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Sunday, July 27, 2008

New role call for international films - Entertainment News, Anne Thompson, Media - Variety

Hi Kids, Dr. Media back from the road, just chillin'. Those of you in the film biz need to read this.Anne Thompson , an old hand at the biz--she wrote the Risky Biz column for years--makes some excellent observations here, about the meaning of foreign sales for your projects.

Check it out. This is the new alchemy, for the moment.

New role call for international films

Foreign sales agents search for star power

At the Hollywood majors, there is a small coterie of actors who can guarantee that a film will be made.

in the world of foreign sales, there is a parallel universe, with a
different group of actors who are considered bankable, even if they've
only had a few film credits -- as long as those few films were
successful enough to give them recognition around the globe.

available money for movies gets squeezed, indie producers need to find
"bankable" names who don't command movie star prices. But foreign sales
agents like Summit Intl. ("Twilight"), 2929 Entertainment ("Two
Lovers") and France's Wild Bunch ("Southland Tales") can't raise
financing without casting actors with international appeal.

used to be that you had to have a track record to be a bankable star,
not only in the domestic market but also overseas. However in the past
year, the economics of the global market has shifted.

actors don’t cost too much but have recognizable international and
domestic value," says ICM’s Hal Sadoff. "Most independent budgets
cannot bear the costs of an established movie star and the ability to
cast an up-and-coming actor allows a producer to meet their budgetary

Here's how it works. Foreign sales agents crunch
the numbers on different actors and scripts, estimating how much
business a movie will do in each territory; then they agree to put up
conservative advances to the producers based on those guesses. The
producers can raise more coin from bank loans.

The stars on the
thumbs-up lists of foreign sales agents are the ones who can get movies
made. Even those who are hardly household names.

This has
presented a great opportunity to a slew of young actors and actresses
and it means a greenlight for a lot of films that might not otherwise
be made.

Of course, the question remains as to what impact these
films will have on the domestic box office -- and, of course, whether
these films will prove to be good.

Aside from the thesps listed
in the accompanying chart, the roster of actors come from a variety of
nationalities and professional backgrounds. The list includes thesps
who are more established on U.S. TV than in films, such as Ashton
Kutcher, or those who've established a name in the indie world, such as
Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and Yank Evan Rachel Wood. Some have
starred in films that were socko internationally if not domestically
(Ben Whishaw, "Perfume"), while others have had co-starring roles in
big domestic hits like Katherine Heigl ("Knocked Up" and "27 Dresses").

range from the Oscar-nominated Ellen Page ("Juno") to Aussie actor Sam
Worthington, whose past credits may not ring many bells but who's
considered hot based on two upcoming pics: "Terminator Salvation" and
James Cameron's "Avatar."

And there are those who've co-starred
in Hollywood blockbusters, like Kate Bosworth ("Superman Returns") and
Chris Evans and Jessica Alba, both from "The Fantastic Four." That
makes them recognizable, even if their names were not the factor that
sold those tentpoles to auds.

While their backgrounds and resumes vary, all have perceived appeal to the target demo, the magic "Juno" sweet spot: 17 to 35.

is a new model for packaging films appealing to a youth audience," says
Myriad Pictures' Kirk D'Amico. "Young males and females are driving the
box office."

Oddly, not having starred in many movies is an
advantage. Because these young actors aren't dogged by a string of
flops, producers and financiers can place bets on their future,
investing in their promise.

"Megan Fox hasn't had a failure yet,"
says Nicholas Chartier, president of foreign sales company Voltage
Entertainment. "Two years down the road we'll see if she has made good
choices. Sam Worthington's 'Avatar' is a year and half away."

for the time being, the farm team is being offered so many movies (most
of them dreck) that they can't possibly accept them all. If they do,
they risk overexposure or worse: appearing in too many pics that can't
get arrested at fests like Cannes or Sundance or even sell territories
at the American Film Market. Starring in a fest-circuit movie that
doesn't get distribution is a black mark that is hard to erase.

biz is heartless and if a rising player doesn't maintain a high batting
average, they don't advance to the big show. Film history is filled
with actors whose golden potential turned them into also-rans.


Ben Barnes

Claim to fame: "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian"

Next up: "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

Emile Hirsch

Claim to fame: "Into the Wild"

Next up: "Milk"

James McAvoy

Claim to fame: "Atonement," "Wanted"

Next up: "The Last Station"

Jim Sturgess

Claim to fame: "Across the Universe," "The Other Boleyn Girl," "21."

Next up: "Crossing Over," "50 Dead Men Walking," "Heartless."

Channing Tatum

Claim to fame: "She’s the Man," "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," "Stop-Loss"

Next up: "G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra." "Public Enemies"

Jessica Biel

Claim to fame: "Stealth," "The Illusionist," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"

Next up: "Nailed," "Easy Virtue"

Emily Blunt

Claim to fame: "The Devil Wears Prada," "Charlie Wilson’s War"

Next up: "The Great Buck Howard," "Sunshine Cleaning," "The Young Victoria," "The Wolf Man"

Megan Fox

Claim to fame: "Transformers"

Next up: "Jennifer’s Body," "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People"

Brittany Snow

Claim to fame: "Hairspray," "Prom Night"

Next up: "Finding Amanda"

Kristen Stewart

Claim to fame: "Into the Wild"

Next up: "What Just Happened?" "Twilight"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Comics-Based Movies Keep on Comin' | The Underwire from Wired.com

Hi kids, Dr media on the road, summer vacation with the babe, just had to refer this to those of you who I know are fans of the the comic genre. What is not surprising at all about this continuing to be a source of film fair is the simple business fact of presales equal less risk.They are not making unknown comics, are they, and not only that, we get a new vid game, which may cost as much as the movie, and now we are even getting good directors to do these things, was Lord of the Rings a cartoon, no it was literature, but now its a video game,
Point is creativity and good story still win, even in Hollywood, occasionally.What about that great film Iron Giant by the director of Walle.Most didn't see it, got great reviews, but not taken seriously cause animated kids story, but Pixar noticed, and he got to do Walle, not bad.
See you later.

Comics-Based Movies Keep on Comin'
By Hugh Hart EmailJuly 20, 2008 | 8:41:00 PMCategories: Comics, Horror, Movies, Sci-Fi

Superheroes saved Hollywood this summer, boosting box office to record heights and funneling $1 billion and counting into studio coffers. Now, emboldened by the success of The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted and Hellboy II, filmmakers are stampeding toward comic books and graphic novels to find bigger-than-life stories for the silver screen.

Antman300 Longtime heavyweights DC Comics (Batman, Superman) and Marvel (Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four) are trotting out lesser-known characters from their catalogs. Ant Man (pictured at right)? Yes!

Joining the fray are relative upstarts including Dark Horse, Platinum Studios, Top Cow Productions, Oni Press and Devil's Due Publishing, which are busy populating the superhero pipeline with a new generation of flawed crime-fighters.

Comic books have become so hot that some titles prompt a feeding frenzy from studio execs before they're even published. For example, B. Clay Moore's new assassin series Billy Smoke doesn't hit stores until next year, but it's already been picked up by Warner Bros. as a possible project for Lost star Matthew Fox.

"It's kind of funny that comic book fans think the success of a published comic book is some kind of indicator as to how well a comic book will translate to the big screen," said Moore. "Ultimately, what studios are interested in is a good idea."

As pulp fiction fans pack their bags for next week's Comic-Con International in San Diego, here's a look ahead at some of the comic book movies heading for the big screen.

Punisher: War Zone


Irish he-man Ray Stevenson replaces Thomas Jane to play vengeful but virtuous vigilante Frank Castle in this sequel. His target? The demonic Jigsaw (Dominic West of TV's The Wire).
Secret weapon: German director Lexi Alexander, formerly an actress who toured with the Mortal Kombat traveling show, proved her rock'em-sock'em mettle by making the soccer movie, Hooligans.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Studio: Lionsgate
Release: December 5, 2008

Image courtesy Lionsgate

- - -

Spiritscarlett300The Spirit

Samuel Jackson (as The Octopus) and Scarlett Johansson (pictured, as Silken Floss) appear in this adaptation of Will Eisner's classic noir-meets-supernatural graphic novel, with Gabriel Macht starring as the title character. But the real star is graphic novelist-turned-filmmaker Frank Miller (300, Sin City). Miller had the good sense to bring his Sin City siren Eva Mendes on board to play the Spirit's sultry ex-flame, Sand Saref.
Secret weapon: Cinematographer Bill Pope knows how to frame action scenes, having previously shot Spider-Man 3 and the Matrix sequels.
Publisher: DC Comics
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release: Dec. 25, 2008

Image courtesy DC Comics

See also:

* New Spirit Trailer Hauntingly Dispiriting
* Frank Miller's The Spirit Gets Another Femme Fatale

- - -


300 auteur Zack Snyder's translation of Alan Moore's grisly alternate universe yokes the director's green-screen visual effects wizardry with a wildly eclectic ensemble cast. Jackie Earle Haley (famously creepy in Little Children) plays Rorschach, with Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan and Patrick Wilson playing Nite Owl.
Watchmen300Secret weapon: Carla Gugino, who bared all as the lesbian ex-con in Sin City, stands out from the mostly male cast as sexy-tough Silk Spectre.
Publisher: DC Comics
Studio: Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures
Release: March 6, 2009

Image courtesy DC Comics

See also:

* Fan-Made Watchmen Ads Ready for Watching
* Watchmen Trailer Strikes the Internets Early

- - -

Wolverine300X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Producer/star Hugh Jackman claws his way back into the role of alpha mutant Wolverine in this X-Men prequel, which explores his twisted rapport with Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). Dominic Monaghan (Lost) plays Beak.
Secret weapon: Director Gavin Hood, who won a Best Foreign Language Oscar for South African film Tsotsi, follows in the tradition of art house filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer and Jon Favreau who transitioned from the indie realm to make big-budget hits.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release: May 1, 2009

Image courtesy Marvel Comics

- - -

Pilgrim300Scott Pilgrim Versus the World

Michael "Superbad" Cera stars in this coming-of-age adventure directed by Edgar Wright, the genre-savvy filmmaker responsible for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Wright steers this adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic series, which co-stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Scott's lust object, Ramona.
Publisher: Oni Press
Studio: Universal Release: 2009 TBD

Image courtesy DC Comics

- - -



Underworld's skintight-suited ass-kicker Kate Beckinsale stars in the movie version of Greg Rucka's graphic novel. Set in the Antarctic and directed by Dominic Sena (Gone in Sixty Seconds, Halle Berry's Swordfish), Whiteout casts Beckinsale as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, who's in a hurry to solve a murder before the sun disappears for six months. Gabriel Macht (The Spirit) co-stars.
Secret weapon: Reese Witherspoon -- not. Hollywood's highest-paid actress originally planned to star but evidently didn't warm to early versions of the script.
Publisher: Oni Press
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release: 2009 TBD

Image courtesy Oni Press

- - -

Iron_man_face Iron Man 2

The story has yet to be written but director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. are locked and loaded for another Tony Stark adventure. The sequel, set to start filming in February, will also include Terrence Howard as military middleman, Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Studio: Paramount
Release: April 30, 2010

Image courtesy Paramount Pictures

See also:

* Favreau Blogs on Iron Man Villains, Old and New
* Wired.com's Iron Man Extravaganza: Everything You Need to Know
* Review: Iron Man a New High for Robert Downey Jr.

- - -



Director Matthew Vaughan puts his spin on the
Marvel character. Based on Norse mythology, Thor, aka the God of Thunder, draws his superpowers from a mighty source: his father is Odin, lord of pretty much everything.
Secret weapon: Vaughn, a former producer, directed the taut thriller Layer Cake followed by the extravagant Neil Gaiman fantasy Stardust.
Release: June 4, 2010
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Studio: Marvel Studios

Image courtesy Marvel Comics

- - -

Captamerica300The First Avenger: Captain America

Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-2) is scripting the story about Steve Rogers' transformation from wimpy everyman to Yankee fighting machine, thanks to secret meds and an intense dose of Vita-Rays.
Secret weapon: Patriotism. The big question is how the World War II-era character will take shape in these profoundly war-weary times.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Studio: Marvel Studios
Release: May 6, 2011

Image courtesy Marvel Comics

See also:

* Captain America Movie Finally on Marvel's Horizon
* Captain America Returns Somehow, Sort Of

- - -

Ant Man

Coming off Billy Pilgrem, triple threat Edgar Wright is working on the script. Likening the story's tone to Iron Man, the writer-director-producer told PiQ Mag: "It's on that level of entertainment, really. It's a big, high-concept, special effects comic book adaptation, and very character-led."
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release: In development

See also:

* Favreau for Iron Man II, Ant Man for Avengers

- - -

The Avengers

The Incredible Hulk's final scene sets up -- spoiler alert for late-arriving moviegoers -- this ensemble effort, expected to include Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Ant Man as ticked-off teammates.
Secret weapon: Zak Penn is writing this adventure in tandem with Thor to ensure episodic continuity.
Release: July 2011
Publisher: Marvel Comics

See also:

* Marvel Heroes Crisscross in Iron Man, Hulk
* Favreau for Iron Man II, Ant Man for Avengers

- - -

Lastcall300shortLast Call

Vasilis Lolos's graphic novel series about the story of two phantom teenagers will be adapted by Evan Spiliotopoulis (The Box) for Universal.
Secret weapon: Barry Josephson, the veteran Hollywood player behind Wild Wild West and TV's Bones, is producing.
Publisher: Oni Press
Release: In development

Image courtesy Oni Press

See also:

* Greek Comic Book Artist Lands Last Call Movie Deal

- - -

Cowboysaliens300Cowboys and Aliens

Imagine Entertainment moguls Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are backing this adaptation of the graphic novel about a showdown between American pioneers and Indians forced to band together against invaders from outer space. Robert Downey Jr. is reportedly considering the lead. Hawk Ostby and Mark Fergus, the same guys who scripted Iron Man, are adapting the story.
Secret weapon: Cowboys' other producers include Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, playing a hot sci-fi hand these days as writer-producers for Fox's upcoming series Fringe and the new Star Trek movie.
Publisher: Platinum Studio
Release: In development

See also:

Image courtesy Platinum Studio

* Downey May Saddle Up for Sci-Fi Western

- - -

Spiderman300Spider-Man 4

No title, no finished script and no absolute commitment yet from Tobey Maguire or director Sam Raimi, who helmed Hollywood's top-grossing trilogy and brought a true child-geek's love of Steve Ditko's original comics to the movies. However, Raimi professes optimism about the script-in-progress by James Vanderbilt.
Secret weapon: Persistent producer Laura Ziskin can be counted on to give a new Spider-Man her all, with or without Raimi.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release: In development

Image courtesy Sony Pictures

See also:

* Spider-Man 3 Director Geeks Out on His Movie's Real Star: Sand
* Spider-Man and the Evil Forces of Teen Pregnancy

- - -

Goon276The Goon

David Fincher, maestro of live-action creep-outs Se7en, Zodiac and Fight Club, teams with Dark Horse Entertainment to make a CG-animated feature based on Eric Powell's graphic novel series about a hulking enforcer for the mob who keeps running into ghosts, zombies, skunk apes and other supernatural bad guys.
Secret weapon: Blur Studios crafts the animation in what will be its feature-film debut. The Venice, California-based outfit is best known for its cutting-edge TV spots and Oscar-nominated Gopher Broke short.
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release: In development

Image courtesy Dark Horse

See also:

* Fincher Brings Goon Comic to Big Screen
* Universal Picks a Dark Horse for Comics Deal

- - -

Billy Smoke

Though not officially committed, Lost star Matthew Fox is seriously interested in this graphic novel by B. Clay Moore and illustrator Eric Kim. Not available in stores until next year, Billy Smoke tells the story of an assassin on a mission to clear the planet of his own kind after experiencing a crisis of conscience. It's easy to picture Fox, who played the brooding Racer X in Speed-Racer earlier this summer, grimacing his way through the role.
Publisher: Oni Press
Release: In development

See also:

* Lost's Fox May Play Reformed Assassin

- - -


Hard Boiled

Sin City creator Frank Miller is working toward a movie adaptation of his own hyperviolent graphic novel trilogy that launched in 2000.
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release date: In development

Image courtesy Dark Horse

See also:

* Frank 'Sin City' Miller Likes His Action Hard-Boiled
* The Man Who Shot Sin City
* Sin City Expands Digital Frontier

- - -


From the same publisher that brought us Wanted comes the movie incarnation of this multiplatform hit. In comic book, cable TV and Japanese cartoon form, fans have been digging the woman armed with a superpowered "gauntlet" glove that takes care of business whenever she needs to wallop the bad guys.
Publisher: Top Cow
Release: In development

Image courtesy Top Cow Productions

See also:

* Witchblade Publisher Cuts Movie Deal

- - -



Artist Tim Seeley's graphic novel about a one-time crime victim who takes justice into her own hands and starts fighting back -- with the help of a gas-masked accomplice named Vlad -- is moving toward production. Attached to direct: Todd Lincoln, who worked on visual effects for From Dusk Till Dawn. Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) is writing the adaptation.
Publisher: Devil's Due Publishing
Studio: Rogue Pictures/Universal
Release: In development

Image courtesy Devil's Due Publishing

See also:

* Invisible Hand Readies Alien Conspiracy Comic Serpo

- - -

Jonah_hex_crop Hex

Thomas Jane may play the role of Jonah Hex, a disfigured bounty hunter saddled with a bad temper and a weakness for booze. Actor Jane earlier proved his hard-ass cred in Marvel's The Punisher.
Publisher: DC Comics
Release: In development

Image courtesy DC Comics

See also:

* Latest Superhero Movie Looking to Hex the Old West

Additional reporting by John Scott Lewinski

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Second Life offers healing, therapeutic options for users

Hey check this out. Now we are starting to see some of the realities of the net utilized. Anoymous people with real or imagined problems, entering to "therapy" with virtual therapists. This is cool.Some years ago I was interviewed by Michelle Goldberg--who worked for me for a while--now a senior editor at Slate--about a website for agoraphobics and I was quoted in Wired saying" A virtual life is better than no life at all", and I think this is still the case. I imagine, and I may be wrong that many of these folks wouldn't seek "real" counseling, but in this space they can perhaps allow themselves to ask for help, after all no one knows who they really are. Of course it would be good to actually see some research done on the experiences and effectiveness of this space. It would also be useful to know what percentage of these participants are moved to seek real counseling with real people.

Second Life offers healing, therapeutic options for users

Cherilyn Parsons, Special to the Chronicle

Sunday, July 13, 2008
The author's avatar approaches the Tibetan Buddhist templ... Carolina Keats, avatar for health librarian Carol Perryma... An avatar approaches an anxiety support group meeting.

"Every human being is interested in two kinds of worlds: the Primary, everyday world which he knows through his senses, and a Secondary world or worlds which he not only can create in his imagination, but which he cannot stop himself creating." -- W. H. Auden

In a garden pavilion on an island, I sat with an assortment of human beings - one clad as a teddy bear wearing a Santa hat, another as a brazen vixen, a blue man, a tuxedoed prom king - and poured out my heart from a place of loneliness and grief. Click click went the computer keys, like the staccato beat of my heart. Clack clack went their replies, their empathy and their own tales of triumph and woe. Via my avatar - the persona I'd created to engage here - I was participating in an "anxiety support group" in the free, virtual world of Second Life.

As I write those words, I can hear the scoffing. Pathetic! Escapist! Are you addicted to computer games? Do you have no friends? Second Life? That place is just about weird sex fantasies!

Founded in 2003 as a virtual community built by users, Second Life rose to cultural phenomenon status by 2006 - only to suffer media backlash over its glitches, hype and sex scene. But it continues to grow. By June 2008, more than 14 million people had joined, only 38 percent them from the United States. More people went "in-world," or participated in, Second Life in the 30 days of June than live in all of San Francisco, which is the home of Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life. If Second Life were to materialize from its server space, the landscape would be four times the size of Manhattan.

A new virtual world, Google's Lively, was introduced last week with its version of avatar chat rooms. And Second Life just announced a new technology, developed with IBM, to allow avatars to teleport among worlds. No wonder analysts at Gartner, a leading technology research company, predict that three years from now 8 in 10 Internet users will work or play in virtual spaces.

Sure, Second Life has more than its share of sex shops and pick-up joints, where avatars can lure others. You get it on virtually with "teledildonics" and relevant "animations." In a "sim," or simulated region, called Jessie, people kill each other for pleasure, albeit to "teleport" back, unwounded. There are financial swindles, pick-up scenes, personal backstabbing, and more attention to elaborate hairdos than Cher in her heyday. According to U.S. intelligence agencies, Second Life might harbor real-world terrorists, scheming in the caves of online anonymity.

It has, in short, all the trauma and pain of real life, and some cautions are in order when it comes to seeking psychological support.

But maybe because it's a dream realm, hopefulness abounds. Nowhere is that truer than in Second Life's support groups, which help people cope with everything from cancer, depression, bipolar disorder and autism, to caretaker stress. There are more than 70 such groups, according to Second Life's Health Support Coalition. Most are secular. While a few groups are facilitated by associations such as the American Cancer Society, peers run most.

As expressed on the Web site, www.supportforhealing.com, associated with Second Life's Support for Healing Island, "we are NOT and never will replace the help of professionals ... but purely hold a safe place for people to come when they need a shoulder."

A year ago, before I had explored Second Life, I would have laughed at the idea of virtual shoulders. How can a person possibly be "real" via an avatar anyway - much less have a meaningful conversation with a puppy dog, barmaid, elf, or wilder avatar appearance such as a blob or a tree? It's hard enough to trust someone in real life, much less "second life." Then again, what better place to connect our yearning selves with other yearning selves than in a space of mutual creation - a place where those very selves can be one's unconscious made manifest? Indeed, avatar, in its original Sanskrit, refers to the descent of the soul in human form.

Click, clack: When I rose from my hourlong anxiety group meeting, I felt seen and heard in the deepest part of me - more so, in fact, than in some "real life" interactions, where we often put up fronts.

You're not alone, the group told me.

Nor are you.
Virtual safety net

The anonymity of Second Life can make all the difference in opening up to share within a support group.

Somewhere in small-town America, a wife and mother of about 40 - she could be your neighbor or relative - suffers from serious depression. She loves animals, so within Second Life, as Fionella Flanagan, she's a big gray dog with a shaggy white mane. She attends the depression support group. Why does she do it? "I don't have to worry about what I say in the group coming back to bite me in my home town."

She also suffers from fibromyalgia, one of those crippling, invisible diseases that some doctors say is "all in your head." In Second Life, Fionella doesn't "have to overcome real life prejudice when I say I'm sick. There's none of that, 'but you look so good' junk."

When anxiety support group avatars were asked whether they were more honest as avatars than in real life, a wild-haired blonde, Galvana Gustafson (in real life an American dancer and bassoonist with a master's degree in psychotherapy), put it this way: "My avatar is more honest than myself because the rejection won't hurt as much."

No one would guess that the person behind the avatar Morgana Shi, a redhead knockout DJ at Second Life's Heavenly Rose nightclub, suffers from bipolar disorder as well as back pain so disabling she often can't leave the house. "This is my only outlet really," she told me via private instant message while she was DJ'ing.

I've never done an interview while I was gyrating on a dance floor (click the floor, and a dance animation takes over your avatar). "Hallelujah, it's raining men," the song raged, and I whirled with other avatars as Morgana and I chatted.

"All of Second Life is my support group," she reported. "My first week here, I walked onto the land that Heavenly Rose Night Club was on, and ran into Rose Kenzo, the owner, and she took me under her wing. She has been there for me for the last two years every day since."

Morgana later discovered the Support for Healing Island "because I was going through a major relapse with my bipolar and needed help from people who understood. I personally like to be in groups that are survivors, sufferers, and caretakers and loved ones, supporting one another. The best help and advice I have ever gotten are from people who have experienced firsthand."

She now leads a bipolar group on the Support for Healing Island and raises funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Walk in the real world.
Remaking the world

One of the most beloved community members in Second Life was The Sojourner, a multiple stroke survivor who created the "Shockproof Dreams" sim for stroke victims, people with autism and Asperger's syndrome and the people who care for them. In real life, she once worked as a speech pathologist and her son has Asperger's. A sweet, empathetic-looking avatar with auburn hair, in real life she died suddenly in May 2008, provoking an outpouring of in-world mourning.

The Metaverse Messenger - one of the virtual world's newspapers - reprinted an interview with "Soj" as she was known, from June 2007. Second Life "isn't just a game," she emphasized. "It is a widely diverse opportunity to explore every aspect of life, if you choose to. If you are disabled in any way, this is a way to move beyond the disability." Before her own strokes, she had worked professionally with stroke survivors. "I quickly realized that Second Life was a good rehabilitation tool. ... It helps with memory, planning things, using math, making friends, developing self-confidence, using skills you thought lost to stroke."

Soj created not only support groups but a "sandbox," complete with tutorials and classes, where people can freely create objects out of "prims," the core building material (think molecules) of Second Life, and thus create clothing, homes, entire landscapes. "A farmer/landscaper may not be able to use a plow in Real Life, but can landscape or have animals in Second Life," she said in her last talk, now posted at her memorial on the Shockproof Dreams sim.

People with autism or Asperger's especially seem to appreciate Second Life. The literature welcoming visitors to Brigadoon, a community within Shockproof Dreams, describes how the virtual world lacks "the richness of expression and gesture found in Real Life," so people who become easily overwhelmed by real-world stimuli face "fewer distractions to worry about." The Web site www.autistics.org sponsors a group of "activist autistic people" called the Autistic Liberation Front, who engage in discussions, workshops and conferences. They have a museum and library and hang out in a social area called Porcupine.

Researchers of autism use Second Life as a laboratory and tool. At the in-world SL-Labs and Teaching and Research facility, at the University of Derby in England, Simon Bignell, a lecturer in psychology, studies how Second Life can "enhance first life social-communication skills in people" with autistic spectrum disorders. The Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, Dallas, offers a therapy in Second Life for people with Asperger's that helps them practice interviewing for jobs.

Second Life's Health Support Coalition (a collaboration between Soj, the avatar Gentle Heron and Carolina Keats, who in real life is a medical librarian) has won a grant from the Annenberg Foundation to create an Ability Commons, for 40-plus smaller health and support groups. "Imagine a paralyzed 23-year-old lying in his family's back bedroom," the coalition wrote, "yearning for contact with age peers in similar situations. Second Life offers people with serious physical and cognitive disabilities opportunities to socialize and get information."

They needed a grant because hosting takes money. Though Second Life itself is free to access, people pay a monthly rent for "land" and prim space.

The large, lush Support for Healing Island, which has more than 850 members, ran into just that problem: The island's founder, Zafu Diamond (in real-life Englishman John Palmer), couldn't sustain the fees. This lovely garden isle with mountains, moving streams, flowers, flying butterflies, shrines and buildings, offered the widest array of peer support groups in-world. Featured on British TV, there's even a Medicine Buddha Tibetan temple, where avatars could sit in meditation, chill to the sound of mantras, or share quiet conversation.

According to its monthly newsletter, Support for Healing was "a group of people that believe that recovery from depression, emotional trauma, and mental and physical illness can be greatly enhanced by loving kindness and friendship." A Listening Ear service had offered "one-to-one support for those who have a need to talk to someone between the times regular meetings are scheduled."

But fundraising efforts by the island's stalwarts came to naught. Appeals to Linden Lab did no good. Groups ceased. The Listening Ear closed. The island teetered on the edge of digital disappearance - and at the last minute, an energy healer who'd been offering group meetings on the island stepped in to take over as owner. Most of the groups have restarted, though the depression support meeting, which had moved to The Centering Place sim, will be shared by both locations. The Listening Ear remains shut.

The avatar who saved Support for Healing is named Tong Ren Writer, after the Tong Ren therapy he practices. (In real-life he's a patent lawyer in Boston.) He intends to welcome more support groups and also continue his free, energetic healing group twice a week.

Committed volunteers

Group leaders like avatar Glenn Oud, who has facilitated the weekly anxiety group for more than two years, take great care to not mislead. An East Coast IT professional in his 30s, who once had considered psychology as a career, he opens each meeting with disclaimers: "Please do not let these meetings take the place of professional help," he typed to us. (Most support groups operate via typed chat.) "Please be kind . . . both listening and sharing are important."

The weekly groups are an enormous volunteer commitment. "I keep thinking I'll take my Thursday nights back," he told me (the anxiety groups are 7 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, though they often go longer). "But hearing people tell me every week that it's helping keeps me doing it."

Specky Zaftig, the administrator for the Support for Healing forums, and the avatar of a 28-year old British woman, donates dozens of unpaid hours each week. It "allows many of us to offer something back to others from our own experiences. Many of us have struggled with depression, etc. To find a safe place where people understand you and support you because they want to can make a real difference to some people. ... I like to know that somehow I've made a difference, no matter how small."

A lot of altruism, free giving, plenty of warnings. Isn't there any digital snake oil here? No fake therapists?

One in-world psychologist, Dr. Craig Kerley from Georgia, who was profiled on CBS's "Early Show," has hung his shingle for "cybertherapy" at $90 per hour. This work, he says, "can be valuable for those who have limited choices in their geographical region, have limited time to drive to regular in-person appointments, have limited mobility, and have limitations in their lifestyle that make traveling to a brick and mortar office difficult."

Still, Dr. Peter Yellowlees, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UC Davis and a specialist in virtual worlds, cautions about therapy in Second Life, even with professionals. He advises using it only as "a potential adjunct to face-to-face therapy," and to "use passwords or other cues in Second Life to make sure you're talking to the right person" - the real therapist, not scammers posing as one.

Yellowlees uses Second Life as a teaching tool, not for therapy. His Virtual Hallucinations sim gives "the lived experience of schizophrenia - to hear voices and see visions" so his students (and the rest of us) can "get inside the head, just a bit, of someone who's psychotic."

It certainly sparked empathy in me, much more richly than a mere clinical description of the disorder would have done.

Empathy: There's that word again, an odd one to associate with impersonal bytes and modems, but the right one. Second Life is a hot, humming thing of wire and light, a "server" - spiritual teachers would like the metaphor - that can carry community and genuine human sympathy.

Cherilyn Parsons is a freelance writer and fundraising consultant to journalism organizations. E-mail her at style@sfchronicle.com.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

TV/Video Audience Measurement Challenge-Josh Chasin - Brightcove

Dr Media says, if you want to know the state of web statistics, listen this excellent to the point report by Chasin of Brightcove. The read Chris Anderson's argument on the lack of a need for any kind of verification of data, just computer generated data points, no"WHY'S". More on this lame approach later, I hope he doesn't need operated on by an MD who doesn't ask why.
See more comments of the pithy type later.
Check it out.

TV/Video Audience Measurement Challenge-Josh Chasin - Brightcove

TV And Film Business Facing Dark Days, Analyst Warns - NYTimes.com

Dr. Media says, so you want to know the real reality of the Media biz, read this.This is what the money guys are saying. Put this together with Mark Gills comments and you get the feeling that everyone should get in to selling timeshares. Fact is what these guys are saying is true and its also true that there are 35K theaters, and TV is on 24/7 all over trhe planet and VOD demands are growing everyday. Therefore, unless everyone wants to keep watching the same reruns for eternity, there is a growing need for new projects and innovative ideas. Now there is a really scarce market, but then again, when has that not been so.

TV And Film Business Facing Dark Days, Analyst Warns - NYTimes.com
July 7, 2008
TV And Film Business Facing Dark Days, Analyst Warns

Filed at 11:58 a.m. ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lehman Brothers cut the stock ratings on Monday of Walt Disney Co, Time Warner and other top entertainment companies, fearing the television and film industry could suffer the same battering as the music business.

"To be clear, our fear is that the damage that digital distribution inflicted on the music industry will replicate itself in the movie industry, and our fears are too great to justify keeping neutral or positive ratings on the creators and distributors of movie and TV content," analyst Anthony DiClemente wrote in a research note.

Along with Disney and Time Warner, Lehman lowered its ratings on News Corp and CBS Corp on concerns about "structural changes that appear destined to impact the core revenue and profits of (the) entertainment business."

Lehman maintained its rating on Viacom Inc., but nonetheless cut its price target on the stock. It also lowered its overall view of the industry to "negative" from "neutral."

Shares of all five companies were down -- to various degrees -- in early trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

DiClemente added, "In reality, while there are many obvious differences between music/audio and movie/video media forms, the core properties of video distribution and consumption are not different enough from music content to continue to justify why movie/TV content will be spared fragmentation."

Specifically, DiClemente argued as consumers shift to new types of media -- movie downloads, for instance, or TV video recorders that make it possible to skip commercials -- the big entertainment companies will struggle to replace traditional sources of revenue.

"We believe fragmentation of media as a result of technological change is highly likely to disrupt the economics of traditional forms of movie and TV distribution," he said. "Content may no longer be king in the entertainment business."

Take DVD sales, for instance. DiClemente cautioned that it appears the rate of revenue decline from the DVD business will outpace any growth from the digital side.

DiClemente also cited specific trouble spots each of the companies.

Disney, he said, must contend with economic problems that could hurt theme park results; an ABC TV network that faces headwinds; and a stock price that is already at a premium to its peers. He cut Disney to an "underweight" rating with a $29 price target.

News Corp faces exposure to a depressed newspaper business; its Fox TV network remains challenged; and acquisition risk is a major concern, he said. It was cut to "equal weight" rating with a $15 price target.

Time Warner's additional problems include concerns about future capital allocation of a special dividend from Time Warner Cable; plans for its Time Inc unit; and questions about AOL. DiClemente cut the rating to "equal weight" rating with a $14 target.

He cut CBS to "underweight" and a $16 target because of added concerns about CBS Radio; structural and cyclical weakness at the CBS TV network; and acquisition risk related to its purchase of CNET.

While Viacom's price target was cut to $32 a share, it maintained its "equal weight" rating because of the possibility of incremental contributions from the "Rock Band" video game; international expansion; and the likelihood that affiliate fees will provide some stability.

In early trade, shares of Disney fell 43 cents to $30.47, CBS fell 42 cents to $18.10, Time Warner fell 34 cents to $14.64; News Corp fell 5 cents to $14.51; and Viacom fell 14 cents to $29.53.

(Reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Derek Caney)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Social Networking Gets a Sanity Check

Hi gang, Dr. Media says Om Malik is on the money with this blogpost, read especially the reduced ad revenue numbers. What does this mean? Well there may be many ways to put it but the bottom line is that the big boys are losing faith in the ability of social networking to deliver the consumers. I guess the kids don't like being shilled as much as Murdoch hoped they would. Looks like everyone is going to have to wake up and realize that you only get responses to things that folks are actually interested in.This is BTW, why Dr. Media stands by behavioral and experiential data collection and analytics. If you want to know what they like ask them, what a concept?

Social Networking Gets a Sanity Check - GigaOM
Social Networking Gets a Sanity Check
Om Malik, Friday, June 13, 2008 at 8:30 AM PT Comments (55)

After years of hype, noise and funding, the social networking sector is finally getting a harsh, but necessary, sanity check.

Today there are numbers out from comScore that indicate plateauing growth for the big two — MySpace and Facebook — in the U.S. Last week, Revision3 canceled “SocialBrew,” an online video show dedicated to social networking. Meanwhile, Monster killed its Tickle social networking service (first reported in April by TechCrunch), following closely on the heels of CondeNast’s shuttering of Flip and Verizon’s decision to close up its virtually unknown network, which had managed to garner a mere 18,000 members. (Verizon has shifted its community to Facebook.)

And these just might be the tip of the iceberg, for there are way too many me-too networks out there failing to find the traction, and hence the volume, needed to grow their revenues. The lack of monetization will only accelerate this process.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt never misses an opportunity to dis the social networking sector, typically by pointing out how hard it is to monetize social media inventory. Which could just be his way of trying to excuse his company’s inking of an exclusive $900 million deal to serve up advertising on News Corp.-owned properties including MySpace.

But Schmidt’s motivation notwithstanding, what he says is true: In a recent report, eMarketer, a N.Y.-based market research agency, lowered its 2008 advertising estimates for U.S. social networks to $1.43 billion from $1.6 billion. They expect Facebook will take in $265 million and MySpace will bring in $755 million, down from earlier projections of $305 million and $850 million, respectively.

I’m not sure how they came up with these new projections, but let’s assume for a moment that they’re right. That means that MySpace and Facebook together will bring in $1.02 billion in U.S. ad revenue, which leaves about $400 million for dozens of other social networks. eMarketer also calculated revenue per unique visitor for some of the big five:

* Google: $65.55
* Yahoo: $31.25
* Microsoft (MSN): $17.74
* MySpace: $12.85
* Facebook: $11.79

Now juxtapose these numbers against the U.S. traffic trends. Andrew Chen points out that U.S. visitor traffic for both MySpace and Facebook is beginning to show signs of maturing — and plateauing. The latest comScore data released today only reaffirms Chen’s point of view. Couple the new, lower revenue estimates with the flattening in the growth rate of U.S. visitors, what you end up with are tough times for social networking going forward.

Both MySpace and Facebook are seeing the bulk of their growth overseas, but that traffic is even harder to monetize than traffic in the U.S. Indeed, when it comes to making money on overseas traffic, with the exception of Google and Yahoo, most companies have had a mixed scorecard. What’s more, rather than a service unto itself, social networking is becoming just another feature on many web services.

All of these changes are going to continue to have a negative impact, and not just on all-purpose, also-ran social networks, but on the entire ancillary economy, including widget makers. (See our post on Userplane, the really big widget ad network.)

The way I see it, the market has shifted its focus onto niche social networks, such as those dedicated to sports, music, automobiles and pets. You know, sites like Dogster! They have focused, engaged communities, which means they can attract a higher amount of advertising dollars. (Liz came up with a taxonomy of social networks back in February 2007 that offers up an easy way to understand the nuances of the social networking landscape.)

Not only do they have a purpose, but they don’t depend on hit-or-miss behavioral targeting-based ad systems that many hope will one day turn social networks into a gold mine. After all, if you sell dog food, then everyone on Dogster is a potential customer. As for the rest of the sector, it’s only a matter of time before more companies go the way of Tickle, Verizon and CondeNast’s Flip.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Media Equation

Dr Media says here's the NYT fallout from the Mark Gill rant at the LA Film fest ,on the dire state of the Indie film biz.Yeah, it's bad. Whats bad? The fact that since the price of actual physical production has come down and more people can try their hand at making movies, the quality has gone down, so whats new about this, nothing,just the numbers are bigger. The real call underlying Gill's comments is for better material, quality stories well told.This is not new. It has always been a problem although now it;s more obvious, since there are so many films being made. It is not necessarily the type of film, who would have picked Juno, or Little Miss Sunshine as a script to be a hit?
The fact is that the majors as well as the larger indies are risk averse and want to have some one else spend the money and make the film so they can see it when it's in the can and then make a deal. And why not? All those folks who think they have a good project and are willing to bust their tails to raise money and make it,are just waiting for their 5 minutes in front of a Gill, it has been thus since the old days, just more noise, welcome to the new world of film making.

The Media Equation - Little Movies, Big Problems - NYTimes.com

June 30, 2008
The Media Equation
Little Movies, Big Problems

Hollywood is having a good-to-great summer. Box office is marginally up — mostly on the strength of increased ticket prices, but still, there’s over $4.52 billion already in the bank this year, according to Media by Numbers. The big studios — the sworn enemy of moviegoing snobs — have used great casting, like Robert Downey Jr. in “Iron Man,” Steve Carell in “Get Smart,” filmmaking innovation in Pixar’s “Wall-E” and “Wanted” and smart retreading in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “Sex and the City” to leave both audiences and the people in the studio corner office happy.

Once you start looking under the tent poles, though, perhaps for a film where nothing is blown up, things become grim. This summer, it seems only “The Visitor” will hit the classic indie trifecta of good reviews, strong word of mouth and staying power in theaters.

There’s no small wonder like “Once” on the horizon, let alone miniatures with big breakout potential like “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine.” The rest of the movies — lots of moody family stories, dysfunctional parables and eat-your-vegetables documentaries — come and go without notice in these long, hot summer months.

Why are there no independent movies worth seeing? As Yogi Berra might say, there are just too many of them.

At least, that’s the view of one veteran independent film executive, Mark Gill. In a speech he gave at the Los Angeles Film Festival a little over a week ago (a speech that set tongues to wagging after it was published by IndieWire, a Web site devoted to independent film), he pointed out that the number of films submitted to Sundance, the Valhalla of the indie film industry, has multiplied by 10 in the last 15 years to a total of 5,000. But that embarrassment of riches is really just an embarrassment.

“Most of the films are flat-out awful,” said Mr. Gill, the head of the independent company The Film Department. “Trust me, I have had to sit through tons of them over the years. Let me put it another way: the digital revolution is here,” he said, and boy, is it underwhelming.

Especially for movie people who manage, despite long odds, to make a film worth seeing. If last season is any indication, there will be blood, lots of it. Great films — “Lust, Caution,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “Lars and the Real Girl” — were buried in clutter and pushed out of theaters by far-less-well-conceived indie efforts.

One reason for the phenomenon, he said, was something we ordinarily see as a good thing: democratization.

Filmmaking, back when that meant real film, was a heinously expensive activity. Now anyone with access to digital equipment and some gullible friends, relatives or investors can put their precious thoughts on a large screen for all to see.

“Five thousand movies got made last year,” Mr. Gill told his audience. “Of those, 603 got released theatrically here.” He said that there was room for probably only 200 of those. (The studios, punished by the same numbers a few years ago, took the hint: Disney releases one-quarter of the films it used to and Warner Brothers has cut its output almost in half.)

Last year, I hosted a public interview with Sidney Lumet, the legendary director who made “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” It was an amazing film, with stars like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei. But someone in the audience got up and said that after he recommended it to all his friends, they couldn’t find it anywhere.

Why? Too many little movies waiting their turn, projects financed by private equity folks looking for their little piece of tinsel and a place to store money.

That won’t be a problem going forward, Mr. Gill said.

“The $18 billion that Wall Street poured into Hollywood last year has slowed to a trickle and shows no signs of being replaced at even remotely the same levels.” He said a pal of his who is an entertainment banker had told him he knew of at least 10 independent film backers who were looking for the exit from darkened theaters.

The current contraction in financing will take care of much of the glut. Anyone who doubts that most of the stupid money is gone and some of the smart money will become choosier has not been reading the newspapers. Warner Brothers has folded Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures and reduced New Line to a shell. ThinkFilm, a New York independent, is having difficulty paying its bills, and Mr. Gill suggested that five other companies are deeply troubled. Even DreamWorks, built on the backbone of Steven Spielberg, one of the most reliable auteurs of the last several decades, had to go to India to find backing.

Mr. Gill was once the president of Miramax Films, a place where he helped the Weinstein brothers figure out that if you thread the needle of closely managed budgets, connect with a press cohort hungry for good film, and perhaps take a walk to the podium at the Oscars, you can make enough money to pay your bills. He has since struck out on his own and now finds himself fighting it out with the imitators and competition created by the success of Miramax Films.

The movie business always ebbs and flows as people learn their lessons anew, but the most recent wave of new blood and new money was not always warmly received.

When I talked to Mr. Downey recently, he spoke bitterly of his time working for various newly minted auteurs before he was cast in the blockbuster “Iron Man” : “What is creepy and obvious is that the market was suddenly flooded with morons who thought, ‘If I’ve got $500,000, I can make a baseball cap that has a company name on it and say I’m a filmmaker.’ ”

Reached on the phone late last week, Mr. Gill said he had received a torrent of feedback after his speech, with most thanking him for being frank about the dimensions of the crater — financially, creatively and strategically — that independent film finds itself in.

“I spoke up because actors, directors and producers keep asking me why I am being so hard on them,” he said. “I am seeing all kinds of pitches for films that are just not even in the ballpark.”

Maybe they should stop asking Mr. Gill and start asking the audiences, if they can find them. Persuading a sentient adult to leave the house, with its cocoon of media delights, and spend precious gas and $10 to mix it up with the popcorn-chomping, cellphone-texting, stage-whispering hordes is no small matter. It takes something wonderful, or more likely, something explosive, a big event, to get people to the movie house.

“ ‘Good enough,’ ” Mr. Gill said, “is hardly good enough in this environment.”

“I think that Mark said a brave thing,” said Mark Harris, a columnist at Entertainment Weekly and author of “Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.” “There are too many movies, and too many of them are terrible and dull. The overproduction is a breach of faith with the audience, and they have become skeptical. I know I have.”

Some of Mr. Gill’s peers in the industry told me he was more Captain Obvious than prophet. Still, he got people’s attention because by the time he finished talking, it sounded as if he were pitching a particularly gruesome horror movie: “The strongest of the strong will survive and in fact prosper. But it will feel like we just survived a medieval plague. The carnage and the stench will be overwhelming.”

E-mail: carr@nytimes.com