Screenmancer Staff Arguing The Big Input?
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Then Arguing About Big Input vs Small Input (;
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Rings_Thumbnail1[Unzq]

Watch RINGS Movie Prank Big-box Buyers: Seriously, Halloween in February

SCREENMANCER PRANK ALERT: Has there ever been a better movie slogan? “You know the rules: first you watch it, then you die.” RINGS17

Gee whiz kids, welcome to Halloween in February, as RINGS Team place hidden cameras to catch the freak show when real-life TV store customers see that creepy doll-like waif come at them for real. As in live body through the plasma screen, IRL. (Which means In Real Life, for those over 25.) Yes, it’s a little sadistic to prank these nice unsuspecting customers, who literally flip out when Samara crawls after them.

Oh, and by the way, Paramount Pictures franchise installment RINGS comes out Feb. 3, so you can scare the hell-o out of your friends, family, and Valentine’s Day dates. Great timing, huh? Plus Vince D’Onofrio is in it, which is extra crispy. ringsonlineteaser1-shtRINGS is directed by F. Javier Gutierrez, and stars Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Find it everywhere, like… on Rings Official Channels:
Hashtag: #Rings
Facebook: /RingsMovie
Twitter: @RingsMovie
Instagram: @RingsMovie
Snapchat: ringsmovie

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and like being scared… sorta.

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LarryMeme17

NEWSFLASH: Top 10 Most Troubling Conspiracy Videos on YouTube

LOS ANGELES, CA: Remember this little prescription? “You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” That’s how The Matrix’s Laurence Fishburne gets Keanu Reeves character NEO to enter the alternate reality that’s the so-called true reality. Newflash: that is from 1999. Now substitute Blue State and Red State for pills, and think about political party affiliations.

Who saw into the future? GuyFawMeme17The Wachowski filmmaker siblings from Australia, the pair that brought us Matrix in 1999, followed by V for Vendetta (2005). Yes, that “V.” The now-iconic fictional character who has become a rallying cry for social justice via the Guy Fawkes face mask.

Where are we going with this? During this Era of Fake News, “Alternative Facts,” and Improbable Stats, brought to you courtesy of the 2016 US Presidential Election, nobody even offered a pill.

But we were still sent down a rabbit hole that saw Reality TV Entrepreneur Donald J. Trump engage in a claymation-style Celebrity Death Match with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, before he swept into the Highest Office in the Land. This  has been the equivalent of the Red Pill anyway.

Under President Trump we expect more crazy, above and below the scroll, even by the troll, who sometimes voice popular sentiment. That’s the irony of fake news: there may be a grain of truth in it. Just as there is a grain of salt for MSM (Mainstream Media) news nowadays. The bottom-line is nobody gets away without having a filter on their brain.

JonesMeme17That said, Screenmancer has jammed up a YouTube feed (and maybe got flagged by the NSA, kidding), just to bring you the Top 10 Most Troubling Conspiracy Videos on YouTube. The order is 10 being Troubling, in descending order to Most Troubling. Next time you’re hit with outlandish news, at least you’ll have a benchmark for crazy.

While the interwebs must remain uncensored, free, and fluid, expect to encounter digital dilemmas like this, where we’re being urged to shut down free speech on a free internet because of Crazy. This happens the more outlandish the interwebs becomes. Yet this controlled chaos is reflective of the actual offline world around us and what people are actually seeing behind the privacy of their own screens.
We’re not including links for these gems because that would be an endorsement of the content.  If you Google Up the titles, unfortunately you will stumble upon the incendiary footage. Yet, the real disclaimer here is that while much of this content is off-the-hook ridiculous, some of it will give you pause. GeneMeme17

If you feel we’ve left off anything important, remember that our criteria excludes all 9/11 theories, political hit videos, unsavory magical or psychic themed videos, and anything that refers to animals, children or feathers or nudity or faked moon landings. Enjoy the new era of Curated Crazy…

Top 10 Most Troubling Conspiracy Videos on YouTube
[Includes one line description for basis of ranking.]

(Ranked 10 = Troubling; 1 = Most Troubling)

10.) Truth About New World Order This Video Blocked in 51 Countries
(Real News Studio, 175K Views)
Begins with George Carlin’s monologue about conspiracy theories, downhill from there, conflates world events.

9.) Dr. Steve Pieczenik – The American Republic Has Been Restored
‘No More False Flags, No More B^!!$#!%!’
(The River Mersey, 54K Views)
Former Govt. Operative Peczenik insists he was among many insiders who hijacked the election for Trump.

8.) You Are Being Distracted YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP
[Hillary Clinton – George Soros connected imagery]
(Anonymous Updates , 17K* Views)
A fake Anonymous group purports to know Greek Billionaire George Soros is pulling Hillary Clinton’s puppet strings.

7.) A Message To Fake Anonymous And The Deceived
(Anonymous, 338K Views)
Real Anonymous takes on Anon Updates, Anon DK, and others who pretend to be official Anonymous, which is non-violent.

6.) GOD is a Computer PROGRAMMER – Documentary*
(Hotcakes, 141K Views)
Bogus analogies invoke digital fear in this bogus “documentary” that attempts to co-opt the Digital Age.

5.) Simulacrum: The Superimposed Artificial Reality
(Doug Michael, 51 K Views)
Quotes Iris Murdoch, purports to be sci-fi-entific, is just weird, and everything might be a simulation, but who cares?

4.) 11 Cellular & WiFi DARK SECRETS You Must Hear Now & 3 BONUS features
(LogicBeforeBeauty, 82K Views)
“CERN is ‘the devil’s play toy.’ Beings from another dimension to come through cell towers;” Holy Toledo, Batman, this is wack!

3.) The Huge Secret That Princess Diana Knew
(Gary Lite, 2.5M Views)
Lady Diana knew Royal Family Reptile secrets, and Leaping’ Lizardry, enough said.

2.) ROSEANNE MK ULTRA – Hollywood Stars Kidnapped
(Robbo Da Yobbo, 140K Views)
An entire Roseanne Barr genre on topics like this and how “Illuminati Rules Hollywood with MK Ultra Mind Control.”

1.) JFK Jr. Told the world who killed his Father
(Veritas 13Fox, 388K Views)
Remember his magazine GEORGE? Now parse the phrase ‘JFK was ambushed,’ and you’re there on this one.

[DISCLAIMER: Certain topics have been excluded from the list, including all 9/11 theories, Political figure bashing, magical and psychic themed videos, chemtrails, and anything that refers to animals, children or feathers or nudity or faked moon landings.]

LarryMeme17

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and binge-watch conspiracy footage.

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IBMOct17

How to Factor the Oscars: Hidden Figures, Stats on Women Revealed

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Who knew NASA and IBM would be the corporate darlings of this year’s Oscar race? Or, translated into Award Season trivia for 2017, who knew HIDDEN FIGURES from 20th Century Fox, about three NASA human “Computers,” would run up unexpected numbers at the box office and put stars Kevin Costner, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe on the Oscar radar?

HF-228 - Octavia Spencer stars as Dorothy Vaughan in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Octavia Spencer stars as Dorothy Vaughan in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

The graph looks like this according to The Numbers, an insider box-office tracking service: Dec. 25, 2016 (release date) $515,499; Dec. 26, $831,571. Not impressed? By Dec. 27, the picture barely tops $1 M USD. However, in a five-day period between Jan. 5 and Jan. 10, 2017, in a run up to the Golden Globes, HIDDEN FIGURES goes from $2.5 M USD to $30 M USD. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 15, the picture tops $54 M USD and counting.

While the film took a backseat to singing-dancing LA LA LAND on Jan. 8 at the Golden Globes ceremony, nobody can deny that the film’s bump from being included in that awards show made a huge difference as far as audience awareness, and in turn box office totals.

You may not be a big fan of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or the checkered history of their Golden Globes presentation, but this year the GG’s hit it out of the park for a film that may have stayed hidden had not this show (among others) shined a spot on three remarkable African-American women who helped ushered in a win in the US-Russian Space Race back in the 60’s. The film picked up two nominations, for Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and Ben Wallfisch for Best Score, and for Octavia Spencer as Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture.

HF-207 - Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

And now a brief moment to shine a spot on the man of the hour, here, because his star-power helped get this funded by Peter Chernin and other execs at 20th who always need “a name.” From Dances with Wolves to McFarland USA (see it), and now Hidden Figures, Costner is one of the only past or present A-List leading men with an eye on the prize for under-represented groups, including women. McFarland director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) singled him out for this Disney film because he is such a likable barrier breaker and that story is about a Mexican-American community track team that defies all odds.

DF-06401_R - Kevin Costner stars as NASA official Al Harrison, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

Kevin Costner stars as NASA official Al Harrison, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone.

But enough about Kevin Costner, he won’t get a nomination because Best Actor is a tough field this year, although there may be an honorary Oscar someday for his efforts. So let’s recognize him here and now for helping get some tough-to-fund projects made.

Now back to HIDDEN FIGURES, and why this movie may slip out from behind the pack and take Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards presentation on Sunday, Feb. 26. (Yes, Best Picture.) This movie is adapted from the novel by Margot Lee Shetterley from Harper Collins, and the real title is “The American Dream and Untold Story of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win The Space Race.” Written by an actual native of Hampton, Virginia, the book casts a kind light on John Glenn (Glen Powell) whose performance here is noteworthy as he seems both gender-blind and color-blind. Shetterley herself, as described in her bio is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, as well as “recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing.”IBMOct17

Along with gritty but elegant performances by actors Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), and Janelle Monáe (Mary Jackson), the film is a visual essay on the power of STEM in changing lives. STEM stands for Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology. It’s a plank in shoring up the American education system that is badly outdated. The notion that back in the 1960’s these real-life women of science (and of color) could have better chances than some women today is not lost on audiences. Hidden figures is a triple pun, their physical figures, math figures, and today’s still-grim stats for women in significant scientific jobs. Plus, the climate of learning in America right now is so consumer-oriented, most people barely know how to balance a checkbook anymore (much less figure payloads to the moon), as most of us live by the random swipe of plastic in a virtual ETF economy that circles the globe.

Melissa McCarthy hosted a Special Screening of this film earlier in the year, meaning it needed word-of-mouth among Hollywood’s creative community too. HIDDEN FIGURES has had music events. Pharrell Williams has a music credit and did a concert in Toronto for TIFF. It has inspired girl-empowerment events, screenings in Atlanta, all over North America, as a sleeper success story during this Award Season.

But back to the actual story. Vaughan just had a building named after her at NASA to commemorate her work, and Octavia Spencer pays off her legacy on her work getting us to the stars with a stellar performance. When was the last time you saw anyone hold up a Fortran programming book on screen and make it look like a way out of poverty. Spencer absolutely inhabits this real-life role as more than credible, but lovable. However, she is stuck in a very tough category for 2017, up against the formidable Viola Davis, who all but owns this supporting awards category for FENCES, the August Wilson screen adaptation of his literary playwriting masterpiece. Let’s just say there will be no Winner and Nominees in that category this year, it’s a win-win all the way around, no matter who takes home the statuette. TarajiHF17Taraji P. Henson, who slays in her role as Cookie Lyon as part of HBO’s urban epic Empire, did not even pick up a Golden Globe nom in the TV category on Jan. 8, but her performance in HIDDEN FIGURES is masterful in a different way. While she appears at times hysterical and high-strung as Katherine Johnson in HIDDEN, the reality her character touches is everything about all women in the workplace – from the bathroom to the Boardroom. And this is where the movie really spills out into the actual industry itself. It’s not just about women of color, it’s about all women, because no matter how you slice the stats, the stats are always lumped together as the percentages of females in key roles.

Take a look at the 2015 stats here, released in Feb. of 2016, known as the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment (CARD) from USC’s Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg (IDEA). This excerpt here includes only few major statistical breakdowns on women in general for feature films. USCGenDir17Did you know 96.6% of all directors are men, with 3.4% women? Now factor women of color and that 3.4 percent divides again. Out of a pool of 6,421 writers, more than 71% are men, 28.9% are women. And, according to the study, an apologia of sorts, as in “it may also be the case, however, that executives feel more comfortable hiring women directors and screenwriters when the story pulls female.”

How many “executives” are women, you may wonder, to pull off this double miracle of generating more female-driven stories helmed by female-driven hands? Under the heading Top Corporate Executives by Gender and Position, this study reveals fully 81% of Board positions are held by men, while 79% are C-Suite (meaning C-level titles such as CEO, COO, CIO), and even in the ranks of Executive Management, another 81% are men. So we’re looking at a 1-in-5 chance changes will be coming anytime soon, as approximately 20% of the behind-the-scenes decision makers are women. USCCover17

HIDDEN FIGURES is that 1-in-5 project that got through the system. Directed by Theordore Melfi (St. Vincent (Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy)), he shares a screenplay credit with Allison Schroeder. Schroeder is the writer of Mean Girls 2, and credited on Pineapple Express, but she also has a BA from Stanford, and a went to the Producing Program at USC. Her own story is one of education and advancement, another hidden stat rolled up in this remarkable movie.

The box office for HIDDEN FIGURES continues to climb on a sharp curve upward, and this film ranked #1 in the US in popularity this week for a reason. Not because it’s diverse, not because it’s about women, not because it’s about women of color, math, science, space, or technology… because it’s beyond awesome. These three life stories, based on actual scientists from NASA who excelled and were recognized despite segregation in America, have such poignant arcs that the connection to the audience is palpable in the theater. Now let’s see if Oscar voters feel the same pull, not toward the heavens, but toward the real issue facing people here on earth.

HIDDEN FIGURES official story, full cast credits, and featurette trailers can be found on this link. And now we even send women into space, see these NASA stats from Graphiq.

Stay tuned for more Oscar predictions… and peruse USC’s CARD study here. Mostly add up HIDDEN FIGURES Oscar chances for yourself, see it now.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and go out on a limb handicapping the Oscars.

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JLawPass

I Pod for Real: In PASSENGERS, JenLaw & Chris Pratt Snap Awake During Space Sleep

Let’s face it, everybody loves those What-If scenario space movies. It’s almost a cliché that periodically orbits through the Hollywood universe of high concept screenplay ideas. The most famous un-produced pitch goes something like this: Hey, what if somebody found a black box on an alien space ship?  PASSENGERS, distributed by SONY for Dec. 21 release and directed by the Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum, aims exactly for this rarified airspace. As in Hey, what if two passengers on an interplanetary mission wake up 90 years too early from a pod snooze? You can hear the story development cogs begin to whirr.ChrisJenPass
In PASSENGERS, written by Princeton alum Jon Spaihts, who penned Prometheus, star casting helps. And there will be Michael Sheen, who has almost become a requirement for out-there futurist movies since his wacky turn in the remake of TRON. Besides Sheen, the Matrix’s Laurence Fishburne is also on board, in case we missed a clue about how momentous the scope of this picture is… but wait, there’s more.
A-list leads Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star as the two passengers on this 120-year interplanetary hop when their hibernation pods wake them up at year 30, 90 years before their destination.  Oh snap, Jim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) are then “forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, with the lives of thousands of passengers in jeopardy.”

Again, PASSENGERS is directed by the Norwegian-born director of the Imitation Game Morten Tyldum, who seems to be an expert at mining the mental space in a movie scene. But nobody seems to overthink the human evolutionary politics of colonization in space because this picture’s plot destination is simply a love story. For conspiracy theorists who like escape earth fantasies, this should be just the ticket.

Opens wide Dec. 21 on the blue planet. #PassengersMovie, official site here.

JLawPass
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

Written by: Jon Spaihts

Produced by: Neal H. Moritz
Stephen Hamel
Michael Maher
Ori Marmur

Executive Producers: David Householter
Ben Browning
Jon Spaihts
Lynwood Spinks
Bruce Berman
Greg Basser
Ben Waisbren

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence
Chris Pratt
Michael Sheen
Laurence Fishburne

(This film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for the following reasons: sexuality, nudity and action/peril. Credits not final.)

BONUS: Here’s some space movie stats for grins. Do you think PASSENGERS will make the cut?

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and suspend their disbelief regularly.

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TCNGBJR2

Have You Played JACK REACHER: NEVER STOP PUNCHING Smartphone Edition?

SCREENMANCER MOVIE-TO- GAME ALERT: If you’re just getting ready for Fall, maybe back to school, what better time to burn up data than with Paramount Pictures release of JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK, with an all new digital game, available now for Android devices? You can find the Tom Cruise doppleganger game on Google Play and the film’s website.  TC1ShtJR2
Originally eleased in conjunction with National Punch Day a couple weeks ago, the “Jack Reacher: Never Stop Punching” digital game is an 8-bit side scroller where players pose as ex-major of the US Army Jack Reacher. And you know the rest, his mission is to protect the country from miscreants and morons (hopefully) in the name of justice. Reacher is a moderately unstoppable force who has nothing to lose and everything to punch. Team Punch Drunk, digerati-style that is.

If you want to download the game, hit up the official “JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK” movie site at this click, or another click at Google Play here.

Remember It’s Only a Movie – Wait, Now It’s Only a Game Too = Plot Summary

In case your brain stopped working, Jack Reacher in the form of A-List still-phenomTom Cruise, returns with his particular brand of justice in the (if you say so) highly anticipated sequel JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK. When Army Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who heads Reacher’s old investigative unit, is arrested for Treason, Reacher will stop at nothing to prove her innocence and to uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy involving soldiers who are being killed.

At least, that’s what is supposed to happen storyline-wise. And it’s all based upon JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK, author Lee Child’s 18th novel in the best-selling Jack Reacher series, that has seen 100 million books sold worldwide. The film stars global box office draw Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany and Robert Knepper.

But here’s a more serious question, how did they get Marshall Herskovitz on board as one of the screenwriters, when he is past PGA president and likely busy — oh wait — he was on Cruise’s Last Samurai too. Nevermind.

Here’s Your Damn Movie Clip, Be Patient, Folks, Lol

Surprise, Guess Who Produced It?

Produced by Tom Cruise, Don Granger and Christopher McQuarrie. Based on the book “Never Go Back” by Lee Child, with a screenplay by Richard Wenk and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz. Executive Produced by Paula Wagner, Herbert W. Gains, David Ellison, and Dana Goldberg. Directed by Edward Zwick.

Recap on Release Date & Social Media Maze for Grins…TCNGBJR2

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is in theaters October 21, 2016

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JackReacherMovie/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jackreacher
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jackreacher/
Website: ReacherMovie.com
#JackReacherMovie

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies, and have a soft spot for OG Tommy Cruise, ps.

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ifp16

Digerati Doing Cool Stuff in NYC, Or IFP Features Television, Web & Digital Content for Fall

SCREENMANCER NYC ALERT: July 21, 2016 (Manhattan, NY) – Digerati who dig film, this is a heads up for you about IFP in NYC. What is IFP? The Independent Filmmaker Project, breakfast of “champions of storytelling” also lunch and dinner out. Read on… ifpcrowd16

Today, IFP announced their expansion to support TV, Digital, Interwebs, VR and App-based Series at its upcoming IFP Film Week. Series showrunners and creators will take part in the IFP Project Forum, the only International Co-Production Market in the U.S. featuring stories for all platforms. As announced, after 37 years in Manhattan, IFP Film Week is moving across the river to Brooklyn.

The event will set up shop in DUMBO anchored around its headquarters, the Made in NY Media Center By IFP; Film Week will run from September 17th through September 22nd, 2016.

In recent years, IFP and Filmmaker Magazine have played a vital role in launching the careers of many of today’s rising stars active in the television, new media and web series space, prompting the decision to expand to platforms outside of film.QTFMIPF16
These rising stars include series creators Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair (High Maintenance), Deston Daniel Cretton (Upcoming Minors with Ryan Coogler), Lena Dunham (Girls), The Duplass Brothers (Togetherness) Moria Demos & Laura Riccardi (Making of a Murderer), Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar), Robert Eggers (Upcoming Rasputin), Ingrid Jungermann (F to the 7th) Todd Rohal (MOPZ), Amy Seimetz (The Girlfriend Experience), directors Nicole Kassell (The Americans), Seith Mann (The Breaks), Stacie Passon (Transparent) and Dee Rees (Bessie) as well as those forging their own storytelling paths such as Laura Poitras (The Intercept).

In addition to expanding across multiple platforms, IFP is proud that over 50% of the participating projects in this year’s Film Week are inclusive of range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and physical abilities in key creative positions, fostering future projects that break out of the norm. These diverse projects span across all areas of film week.

“IFP Film Week is delving into such exciting new territories this year,” says IFP Executive Director Joana Vicente. “In this changing technological landscape, it’s imperative to give voices to those who think outside the box and look to not only film and television, but also web, digital, and VR platforms to get their stories out there.  We’re also thrilled that these voices will belong to more and more women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community.”

IPFFMMAG16

Under the curatorial leadership of Deputy Director/Head of Programming Amy Dotson & Senior Director of Programming Milton Tabbot, forty-five projects have been selected. The slate includes narrative and non-fiction series (limited, mini and full-season series) in all formats, from VR and Snapchat-based series to comedy, drama and genre pilots. Over half of the selected projects have already shot their pilots independently; in addition, many feature veteran creatives from the film, television and web space presenting new series pitches.

Highlighted projects on deck… 

  • According To My Mother, a comedic series from actor Daniel K. Isaac (Billions)
  • Awkward Celebrity Encounters, an animated web-comedy from Caveh Zahedi (The Show About the Show)
  • Big Fun, a French/American thriller series from producer of France’s Hero Corp
  • House of Psychotic Women, from the producer of The Greasy Strangler
  • The Illegal, from the team behind award winning Canadian mini-series Book of Negros and the executive producer of OWN’s Greenleaf
  • Love & Stuff, a limited, non-fiction series from director Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl)
  • The Order, a dramatic thriller from director Jim Mickle (Cold In July)
  • Sex Ed, a drama from producers of Teen Mom & Serial: Season 2
  • Untitled Flint Police Project, a non-fiction series from the team behind T-Rex.
  • Newcomers include Shugs & Fats (2015 Gotham Award Breakthrough Series), The Come Up (2016 Series Fest Winner), and Namaste, Bitches.

For the full series slate, please visit:

http://www.ifp.org/press/ifp-announces-series-slate-for-project-forum-at-ifp-film-week/#.V40exJMrLXQ

A number of activities will take place at IFP Film Week aimed at helping connect content creators with industry leaders in television, and new media that can help them complete their latest works and connect with audiences.

  • Series showrunners and creators will take part in the IFP Project Forum, the only International Co-Production Market featuring stories for all platforms. Specifically, over 3,500 meetings are set up to support the future of storytelling by connecting content creators with financiers, executives, influencers and decision-makers in film, television, and new media.
  • All projects will also participate in Screen Forward Pitches, an all-day, exclusive live pitching session with top television, new media and digital execs in hopes of moving their projects – and careers – forward.
  • 20 projects will also be showcased publicly at the outdoor Screen Forward Showcase, an open to the public project featuring highlights of the new program.

Reflecting this year’s inclusion of web and television projects, IFP Film Week is sponsored by HBO and Amazon Studios this year; HBO will support all documentary and non-fiction interests of the week, while Amazon Studios is committed to supporting our producers across all platforms and genres.

Who Pays For This?

The IFP and IFP Film Week are generously supported by a group of loyal corporate, foundation and government benefactors. The 2016 Sponsors are Premier Sponsors HBO and Amazon Studios; Gold Sponsors A&E Indie Films and SAGIndie; and Silver Sponsors National Film & Video Foundation of South Africa, Shutterstock, Sofia Independent Film Festival and Telefilm Canada. IFP Film Week is also supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Time Warner Foundation.

More About IFP

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. ifp16The organization fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include Independent Film Week, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, a new incubator space developed with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. IFP represents a growing network of 10,000 storytellers around the world, and plays a key role in developing 350 new feature and documentary works each year. During its 38-year history, IFP has supported over 12,000 projects and offered resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers. More info at www.ifp.org

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VTLady16

Director Byrd McDonald Unpacks VINTAGE TOMORROWS, His Epic Steampunk Doc

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

That director Byrd McDonald (Haunters) is from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, birthplace of Loretta Lynn speaks volumes about his path toward the making of VINTAGE TOMORROWS, a documentary about the movement known as Steampunk coming at you on July 19 from Samuel Goldwyn Films. Viewing this film is essential as part of any aficionado’s playlist. In the unpacking of facts as to why the Steampunk community welcomed Byrd as a “maker” of this film, about a very closely held movement, the Bionic Man could be a factor. Well, maybe that’s stretching things, but Lee Majors, another Kentucky connection, was the Bionic Man, who could be viewed as a proto-Steampunk Ambassador. Without the ubiquitous “top hat and goggles” of the genre as we know know it, of course. ObtainShannon16

If you’re starting to get the picture, steampunk is that odd-in-a-good-way intersection between Jules Verne and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Or, to put it more succinctly, steampunk is way beyond the common label of ‘googles on top hats’ and reflects a sentimental yearning for a time when substance and form had a fantastical quality. Think the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago, when wizards like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison wowed the public with electrical power put to practical magic applications in things crafted by hand from steel, wood, and wonder.
VTlogo16To quote the press kit, “VINTAGE TOMORROWS examines the Steampunk movement’s explosive growth, origins, and cultural significance, from its sci-fi beginnings into an aesthetic and DIY movement that influences art, fashion, design and music globally” though “interviews with the writers and artists credited with galvanizing” the term itself. But it also poses “the fundamental question: What does Steampunk tell us about history, community, and our complicated relationship with technology.”

If you’ve checked your smartphone for updates several times during this introduction, this film is for you. And it features pioneering luminaries such as Cyberpunk founder William Gibson (Neuromancer), Bruce Sterling (Gibson’s co-author on seminal steambook The Difference Engine), China Miéville, Cherie Priest, Gail Carriger; graphic novelists Paul Guignon and Anina Bennett, musicians Abney Park and Erica “Unwoman” Mulkey, artist/maker Shannon O’Hare and the Neverwas Haul gang, and “over 20 other denizens of the subculture.”


Byrd McDonald is quick to shoot down the notion that Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes franchise was an early cinematic foray into steampunk, although the film is riddled with echoes of the movement, from gadgets to pop alchemy. “Wild Wild West was like 10 years before that,” he notes, but does not endorse it. “And City of Lost Children is the film most people in the community refer to,” McDonald adds. ByrdonSetVT16La Cité des Enfants Perdus” is the French film translated as City of Lost Children that ignited the maker imagines in the steampunk ranks, but the term was coined in science fiction lore, as you will find out in VINTAGE TOMORROWS.

When Byrd McDonald first “reached out to people, there were a lot of people who were somewhat chilly because they had been approached by mainstream media before, and it never went well. They ended up on TV shows making them look ridiculous. Right now there is a steampunk reality show that makes them look ridiculous.” The fear was that this director would “want to talk about top hats” and accessories of the fashion rather than the cultural aspects. “What really broke down walls was that I was a queer kid,” McDonald shares. “That really opened the doors” because he was coming from an alternative perspective to begin with, plus “I used to do drag,” meaning he understood theatrical performance coupled with identity and a whole range of complex subcultural dynamics. “I really had to hang out with them and show them I wasn’t coming to them with any kind of agenda. I think it would be really hard for someone on the inside of that movement to make a film about that community that the general public could relate to.”

In VINTAGE TOMORROWS, a menagerie of hugely talented makers, thinker-tinkerers, and performers detail facets of their involvement, including the lengths they have gone in crafting personas as well as the bonds they have formed with like-minded individuals — who would not normally band together — but find refuge from the Digital Chill inside the incandescent glow of their imaginations applied to steampunk projects and events. Unobtain16Once displayed at Burning Man, there is actually a retrofitted fifth-wheel trailer contraption, much like a Mr. Toad wild ride house, created by the Neverwas Haul gang. And you can see the play on words there, which is very of the vein this movement has tapped.

Listen to what the filmmaker has to say here in his own words, then watch the film…

Q: How would you encapsulate yourself in Steampunk terms?

Lol!   Ahem….”I think of myself as a brass spyglass through which the curious can observe the world of steampunk.”

Q: What was your impression of City of Lost Children?

City of Lost Children is my favorite expression of steampunk in cinema, though some people might argue the film fits better under the “diesel punk” umbrella. It’s one of the most hallucinatory films I’ve ever seen. I probably love it most because it’s a mash up of horror, surrealism and steampunk.  It’s dripping with dystopian dread, but in the center of the darkness beats a very sentimental heart. It’s a gorgeous, frightening and incredibly moving film.

Q: Do you think the vintage clothing crowd and the Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang crowd merged into Steampunk or has it been subtext in Western culture since Da Vinci?

I don’t think I’ve ever thought about whether the 1400’s informs anyone about what steampunk is. Though I suppose DaVinci’s being remembered as one of the forefathers of mad invention could actually make him an extremely distant ancestor of the maker ethos.

One of the things that I found so intriguing about steampunk is the great number of avenues people took on their way to discovering it (or in some cases, discovering they already fit well within it).

In the course of interviewing so many people, we found some who really did start out as vintage clothing enthusiasts, and others who were tinkerers in their sheds who, perhaps subconsciously, were channeling the spirit of invention that Da Vinci is frequently associated with.

I think that when steampunk is at its best it combines all of those things together, creating fantastically costumed characters who are also capable of building wondrous objects. And perhaps that is why we were so drawn to groups like Obtainium Works, who are a great example of a group of people who encompass both sides of the coin.

Q: What’s the most odd/wild/unexpected aspect you learned while filming this community?

I met a lot of polyamorous steampunks.  I mean, a lot. VTLady16

 Here’s the brief history of this film from the distributorsVINTAGE TOMORROWS began its festival journey at San Diego ComicCon in 2015, released globally July 19, 2016 on VOD and digital by Samuel Goldwyn Films.  The film is currently available for pre-order on iTunes. According to Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films: “We live in a world of mass-produced product yet everyone is looking for individuality.  VINTAGE TOMORROWS showcases uniqueness of character and creativity in a fascinating world that brings the past as well as the future together in a refreshing and entertaining format.” Filmmaker Byrd McDonald stated:  “Our documentary VINTAGE TOMORROWS showcases the amazing minds and artistic creations of dozens of individuals in the steampunk community.  We are overjoyed to be partnering with an indie-doc champion like Samuel Goldwyn Films.  Their expertise in distribution will help bring this vital and relevant cultural movement to a global audience.”CoreyRaygun16

Don’t miss a chance to experience steampunk’s close-up via this film. It may draw you in to become part of the movement. Incidentally Byrd said he’d also noted the addition of Digerati to the mix, with Arduino and Raspberry Pi enthusiasts on board. Which means steampunk is set for a 2.0 in its ever-changing shape-shift toward the mainstream. Meanwhile, director Byrd McDonald will be working next on a “feminist interpretation of Chainsaw movies.” Find out more about Byrd from Porter Panther, and see Vintage Tomorrows screening schedule, downloads and more possibilities online here.

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When Content Moves Faster Than The Money: Paul Sweeting Talks DMW Rightstech Summit July 26 Event

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

On July 26, Digital Media Wire (DMW) will present a Rightstech Summit in NYC to address a digital blind spot you may not know about. If you think attribution when the term “Rights” comes up in the context of digital media, then you’re not seeing an important aspect as far as how tech breakthroughs have impacted content distribution. PaulSDMWRT16

For now, let’s chat with conference co-chair Paul Sweeting, Principal of Concurrent Media Strategies, LLC, to get a download on the subject.

But first a cheat-sheet for some of the terms used below. In 20 seconds, you’ll have a working knowledge of Bitcoin, blockchains, Merkle trees, nodes, hashing, and The DAO. (These terms are spitballed in layman’s terms here, also use links above.)

Alternative currency Bitcoin is “mined” with what can be considered a long chain of digital handshakes that verify and validate the “blocks.” There is a currency exchange to “fiat currencies” worldwide. Fiat Currency is government-backed, think Euro, Dollar, Pound.

The twist with digital currencies is to create a stable monetary standard that is not finite, like gold-backed currency was — ironically Bitcoin has a finite number attached to it (think of it the same way you would an IPO offering, limited shares hold value in place). Expansion of Bitcoin is in process, which is why there are many unanalyzed long-term facets to this digital currency concept.

Meanwhile, forget all that, just think “Smart Contracts” and listen to Paul Sweeting discuss the au courant ideas to be unveiled at DMW’s July 26 summit that have real world applications.

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Q: Most people think “rights” refers to copyright protection in terms of usage, how is the Rightstech Summit offering something different?

Well, our sort of starting premise is that much of the media value chain, meaning the way media value content is created and consumed, has been changed by digital platforms, digitally technology. That is not news, but there’s the business-to-business piece in the middle. That is, the concept of who owns the rights has not undergone the same sort of transformation.

Q: You mean monetization?

Yes, fundamentally yes — that middle piece of the pipeline is still operating under the old analog models. The result is the content moves much faster than the money. That causes a lot of stress for the industry — people who are supposed to be getting paid are not getting paid when you map out the stakeholders.

Q: Stakeholders you define as…

Content creators, artists, musicians, filmmakers, and you have the publishers of that content — whether they are book publishers, studios, record companies whomever — then you have the distributors and exhibitors of that content at the other end. But there’s that piece in the middle where the value of the content is supposed to be translated into (profit).

Q: Nobody really pays for music anymore, for one thing, right?

If you are listening to Pandora for free, Pandora is paying. They are conducting business and selling advertisers.

Q: The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is always upset about piracy, so what can the movie studios do?

The focus of what we are doing is not so much on piracy — this is on traditional digital rights copy protection. What we are talking about is, if you have a catalog of movies and some event happens in the world, a famous actor dies, and suddenly there is a demand for clips from that actor’s career, somebody owns those clips and uses of those clips. Usage of those movies have contractual obligations, all sorts of permissions are supposed to happen. If this can not happen at the same speed as things explode across Facebook, that’s an issue. We’re trying to move this mushy process at the same speed as viral media.

Q: Where is the technology for this coming from now?

A lot of this is coming out of the start-up world. There is quite a lot of interest in technology such as block chains. People are working on side-chains which operate at bigger scales and more quickly than the Bitcoin block chain, but then can be reconciled with the Bitcoin blockchain — dedicated block chains for a specific industry.

Q: Can you give an example?

Ethereum sits atop the blockchain, a second-generation blockchain. The Bitcoin chain is fairly limited in its applications; it was designed for a specific purpose which was Bitcoin. Ethereum is almost an operating system layer than can sit atop a blockchain layer and allows people to write all kinds of block-chain applications.

One of their big areas of focus are smart contracts, which are a way of embedding business rules in with a piece of content; it becomes a self-executing contract. All the terms of who is supposed to get paid is baked in — whatever the business model is. All of the business stuff that is supposed to happen behind it happens without human intercession. Blockchain payments can be automatically paid to the appropriate rights owners.

Q: Bitcoin has fluctuated so wildly, lost so much value, how does that figure into this?

One of the things it can do is shield people from currency values and fluctuations. There is a view out there that Bitcoin could become the sort of universal medium of exchange for business conducted on a block chain.

It’s still trading at about $600 USD, but not all of this needs to involve crypto-currencies. You can build apps for a block chain that deal in tokens, which sort of take the place of Bitcoin on a block chain.

Q: Like casino chips?

Sort of like that.

Q: How did the Rightstech Summit come about?

This is the first rights tech we’ve held, I mean people have held other ones, held conferences and focused on specific industries — like in the music industry around block chains, or different segments of the media industry, such as book publishers, film and video; because all of those industries are struggling with the same fundamental problems that the content can move much faster than the money. They’re all looking to the same technologies to solve that problem. Our goal is to get some dialogue going across different silos.

Q: Meaning what?

There is a whole layer of companies that are enterprise-scale rights management platforms. There are a number of companies — for example Fadel in New York, they have built an enterprise scale rights (system). FilmTrack is widely used in Hollywood. The music industry has developed Music Reports, also Pluravida, for the music industry. They do rights management for record labels, basically.

Q: Who attends, and what happens at Rightstech?

Our ideal scenario is that people who are working on rights management for photographers for instance will learn something that might be useful for them from learning how similarly situated companies are working to solve rights management in the music business or the online video business. There are certain elements of this that are generic; I mean ‘a contract is a contract is a contract.’ If you are thinking about smart contracts, how do contractual (agreements work).

Q: Is Ethereum open source?

Ethereum is an open sourced project. A lot of the block chain (development is being done).

The Linux Foundation is actually overseeing a project called HyperLedger which is hoping to create inter-operable standards around block chain. They are not focused exclusively on the media business — a lot of it is focused on the financial industry — where fintech meets copyright.

Q: How did you get into this aspect of the business and what’s your connection to Ned Sherman who runs Digital Media Wire?

Concurrent Media Strategies is my own consultancy and newsletter and blog. My background is in journalism. I wrote for Billboard and Variety. I came up with this concept of rights tech, and I needed a partner on it. I’ve known Ned for years. We kind of said ‘we should really do something together one day.’ We would have the same conversation every year. He liked it right away.

Q: To recap, when is it, and how long is it?

It’s July 26, a one-day summit. We didn’t want to do a long conference. We’ve been surprised how much interest and support there is. There’s a lot of technology being brought to bear on this problem —  (similar to) what’s happened to intermedia and tech since the BetaMax case. You need some factors aligned when you are talking about technology to better manage rights. More to the point, the creators of the content and the rights owners are on the same side as the guys coding things. That has not often been the case. Since the time of Napster they have been at odds with each other.

Q: That almost never happens, thanks Paul.

Snapshot from DMW:

JOIN US JULY 26 FOR THE INAUGURAL RIGHTSTECH SUMMIT

RightsTech Summit Hot Topics! Blockchain, Big Data, Direct to Consumer & More

From startups to tech/media powerhouses and industry associations, the 1-day gathering, which premiers in New York City July 26, is bringing together a cross-section of companies, associations and industry leaders (see list below) to meet, do deals and discuss innovation in rights management from Blockchain to Enterprise and how tech-content partnerships are helping the creative industries drive successful monetization strategies.

Paul Sweeting is a veteran business journalist and industry analyst specializing in the intersecting worlds of media, technology and public policy. He is the founder and principal of Concurrent Media Strategies, LLC, a Washington, DC-based consulting and editorial services firm launched in 2010. Prior to launching Concurrent Media Strategies, Sweeting spent 20 years as a media business journalist, writing for such leading publications as Billboard, Publishers Weekly, Broadcasting & Cable, Video Business and Variety. He was a co-author of the Movie Business Book edited by Jason E. Squire and published in 2004. From 2009 to 2015 Sweeting was chief digital media analyst for GigaOM Research and a contributor to the GigaOM website. He currently serves as editorial director of the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance and its family of websites and newsletters and also edits the Concurrent Media blog. Sweeting is based in Washington, DC and is a graduate of Columbia University in New York City.

Screenmancer is a gathering place for people who make movies, digital content, and live in Merkle treehouses.

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Unicornicopia: The Digital Promise, The Trollverse vs “Hatewashing”

SCREENMANCER Cybercrap OP-ED: When connectivity became a viable environment for the rise of the Internet more than two decades ago, the potential for utopian connections between remote places and cultures was baked in.

Call it Unicornicopia. Never had mass communication across nations held such promise. And yet, here we are with this new phenomenon that has grown from venting in the Trollverse* to out-and-out “hatewashing.” 2GuyTrolls16Its analog twin is brainwashing, but with a vitriol-dispersal radius unavailable to opinions offline. It’s almost impossible to reflect on the 2016 Presidential Election without revulsion, due in a large part to hatewashing. Same with Brexit, Mass Shootings, even the new Ghostbusters franchise. Yet, does this represent who we are as Digital Denizens? Better yet, how do we fix it? And better still, how do we separate legitimate online grievances from hate speech?

Let’s look back at the origins of the term itself. The word “haters” came from popular culture, not just pop song lyrics with“player hater” references, but as a new “street cred” way to define the enemy in an argument. That’s a simplified etymology. Fact: the hater concept became central to how interactions happen on Social Media. Hate-mongers are nothing new. Wars and radical insurgencies have been started by same throughout history. In the off-line world, where names are put to comments and opinions, polite terms have historically couched raw hate-speech. It’s the digital equivalent of mob rule on the Internet though — because if no one knows who you are, how can you be held accountable?

Likewise, there are very good reasons for the lack of accountability on the Internet. How can whistleblowers and secret sources be protected without anonymity? The rise of Anonymous has made its presence felt globally based on that premise. For good and ill. TrollGuy16Unfortunately hatewashing foments cyberbullies, terrorist cells, cyberstalkers, even corporate sabotage. So what can be done? Here are a few ideas to rein in the Trollverse and return to the promise of Unicornicopia,(read: Digital version of Atlantis) where everyone can express an opinion without being pilloried:

1) Link Trolls with digital certificates, this process would vet emails. Yet there would be no censorship. If however there was a subpoena, the information would be available, but not to curb comments.

2) Disqus et al inspires someone to create an algorithm for repeat offenders in hate speech, to flag the accounts and compile data. Social Media accounts linked to email accounts that traffic in hatewashing become cross-linked in a larger database.

3) None of the above. We play nice, self-monitor our comments to return to #Unicornicopia. New hashtag included for the RT. lol.

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What are your suggestions and opinions on the topic? Post to the comment section below.
(*Trollverse here refers to trolls online, trolling their own universe, not the band.)

Screenmancer is a gathering place for people who make movies, technology, and like unicorns better than trolls.

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From Punch Cards to Stunt Hacking to Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS & Symantec’s Eric Chien on Stuxnet

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

You have to hand it to filmmaker Alex Gibney (GOING CLEAR), he has taken on everything from Eliot Spitzer’s political downfall to the Enron debacle to Lance Armstrong’s doping to soft-money “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff to Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, not to mention Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti. So it comes as no surprise that Gibney goes from wrestling Xenu to rattling the NSA’s cage with ZERO DAYS, his new “thriller” documentary about cyber-warfare phenom Stuxnet. ZeroDaysPoster16Released by Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media and Showtime, ZERO DAYS screens in theaters July 8, also on demand at Amazon Video.  Gibney’s doc defines Stuxnet as “self-replicating computer malware (known as a ‘worm’ for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the US and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately [mutated] and spread beyond its intended target.”

If that’s not enough to get your smartphone wiretapped, who knows what is? And that’s why this doc is really tricky: it names not only names, but Nation States. Plus it lets us know that among the three probable classes of cyber-attack originators, nation-states are the most dangerous. The two other classes being: cyber-criminals, and hacktivists.

But c’mon, for the rest of us workaday non-security-classified folks out there, it is a little difficult to fully grasp the “Olympic Games”-scale virus unleashed on Iran’s nuclear power facility — as detailed in Alex Gibney’s documentary ZERO DAYS via expert interviews — without some backstory on the issues involved. In a moment, Symantec’s brilliant code-cracker Eric Chien who is featured in this film with his boss Liam O’Murchu will chime in, for now let’s rewind the digital clock to analog times for some perspective.

Clear your mind, take a breath, and think about the technology issues from a long angle. Think about the progression from English mechanical engineer Charles Babbage (1791-1871), who with assistance from mathematician Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), came up with the first mechanical engineering computer, the Difference Engine, as a starting point. Mechanical computing (i.e.; tabulating polynomials, i.e. figuring out huge numbers calculations) in the Industrial Age leads to punch cards that control looms in the textile industry. This hold-over method, punch cards, remains in place even up until the 1980’s as analog goes 100-percent digital. A fast-forward timeline means punch-card key machines to vacuum tubes with wires to British polymath Alan Turing (1912-1954), who in the 1940’s added to the war effort by not only “cracking” the German U-Boat message encoder, Engima, but understood and foresaw the possibilities for “large scale digital technology” via the encrypted telephone messages between Churchill and Roosevelt. That said, all the elements are in place to usher in the world of cyber attacks. Consider the sabotage possibilities in the first punch-card driven looms.

If you’re familiar with “spook hardware” such as the Enigma and its US/UK code-breaking counterparts from WWII, ZERO DAYS scope is an easy leap. You just need an update on the acronyms and players we now face in Cyberwar. Cyber attacks, cyber terrorism, and all other penetrations into our enterprise-grade technology require counter measures — only now we’re talking software, or code, and the stakes are world-breaking with the nuclear weapon card in play.

Another helpful insight before seeing ZERO DAYS is the US’s relation to the Shah of Iran. Because before he was deposed, the Shah of Iran received the first piece of their nuclear technology from the US, in support of power generation. The Christian Science Monitor did a round-up once that put dates on the whole mess. “In 1967, under the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program launched by President Eisenhower, the US sold the Shah of Iran’s government a 5-megawatt, light-water type reactor… the foundation of Iran’s nuclear power program.” The Shah reigned from Sept. 16, 1941 until Feb. 11, 1979, when he was toppled by the Iranian Revolution. However questionable the Shah’s regime was, it’s axiomatic that something would go wrong once the largely secular world of his rule fell into theological hands as the 1980’s began.

Next things go from theological to zealot by US estimations, and then there’s Sept. 11, 2001. Allegations are Iran is inching its way toward the “bomb,” because it’s not a huge stretch from power-reactor fuel to weapons-grade material. You can see why the US Government would consider cyberwar in the wake of 911, especially since the hardware and software for their nuclear program comes mostly from the West (read: a way in via upgrades to the tech). Plus, would anyone ever find out? Someone high up likely gambled on the wrong side of “No.” So malware was secretly engineered, somewhere, to attack the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility. Alex Gibney’s take on it is, “I started out making a small film investigating ‘Stuxnet…’ What I discovered was a massive clandestine operation involving the CIA, the NSA, the US Military and Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad to build and launch secret cyber ‘bombs’ that could plunge the world into a devastating series of… attacks on critical infrastructure, shutting down electricity… this science fiction scenario…”

That’s Mr. Going Clear for you, outing the whole gamut of international players from “three-letter agencies” to nation states. Gibney steps into the lion’s den, where most of us would shiver and recite the Cowardly Lion’s “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks” from the Wizard of Oz. But then you talk to someone like Eric Chien, Technical Director of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response division, who was among the first handful to discover and name the Stuxnet virus, and it becomes clear that the message of ZERO DAYS is not rehashing old news about the perils of technology.

Although it is public record that Belorussian engineer Sergey Ulasen was the first responder to report the then-unnamed Stuxnet virus as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) reboot over there in the Iranian nuke-related nest of computers; the message of this film is really about the knowledge gap between policy makers and digital purveyors, who, at the speed of technology, will reshape the world for us if we don’t watch out. 2016-06-28 11.17.02In person, Eric Chien is incredibly personable, a youthful exemplar of next-generation digital professionals (read: Not Nerds) in business casual attire with stand-up bangs and a friendly, open demeanor. He twists his wedding ring briefly, the only sign that being nervous is normal under the weight of the controversial topics involved. Then Chien uses his outdoor voice, launches into a patter that suggests he is used to briefing Subcommittees and Fortune 100 clients on the in’s and out’s of tech topics, which he does in real life. “We make Norton Anti-Virus,” he begins, to kind of define Symantec. He also apologizes that colleague Liam O’Murchu couldn’t make it. “He had his hands on it first,” Chien adds, meaning Stuxnet.

“Normally what we do, day-to-day, is we look at the latest (cyber) attacks. About one million a day. A lot of it is handled through automation, which automatically create fixes for them. When we come across some big attacks, we share (with stakeholders)” pieces of the code for others to monitor or give feedback on. “Recently someone tried to transfer $1 BN from the Bank of Bangladesh,” he said. This discovery brought back some similarities to the adrenaline of the Stuxnet discovery. It’s fascinating to watch Eric speak frankly and transparently from the super-secret cyber-crypto world where “pen tests” — penetration tests of security systems — make these reverse-engineers just as tricky as their malware-making counterparts. “You never want to roll out your own crypto,” he corrects. “You really want it to be peer-reviewed.”

Chien will let slip a few telling details that demonstrate how John le Carré his day job is, like “when you have black motorcycles, wearing all black following you, behind you, you start to wonder.” Or, on why Stuxnet wasn’t part of the Snowden leak, he casually mentions, “Edward Snowden didn’t leak this because those files are stored on a different server.” Then, ironically, Chien says he is not under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), because “we don’t have a two-tiered system. We share this information with our clients… we would never work for hostile nations.”

This charming ambassador of tech will also note that ‘zero-day’ is a term that basically means the virus is discovered at the same time the vulnerability is revealed that makes the exploit even possible. (Think of it as a hole-in-one golf shot, but nobody knew there was a hole there until the ball hit. Now you’ve got two problems.)  “Stuxnet had not one, but four zero-days in it,” Chien emphasizes, “even one zero day is rare, but four?” This is how “we knew nation states must be involved.” But breaking the code, finding out what this virus was supposed to do “was the needle in the haystack. I mean it had a (kill) date in it, but it was not easy to figure out.” Then Symantec’s wizard recites that oft-quoted refrain that while most attacks take his team about “three minutes to crack, this one took three months.”

“Liam (O’Murchu) is the first one who picked it up. I then pulled it as well.” The first approach was “What is this thing? Is it trying to like hold my computer for ransom? Steal some documents?” But the most impactful theory was covert espionage. “As we began to rip (the code) apart, we saw that it was (targeted at) Siemens PLC.” PLC stands for programmable logic controller, which, from Siemens controls functions for a very specific piece of hardware, in this case the rotating nuclear centrifuge at Natanz in Iran. “We ordered the exact same model of PLC. We were expecting something the size of a mini-frigerator. But when the box came, it was the size of a book!”

There’s something admiring in the way Eric Chien describes the puzzle pieces from the dark side that Alex Gibney has detailed in ZERO DAYS. “The code was perfect, there were no errors in it, that’s how we knew it was a nation state,” Chien admits. “The way Alex incorporated the exact pieces of code (from Stuxnet) at exactly the right moment it is being discussed on screen really impressed us.” By “us” Eric Chien means the super smart people working on encryption, the white hats.

When pressed, Chien adds that most technology-related movies and TV projects are “ridiculously inaccurate,” but not ZERO DAYS. Or the USA Network TV show Mr. Robot, which he admits to watching, a huge endorsement.  But if you ask who his favorite hackers are, Chien demurs. “Today it’s just stunt hacking, I don’t find that interesting. Doing something just so you can show you can do it. Like hacking a PLC to show you can do it.” Then he pauses, “you know Captain Crunch? I liked him.” Captain Crunch (a/k/a John Draper) was Steve Jobs‘ favorite hacker, the guy ‘who stole from Ma Bell’ back in the old days of blueboxing by “whistling” analog tunes into a phone receiver to fool the network into thinking it was a digital tone to allow free long distance. Then if you ask: ‘Do you think smart people will take over the world, since there is such a knowledge gap with policy makers?’ Symantec’s distinguished engineer will smile, and come back with “the world is not a meritocracy,” as if the concept of brains over brawn has been debunked throughout history.

In one parting quote, Chien remarks “there’s something to be said for obsolescence. Because when Russia tried to shut down (the grid) in the Ukraine, their technology was so old, they could actually go to each site and crank it back on by hand.” That’s not in ZERO DAYS, but Nitro Zeus is. So now you’re armed with enough information on the backstory to grasp the enormity of ZERO DAYS. A must-watch, Gibney’s newest premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and opens July 8. To find out more, visit the official site here for screen times and venues.

 

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