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The Best Bits

April 30th, 2009

don-lafontaine-cinemaemcenacomjpegOk,  here’s one of those movie trivia questions, who said these words, “Same make, same model, same mission”,  and, “T’was long ago and far away in a land as different as night from day?”  You may have got the movies – Terminator 2 and Shrek, well the trailers actually,  and the guy who said these lines was the late Don LaFontaine, gravelly voice-over artist for over 5000 trailers.  You’ll know his much parodied voice when you hear it.

When you see a trailer you might think it’s something the editor quickly put together, or gave to his assistant as a try-out, but no. The average trailer costs around $500,000 and in the US there are hundreds of companies specialising in the art of trailer making, in the UK, just a few.  All are mini movie studios in their own right, with mini film makers, making mini movies – producers, directors, writers, conceptualists, editors and graphic designers.  And you won’t be surprised to know they have they’re own mini film awards,  The Golden Trailer Awards held yearly in LA.

The purpose of the trailer of course is to get you to go see the movie, and when you do see the movie, how many times have you thought the trailer was better than the movie, and that all the best bits were in the trailer?   Well that is kinda the point as will be admitted by any trailer maker, like Mary McGrane, the editor who put together the trailer for Bridget Jones 2, who said, “Friends see films I’ve done trailers for and say I only put in the best bits,” I say,  “Of course I only put in the best bits. If I’d put in all the shit bits, you wouldn’t have gone to see it.”

bond-ppcIn the UK, the Picture Production Company is the giant of mini film makers, regularly creating trailers for blockbusters including, Slumdog Millionaire, Watchmen and Quantum Of Solace, for which two editors raided the Bond cutting rooms and used material from the rushes to make trailers for domestic and international theatrical use along with TV ads.

But it’s the art of taking these best bits, that can often make a great trailer out of a bad film, or perhaps even a somewhat dishonest trailer.  You may recall the George Clooney starrer, The Perfect Storm, the trailer built-up to an incredible action sequence showing George and crew battling against a storm and a wave the size of many apartment blocks.  Audiences thought, wow, if they show this in the itty-bitty trailer, what happens in the film must be awesome.  Sadly, no, this was pretty much it and you had to wait for the end of the film to see it.

Interestingly, these mini movies use the same three act structure as their full-length counterparts. Set-up the story and characters, drive the story on, and the climax. Music too is used to drive these maximum 2 min 30 sec, minis along, but often when the trailers are made, the actual music to be used in the movie hasn’t even been recorded.  So to give audiences a feeling of what they will be getting, they use music from similar movies.

lemony-snicket-s-a-theciacomaujpg The trailer for Jim Carey’s, Lemoney Snicket’s  A Series of Unfortunate Events, partly used music from Edward Scissorhands to create the mood they wanted, while composer Randy Edelman is thought to hold the record of having his music for, Come See The Paradise, used in the most trailers.  24 trailers have had the benefit of his same score, including those for films as diverse as, Clear And Present Danger, The Joy Luck Club and Thirteen Days.  Randy has doubtless made more from the use of his music in these trailers than for the original film.

And now, the awards.  Last year, Best Action – The Dark Knight, Best Comedy – Tropic Thunder, Best Romance – Atonement. These are the Golden Trailer awards don’t forget.  The Most Original went to, In Bruges and the Golden Fleece – for the best trailer for the worst film, went to Awake.

My personal favourite is Watchmen with music by the Smashing Pumpkins, beautiful editing, great structure, great imagery, it is of course, the best bits, but the movie delivered a whole lot more.

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Bad Deals For Indies From ITV

April 30th, 2009

thebill460jpgITV is passing-on it’s budgetary woes to the Indies who produce it’s programmes some of which have just collected BAFTA’s for, The Bill, X Factor and Harry Hill’s TV Burp.

ITV is trying to persuade indies to agree to a variety of conditions if they are to get commissions, in a bid to stem its haemorrhaging funds.  These include, entering into a co-production deal with ITV Studios and allowing ITV Studios to take 50% of the production fee along with new deals on sales and rights which are being pushed onto indies, whereby the programme is distributed by ITV Global.

Revealed at a recent meeting at PACT, attended by the top 10 major indies, it was suggested ITV wasn’t following terms of trade agreed in 2007 – which have never been supported by Michael Grade.  ITV denies imposing such conditions, saying, “…we have been talking to all of our suppliers about increased flexibility in our working relationships to ensure that we continue to produce high-quality, popular programming that delivers maximum efficiency within the schedule.”

However, chief exec of major indie, Talkback Thames said, “There is a lot of pressure for people to work with ITV Studios if you want to get commissions, particularly if you are a small indie.”

Trevor MacdonaldThis at a time when ITV continues to look internally for cuts and announced that flagship current affairs show, Tonight, has been told to cut its budget by 15%, this on top of the 20% cut it was asked to make in November resulting in the loss of 12 jobs.

On the other hand, ITV is believed to have overstocked its drama shelves to the tune of over £10m, with singles and series which may not be seen for some years.

Storm clouds on the horizon.

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X Men Catches Flu

April 29th, 2009

filmoniccom2This weekend’s Mexico Cty release of Wolverine, has been cancelled by 20th Century Fox as most of the cinemas have been closed.  The country’s major cinema chains, Cineopolis and Cinemex have decided to close most of their screens because of the Flu outbreak as audiences have gone along with government warnings to stay out of crowded places.

Mexico was the fifth highest grossing territory for the previous three X Men movies and Fox is awaiting the all clear before fixing a new date for the opening.

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Movies Instore All Day

April 29th, 2009

Poster for the movie The ClassEver felt like catching a movie while out shopping with the kids?  Well soon you’ll be able to, in Wimbledon at least.  Starting in the Autumn, HMV are teaming-up with Curzon Cinemas to build small cinemas in HMV stores to screen an eclectic schedule of films throughout the day, until the store closes, and even beyond.

Thought to be the perfect venue for such a collaboration as HMV is the UK’s biggest seller of DVD’s and Curzon’s, Artificial Eye art films distribution set-up, supplies fare for it’s own screens and others.  Events are also planned, including Q&A’s with cast and crew and special screenings for schools, parent and children screenings and group screenings for lovers of foreign films.

If the Wimbledon trial goes well, it’s anticipated it will spread to two other stores making three screens with a total of 200 seats.

Watch out for the under fives Bunuel appreciation club!

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Fast Track At Fest

April 29th, 2009

life-on-marsjpgThe Edinburgh Television Festival talent hunt, Fast Track, is now open for applications in the hope of finding the next generation of TV talent.  The 40 successful applicants will travel to Edinburgh – at their own expense, but will have free accommodation and two days of access to masterclasses and networking in the inner sanctum of top executives.  Also, a chance to win a commission of £15,000 from UKTV and a slot on Dave.  To apply, all you need is 2-4 years TV experience and some ideas, passion and drive.

Previous alumni include Cameron Roache, producer of Life On Mars.

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now we’re tweeting!

April 28th, 2009

You can now follow us on twitter.com/productionwiz

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Johnny’s In The Basement

April 24th, 2009

So I was looking for a movie to see at the weekend and State Of Play, took my attention, well Russell Crowe and a lot of publicity, but is it any good?  It opened last week across the States and made only $14m in it’s first weekend.  Trust me, that’s not much, there’ll be pursed lips at Universal and shuffling, in the seats of the marketing department.state_of_play_movie_posterjpg

The thing about movies is, like any other product, once you’ve made one you have to get people to buy it.  An easy job for the marketeers of State Of Play you’d think, but no.  Because this is an Adult Movie, no not that kind of Adult Movie – well I haven’t seen it yet,  but it’s serious, dramatic and about a not very exciting subject – journalism.

It’s hard to push Adults out of their chairs and to spend $10 on a ticket plus popcorn, when waiting for the DVD is an attractive option in these hard times.  The doubtless expensive campaign for State Of Play is based around the tag line, ‘Find The Truth’, not quite the snappy pitch of Liam Neeson’s, Taken, with the more stirring, “You took my kid, m***********r, and you’re going to pay”.

Marketing a movie can cost $$$$$$ and from May through August, distributors and studios expect to spend around $1 billion globally marketing tent-pole movies including, Angels and Demons, Wolverine and Harry Potter 6. Justified by the fact that the summer releases expect to collect 40% of the entire year’s revenue.

But like the movie goers, the movie makers are feeling the pinch and are aiming to cutback on such lavish campaigns and are looking for ways to get creative beyond the tradition of huge billboards, months of trailers and press ads.

Gone With The Wind posterCreating novel publicity stunts, has been big since the early days.  In 1939, marketing for, Gone With The Wind started way before the film even went into production, with the famous nationwide search for who would play Scarlett O’Hara in which over 1400 actresses were interviewed.  And Hitchcock raised the hype for Psycho with his unique trailer and by telling cinema owners that no one was to be admitted after the film had started.  This at a time when audiences regularly came late and stayed in the cinema to watch the beginning they’d missed as the next show began.  For Psycho, they queued around the block.

Today, the omnipotent internet has provided opportunities for more original marketing, where campaigns have disguised themselves as reports of real events, not mentioning the movie at all.  The Blair Witch Project is probably the most well known, in which scary clips of film, apparently found in a forest after the film makers had disappeared,  were shown online to great effect.  This, in 1999, when the concept of a Viral was unheard of, but it became one, proving very efficacious for the producer’s bank account.

More recently, a similar stunt was created last year for Quarantine, whereby films appeared on You Tube which were apparently leaked by a police evidence recorder.  They showed police and quarantine officials sealing people inside a building. It was later revealed that the evidence recorder was an actor but it attracted over one million views, and on release, Quarantine opened with the same $14m as State Of Play and went on to make almost $32m in the US.  This for a fifth of the budget of the Crowe starrer.

Godsend WebsiteThen 2004 saw the beginning of the fake websites, for films including I Robot and The Manchurian Candidate, the creepiest of which though, was for the 2004 De Niro starrer, Godsend in which a medical institute offered to clone your child.  People really did call!!

The measure of success of an internet campaign, as well as the box office, is whether it goes viral.  One which surely must have by now and certainly the best so far, is the one created for the 2007 release of Bob Dylan inspired, I’m Not There, and subsequently the DVD and album release.   Using that famous clip from the video for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ featuring Dylan with the title cards, you can write your own messages on the title cards and forward the movie clip onto friends.  It’s brilliant and it’s still online so without wishing to promote the DVD but in the interests of research, try it, it’s fun!  And merely using it makes it a viral which can’t be Quarantined!

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London Shooting To Get Cheap And Easy

April 22nd, 2009

The Duchess location stillLondon has always had a bit of a reputation for being a difficult location because all the individual boroughs have different rules and different rates, and you could be dealing with many different people in different boroughs for every location you want to use.

Film London is now trying to make it easier and cheaper.  Like everyone they’re aware that hard times prevail and are persuading locations to drop their prices and to be flexible if they want films to shoot there.

Last year over £268m was spent on shooting in London and the various boroughs have welcomed the plan to standardise costs and licensing so productions can easily budget for shooting across a number of boroughs.  Film London have suggested a flat rate of £250 a day which is currently half the price it costs to shoot in some boroughs such as Lewisham.

Somerset House, location for The Duchess, has already made some changes and now looks at every request individually and considers the budget and other requirements when deciding on what to charge.

It’s early days, but hopefully arranging to shoot in London will soon be cheap and easy.

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Bollywood Goes Stateside

April 22nd, 2009

delhi-6 movie posterBollywood movies have a surprisingly good market in the US such that to get audiences the newest releases ASAP, they’re now being cabled over a massive global fibre network from Hong Kong, direct to the US.  Using what’s become known as, ‘multi-metro connectivity’ the films, including the recent Delhi 6, are mastered in 2K format in Mumbai and can then be moved anywhere in the world via the digital artery.

Adilab’s, Big Cinema, chain now has 240 digital screens across the US including in New Jersey and California.

Watch out for remakes.

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SAG Good News/Bad News

April 22nd, 2009

After nine months of too-ing and fro-ing between the US actors union SAG and movie and TV  producers,  overshadowed by the studio’s fears that the actors could bring production to a standstill by striking like the writers, Hollywood breathes a sigh of relief.  Agreement has been reached on a deal until June 2011. SAG Protestors

The new contract gives a 3% increase in wages rising to 3.5%, and a new deal on commercials which could add around $36m in payments.  A deal for new media – always a sticking point, has also been agreed, giving actors gains in-line with those from other unions.

In cruel twist though, SAG is about to lay-off 35 of its 440 employees because of a decline in membership dues and investment losses.  SAG has also lost work and members to its rival, AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, as there’s been more production in television than film.

And don’t actors make such well dressed protestors!

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