MMM in 2009

mmm-logo-red-name2009 was another…interesting year here at MMM. I think there’s been the usual mix of good and bad stuff that I’ve published. I took October off completely. I’ve found that the worst thing I can do for traffic is actually publish – seriously, my visit stats go up every time I don’t write anything and drop like a rock when I do. RSS subscribers are up to an all-time high and I continue to hear that a lot of smart people read my stuff.

Amongst – and making up a fair portion of – the mediocrity have been the almost 60 Movie Marketing Madness columns published this year. Some weeks there were none, some weeks there were three or even four. Sometimes they’re short, sometimes they’re 10 or more pages long. But these columns continue to be the cornerstone of this site and I still, for whatever reason, enjoy writing them and see no end in sight for either those pieces specifically or even this site in general.

So to wrap up the year I made a couple of changes and updates to the way I do things.

  1. I’m no longer publishing “Picking up the Spare” as a separate post but instead am adding those items to the bottom of the previously published columns. All previous “Spare” items have been added to the appropriate posts (ie, all the additional GI Joe stories are now at the end of MMM: GI Joe, etc) and this is how I’ll continue doing things moving forward. I think it’s just neater and makes the column more of a complete record rather than having half a dozen additional posts about it.
  2. I’ve updated the Best of MMM page with some good stuff from 2009. Check it out if you like for some of what I consider to be the posts I’m most proud of from the year

Happy New Year to all my readers. I’ll see you in 2010.

–Chris

  1. Bride Wars
  2. Fanboys
  3. He’s Just Not That Into You
  4. Confessions of a Shopaholic
  5. The International
  6. Watchmen
  7. Sunshine Cleaning
  8. Alexander the Last
  9. I Love You Man
  10. Monsters Vs. Aliens
  11. Adventureland
  12. Gigantic
  13. Observe & Report
  14. X-men Origins: Wolverine
  15. Star Trek
  16. Angels & Demons
  17. Terminator Salvation
  18. Up
  19. The Hangover
  20. Moon
  21. Whatever Works
  22. Year One
  23. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  24. Public Enemies
  25. Bruno
  26. Weather Girl
  27. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  28. Shrink
  29. Funny People
  30. Paper Heart
  31. G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra
  32. Cold Souls
  33. Inglorious Basterds
  34. Extract
  35. Whiteout
  36. Bright Star
  37. Jennifer’s Body
  38. The Informant
  39. Paranormal Activity
  40. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
  41. A Serious Man
  42. The Invention of Lying
  43. Peter & Vandy
  44. Couple’s Retreat
  45. Trucker
  46. An Education
  47. Where the Wild Things Are
  48. (Untitled)
  49. The Men Who Stare at Goats
  50. 2012
  51. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
  52. Up in the Air
  53. The Slammin’ Salmon
  54. Crazy Heart
  55. Invictus
  56. Avatar
  57. Sherlock Holmes
  58. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Hive conversations

As part of the launch of the Hive Awards, a series of videos was produced featuring Adweek’s Brian Morrissey instigating interviewing Noah Brier, Ian Schafer and Hive Award founder Alan Wolk. Below is the first of the three videos and you can check out the second and third installments at Ian’s site. Good stuff.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7648005&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

The Social Media Bubble Part 1 of 3 from Hive Awards on Vimeo.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

If you had just one word to describe the public reputation of director Terry Gilliam what would it be? Here are some options: Troubled; Visionary; Auteur; Delayed.

All of these could be applied to just about any of the films Gilliam has made over the last two decades. How many times have we read variations on the following: “In the pursuit of creating his latest troubled film the visionary director has been delayed yet again as reality bumps up against his auteur sensibilities.” That happens all that time, right?

But part of what we love about Gilliam is that he keeps pushing the envelope and keeps refusing to work within the studio system. He’s ornery and we kind of need him to be the crazy uncle in show business, the one who shows up in a sports car with the girlfriend 20 years younger than him and refuses to even discuss it.

The latest movie to encounter troubles on its way from the director’s head to the movie screen is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The movie tells the story of the head of a traveling theater troupe who owes his success to constant gambling with the devil. But now the devil has come to collect his winnings – Parnassus’ teenage daughter. It then falls to Tony, part of the troupe, to save her from the devil’s clutches.

But it wouldn’t be a Gilliam production without problems on the set. This time those troubles came in the form of the death of Heath Ledger. No, The Dark Knight was not his last movie. Ledger was in the middle of shooting Parnassus when he passed away, making this the actor’s actual final appearance. Instead of recasting or using a body double for his incomplete scenes, though a trio of actors – Jude Law, Colin Farrel and Johnny Depp – have stepped in to finish the role in a move that seems both respectful and suitably deranged given the types of stories Gilliam is apt to tell. So let’s look at how it’s being sold.

The Posters

Only one poster seems to have been produced for domestic U.S. audiences, though others were created and geared for international distribution.

The U.S. one-sheet makes it incredibly clear that we were entering into another world with Gilliam and his actors. The main image background is that of a curtain tent, just the kind you’d expect to see as part of a traveling circus or other show like it. Below that curtain is a wonderous landscape with hills in the background. But between those hills is a doorway that breaks the gloom of the cloudy skies and presents a bright and fanciful image with odd looking buildings looming, balloons flying through the sky with a black and white tiled road leading to it.

While the visuals evoke a sense of wonder and fancy the cast is not neglected at all. Ledger and Cole are seen at the top, in front of the curtain, and Plummer and Tom Waits are positioned flanking the doorway. At the very bottom of the poster the entire cast is featured in smaller boxes of their own, including Ledger in the middle and all three other actors who have picked up his role.

It’s a decent poster that certainly makes it clear – even without his name appearing above the title treatment – that it’s from Gilliam since anyone who’s familiar with his work will recognize this as either being from him or certainly inspired by him at the very least. And for that audience, those fans of Gilliam, it immediately transports them to the world he’s created, which is what they’re mostly looking for from the director to begin with.

The Trailers

The trailer was actually the first bit of domestic marketing that was released and it’s pretty cool. It certainly strikes a more epic tone than the trailers for some of Gilliam’s other recent movies.

The spot starts out by introducing Parnassus and just what the stakes are – He very literally made a deal with the devil that gave him eternal life. But in return any child of his becomes the property of the devil upon their 16th birthday, which is now approaching for Parnassus’ only daughter. But then someone appears that could help. We then get a look at the performances of Heath Ledger and the men who stood in for him after his death: Jude Law, Colin Farrel and Johnny Depp.

In addition to that we also get a good look at the film’s visuals, which appear to be outstanding. *This* is what a Gilliam film should look like. There are crazy costumes, outrageous magical landscapes and characters that are drawn so broadly they may as well be actually drawn. The music that plays combined with the quick cutting and fast paced edits make it an experience not unlike a carnival ride, which may be completely accurate for the film itself and certainly do a good job of bringing in the audience.

Online

The movie’s official website puts the trailer in the middle of a reworking of the poster art, with a link to “Download the Press Kit” below as well as an area to find “Showtimes” near you.

There’s also a “Click Here to Find out More” area that’s pretty interesting. First in that section is Support the Site which actually takes you to a blog that’s been updated with media appearances by Gilliam, links to reviews of the movie and more. There are also links here to the movie’s Facebook profile, which is a re-purposing mostly of the same content you’ll find on the blog, a not-very-active Twitter account and a UK sit devoted to Gilliam called “Dreams.” Basically these are the ways you can connect to the movie specifically or to Gilliam and his vision more generally.

After you’ve checked all that out you can Enter the site.

“Cast & Crew” puts the major players on the Imaginarium’s stage and lets you click them to find out more about the actor, which is a good way for a movie like this to present that information.

I’d say there are about 25 stills in the “Gallery,” mostly production photos but with a couple shots of Gilliam behind the scenes thrown in for good measure.

the “Media” section says it has the Trailer (it does) as well as some Scenes and other material but I couldn’t get any of those links to work. If they weren’t there I would hope it would say “coming soon” or something but it doesn’t so I’m hoping that’s just user error on my part.

“Links & Reviews” right now just has links out to the trailer on Apple, cast interviews on various sites and such like that, with no reviews to be found. Many of those are on the above blog but here they’re labeled as still “coming soon.”

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Not much of the paid variety. I seem to think I’ve seen a handful of online ads for the movie but that’s been scarce and there’s been nothing, to my knowledge, in the way of TV commercials or other such advertising.

Media and Publicity

The film racked up a good amount of frequent flyer miles, making its initial appearance at Cannes and then later screening at the Toronto Film Festival and the Hamptons Film Festival. With a movie like this that kind of schedule is key since it needs not only the people in attendance but those following the updates from the festivals to succeed. Indeed much of the resultant buzz pegged this as a true return to form for Gilliam after a few years of misfires and unsuccessful experiments.

Gilliam also made the trip to Comic-Con – his first such appearance – to get the buzz going for the movie, an appearance that came with a bit of footage designed to show off not only Heath Ledger’s performance but also the general look and feel of the movie. Some of those clips were later released online, but they’re very much snippets that are free of much of the context that would make them clearer to the viewer.

But mostly the media coverage was of the same sort of tone as this New York Times (12/11/09) piece and talked about the tragedy of Ledger’s death coming half way through production and the way this sort of trouble seems to follow Gilliam around from film to film. It’s an unfortunate narrative but one that the filmmaker doesn’t seem to be able to shake, due largely to his insistence in working outside the system, something that gives him more freedom but also opens him up to all sorts of delays because of financing and other problems.

Overall

It’s not a bad campaign. I quite like the trailer and the poster and especially the blog that was part of the official website. And Gilliam and the rest of the crew have done their best to execute a good media push, something that’s going to be important for movies like this which need to reach their core target audience first and everyone else if it has time. It needs to get Gilliam fans out to see it, with the rest of the general public more or less written off, with the assumption that it’s not going to appeal to them in the face of so many other cinematic choices available to them.

But while it does achieve those goals, I think, it’s probably going to fall between the cracks of the general consciousness as it’s drowned out by the massive, massive campaigns for Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. It’s good, though, and I’m glad to see such a cohesive and well-constructed effort for a movie that at one point looked like it was going to languish in obscurity.