Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Movie Studios Need to Grow Up

About 4 years ago, when I was writing for, I wanted to get comment from one of the big movie studios on a part that was cast for a then-upcoming major motion picture. It was an exclusive, no else had it at that point-- it was based on a couple of sources and I was pretty certain I had the goods. Go me.

I got a number for one of the main press contacts there, and called for confirmation. After telling the PR person -- or, rather, her assistant -- what I was after, he asked where I was a writer. I told him that I was from an Internet site than had a substantial readership of a quarter-million per month, or whatever it was during that time; in response, the PR person sniffed and said he had not heard of it, and that they rarely responded to Internet writers.

The film wasn't anything that did particularly well at the box office, but it was a summer film (not a tentpole, but still) that ultimately didn't perform as well as expected. It should have been a big deal, this was one of the lead roles. I never understood the reasoning, but I was mildly pissed -- after running it -- when my exclusive picked up a day later by one of the trades, without attribution to the site. As a reactive measure, the studio gave the "news" to them, it seems; the trade writer, who I quickly wrote to, said he had "been given" the news by the studio.

I was reminded again of this again last weekend, upon reading this article by Anne Thompson in the Hollywood Reporter, in which the trade magazine's deputy film editor writes about the diminishing power of the critic, which one could argue somewhat coincides with the decline of box office returns. While the article is a little disjointed -- I feel she tries to tackle too many different areas at once, she needed at least twice the wordcount for what she was aiming to tackle -- she talks about one area the studios need to improve: their relations with Internet writers.

In passing, she focuses on a "rising cyber-star",'s Walter Chaw, "who writes with a refreshing candor that you would never find in the print world."

As she writes there: "But newspapers might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Aiming at a youthful readership is a fool's errand. Any parent of a teenager knows where young people go for information about anything: the Internet. Which is where Kehr and many less established critics are now expounding on movies...But in a "The House Next Door" blog interview, Colorado native Chaw admits that he struggles to gain entry to screenings, even though he claims his site has three times the "circulation" of both Denver dailies combined. "I don't know if I'd be as moral," he says, "if I were banking Roger Ebert's or even a living wage."

In this age of the Internet being the medium where people get the bulk of their news, you would think that publicists from the major studio would be all over this-- that the above mindset still exists, four years later, is baffling to me. The major studios should want to publicize their movie as far and wide as possible, by inviting some of the 'influencers' to advance screenings. I'm sure the high-traffic film sites -- like Ain't It Cool News and ComingSoon -- of the world are taken care of, but the studios need to change this mindset. But what about the online film writers and some of the influential bloggers who have sway to get people into theaters?

And I mean beyond the film writers, those who have the pageviews and the enviable readership. Here's an example of this from September 2005: Universal Pictures, in its bid to distribute Joss Whedon's "Serernity" offered advance screening passes to readers of Josh Marshall's influential political TalkingPointsMemo site. The site offers really good demographics in terms of the influentials reading it, but there is little linkage between it and the film, other than political geeks (and I count myself among them) possibly liking a sci-fi movie. In essence, this was a huge win for Universal-- it was able to grow awareness of the film among the site's more than 600,000 average monthly visitors -- and something to be emulated. It's a unique, creative play by the studio and hopefully something we'll see more of.

The movie studios need to do their research and look beyond the current model used to publicize their films. If they want to draw more people into theaters, this might be one way to do it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Struck by Lightning, Very Very Frightening

This is the weird dream I had last night.

I'm on the street where I grew up, when a lightning storm strikes. It hits a power line, which comes down and thrashes on the street like a vicious snake. I dodge and dodge and dodge...until the next bolt of lightning hits me straight on. Fade to black.

Creepy. Commented a friend of mine into dream analysis: "It seems you're damned if you do, damned if you don't." Wonderful.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"NHL Agrees to Put Pepsi on Ice"

This was a headline from in the New York Post yesterday (June 20). Although it's a cute little headline, my first instinct was that the NHL no longer had an agreement with the beverage company to provide their drinks at hockey games next year.

But, nah, it's the more literal meaning. From Paul Tharp's story: "For about $4 million a year...Pepsi is getting exclusive rights to promote Gatorade, Lays chips, Pepsi and its water Aquafina at the 30 teams in the U.S."

Maybe it's my cynical worldview that put the negative spin on this-- certainly, two meanings can be glazed from the above headline. But the writer could have done a bunch better with the phrasing.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Screenwriter Slags "Deuce Bigelow" Sequel, World Nods in Agreement

It's rare when when you see a screenwriter slagging his own work. It's not completely unheard of, but rarer than a non-Scientologist Tom Cruise fan these days.

In the current "Letters" page for Maxim Magazine, David Garrett writes the following: "[You] once again dis "Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo". Every issue mentions what a piece of crap you think the movie is. As cowriter of the film, I would like to say: I agree completely!"

Included with the missive is a picture of Garrett with the movie's "star", Rob Scheinder, in the background. I did a quick check of IMDB and it looks like the letter is indeed real. What's hilarious is that this fellow's credits also include "Living with Fran" (the failed Fran Drescher TV "comedy" on The WB), "Corky Romano", "Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher" (Scott Baio directed an episode!) and "The Jeff Foxworthy Show". With a resume like that, he still makes fun of the "Deuce Bigelow"-- ouch.

No, if only Uwe Boll would start saying the same about his directing ability, or lack thereof...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Not All There, Apparently

Why is there soap on my towel?

I seem to be doing this a lot recently-- I've been forgetting to rinse the shampoo from my hair in the shower, which consequently ends up on the towel. Dur.

(By the way, if the above mental image frightens you, please think of the part of myself being played by Brad Pitt. Thank you.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

An Early RIP for "Deadwood"

Lame, HBO, tres lame.

Tonight, via Variety, the pay channel announced that "Deadwood" would end its run as a regular series with the one beginning next week and that it would conclude with two 2-hour specials to wrap up the series as a whole. The article gets down to the nitty-gritty of why this happened (short answer: money), but I fear for the channel's future because Swearengen must be pissed.

How odd is it that HBO will allow "The Wire" to have a longer run than "Deadwood". I don't mean to disparage "The Wire", which is probably my favorite current series, but "Deadwood" is still one I watch religiously. It's a wonderful series, with a wonderful cast and a wonderful view into a time we see very little of these days. And now it's in its final leg, tragic.

"Six Feet Under", "Sex and the City" and "Oz"-- all are gone. "Sopranos" has only 8 episodes left. "The Wire" has never been a success with audiences, "Big Love" is untested as its own entity, and a second season of "Rome" is TBA, last I hear. All they really have is "Entourage", really.

HBO better come up with another hit series, quick.