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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also a film journalist/critic for Cocktails & Movies and CinemaBlend, as well as the author of several short stories such as "The Devil v. George W. Bush". Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: mikereyeswrites@gmail.com

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Friday, August 21, 2009

The Last Temptation of James Cameron, Part II

(This is Part II of a three part series. Here's Part I, and here's the prequel of sorts.)

I said yesterday, as our technology for making movies has progressed, so has our technology for making people aware of said movies. With the advent of the Internet, advanced reviews are easier to circulate, information can travel faster, and if you have a Smartphone with email capability, you can snap photos on set and transmit them to Harry Knowles himself. The movie going public demand a certain level of insider access to film productions, and as such you have everything from spy reports to misdirecting comments from directors, thanks to the likes of Ain't It Cool News. In the beginning it was easier, but nowadays it's much much harder (or so it seems) to keep a production under wraps. If you want your movie to be kept secret, it's going to need legal measures, which are easily circumvented if you have a clever pseudonym that shrouds your identity in anonymity.

It is this need for insider access that has evolved the movie making business into what it is today. The industry has accelerated in pace to the point where there's more releases in quicker timeframes, and this combined with that need for more information becomes the need for more product. Quicker timeframes mean less time to promote a film, which means more bombs/under appreciated gems, which means more crap films/bigger DTV outlets, etc. All of these factors have made teaser materials into a necessity instead of a luxury. People have become more informed and involved in the film promotion process that it's gotten to the point where it's difficult not to start promoting something from it's earliest stages of conception. People have come to expect concept art and a quick little tease as to what exactly it is you're selling. We're at a point where people get excited when a film gets greenlit, which makes it nigh impossible to hide a major production from anyone's eyes for too long.

And yet, somehow, James Cameron did it. He kept the film under tight wraps, he made sparse comments about the nature of the film, and in doing so he's taken old marketing techniques & puts a new social networking spin on them. The information for this film has been controlled & deliberately released from day one, just like the old days. There's only been one teaser poster and one teaser trailer to date...and the film is set to open in December. This has caused everything from rampant speculation to open criticism and ridicule.

The reason people are so frustrated because they're so used to the "inside access" system, they've forgotten what it's like to wait. In this case, there's such a head of advanced talk built around this film that people are more than demanding their fair share of information as to what exactly is going to be presented when the logos role. The truth of the matter is, the marketing model of Hollywood today has become an inverse of what it used to be. Which is, the bigger the picture, the smaller the ad push. Why sell what you know is going to sell? Why build a whisper campaign when you can just let the masses talk amongst themselves until the chatter gets so loud, the only way to quell it is giving them what they want?

Make no mistake, James Cameron is a genius. He knows how to tell a story, he knows how to sell a story, and he knows how to play the game the moviegoer expects. He's not like George Lucas, where every property of his is a territorial pissing match. He's not like Michael Bay, where the economy of story gets raptured by the beauty of CGI. He's not even like Steven Spielberg, who works at a moderately paced clip, despite the fact that he's attached to so many projects it's almost impossible for him to choose what's next. This is James Cameron we're talking about here, and this is his long awaited return to the genre that he helped innovate and revitalize back in the 80's and 90's. When you look at his resume, and you look at the results, go ahead and try to tell someone that there's a good chance "this might not work".

The marketing machine is just revving up, folks. Avatar Day could build solid interminable buzz through word of mouth, once there's proof that the product is worth the posturing. And with new technologies that word of mouth will spread if it's there. James Cameron and Fox have put all of their eggs in this basket of 4000. The hard part though, is going to be following this up with a campaign that saturates the market with all the right things. Because while James Cameron is an impressive filmmaker to date, so was George Lucas before Episode I. That's where we'll pick up on Monday. Have a good weekend, everyone.

1 comment:

Sarah The Anime Librarian said...

I admit, I am very excited by this film. The story, as I understand it, sounds extremely fresh and vivid, and the beauty of the CGI is only Icing on a cake that looks well baked and tastey. (Rather than say Transformers 2 whohc was cool CGI icing on a cake that was burnt in the center and somewhat ok if you picked out certian parts to munch).

I think I need a snack. :)