Posts Tagged ‘film’

The Mist

August 8, 2008

 

When road-kill fights back...

When road-kill fights back...

 

This is the best film I have seen in a long time.

Based on a Stephen King novella of the same name, The Mist sees a small group of terrified citizens becoming trapped together in a supermarket as a mysterious white mist envelopes the entire town.

This is a creature-feature, but it’s more about paranoia, religious fanaticism and the price of hopelessness than it is about monsters. And if any of you ever wondered how fast society would break down when the pressure’s on – this film answers that question pretty accurately!

The Mist is tight and suspenseful, showing you only just enough blood to keep you on your toes, unlike the recent exercises torture porn that have dominated cinemas. The relatively static location and constantly changing threats just ratchet up the suspense.

This is a film with tension, character development, plot and action. It’s a film that will make you think long after the credits roll. It’s a film filled with metaphor and deeper meaning, but it still works as a popcorn cruncher.

And the ending is just perfect. Darabont seems to be one of few directors really capable of bringing off great endings to the stories he tells.

The Mist also shows how prevalent certain technologies have become since the original novella was written in 1980. Like many horror films now – The Mist has to make a point of showing that there is no mobile signal early on, so no one can call for help! At one point the protagonist also uses his Motorola as a flashlight in a dark room – a great touch, because using a phone-as-flashlight is something we’ve all done. In the same way, watch sales are dropping because people now use their phones as pocket-watches. Ever used a CD as a mirror? Just some examples of technologies designed for one thing finding another improvised use in real life!

But no matter how clever you are with your cell-phone, the giant tentacle creature is still going to eat you.

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Should films have open-endings?

June 27, 2008

Cliff-hanger

When you mention endings, many people immediately jump to the conclusion that you must mean the traditional Hollywood ‘happy ending’. That is, they assume that an ending must be a weak, highly artificial, uninspiring let down to the film that preceded it. In reality, the climax of a film should be the most emotionally powerful experience of the entire movie. There is no rule in screenwriting that an ending should be happy. Your ending should simply tie up all the significant plot threads as the level of emotional engagement with the audience reaches its highest peak. The audience has invested in your film and if you don’t provide a powerful ending they will leave dissatisfied.

But the worst endings are those that don’t resolve anything and just leave you hanging; mainly because such limp endings are normally accompanied by the assertion that they are intellectually superior to an actual conclusion. The Guardian recently said that “the open-ending credits the viewer with a low tolerance for…intellectual baby food”.

Sometimes you’ll hear people say that films don’t need to resolve anything, because real life doesn’t resolve anything. This argument could hold water if the film was about our perception of real life (e.g. Mulholland Drive) but normally it’s a standard “plot” film up until the ending – then it refuses to end!

A good deal of the much touted ‘great open-endings’ are in fact not ‘open’ at all. That is, all the main plot threads have been resolved prior to the credits. The Italian Job ends with a sight gag about leaving the audience on a cliff-hanger. But we have seen the robbers pull off the robbery and make their getaway. To illustrate, imagine if the credits rolled 60 seconds earlier, with the truck speeding away. That would be a normal ending, no? Therefore, everything has been resolved, bar the tacked-on cliff-hanger. This has more in common with the de rigueur creature-feature ending where the monster you thought was dead manages to crawl away or somehow ensures its continuation. The downbeat ending to The Thing, occurs after the creature is dead, everyone else is dead and the protagonist’s fate is sealed. It just gives you a good shot of paranoia before the credits. The Mist could have closed with the very open ending that is actually featured in the novella. Stephen King himself said that he just couldn’t think of an ending that was powerful enough, given the great story that preceded it. The final ending that was used in the film will anger a lot of audiences, but it’s a great, satisfying, ending. It resolves everything.

There’s nothing wrong with leaving open questions, provided the main threads have been resolved. Equally, there’s nothing wrong with having the bleakest, most dark ending imaginable. But your ending must be emotionally powerful.

Many people stay away from endings because they are hard to do well, but, please, don’t label this cowardice ‘intellectual superiority’…

Consumers win on digital music, so why are the other entertainment industries so behind?

May 22, 2008

The FT today reported how the value of music downloads and broadcasts has overtaken that of CD sales. For the music industry, this is no surprise. Over the past few years we have witnessed a huge step change in music “going digital” with big name bands snubbing their record labels and iPods becoming as prolific as slugs in a newly planted veg patch.

Meanwhile, the other media industries, particularly film and games, are sticking to their physical product roots and worrying about illegal downloads, ignoring the lessons that a heal-dragging attitude is fast teaching the music industry. From our side of the fence, we’ve seen a growth in young companies that are legitimate digital content retailers. Some have media players embedded within them, some monetise peer to peer sharing (P2P) and others are mobile. What they all have in common is incredibly tight Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection.

The speed at which the media and entertainment industries are willing to respond to consumer demand for digital is tiresome. We’ve been talking about the issues and barriers through our PR efforts for years now. With the proof of digital demand from the MCPS-PRS Alliance and extra pressure from this year’s explosion in green interest, with people realising that no physical products means no plastic packaging, will we see the fruition of a true digital revolution before the next decade?

Want to market your film? Keep quiet about it!

May 16, 2008

 Cloverfield Poster Mirrorer

 

For many years the core of a film’s marketing push, film-trailers haven’t changed much over the ages. And sadly in many cases they have become an uninspired précis of the film’s plot combined with a spoiler-style preview of all the good scenes. But the trend of dull marketing for films may be coming to an end. Whilst websites and online games have become standardfor all Hollywood films, some are wading a little further into the murky waters of online marketing. Let’s compare two recent films: I am Legend and Cloverfield.

 

I am Legend followed the traditional approach to marketing – a big-name star, trailers, interviews, a micro-site – it even went as far as to create an online game in the digital world of Second Life. The campaign was reasonably successful, but costly (they spent over $2 million on marketing in New York alone).

 

On the other hand, Cloverfield made more clever use of its slim marketing budget (around $20 million globally). With an unknown cast, their only advantage was surprise. Their first masterstroke was to create trailers and posters that did not reveal the name of the film (along with a powerful image of a smoking New York). This immediately created a buzz and sent keyboard-jockeys wild looking for clues as to what this mysterious new film was:

 

We said “We want to talk to you about not putting a title on and what are your regulations regarding that?” And they said “Regulations? No-one’s ever done a teaser trailer or trailer without a title.” It’s like putting out a commercial without actually what the thing is. [Matt Reeves, Director]

 

Their campaign was all about trying to create active interest in a potential audience. To make people go online, look for information and discuss theories. People are adept at tuning out all the passive advertising noise in their environment, but Cloverfield managed to make cinema-goers reel themselves in.

 

Another clever move was creating a rumour that the poster somehow revealed an image of the monster. Again this created a flurry of blogs and online videos – all claiming to have revealed the true image of the creature (in fact you had to mirror the poster). In a similar vein, buzz was created by using different titles during the shooting of the film (including the somewhat ridiculous Chocolate Outrage).

 

Fake websites for tie-in brands to the film were also created along with a complex background story to the film’s events, which sent audiences scouring the internet for clues. Some even connected Cloverfield to viral marketing attempts set up for other films (thereby making other people’s marketing budgets work for them!)

 

…a lot of the stuff didn’t have anything to do with us, it was just because people were so interested…they were making connections to things that didn’t have anything to do with us…

 

Most importantly, the producers realised how fatal over publicity could be, especially when your film doesn’t have a lot of marketable elements except surprise:

 

That’s why we decided we better to shut up, because the flames were already so high….

 

It worked. Cloverfield took $41 million in its first three days. So next time you want to market something, maybe you should try not shouting about it.

 


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