Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Movies

There are a couple of films coming to theaters in the next few  weeks that I've been following with an above-average amount of interest:

(Warning. If you are reading this on your phone, the spacing and formatting is going to be annoyingly wonky. Go find a laptop.)

OK. So. Back to the two movies I've been keeping an eye on:

First one is Irreplaceable.

This is a movie that we (at Focus) are highly vested in.  It's a Focus US project, but we're bringing it to the Canadian market. Our team has been involved in everything from designing the creative elements (the posters, trailer, ads, radio spots, social media blitz), to arranging pre-screenings/Q & A's across Canada to negotiating with theatres for it's May 7 showing date.

I've been following Tim (Sisarich) (director and 'star') criss-cross Canada doing interviews, and listening to him share his passion for this project (and how it has deeply affected his life) on the radio, here and here. Plus I've been very aware of our own team, hosting 23 pre-screening events from coast to coast ...

While the hope is that everyone will want to see a docu-drama about The Importance of Family, all marketing efforts thus far are towards Focus-friendly folks.

I'm excited:
  • Because I am a huge fan of movies, I love being 'behind the scenes' for this portion of the project.
  • Because I make a living as list-maker/project manager, I'm finding the process fascinating. 
  • Because my background/education is in Marketing Management, I am appreciating the power of social media. 

The second one is Walking with the Enemy.

Similar to Irreplaceable, Walking with the Enemy (WWTE) is an Indie Film. Liberty Studios was created to produce this, it's first movie. And from what I can tell, the marketing/promotion of it has been very similar to what Focus is doing. Mark (Schmidt) and Jonas (Armstrong) are on an American cross country tour, attending pre-screening events, and doing interviews like crazy this month. They also are using social media; both Twitter and Facebook.  And because of the nature of the story, they too, (at least it seems to me) are targeting a specific audience in these days leading up to April 25.

(I had assumed they'd be tapping into Jonas's fan base during this promotion stage; he is this generation's Robin Hood, after all...

but no. They're not (intentionally) whipping up that particular group of females into a demented frenzy.) They've been sensitive of, and respectful to the material by attending privately hosted events and hanging out at film festivals, and Museums and Embassies. They are promoting the true life story, not the actor in the staring role.

Because both movies are being released soon (May 7 and April 25, respectively) the activity on the feeds on my Twitter and Facebook timelines has increased. But by just a little bit. Like, a tiny little bit.

But maybe it's the right amount of increase considering the budget?

And maybe it's unfair to Irreplaceable and WWTE that I am comparing their social media blitzing to the last movie I saw, Noah. But OH MY GOODNESS. Russel Crowe tweeted the crap out of Noah. He has a significant reach: 1,450,000 followers. And he used that reach pretty effectively. At one point he tweeted:

Here's what I suggest...if you want a premiere in Dublin or Edinburgh tweet and state your desires

And then, two days later:

power of the people !!@ParamountUK are putting on premieres in Dublin, Cardiff and Edinburg!! 
All on Sat 29th of March, I'm going to all 3

Whoa Russell. Talk about manipulating the masses. Talk about the power of 140 characters.

(As an aside, Robert Downey Jr signed up for Twitter on April 11. Within two hours he had 200,000 followers. Today? April 15? He has 1,200,000 followers. His tweet:

Please be gentle...it's my first time. Testament to my trust in that guy who directed .

 ... has me thinking that director Jon Favreau knows the incredible value of having your stars promote your project one sentence at a time.)

And THAT had me thinking about a meeting I had with a publisher a few years ago re: me writing a book. It wasn't so much that I couldn't write. Or that I had nothing to say. The problem was that I didn't have a platform. I didn't have 'a following'. (And, let's be honest, I kinda don't really have anything to say either.) There was no guaranteed audience. Publishers expect their writers to push their own books; through websites, social media, speaking gigs, and so on. It's not enough to simply be a good writer. You have to be a marketing expert too.

I have a feeling that's what the entertainment (movies/film) industry is like as well. It's not enough to be a good actor. You have to be entertaining and engaging and tech savvy and interesting as well.
We've been watching stars promote their films on talk shows for years and years. And we expect them to show up to premieres. But all this other stuff? This business of tweeting and blogging and reddit, and instagraming and tumblring... Is it really going to make or break a movie's success?

It's like most jobs these days; we have to be good at a number of things. For the overall project to be successful, everyone has to do that that one thing they were born to do, plus a whole lot of other little things to make it work.

Those 'little things'? Tweets. It looks like actors and directors and producers are going to have work on their skills at communicating through various social media media platforms. Cuz that's where everyone's hanging out these days.

All that to say, if we want to see more of these smaller budget, independently produced, quality stories then we might have to get involved by doing our part to spread the word. Because these newer, less experienced, unique production companies just don't have the reach...(yet).

And that brings us to THE POINT OF TODAY'S POST:
Two of them - 

1. Buy a ticket and go see Irreplaceable on May 6 (in the USA) or on May 7 (in Canada). It's only in the theatres for ONE DAY. Take some friends. If you can't go, at least LIKE the page on Facebook. And if you're a tweeter - follow Focus on Twitter. (Go on, do the LIKE and the FOLLOW right now. I'll wait.)

Did you do it?

No, seriously. Did you?

Doesn't it feel good to know you've made a difference?
I thank you. You've provided me with one more day of job security :)

2. Support small production companies. Liberty Studios, for example, got into this industry because they want to tell inspiring stories. From their website:

Founder and President, Mark Schmidt’s mission is to deliver inspirational true stories to a worldwide audience. The company’s focus is the triumph of the human spirit over incredible odds, to celebrate outstanding individuals and their accomplishments, past and present.

Walking with the Enemy is their first movie. It opens April 25 in the US at selected theaters.
They have a Facebook campaign going right now ...

Go here and click LIKE. Right now. Even if you're not American. Go on, just do it already.Won't cost you a thing.
And follow Walking with the Enemy on twitter. (They will probably follow you back. Which, is kinda cool.)

(And then cross your fingers that they'll find a theatre or two in Canada that'll show this movie.)

There. Easy, no?
Sometimes showing your support is Just. That. Simple.

Just thought of a third thing.
If you're a person who prays, then, hahaha. Go ahead and pray for these two movies. Don't worry. I have chatted with Him about them already, so God's familiar with the projects and won't be surprised if you ask Him to bless them as well. In fact, I bet He'd love to hear from you.

Not sure what to say to the Almighty about movies?
Try this:

Hi God.
Jane suggested I pray, so I'm going to. (Was it your intention, when you created her, that she turn out this bossy? Because she's certainly excelling at it.)
Thank you for making creative people. And gifted people. And people who are passionate about story-telling.And story writing. Thank you that you made some people really good at acting. And directing. And editing. And photography. Thank you for stirring a passion in some people to investigate families or to research inspiring lives from the past. 
God, this whole entertainment industry exists because of you. It's a reflection of who You are... 
Thanks for protecting the Irreplaceable and WWTE projects so far. Could you keep protecting Tim, Mark, Jonas (and everyone else who is tirelessly meeting people, answering questions, hopping on planes, eating at weird times, and is away from their families) and provide them with energy, good health, and enthusiasm now as they near the finish line? Could you manage these last days for them? Arrange for them to meet influential leaders and passionate movie lovers? Smooth the way for increased exposure?  
Guide them, lead them, fill them with words, and smiles, and bring encouraging people to walk alongside. Both movies are going to receive push-back because of their content - so I pray that you would fight that fight for them, so Tim, Mark, Jonas and others can concentrate on doing what they do best.  
God, could you make sure that unforeseen opportunities would open up for these movies (and their major stakeholders) according to Your purposes for them? Could you figure out a way to ensure they would be unexpectedly successful, both financially and critically and that they would have a lasting, possibly transformational impact on viewers? 
Actually, God? How about this? Your will be done.
That's the main thing. Your. Will. Be. Done.

Three things I'm thankful for:

1. The long weekend is just around the corner. 
2. My niece's clever friends. Check out Amy's blog.
3. The shopping bag of Purdy's chocolate in this house. 

Peace, friends.

No comments: