If You Think Groot is Dead.... Spoiler Alert: Groot Has Apparently Been Killed on Many Occasions But Each Time There Have Been New Sprigs

Once again, Prof. Jon Taplin of USC has written about the "The Day The Music Died."

This time Prof. Taplin links to an Aug. 26th, 2014 post by Paul Resnikoff built around a (hyperbolic?) visual aid created by the "antipiracy" reactionaries at the RIAA, the recorded music industry trade group. Take a look at the frightening illustration below:

Looks bad...

But did the music really die? 

And is Napster really to blame?

Or is something more complex happening? 

Something that the RIAA illustration above fails to reveal?

I realize it won't be popular with the small group of people who once made millions from multi-platinum albums (or got to hang out with them like Prof. Taplin) but - unless you're still mad because you no longer get to fly to gigs on a jet with your band's logo on the side - or you enjoy wearing sackcloth and ashes - you might want to consider the stats just published (Sept. 23rd, 2014) by Frank Rose

"Between 2007 and 2009, the number of million-selling hits grew 220 per cent; from 2009 to 2011, that number grew 125 per cent." 


How can the RIAA illustration above and Frank Rose's stats both be true? 

Here's how: 

"[Y]ear after year, more and more songs became hits, even as the average size of those hits kept shrinking." 

Yes, the biggest selling acts today are not selling anywhere near as many physical copies as some acts used to back in the 70s

And simply relying on the long tail is not a viable business strategy

But the music has not died exactly either. 

Instead (as Frank Rose explains) "smaller hits tailored to the tastes of specific audiences" are still selling - even if in aggregate the revenue from physical copies is declining. 

In short? 

It isn't the same old music business, and if you're looking for (mobbed up?) promotion people pushing certain records into the stratosphere - today isn't your era. 

But does a decline in artists able to afford their own jets really equal the end of music? 

Producing 1 - Homework Due Oct. 1st, 2014

First write a short research paper about a film and its producer.

The goal of this assignment is for you to write about the role of the producer - what a producer actually does - by picking one of  your favorite feature length films and then conducting research about the work that was accomplished by the producer on that film.





Note: Wikipedia cannot always be trusted. For example Wikipedia lists a number of producing jobs (see below). I have never heard of an "Edit Producer." Although the job may exist, I've never met an "Edit Producer" on a Hollywood feature length film. (I do know some post-production supervisors, some of whom are billed as producers, but I don't think they have ever been billed as "Edit Producers.")

From Wikipedia:

"Executive producer

The Executive Producer addresses the finances in that they pitch films to the studios, but upon acceptance they may focus on business matters, such as budgets and contracts.
Co-executive producer
Second in seniority to executive producer.
Line producer
Manages current staff and day-to-day operations. Finds staff to hire for the production. Most line producers are given the title of produced by.'
Supervising producer
Supervises the creative process of screenplay development, and often aids in script re-writes. They usually supervise less experienced story editors and staff writers on the writing team.
Traditional producers, who are responsible for physical facilities, are given the credit of produced by. ' In U.S. films, a producer can also be a writer who has not written enough of the screenplay to receive approval from the Writers Guild of America to be listed as a screenwriter.
A writer who may not have written the script, but contributed significantly through table reads or revisions. In the U.S., co-producer credits also often require approval from the Writers Guild of America.
Coordinating producer or production coordinator
This producer manages the schedule and arranges the staff into teams.
Consulting producer
These producers are former executive or possibly co-executive producers, or in rare cases directors. They are called upon to assist the writers.
Associate producer
Runs day-to-day operations.
Segment producer
Writes or produces one segment of a film.
Field producer
Selects areas to film (outside of a set) and coordinates production in the field. They also form a trusting relationship with the cast/participants in order to get interviews while in the field. They may fill a number of different roles, including production manager/coordinator, videographer and also Production assistant.
Edit producer
Oversees the creative and editorial aspects of the program when it is being edited.
Post producer
Supervises the overall post-production process, including editing, dubbing and grading. Post-producers are typically employed by facilities houses rather than by production companies directly.
In film or video productions, the executive producer is almost always given an opportunity to comment on a rough cut but the amount of attention paid to his/her comments is highly dependent on the overall personnel structure of the production."

Also, for our class on Oct. 1st, please read the following pages (in English or in the Chinese translation) of Jason Squire’s book, The Movie Business Book International, that was published by China Film Press (中国电影出版社):

The Introduction (in other words - 介绍) pages in the English language book 1- 13

And please read the first fifteen pages of Revenue Streams by Blume (in other words - 的收入流) pages in the English language book p. 331- the top of p. 347

On Defining Culture: How Prof. Jon Taplin Took a Shortcut and Crashed His Anti-Pop Culture Argument

Are Vine videos a part of "culture?"

Prof. Jon Taplin of USC says no.

And Prof. Taplin seems to think that an ancient Roman orator, Cicero (an unlikely ally?), would agree with him.

In a Sept. 22nd, 2014 blogpost - inspired by a Sept. 11th, 2014 A. O. Scott New York Times Magazine piece,  and a Sept. 12th, 2014 Fredrik deBoer response - Prof. Jon Taplin sets out his now familiar complaints: 

Basically the Prof. isn't buying what "celebrants of contemporary pop culture" are selling - and he is growing weary of defending his “get off my lawn” views.

In his own words, he's "tired of having to defend my right to say that Julia Kelly [who describes herself as a Vine actress] is not an artist and Pawn Stars is not culture."

The Prof. just knows “the difference between the real deal and the second rate” and he dismisses charges of snobbery just as he dismisses a long list of various forms of popular expression. 

Prof. Taplin concludes his Sept. 22nd, 2014 post with a flourish, claiming there is support for his exclusionary view of culture in “the first use of the word “culture” by the Roman orator Cicero, he meant it to be “cultura animi” (cultivation of the soul).”

Inconveniently for Prof. Taplin, that’s not exactly what Cicero wrote

The actual Cicero quote is “[c]ultura autem animi philosophia est."

Which I'm told translates roughly as “philosophy is the culture of the soul.” 

What does this mean? And why does it matter?

If you actually read the relevant passage, Cicero was arguing that an understanding of philosophy and the great thinkers is necessary in order to cultivate the MIND and SOUL: “As a field, though fertile, cannot yield a harvest without cultivation, no more can the mind without learning.”

Prof. Taplin seems to think that Cicero was talking about "culture" as only those things that edify the soul.

If you actually read Cicero, that's not it at all. 

Cicero was comparing minds and souls to plots of dirt - all are places that need to be cultivated for new things to grow. 

Does it really matter that Prof. Taplin misunderstands the relevant part of Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations (Book 2 - On Bearing Pain, V. §13)?

Even if the original text does NOT have Cicero defining culture exclusively as the things that cultivate the soul, instead making the point that a knowledge of philosophy is necessary for many new things (culture?) to grow, who cares?

Is it just my need to engage in a cheap game of academic gotcha to point out Prof. Taplin's Cicero boo-boo (not the Honey Boo-Boo that Prof. Taplin uses to bash all pop culture – but his own scholarly screw-up)? 

Here's why I think Prof. Taplin's mistaken argument matters:

It isn't just that Prof. Taplin, who regularly decries the dumbing down of contemporary pop culture, has misquoted Cicero (relying on Wikipedia?) to support his refrigerator magnet’s worth of bogus insight. 

A part of what bothers me is that Prof. Taplin’s ersatz version of Cicero will now live on as part of the same online stew that he decries - an ever-growing bubbling cauldron that includes misquotes of Thomas Jefferson, as well as countless Vine videos, sightings of Slender Man and Grumpy Cat.

But what really bothers me is that Prof. Taplin, the head of USC's Innovation Lab, rarely ever spends any time any more online acknowledging all the amazing opportunities in our newly-connected world.

Even if he hasn't read Cicero in the original, does the Prof. appreciate that access to Cicero's actual greatest works (and Thomas Jefferson's, and all the other great thinkers of history) is now just a few clicks away?

For millions of people around the world, many whose families never owned a book - but are now getting a smartphone or tablet, the Prof.'s dismissal of popular culture seems oddly misplaced.

Yes, much of the web sucks.

(In truth, it troubles me that the Prof., who is so is quick to dismiss the internet as a wasteland of "meaningless" content, has twisted Cicero's meaning on its head - and that laziness will live on forever online.)

But what really troubles me is how rarely the Prof. thinks to acknowledge the amazing potential of the new tools for cultivating billions of minds and souls around the world.

In other words, it isn't really Prof. Taplin's questionable scholarship.

It isn't even the stupid idea that Cicero, writing before the birth of Christ, intended to set out an immutable definition of culture – forever requiring the word culture to attach only to those things that elevate the soul.

What bugs me the most is Prof. Taplin's grumpy (and recently all-but complete) blindness to the good that the web is doing.

Has Prof. Taplin actually considered the words of Cicero: "As a field, though fertile, cannot yield a harvest without cultivation, no more can the mind without learning.

Isn't the opportunity to teach (and to learn) at this unique moment a great gift?

Reading Prof. Taplin these days, it's easy to believe that everything good has already happened - and finding any virtue in all this new stuff is just too much work. The web gives him a headache.   

Yes, misquoting a long-dead Roman for the proposition that culture must only be about elevating the soul is dumb. 

But what is inexcusable is becoming an angry scold - focussing only on the problems - while the online information explosion is contributing to the most rapid reinvention of culture in the history of the world.

First Weekend iPhone 6 Sales Top 10 Million: Unfortunately For Apple's Image, There Were Apparently Some (Exploited?) Straw Buyers in Those Long Lines

According to a Sept. 22nd, 2014 Apple press release (and as expected), Apple sold over 10 million new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models, a new record, in the first three days of their launch weekend that started on September 19th, 2014. The new phones were only available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the UK.

And, as reported in the September 22nd, 2014 Washington Post, there was a strong - but not state sanctioned - underground market for the new iPhones in China as well. 

Because China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology failed to grant Apple the necessary official permission to sell the iPhone 6s in China on Apple's planned Sept, 19th, 2014 launch date, the pent-up demand lead to some profiteering. According to the Washington Post, people in Beijing were apparently paying up to "$1,430... [for] the cheapest base model (seven times to the U.S. price of $199 with a carrier contract). The iPhone 6 plus was even costlier -- at more than $2,400 (versus $299 at U.S. stores)."

The short film above by Casey Neistat shows the uglier NY side of the Washington Post story - as some poor people (immigrants from China?) waited in long lines outside Apple stores in Manhattan. These first-day buyers were not the eager fan boys of prior Apple launches. After they paid cash for their limit of 2 phones, these apparent straw buyers slipped away to hand their phones off to others - perhaps people from NY who didn't want to wait online and were willing to pay a premium for a new iPhone - or perhaps smugglers with plans of selling these new phones in China.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook didn't comment on straw buyers in the Apple press release, but he did say this: “We would like to thank all of our customers for making this our best launch ever, shattering all previous sell-through records by a large margin. While our team managed the manufacturing ramp better than ever before, we could have sold many more iPhones with greater supply and we are working hard to fill orders as quickly as possible.”

No word on when, or if, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will allow legal sales of the iPhone 6 in China. But, as stated by Chief Engineer Zhang Feng in May of 2014, the MIIT wants Chinese non-mobile users to convert to domestic operating systems - and the delayed approval of Apple's new flagship phone may be part of a larger plan.

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.