Don’t self host your website

Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia
Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia
Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia

Should you use a free website from Tumblr or WordPress or Wix for the early days of  your indie film? You should register on those free services to grab your brand name. But I wouldn’t go live with that for anything other than a teaser or short.

What about getting your own hosting account and running something like WordPress self-hosting? Things have changed, don’t host your own software or blog.

If your film is a short you can select the free hosting from Tumblr, WordPress, Wix or any of those free top level domains. However if you are going to make more than one short film or a bigger project, you should get a top level domain at least in your production company name. So if your making “My Edgy Short” for the ProdCo Philberts Phantastic Philms you should register a domain name PhilbertsPhantasticPhilms (.com or whatever).

For a feature film or series you should register the brand name you are promoting MyEdgyIndieFilm (.com or whatever).

Until now the best advice was to then get a hosting provider for up to $10 per month and self host your website on that. WordPress was probably the easiest software to self host with and most hosting providers will install it for you. However I no longer recommend doing that.

Instead you should should pay WordPress.com or Tumblr.com or Wix to remove the ads and point your domain to their hosted solutions. Why? Automatic security updates! When you self-host software someone has to make sure it’s constantly up to date, because bad-guys are always looking for insecure sites to hack or worse to host their phishing scams from. Even if you are a competent sysadmin or website admin you have better things to do with your life than checking for updates all the time. No it’s not hard to do, but every minute you spend not making your movie, promoting your movie or aggregating your audience is time wasted.

So don’t buy plain generic or typical web-hosting to run your website. You wouldn’t set up your own web-server, so why would you run your own software? Pay a big player and point your own domain to their infrastructure. It will handle attacks better as well as scale sudden popularity.

Another solution is search on “Managed WordPress Hosting”. Read about the companies that specialise in that space.

Photo credit Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia

French Hours

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, as seen from the Allee Leon Bourgeois
The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, as seen from the Allee Leon Bourgeois
The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, as seen from the Allee Leon Bourgeois

One of the films I’ve worked on did “French Hours” for one day of the shoot. Chances are unless you’re a film production geek you don’t know about it. Worse still you’ve come here to find out just what French Hours are all about. Hopefully you read this before you vote on the request to work French Hours.

French Hours while most certainly not French, are when a film crew is asked to give up their meal break in return for grabbing something to eat from the craft services table or catering area on the run-in between doing other things. There is no lunch break and lunch is handed around while the crew works continuously.

This is most often requested when the production wants to get a lot of shots in a difficult situation in a very fast time. I have no problems with that. Phone Booth was famously made in 10 days by Joel Schumacher thanks to the crew agreeing to work French Hours.

Traditionally, the 1st AD asks the crew if they are willing to work French Hours and the crew votes on it. The vote must be unanimous for French Hours to be be imposed. Technically union members should vote no then call their union rep and the union will go to war with the production company. You don’t historically get retirement benefits and health coverage in the entertainment business by giving up long-fought-for work entitlements like lunch.

However what happens when you are working on a independent non-union shoot?

The Production Company must pay you more for agreeing to give up your lunch break. And not just  a one-off meal allowance. In Australia, you should earn penalty rates from the 5th hour after call without a lunch break. Five hours since call or the end of an earlier break is longest stretch of time without a meal break. The Delayed Meal Break penalty rate is 1x normal pay.

On a 10 hour day with French Hours you should be paid 10 hours normal time (x1 = 10 hours), 5 hours Delayed Meal Break (+ x1 = 5 hours) plus 2 hours overtime (+ x1.5 = 3 hours) so a 10 hour day means you get paid for 18 hours. In Australia, superannuation is payable only on the normal 10 hours.

Make sure you get paid to give up your lunch break.

Why would a I as a Producer want to incur this added cost? My location or other element may only be available for that day or week. It is a financial calculation and sometimes it’s worth paying 80% more labour to get the shot.

How to find unrated movies on any IMDB list

I was trying to find which movies I hadn’t rated yet on my IMDB list of movies I’ve seen - at least the movies I remember seeing there are lots of Westerns and SF movies whose titles I have no idea about.

Anyway the trick is to add the following characters to the end of the list’s URL

/?my_ratings=exclude

That will leave all movies that you’ve rated out of the list. If you want to see my Seen It list and exclude the movies you’ve rated go to http://www.imdb.com/list/DzIaduhe9sU/?my_ratings=exclude

I think you have to be logged into imdb for it to work.

7 Mistakes Filmmakers Make in Online Promotion – Video Extras

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All filmmakers want to get their shows seen, right?

Uploading additional, extra and behind the scenes footage of your movie is a good opportunity to promote your project, aggregate an audience and create a moment of connection with fans and followers.

However many filmmakers make these beginner mistakes

Newbie Mistake #1: Upload to proprietary, obscure, restricted or unreliable video hosting services

New audience may checkout your video once. Don’t make them register, signup, click-thru or share your video before they see your clip. Don’t use a service that crashes regularly.

Don’t self -host your video unless you are in the video hosting business. If you are a filmmaker, make films don’t work on becoming a hosting expert. What if you already are a hosting expert breaking into films? Go make more movies.

Do use YouTube, Vimeo, Kaltura, iTunes and/or other reliable, popular service to share your content in each market.

If any of your URL’s get popular and the server dies, you’ll never get all those eyeballs again. Make sure your video player works like all the other players out there.

People like to pause, restart, skip (forward and back), view later, and see how long the video is. Obscure services miss some features and often make it harder for people to share the videos they like.

Newbie Mistake #2: Fail to include “Share” or “Like” tools

YouTube and the popular video hosting services already have these tools built in – never disable them.

If you embed your video somewhere else allow fans to share or otherwise promote it to their group of friends.

Do you want to limit your audience to only those you personally invite? Unless you’re already famous, this is the age of abundance. Stand out from the crowd.

Allow embedding of your extra content on other sites. Let the damn thing go viral.

Newbie Mistake #3: Upload with no description

How many YouTube/Vimeo videos have no description? Too many! If you’re uploading extra material to build an audience take a moment to write something about the clip and more importantly, about your movie.

Put your title and log-line in. Include actors and key crew names.

Describe the footage as a pitch to your audience to watch it. Search engines also index the description.

Make it compelling. You are in the creative business. It doesn’t have to be brilliant, but it needs some work. Why should I watch your clip of bloopers?

Newbie Mistake #4: Try too hard to be funny, sarcastic or clever in the description

This is the opposite of #3, but essentially the same. If I can’t tell why I should watch your video, it’s a #fail. “Ted takes one for the film” is not a meaningful description to anyone but the 8-10 people there at the time. And they already saw it live. Try this

Angie Someday (who plays “Friday”) slaps Ted Hasbeen (“Famous”) in this out-take from our new 8-minute web series “Famous on Friday“. Ted was so shocked, he tripped over a lighting rig. Luckily the rig and Ted avoided serious injury.

Famous on Friday” is a 6-part dramedy web series due in January 2013. Follow Jeff Famous, bipolar publicist, as he struggles to stop Erica Friday, his first love and rock ‘n’ roll client, from retiring to a convent to repent her sinful life.

Wouldn’t you like to see 30 seconds of that?

Newbie Mistake #5: Disable comments

I know, right? This shouldn’t even be in the list. But too often I see “Comments are disabled for this video”.

What are you afraid of? Don’t you want questions, encouragement or accolades? It’s user generated content!

Newbie Mistake #6: Pick a dumb, boring or obscure title

Titling your clip “Ted takes one for the film.mov” screams amateur. Yes it’s the default setting on YouTube but look around, most popular clips don’t use the filename + .mov

Find a compelling or descriptive title for your clip. Put the show/movie name in it. People want to find others in the series.

Newbie Mistake #7: Forget a vanity card, production logo or URL in the footage.

You know people will download your video and hopefully share it around.

Do you think it will always be linked to your cleverly planned YouTube account name? If it’s a promo for “Famous on Friday” put the title, prodco and URL in the footage.

Let me know of any other newbie promotion mistakes you see in the comments below.

Address Book Related Names Completer Soon

I store all phone numbers and email addresses in the Address Book or Contacts app of the devices I use.

  • On Apple Mac OS X it’s the Address Book app
  • On IOS it’s the Contacts app
  • On Android it’s Contacts
  • On my webmail it’s Google’s Contacts

I also add spouse and child names where I know them. For members of my extended family, I have cards for the spouses, parents, and children. That way I get birthday reminders automatically in my calendar.

None of these apps have the smarts to make it easy to link a spouse card with a contact without a lot of repeat data entry. Well, the IOS app lets me select another card, but that’s it.

I’m alpha testing some code that can either create contact cards for spouses, children and parents who lack contact cards or offer to create the reciprocal link if the cards are already there.

The scrips work across Gmail, Google Contacts, Apple Address Book and the Contacts apps in IOS and Android. Actually they are a series of scripts native to each environment. Currently each script is stand alone software rather than a plugin for existing apps.

Each platform calls the Related People by their own name. Related Names, Related People, Relationships, whatever!

If this is a problem you’d like a solution to, let me know in the comments below. I’ll let you in on the beta program soon.

Choosing a new laptop

My main workhorse is an eMachines eM250 10.1? netbook. All my email, calendar and important software works via the cloud so I can use any machine with a web-browser. I learned that lesson in the Great London Laptop Crash of 2008.

However there are some items I use local storage for:

  • genealogy research
  • music, video, podcasts and other media
  • ebooks, PDF’s, and reference material
  • film and TV project producer files (budgets, head shots, contracts)
  • software development and scripting (especially for iPad apps)
  • GPG signing and encryption keys

Maybe the NBN will give me the speed to store all that stuff on the cloud, but for now it is a lot of data that represents a significant part of my work and home life.

I’ve advocated using cheap, easily replaceable devices for most common business and personal needs. Avoiding Windows has reduced at least 80% of my malware risk and 95% of my support requirements.

I abandoned podcasts two-and-a-half years ago after I moved to Ubuntu. Podcast catching and portability is one of the areas where seamless integration across multiple OS’s does not yet exist. I can re-subscribe and re-download (where available) the podcasts I enjoyed. But I never got around to it. Plus I no longer had a daily 90-120 minute round-trip commute to listen to them.

Now my eMachine eM-250 is showing it’s age. It’s been dropped and abused, the left arrow key now longer works, the Alt+Tab combination is not reliable, the battery lasts about 50 minutes and the power cord connector is so loose it only charges about half the time.

I also need to move my iPad app development environment to newer hardware than the 2007 Mac Mini I’m currently using. So I see three choices

  1. replace my netbook with a new $300 netbook and buy a new or refurbed mac mini
  2. buy a refurbished 13? Macbook for about $600-$700
  3. buy a new Macbook Air for $1099

Apple is announcing the iPhone next week, hopefully they’ll refresh the Air range at the same time in which case I may just buy the Air. If they don’t refresh the range, I’m reluctant to start lugging around another 13? laptop so option 2 is not ideal. Let’s see what happens next week.

Enable iCloud for old Unsupported Apple ID

iPhone iCloud error by Paul Zagoridis
iPhone iCloud error by Paul Zagoridis
iPhone iCloud error by Paul Zagoridis

I have had an Apple ID that predated iTunes. It wasn’t in the form of an email address, it was just “funpaul”.

Now that I have an iPhone 4S and am developing apps for  iOS I thought I should start using iCloud. But I was getting this error

Unsupported Apple ID:
iCloud requires an Apple ID that is an email address (including @me.com addresses).

Unfortunately the Learn More button is worse than useless

After searching for way too long searching for the solution, I discovered that I had to change my Apple ID into an email address style Apple ID, but I’d been buying stuff from the AppStore and iTunes with just the original ID for years. My kids knew it and have spent hundreds of dollars using it over the years.

How to change the name you use for your Apple ID:

  1. log in to My Apple ID by selecting Manage your account
  2. Check that your primary email address listed is still current (i.e. it still works)
  3. click the Edit button next to your old-fashioned Apple ID
  4.  Click the Submit under Make your Apple ID and primary email address one and the same
  5. Viola you’ve updated your Apple ID.

Warning this is a one way trip, you lose your ability to log in with your old Apple ID on iTunes, App Store and other Apple properties. But that’s the cost of progress, it is unlikely that old non-email format ID’s will remain useful as the Apple ecosystem grows.

Hope it helps, say thanks in the comments below.

StalkTrak the new twitter scam

StalkTrak phishing scam website
StalkTrak phishing scam website
Do not trust this app or page

Currently there is a twitter DM (Direct Message) telling you to “Find out who’s stalking your twitter”. It’s a scam to steal your twitter id and password.

If you’ve authorized StalkTrak to use your twitter account, you’re a victim of a scam. Your twitter password and user name has been stolen. Change your twitter password immediately.

Just like I warned in How to Avoid Twitter Phishing Scams, this scam is designed to fool users on mobile devices like smart phones. The site looks at first glance to be twitter, but it is spelled t-v-v-i-t-i-l-e-r, relying on our brain’s ability to read and ignore misspelled words.

That’s a screenshot on the right.

Note that the domain name, DM phrase and application name will change as this attack matures. I’ll update this entry with new domains, application names and phrases as I see them.

P.S. I know Stalktrak is an old scam, but it has raised it’s ugly head again with new domains and phrases.