Why I am enjoying “Sons of Anarchy” Much More Now That It’s Over

My main problem with TV series is time and schedule. Watching one series after the other of my favourite TV show is clearly exciting (and time consuming), but having to synchronise my desire to watch the latest episode with airing dates has always been an issue for me. Mostly because I don’t watch TV the way I used to years ago.

I still remember how much I enjoyed The X-Files as a kid. It was my Sunday evening rite (tied in with the Italian time broadcast slot), and I used to meet Mulder and Scully while eating pizza and drinking a Coke. But after the two scheduled episodes had ended, I immediately got pissed off because I wanted to watch more. But I couldn’t. It didn’t matter how strongly “I wanted to believe”: I had to wait until the next week.

Sons of Anarchy logo.

Now I don’t wait anymore. I want everything to be available immediately: all the seasons, as many episodes as I want. This is why I tend to wait for a series to end to then start exploring it at my pace. And this is also why, after getting a taste of it in 2012, I’m really enjoying the time I’m now spending with Sons of Anarchy. The cable network FX recently aired the final season about the eponymous outlaw motorcycle club created by Kurt Sutter (whose life is even more interesting than the show itself) and I’ve started to watch it from the beginning. I’m currently spending most of my evenings with SAMCRO: I decide how many episodes I want to see, when, and on which device. In this state of grace provided by full accessibility of content, Jax & the Club have easily become my new “media friends”.

Isn’t it the paradise of the fan? No, actually it is not. The problem is simple: the more you wait, the more spoilers you get. Although I consider myself quite good at avoiding them, it’s becoming way more difficult for popular TV series. My Facebook timeline and Twitter feed, for example, are flooded with news about Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, two series that I enjoyed until Season 2 and then paused because I had to catch up on tons of films. Now, surfing between news while avoiding major spoilers has almost become an art form. Also, I am out of synch: it seems that everyone in the world except me is talking about the last episode of this and that, while I’m not joining the conversation (and sharing is a major pleasure for a fan).

Publicity image for Sons of Anarchy, final season.

By the way, now that I’m in the middle of Sons of Anarchy’s second Season, here are my awards for Season 1 of this version of Dynasty filled with guns, drugs, badass bikers and chicks. Goriest scene: SAMCRO erasing former member Kyle’s tattoo with a blowtorch (1×05, “Giving Back”). Cutest interlude: Jax cuddling his new-born baby Abel for the first time (1×08, “The Pull”). WTF? moment: jailed Otto smashing agent Stahl’s face on the table in Stockton (1×10, “Better Half”).

But has the series really ended? As we all know, nothing is really over when it comes to contemporary media. Cancelled TV shows can be reactivated, at least for a while, under the pressure of fandom (see The Veronica Mars Movie Project) or creative and economic impulses, as in the case of the cult 24, Twin Peaks and The X-Files. So, sooner or later, I’m expecting SAMCRO to be riding again in the streets of Charming.

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Smart Thinking for Smart Audiences: Introducing Audience Design for Your Film Strategy

Let’s be frank: ideas need to circulate as much as possible, and new terms as well. So I thought I’d spread the word a bit again, given that “Audience Design” is a fairly recent concept introduced just a few years ago by the TorinoFilmLab to raise awareness of the need for a strategic approach to promoting independent and art-house films at an early stage of development.

The title of this post matches the master class that I ran last Friday in Belgium. It was a different format from the workshop Juan Morali and I conceived last November in Germany on behalf of TFL, as this time we were both invited to provide an overview on audience engagement strategies to filmmakers, producers, students and representatives of the Flanders Film Fund.

Adding memes to our presentation: a new version of Batman & Robin.

So we joined the TorinoFilmLab team at the end of the first residential workshop of the 2015 Audience Design Programme, which this year took place in Ghent. On Friday 20 March we delivered our master class at KASK Cinema, providing a wide range of case studies that spanned recent blockbusters as well as small and obscure gems; international projects with very consistent budgets and labours of love made for free; linear and interactive narratives; documentaries and fictional films.

Checking the presentation for the master class.

We provided an overview of some basic concepts of audience engagement, such as the difference between core and market niches, the creation of “personas”, and online vs digital communities. And of course we went through the difference between Audience Design and marketing, “the necessary evil”. The core of the master class was arranged around a set of key words that we believe are crucial when thinking of audience engagement: “Intensity and Scale”, “Interaction and Co-Creation”, “Tone and Pace”, “Immersion and Gamification”, as well as “Pertinence and Consistency”.

At KASK Cinema, about to start the master class in Audience Design.

We also addressed some “failures” and tried to understand what we can learn for example from an apparently successful transmedia project that is forced to close down because it is not economically sustainable in the long run.

One of the closing slides provocatively asked: “Where do we go from here?” It was meant to open the debate on how quickly the film industry needs to adapt to new need of audiences and react to alternative forms of consumption. On a more personal level, Juan and I are going to take part to the next TFL Alumni Meeting that will take place in Karlovy Vary this coming July. As we have many more stories to tell and exciting projects to discover together, expect a follow-up to this post from the Czech Republic.

The Roar of the Old Lion: John Milius and… “Milius”

When I was much younger I loved watching movies but I did not pay particular attention to the cast and crew. I just enjoyed the stories. It was only later, when I started to study cinema, that I really got into “the who and the what” of filmmaking and began to think about a film in terms of who writes it and who directs it.

Until then, I only knew that some of my favourite movies included Jeremiah Johnson, The Wind and The Lion, Apocalypse Now, Big Wednesday and Conan the Barbarian. But later I discovered that they shared something within their creative team: these films all were written or directed by the same person. That screenwriter and director was John Milius.

Screenwriter, director and producer John Milius.

Talented and presumptuous, conservative and self-proclaimed Zen anarchist, surfer and avid gun collector, a macho who wanted to go to Vietnam and die for his country but was rejected because of asthma: it’s hard to separate the “real” Milius from the “persona” he created, as his long-time friend, the director George Lucas, acknowledges in the documentary Milius (2013). And it’s thanks to Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson’s doc that recently I’ve got an update on this larger-than-life filmmaker.

I knew he had served lately as a story consultant for the video game Homefront, but I have to admit that he had slipped out of my radar after his creative consultancy for the TV series Rome, to which he also contributed as a writer. So I didn’t know that after experiencing a difficult financial situation he also suffered a stroke that left him unable to talk or write, and prevented him to fully devote himself to one of his ambitious projects: the biopic of Genghis Khan.

Poster for the documentary "Milius" directed by Zak Charles Knutson and Joey Figueroa.

Milius literally goes back to the origins of John Milius’ life and career. While considering his groundbreaking contribution to some of the best known films from the 1970s and early 1980s, the documentary delves into one of the most creative eras of the American cinema: the so-called New Hollywood. But it also acknowledges how the mythology Milius created around himself soon became a problem, if not a concrete obstacle to his career.

The documentary could have ended in a pitiful and melancholy way, as it is usual when the closing of an era is in the air, or health issues are involved, as in this case (and here is when a clearly moved Steven Spielberg wonders in the film if there is anything sadder that a writer/director who is not able to communicate). Instead there is space for one last roar from this old lion, which of course I won’t reveal here. So if you’d like to pursue a career in the film business, enjoy the cinema of the “movie brats” or are simply interested in biopics, this is the documentary for you.