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Girl on Fire


Girl on Fire

This play caused my daughter severe embarrassment, she being eleven and having to be dragged into  a ladies underwear shop, to witness me buying tickets for the play ‘Girl On Fire.’ I tried to explain that I wasn’t there to purchase minute triangles of fine lace, but a gift to surprise her mother with an evening’s entertainment. I digress…

I did see garments that made me open my eyes wide and wonder, but not as much as the actors working from a great script that had me rolling in my chair from the moment the play began until the very last moment. During the hilarious moments and exchanges of enlightening dialogue, matched by the severe and serious discussions on stage, we were shown that the sex trade workers are real people too; something that we, at a distance, tend to forget.

Purposely, I set aside my reflections after this play, for a few days, because I knew my immediate thoughts would be to write a gushing review of the writer and actors. Now I can sit back and candidly reflect upon my views and I feel the same as I did when I left the theatre; the play is quite brilliant, the writing outstanding and performed by an exceptional cast.

The praise for this show is immediate and fulfilling. I want to tell everyone about it.

The interaction between Rashida Harding’s Peaches and Marsha Greenidge’s CiCi was a joy to share (they did share it with each member of the audience, individually) from their highs and lows, thoughts on life and how they plied their trade. In complete contrast Varia Williams and her ‘team’ gave a startling view of the lives of people who have ample funds and see the whole sex trade from another point of view; power and the money. At this point it occurred to me that it was the girls who were in control, completely; never their clients.

The language was strong throughout, but only represented the people working their trade. A well known celebrity and her mother behind me left quite early on, perhaps not previously realising that the play was clearly marked for an over 18 audience and was ‘R’ rated. The language was no worse than I hear at a football match every weekend, but would quite clearly be out of place in a church hall.

The difference in the polyclinic’s doctor and the private office was most interesting, with society providing it’s own view on the ladies’ work, but was it the fact that one doctor was being paid for their time to offer buckets of sympathy, that gave the impetus for the difference of opinion?

Certainly the twist in the plot, after the doctor’s visit, was as good as any Agatha Christie red herring. I’m sure every member of the audience was hoodwinked at this stage, unless they saw it last year!

I would agree with the actress who complained that people laughed through a rape scene on stage. My wife and I looked at each other incredulously as people giggled, more at the man’s exaggerated actions than fully taking in the whole substance of what we were really seeing – what really happens to sex trade workers who have the audacity to say no to their clients and refuse certain ’treatments.’

The message from the stage is clearly not to judge others. While we, (me) who have no real life contact with the sex worker’s trade – apart from some accidental television viewing where the hooker is usually beaten and gives most of her money to her pimp, before being murdered: The police cannot be bothered to investigate because the girls simply don’t count as humans in society. Having only seen the streets where the ladies roam in the daytime and certainly never able to afford or require Varia William’s team of expensive escorts (sorry Varia, could not remember your character’s name; it must have been that blond hair and the aggressive manner of a Global CEO in action that cut my memory,) I do understand that there must be a demand to match supply – basic economics in mathematics 101.

The second part of the message is that we (again, me) really do believe that prostitutes are probably uneducated (why would they need to turn to that work if they had a UWI degree?) and possibly caught by the many diseases that are bound to hinder their trade. This is clearly not true. Many are forced into the work for a multitude of reasons, often managing young families at the same time.

As the play shows, if I really held those views I would be missing reality by a long way. The play takes us through the stages of girls walking the streets looking for business, to a low paid worker tricked into high class sex escort work. Money is required in these days of dreadful recession and some people become desperate for money by any means without turning to a gun.  Others see the opportunity to earn more than a Government Minister, but only complete their work on one (or two) people at a time, rather than screwing their community, as a whole. The whole issue of HIV/Aids will not go away and if awareness is raised by the mounting of plays on our stages, because the standard government speak is now bland and passé (seeing how young people treat their sex lives without thought of disease or potential ramifications), then it keeps momentum and fresh thoughts in the minds of those who attend.

Upon leaving the theatre, I gave thought to the earlier production by the same team, who brought us Simone’s Place, which I found entertaining, mind provoking and wondered why Girl On Fire couldn’t have been produced on the the professional stage, instead of a school hall and although I did not discuss this with anyone relevant, the acoustics of the school hall and the location were obviously not up to the standard of a professional stage, where many more people may have seen the play, with their extended advertising budget. I would guess it is much about how society doesn’t value the arts, doesn’t believe that artists need to make a living and therefore the whole production was required to match a smaller budget, which didn’t allow for plush surroundings.

Simone’s place was very good, and Glenville Lovell’s script outstanding. It brought issues to the Barbados stage that required sharing if we are to grow as a society. Girl On Fire pips it because the characters came to life from the stage; so much so that you thought you knew so much more about the ladies and their private lives, individually, by the time the curtain fell. For a couple of hours, you knew what they were going through to provide for their families and it was all perfectly relatable. Where Simone’s was 8 out of 10, Fire reached 8.5 out of 10, but maybe it’s because the latter is fresher in my mind.

There is no doubt that 2014 has been a wonderful year for watching plays on local stages; long may these standards remain.

There are two areas that I must take issue with. First, the programme was a little lacking, not even pairing the poorly produced pictures of the cast with their stage characters. I understand that cost is everything in local productions, but I’m sure an art student somewhere would have been pleased to have worked on programme presentation as a freebie for their college or University project.

Second, I take real issue with missing last year’s performance because I would quite happily have sat through the show a second time. Like reading a book or watching a film the second time, you see so much that you missed the first time around, even if the shock value has waned. You get to see the play in a different light. My issue is with not knowing that the play had even been produced last year and that I had been deprived of watching Marieille Onyeche’s brilliant writing come alive, earlier.

Local theatre must find a way of communicating more about its arts portfolio. If I missed it (and I like to attend every play that I can) then what of all of our society who could have attended, who might have wanted to attend, but knew less than I? Instead of constant slapstick (which has its own place) more people could have been exposed to great artistry from very fine performances, many who I did not even mention above, but were equally rewarding. As Simon Alleyne (Director of Lighthouse Foundation) said, and he is 100% right; “this play could carry not only throughout the region, but is relevant on any West End or Broadway stage.” Do we have to wait a year to see it again, updated, or shared with a large audience?

Amazon v Hachette: Amazon’s view


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On Amazon’s website, today:

With this update, we’re providing specific information about Amazon’s objectives.

A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved:

* The customer is paying 33% less.

* The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who’s trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)

* Likewise, the higher total revenue generated at $9.99 is also good for the publisher and the retailer. At $9.99, even though the customer is paying less, the total pie is bigger and there is more to share amongst the parties.

Keep in mind that books don’t just compete against books. Books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger – how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% — we did have a big problem with the price increases.

Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.

One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.

We hope this information on our objectives is helpful.

Thank you,

The Amazon Books Team

I would like to see Hachette’s reply so I can post that side by side with Amazon’s version so the public, including me, can judge. What do you think?

Is eBook downloading stealing?


Those nice people at mediabistro recently shared an article about ‘Who’s Stealing eBooks?’

Interestingly, they claim that 75% of eBooks in the US are bought and paid for as opposed to copied or downloaded. Also, 69% of eBook owners have bought every single book they own on the eReader.

While that is good news, it does mean that between a quarter and a third of all books are being obtained illegally and the author, publisher and (if they have one) agent are receiving nothing for their time and trouble of taking a year or more to write a book, edit and then publish it, not forgetting marketing and publicity. Also, authors need to make a living to eat and pay bills like the rest of those who need to work.

Janis Ian

 

Janis thinks differently

There is also a large number of people who believe that once they have a ‘free’ copy of your work, they are more likely to pay for copies of your other work. Janis Ian (singer/musician) strongly believes in free download marketing. To be fair, Janis Ian’s point is about promoting free downloads and not promoting illegal downloads.

Before digital technology, you could lend a CD or a book to a friend. They wouldn’t have to pay for it and wouldn’t have considered this as stealing from the writer.

Where do you stand on this argument?

Writers Wanted to Work for Free – Apply Here.


Be Happy!

Be Happy! (Photo credit: _william)

Here I am, apologising for any sarcasm in advance, based upon a client wishing me to work for between one and two dollars per hour.

They had previously contracted with another writer to complete five blog posts for their website. The brief was quite poor so the writer would need to guess and search into the virtual mind of the client to decide what should be written. Of course experts will suggest that a Skype call with the client would have sourced more information, but time costs money and when the client was only prepared to pay $10 for each of the blog posts, 30 minutes or more with the client would rapidly bring down the value of the pay.

The client came to me because they didn’t consider the other writer’s work to be of a high enough standard for their website and cited a number of reasons why the writing failed, none of which were in the original brief.

The client had the audacity to suggest that a number of people should be interviewed, to provide content for the blog posts. This would have been perfectly normal under standard journalism rules, providing you were being paid for your time, but the client thought that their final price would include everything to achieve their specific needs, including the difficulty of finding individuals who were willing to be interviewed.

The subject would have been a difficult one for most writers to take on unless they were lucky enough to have previous experience in the specific field, or know enough people working in that trade.

The client expected a minimum of 600 words and a perfect edit for their $10. The research and interviewing could easily eat up 3 to 5 hours of good quality time to find enough detail for the five blog posts. If this was 600 words on a subject you already knew and understood, a small amount of research would have helped you to complete the job in half a day. This client’s requirements for work would take at least one full day and then when they pay by PayPal, you’d have to suffer the loss of PayPal charges.

Although some people would be perfectly happy to earn $50 for a day’s work, once you have removed the fees, paid your electricity and stationary bill, updated and maintained your computer system and realised that you can’t even claim the work to be your own because it is ghostwritten for marketing purposes, you would have very little left to show after paying taxes and insurance and leaving sufficient for a rainy day, your health bill and extras like food.

Unless clients are prepared to pay sensibly for their work, they will have to expect that some writers will lower their standards to complete the task in hand. I would prefer to say no at the beginning, but some writers are struggling for work. The client could turn to other parts of the world who will be pleased to work for just a handful of dollars, but in reality, once you have taken off the cost of your marketing to try and source clients in the first place, those one or two dollars per hour are not enough to keep you away from the alternatives, like a day at the beach or in front of your television, but more likely to be spent marketing for better paying clients..

Realists will suggest you should market to clients that can afford to work with you at whatever your pay grade is, but sometimes your marketing can attract different and all sorts and types of clients.

Of course, after all of this, you still don’t know if the client will accept your work and pay you or whether they’ll just take it away and use it elsewhere and you may never know, as you wasted a whole day’s work for nothing.

Will Your .mobi File Read Well On Your Nook?


Many self published writers, worry about which format people choose to read e-book’s in the comfort of their own home or elsewhere. There are many decisions to be made about which file type you can use so that people can read your fiction at their own leisure.

Where you choose the ePub file method, the majority of e-readers will happily produce your book in front of them. When you’ve chosen Amazon, the file will not be read on any other e-reader without converting the eBook .amz or .mobi format.

This website has produced a wonderful chart showing you which file types can be read on different eReaders.

The best plan is to consider all of the various options before you go to print, or eBook, so that you can sell your books in the right market place. Some, like Amazon, have specific schemes where you can only sell eBooks on their website, not even your own, during a certain time period.

Planning ahead is essential if you are to give all readers the chance to browse your books and not alienate a potential customer because they have a different eReader, incompatible with the files you have uploaded.

Marketing by the Day for Writers


Social Media Marketing ROI Graph - Blue

Social Media Marketing ROI Graph – Blue (Photo credit: Alan O’Rourke)

Do something every day. The majority of writers prefer to think of themselves as people who write, for fun, to earn a living and provide a range of people with entertainment. Most writers do not consider themselves as marketing executives, but in the modern world the majority of scribes have to master marketing as well as a wide range of business skills.

For anyone who hasn’t noticed, the Internet is large, available and provides you with a substantial amount of competition. The best ways to compete are to constantly strive to write your best work, but also to effectively market your skills in the marketplace.

Consistency is a substantial element that helps guide your marketing abilities. It doesn’t really matter what you do every day, as long as you do something from your marketing list – you have a long list don’t you? If you don’t have a list of marketing tasks, then your first day should be all about compiling your task list.

What to do, every day?

High quality work and consistent marketing will, over the course of time, but not overnight, put you in a good position for clients to find you and ask you to quote for their next job.

 

What Happens To Your Kindle Collection When You Die?


e-book | e-reader

e-book | e-reader (Photo credit: ceslava.com)

Keeping 1000+ books on your e-reader is a great way of keeping your collection together and if you don’t wish to individually download them one by one from Amazon or another provider if your Kindle or Nook (insert your favourite e-reader) fails permanently, you may be storing them on your computer hard disk (also in case your provider goes down one day) or in an online cloud location.

What happens now if you own more books than the capacity of your eReader? Your answer may be perfect for while you’re alive, but what happens after you die?

The same situation applies to your MP3s and video files. While you were using printed books, DVDs and CDs, you, as the owner, can pass them on to a specific person or perhaps a charity after your death, in a valid last will and testament.

Digital rights are different

Unfortunately, digital rights are very different and while you own the rights to use the property while you’re alive, those rights evaporate when you die.

While the problem isn’t with your family downloading your files after your death and then refusing to use them because they may be breaking the law, the real difficulty is with your loved ones knowing where you keep your files and the necessary passwords required to access them.

While avid readers still treasure printed books, real DVDs and CDs, those that feel great to the touch are gradually being replaced by digital files and you can probably see the day when digital files are the only option for you to purchase your favourite book, film or music.

While you are beginning complete conversations with your family about all of your online data, digital storage and access to passwords, a valid last will and testament will inform all the necessary people about the physical items you are leaving.

Access to your digital files will only be possible if you update individuals by giving them your security passwords and update those people whenever you change from *kindlefiles1 to *amazon2.

50 Kisses Film Premiere 13th Feb 2014


Legendary filmmaker, Chris Jones, known for his Guerilla Film Makers Handbooks and the London Screenwriters’ Festival, thought “For one reason or another, many emerging screenwriters and filmmakers find it difficult to get that all important first credit on a large scale project, one that get lots of press, IMDB listings, real world reviews and massive internet activity. That’s why we came up with ’50 Kisses’ – a competition to find fifty new screenwriters, fifty new filmmakers, to make one feature film to be released in cinemas in the UK and USA and screened on TV.”

Here’s the link to the 50 Kisses website.

50 kisses

The link for every writer and director was set around a Valentine Day’s theme.

Race forward to 13th February 2014 and the film will see its London World premier as the final product from the 2,000 or so screenplays entered or the competition. Here’s the link to the trailer.

Screenplay writers are not always great filmmakers and vice versa, so matching writers with producers and directors was a fun task. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished film and then later on, to buy the DVD.

Well done, Chris Jones, for yet another great leap forward to help film makers throughout the UK and elsewhere.

Why remake Straw Dogs?


Cover of "Straw Dogs"

Cover of Straw Dogs

The original 1971 movie Straw Dogs shocked the world’s audiences with the high amount of violence on screen. More to the point, the personal issues raised in the film stand today; those of how women are treated as second class citizens in some zones.

The movie was also, quite brilliant. Director Sam Peckinpah made a film that hit you like you’ve just walked into a fast train. You gripped the theatre seat to ensure your own safety.

Dustin Hoffman played the part of a man-mouse whose motivation caused his character arc to change to man-mountain. He was going to defend his wife, whatever the consequences.

The director also wrote the screenplay, which stands the test of time, to make magic on the screen.

Susan George became the face to be seen leading her to a series of quality films. So realistic were her rape scenes that many thought they were real rather than acted.

The movie was banned for a while, but this only proved to hype it up further. Looking at it today, it’s no longer the shock film it was back 40 years ago as we’re beaten with similar shock tactics on a regular basis. What the studios can do with CGI, special effects and our mind. now goes beyond the pale.

So why make an updated version? I really can’t see the point. It almost certainly can’t be bettered, which leaves it struggling from the get-go. There are enough great screenplays of movies not yet made that we don’t need to rehash the past. For no particular reason, the location has changed as has the occupation of the man-mouse.

I haven’t seen it yet and I hope they’ve completed a great job, but what chances have they of beating the original: none? They could have built a few new elementary schools with the budget. I’ll go rent the DVD and try not to pre-judge, but that’s a difficult ask when an entirely and different new film could have been made. I suppose all of us still alive, who saw the original, will go now and a new audience might be tempted to download the original.

I wouldn’t mind, (actually, yes, on reflection, I do ,) but they’ve used the same film poster with minor changes. Why, oh why?

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Want to Learn Screenplay Writing?


Example of a page from a screenplay formatted ...

Example of a page from a screenplay formatted for feature length film. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s no excuse for not just going out and making a movie – says film-maker Jason Brubaker. Just do it, is the advice.

He’ll communicate with you almost any way you can think, starting with the obvious Facebook and email options. He’ll also use iPhone and iTunes for podcasting. Checked out his YouTube access yet?

If you want to read his extensive list of articles about screen writing, then visit him here. 

Apart from providing free information, he’ll sell you almost anything you need to make a movie.

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