Created in 1996 by Chris Manak (aka DJ Peanut Butter Wolf), Stones Throw Records has cemented its reputation as an eclectic and influential indie record label, with a roster of acts such as hip-hop artists Madlib, Homeboy Sandman, and the late J Dilla, to soul crooners Mayer Hawthorne and modern-day funk musician Dam-Funk. Nearly 20 years later, Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton (This Is Stones Throw Records) tells its story.
Produced and directed by Jeff Broadway, Los Angeles-based filmmaker and co-founder of Gatling Pictures, the music documentary showcases the culture, energy, and history behind a label that started out releasing mainly hip-hop records but has morphed into a hotbed of electro, soul, and world music deals.
With exclusive interviews by Peanut Butter Wolf, as well as fellow DJ A-Trak, and noted stars such as Talib Kweli, Common, Kanye West, Mike D and Questlove, Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton highlights the independent spirit and creative aesthetic of the respected indie label.
Jeff Broadway: I live in LA and I’ve been here for about five years. With documentary production the margins are relatively small. And I thought it would be a wise move to do something on a subject that’s local. It’s also something that I’ve been a part of, at least peripherally as a fan, for some years. It’s a subject and a culture that I understand. I also felt like there was a demand from the fan base to learn more about it.
[Stones Throw] has been a relatively closeted and closed off label for some years prior to the documentary. Guys like Madlib and Doom, even Dilla, there hadn’t been a lot done of that collective of artists. And it’s been a collective that I’ve admired and appreciated as a fan for some years. So for those kind of myriad of factors, it just felt like a natural project for me to take on.
JB: It’s obviously a pretty large undertaking. I think that we started out mapping out stories based on the central figures and who have been the driving forces in comprising this collective of artists at Stones Throw. And really identifying those major figures and then kind of understanding which people, and which interviews, and which archival material would best serve telling those sub-narratives. And so really kind of attacking the story by its breakdown and just understanding what has made this clock tick for all these years. And then going after material, original production footage and interviews, and all that stuff that helps flesh out those storylines and those tangents that make up the larger, more holistic story.
JB: Because it wasn’t my first project, I feel like my first film [Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story] I learned a lot of big lessons. But as far as [this one] … I think that there are things … not to pat myself on the back, but I think there are things that I did on the onset that were very wise.
Like, for example, getting involved in a project like this that’s so music-driven, you have to understand what’s available to you. And you have to kind of set those terms in advance before you take the plunge. Like, I got Stones Throw to submit to clearing all that music for me, and I basically had an open vault. I think that’s crucial, especially with a music documentary; one like Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton where it’s so reliant upon that. That was like a clearance point that I had to make sure I did my due diligence on before I got involved in making the film.
Because if I had just started using music and like cutting some music, then gone back and said “Oh hey, by the way, there’s 60 music clips” … like who’s paying for that? You really got to make sure that all your boxes are checked from a business and production standpoint before you decide to take the plunge.
That wasn’t so much a lesson I learned, but that’s a lesson I learned on my first project, which is also a music documentary. And one that I implemented in making Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton. But I think that that is very prudent advice.
JB: If you have the talent and you have a great story and you have a great subject, and your subject’s willingness is there to participate and help you flesh out your vision, and you can raise some tens of thousands of dollars … and you have a DSLR and you have a computer, and you can figure out how to pirate software or whatever, you can make a feature-length movie. Yeah, it’s a documentary, but for not a lot of money. And not to say that that’s impossible in feature filmmaking, but it’s just a totally different undertaking.
I see documentary filmmaking as being more of like if you can compare it to sports. It’s more of like tennis. Whereas making a feature is like playing football. Like you have dozens of players that you have to orchestrate and who you have to direct on the field is your quarterback. With tennis, it’s like if you’re good, you’re good, you’re going to win. It’s a sport that falls squarely on your own shoulders. And I feel like documentaries are similar to that.
Yeah, you definitely need a team. But it’s far different from the team you have to have in place and the money you have in place to actually support executing a script in a feature film.
JB: It’s a great feeling to just have a film released and to see it succeed. And to see the other access points that open up and doors that open up. I think that if you can get a successful film on the books … I think that a lot of young people think that if they like do one thing and it’s really good that their door is just going to be blow down with opportunities and people wanting to rep and manage them. That’s not really the case.
But I think that one of the coolest things to come from this is more opportunity. I feel lifelong friendships with Wolf, and Dam-Funk and I are collaborating on something right now. I’m doing a music video with Homeboy Sandman and Krondon. So it kind of opened up a new world of artistic freedom and collaboration in different capacities, so I’m excited about that.
JB: Dam and I working on a feature together, actually, that would kind of be in the vein of Purple Rain and Superfly. So that’s coming along and I’m pumped about that. Homebody Sandman and I are shooting a video out in Joshua Tree in a few weeks, which should be really rad. And I’m going on the road with Daptone Records, which is home to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Charles Bradley. I’m doing a tour and live concert documentary for Daptone. So I’m excited.
Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton: This Is Stones Throw Records is available digitally everywhere.
Since its launch in 2011, World of Tanks has secured over 85 million players worldwide. With its blend of military strategy, vehicle customization, and fast action PvP, it appeals to hardcore military enthusiasts and casual players alike.
Building a game like World of Tanks has many of the same obstacles as a typical MMO, but also includes some unique
development hurdles. Get In Media spoke to Chris
Keeling take a closer look at how
Wargaming has risen to meet those challenges.
Get In Media: Can you tell us briefly about your position within Wargaming.net?
Chris Keeling: As director of product vision, my job is to make sure our internal and external studios have all of the design and production support they need; mostly in the Western Hemisphere, but working jointly with our eastern studios on several facets of development. This includes research assistance, UX testing, level and map design support, transmedia development, studio and pitch evaluation, game economy balancing, and process management. My team reports directly to our headquarters in Cyprus and handles external game projects directly to reduce the impact on development in our internal studios. We’re spinning up some truly amazing new products that will be announced over the next year or two on multiple platforms, and I am happy to be able to play a role in the design and production of these games.
GIM: How important was historical accuracy in the design process of the tanks and battlefields of World of Tanks?
CK: While there is an impressive amount of historical accuracy in World of Tanks, we still want to ensure that our players are having the most enjoyable experience possible. Accuracy implies more of a simulation, and World of Tanks is too much fun to be a simulation. We wanted to provide the feel of being there, the awesome power of the tanks, the constant knife-edge struggle for supremacy in battles centered around deserted villages, hills, and even rock formations. By modeling the tanks and their damage models with as much historical accuracy as we could find, we’ve not only shown that we know what the real tanks are all about and how they work, but we’ve provided that essential link to the realities of historical warfare that let players bond with their machines. Many of the maps are based on historical battlefields as well, but of course we have had to make some small changes to keep the game fun.
GIM: What are some of the notable sacrifices made to that realism for the sake of better gameplay?
CK: Well, first of all, you’re fighting in mixed company—where else would you find pre-WWII German tanks and postwar French tanks fighting alongside wartime Soviet tanks? There were no real battles like this, but the variety of tanks lends itself better to game balance and matchmaking. The battlefields have been reduced in size to make matches more active and stay within the 15-minute time limit, and we’ve also had to make some changes to the tanks, especially when estimating some of the factors on tanks that only made it to prototype drawings and never saw combat. Plus, having to get your crew out of the tank to spend an hour changing a track when it breaks wouldn’t have been any fun, so repairs are much faster. To compensate for this we have recently added historical battles, which limit players to the actual models of the specific tanks that participated in each battle, organized by nationality. This is a very interesting gameplay mode, and currently my favorite.
GIM: The lore of World
of Tanks seems more like an equipment manual. Did the team need to consult with military experts to
get accurate representations of the
CK: We have a lot of military advisors. I have a team of several researchers here in Austin currently spending much of their time finding accurate blueprints of World War II ships for our World of Warships team, and we have over a dozen in Eastern Europe who specialize in tanks and planes, plus each studio has its own historical specialists to help guide research and validate accuracy. We comb archives and museums to make sure we get the models correct, and we even measure armor thicknesses and record engine, gunfire, and track audio to get the sounds right. On top of that, we have our own military experts in some of our offices—not to mention a community of millions of interested players—who will quickly tell us when we get something wrong.
GIM: What are some unique challenges to a game that relies so heavily on historical content?
CK: We have to be very careful about balancing the authenticity of the game with the gameplay, like I said earlier. While most players just don’t go to the nuts and bolts level of detail that we do, there are many who are real experts in the field who are playing our games. These are the ones who will inform us if a bolt or a headlight is out of place. Getting those features accurate while balancing them with the arcade-style gameplay is the challenge, and from the amount of players we have, I think we’ve found the right balance.
GIM: What do you think the realism of the game adds to its playability?
CK: When you’re in the game, you’re focused on that next hill, the nearest building, or a good place to hide in case you get hurt. The feel of the threat when a heavy tank lumbers over the hill or you suddenly spot a tank destroyer that has you in their sights elevates your adrenaline. The raw power of your tank can be relied on to keep you safe, but there’s always a tank out there with a bigger gun, or thicker armor, or who is spotting for the enemy artillery. The depth of this mixture of rock-paper-scissors mechanics with moment-to-moment critical decisions in one-on-one combat makes the game feel real right up until your tank erupts in flames, giving an immediate and very tactile association with the actual risks and dangers of historical tanks in combat that comes through every match.
GIM: World of Tanks has spawned two more games, World of Warplanes and World of Warships. What lessons were learned during the development of World of Tanks that benefited these new games?
CK: We’re still learning—these games push the fast-paced combat action vehicle game genre in opposite directions, exploring new ways to think and play, and focusing on different kinds of players. For example, World of Warplanes plays a lot faster than World of Tanks. You can’t stop for a breather behind a rock to chat with your teammates; if you stop at all, gravity takes over and your plan starts to fall! There’s little cover—clouds up high and mountains and buildings down low, but not much in between. You’re constantly looking for trouble, and this lends itself to fast-action players who prefer shooter-type games. World of Warships, on the other hand, is much slower in pace, requires a lot more player cooperation and strategy, and thus we expect it will be more popular among strategy gamers and probably an older audience than we’re addressing with World of Warplanes. Of course, we’ve done a lot of growing since World of Tanks came out, so things like improvements in balance, economy, art, accounts, servers, and engine are all ongoing, and driver conflicts have long since been sorted out.
GIM: World of Tanks
has a record-breaking population. Do you think part of that is because the game appeals to more than one genre of
CK: Over 85 million accounts and growing, and we’ve managed to have over 1.1 million players in Russia on our World of Tanks servers at the same moment. That’s pretty phenomenal. While much of our appeal is cultural, there are lots of ways to find the fun in playing. Whether you collect tanks or achievements, tinker with your tank configurations, customize your favorites with camo and decals, zip around the field scouting in light tanks, plod into battle in thick-skinned heavies, or support by fire from a self-propelled artillery piece, there’s a place. Our games fall under the free-to-play business model, so anyone can try whatever they want. Even if you’re not the best player out there, battling is fun, and those occasional winning streaks are all the more rewarding.
GIM: World of Tanks seems to strike a good balance between RPG, MMO, and military strategy. What are some things the design team does to ensure it continues to appeal to such a wide audience?
CK: We’re constantly rebalancing to make sure everything is fair and adding new content, like more tanks, maps, and game modes. We also look closely at critical feedback, both from within the community and through playtests and UX studies, to see what we can make better. Outside of the game itself, our publishing teams come up with contests, missions, and sales to engage different players and provide more ways to interact with the core gameplay. Plus, we’ve added two platforms, with dedicated versions of World of Tanks for the Xbox 360 and tablets. We can always do more, and we will continue to do as much as we can to keep expanding and improving all of our games.
Want to see Zoe Saldana and her cast of Klingon backup dancers rock a little “Thriller”? Or How about Benedict Cumberbatch throwing it back to M.J.? You know you do.
Matthew Myatt was cruising the skies over Greenham Common near Newbury, Berkshire, England, snapping stock photo shots for the Airborne Aviation flying school on Tuesday, when he happened upon something unusual. As Myatt explained to Sky News, it wasn’t until he reviewed his photos at home that he realized what he had—the Millennium Falcon.
The photo captured a partially constructed Millennium Falcon, with an X-Wing also visible:
— FlyMAC (@FlyMAC_Popham) September 9, 2014
Myatt told Sky News, “I grew up with Star Wars but this is something I never thought I’d see in real life. It was a real shocker.”
He also said he plans to return to the area to gather more intel on the Rebel operations from the Star Wars staging ground.
SEGA has launched the first in a series of nine trailers for Alien: Isolation, which the company confirmed has gone gold ahead of its October 7 release.
The story takes place 15 years after the events of Alien. As Amanda, Ripley’s daughter, players fight for survival on a mission to discover the truth about her mother’s disappearance.
Alien: Isolation is developed by The Creative Assembly. The game will be available on October 7 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Like the Tim Burton Superman that never was, this early test footage of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was best left in the “Terrible Ideas We Would Rather Forget” bin.
Here’s the backstory:
Before Richard Williams directed the animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, there was an earlier attempt at Disney, from 1981 to 1983, to adapt Gary K. Wolf’s book Who Censored Roger Rabbit. John Culhane takes us behind the scenes of the unmade Darrell Van Citters version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, 1983. With animator Mike Giamo and producer Marc Sturdivant. While Roger was a villain in the book, trying to solve his own murder, this Roger is a loveable goofball in white fur and red overalls—a prototype for the final film. Baby Herman is glimpsed only briefly, and Jessica Rabbit appears to be the villain of the piece. Still, this version clearly laid some groundwork for the Zemeckis/Williams production a few years later.
We finally have a full-length trailer for American Horror Story: Freak Show. Premiered during The Strain on Sunday, the preview takes us behind the curtain to glimpse Kathy Bates as the bearded woman, Angela Bassett as the three-breasted woman, Sarah Paulson’s two heads, Bette and Dot, and newcomer Michael Chiklis (The Sheild, Fantastic Four) as the strong man.
American Horror Story: Freak Show premieres on FX on Oct. 8, 2014.
Like many Netflix households, you might have happened upon an aptly titled monster flick and thought, “Sure, why not?” As it turned out, that was time well spent. Sci-fi fans have waited patiently for the sequel to Monsters, the award-winning 2010 film from Godzilla director Gareth Edwards.
In the first installment, it’s been six years since NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. Per the film’s official synopsis: “A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life forms began to appear and half of Mexico was quarantined as an infected zone. Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain ‘the creatures’ … Our story begins when a U.S. journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through the infected zone to the safety of the U.S. border.”
The result was a fresh, thrilling personal story set against the lush backdrop of filming locations in Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Gareth served as his own DP, production designer, and VFX artist. Much of the script was improvised with non-actor extras and bystanders who happened to be nearby when the six-person crew came through—without permission. It also launched the mainstream career of star Scoot McNairy, who has since appeared in 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Rover, and the upcoming Gone Girl and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. He also stars in AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.
So the sequel should be a sure hit, right? Not so fast.
For starters, writer-director Gareth Edwards has been busy conquering blockbuster territory. Since the success of Godzilla, he is slated to lead Godzilla 2 and an untitled stand-alone Star Wars film. Directing duties were passed off to Tom Green (not that one—this one) with a script from Jay Basu, who has three previous credits on IMDB, none of which you’ve ever heard of.
Then there’s the title: Monsters: Dark Continent. Insert your own Michael Bay joke.
And this time around, the trailer shows us an all-out alien invasion wreaking havoc on the planet, but really the Middle East, and its going to take some tough guys from Detroit to save the world. Think Jarheads (Jarheads 2, maybe?) meets Battle Los Angeles (aiming for the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds).
Here’s the official synopsis:
Ten years on from the events of Monsters, and the ‘Infected Zones’ have now spread worldwide. In the Middle East a new insurgency has begun. At the same time there has also been a proliferation of Monsters in that region. The Army decide to draft in more numbers to help deal with this insurgency.
Let’s just hope Monsters: Dark Continent brings more substance than firepower to theaters when it premiers to U.K. audiences on Nov. 28.
Big Hero 6 is a heartfelt comedy adventure about robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who learns to harness his genius—thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, clean freak Wasabi No-Ginger, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to his closest companion—a cutting-edge robot named Baymax—and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action and all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Big Hero 6 is directed by Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt), and produced by Roy Conli (Tangled).
Disney’s Big Hero 6 opens in theatres in 3D November 7, 2014.
Punk rock music made major headlines in the U.S. between 1974 and 1981. In New York City, the first well-known punk band was The Ramones. In London, the Sex Pistols inspired the movement. Punk rock has always been seen as a self-sufficient entity of music, often anti-establishment and political in nature, but full of heart, dedication and originality.
Hip-hop started the same way in the early 1970s. For what began in the Bronx, it created a subculture around the world that included four distinctive elements: the emcee, the DJ, the B-boy, and the graffiti artist. DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa were pioneers of the moment. The afropunk movement started in 2003. Thanks to a documentary film (Afro-punk) that shined a light on blacks in the American punk scene.
With a background in journalism, Editor-In-Chief Lou Constant-Desportes spearheaded Afropunk.com’s transformation from an online forum into the web magazine it is today, a place for “people looking for something different from what the mainstream has to offer.” Just as in punk and in hip-hop, the scene attracts a non-conforming multicultural audience, sharing the latest in music, art, film, fashion, and good vibes. Afropunk is also a yearly festival held every summer in Brooklyn, New York. The New York Times has dubbed it “the most multicultural festival in the U.S.”
Lou Constant-Desportes: We’ve always been clear about our values and the fact that the community is inclusive and open-minded. So naturally it attracts people who feel comfortable with that. We do our best to maintain this spirit through the content and the events we produce. When necessary, we remind our audience across Afropunk’s networks that we do not condone racism, sexism, homophobia and overall bigotry. Afropunk is not just an entertainment website, it’s a movement; the vision and spirit behind it are a big part of it. [But] it’s also a social network so people can have a sense of community.
LCD: I studied journalism in Paris. I had been in touch with some of the founders. I thought it was an interesting project. I knew some of the artists from the scene and when it was decided to produce content to complement the festival, I was asked to take care of that. I basically created the editorial part of Afropunk and turned the site into a Web magazine.
LCD: No. We speak our minds. The tone is really open on Afropunk.com, but we don’t feel the need to overdo it either.
LCD: I can only talk about my own experience, not sure how things go for other editors. Research is a very important part of what I do. I don’t just approve ideas coming from writers or publicists. I actually research and find most of the topics and artists covered on Afropunk.com. I think that’s why people enjoy Afropunk, we don’t just post whatever publicists send our way, and we go and look for great things to cover.
I make sure to give everyone the same chance, regardless of who they “know,” whether or not they have a publicist/label/etc. pushing them. On a regular basis we talk about artists that don’t get featured in other big Web magazines and our readers love it. I’m also hands-on in the choice of visuals. In this era of short attention spans and unlimited content flooding social networks, we make the content visually appealing. I also communicate with our contributors who write the articles and I go through tons of messages every day. I have to make choices quickly while making sure that I give a fair chance to every one. Being featured on Afropunk’s networks is a big deal for indie (and some not-so-indie) artists, so I respect that.
LCD: Every experience is different. I don’t have a formula, and I can only talk about what worked for us. It’s as much about having a vision as it is about being knowledgeable about communications and the way readers consume information at any given time. Technology changes all the time. Today anyone can have a blog, so what makes the difference is your vision, the kind of content you share, the way you present the content, and how well you promote it. People want content they feel connected to.
LCD: I don’t think there are any rules. Each personality can bring something different. I guess it can be useful to be curious, passionate and good at dealing with contributors.
LCD: We’re honest in our choices and I believe people feel connected to that. I do my best to make sure that Afropunk’s content and editorial choices speak for themselves. As a result our readers like, react to, and share the content with their friends and the community keeps growing.
LCD: Afropunk has had shows in other boroughs. I don’t know if the actual festival in New York will take place out of Brooklyn one day. There are plans to bring the festival to other cities and other countries though. But nothing has been announced yet.
LCD: They should expect to have fun, witness groundbreaking artists, see and maybe meet free-spirited people, and eat great food.
LCD: I don’t really deal with planning anything for the festival anymore, although the content I produce year-round probably has an influence on what happens at the festival. There’s so much going into planning such a big festival that I wouldn’t be able to say it all here.
LCD: Working from wherever I want in the world; I work from home so as long as I have my computer and an Internet connection I’m good to go. I also enjoy discovering cool things all the time and sharing them with the community, [just] putting the spotlight on topics that I think are important.