Aintitcool and the Secret of Bad Movies.
You gotta love those writers over at AICN. They will probably be our chief providers of content for this website over its life span.
Check this out. This is an article on AICN from contributor Billy Donnelly. It concerns the marketing stragies of Christopher Nolan as regaled by his composer Hans Zimmer.
Have any of you guys seen the trailer for the Apartment. Billy Wilder’s the Apartment. Head on over to youtube and check it out and them come back here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRta_ko0XGU
“Shut up and Deal”……..those, in case you didn’t know is the last line said in the motion picture. The line that cements and defines the relationship of the Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter and Shriley McClane’s Ms. Cublink. Isn’t that astounding, in this day in age where directors scramble to make sure you know as little possible about their upcoming movie, billy wilder and his crew at MGM were willing to let it hang all out there. Well, why wouldn’t you, if you know the product is good.
Here is a little illustration. Take for instance, the pizza delivery business. You’re about to watch the game, and a commerical for pizza h…….domin…….little c…….a commercial for Aurellios pizza comes on. You are enticed by the sight of a delicious thin crust, sauce covered, cheese drenched dynamo. The deal for the pizza is listed in regards to price and free liter of pepsi with purchase. You ponder the possiblities for 10 seconds then pick up the phone and order. 40 minutes later there is a knock at your door and your pizza has arrived. Dinner is served.
This is the way the marketing campaign was held for “The Apartment”, as well as how most movie promotion worked back in the old days. They werent hiding anything, nothing was a mystery. We have a movie, we believe it is very good, here is the general idea of what it is about, the players, some key scenes, some critical lines, and the title. Nothing more, nothing less. Now lets re-imagine pizza delivery the Christopher Nolan way. You are watching the game and see a commercial. On this commercial you are shown a box. No distinguishable characteristics, but it is shaped like an ordinary pizza box. A narrator announcer that a certain company that may or may not make pizza like food stuffs could be offering pizza like food stuffs for a certain price made to order. There is no deliberating in the ordering process, as you will not be told what toppings could be on the pizza related foodstuffs. It could be anything from anchovies to pinnaple. You however will not be privy to any of the toppings as that would take the enjoyment out of eating it. Upon completion of the order you are told that the pizza will be delivered to your residence sometime during the day. Don’t worry about not knowing exactly when its coming as that is part of the fun.
That doesn’t sound like a pizza I would want. Sure you could get something good……maybe. What if you get something bad? What if you get goat cheese and pickles on your pizza with pineapples and anchovies? For that matter why is your pizza company being so secretive about its pizza? Is it because they know its so good that any mention of it will only do it a disservice, or because it is so bad that they want to bilk some quick money out of you before the word gets out (see “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”)? Whatever the outcome (usually the latter nowadays) the new emerging philosophy in film marketing is that of cloak and secrecy. Basically the filmmakers will tell the consumers the least amount of information that they can about a upcoming project, meaning details casting choices, story, and basic themes are for the most part left in the dark. As Hans Zimmer explains, in the article, the reason for this is ”
One, to be able to do really good work, you have to have the chance to fail in privacy. And if everybody’s watching you on the Internet, I think it stifles creativity. And I think ‘Dark Knight’ is the perfect example of this idea. Everybody knew we were making a Batman movie. But until it came out they didn’t know it was going to be that sort of a Batman movie.”
Doesn’t it seem kind of weird that in the motion picture business where an audience of billions will lay eyes on one particular film, people want to make movies with no disclosure contracts and lock downed sets. What difference, I ask, is there between failing in public and failing in private. It doesn’t matter because the work is ultimately shown before the public anyway. What does it matter if a bunch of people online know about some of what you are working on versus knowing all about later of it later. I get that some pressure may be applied by having so many eyes upon you while working, but is that the consumers problem, or the filmmakers. There are some filmmakers who could have throngs of people flocking them and still make great films. Why should we, based on the secrecy of modern marketing, put our money at stake only to find out a film we knew nothing was in the end, nothing worth knowing about anyway. Also, Mr. Zimmer, you spoke of making a different kind of batman film. How many, if I may ask, kinds of batman movies are there. If more people on the internet knew about “Dark Knight” would a different sort of Batman movie of emerged. So what Mr. Zimmer is saying is that differing levels of secrecy lead to differing kinds of Batman films. This is just a suggesting but why not just focus on making a great movie regardless of subject matter. Zimmer then goes on to state that
“isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? We’re supposed to go and surprise you. And part of the experience has to be a surprise. It feels a little bit like we’re working very hard at protecting part of what is great about movies — the surprise. Because it seems like the world doesn’t want you to do that anymore. They want to know everything, they want to know about the stars and [this and that] immediately. And it’s not important to us. To us, really, the thing is the writing and the script and the ideas and the journey, and making it into something really good.”
Surprise us with what? Aren’t you supposed to be making good films, moving art, and riveting stories. What is the big fixation on surprises. The intent of “The Apartment” wasn’t to surprise. You knew all the players, the general story, and even the last line of the film. Some of the finer story points were left untold, but not in a way as to seem purposefully deceptive. You didn’t watch “The Apartment” to see what you didn’t know about the film. You went to the movie because, with the information you were presented about the film, including the stars, the scenario, and some comedic bits, you were expecting to see something worth while on the screen. The surprise, if there would be any at all, would have nothing to do with discovering any plot points, hidden characters, or last second twists. It had to do with seeing a movie you thought would be good but turned out to be excellent. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. As imagination and showmanship have dissipated from the profession, modern filmmakers have had to rely, not on the act of surprise (as they call it), but of deceit. Their main job is to whip you up into a frenzy with overly elaborate viral marketing, “leaked” set photos and countless titillating but ultimately hollow trailers for a film, all so they can get your money before you figure out that the film you are seeing is subpar and not deserving you your time or energy in the first place.
Well the internet film community seems to have taken the bait, finding the the shared ideology of people like Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams refreshing, when really they are just pandering to their audience. The fact is as films have gotten worse, directors have gotten better at hiding their ineptitude with clever marketing and pompous artistic philosophies. On the other hand, like with “The Apartment”, the filmmakers were very opening and non-secretive with their marketing because the truth is, good films have nothing to hide.