The Guardian: I wish I’d asked about my family’s past while the older generation were here


Thank You, Merle Gottschalk, for Seed-Funding ‘They Called Him Mr B’

Merle Marjory Gottschalk née Bell is Mr B’s sister. She is the youngest of the three siblings who are, from oldest to youngest, Harold, Brian and Merle. Both of Merle’s brothers are now deceased. Merle is my mother. She is the last of her generation able to provide insight into Mr B’s life and works.

Despite being anything but well-off, twice a widow who must work in her own small home-based business where she hand-builds products supporting the elderly and disabled in living independently, Merle has been contributing essential funding to this project, They Called Him Mr B, over the past few months. Without her financial assistance, this documentary movie about her brother Brian and the rest of our extended family would never have got this far.

My mother Merle has my deepest gratitude, respect and love.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times for Independent Documentary Moviemaking

This has been a banner year for radical improvements in the quality and affordability of movie production hardware and software. In Australia at least, this has also been a truly terrible year for public sector broadcasting and financing of independent documentary and feature films and signs are it is only going to become much worse in 2015.

Crowdfunding has been heavily touted as the new saviour for independent movie producers and yet the experiences of some established documentary movie producers, especially Australian ones relying on pozible, indicates that is simply not the case. The latest documentary producer/director to come clean on the shortfalls of crowdfunding, Yvonne Russo, recently told Larry Jordan that she will not be using crowdfunding again. I wrote a short piece about that for planet5D Doco Director Yvonne Russo Won’t Use Crowdfunding Again and Here’s Why – and the article is linked to Mr Jordan’s interview with her as an audio file and a text transcript.

On the other hand crowdfunding has proven itself invaluable to the designers and manufacturers of new movie production hardware. Veydra is the most notable crowdfunded production hardware success of recent months, not least because company founder Ryan Avery is about to supply independent moviemakers with the first set of professional quality cinema prime lenses in the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format.

Current MFT format movie production cameras include Panasonic’s Lumix GH4 and several offerings by Australian success story Blackmagic Design – the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in its MFT version and the more recent Blackmagic Studio Camera.

Panasonic Lumix GH4 4K DCI-capable hybrid movie/stills camera with Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens housed in a Motionnine GH4 Cube Cage with classic handle and MyMyk SmartMyk attached. Noose wrist strap made by Crumpler. Photograph copyright Karin Gottschalk 2014.

The Veydra cine prime lens set has helped rubber stamp these very affordable MFT 4K and HD cameras as serious production tools. Accessories such as Motionnine‘s camera cages for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the Panasonic GH4 are part of a steadily growing panoply of affordable, high quality audio, camera rigging and support equipment products needed by independent moviemakers.

Another Australian success story, Atomos, recently released its 4K Shogun monitor/recorder which, in conjunction with Convergence Design‘s Odyssey 7Q+ ably supports these cameras and more whether shooting HD or 4K high quality video.

Independent moviemakers are no longer dependent on budgeting for costly daily high-end equipment rentals – purchasing instead of renting production hardware for use on many projects has become standard modus operandi now. This practice has two top-line benefits – owning ensures deep understanding and equipment bought for one project will be useful far into the future.

The latter is especially important given how most moviemakers, even famous, established ones like Steven Soderbergh, take on no-budget and low-budget projects to sharpen their skill set and build their show reel. Personal work – what this is in effect – has long been crucial to building careers, reputations and portfolios of work in the movie and stills photography worlds.

Another benefit of buying instead of renting the new generation of 4K cameras, lenses and recorders is future-proofing. Shooting then storing 4K media now even when editing and releasing as 1280p FHD in the short term ensures the ability to edit and re-release as 4K in the future when that becomes the standard.

Future-proofing is a wise investment in your moviemaking future and an effective way of spreading the benefits of expenditure on hardware and software well beyond the present. Every expenditure decision I make places future-proofing at the top of the list.