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Video Background Music

Background music can do wonderful things for your video. It can help create emotion, drive the pace and flow, and even hide pesky audio edits. But counter to what you may believe, the most successful background music is the music that you didn't even know was there.


If the volume is too high, the music will overpower the spoken narrative of your video. This… is no good. If background music is too low, it can paradoxically draw attention to itself by making the viewer strain to hear it. The goal of background music to invisibly assist your video, not create a distraction.

Mixing the music volume in your video takes practice, and there's no exact formula for what level the music should be relative to the voice. It's all about training your ears to feel when the music is sitting just right in the mix.

To start your training, play around with this interactive volume video and try to listen for when the volume sits right in the mix...



Lighting on the Fly

Keeping things simple and minimalist not only lowers the barrier to entry to making a video; it also makes our video style more accessible to a wider audience.

This minimalist philosophy has a major influence on how I choose to light videos. We've dubbed this minimal, flexible technique "Lighting on the Fly".

When I'm setting up lighting for a video at Wistia, I follow 4 terrifically simple rules:

  1. Make the shot (and the people in the shot) look pretty.
  2. Kill any and all shadows on faces.
  3. Don't intimidate the person on-camera.
  4. Use the most convenient lighting option (it's often best).

Join me on a journey through space and time as we hack lighting and turn the world of traditional "3-point lighting" upside down!



6 Ways to Stream Christian Films

DVDs are slowly phasing out and more content is being accessed online. If you are looking for ways to watch Christian films on the web, here are 5 website you should consider.

1. Christian Cinema

Christian Cinema has over 500 films to stream and also offers a DVD Subscription plan.

Pricing model: "Video-on-demand" and averages $3.99/movie.

2. IAMflix

IAMflix offers over 2,000 films to choose from!

Pricing: 1) Annual Plan starting at $5.99/month or 2) Pay-per-view which averages $2.99/movie.
Also offers a FREE month trial and the website includes a "Favorites" option to track movies you want to watch.

3. Good News Media Ministries

Good News Media Ministries is new on the scene and the film selection is growing!
If you are looking for great content for your family, this is one to look at.

Pricing: 1) Annual Plan starting at $17/month or 2) Pay-per-view $4/movie.

4. gMovies

gMovies library includes hundreds of classic titles as well as plenty of new releases.

Pricing: Starts at $4.99/month.
Enter code: FREETRIAL55 for a 2 Week FREE Trial.

5. Netflix

Netflix has a smaller selection of Christian films, but they do have some.

Pricing: Starts at $7.99/month.

6. Amazon

Amazon also has a decent selection of Faith-based content.

Pricing: 1) Some are FREE with AmazonPRIME 2) Pay-per-view averages $3.99/movie.

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If you have a favorite way to stream Christian films that isn't mentioned,
please let me know in the comments!


Pond5 - Public Domain Project

Pond5, the world’s leading online marketplace for royalty-free video footage, announced today the launch of the Pond5 Public Domain Project, the first library of free public domain content designed specifically for media makers. The initial collection includes 10,000 video clips, 65,000 photos, thousands of sound recordings, and hundreds of 3D models.

“For years, all of this amazing public domain content has been locked up and inaccessible to the average media maker,” said Pond5 cofounder and CEO Tom Bennett. “They deserve better. Our Public Domain Project empowers media makers to take advantage of this incredibly rich library that’s rightfully theirs.”

The collection includes 5,000 never-before-seen video clips, digitized directly from the National Archives outside of Washington D.C. Other video highlights include George Meliés’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, along with footage from the 1952 Helsinki Olympic games, the World Wars, NASA rocket launches, and the International Space Station. Speeches from historical figures like Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy can be heard in the collection’s recordings, along with full performances from composers like Beethoven and Chopin.

Designed especially for media creators, the library’s enriched, standardized metadata allows users to easily search for content via aesthetic and technical qualities. In addition, footage sequences have been broken down into individual shots, saving video editors countless hours of work. Everything is instantly shareable and embeddable in social media and throughout the Web.

Check it out!
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(Source Article)


Wait Till It's Free

This is a feature length documentary directed by Colin Gunn. I'm super excited to say that I had the privilage to be the Editor and Colorist for the project!

During the filming I also helped with a couple interviews and directed some scenes at the diner.

Here's the movie trailer, check it out!


'Wait Till It's Free' is an entertaining and provocative look at the current healthcare crisis. Coming at the healthcare issue from a non-partisan but none-the-less conservative and Christian outlook, this film takes a hard and honest look at the way we do health care in America. The film looks at every relevant aspect of modern medicine, from the escalating cost of health insurance to the move towards universal government healthcare. The film asks what kind of alternatives there are to families caught between expensive insurance based coverage and the "free" government solutions. The film explores the alternatives for individuals, churches, and families and offers moving and enlightening stories about those that have chosen to follow innovative and independent approaches to healthcare.

Yekra Player

Yekra is a revolutionary new distribution network for feature films.

Wait Till It's Free

“Wait Till It’s Free” is an entertaining and provocative look at the current healthcare crisis. This film takes a hard and honest look at the way we do healthcare in America by looking at every relevant aspect of modern medicine, from the escalating cost of health insurance to the move towards universal government healthcare. The film asks what kind of alternatives there are for families caught between expensive insurance-based coverage and the “Free” government solutions. The film explores the alternatives for individuals, churches, and families, and offers moving and enlightening stories about those that have chosen to follow innovative and independent approaches to healthcare. We journeyed to Washington, D.C. and across the Atlantic to Glasgow, Paris, and Brussels to bring you extraordinary information you won’t find anywhere else. Along the way, we met authorities like Dr. Ron Paul (former U.S. Congressman), and John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods), as well as British experts Theodore Dalrymple (journalist and retired physician) and MEP Daniel Hannan (a British representative to the European Union). We engage a host of other experts from both sides of the gurney, meeting patients suffering the burdens of socialized medicine and doctors isolated from their patients by crippling regulation. This film goes miles beneath the surface of ObamaCare to expose the 100-year progression of socialized medicine in America. Traveling to my home country of Scotland, I ferret out the eerie truth about waiting lines, death panels, and total disregard for human life in Great Britain’s socialized healthcare system.

 DVDs are also availabe at the movie website:


Craft vs Tools

If you want to stand out in the filmmaking crowd, focus on the evolution of your CRAFT – not the TOOLS.

(Source Article)

Many of you may have noticed how somewhat “quiet” this blog has been this year.   I thought I would share some of the reasons why, because I think that they have far reaching implications far beyond this little blog…

The simple excuse is that I broke my arm this January, and that I couldn’t write for several months.    I also changed my media consumption habits (both as a result of the injury, as well as to general social media trends) to newer, more immediate and often shorter form ways of communicating, such as Twitter, Instagram or Storehouse.   I read fewer blogs today and spend more time on my iPhone – as statistically many of us are doing.  

But the real reason is in fact more tied to my evolution as a director since the Canon 5D MKII came out in 2008, as well as to the general changes in the filmmaking landscape overall.   

Side note:  Can you believe it’s been 6 years since that terrible little cologne commercial Reverie came out – shot with the first 1080p DSLR?!?

On a base level, this blog was born out of talking about TECHNOLOGY.   Gadgets, new cameras, lenses, software and MoVIs!   

I, like many others, was pulled into the DSLR movement by a magical force called ACCESS.  

The DSLRs were affordable, lightweight, and produced amazing quality imagery.  These tools for better and for worse (depending on where you stood and now stand) leveled the playing field, at least in terms of access to the high TECHNICAL IMAGE QUALITY creation TOOLS.  (Notice that I’m not talking about the quality of the CONTENT or STORY the technology produces.)

Directing any and all MOTION content has always come down to one’s ability to tell a STORY adeptly.   That hasn’t changed since the first cave drawings and never will.    You need to know what makes a good story, how to tell it best, and what tools to use.  They don’t (yet) sell you that in a box, that can be delivered by drone to your doorstep.

Over the past decade or so, we’ve witnessed a revolution in terms of the technical quality of the imagery the average camera produces.     Just as importantly, the tools the average person has access to today, are exponentially better than those that a high end professional had access to less than a decade ago: and at a fraction of the price.

On a technical level at least, I can take a significantly better looking image with my iPhone today, than I could with a $22K digital camera in 1999.     A teenager can share an image so much more easily with millions of people, for free, and do so so much more quickly, then I could as a photojournalist at The New York Times less than a decade ago… and that’s amazing, and at times of course: scary.

Both the QUALITY and COST have been evened out within our business:  and historically that’s relatively rare.

The question we now must all ask ourselves as creative professionals is:  how do we survive within this new landscape? (especially in one that is moving so fast!)

One of the main reasons I’ve been less vocal on this blog in fact, is that I’ve been trying to figure this all out for myself.   How do I stay ahead of the ball that is crushing so many established agencies, productions companies, and directors/artists?   How do we stay ahead of the curve?   What is the "secret" to success going forward when everything changes so quickly?     

We have become a culture of instant gratification:  we know what we want, and we want it NOW…  The average attention span has waned significantly as well.   Simply put:  we want fast solutions to big problems and are willing to pay to get it.   So what is the best thing we can BUY to become great filmmakers?  What is the best CAMERA and LENS I can buy NOW so many of us ask?   

Well then answer has been around for awhile.  It’s nothing new:   it’s  call SKILL and KNOWLEDGE OF (and respect of) CRAFT.    

Am I an idealist?  SURE – but I also think I’m quite grounded in reality.   And I think that as the cameras become ubiquitous, as everyone gravitates towards the same tools, the playing field will truly become leveled, and ironically we’ll discover that only our true differentiator in time will become the author’s understanding of how they can best put those tools into use.  That is what will ultimately set us apart from one another.    The exponentially increasing camera technology will indeed its own worst enemy.

Therefore, the more I think of the changes that happen within this crazy field, the more I see that CRAFT will natural find its way back in the driver’s seat sooner rather than later.       And that should be comforting to some.  

The business and distribution models, and how those will evolve,  is still a bit more up in the air for now. That’s for another blog post… 

If EVERYONE has ACCESS to the same technology, and can produce high quality imagery affordably, the only thing we can’t “buy” off a shelf, is the knowledge of how to use this incredible technology to better tell stories.  We can purchase educational material, but it still takes time as well as a healthy dose of trial and error to master anything worth mastering.  

Many of us have witnessed this explosion of high tech tools we can apply to storytelling: from time lapse, HDR, Hyperlapse, high resolutions and dynamic ranges, stabilization platforms and software.   Just as quickly: many of us have come to realize how DIFFICULT THE ART OF TELLING STORIES can be.

Personally I am working on making my first film.  I am not stressing about any technical aspect of the film, the funding of it, nor the distribution of the final film.  I am however keenly focused on finding the best story to tell, and making sure that I very carefully focus on HOW I will eventually tell it, once I do find it.

The irony in all of this, is that digital can be said to have diminished the perceived value of CRAFT or of a CRAFTSPERSON since we began this decade.

For example:  why hire a Director of Photography to expertly judge how the light and lens will expose a scene on celluloid film, when you can use a digital camera and see for yourself immediately and interactively on a monitor?   Keep in mind that when we were shooting film, the Director of Photography on set was likely one of the few people who knew how what you were seeing with your naked eye would actually look once processed on the film and projected…  and that meant that we were more willing to let her/him to their job without interference…

In fact, why hire anyone to do anything when you can do it yourself?    That’s a valid question:  unless you realize that maybe you can’t…  Maybe it was much more than that in the first place.   Perhaps you realize that you were also hiring that Director of Photography for his or her expert knowledge of how to lens a frame, or how to move the camera let alone light the scene… for the valuable experience they brought to bear to your project.

As many of us have witnessed over the past decade, we’ve enter the age of the “one person band” or the “PREDITOR” (Producer – Director – Editor all in one.)  

The only thing that keeps me up at night these days, is that we seem to have entered the age of “Good Enough.”  

These days it seems that there are far too many clients who are willing to settle for good enough, especially if it’s significantly less expensive than “excellence” or “groundbreaking…”  This is in part due to the reality that we’re all bombarded by SO MUCH CONTENT, for a much shorter period of time now.    Clients now need to create a dozen shorter pieces that will run for a few weeks or month each (perhaps concurrently,) as opposed to one that will run for a year or more.   That changes things of course… and you DO wonder:  is "Good Enough,"  good enough?

We are in a decade where shortcuts are all too popular… ironically these ‘shortcuts’ got us here in the first place if you look back at what caused the banking / stock market crash that thrust us into the past few years of smaller budgets and a more conservative approach to risk taking… but I digress. 

The point is that I think, or more accurately I hope, that we’re going to turn the corner over the next few years – and ironically come full circle.

The biggest change we will see, in my opinion, is that people will start to focus less on HOW we move the camera for example, and more on the WHY we move the camera in the first place.    Just because you can do a one shot wonder on a MoVI on a shot that last 40+ minutes, doesn’t mean you should, nor that it is necessarily to effectively tell a story for example. 

Personally, I’ve undergone a big transformation myself as I evolved into directing bigger and more complex projects myself:  I realized that I could rely on other people to figure out the technical solutions to my creative ideas…  but that as a director no one could help me if I myself did not have a clear creative idea or vision to communicate to them in the first place…  

I’ve also been busier as a result and naturally have had less time to write as often on this blog.  But I think that’s expected.   Once I move forward with a film, this blog will come back to life – at least that’s been my plan all along.

I also realized that a director’s role was to master the art of WHY certain techniques or tools could elevate the way a story was told, and not to worry as much about HOW to put these techniques into effect practically (although that never hurts to know of course.)

There are of course many different types of filmmakers out there: some that work alone, others that work with large teams, and everyone in between.  As we move forward we will continue to see a natural erosion of the range of tools and gadgets that both the small and big budget filmmakers have access to.  

Technology is the ultimate equalizer.

Yet, at least until they can teach a camera or piece of software what type of move is best, the cadence of a scene, or type of direction that is given to an actor… that knowledge will become more and more important as the technical barriers continue to disappear.

And that’s why any artist / filmmaker going forward should focus less and less on technical specs, and more and more on craft.

The HOW will become more ubiquitous, and many will have access to almost the exact same tools ultimately – but the understanding of WHY we need those same tools to augment our storytelling is something we can’t yet buy.

Of course this new millennium is young…  We might yet see an algorithm built into a GoPro some day that suggests to the user whether to take two stops forward or backwards when they frame up  a shot… but I have to say that I’m optimistic that while business models, distribution models, and camera models continue to evolve:   There will always be an appetite out there for a skilled storyteller.  And won’t EVERYBODY be using the same algorithm anyway? Well at least at first… then do we "ugrade" to the better AI? 

That is of course as long as we all have the discipline to exit this age of “good enough.”   As the economy hopefully continues to improve,  I trust that by definition we will gravitate back towards greater risk taking, and better products.   Brands and companies need to go back to leading and taking more risk on every level, and in this case creatively.  

In fact I think it’s already started. Have you noticed the increase in television quality over the past 2+ years and the quality of films this year and next?

Oh, and expect this blog to remain more active!   Just expect me to write more about the CRAFT going forward, and less about the TOOLS I use going forward.   

(Shameless plug, if you want to learn more about the CRAFT of directing, check out this material that I put together this year available to purchase & download, based on my favorite directors of all time and my favorite 100 films and how they use motion to better tell their stories.)
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(Source Article)


Saving Time and Money in Audio Post

By Woody Woodhall

Some picture editors say “I don’t do sound.”  Other picture editors storm into the bay and insist that as much of their edits, effects and automation as possible from the AAF remain so that their “audio doesn’t get [screwed] up.”  I am much more interested in working with the latter than the former.  I can tell by looking at a few moments of their output movie file, without even opening up the AAF, what their timeline will look like in Pro Tools. Typically an excellent picture edit means a well thought out edit timeline.  Thankfully, there are a lot of really great editors out there.  There are however, a few things that can help save some time and money when the project gets to audio post.

INDIE filmmakers wear many more hats than just one. Writing, producing, directing, editing and more... they typically will have more time than money.  For those of us who work in audio, one of the first main hits on the budget typically occurs in the sound department.  Location audio suffers immediately, budgeting less experienced crew, less expensive gear and usually a distinct preference for the visuals over the audio.  Post audio will also suffer since it is last in the chain and budgets are exhausted at that point.  These budgeting constraints can leave the audio recordings and mixing and re-recording in a precarious situation. 

Meticulous picture editors will slave over their sound as much as their image choices and montage.  If their picture edit is good then generally their AAF (or OMF) will be neat, organized, have a logic unto itself and best of all - sound good.  If their picture edit is sloppy, not well timed to the music and effects, and mic choices all came from a composite track and not an ISO track, it might take some work to get the AAF into a Pro Tools session to edit and mix.

Obviously, a picture editor who takes the position of “I don’t do sound” probably isn’t the most experienced or celebrated editor on the block.  Sound and picture in the work that we do comes as a package.  They may not do sound well, but no matter what, they indeed do sound.  Every dialog take that is chosen, all of the sound effects that are added and every music cue that is spotted and cut, sloppy or not, is a key choice in the final project.

Post audio can be an expensive endeavor.  Its always a good idea to minimize the time spent at a facility since time is money.  If the editor has spent quality time on the audio editing during the picture editing, that will help enormously in the post audio process.

Mundane tasks like cleaning up stray, unused and unwanted audio from the timeline prior to AAF or OMF export is an obvious one.  There should also be a logic and consistency in the track layout.  A simple solution is to dedicate separate tracks to dialog, tracks to effects and tracks to music as well as specific tracks for mono sources and stereo sources.  Often the translated audio in an AAF is no longer stereo interleaved.  Many picture editors do not take this into account.  Sound editors and mixers don’t care about split mono files, except when they are laid out in an illogical manner.

This illustration of an extremely simple edit may help to explain this.  There are stereo and mono elements bundled together here.  And are laid out in an inconsistent manner as can clearly be seen.  In an uncomplicated edit such as this these things can be quickly sorted out by the sound editors.  But if it is an effects intensive show with many mono and stereo elements this can slow things down considerably.  Instead of a quick highlight and drag to stereo or mono tracks in a Pro Tools timeline, individual audio elements must have their sound field determined and then be sorted, one by one.

Track lists that are well thought out and organized and then followed accordingly throughout the picture edit can speed the process.  Not paying attention can have the unintended consequence of improperly checker boarding the stereo field of the files.  What was stereo left on one track just moments ago is now stereo right later in the timeline.  Multiply this practice by hundreds, if not thousands of elements, then the time spent sorting can be considerable.

If sound editors normally do this kind of sorting then why is it a big deal?  Time and money.  A sound house will have to do it in the course of preparing for the mix.  However, It doesn’t make economic sense to be potentially paying top wages for work that could have been done in house prior to the sound hand off.

The dialog tracks, location audio cut by the picture editor, can often be organized with no particular order in mind.  If location dialog were recorded with a boom and a lavaliere, it is an excellent practice, to keep the boom on one particular track and the lavaliere on another.  Sounds logical.  Reasonable.  Practical even....  However, many times, I’ve encountered a changing track order for the various microphones - not only within the entire show edit - but also from within a single scene!

This can soak up many hours of time sorting things out what.  Sound editors will not simply look at waveforms to determine which is which.  The absolute best recording for each audio element must be used.  If there are thousands of small bits of dialog that are not properly labelled, sorted and cut, it can take time to figure it all out. At a mix facility that extra time can translate into extra costs. 

Often the duties of the audio preparation for mixing is tasked to someone who might have never seen a non-linear edit timeline opened in a program like Pro Tools.  It’s understandable that if the person has no experience with how an AAF or an OMF opens on the audio side then the preparation can suffer.  Although AAFs and OMFs are wonderful file types for moving media between systems and programs, at least for audio, they can be sorely lacking.

Another essential element for the edit timeline is to include the various roomtones for each scene on a separate track in the AAF or OMF.  Roomtones are something that I speak of regularly since it is not an optional part of sound editing but rather an integral part of it.  Roomtone is the glue for all of the dialog editing and mixing.  If there is dialog re-recording or if there is Foley added then roomtone is essential for the sound mixing.  It is sometimes hard to find. I have asked location recordists about this and I am always assured that roomtones were recorded for each scene.  Many of of the AAFs that I receive from picture editors do not include roomtones.

....Read the full article here!


Lessons from Squarespace

How did the founder of a comparatively tiny company turn around to make millions and a lasting product? Finding the right people, adapting, and building internally.

Anthony Casalena built the first version of Squarespace because he wanted a better personal website for himself. It’s a common enough story. Drew Houston famously wrote Dropbox’s first line of code on a bus when he realized he left his thumb drive at home. But very few founders have taken Casalena’s path.

While he's run the company for a decade, he didn’t start focusing on explosive growth until six years in. When he did, the company quickly became the first choice for hundreds of thousands of layman web developers, and it snagged a rare brass ring—this year’s buzzy Super Bowl ad that kicked off a new chapter in the company’s history and attracted hordes of new users. Recently, it announced a new fundraise of $40 million to scale even more, bringing its total amount raised to $78.5 million.

So how did Casalena do it? How did he take a company once dwarfed by competitors like Wordpress and Drupal and make it the growing, aspirational brand to watch while continuing to lead development? In this exclusive First Round Review interview, Casalena explains how he achieved every technical founder’s dream.

Get Lost in a Niche

In 2004, there were very few legitimate options for people who wanted to build their own websites without coding. And those that did exist deeply bothered Casalena with their negligence to detail, GeoCities and Blogger among them.

"None of the products out there took style or design into account—which doesn’t work when you’re trying to build your personal identity online," he says. "Your website is where your ideas live. It reflects who you are. And all there was out there were these geeky, bargain-bin sort of services charging $2.99 a month for clunky experiences. So when I started Squarespace, I just wanted to make a site for myself. I never thought it would be a business."

When he started sharing the platform with family and friends, he soon realized he wasn’t the only one stymied by the lack of options in the space. More and more people asked if they could use the tools he had built to create their own sites, giving him the momentum he needed to run a cashflow positive service for three years on his own. Eventually, he was bringing in around $1.5 million a year.

What made the difference for Casalena was his drive to be detailed. When you’re engrossed enough in any area or topic, you develop taste that sets you apart from the crowd, he says. As someone who had taught himself to program from age 15, he knew there had to be a better way to do things, and he pursued that idea at the expense of "getting a real job" without the certainty of a payday.

Six years into the company, this same attention to detail—the kind that you have inherently when you’re building a product for yourself—is what drove Casalena to make the changes he needed to revitalize the company, rise to the top of a new field of competitors, and truly realize his vision to provide a simple, stylish web publishing platform. Hiring was his first stop.

...Read the full article here.

[Image: Flickr user inUse Consulting]


The Art of Villainy

by Geoffrey Botkin (article source)
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Pop quiz. Read and then answer:

There have been riots in the streets of London after Britain has run out of petrol because of an oil crisis in the Middle East. Protesters have attacked public buildings. Several policemen have died. Consequently, the Government has deployed the Army to curb the protests. After two days the protests have stopped. But 25 protesters have been killed by the Army. You are the Prime Minister. Write the script for a speech to be broadcast to the nation in which you explain why employing the Army against violent protesters was the only option available to you and one which was both necessary and moral.

The above question was recently given to 12-year-old boys whose parents want them to be admitted to Eton, the elite British school for the governing class. So what is the passing answer to this question?

Well, it all depends on what kind of ethical system you want your national leaders to follow. What is necessary and moral? What moral standard are young Brits bringing with them into the college, and what will they take with them into the Prime Minister’s office? Exactly how is it these Eton professors want tomorrow’s Prime Ministers making life-and-death moral decisions?

Do the parents of these boys really care? Or is the road to power what matters most? Names of boys go on the Eaton waiting list at birth, and parents pay more than $50,000 per year to keep those who are accepted on target for places of privilege and raw power. At Eton, Eton boys are taught that they are born to lord it over others. They will rule, some day. They know it, and everyone else knows it. Eton boys graduate with a certain air of competence at doing exactly what they think needs to be done…with privileges others don’t have, and with an ethical system that will be consistently pragmatic and sentimentally British. But will it be moral? Or elegantly evil?

Maybe one of the perks of privilege is not having to worry about ethics. You simply do what you think needs to be done – for pragmatic reasons – and then you write a speech justifying it all. Eton boys are quite good at this. Out of Eton have arisen 19 headstrong Prime Ministers, and more than a dozen flamboyant villains, each of whom made a lot of money. Thanks to Hollywood, educated Brits have earned a reputation for being good at abusing privilege, and making villainy look “proper.” And thanks to Hollywood, this educated, elegant variety of villainy is now wildly popular and more accessible than ever.

“When Preparing for Villainy…One Must Sound Like a Proper Villain.” 1

What is a “proper villain?” In Britain, he is a high-class abuser of power, and his vocation can be learned as an art form. Different varieties of villainy have a learnable aesthetic. America is familiar with the lowest-class variety. Grand Theft Auto teaches millions of boys gutter villainy and disorganized crime. Violent feats of debauchery are glamorized. Petty criminals kill in vulgar ways that are different from the blood porn of Isis beheadings, which requires a more refined aesthetic. White collar villainy is yet more refined.

Villainy is a curious discipline and a cruel obsession. Because villains cannot lead from positions of moral integrity, trainee villains learn artifice and affectation by rote. Even the highbrow criminals have to learn to act the part and look the part. One new lesson of 2014: Just buy a Jag. “We all drive Jaguars,” intones British villain Mark Strong about his fellow British villains.

On Jaguar’s British Villains Dot Com website, new customers are invited to join the vocation of villainy by driving British Jaguars and acting like British villains. Stylish villainy of a British flavor is presented as High Art. That’s art with a capital “A” and high with a capital “H.” Aspiring villains of any criminal caste can visit the site and refine their style upwardly. They can learn how to dress like a villain, how to sound like a villain, how to corrupt like a villain, how to plan world domination as a villain, and how to plan one’s escape as a villain. A proper villain.

Eton boy Tom Hiddleston has had such a successful career as a movie villain that he too has been hired by Jaguar to articulate the most purposeful, elegant villainy. And to teach it. In one ad, Hiddleston takes the driver’s seat, listens to some patriotic Shakespeare, switches it off and turns to the camera. “They say Brits play the best villains,” he begins. And then Hiddleston proceeds with an authoritative lesson on the art of “great” villainy, which is chillingly proper. It looks…gentlemanly. If that strikes you as oxymoronic as “proper villain,” listen to the name of the Jaguar campaign: “It’s good to be bad.”

It Is Not Good To Be Bad

Moral heroism fell out of favor with popular culture two generations ago. In the movies, moral consistency and moral certainty is now a vice. Immoral consistency is a virtue. Not only are villains in control of themselves, they often drive the plot. Purposeful villains are far more interesting characters than the moralistic imbeciles who portray “heroes” in today’s cinema and television. Ever wonder why Hollywood casting directors seek out Brits to play iconic bad guys? Americans don’t have the comparative discipline or the education to carry a focused role. Educated British schoolboys have the foundational disciplines to speak with authority, precision, distinction and command. They clearly stand head and shoulders above undisciplined Americans. Ask the American female audience, "Who captures your attention?" It’s the bad guys who can consistently focus, who know exactly what to do, and how to do it without ambiguity, hesitancy, or cowardice. The British villain acts in a fully disciplined way. He knows what he wants. He prepares. He prepares for villainy. He is not afraid of planning to get what he wants. He is not ashamed to want dominion over all he sees. These new villains seem to be the closest thing to…informed manhood.

But redefining manhood into knavery is an act of villainy itself. It is not good to be bad. No man should twist manhood into something injurious. Real men should never confuse virtue with vice. It is never good to frown at the gutter thieves and excuse the cool, confident ones because they have learned to buy nice suits and fast cars. Around 500 BC, Aesop reputedly said, “we hang our petty thieves and elevate our great ones to high public office.” Today we train elite schoolboys to be bureaucrats in high public office. And we train them to define what is necessary and moral on their own terms. So how do they decide? But what is their vision of dominion? Is it the rule of law? Or is it to steal the law and replace authority with the razor-sharp personal style of the high-class villain?

In the US, we glorify villainy in cinema, and find it easy to emulate it. We vote for public officials who betray the rule of law for clever pragmatic agendas. Jaguar says gentlemen villains “have the character, intelligence and sheer determination to turn the world upside-down.” They have character, all right. And they are inverting the world. But it is not good character that puts lawlessness above the law. It is not good character that inspires impressionable men to live as recklessly as Jaguar’s devilish spokesman, who, with a flick of his finger, throws his car into growling overdrive on urban streets, racing faster and faster. The villain grins. The villain quotes Shakespeare. The London Symphony Orchestra swells. The car roars louder, and fine print appears in subtitle: ALWAYS OBEY SPEED LIMITS.

What? What is this? This is your quiet reminder that even the most brilliant, artistic villainy will always be restrained by the law and subject to the dominion of law. This is what is moral and necessary.


Your Film Needs a Good Gaffer

Watch as this woman — yes, this is just one woman — finds her features altered as the lighting shifts around her. The plans of her face move, the vibe she projects alters, and the genre of film she’s in morphs from drama to horror to comedy.
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