed them a short piece of moving pictures.

These store front sites later began to project 10 and 20 minute black and white silent shorts, and this became a thriving business.

1n 1912 a decisive moment came when Adolf Zukor, who co-owned a few of these store front cinemas, decided that the future of film lay in what he called features- 60-90 minute films -to be shown in theatres. Everyone thought this was foolish and wouldn’t work. To test his theory, Zukor bought the US rights to a long French film starring the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt and put it in a theatre on Broadway to fantastic results – it was a huge hit.

Now everyone jumped on the feature bandwagon, and Zukor set up Paramount Pictures, which became a studio to make films, had a distribution arm to send them around the world and theatres to show them in. This was the vertically organised structure that all the famous Hollywood studios copied- MGM, Universal, Warner Brothers, Columbia and Fox. These major companies dominated the industry and they staffed their companies with actors, writers directors and producers to make a slate of films to play every week in cinemas. Film became the 5th largest industry in the US.

The first World War destroyed European production so US made films dominated the world.

In 1927 sound was introduced and in 1939 colour made its debut. Except for a slight dip during the depression, the film industry in America was on an up ward curve.

Problems for the industry started 1n 1948 when the government forced the studios to divest themselves of their cinemas and in the 1950s Television began to take away their audience. The studios fought back with 3D, wide screen displays, epic productions and stereo sound but the end of the studio system was permanent.

Now independent companies, funded by the major distributors, who retained the sales rights, became more important.

Marshall McLuhan, a famous critic of media, made the point that it was the decline of the studio system and the advent of television, that created the art film. Television gave the audiences westerns, family drama and comedies, forcing the studios to make different productions. Gaining inspiration from European directors in the 1960s, American filmmakers like George Lucas and Francis Coppolla made better films in the last quarter of the 20th century.  

Studios also expanded into home viewing, with VHS and DVD, leading to Blockbuster stores, and a small DVD mail order service called Netflix.

The Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 closed down cinemas and production and gave Netflix the chance to grow. These two years were financially the worst in cinema history – production shut down and distributors had no cinemas to supply so they had no income. This has had a strong knock-on effect to independent producers.

Almost all the majors now followed the Netflix model and set up streaming services of their own, fighting against themselves and television for paying audiences.

Cinemas have not yet returned to their pre-pandemic level, so there is a funding gap in film production. This has made it very hard for independent producers to fund their films, and once funded it is even harder to distribute them. If producers place their films on a streaming service, how will audiences even know they exist without promotion and marketing. Making a 2nd film becomes nearly impossible.

This is the serious problem Dreambird set out to solve.

So now we are in an age of streaming. Here is my view of what this means:

Most producers are now seeking funding from the streamers, but their economic model does not give producers any profit share. Producers have become hired guns, collecting handsome production fees but no profits.

Streamers also use algorithms to calculate which films have done well on their platforms, and they then make more of the same. This leads in my view to very unoriginal and poorer quality films and series. If producers know that they will be paid no matter how good the quality there is little incentive to create better productions.

The streamers gatekeepers also have a woke agenda, where the definition of a good film is a good issue. In these circumstances, entertaining films are not the norm, and audiences who are generally not woke, feel badly served by the streamers, searching for up to 30 minutes to find something they want to watch, and often not feeling satisfied.  

Someone said that the streamers seem to have a death wish. Can they survive making films that the majority of the audience don’t want to watch? We believe that the current state of cinema is slowly crumbling away.

So Dreambird has re-imagined the film industry and is going to build a new eco-system. In our system, creators such as writers, directors and producers are put in touch with fans, fansumers and prosumers. Together, they can communicate, collaborate, fund, create, market and distribute films they all want to make and view. Dreambird will have its own streaming service, open to all producers without gatekeepers.

This is a combination of a social media site, a streaming platform and a marketplace all in one location. Engagement and interactivity will be easy. In fact, we intend to make the first completely interactive film ever made.

We believe that Dreambird can rejuvenate the independent film sector. There will be a virtual film studio on the platform and films made and streamed on the platform can be sold to cinemas, TV, and other streamers.

New entrants to the film industry, who find it so difficult to get skills and employment, will be able to join the platform and find collaborators and mentors. Investors will be able to join the platform to get an early look at projects that are gaining traction with audiences.

Smart contracts via blockchain will protect peoples investments and producers are able to keep a large share of the profits of their films, in some cases up to 85%.

Dreambird aims to create trust in the platform and will not sell data or allow targeted advertising. Instead we plan to build a unique community that will en gender a tsunami of creativity.  

Dreambird is the future of cinema.

April 11, 2023 at 8:05 am 2 comments

Every Day is April Fools Day Now

April Fools Day began in France in the middle of the 16th century when they changed from the Julian calendar – New Year’s Day April 1 – to the Gregorian calendar – New Year’s day January 1. Those who were ignorant of the change continued to celebrate New Year on April 1 and were laughed at and called fools .

But now we are all April Fools because Covid has changed everything but we are being urged to go back to ‘normal’, to life as it used to be without accepting that things are now so different that we can’t go back. People are being asked to adapt to a ‘new normal’ without really knowing what that is. To our governments the new normal looks just like the old normal because they can’t face the magnitude of the required changes.

One thing that Covid has laid bare is that our environment is so trashed that viruses can now leap from stressed animals to people. Covid is a wake-up call. The Earth is in revolt against us for having created a climate crisis which has thrown Gaia ( the Earth) out of balance. Hence wildfires, flooding , tornadoes, excess rain, excess drought, melting ice caps, rising sea levels. A real life disaster.

To avoid more pandemics and to heal the Earth are not only the same fight but also the most important fight of today. Are we really engaging in this struggle or are we, like April Fools, trying to live by the old rules when they no longer make sense.

To move forward we need leaders who understand that we need radical changes to how we live and work and who can give us a plan to make those changes. But we also need individuals who are willing to make serious life changes. Habit is a powerful inertia, holding us back from making lifestyle changes .

If we can’t find those leaders , if we fail to make these changes then we face a growing instability that will cost millions of lives and untold suffering . Gaia, the Earth, will eventually recover but we will pay a huge incalculable price if we are unable to adapt in time . End of sermon.

January 27, 2022 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

The Virus That Ate Christmas

This is Dreambird’s Christmas film – loathed by anti-vaccers

December 18, 2021 at 9:35 pm Leave a comment

Give a Man a Fish

Maimonides wrote,

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day,

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

This is a truth about  education and opportunity. Teaching is education, and without education you have no skills to find food for yourself. But opportunity, the freedom to use the skills you have acquired, may not be there. Unless jobs are available (not McJobs) then why bother getting an education. This is the situation in many parts of the country, and its that kind of deprivation that led many people to vote Brexit.

Will the government try to fix this? It’s doubtful they will really try, because to really try means to change utterly the way society operates at present.

How does society operate at present ? Ask our fishermen and women . Their rotting fish will tell you . And in 50 years there may not be any fish to catch . We are destroying wildlife in an unprecedented way and that destruction breeds conditions for more viruses to emerge.

Gaia, the earth, does not need us . It will recover its health if we are gone, like removing a cancer from the body. But we don’t have to go, we don’t have to disappear ( like the Neanderthals) if we decide to change . Because it does seem that the choice is self-destruct or survive. But to survive we have to change . And now, after a pandemic which has already changed many settled customs, is the right time to make these changes , to follow through on creating a kind of life that will sustain the planet and all the creatures on it , including us.

As Auden prophetically wrote “We must love one another, or die.”

August 30, 2021 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

Advice for another lockdown

July 28, 2021 at 9:17 am Leave a comment

The Virus That Ate Christmas

I’m very pleased to announce our Christmas music video. The Virus that Ate Christmas is the story of Cyrus the Virus (dancer and choreographer Brendon Hansford in a great mask and costume ) versus Santa (played by Richard Evans-Thomas) for the soul of Christmas, The music for the video is Silent Night composed by Ben Fingerhut and sung by Steph Callard. The director is my partner in Dreambird Studios Nathan Neuman.

We managed to shoot the video in the middle of December after we finished the main shoot of #valentinesday, our forthcoming feature film. We had to rush the post to get it out before Christmas which we just about managed.

I’m very happy with the final result, which I hope will bring some laughs (and perhaps a tear or two) to people who are living through the saddest Christmas in living memory. It’s almost a public service video in that Santa is clearly not an anti-vaxxer. See what you think.

December 26, 2020 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

History Explains Why The UK Was Not Prepared for Covid-19

Mark Forstater's Blog

In the last 100 years, Britain has faced 3 existential crises. The first was 1914 at the start of the 1st world war, the second 1939 at the beginning of the 2nd and the latest one – Brexit/ Covid-19 is not even a war at all (but has the potential to turn into one- a civil war). Each of these crises shows a persistent pattern to British decision making, and it’s worth remembering what they are.

In 1914 when the 1st WW started, Britain had only 4 months’ supply of acetone. Acetone is needed to make cordite, which is a missile propellant, and without a supply the war would have been over in 6 months. None could be bought because the Germans had monopolised the supply. The government turned to a chemistry lecturer in Manchester named Dr Chaim Weizmann who had synthesized acetone from grain in 1912 and asked him…

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April 29, 2020 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary Pt 6 (from my journals 2007)

Mark Forstater's Blog

February 11, 2007

I read an article by Melanie McFadyean about her grandfather, Herbert Guttman from Berlin, whose father started the Dresdner Bank. Guttman went from an 80 room villa in Berlin to homelessness in London in 1939, but his attitude was “Money lost, nothing lost. Sense of humour lost, everything lost“. This is the right attitude to have in your current situation, where you are starting to worry about how you can fund everything. But this will all work out. Have faith.

February 24

I hope my energy improves soon. It’s now almost two weeks since I got ill and I hate the feeling of low energy, low enthusiasm and tiredness. It’s no good for work or life.

February 25

When you get ill, you realise how dying will feel, and you sense how old you are. What if you never recovered from this tiredness? Illness leads…

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April 5, 2020 at 11:57 am Leave a comment

Monty Python’s Dark Side

On Friday I’m going to the BFI Southbank to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I produced in 1974. I had to buy my own tickets because the BFI never bothered to inform me of the screening. I assume the reason they have left me in the cold is that the Pythons asked them not to invite me. This is quite a long story, but the short version is that after Spamalot came out, the Pythons decided that the royalties they had been paying me for 30 years was wrong and they slashed my royalties by 50%. I tried to negotiate and mediate my way out of this white collar theft but they were adamant that I had been cheating them for 30 years. After 7 years of haggling and getting nowhere I had no alternative but to take them to court, and I won the case, but at a terrible cost to my health and finances. The trial cost the Pythons £ 1.3m and they put on their 02 reunion to recoup that loss. Ever since then, they have done their best to erase me from their history. If you want to read more about the dark side of Python read my book The 7th Python which tells the sorry tale ( The worst part of the experience for me was the fact that neither Terry Gilliam, a fellow film student when we shared a flat in NYC or National Treasure Michael Palin were willing to say to Eric Idle – let’s not do this. Why do I single out Eric? He revealed his hatred of me at the trial and called me ungrateful for trying to defend myself. Eric once put on a one man show called The Greedy Bastard Tour – this really says it all. In the book I include parts of Eric and Michael’s cross examination which is revealing of another side to them. I’m going to the screening because I’d like to view the film on a big screen again and to see Neil Innes, who is a friend. What bothers me the most is how petty this is of the Pythons, and how the BFI, our guardians of film culture, went along with this insult. After the trial I received this anonymous poem:

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

September 17, 2019 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

A New You Resolution from Cleo

My daughter Cleo posted two messages this week that I thought were very good. One was a kind of New Year resolution, or maybe it should be called a New You resolution because it’s about Cleo’s new feeling of the joy of being, and the potential of what life can become. It’s a mission statement for herself, a prayer for the love that she has for herself and for the world.

The second is a Christmas message, much more poetic and touching than the Queen’s. You could say this the Goddess’ Christmas message. It is touching and beautiful. It is based on a Christian view, but if goes beyond that as it overflows with love for life, and enters you with the truth of her feeling.


December 30, 2017 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

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The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.