Note from Roger – The Handmaiden

Before getting to Mr. Durling’s note, I saw this film yesterday. It’s an extraordinary effort from the South Korean Director Park Chan-Wook. Already an admirer of his now seemingly classic works of Old Boy (2003), and Lady Vengence  (2005), I experienced an entirely new level of his artistic craft with The Handmaiden. Mesmerizing and undaunting with a raw, creative, narrative flair, Mr. Park delivers an explosive human drama – thrilling and compelling. Park’s best work to date. (See below review by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

“Far too good to be watched in one sitting,” exclaims the Philadelphia Inquirer about THE HANDMAIDEN, and I couldn’t agree more.  Gorgeous, classical, and erotic, I don’t think you’ll see a more delicious film this year.  If you love cinema AT ALL, you have to see THE HANDMAIDEN.  It’s the visual equivalent of drinking champagne!

Below find the New York Times Review. It plays tonight (Tuesday) at 5:00pm, tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30pm, and next Sunday through Wednesday at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Click here for tickets.


‘The Handmaiden’ Explores Confinement in Rich, Erotic Textures
By Manohla Dargis – The New York Times

The art of the tease is rarely as refined as in “The Handmaiden.” Set in Korea in the 1930s, this amusingly slippery entertainment is an erotic fantasy about an heiress, her sadistic uncle, her devoted maid and the rake who’s trying to pull off a devilishly elaborate con. The same could be said of the director Park Chan-wook, whose attention to voluptuous detail — to opulent brocades and silky robes, luscious peaches and creamy shoulders — turns each scene into an invitation to ooh, aah and mmm. This is a movie that tries to ravish your senses so thoroughly you may not notice its sleights of hand.

It’s not for nothing that one of its heroines, Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), is a pickpocket, though that’s getting ahead of her story. It opens with Sookee weepily saying goodbye to some adults and wailing children, their gushing matched by the torrential rain. She’s off to work for Lady Hideko (a sensational Kim Min-hee), a pale beauty who lives with her tyrannical uncle, Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), a collector and purveyor of art and rare erotic books whose darting tongue has turned black from his ink pen. The realms of his bibliophilic senses are suggested when a client asks if one of his books is by the Marquis de Sade. “It’s Sade-esque,” the uncle says, all but winking at the audience.

The kinks grow more outré and twisted, the winks dirtier and broader. The uncle has raised Hideko from childhood, away from the world, intending to wed her for her fortune. He’s also turned her into a puppet, having trained her to read erotic fiction aloud for the delectation of his potential customers. Fate in the form of the con man (Ha Jung-woo) intervenes. Disguised as a count, he insinuates himself into the uncle’s home and seemingly into the niece’s affection, enlisting Sookee in the ruse as Hideko’s new maid. The count plans to marry Hideko and then ditch her, a plan that seems doomed when Sookee and Hideko’s lady-maid intimacy steams and then boils over.

The inspiration for all this intrigue is Sarah Waters’s ambitious 2002 novel, “Fingersmith,” a lesbian romance set in Victorian Britain in which she slyly has her way with established literary themes like avaricious male guardians and cloistered female wards. In adapting the movie, Mr. Park, who wrote the script with Chung Seo-kyung, has moved the story to Korea during the Japanese occupation. This setting initially seems more thread than cloth, conveyed in the smatterings of soldiers who pass through the story and in the mixing of languages, although it also factors into the villainy of the uncle, a Korean who’s embraced a Japanese identity, asserting, “Korea is ugly and Japan is beautiful.”

Mr. Park is a genre virtuoso, known for thrillers like “Oldboy,” whose filmmaking is notable for its visual order and extreme violence, a combination that creates a seductive, at times unsettling aesthetic of immaculate frenzy. The violence in “The Handmaiden” tends to be more restrained than in some of his other work, more psychological and rather less blunt and bloody. A notable exception is some sadomasochistic whip-work that’s far more vigorous than is found in, oh, say, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” There’s also a characteristic Grand Guignol flourish toward the end that’s outrageous enough that you may find yourself at once laughing and gasping, only to hastily avert your eyes.

It’s one of the rare times you want to look away in “The Handmaiden,” which Mr. Park has turned into an emporium of visual delights. Part of Sookee’s journey is one from perdition into opulence, from a lowly thieves’ den into the sumptuousness of the mansion. Yet appearances remain deceiving, which is one of this story’s themes. Everything inside the manor and out has been calculated to enchant, from the grounds with their carpets of green and bursts of flowering trees to the interiors with their wood paneling and floral wallpaper. Nothing is more perfect than Hideko’s petal mouth with its lusciously carnal red lipstick.

Yet beauty can be a curse; a prison, too. Hideko’s uncle has forbidden her to leave the grounds, turning her into a bird in a gilded cage. Under his steady gaze and severe hand, with the ever-present threat of violence (there are rightfully ominous allusions to a basement), she has been raised amid material plenty with luxuriously appointed rooms as well as drawers and shelves stuffed with elegant feminine frippery — gloves, hats, gowns. Mr. Park loves displaying all these goods, much like a proud merchant (or Gatsby), even as moment by moment he pushes the narrative into ugliness, scratching off the gilt to reveal a grim drama in which Hideko plays both the leading lady and slave.

Mr. Park’s attention to this world’s sumptuous surfaces at first can seem at odds with the underlying evil, as if — like the uncle — he were putting his aesthetic sensibility above all else. Mr. Park just seems to be enjoying himself too much, as the camera glides over satiny robes and bodies or pauses on an exquisite tableau. In one such display, as another of the uncle’s confined women narrates a tale, two shoji screens behind her part, an opening that mirrors the sexual conquest she’s relating. Yet Mr. Park also slips in little jokes, comic line readings and clownish faces that ease the tension, lighten the mood and suggest there’s freedom in laughing into the void.

The void is by turns enslaving and emancipating in “The Handmaiden,” which plays with familiar form as a way to deliver unexpected meaning. A rebus, a romance, a gothic thriller and a woozy comedy, “The Handmaiden” is finally and most significantly a liberation story. Mr. Park may not seem to be doing all that much with the big ideas simmering here, including how the relentless pursuit of aesthetic perfection — especially when it comes to inherently imperfect human beings — can serve as a means of terror. But the ideas are here, tucked into a different kind of erotic story, one that alternately jolts and delights as Sookee and Hideko laugh their way to a new ending.


Mark Wahlberg and Partriots Day Wrap Up 2016 AFI FEST

Closing down this year’s American Film Institutes Film Festival (AFI FEST) presented by Audi on Thursday, November 17th, it’s not so difficult to imagine what might have been had it not been for extraordinary efforts of first-responders, law enforcement and investigators alike in Boston, Mass. Patriots Day, the closing night film, brought to the big screen the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings from several different angles and drew an at-capacity crowd at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Patriots Day star actor Mark Wahlberg, left, along with the film’s director, Peter Berg, right, posing on the red carpet at the TCL Chinese Theatre before the screening of Patriots Day as the AFI FEST 2016’s Closing Night film. (Photo credit: The Hollywood Reporter)

Afterwards, Director Peter Berg and star actor Mark Wahlberg called several of the film’s real life heroes down on stage for a rousing standing ovation. They included one of the civilian victims of the bombings, Patrick  Downes;  Dun Meng, the young Chinese man who escaped his captors and alerted police to the whereabouts of the bombers; Boston Police Department Commissioner Ed Davis (played in the film by John Goodman); FBI Special Agent In Charge Richard DesLauriers (played by Kevin Bacon); and Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Puglisese (played by J.K. Simmons).

The night before lead actress Annette Bening sat with director Lisa Cholodenko on the TCL Chinese Theater for a warm and heartfelt conversation before the screening of Writer/Director Mike Mills’ dramedy, 20th Century Women, a story of three women and a make-shift extended family in Santa Barbara during the late 1970’s.

I can honestly say I didn’t see a bad film at AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi.

Oulaya Amamra as Dounia (pictured above) in Houda Benyamina’s Divines picked up this year’s New Auteurs Special Jury Mention for Acting. (Photo via

Divines , from Houda Benyamina, carted off several winner awards, including the Breakthrough Audience Award, New Auteurs Audience Award, and New Auteurs Special Jury Mention for Acting, Oulaya Amamra. Other favorite films reviewed by HollywoodGlee included Fraud, Jackie, Mifune: The Last Samurai, and Citizen Kane.

Interestingly, this year’s festival opened wide the gates for virtual reality (VR) filmmaking. In addition to several presentations and an extended display of short films complete with VR technology, Anthony Blatt, Co-Founder of Wevr, kicked off the State of the Art Technology Showcase Presented by Google Spotlight Stories as the Keynote Speaker with his enthusiastic remarks on the world of virtual reality in present time.

All in all, this 30th edition of the AFI Film Festival – Hollywood program included a whopping 118 films (79 features, 39 shorts) representing 46 countries, including 33 films directed/co-directed by women, 11 documentaries and 12 animated short films.

Until next year, I’ll see you at the movies!

AFI Pic 3
(Photo courtesy of Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Michelle Yeoh graces red carpet event at opening of Singapore International Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Genevieve Sarah Loh

SINGAPORE: Malaysian superstar Michelle Yeoh was one of the biggest names gracing the red carpet at the opening of this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) on Wednesday (Nov 23). The event flags off the 27th edition of Southeast Asia’s longest-running international film platform.

The recipient of SGIFF’s first-ever Cinema Legend Award last year, Yeoh is the guest-of-honour and will be joined by the likes of homegrown filmmakers Royston Tan and Eric Khoo, as well as local celebrities Felicia Chin, Ian Fang, Suhaimi Yusof, Lim Yu-Beng and Adele Wong.

While Yeoh has reportedly joined the cast of the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, she kept mum about details when asked on Wednesday night. “We all grew up (in) the Star Trek generation, so of course I am a big fan,” she said.

Local celebrities Felicia Chin and Ian Fang at the opening of the Singapore International Film Festival. (Photo: Shawn Lim)

Homegrown filmmaker Royston Tan at the opening of this year’s Singapore International Film Festival. (Photo: Shawn Lim)

The region’s film glitterati have also descended on Singapore shores for SGIFF. Indonesian star Nicolas Saputra will be gracing the carpet alongside his Malaysian director Dain Iskandar Said and castmates Nandita Solomon, Iedil Putra, Prisia Nasution, Nadiya Nisaa, Alvin Wong and Chew Kin-wah. Their film Interchange, a fantasy noir supernatural thriller, is the opening film of this year’s SGIFF.

SGIFF 2015 Best Singapore Short Film recipient Gladys Ng. (Photo: Shawn Lim)

Vietnamese-born French filmmaker Tran Anh Hung will also be on the carpet. Renowned for breaking through with his first film The Scent of Green Papaya, his second film Cyclo won him the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1995, making him one of the youngest filmmakers to be honoured at the festival at the age of 33.

Several international stars will also be gracing various SGIFF red carpets this year, including Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky and Hollywood star James Marsden who are walking the red carpet on Saturday for the SGIFF benefit dinner.


SBIFF Announces 2017 Maltin Modern Master Award

Denzel Washington is set to receive the Maltin Modern Master Award at the 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Washington will be honored for his longstanding contributions to the film industry culminating with Paramount’s upcoming Fences, a story adapted from August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. Washington directs, produces and stars in the saga about a 1950s Pittsburgh sanitation worker and former Negro League baseball player, Troy Maxson (Washington), as he deals with racism while struggling to provide for his family.

Fences hits theatres on Christmas Day.


Leonard Maltin, for whom the award was recently renamed after, will return for his 26th year to moderate the evening. The award will be presented on Thursday, February 2, 2017 at Santa Barbara’s historic Arlington Theatre.

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling stated, “Denzel Washington directing, producing and acting in Fences defines the Modern Master for the 21st Century.”

Click here for more information on attending the event.

The Modern Master Award was established in 1995 and is the highest accolade presented by SBIFF. Created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry, it was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of long-time SBIFF moderator and renowned film critic Leonard Maltin. Past recipients include Michael Keaton, Bruce Dern, Ben Affleck, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, George Clooney and Peter Jackson.



Nicole Kidman to Receive the Palm Springs International Star Award

Palm Springs, CA (November 28, 2016) – The 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Academy Award® winning actress Nicole Kidman with Nicole Kidmanthe International Star Award for her performance in Lion at its annual Film Awards Gala.  The Film Awards Gala, hosted by Mary Hart, will be held Monday, January 2 at the PalmSprings Convention Center. The Festival runs January 2-16.

“One of the world’s most luminous and versatile actresses, Nicole Kidman has filled so many unforgettable roles including her performances in The Hours, Moulin Rouge!, Cold Mountain, Rabbit Hole and dozens more,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “In her latest film, Lion, she gives yet another award-worthy performance as Sue Brierley, an Australian woman who adopts two young boys from India. The Palm Springs International Film Festival is honored to present the International Star Award to Nicole Kidman.”

Kidman received the Festival’s Chairman’s Award in 2005. Past International Star Award honorees include BAFTA and Academy Award winning actors Javier Bardem, Helen Mirren and BAFTA and Academy Award nominated actress Saoirse Ronan.

In The Weinstein Company film, Lion, five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets lost on a train traveling away from his home and family. Frightened and bewildered, he ends up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata. Somehow he survives living on the streets, screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-4-07-50-pmescaping all sorts of terrors and close calls in the process, before ending up in an orphanage that is itself not exactly a safe haven. Eventually Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), and finds love and security as he grows up in Hobart. As an adult, not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents’ feelings, Saroo (Dev Patel) suppresses his past, his emotional need for reunification and his hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his buried yearning. Armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, Saroo sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home. Based on the true story, A Long Way Home, Lion is directed by Garth Davis and written by Luke Davies with performances from Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, and Sunny Pawar.

Nicole Kidman is an internationally-recognized, award-winning actress and producer known for her range and versatility. Her extensive film work includes To Die For (Golden Globe for Best Actress), Moulin Rouge! (Academy Award® nomination, Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical), The Others (Golden Globe nomination, Saturn Award), The Hours (Academy Award®, BAFTA, Golden Globe for Best Actress and Berlin Silver Bear), Rabbit Hole (Golden Globe for Best Actress, Academy Award® nomination) and The Paperboy (Golden Globe nomination, SAG Award nomination).

Previously announced honorees attending the 2017 Film Awards Gala are Casey Affleck, Tom Hanks, Ruth Negga, the cast of La La Land, including Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, and director Damien Chazelle.


About The Palm Springs International Film Festival
The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, welcoming 135,000 attendees last year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The Festival is also known for its annual Film Awards Gala, an upscale black-tie event attended by 2,500, honoring the best achievements of the film year by a celebrated list of talents who, in recent years, have included Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Julianne Moore, Brad Pitt, Eddie Redmayne, Julia Roberts, David O. Russell, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon.



For more information, call 760-322-2930 or 800-898-7256 or visit

Steven Wilson / Lauren Peteroy
B|W|R Public Relations
212-901-3920 /

David Lee
Palm Springs International Film Society


AFI FEST 2016 State of the Art Technology Showcase

AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi has jumped on the virtual reality (VR) bandwagon in a big way on Saturday, November 12th, with its State of the Art Technology Showcase Presented by Google Spotlight Stories. Keynote Speaker, Anthony Blatt, Co-Founder of Wevr, kicked off the Showcase at 11:00 A.M inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s AFI FEST Cinema Lounge.

Blatt spoke extensively on where VR is today as behemoths Google and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars in an uncertain VR future. Nevertheless, VR filmmaking is presently bringing together filmmakers as they explore emerging VR technologies including 360 degree VR. It is Blatt’s hope these new technologies will continue to bring together filmmakers, introduce them to what is possible and that they will collaborate to present stories in years to come.

Some Hollywood directors have been outspoken and semi-critical of the new VR

Hollywood Director Steven Spielberg at 2016 Cannes Film Festival (Photo: The Guardian)

filmmaking that attempts to arrange circumstances with bits of code that give the viewer agency. This differs from traditional filmmaking where one view is presented by the director. At the 2106 Cannes Film Festival, veteran Hollywood Director Steven Spielberg was quoted saying, “I think we’re moving into a dangerous medium with virtual reality,” he said. “The only reason I say it is dangerous is because it gives the viewer a lot of latitude not to take direction from the storytellers but make their own choices of where to look. ” (The Guardian)

While Spielberg may have a point, most legitimate VR filmmakers have techniques to gently guide the viewer in a linear or specifically designed narrative through either sound, color schematic or lighting. One intriguing aspect of VR viewing is its capacity to immerse a viewer in the presentation. Once a headset or goggle are in place, peripheral vision that occurs in a theatrical experience is removed. Blatt stipulates this will create a more “real” experience and, in addition, will stimulate lucid dreaming about the experience.

To illustrate and to help substantiate his claims on the VR experience, Blatt related a story of Jon Favreau‘s first VR viewing experience. Favreau was so overwhelmed after donning the VR goggles that upon their removal he stated he had to make a story and began sketching right away.

VR stories are similar to traditional film stories as both initially start in the writing process in script format, proceed to story-boarding and then to analysis. However, as noted earlier, the VR viewer has some agency. So, the VR experience is still a narrative story. However, VR also adds additional aspects of gamesmanship and puzzles. Another aspect under development in VR is the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI). The introduction of AI turns a viewing experience into an interactive experience potentially. Here again, is where production design aids the filmmaker in gently leading the viewer towards the pre-defined narrative. Blatt refers to the process as story to puzzle, puzzle to story. And, he strongly asserted that the focus for VR filmmaking needs to be on the story versus the technology or the medium.

In addition to storytelling and production design, Blatt discussed issues in editing VR and some of the challenges filmmakers are facing. He also mentioned the various uses of photogrammetry in storytelling. Ultimately, Mr. Blatt believes VR is a better experience. When asked why a viewer would want to choose VR rather than the traditional theatrical experience in the brief Q & A following the presentation, Blatt cited curiosity. Blatt culminated his remarks saying VR has the power to transform and change lives with its immersive storytelling techniques much like his 1977 Saturday afternoon matinee viewing of George Lucas’s first installment of the Star Wars saga.

VR Viewing Room at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Recently, I attended a 40-minute segment viewing of what is being marketed as the first feature-length VR film with human actors, Jesus VR, set for release on Christmas Day. The portion I viewed contained a scene where a parable was used to illustrate a teaching point. To me, I believe the application of VR for storytelling and teaching is astounding. The issue seems to be how to get there. Currently, the technology costs associated with VR filmmaking are prohibitively high.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, VR is here to stay. So lace up your boots and hop on. You’ll be glad you did. It’s going to be quite a ride!

‘Unlike anything I’ve ever seen’: Filmmakers create documentary of a documentary

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Jon Hernandez, CBB News

A new film explores the trials, hardships and endless problem solving required in documentary filmmaking — by putting the entire process itself under the lens.

Academy Award-winning Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker John Zaritsky is in front of the camera for the first time in John Zaritsky on TV, a film that follows him as he takes on his latest project, chronicling survivors of the controversial pharmaceutical thalidomide.

The film, co-directed and co-produced by Michael Savoie and Jennifer diCresce, candidly follows Vancouver’s Zaritsky as he embarks on what he believes is his tour de force. It is an official selection for the 2016 Whistler Film Festival.

“I was uncertain about it,” Savoie told host Sheryl MacKay on CBC’s North by Northwest. “But the film is unlike anything I’ve ever seen about the filmmaking process. It’s not the kind of film that gets tacked onto the end of a DVD … this is really getting into the head of a fellow on the top of his game.”

The Thalidomide Saga

The film follows Zaritsky as he shoots No Limits: The Thalidomide Saga — a documentary that explores the after-effects of the controversial drug.

Thalidomide was first synthesized in the former West Germany and marketed worldwide as a “wonder drug” that provided “safe and sound sleep,” according to the Association of Canadian Victims of Thalidomide.

However, when the drug was taken during pregnancy, it led to serious birth defects and many infant deaths. The drug was available in Canada for three years before being pulled off the shelves in 1962.

Zaritsky and survivor

John Zaritsky talks to a subject and thalidomide survivor, explaining that he is also the subject of a documentary. (Michael Savoie and Jennifer diCresce/John Zaritsky on TV)

Zaritsky decided to catch up with some of the survivors to showcase how the after-effects of the drug linger, and that it is allegedly being re-branded in Germany. The timing of the project aligned with Savoie’s desire to create a documentary that turned the genre on its head by shining a light on the filmmaking process.

“It seemed to me to be the perfect time to do this,” he said. “But what we didn’t expect was that eight weeks before [production], John wanted me to shoot his film.”

A character in his own film

Savoie, who had worked with Zaritsky in the past as well, accepted the role of cameraman, and in so doing, ended up becoming the subject of his own film. He says at first, being one of the characters was strange — until the harsh reality of documentary filmmaking set it in.

“We just got so tired. Over the course of 25 days we traveled 25,000 kilometers. And eventually, you’re just surviving out there. You’re eating when you can, sleeping when you can, so the crew that was [filming us] really disappeared.”

Michael Savoie

Michael Savoie is both filmmaker and subject as he tiredly looks at his watch after little sleep and many days of shooting for John Zaritsky’s No Limits: The Thalidomide Saga. (Michael Savoie and Jennifer diCresce/John Zaritsky on TV)

“It’s such a difficult way to live your life. Making a documentary is hard. And the whole process of raising funds and bank accounts and tax credits is a really hard thing to do with your life. And when you finally do get to do the fun part and start filming it, you don’t want to make any mistakes.”

And he says once a filmmaker is out on the field, things always fall apart.

For example, at one point, one of Zaritsky’s essential characters drops out of the film. The camera catches the moment as it happens, lingering on the filmmaker as he takes it in and begins to work around it.

Character falls out

Savoie (left) tells Zaritsky (right) a key character has dropped out of the film while they’re in the middle of a shoot.

“A major building block of his film just disappeared, and he had to think fast and get back on his feet … that’s one of my favorite sequences of the film. That’s real cinéma vérité.”

The film premiers at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 1.


Film Capsule: FRAUD (Fleischer-Camp, 2016): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed during AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi.

Fraud, the new fifty-two minute documentary from director, editor New York Times’ children’s book author, Dean Fleischer-Camp, tells the story of one American family’s economic struggles. Culled from over a hundred hours of uninhibited, raw footage, Fleischer-Camp pieces together an obsessed man’s YouTube home movies shot during a period from 2008 to 2015 – an intimate, yet disturbing, portrait emerges as the worlds of reality and fiction are merged by Fleischer-Camp to create an apocalyptic, futuristic narrative. Highly Recommended.

What Filmmakers Need To Know About Marketing In Digital Space

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Charmalne Lim

The 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) kicked off on 23rd November and we delve into the exploration of digital space.

Watching TV used to be a communal activity with the family, and movie theatres were exciting places to hang out with friends as we stuff our faces with popcorn, but now, technology gives us a push and we fall backwards into a couch at home, streaming movies and dramas online with a subscription fee of about $12 a month.

We find out from three SGIFF forum speakers, Missy Laney, Lionel Chok, and Scott Kaplan, via email interviews, on whether Virtual Reality can be a game changer, and how the Internet is a boon and a bane for filmmakers.

Choose The Right Platform, Not Any Platform

The challenge of the new-age behavioral phenomenon is not only finding the platforms to host your show, but also adopting various marketing strategies to promote it.

It boils down to the basics of marketing: Knowing what you really want to achieve.

Scott Kaplan, SVP in Global Sales at Gunpowder & Sky Distribution, points out that film distribution in digital space is a reaction to macro-shifts in human behavior.

“People want to watch WHAT they want to watch, WHERE they feel like it, and WHEN they feel like it.” – Scott Kaplan


Kaplan outlines the rigmarole of choosing a distributing platform, “Viewership?  Revenue? Awards-recognition?  It comes to knowing how the platforms respond to creatively, what they will pay, what territories, rights and terms they need, [and if] they need exclusivity etc.”


The Right Audience, Not A Large Audience

“Social media is a tool, not a solution. It can be used to elevate a film or degrade a film. It allows us to measure our audience, dissect our audience demographically, and ultimately communicate with our audience.” – Missy Laney

It’s easy to mistake online marketing as mindless updates, which can dilute your film’s branding.

Missy Laney, Film Strategist and Director of Creative Initiatives at BitTorrent, believes it has been easier than ever to reach your audience, but keeping their attention is tough.

She drops a strategic tip like a giant hotcake:

“To stand out on social media, you have to have a strategy customised for each platform.  Your Twitter strategy should not be the same as your Facebook strategy. Study how your audience engages, learn their language, and build a timeline of when and how you plan to cultivate and activate your fan base.”

Laney raises an issue with most strategies, “The biggest missed opportunity is slowing down once their film has been released.  Once the final release rolls around, they are either too burnt out or funds are too tight to further engage an agency. Make a post release strategy and stick to it for one or two months following the release. The release is just the beginning.”

Money As The Cause Of Frustration & Motivation

A monthly subscription doesn’t really justify the money pumped into physical production. Film creators are losing money and are desperately trying to work the digital space towards their advantage.

Kaplan says, “The decline in box office for independent films and the collapse of the DVD market can’t be replaced by a monthly Netflix subscription. But there is a ton of new money being injected into the film-ecosphere as new platforms launch, and filmmakers are getting smarter and better at making great films for less money.”

Additionally, fans can also interact with films now as funders and backers using crowd funding so that’s another big shift in the relationship we have with movies now,” says Missy Laney.

“I believe the success of each film is measured by one question, ‘Did it find an audience?’”

Virtual Reality As Our New Reality?


The entire scope of cinematography is now changed. We have to change the environment to suit the 360 capture and delivered through a headset. So you cannot just capture it and then watch it on YouTube after.” – Lionel Chok

Lionel Chok is a Singapore filmmaker, director, and many other titles under his belt. From how he sees it, Lionel thinks the digital trend and VR technology are two great things amalgamated.

“This is something very powerful. We are currently developing apps for VR content to be published in an online store. As the cost of app development has reduced, this is definitely going to impact filmmakers, as the Play Store or the iOS store will now become a method of distribution. The platforms are also evolving and content can be priced across different stores for all demographics,” says Lionel.

While the local movie scene in Singapore is still quite dry, VR is a new direction for aspiring local filmmakers. Having a passion in Augmented and Virtual Reality, Lionel is excited about its future.

He says, “The cameras are becoming more affordable with prices matching up to $2000 ~ $4000. In time to come, I see more VR stories that are going to be curated and delivered via apps, headsets and who knows, maybe even communal VR spaces in open spaces.”

Future of Cinema Forum – Independent Film: Navigating the Digital Space, as part of the Singapore International Film Festival, will be held on 26 November 2016, 1pm at *SCAPE.

More information can be found at

Feature Image Credit:



Warner Bros. Entertainment to Acquire Machinima

Warner Bros. has signed an agreement to acquire Machinima, the global programming service focused on fandom and gamer culture, and it will become part of the recently founded Warner Bros. Digital Networks. The announcement was made today by Craig Hunegs, President, Business and Strategy, Warner Bros. Television Group and President, Warner Bros. Digital Networks.


“Machinima is a strong gamer and fandom content and social brand with enormous reach and high engagement with audiences that play our games and are big fans of DC films and television shows,” said Hunegs. “Machinima also produces great, high quality content for their community, and together we can create an even more compelling experience and do some really exciting things involving our key franchises. This acquisition is another meaningful move forward as Warner Bros. develops more direct relationships with our consumers.”

“Since making their first investment in Machinima in 2014, Warner Bros. has been an active business partner in our transformation, so we already have proof points as to how the companies can work together to accelerate Machinima’s growth plans,” said Chad Gutstein, CEO, Machinima. “We’ll now be able to take full advantage of Warner Bros.’ intellectual property, sales and distribution, while still creating content for social and premium digital platforms that gamers and geeks love. Plus, we’ll be fully embedded and can help Warner Bros. continue their incredible digital marketing successes. It’s honestly a win-win.”

In the past two years, Machinima has transitioned from a YouTube MCN to a global programming service and production company delivering popular programming to millions. Since joining Machinima in 2014, Gutstein revamped the executive team, brand, programming and business strategy. As part of that strategy, the company opened a full-service production studio and executed first-of-its-kind premium content partnerships with platforms, including Playstation Vue, Amazon Prime, Verizon’s go90, China’s Sohu and The CW Network. According to comScore, Machinima is the 10th largest digital video entertainment media company in the U.S. ranked by total unique viewers.

Machinima will operate as a wholly owned part of Warner Bros. Digital Networks, a division founded in June 2016 to grow the Studio’s digital and OTT offerings. As part of Time Warner’s overall strategy to reach audiences directly through company-owned current and yet-be-launched OTT services, WBDN works closely with Time Warner’s divisions Turner and HBO.

About Warner Bros.:
Warner Bros. is a leader in all forms of entertainment and their related businesses across all current and emerging media and platforms. The Studio stands at the forefront of every aspect of the industry, from feature film, television and home entertainment production, animation, comic books and video games. Warner Bros. manages one of the most successful collections of brands and franchises in the world, and has a library of more than 79,000 hours of programming, including nearly 7,500 feature films and 4,500 television programs comprised of tens of thousands of individual episodes.

About Machinima:
Machinima is the most notorious purveyor and cultivator of fandom and gamer culture. The FIRST! Many2Many programing service (M2M), we create, curate and celebrate the best fandom and gamer content across multiple video platforms. As one of the largest online video platforms in the world, Machinima programs to a community passionate about video games, animation, movies, TV, and the other endless forms of pop culture. With a focus on scripted, topical and gaming programing, and a talent network of thousands of programmers, Machinima reaches nearly 150 million viewers each month.